Tuesday, 30 March 2010

drip, drip, drip

Oh, how things don't go to plan sometimes! And oh, how exciting it can be when they do! March has been kind of like that. The end of March brings the end of the three month goals I made at the beginning of the year. I've updated them each month, but it's fun to look back at what I thought at Christmas I'd be doing by the end of March.

Have I cleared out the entire house, or even half of it? No, but the attic's looking a lot better, and I'm at least on top of the washing most of the time. Do I have a table, a gate, a washing line in the garden? No, but there's all kinds of things growing (more on that later in the week). Have I been running three times a week? Yes, actually, I have! Sometimes only for 20 minutes at a time - but then that's the beauty of vague goals... Have I stuck to my budget? Yes, pretty much, although it's had to be refined a little because of a couple of unexpected things. But mostly it's ticking along nicely, and it doesn't half feel good to be in control.

Am I up to where I thought I'd be with the PhD revisions? Er, not quite, but I'm sticking to the timetable I made in February, when things were a little clearer. Did I look for a job every week, and apply for a total of six things? No, but that's because I was offered the first thing I applied for (tee hee). Is my voluntary project finished? Not quite, but it will be by the end of this week, and also the community garden is progressing nicely too.

And have I posted at least twice a week on my cheery little blog? Er, it seems not. Sorry about that, must try harder...

My goals for the next three months are pretty similar. I'm having quite a lot of success with ongoing goals - make sure you do a bit of this, a bit of work on that, do something several times, doesn't matter if it's not every week, and slowly, gradually, it drips in, and eventually becomes part of life.

So April's goals range from the rather specific, but fairly tedious things that wouldn't get done if they weren't on a list (sealing round the bath, sorting out a washing line, listing a load of old text books on Amazon, clearing out my old office), to the fairly vague but cheery things (er, should I confess on this list is 'start finishing Peter's Christmas present'??), from the measurable but not very arduous (go on two bike rides), to the decision-making (decide whether to continue with voluntary project. Oh, and I really do plan on posting here a little more often...

March felt busy, head-down kind of busy, and has mostly focused on applying for, being interviewed for, and being excited about my new job. April feels like kind of an in-between month - I'm not finishing this old job yet, not starting the new one yet, not finishing the PhD yet, lots of things just trundling on slowly, drip, drip, drip.

On the other hand, April's the month of my birthday, so it always feels like a rather cheery month :)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

the first spring weekend

Oooh, spring. The first daffs in the garden, crocuses lining the verges, and catkins hanging in the park. The days are now officially longer than the nights, and doesn't it feel good? Great, in fact.

Nothing much to report here, a weekend of pottering in the garden, and someone else's garden. Baking bread. Sewing. Playing old, old records and dancing.

And very much enjoying the squishy feeling of my new knitting project :)

Saturday, 20 March 2010


It's been a funny old week. There I was at the beginning, bumbling along from one thing to another, and then all of a sudden on Wednesday I got offered a new job. Thank you so much to the people who commented and said congratulations, that really does mean so much :)

I've been like an over-excited small child at Christmas these last few days. Would you believe I was awake stupidly early in the morning thinking 'ooh, I'll have a new office!' 'ooh, I'll be able to put things into boxes!' 'ooh, I wonder if I'll be able to see the lake from my window'. Surely it's not just me who gets excited at the prospect of a whole new adventure? Because that's what this feels like, an adventure, and I haven't had a good old fashioned life-changing adventure for a while now.

Shall I tell you the most exciting things about this new job? There are two:

1. I'll be able to get my little foldy bike back into action. I've had it for years, and it's just absolutely perfect for some things, and this is one of them. I'm glad it'll be getting some proper use again! (like, 12 miles of proper use, twice a week).

2. There's a knitting club. Yep, a knitting club, on a Tuesday lunchtime. So I just have to figure out how to get Tuesday as one of my working days, without mentioning the knitting club.

3. (there's three, actually) I have a lovely cheery friend who works in the next building. Is there anything nicer than a friendly face nearby when you're starting a new adventure??

Anyway, so the point of all this rambling is to hopefully get some of it out of my head, so I can get back to talking about other things I've been up to this weekend, like making bread, planting fruit bushes, eating scones, sewing, you know, the normal kind of weekend things. More tomorrow...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

good news!

Well, after all that waiting I finally got a phone call this afternoon... offering me a job! Gosh, I was SO excited, and surprised, I'd almost convinced myself I hadn't got it, but in fact, the woman was worried I would I already been offered something else and would turn it down.

So here we are at the start of another new phase of life. The job will be starting on 1st June, and is the first job I've had that will actually use the qualifications I've spent the last, er, ten? twelve? years acquiring. It feels scary to be pushed almost to the edge of my comfort zone, but I just have to keep telling myself this is something I'm capable of, it's something I've trained for, it's something I've worked towards for many years, it is, after all, something I wanted very much!

It's funny how things all end up linking together too. This is a research job, but the content has nothing to do with all the research I've been doing for years. Strangely enough, the content of the research project is closely linked to my part time job, which I took as a temporary stop gap a couple of years ago, and which I never thought would lead to anything at all. Even my voluntary work played a part in getting me this job. So all those times I worried I was taking too much on, or wasn't doing 'relevant' things, or the 'right' things, wasn't filling the gaps on my CV (whatever that means), it turns out it was all linking together, just through the fact that it was me that was doing it all...

So now there's a bit of planning to do. A lot of planning to do. I've got to hand in my notice. I've got to sit down with the budget and make sure I don't leave myself short in the 6 weeks between pay cheques. I'll have to work out a new budget, with more money, but also more travel expenses. And it might just be an excuse for some new clothes too.

(Also, it'd be so lovely to get the PhD finally finished before the job started - but that's only 11 weeks, and I'm not sure it's possible. Nice thing to aim for though!)

Anyway, I thought I'd share the mother's day card I posted to my mum, who is currently at the seaside, eating ice cream and making me quite jealous and longing to be at the seaside myself. Might have to make sure I squeeze in a quick holiday between jobs...

Sunday, 14 March 2010

sunday morning

Lots of pictures of cakes this morning. Not that I've eaten all of these cakes this morning - oh no, in fact, I haven't eaten any cake this morning at all. These are all Women's Institute Cakes, cakes made by the gorgeous ladies of our local Saturday morning country market. As anyone who's visited me in the last few years will tell you, I love our country market, and pretty much every Saturday morning can be found sitting happily among the cakes and gingham and jam, drinking tea or home made lemon cordial, reading the paper, nattering away and generally waking up slowly.

Our country market is in a scout hut, and I love it for the simplicity of it, for the amount of cakes, for the fact that people queue up outside at 9am to get the best cakes, because I can listen in to the conversations of the old people who always sit at the same table in the corner, every week, because my friends all know I can be found there every Saturday, so various people often pop in and out, and one cheery friend gets introduced to another cheery friend, and new friendships are born.

All the food is hand made, there's always plenty of local stuff there too, people bring produce from their gardens, and things they've knitted, bags they've made, jewelry and things for the garden. We're such a regular feature that they know our names now, and ask our friends where we are if we don't turn up. They call us the young people. Hmm. They ask when I'm going to start making cakes to sell (I don't have the heart to tell them my kitchen probably wouldn't pass the hygiene inspection. Ahem.)

Anyway, what's the point of all this rambling? Well, only that it's Sunday now, and so I can't go to the market for another week, even though I'd very much like to today, since I woke up rather grumpily this morning, and some tea and a nice bun would go down Very Nicely Indeed.

Oh well, Sundays have their advantages too I suppose, although they often feel rather too close to Monday morning for my liking. I'm off to do a very small bit of spring cleaning, things round here are starting to look a bit grubby now the sun's shining... And I want to plant some seeds today too, I'm imagining lots of gorgeous and tasty things in the garden this year, and haven't got round to planting anything at all yet. So, a day of doing, but Cheery Doing, pottering, if you like, a bit of knitting, and maybe even a proper Sunday dinner. Maybe.

Friday, 12 March 2010


We had a whole heap of visitors last weekend - my sister, her husband, and my three small nephews, what fun! Mind you, we're not used to so many young, inquisitive people in this house, and rather embarrassingly, we were really quite tired at the end of the day...

We had a great time, we popped out for tea and cake, had lots of fun in the museum, and had a picnic on the living room floor. The museum is great, I regularly go in myself, but it was so much more fun being pulled off in different directions by a host of excitable nephews. We played in the kitchen (and found the mouse in the bread bin), fished in the arctic, and had a bit of a go at dressing up (well, I did - the boys were less interested in that...).

Then home, where we realised just how many toy cars we have in our house. Quite a lot, as it turns out! And we chased small feet round and round the living room, up and down stairs, in and out of wardrobes...

Rather an eventful weekend, lots of fun, and involving plenty of cake, good company and giggling. How lovely!

Thursday, 11 March 2010


Gosh, it's been a while since I popped in! This last week kind of ran away with me a bit. The weekend was filled with cake and cheeriness, and preparation for The Interview, which was on Wednesday.

Now, I don't have lots and lots of experience of interviews... but this one certainly involved a considerable amount of preparing, and a HUGE amount of waiting. The two weeks before the interview were filled with reading websites, investigating the interview panel, dreaming up ever-more-ludicrous potential interview questions and trying to think of sensible answers, and talking to everyone I've ever met who's ever had an interview for anything.

Anyway, it went alright, I think, apart from the waiting in the middle, but now I'm waiting again, because one of the interview panel was off sick, and they can't confirm without her approval, and she could be off for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks!

So, here we are waiting again, and trying not to plan life around a new job that might, or might not, start some time in the next three weeks.

Well, it's exciting anyway. I have to confess to being pretty pleased with myself for all the preparation I did, rather than leaving everything til the last minute, and it meant that when they asked whether I was an Organised Person, I was able to say 'yes' without falling about laughing... (only just though).

All this has been on my mind a bit today. After all the build up, and the event, today's felt a bit flat, especially with the waiting (did I mention that already?). And I've been pondering the nature of work as a whole. I quite often joke that I don't really approve of 'work', but what I really mean is that I personally can't get stuck into the idea of working full time, doing something that I might like, or might not, to earn enough money to spend on things that if I wasn't working all the time, I'd be able to do for myself. Rhonda writes beautifully about this, much better than I ever could - particularly about cutting back on what you spend, and about simple living.

I'm actually more than happy to work, and frequently do many hours more than I would if I was 'working full time'. But that's because I'm starting to class all this business of living as work, not in a negative way, but in a 'good honest toil' kind of a way - growing food, making meals properly from scratch, baking bread, making presents, sewing and mending, fixing things rather than getting someone in to fix them, going without, and generally making do.

The time I spend on these things is instead of the time I would spend working in a job full time. If I did that, I wouldn't have as much time to do all those things. But it takes sacrifices, and lifestyle changes, and I'm fully aware that not everyone is in a position to be able to do it - I do consider myself lucky.

Several things helped me on this road - having a good, long think about what I wanted my life to look like, and working out how I could get there; making sure I didn't have any debt left; slowly cutting back the food budget and making changes - making my own yogurt, bread, pizza, crumpets...; working out quite a tight budget and sticking to it (which took me a Long Time!); dealing mostly in cash; saving for things like van insurance before I spend anything; planting veg in the garden; meeting friends at home for tea and cake rather than expensive cafes... Little things, but slowly, slowly they're adding up and it's all coming together nicely.

Goodness, I was only going to write about my job interview, and look what came spilling out! I think in a kind of way, I'm secretly trying to justify to myself why it's perfectly acceptable for me to only want to do 2 days a week of paid work, when to many people this doesn't at all count as a Proper Job.

But you know what? I actually don't have to justify that to anyone :)

So instead, I'll think about the lovely day out I had yesterday, wandering around a city I haven't been to for years, meeting up with an old friend, and drooling over the window display in Betty's - chocolate badgers, people, chocolate badgers!

(I suppose this is one of the downsides of a tight budget - no spending £12 on a chocolate badger. But then, I just would NOT have been able to eat it anyway, so I think, all in all, a photograph is better...)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

his name is patch

These cheery patchwork dogs are becoming a bit of a favourite for presents in this house. I don't know if you remember, but I've made him before. The last two were rather more colourful, but this time, inspired by actually being able to see the ground, and the leaves after what's felt like weeks of snow, I went for green and brown. I wasn't sure it'd turn out quite so cheery as the others, but now he's done, I think he's rather fetching.

I was also slightly influenced by the pictures on the attic wall that me and my sister painted when we were small.

Once he was made, I needed something to wrap him in. I got this book from the library last week. I'm generally not given to following instructions, but it's got some ludicrously fabulous ideas in. One is to make a bag from a small silk scarf, to use to carry small things from the beach. What a fabulous idea, I thought! Perhaps not from the beach (if I go to the beach, I tend to be festooned with buckets and spades and books and picnic), but as an extra bag for lunch, or treats.

Or, in fact, to carry a small cheery patchwork dog.

I didn't have a silk scarf, but I did have quite a lot of the white fabric with the little green flowers. I cut it to the size in the book, hemmed it, then sewed it. Two folds, and two seams, that's all it took! And it was absolutely tiny. It would have held a pair of sunglasses, and an orange, but that was about it. Doubled in size, though, it made just the right kind of bag for carrying a small patchwork dog.

While I was up in the attic sewing, I spent a lot of time looking out of the window. It's been a funny kind of a day, a bit slow to get going, but lots of pottering got done eventually. I've been working, sewing, and preparing for this interview next week. I've never had an interview that's taken so much preparation! I'm trying not to fall into planning too much for the coming months, and on the day I'll be trying to appreciate a free day out in a beautiful city :)

Anyway, from the attic today, it almost looked like spring was on the way...