Sunday, 31 August 2014

Happy Sunday

Hoping for a lovely day...

Finished my tax return last night - weight off my mind!

Sun is shining.  Girls have taken some clutter off to a car boot sale with my cousin.  Family coming for lunch afterwards together.  Spending time with family and friends - last weekend with the EFG.  [Shhh!  We all piled into my bed last night at midnight!!]  I'm off to church to lead the last of four services based around Ruth - what a faithful, God-loving woman she was, and what a privilege it has been to share her story.  

Loving Ann Voskamp's post yesterday - head on over there and have your spirits raised today.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Vacuum cleaner laws

Goodness me, the emotions that can be raised by a new law about the manufacture and import of the humble vacuum cleaner!  They have come on somewhat since their early days......

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I remember my Mum having an upright one for years which she often had trouble with, something to do with the belt slipping off the motor....and my granny always had one with a long hose attachment.  Mum went to work at Gonville & Caius college in Cambridge when I was older, and we met the first of a series of Henry hoovers that she used working in the accommodation houses there.  She loved her Henry so much that she eventually had one at home too.  
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We have had a blue upright Vax vacuum for several years, probably at least 5 years.  It has been replaced once, by a hose type like Henry, which then died and we had to go back to the Vax.  The Vax only does any good if it is emptied every time it is used, and I mean Every Time!

And so the time came light of the new legislation, a rather nice vacuum cleaner was half price in that supermarket, and so I bought one.  It actually picks things up without having to go over the carpet half a dozen times - what bliss to be able to clean a room in 5 minutes instead of 15!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Cooking by gas

Round here, that phrase, "cooking by gas" means that we are getting on with things, busy!

Actually, what I mean by it now is that we are actually able to use the gas hob again - the plumber friend of the FH's came round this morning, found the leak and repaired it, and we've tried it out for lunch and supper.  The chap is also going to order a new bath panel for me, to replace the one I broke years ago, putting my knee through it whilst leaning over the bath, washing the girls' hair over the bath.

I popped along to the knitting club after he left, to show the ladies how the Alpinia is progressing, and to help with the tea and coffees, and then the hoovering afterwards.

I confess that I had a bit of a rest after lunch whilst the girls went off for a bike ride, but then I folded up all the washing I had hung out in the bracing breeze this morning and got dry, and I cut the front lawn.  Whilst I was washing up the supper dishes tonight, I made some flapjack to feed my recent addiction - got to stop that!!  The girls have helped me and at least half of it is gone now - less to worry about rationing tomorrow, surely!?!

I'm off to have a shower now and think about tomorrow.  Lots to be thankful for tonight including having both my girls here with me.  We are off to Norfolk on Monday and Tuesday, they are going to London on Wednesday and the YFG is back to school Thursday.........time is going to F-L-Y!

Just a basic kind of Thursday

Yesterday was not the most marvellous of days, since we didn't really do very much of note!

We did, however, manage to successfully fetch a new fluorescent tube for the kitchen light from the local DIY shop, which hasn't worked for more than a fortnight.  The YFG and I got it working when we got home, and hey presto, we had light!  Whilst we were in town, I took the old kitchen sink to the town recycling centre, making it within a minute of their closing time - we were very lucky.  The YFG had wanted to take an old chest of drawers from her room as well, but we couldn't fit it into the car, and I am not sure that I want to throw it out yet either - I have seen some lovely revamping techniques on Elaine's and Froog's blogs, so it may be that we have a go at some of them to revitalise the furniture.

I have also spent a little time on the internet, and rekindled my interest in YouGov - with all the stuff we have had going on here lately, I haven't had time to do any of their polls so there isn't a lot in the kitty there - only about £7, so I shall have to be a little more consistent in trying to do them, towards earning the next £50 payout.

All my lovely jars of apples have been safely stored away in the cupboards, on the shelf next to the marmalade which I had made for the FH shortly before he died: he liked that when he was having toast for breakfast, but since he had been having stewed fruit most mornings, I still have quite a stash of marmalade to get through.  Perhaps I shall have to bless others with some of that?!

Avoiding spending is still high on my schedule although some companies seem intent on parting me from my cash - the House of Bath sent a catalogue yesterday morning.......we are not your typical HoB customers, I believe, from the range of items within their pages, but we have bought a couple of mobility things from their website in the past for the FH, which is how they have all our details.  It would be best if they forgot our details now, as I am not about to be swayed by pages and pages of bedding, kitchen items and clothing.

Today is Friday, as you know, and this time next week, the YFG and I will be waving Cheerio to the EFG as she and my sister start to make their way northwards.  Thanks to SusanM in the comments yesterday for sharing that the Daily Record was running a story about the accommodation debacle at Aberdeen; we are just so grateful that the EFG has a room for the week until the 12th and then she will have a permanent place for the rest of the year.  The article is slightly worrying about the cost of accommodation in the years ahead, when she has to go out and live in a flat - it sounds expensive!  Hopefully, the EFG will remember some of our frugal ways and be able to manage.

[I have managed to weave 9 words into that post which are apparently disappearing from common English usage......any guesses as to which ones they are?]

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink

My girls have been nominated by their friends to do the Ice Bucket Challenge which is doing the rounds on social media.  One of them then nominated me, but I am not going to do it!

I was nominated on FB, so I posted a message on FB to explain why I wasn't going to get wet.

Basically, I don't follow trends, and I don't want to be pushed into doing something which is just a stunt, when all is said and done.  If other people want to do it, like the girls did this morning, I'm fine with that.....I just prefer not to do it myself.  I also like to choose where I donate what spare cash I can manage to donate. I've thought a lot about this, and have donated to the Water Aid charity in respect of all the people in the world who cannot afford to waste water - because it is very expensive, because it is scarce, because what there is available is dirty and contaminated.

Aldi voucher

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Don't forget to pick up a copy of The Mirror today if you would like to save £5 off a £45 shop at Aldi this week.  I tend to use these to stock up on tinned goods and long life items to last through the month to the next voucher opportunity.

Edit to say that I think the last one was for a spend of £45, but this one is even better - we only need to choose £40 worth of goods, to benefit from the £5 off.  Bought my paper too late today - had to go to three shops to find one that still had copies!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Today I have been....

Peeling and chopping apples, cooking them up and making apple sauce.  

Investigating the courgette patch and finding all the rogue ones, hiding under the foliage.

Selling yesterday's eggs to a neighbour who popped in.

Washing.  Lots of washing. 

Stoning plums ready for the freezer - 9lbs stashed away in 1lb bags ready for lots of winter crumbles and stewed fruit.

Admiring the cat, sleeping among the tomato plants in the sun.......

It has been a good day, weather wise, and the EFG is home from her shopping trip.  All back together again tonight.

Lucy Locket

I took the girls to the cinema yesterday afternoon [on our Clubcard tokens] to see a film called "Lucy" starring Scarlet Johansson.  I thought she was very good in "The Other Boleyn Girl" but I felt that although she acted very well, the storyline of this film was too far fetched to be taken seriously.  At the end, there was a serious "magic porrige pot" moment, when she dissolved into a sea of black gunk which oozed all over a lab, and I just knew that I would dream of it - and I am sure I shall.  I can't stand the thought of oozing porrige all over the place and hate that story, so to see this black stuff everywhere just brought that all back!!  Weird the things which stick in one's mind, I know....

Scarlet Johansson as Lucy
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At UJ's house, we picked runner beans, Victoria plums, and cherry tomatoes, as well as picking up a few windfall apples.  They will all get processed today for preserving - the apples will probably go into jars as apple sauce, but the beans and plums will just go in the freezer as they are.

After that, I dropped the EFG off at her friend's house for the night so that they can go off shopping in the morning, and then came home with the YFG for what remained of the evening - it was past 8 when we left the EFG.

Today is going to be an at-home day until we have to pick the EFG up later on.  Time is ticking onward relentlessly, and she has managed to get together most of the bits and pieces that she needs.  The days are mostly getting allocated to things now, and there are just a couple of days left when we have nothing to do.  The latest insertion to the calendar is that my sister is taking the girls to London next week to see War Horse on Wednesday.  The YFG will go back to school on Thursday and the EFG will be off to Scotland on Friday.  Then we will be looking forward to that midwinter time of rejoicing, the name of which I cannot quite bring myself to mention just yet!

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bank Holiday Monday

It was an English Bank holiday, so it rained solidly all day.  Sometimes drizzle, sometimes heavier stuff.  But it rained.  We're hoping for better weather in September - let's live in hope and be positive, after all - it usually improves once the holidays are over and the children back in school!

Today has mostly been spent with my Dad and MB - they came over for lunch and stayed for the afternoon in a sort of companionable sitting around, chatting, reading the paper, comfortable sort of way.  We served them toad in the hole, lots of veg and then a choice of puds - rice pud or Rhonda-Jean's self-saucing chocolate pudding.  Dad said he enjoyed it, which was kind of him.

We found out today that the EFG has accommodation for the first week [hooray!] and will be moved in to her permanent accommodation by the uni on the 12th.  The temporary accommodation is very plush - a private hall of residence which is all en-suite and goes for £140+ a week, compared to her more basic £90 a week for where she will be permanently.  She can enjoy it for a week and then come back down to earth - but she will only have to pay £90 to stay there, thank goodness!  No bank holiday in Scotland today, so the accommodation office was open.

I have had a couple of hours tonight on Ancestry since they had a free access weekend - I could look at as many original documents as I wanted to without paying!  I found the FH's great uncle's children - it helped that I worked out a way of looking for them with their mother's maiden name in the search and it found them, but two of them were born in Warwickshire in the second world war, so it makes us wonder why they went there from the Fens.

Tomorrow [today!] we have a busy day scheduled with a school meeting, a trip to the cinema with our Clubcard vouchers, a visit to UJ's house to water his garden and greenhouse whilst he is away and then dropping the EFG off to stay the night with a friend so that they can go to Cambridge shopping the next day. Better head off to bed, I think!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Making do

In the frugal household, there is a need to be flexible, adaptable and somewhat creative - I'm sure you will agree.  In that spirit, I have got a table lamp doing duty in the kitchen because I am not sure how to replace the fluorescent light, I'm using an electric two-ring hob instead of our gas hob because we could smell gas last night so we turned it all off, and the extractor fan hasn't worked for the best part of three years - so what's wrong with just opening the windows?!

I am sure that the hob is safe and we are not going to die in the night, because I do know how to turn off the supply at the bottles, so don't fret over that.  I will manage with the wee hob through the bank holiday today and then I shall call someone out who knows about these things, but probably not the muppet who installed it in the first place, even if he has the certificates and all.

We had a good day yesterday - the sun was shining and I took the girls off to Ely to Sainsbury's when I came home from taking the morning service.  The YFG needs a new pair of black school trousers and she is really hard to find them for - if they fit around the waist, they don't fit on the legs, and vice versa.  We had heard that there was a 25% sale on TU clothing, so we went to see if the trousers there were a better fit - thank goodness, they were!

When we came home, I was able to enjoy my lunch sitting under the verandah in the FH's favourite old perch, and then I read a book there [The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeust], and eventually even had a wee nap - well, that's what Sunday afternoons are for, aren't they?  Unfortunately, when I woke up, I was summoned to climb the mountain that is Student Finance with the EFG - trying to help her work out budgets and income/outgoings - sort of like her cash flow.  Bit challenging, if I am honest - she seems to think it is going to be a struggle to manage on £25 a week for food, even though I think that is generous.  She's got to learn to be economical......but she may have to learn the hard way.

Last night, we watched a silly, girly film, and I did some knitting - perfect.  The girls were giggling over Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde!  Then they watched Bizarre ER, which was a step too far for me, so I went off to tackle the washing up.....

Sunday, 24 August 2014


The paperwork generated by the FH's death seems to be never-ending.  It is still coming - and a lot of it is duplicated.  Take yesterday - I filled in an R27 tax form at the end of July, and the department replied asking for more information about one aspect of his affairs, and I responded on 11th August.  I keep photocopies of everything!  Another R27 arrived on Saturday I had to phone up and find out if there was a problem.

Also in the post yesterday were three brown envelopes from the tax credit system.  Two of them I could understand as they were winding up our joint claim, but the third one was relating to a joint claim for now, until next April and referring to sums of money I am not in receipt of.  All very confusing - another phone call, and profuse apologies from a lady in Lancashire somewhere, explaining that my single claim is up and running and I could ignore this.

And then there is the new funding for our situation.  I think I am entitled to a Widowed Parent's Allowance whilst I am getting Child Benefit for the YFG.....but it hasn't turned up yet.  I phoned them on Friday to see what was happening, and was told that it had been turned into a "manual claim" and would have to be processed by hand somewhere, and so would be delayed somewhat. "But don't worry," the kindly sounding woman said, "you'll get it backdated to the bereavement date."  I'm lucky that I am in the fortunate position of being able to manage until it does turn up, but I do feel for those for whom this lifeline is essential and they need it now.  A lump sum in six weeks' time won't feed the children now, after all.  I can see how easily people fall into debt when they have no cushion of savings to fall back on in these situations.

I have received a Bereavement Payment, which has paid a good chunk of the funeral expenses.  We had prepared, as you know, for funeral expenses and for an emergency fund.  The "average" funeral costs are supposed to be in the range of £4000 at the moment, so we were fortunate to come in well under that amount.  I'm going to do a post about funerals in the future, as I feel that they are an area where we need to plan in advance, as we are so upset and distracted at the time that more money is sometimes spent than we realise.

I hope that our situation will be sorted out by the end of September and we can start to get to grips with our new regime, and I can sort out some work for myself one way or another.  If I can't get a suitable job, I shall just have to ramp up my self-employment activities somehow.......

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Baking again

It's been a bit of a day today - washing on the line, my third service about Ruth prepared for the morning, taking the EFG to her friend's house so that they could go to the cinema together, no time for any knitting, unfortunately!

I made sticky chicken for my tea with the YFG, and then I thought I could do some baking whilst the oven was on, so I made Weetabix brownies, potato scones, and flapjack [that's for me!].  The YFG turned up her nose at scones made with mash, but then she soon scoffed one with some jam when they had cooled!  She loves the Weetabix brownie, and I find it extremely forgiving for using up Weetabix - well, the packet had December 2012 on it, but that is just a Best Before, so what can happen to dry chaff anyway?!

The potato scone recipe was one I picked up from Gressenhall this week - they were selling recipe cards for 30p in aid of the Shire Horse fund - I am very fond of Shire Horses, so I thought I would choose a recipe in their support and this one looked very simple and quite frugal.  I made it twice and froze most of the scones, leaving just four in the tin for the YFG to nibble on - after all, there's "nothing to eat" if there is nothing instantly ready to eat........teenagers and bottomless pits!

I have invited my dad over for lunch on Monday, with his partner, because I am not sure when else he will see the EFG before she toddles off to Aberdeen - time is running out!!  We are getting booked up rapidly.  My sister had promised to take the girls to London to see a show for their birthdays in 2012 and hadn't got around to it yet - she asked me this morning when they are free and I could give her only three days on which they are available before school and uni start - I shall be glad of a rest when September comes round!

Friday, 22 August 2014

That D word

Yes, the EFG had to go into the torture chamber this morning for a filling but she made it out alive, if a wee bit numb!

The girls and I did some chores here and there about town afterwards and then came home for a peaceful afternoon - knitting, watching tv and chatting - very companionable and good fun!

This evening we have been looking at the calendar and wondering how to fit everything in before the EFG goes away......the diary is getting a bit full!

I have been knitting an Alpinia and enjoying the challenge of knitting on a circular needle for the first time........nip over there and have a look - has anyone tried this pattern before?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Adult in the house

The EFG has had her 18th birthday today - there's another adult here now, for a couple of weeks, anyway!

We have had a busy day - popping off to school to pick up the YFG's GCSE Eng Lit result [B - rather fab!] and then visiting a couple of friends in the town to pick up cards!  We came home so that the EFG could have her hair trimmed and then she and I went to the other town whilst the YFG went swimming with her friend for an hour.  We came home and collapsed - they watched a film and I read a book, and then I nipped up to the chapel to have a chat with the Jigsaw club ladies for a bit of help with my current project.  When I came home, the local electrician was here to take away the poo pit pump for repair, and then it was time to cook enchiladas for the birthday tea.  The girls' brother, FHS, brought his partner over and they stayed until 10pm, chatting over chocolate birthday cake and raspberries for some time.  A good evening all round.

All in all - a very productive day, with lots done, happy times shared, and another birthday celebration over. This morning I was remembering the day I gave her birth, and now it feels like her freedom is being dragged out of me, as I am reluctant to let her go so soon after the FH has gone from here.  I know that she must go, she has to be allowed to grow, to learn and to develop further, but that doesn't make it any easier.......

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Photo post - Gressenhall

The old workhouse, originally built as a House of Industry, is in a lovely red brick, and is quite simply enormous!  The locals called it the Paupers' Palace when it was built and you can see why!  This photo just shows one wing.

The Poor Law Amendment act of 1834 transformed the House of Industry into a Workhouse, and it meant a great deal of change - segregation and a lot of walls being built to keep the different parties separate.  Families saw one another only for an hour on a Sunday afternoon.  This yard now houses a collection of tractors and wagons from Norfolk, but it was the yard in which women did laundry in the early days.

This is the men's workyard looking one way.

And this is the yard looking the other way.  A closed-in yard, with walls on all sides.

Men etched their names onto the brick wall on one side of the work yard.  Names have been matched to records so that it is possible to date the names.  

The FH's grandfather was born in a Norfolk workhouse, and it was interesting to find an alternative spelling of our name on a list of entrants to this particular workhouse, although it was not this one at which old William was born.

In the infirmary ward, we found these strange triangular beds.  We wondered why they were triangular and then we read that this was simply in order to fit more beds in to the room!  We haven't worked out why they sloped from the head to the foot, though - it doesn't look very comfortable.

This is the cafeteria yard now but it was the yard belonging to the "Itch Ward" - what a name!  This separate building was used as a Fever ward at one time, and at another period, was the entrance ward, where new paupers were deloused, washed and re-clothed.  

The steam laundry was one of the most up-to-date in Norfolk at its time and was in use until the early 1970s, I think.  That little machine on the far left was used exclusively to wash the Matron's clothing - that didn't get mixed in with the rest!

These blue doors hid racks which slid out on rails and sheets and items could be hung to air on them.  The words on the right were printed on to a sheet and say "If you listen carefully, you can still hear the echoes and voices of women who worked here" - we tried hard, but we couldn't.

The board of governors of the workhouse was a very important group of people, so they had a big room to have their meetings in - very imposing and grand in comparison to many other areas of the workhouse.

The internal workings of the workhouse clock.  For people who had lived their lives by the sun, rising and going to bed in tune with the seasons, having to live according to a timetable dictated by a clock was a huge shock to the system for them.

There was a ward for six elderly couples called Cherry Tree Cottage, and this is the kitchen range.  

This is the parlour of Cherry Tree Cottage. The wooden chairs are lovely and UJ still has some of those at his house - they are surprisingly comfortable and I could imagine toasting my toes by this fire.  Rag rugs were everywhere at Gressenhall.

There was a row of shops, in some outbuildings, and this was a recreation of a local post office.

The grocery shop with all the old packets on the shelves.

And the garden supply shop - with boxes of seeds, including Painted Lady Runner beans which we still grow today.  I thought of FrugalInSuffolk, and her smallholding at this point, when I was looking around this part of the display.  There were some gorgeous little seed packets for flowers as well.

A huge display of gardening and carpentry implements and tools mounted on the wall.

One of a display of several different rugs - my grandmother had three of these in a very similar style in her kitchen when I was a child, and they were made of old wool items - incredibly durable.

We went for a lovely walk along the River Whitewater - the water takes 10 days to flow from here down to the sea at Great Yarmouth.  It was picturesque and peaceful along here.  We went on a tractor and trailer ride around the farm, which was busy, and horse and cart rides were also on offer, with a beautiful pair of Suffolk Punches pulling a cart, but the queue for that was far too long, so we went for the walk instead.

The chapel was built in 1868 with money raised by public subscription - it was originally just used by Church of England clergy, but the non-conformists also held services there as well eventually.

Walking down the central aisle from the back towards the altar, it is quite unnerving in that the floor slopes downwards and one feels it quite sharply.  The decorated brickwork is attractive, and it was a lovely building.

We found this plaque in the original main building and it seems to embody the ethos of the first House of Industry on the site.

The smell of oil!  This is one of Norfolk's oldest horseless carriages, the Panhard et Lavassor car, dating from 1899 and once owned by Charles Rolls [he of Rolls Royce fame].  It was donated to the Norfolk Museums Service in 1936.  It has successfully completed the London to Brighton rally twice in the Nineties and is still taken out to shows occasionally.

Gressenhall was incredibly good value for us - I paid just £20 for four children and I to have a great day there, with lots to look at, to do and to find out.  All the kids said they would go back there again, and it was very interesting.  I did splurge and buy them an ice cream, but that was about it!  We took packed lunches which we ate on the grass in the car park, and it was a fine day, so that was no problem.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Housing update

The phone call may or may not have had an impact this morning, but we did speak politely and firmly to a lady in the accommodation office, and by this evening, the EFG had an email saying that she can have a room on 12th September and if she wants to arrive before then, they will put her in temporary accommodation.  Phew!  The relief is amazing.  OK, there is a minor hiccup in that she will have to move from the temporary place to the permanent room, but that is minor compared with not having a room........we'll just have to pay for a taxi to move her if there is no help on that front from the uni.

Today we have been to Gressenhall Workhouse and Museum of Rural Life - and it was fantastic!  I have taken loads of pictures, but I am tired now and I'll share them tomorrow: I am just SO relieved about the EFG!!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Home needed

(image from

The university seems to have miscalculated slightly and has not got enough accommodation with which to honour its guarantee that it will house all first year students in halls.

Not good.

We're 480 or so miles away, so we can't exactly pop along and look at a few flats, and the EFG hasn't conveniently got a group of 3 or 4 friends to take along to share with, so we are in a bit of a pickle here tonight.

We don't know for sure tonight that she hasn't got a place, but we haven't heard that she has, and on her FB group, those that have got accommodation know what they have, and those who have heard anything today have heard that they haven't.  She hasn't heard anything, so at this time, it seems prudent to presume the worst.

We've got the phone number to ring at 9am prepared with a list of questions.  I am also going to politely but firmly tell someone that a recently bereaved student needs a little more support than she might get in a rented flat with a group of people she doesn't know.  

I've emailed the Methodist minister there as well in case any families in the church want to offer lodgings, and we have scoured the rental websites - but you need a group of mates in order to rent a flat.....

Stressful?  Yes.  The end of the world?  No.  Hassle we didn't need?  Definitely.  Disappointed with the uni?  Unfortunately, yes.