the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!


Two steps forwards one step back

Sorry there has not been much philosophising of late or even that much thriftiness. It is all going on behind the scenes, just not getting it out to you!

I’ve managed to grab a few minutes laptop time just before dusk fall when I have to go and put the chickens to bed. Granny and Papa Westcountry have headed out for a night on the razz watching Ralph McTell at a local folk festival (of interest to you perhaps, ‘Yeah, another blogger’?), Digger and his father Dyado Bulgaria have headed off to London Gatwick to put Dyado on a plane home after a week visit here to the bedlam (what must he think of his first visit to our quirky ‘British’ family!) and Tiddler is off in the land of nod dreaming of promised jellies and cake as tomorrow is her third birthday.  I tried explaining the concept of a year, and that three had passed since she was born. ‘Papa is very old’ she says seriously. ‘My {sic} think he will be dead soon. Shall we put some flowers on him?’ Clearly the visit to the grave of Great Grandad Billy (who lived to 100) a few days ago in the old village church is still giving her food for thought. Explaining time, and death and all those sort of abstract concepts to a small child are never going to be straightforward. I suppose we muddle through as best we can, and hope it all make sense in the end.

Tomorrow will actually be a triple celebration, as Tiddler, my sister (Auntie B), and our own Aunt (Auntie K) all share the same date of birth- September 3rd. I don’t know what the probability statistics are for that, but we found the two pretty impressive even before Tiddler popped out on her due date.  Tiddler of course is still young enough to be happy with balloons, jelly and a couple of presents to open. Our thriftiness this year is logical too- we would rather spend money once we arrive in Bulgaria to replace toys and items we have had to leave behind.

Speaking of which, our offer on the cottage was pipped at the post by another vendor. Disappointed in a way, but relieved in an other. The money can sit in the bank (though I have since caught Digger scrolling through commercial woodland plots for auction like a secretive little woodmouse) and we are now back to the original plan i.e. motorhome hunting. As complete newbies, we are a little bit bamboozled by all the little fold out compartments- all very Japanese urban living to my way of thinking- and were toying with the idea of splashing out (!) on an expensive van (£25,000!!) with the logic it would retain a high value on resale. Then problems ensued with seatbelts (legality and safety for Tiddler’s car seat) so we knocked that idea on the head and our bank balance breathed a sigh of relief. Back to square one. But, we think we have found the van-to-be, in the end not five miles up the road from us. It is in keeping I think, with our hodge podge approach in general to this adventure. It is a converted minibus, a labour of love where the retired couple who are selling it have stripped out the seats and rebuilt it from scratch. It is not refined, or modern, or even with everything you might expect to find in a motorhome. We think it might do the job. Digger listened patiently and with interest as the chap in his cricket umpire hat talked him through the minutae of the gadgets. There is another empty van sitting on their driveway, which is to be the project mark 2. I sat in the seating area with the lady and talked cooking and curtains. The sun shone through the (many) minibus windows (hence the importance of curtains). We are back on Monday with Tiddler to double check seating arrangements for her will work, and then it might be time for cheque books out.

Digger smiles.’ We could be off in a couple of weeks!’
Yes, when insurance is sorted, and ferry booked, and all manner of other things organised, including all our random boxes of stuff in the sheds. Maps and guide books are in hand, and I’ve just requested the European health cards for us all- what else do I need to do? Am I missing anything obvious?
Motorhomees, and campervanners-  please share advice you wished you’d been given before you set out please?





The best laid plans…

Well, to be fair, we never really had clear plans in the first place. We had a sort of ‘let’s-motorhome-across-Europe-and-then-chill-out-in-Bulgaria’ kind of grand scheme, but were so bamboozled with the logistics in getting us and our stuff off the island and across to *in hushed tones* ‘the mainland’ that we didn’t quite get round to hammering out the finer points. How we joshed to our friends before we left, that it’s good not to have a fixed plan as then we can play it by ear. Ahem, are we still joking quite so much about that now? More to come on that towards the end of this post…..

Primarily, we have hit the Westcountry during a heatwave. Our island chums are posting pictures of themselves on facebook and instagram in wellies and waterproofs (#islandsummer), while we are swanning about as if we are already on the French Riviera, guzzling stawberries by the bucket load, lazing on the decking and generally pootling in holiday mode already.

First major observation on leaving the island: other places are not always windy. You don’t always need a coat and a hat even in midsummer to keep the chill off. You can sit out on a picnic blanket without having to scout around first for large rocks to weigh it down. Needless to say, Tiddler has been running around in the garden and beach in her birthday suit and has turned a glorious nut brown of which I am very envious. Her hair ends are bleaching in the sun and curl up like the seaweed fronds she has been splashing amongst.
Second observation: I feel like I’m in a permanent game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ (Waldo for my across-the-pond readers). This place is heaving. Whether tourists avoiding Brexit-affected European holidays, or locals making the most of the balmy weather before it turns, or rather I think just normal mainland life, we have a full on in your face reminder of how beautifully quiet and peaceful our island was. There are people and dogs and cars and jams wherever we turn here, a stroppy heat-bothered mass of ‘other people’.
Thirdly, Digger really is in limbo. Having given up our island address, closed bank accounts and all, Digger now cannot open anything new. He cannot even register with a doctor. To do all of this he needs a proof of address in the UK. We have no utility bills as are temporarily staying with my parents. He cannot use his old utility bills and driving licence as the address on those, while British Isles, is not UK. He is here, but like a ghost. No-one official will accept he exists.  I am more fortunate, as held on to old accounts when I moved to the island, so the transition back is not too painful for me. Even opening an account for Tiddler here seems problematic at first as the bank query her birth certificate showing she is an Islander, and Island born, even if that still means she is automatically a British citizen. Digger by the way is also a British citizen, (he applied for and was awarded citizenship) but never having lived within the UK or GB he is still at square one for getting any paperwork sorted. Getting confused? Read here to help, or confuse you even more!

We spent the first days catching up with family (my parents, and my sister and her two children) and a few friends who remain local. Digger’s father, Dyado (Grandfather) is also here for a week- he has been visiting Digger’s elder brother in Canada and has stopped off to see us here briefly on his route back home to Bulgaria. Tiddler, having been on a fairly meagre diet of visiting relatives for the last three years, is like the proverbial kid in a sweetie shop- she doesn’t know which one to hug and chatter away to first, and instead bounces between everybody so that we all end up feeling dizzy. She burns herself out and falls asleep on the sofa, a sticky ice cream dribble on her chin. Despite the hospitality offered, we are aware that for Granny and Papa Westcountry our presence (and all our stuff now squeezed into sheds and cupboards) is fairly disruptive. They are getting older, and the changes are more pronounced when you have not seen them for a while.

Digger vows to get off on the road as soon as possible. We start viewing motorhomes, and Digger has long conversations under bonnets with the pre-loved owners while I wonder if having a log book all and only in German might be a bit confusing. I investigate the fold out/hideaway/ multi purpose functions, while Digger dismisses vehicles for having rusty crossmembers which I have no idea what it means but sounds like a not very good travelling companion.

In the middle of all of this, we decide to go and look at a few properties. Our hard earned, skinflintered savings of the last few years were due to be our spending money, our rainy day fund, our cushion, to enable us to not have to work for this year. However Digger’s increasing and unusual vehemence towards the banking and other administrations, mean he thinks we ought to get our money working for us instead. We consider rental opportunties, and whether we could sink our money into a buy-to-let. The rental income would be far higher than any interest rates paid on our savings, even if we had to pay an agent to managing the letting in our absence. Digger find a run down dilapidated cottage in need of a complete overhaul, and says ‘Let’s just go and have a look at this one for the fun of it shall we?’

And here is where we reach where I am tonight. Somehow, in less than a week, we have managed to let our original plans go a little bit gang aft agley. Possibly. Unless this is a better plan? Tomorrow we are likely to hear whether our offer on this cottage has been accepted. It will take roughly 80% of our savings, with a remaining 15% put by to attempt to do a quick flip, if that is the right term. With Digger not working, he thinks he can do a lot of the graft himself to bring it back into habitable use. We estimate if successful it could be rented out at around £500 per month. Which goes quite a long way if we are living in Bulgaria.  But does this mean we can get to Bulgaria this autumn? How quick can we survey, purchase, strip and rebuild? Can Granny and Papa Westcountry cope with us that long? Can we still afford a motorhome? What about the whole point of not working?

Hmmmm….. let’s see what the morrow brings, but please offer up any advice or thoughts you have in the comment section! (Please!)


(NB: if you don’t know the origins of the poem I have referenced in the title and elsewhere, please see here. 
Apologies that it is a just a wiki link but probably best to show the original and meaning side by side)


Calling all travellers….

Digger and I have tried to sit down recently and come up with ‘some sort of plan’ for our overland travel – we are thinking France, Italy, Greece- to take us and our paired-down possessions to Bulgaria this September. We definitely don’t want to travel for more than a couple of hours a day, as Tiddler will go on strike if we keep her in the car seat too long. She is after all used to #islandlife, where nowhere is really more than a thirty minute drive, and anywhere further than that, well those are the back of beyond parts of the island just for the ‘locals’. Even we only go there on special occasions and then usually under duress, and possibly wishing you had a phrasebook.

Not being experienced European travellers we don’t really know where to start,  so I’m here doing a shout out for some suggestions please. We will probably be starting off by waving goodbye to Blighty and driving off the ferry in Le Harve or St. Malo.
From there- where shall we go? What shouldn’t we miss? What should we miss? Any advice, or things we should know? Travel ideas on a shoestring? All ideas/suggestions/travel horror stories welcome! Thank you!