the skinflint philosopher

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


Last days and alien space trees

I have not fallen completely into a wifi-free zone, just with the demands on our time over the last few weeks during the big ‘getting off the island’ shenanigans, and now the eccentricities of living with Granny and Papa Westcountry in their sprawling, full-to-the brim home while we are in an eclecticly bizarre sort of limbo, mean this is my first chance to sit down and type.

In the last week on the island, I think it is fair to say I drank a lot of coffee. Tiddler and I were fortunate to meet and say farewell to different friends from all different parts of our lives at coffee shops, parks, homes, beaches and woodlands. We did the grand tour, Tiddler waving like the Queen with curiously rigid fingers, fitting in everyone on our itinerary as best we could. We were given beautiful, thoughtful going away presents – a customised ‘travelling tin’ with minature champagne bottles and a citronella candle (to allow a future romantic moment on an European beach somewhere without having to sup bubbles through a midge net), a soft warm woolen blanket with the island’s famous tartan in soft toned blue and purple hues, a silky soft toy version of our island’s national and instantly recognisable wiley sheep, messages in cards that went far beyond a simple ‘good luck and we’ll miss you’. Further gifts and cards wait still fully underwraps with dates pencilled on the envelopes for Tiddler and I to open over the next fortnight when both our birthdays will fall within days of each other. Tiddler says thank you and goodbye and showers hugs and kisses on everyone before switching interest to something else, leaving I and Digger to see and feel more keenly the shadow of a tear in someone else’s eye, as well as our own.

In between all this we sold off the last of our furniture and Digger’s ladders, camped out on rolled up blankets on the floor and ate our meals on a picnic blanket in our former lounge. Tiddler queried her absent toys, but quickly found an old broom handle became an imaginary horse, the picnic blanket a pond, and the electric reading key- well I don’t know what that became as we couldn’t find it on departure and had to ask bashfully for our landlady to forward on our final meter reading. Possibly stuck in the garden somewhere I imagine as a sort of snail signpost.

We also managed to make a few last visits to some of our favourite haunts on the island. Tiddler enjoyed a run around an area of woodland that spilled out of a more formal garden, discovering mysterious and hidden places at every turn.

She spent sometime contemplating the beautiful views, even on the cusp of a summer storm.


Digger and I also wanted to make a point to say farewell to the tree planters. To a degree we feel that we, (and also Tiddler in terms of enthusiasm with a plastic spade and time spent trailing round after normally grizzly bearded blokes who take her under their wing and let her boss them around with tree planting instructions), have left a little part of a living legacy of our time on the island through the ground we have cleared and the trees we have planted. It is also of course, how Digger and I met, and how the seed of this idea we are now trying to embark on all really began.
We felt it fitting therefore to do a little bit of stealth birdboxing on some of our current tree planting sites. Digger had previously made some rustic looking birdboxes using a section from a felled tree. They had only gathered spiderwebs and snails in our own garden (despite many avian visitors for seed) and they had now long begun to shed their bark. Digger wouldn’t bring them in the van. I didn’t want to throw away something he had made. So we found a more suitable home for it, and perhaps they may enable a little more life in the woodland other than just the trees themselves.

The following pictures show Tiddler’s master plan- find a suitable tree, instruct Digger how to get up it from a safe position on the ground, put up the birdbox, admire the view, and then give the tree a final hug.

We also had a last look and tidy up at one of our large planting sites (due for it’s official opening at the end of the month) a commerative site of 1267 trees to mark the island’s fallen soldiers, and home also to lots of other trees including ash trees from space!


It is a shame we will not be here to continue to see these grow, but hopefully we, or at least Tiddler will be able to return to a beautiful broadleaved woodland in the future, where right now she spots frogs and ducks and hitches rides in wheelbarrows.

The final thing to say about the last week is Digger’s comment, driving my overladen car on to the ferry. I’d refused to throw anything else away, steadfastly bagging up my last house plants and squeezing them in, wrapping duvets over my knees in the passenger seat. We had to keep the windows wound down to ensure there was enough oxygen. Digger expressively forbade me opening the boot or side door for fear of me somehow launching half our possessions and Tiddler across the tarmac in some sort of jack in the box ejector seat scenario.
I’d mentioned my keyring felt very light, with no house key, and no work keys to weigh it down.  Digger smiled. ‘I have no van key, no shed key, no metal shed key, no house key. Nothing. All we’ve got is your car key. I like it. I like having no keys’. He turns to face both Tiddler and I. ‘Now lets get on that ferry’.






So long, and thanks for all the pish

In a rather self generated anti-climax, I have just finished my last day of work. Having tallied up the numbers, it turns out I have spent over a quarter of my life working there. It also means that I have spent three quarters of my life attending school- either as a teacher or as a student myself. Given that I am not yet forty, that should be, by bonafide socially-aware folk, either a little bit inspirational, or emotional, or at the very least duly noted.
However, I managed to cunningly avoid most of the folderol through a combination of techniques including ‘hiding’ in my office during breaks, actually continuing to do my job during the day rather than dithering about in the staffroom, and finally scarpering off home promptly on the final bell rather than go to the drinks and speeches at the official ‘do’ for fellow leavers and retirees.
Am I an immensely ungrateful person I wondered to myself? Or am I just anti ‘fuss’? I found the thought of it all a little overwhelming, and felt happier making my own arrangements for the next few weeks with the colleagues and friends I know more personally, and fully intend to keep in touch with.  I googled Atelophobia and Katagelophobia, and while those are the extreme, I think I felt a little bit on the weak end of that spectrum about this.

Dear readers will know of my visit to Iceland in the spring, see the post here,  which resulted in a thank you gift of a bottle of Prosecco from a student. I had been storing this away as had decided this was going to be my treat to myself on my last day. Digger however, had clearly forgotten that memo and took himself off moonlighting as a night-time office cleaner to help out a short-staffed friend (every penny counts in this run up to cessation of paid employment), so having shunned the staff party in the end I had a quiet night in with Tiddler tucked up in bed, a mug of hot chocolate, and a good book. Not necessarily everyone’s idea of painting the town red, but I felt quietly content in my own little way. (Digger and I shared the bottle of Prosecco the following night by the way with a home-cooked ‘date night’ meal, so it wasn’t all bad!)

This led me to spending a bit of time thinking and philosophising about goodbyes. Who are the goodbyes for? The one who is leaving, or the ones staying behind? Ancient yogis following Sanskrit texts uphold the notion of abhinivesah, or ‘clinging to life’, which also looks at the concept that holding on to things- people, places, the status quo- can actually cause more pain and sorrow than the short, sharp sadness of a goodbye. After all, with a goodbye, or closure, it means also the opening up to fresh, new things. A rejuvenation of sorts.

I also thought about JD Salinger’s words in Catcher in the Rye-“I was trying to feel some kind of good-bye. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-bye or a bad good-bye, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t you feel even worse.”  A similar sort of idea I suppose, in a ‘West’ meets ‘East’ kind of way.


That being said of course, as a result of the great technological advancement of our world, things are different. It is not the pilgrim fathers sailing of in the Mayflower, doubting whether they would ever see, or even hear news of their families again. It is not the loaf-stealing convict children heading off to Bot’ny Bay.  I won’t need to be sending rolled up message on the feet of pigeons, or messages in bottles, or signal tower clacks and semaphore messages to keep in touch. I won’t need to be looking out for smoke signals to translate the news from back home.  It will simply make me more distant, and ties more loose. Some friendships will no doubt fall by the wayside, through nothing more that passivity and thwarted intentions from either my side or theirs. Others will endure, wherever we go and whatever we do.
Is it adieu, or au revoir? Hopefully a simple case of Mañana Hakuna Matata!