the skinflint philosopher

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


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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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The deep heart’s core

We have had a quiet sitting-around-in-bed kind of day as Tiddler was up most of last night with undiagnosed but weird and wonderful symptoms that ranged from high temperature and ice-block feet, to an elusive moment when I seriously thought she was talking in tongues.
The weather outside is consistently damp, grey and windy, so I am happy to snuggle in and take time out from the real world with her. In the quiet lassitude I think of Yeats’ Lake Isle of Innisfree, for it is worth recalling on a regular basis, and I think about Tiddler’s warm milk and biscuity smell, the soft tickle of her hair against my cheek, the clasp of her hand in mine. Love and yearning can be a person, a place, a state of mind.
Make sure you Arise, and Go.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
 
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
 
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
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Luddites on the loose

The scenario at 8am today saw me sticking an envelope with cash in, on the pavement under a locked rusty green metal gate and grill system, and heading off to work with the vain hope it might still be there for the person it was intended for. Explanation is as follows. I’ve signed Tiddler up for a crafty activity day just before christmas, and as places are restricted it is a case of get your money in before the place goes to another child with a more ready cash flow. I booked through facebook, a level of technology I am au fait with,  but then was asked to settle the bill by PayPal. Now for most of you, that wouldn’t be too much of a bother, but for me that is akin to peddling in some sort of necromancy. I don’t have a PayPal account, and I don’t want one, Ta very much. The ‘old school’ solution is of course that I drop the money in an envelope with my name on at an address that the lady will be doing an activity this morning, yet she and I get our timings wrong and the hall is locked up when I get there. Bizarrely, even the letter box is inside this Fort Knox level of security so I can’t even drop it in there. How do the Post office manage I wonder? Hence having to get on my knees in the morning gloom no doubt to the hilarity of passing traffic so I can wedge my hard earned pennies as far under the gate as possible. Not even a stick to hand to poke it in further. Clearly this isn’t a typical skinflintery thing to do- effectively leaving money out in the open for any passer-by to take a fancy to, but thankfully it did indeed get picked up by the intended party after a few hours of me feeling distinctly ill at ease. My solution worked.

So this gets me thinking about how as we say on one hand the world is shrinking, as globalisation and communication enables incredible multi-faceted, high speed interactions, but for some of us the world seems to get more complicated and distant if we choose to opt out. We find it more difficult to do what we want to do, as our ‘technology’ becomes old-fangled and we get potentially sidelined in our ability to be part of those interactions.
I joke sometimes we are Luddites in this household, as being anti-technology and fairly inept, but that is not what the followers of the invented Ned Ludd intended. They were not against the machines per se, but rather how they were being used, as  this article explains. The changing conditions in the cotton mill counties and the sweep of industrial advancement was creating an inequality, and that is what fired up those Yorkshire lads to take matters into their own hands.  For us though, with our interest in thrift and a more simple way of life,  we do not protest and rage against the machine, but instead show a rather disinterested air of nonchalance towards the whole gambit.

Our home therefore doesn’t use PayPal, credit cards, internet banking, no Tv, no smart phones, no Sat Nav, no….. I can’t really go on with this list as I don’t even know what gadgets and gizmos are out there that other folks are clearly using on a daily basis. I don’t have the terminology, let alone the technology. I still like to pay with a cheque book, or a chip and pin. I stopped buying lunch in the work canteen last year when they went over to cashless catering, even though I know it is a simple case of putting money onto a swipe card in advance. I never bothered learning how to use itunes as I have plenty of music on CDs (and a few dusty cassettes). I complained to customer service in Tesco when they put in the new hand-held scanner system. My father has a sticker on his library card that gives him permission to use the actual desk with real people to get his books issued, rather than the self service machines. He jokes this black circle is the black spot of Blind Pew that signifies he is a marked man- in terms of age or infirmity I am not sure.

The point I suppose with this is that in my small acts of defiance or non-conformity I am, without smashing any spinning jennies or putting the fear into fatcat factory owners of the 19th century, staking my own little Luddite interference in this great sweep of modernity. Not everyone has access or skills for this advanced level of high-tech wizardry, and while we celebrate the great and the good, we should not let advancement leave behind the little man- there should be room for all.

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Home (is where the blog is)

I think it is high time the Skinflint Philosopher tries to set down in writing a little bit more in the ‘home’ section of this blog, as a way to try and stave off the oft misquoted ‘road paved with good intentions’. I see nothing overtly ironic that I plan to do just that, albeit by wordpressing some intentions instead (these are of course, times of modernity, and paving slabs and stonemason’s tools are just a teensy bit passe these days).

We’ve reached a point in our lives where the thought of the day job doesn’t really get us fired up in the morning. We find house prices in our area beyond our means. We find ourselves bickering with each other because we are tired. We pay someone else to look after Tiddler. We are, to summarise, slightly worried we are slowly but surely metamorphosing into a cross somewhere between Eeyore and Marvin. We need to stop the rot.

Digger and Thrifter have concocted a cunning plan. If we tighten the belt a little now, and save our pennies for the next year, then we are heading off to Bulgaria. No sabbatical for us, we might just attempt to jump ship. Digger hails from those Slavic parts, so language won’t be a problem for him, and we intend to immerse Tiddler for a year or so to forge bonds with her extended family and learn most importantly how to speak with them. Thrifter does not hold her breath with her own confidence with the Cyrillic alphabet, but when you are not out all hours earning your daily crust then who knows what you have the will and the energy to turn your mind to. Digger plans to buy a property, and work the hours he feels and the way he wants. As the black sheep or poor relation in Europe, Bulgarian houses are half-started, part-boarded, completely possible idylls that have simply been abandoned by their owners who see more lucrative gains in searching for something more tangible to them across the borders and into the west. The peaches on the trees grow ripe and fall uneaten to the ground.

So many ifs though. Does Digger really want to go back to a country he himself jettisoned away from so many years before? Can Digger sell his business, and give us a small financial pot to tide us over? Can we save enough before we go? How long can we stay for? What will we do with all our possessions here, which to take with us would involve crossing two seas and a whole continent. Can Thrifter give up her career and position that she committed so much to establishing? Will Tiddler thank us for it? What we do know, is we won’t know until we try.

We know for sure we have to cut back, and go a little off grid. We are not swanning off to the Black Sea for some expat jolly. The cost of living will be less, but with no income coming in for that time period,  we cannot fritter away Tiddler’s future. And so we plan, and think, and consider, and thrift. We don’t want to reach retirement age, with Tiddler off making a life of her own, and regret not doing this now. Bring on the stonemason tools I say, and carve our destiny by making all our intentions good.

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Creeeeyeeeyeeak-thud (is it the sound of falling trees?)

We all have heard, contemplated or indeed scoffed at the famous philosophical question as to whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound if there is no-one there to hear it. Now the details to explain the ins-and-outs of that old chestnut (pun intended, I chuckle to myself) are far better explained elsewhere on the web, for example here at the OUPblog, so read through that to your heart’s content if you need a refresher course.
The Skinflint philosopher has been dwelling on this lately when considering the ideas of noise, sounds and silence. With Tiddler on constant yabber-dabber-doo overdrive, learning new words every day, our waking hours are filled with a whole range of sounds and words, and there is of course a true joy in witnessing this. But sometimes Thrifter longs for a few minutes of sound minimalism, aka, the sound of silence. Paul and Art clearly knew what they were singing about: in our multi-communication society do we really ever switch off? For so many of us our working days are all about talk and interaction, followed by ‘relaxation time’ where we continue to pipe music, noise and all-around-sound into our heads as well.
We tend to think of ‘Eastern cultures’ being aware of the consequences of this, and hence have perfected ways to listen to the silence and in essence act as noise minimalists. Tai-chi, yoga, and Japanese tea ceremonies are amongst many examples, but you could argue the sharing a smoking pipe by Native americans, or the Australian aborigines walkabout has exactly the same concept. It is not therefore about location, but perhaps about time. Down time, quiet time and think time. In a typical rat-race society, so many of us no longer designate time to do nothing, and therefore we are never able to hear nothing. Perhaps we would all benefit therefore from going back to our roots (slipped another tree reference in again there in case you were wondering) and think about giving ourselves some sound head-space.
Now those of you who want to go and live as a solitary hermit in a cave, or join a silent community, you may have the opportunity to reduce your personal soundscape. I can’t go to that extreme, but I will consider the vibrancy of sound, with those crashing creaking timbers of the tree twisting and falling, the disrupted fluttering sputter and calls as roosting birds take to the air, and the soft whump as it returns to the earth.  And I’ll enjoy the silence that follows it even more as a result. Yin and yang, my friends.


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Testing the water

Things have been pretty quiet on this web space for the last few weeks, and it is not because the Skinflint philosopher got so thrifty she switched the wifi off, but rather that we have been dabbling our toes in our future lives. Huh? All sounding a bit time traveller-esque so far, but never fear, I shall not be talking paradoxes and alternative dimensions (but feel free to get a bellyful of the whole ‘what would happen if you met yourself?’ at this site here time travel philosophy ).

The truth is that Digger, Tiddler and I took a visit to where we plan to be if we get this whole simple life project of the ground. The reason for this challenge of skinflintery at the moment is to save as much capital as we can now, while Digger and I are still both earning a wage, and also perhaps to prepare us for what may be a time of belt-tightening and doing without. Now as often happens in the wonderful world of serendipity, this clip popped up in my newsfeed a few days ago, and may be worth a look if you want to see a not-very-off-grid version of our plans.

The major gain of the visit has had to be seeing Digger and Tiddler spend more time together. So much more to tell about what we hope to achieve, and sorry to keep you on tenterhooks still, but this will all have to wait for later posts as Digger is calling me to go and assist him combat the knee-high grass (ok) and various neighbourhood cat deposits (really not ok) that have sprung up in the backyard during our absence.  Now if someone can come up with a causal loop to solve that one for me, I’ll be very much obliged.