the skinflint philosopher

Thrifting your way to a better life


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Philosophy in motion

Poetry in motion,
All that I adore
no number nine love potion
could make me love her more.

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Thinking a little bit about movement today, in that Tiddler is a constant whirlwind of motion, learning to jump two feet together off the sofa, wanting to hold our hands to be swung up as we walk, giggling as she spins herself in a spiral in the pool. She is showing a toddler fascination with how to balance, and climb, and wriggle and how to control each and every aspect of her body to explore and play and immerse herself in this world. Heraclitus said ‘all is motion’ and that seems certainly true.

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To try and ‘transfer’ some of this energy (as we all know our school boy science of energy can neither be lost or destroyed, although our sofa might be on it’s last legs before too much longer at this rate) we decided to do a bit of skinflint craft tinkering. Our marble run was created out of an empty cardboard box, paper art straws (that we glued on in doubles in order to make them stand proud enough to contain the marbles) and is propped up against the sofa (poor sofa) to use.  There is a definite enthralment with toys like this- the movement, the noise, the randomness of the pathways taken, that make this freebie craft project/toy a sure fire hit in our household. The marbles of course were used at one time for rewards for potty training, see towards the end of this post here, but have now been repurposed for this racing, bracing game. Hours of fun at minimal cost.

 

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Following my most recent post, which erred on the side of doubt about our future, I promise to gee myself up, and take note of Hemingway’s quote below. We cannot remain still in our lives by accepting motion instead of action.

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The Everest vs Marianas Trench equation

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag the last week or so.

Highs:
Being on the Easter holidays, and so having real time to do more with Tiddler. We have hunted eggs, played in the garden, went on a horse tram, had picnics on the beach, done all manner of crafty creativeness. I said to Digger “ah, this will be what it is like when I don’t have to work any more”. Pavlov might have his dogs salivating at the ring of a bell, but switching off our usual timetable for the last two weeks makes me consider again how our ‘normal’ lives show a similar, if less physiological, reaction. It is now this time, so we must do this. Here is my day, these are the planned and expected activities to take place, in this particular sequence. How freeing it has been to be outside the loop temporarily. I have relished being my own glitch in my matrix.
We managed to get everything down from the loft and sorted through. I discovered old love notes, Tiddler’s baby clothes, memories from my student days. We know we cannot store or take everything with us. I have thrown things away. I have put things to one side to look through later. I’ve donated seemingly random possessions to local groups- cushions inners to a charitable craft project, books to a community library, old bed linen and duvets to the school textiles department. We took a load of junk to a car boot sale and came back with over £100 in our pockets.

Lows:
Digger managed one day off over the whole fortnight. Weather is good, so making plenty of hay while the sun shines, and while the work is to be had in the last few months before we go. He has come to an arrangement with some acquaintances of his who are working without pay for him at the moment.  In return, when we leave he will give them his customer list and facilitate the ‘transfer of goodwill’. He calculates their wages in lieu will be a quarter of what he hoped to raise. It is better than nothing, but not the lump sum we were hoping for. It makes me consider how unwilling we as a society are to put a financial value to something that is not a physical, material object. People will happily stump up the cash for something they can possess in a tangible form, but will, as happened in some cases, laugh in the face of a suggestion that introductions, loyalty and hard work are worth anything at all.

However, packing away after the car boot sale, I joked with Digger as he had told me not to bring Tiddler’s shoes. With little wear and tear, and a good named brand, I thought we might get a little something back if we could sell them given that they retail new for £32, though he insisted no-one would want them.
“How much did you get for them?” I asked. Digger flatly denied selling the shoes.
“Well I didn’t sell them, so it must have been you”.
Seems that Digger was not being particularly obtuse, but two pairs of Tiddlers shoes and a pair of wellies ‘walked’ off without payment. Those are the items I recall, but perhaps other things were stolen too in the hustle and bustle of the day. It filled me with an unexpected sadness. I’m not denying that I had made the decision to sell what might otherwise have been ‘sentimental’ items because we have to downsize our possessions, but now I felt tricked. I felt Tiddler’s personal space had been tarnished in some way, by someone else’s selfishness. I hope I am wrong, and they were taken due to real need, but it has shook my faith a little. It makes me consider too the wider implications of our forthcoming venture. We are lulled into a sense of security here, my home for ten years, as we are relatively safe, low crime rates, good community involvement. The standard gently mocking phrase about the locals here is that nobody bothers to lock their front doors, and will happily leave their keys in the ignition while they pop to the post office. I’ve never been that laissez faire, but we implicitly assume our personal safety. I need to not be the country bumpkin on tour, but yet I cannot fear the wider world for myself, or Digger, or particularly Tiddler, or this adventure will be over before it has begun.

 

 


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The apple not falling far from the tree

Tiddler of course is the apple, and Digger the tree. Today has meant Tiddler has been able to wield a large spade around, get her hands dirty, and generally spuddle about outside.

She’s also had the opportunity to boss a few people around, but I had better not include that in the list of Digger’s inherited personality traits as he might get a bit grumpy reading this over my shoulder.

After all this outdoorsy-ness and crafting meant a delicious bring-and-share lunch was much appreciated, and Tiddler brought her miniature garden home to sit proudly on her ‘Easter table’ created in the hope on enticing the Easter bunny down to gift her some chocolate on Sunday.  The cost for a morning of activities, social interaction with all ages, fresh air, creativity, exercise and fun: simply our contribution to lunch.


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Chicken or egg?

Tiddler’s thrifty craft today is Easter themed as we are off on an ‘egg hunt’ tomorrow in a beautiful arboretum across on the other side of the island (in a slight depression in the relief so the poor trees are not blasted too badly by the windy conditions of this sometimes fair isle). On offer alongside the egg hunt is a decorate-a-hard-boiled-egg competition, so we felt it was only appropriate that the child of the Skinflint philosopher should pose in her craftiness one of the challenging questions of our time.

Materials- paint, egg box, glue, feathers, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, craft foam (cut from the throwaway section that we saved from a kit after we pressed out the set shapes for that craft activity), feathers, stickers, one hard boiled egg, one egg shell, pompoms.
Sounds like a lot of fiddle bits, but they were all bits and pieces we had saved from other craft activities, or upcycled an old craft activity. (I do a good line in pulling googly eyes off old pom pom crafts and animals. I have to do it secretly, once she has gone to bed, which makes me feel all a bit Sweeney Todd)

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Just need to add a little bit of bird seed in between them in the morning before we go. Fingers crossed for a crafty success, 🙂 though I’m not quite sure why the chick has ended up looking like it is wearing a pith helmet!


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One Thrifter’s trash…..

…is another consumer’s treasure.

Following our decision last week to finally bite the bullet, see post here, I’ve had the glorious serendipity of the start of the Easter holidays, a few days of sunshine, and a pressing need to start to declutter. All of which means I have been on a bit of a spring cleaning/sorting mission, though of course everything takes a lot longer than expected as Tiddler immediately wants to play with whatever I have dug out from under the bed or on top of the wardrobe.
Options for getting our stuff off island are more expensive than we thought, and there is no option for us to go commercially as the vehicle itself will be charged as freight and have to pay minimum of £700 each way on the ferry, regardless of the labour costs on top of that. Digger therefore may have to hire a long base transit and shift things himself, or do a number of trips in his smaller vehicle, plus my car if we decide to take that with us too. It’s a good seven hours driving to get down to my parents house in the Westcountry, plus three hours on the ferry before we even start that. We don’t want to do lots of trips.
Therefore, it is now paramount we streamline our possessions.
We are piling things up in the sheds, with the intention of taking them to a car boot sale this weekend. Bigger items we have started trying to sell online. So far, we have sold the following selection of random things Digger and I collected in our former lives before we met, or things that have come our way more recently. Living in a sort of limbo as we have been, deciding whether to stay or go, only renting, we have chosen not to spend out on furniture and quality items for our home, as we felt it was wrong to ‘invest’ in something only temporary. Therefore our sales are looking fairly eclectic so far, but even so some hold sentimental value. But, if someone is wiling to buy our dubiously described ‘treasure’ I’m not going to look in the proverbial horse’s mouth. By my reckoning so far, the sales, mostly due to the few of Digger’s tools I’ve manage to wrestle out of his paws, we have covered the cost of one return ferry sailing with a car/small van. Not bad going so far, methinks.

So long, farewell,  my junk. I thank you for your part in my journey.

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All our junk…..


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Notice of termination of life as we know it

Formal notice to end my employment handed in today at work. No going back now!

Latest plans:

Busy selling some of Digger’s power tool collection on line, and sorting other things for potential car boots when the weather improves.

Investigating options how best to get our possessions off the island and down to the Westcountry where we hope to store them in two shepherds huts in my parent’s back garden. Space is limited.

Beginning to make queries into various necessary admin tasks- Tax? Citizenship? Pensions? Child benefit? Car insurance? Will Tiddler need any other vaccinations or checks? (she was given a TB jab at less than 24 hours old, given the ‘risk’ of Digger’s country of origin. I mourn immensely over the scar she still carries as a result)

Digger still chasing up potential leads for people to buy the business. Lots of interest, though no-one willing to pay for ‘goodwill’.

Considering going overland to Bulgaria, so we can take more things with us. Digger pouring over European road maps and plotting routes and campsites, when he is not online finding little houses for sale, tucked away in the mountains, with a stream, and fruit trees, and a veranda, and a log burner.

The plot thickens……

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Banking the Icelandic way

Never fear, dear readers, upon reading this post’s title, that this is going to be some financial analysis of Iceland shareholders, banking and debt, because frankly, that’s all a little bit too complicated for me. The ins and outs of the 2008-2011 crisis and economic depression are as clear to me as Pink Floyd’s meaning of their psychedelic tune and lyrics to Bike the only bit of which seems to make sense is “I’ll give you anything, everything, if you want things’ or, the Icelandic version which of course could be ” I’ll give you Althing, Thingvellir, if you want Thingskalar”. Basically, I am not clued up enough on geo-politics and global economic wizardry to dare even try comment. Suffice to say, that Iceland is, in 2017, for any sojourners to that neck of the woods, definitely not a thrifter’s paradise. It is shockingly expensive.

I’ve had the good fortune to have just taken a no-cost trip to Iceland. Free, in that I didn’t have to pay out, but not free, in that I was leading a group of students on a residential educational visit. This meant, all totted up, that I worked evenings and three additional days for no pay, but still got paid my normal salary for the other days. But let’s not split hairs, I had no outlay of costs so I’m counting it as a freebie. We must celebrate our few-and-far-between perks for this job when we can, and I will certainly not grumble about this one.

Of course, I could now go into paragraph after paragraph of wondrous sights, majestic landscapes, and exotic smells (well, eggy sulphuric tap water is unusual enough to be regarded as fascinatingly glamorous even if you have to gag slightly while taking a shower. Note to self, hold back on the herbal shower gel or you end up with skin with a lingering aura of eggs benedict) but the tourist board do such a good job here I feel I’d be wasting my time. We hired a minibus, self-catered, smuggled in our own teabags (foiled however, because even when it is a British teabag, there is no accounting for the said water and the cow juice ‘Mjolk’ producing anything that tastes like you expected) and so managed to keep costs down to make it affordable for the students. Of course, they then spent all their free time (and spending money) supping 500 kroner coffees in wooly-bohemian-hygge cushion-laden coffee houses, and devouring 800 kroner bars of chocolate. Our Brexit pound meant their wallets took a severe beating.

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However, dusting the moths out of my purse, I found a real skinflinting gem. In downtown Reykjavik, where space is not an issue and paint colour is an essential, the bank premises are large and ornate. There are comfortable chairs and little tables. There is a free coffee machine, with a jug of real mjolk.  Although entering as a bonafide customer, and therefore able to claim, nay be entitled to, a quick warming beverage, it seemed foolhardy to brave the blustery snow and negative temperatures (Gluggavedur for those of you with the Icelandic lingo off pat) just to get into a coffee shop and offload my kroner. True, there were not any Danish (the good colonial power of course) pastries there to top up my calorific intake, but I could while away a pleasant hour or two in these circumstances. Double bonus; I was avoiding the extortionately priced gift shops at the same time. These Icelanders are geniuses. I could plan my itinerary around the location and opening hours of the banks of Iceland, and keep myself up to my frugal speed in full caffeinated style. Landsbankinn (Reykjavik branch) I salute you.

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Does anyone have any other favourite, must see/must do places in Iceland?  I’m sharing this website as it made me chuckle. I guess we all need a raisin in the end of our sausage, and that’s got to be better than sour whale!

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