Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New Beginnings

Yesterday I reached a bit of a milestone.  I know I have talked before about finances and how we all struggle to make ends meet.  Well a lot of you probably don't know that I had, for five years, been making regular monthly payments into an IVA or an Individual Voluntary Arrangement.  Its a form of insolvency but one that was brought in some years ago to prevent the person undertaking the agreement from losing their home and all their assets. 

When I remarried in 1999 I hadn't realised that my late husband had so much personal debt.  It wasn't something that had been revealed to me, he wasn't very good at money, as simple as that and had a lot of debt that had built up from his first marriage.  So because he wasn't very good at sums, handling money etc, most of his cards, accounts etc were put in joint names with me so that I could talk to the creditors and try to make some sense of everything and put payment arrangements in place.  So, consequently when he died they came after me for the lot.

I struggled with this for four years after his death and eventually I couldn't deal with it any longer, both financially and emotionally so I decided to declare myself bankrupt and if I lost the house well so be it because I just didn't care anymore by that stage.  You see it doesn't seem to matter if someone is left on their own to these people, and by that I mean banks, credit card companies, no matter what the circumstances they just assume you must have run the debts up yourself and you are judged quite harshly in some cases, there is no sympathy, no compassion.  I watched a programme on t.v. once about personal debt and how it happened and they were interviewing one poor man who had lost his business, his wife and kids and his home all because his business went bust due to the economic downturn.  They asked him how it was that he thought he had got into this "mess"  and he replied all because of circumstances beyond my control.

And its true, I fell in love with someone who owed money, not that I was aware of that of course, had I been and had he been more prepared to face reality and deal with his situation it could have been changed.  But that's just the type of person he was and no one of us is perfect, we all have flaws and that was his.  So when that man died very suddenly, without life insurance, leaving me with £26,000 of debt (and that was half of what it had been) what was I to do. 

So as I said, I decided to declare myself bankrupt.  I googled firms that would deal with these issues and came across a firm called Baines and Ernst.  Now I was familiar with these people having dealt with them in cases of firms going out of business when working with a brick merchant during the time that a lot of the small building firms went to the wall. 

I rang them and got talking to a really nice guy, explained how things were, what had caused me to get on this road and said I needed help.  He in turn explained to me about the IVA and I opted to take that route.  When they told me to go into town the next day, change my bank account and just stop paying everything I was very scared.  No seriously, obviously not your mortgage, insurances, the important things, gas, electric bills but go and stop paying all the creditors. 

So I did, took a deep breath and just did it.  The relief was indescribable at that point.  I really felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  And really to be honest, it wasn't my debt but the debt from my late husband and his first wife and where was she?  Sitting pretty having walked away from their marriage and left him to pick up the pieces.  I really do feel resentful about that one.  Maybe there is some Karma in there somewhere that I had to take responsibility for the mess they made.  It will take time for me not to be cross on that score.  Im working on it.

Obviously there was paperwork to be filled in, and a county court hearing, not that I was required to attend but to be honest I felt really ashamed and have done so for five years, ashamed that I had to do that, ashamed that I hadn't been able to manage and pay for everything, but why should I have  felt like that when it wasn't my fault.  Why should I have been ashamed to hold my head up in front of my friends and my family and even my own children, what is it about our society that makes people feel this way when something happens beyond their control.  I think others are far too quick to judge and to come to conclusions without knowing the full situation.  I also think that the call handlers at the credit card companies and the banks should be trained to be more compassionate and sympathetic towards people in these situations.

Mind you, its opened my eyes to the world as it is.  I have become quite hardened at fighting companies on the phone.  To turn around and tell the local council that they have a choice over whether I pay my council tax or feed my children as I have done in the past is not something I would have done five years ago.  To have to say to the electricity company, your prices are too high that's why I cannot afford to pay my bill in full and don't start ranting at me because its only going to give you a headache, you cant cut me off when Ive got children and I will pay when I have the money and not when you tell me I have to pay, again is not something I would have done before but desperation does strange things to people.

So yesterday was the last ever payment, in a few months all the ends will be tied up and I can finally move on and walk away from the mess that became my second marriage.  Yes I loved him, I probably always will but I cant forgive him for what he did to me and our children and there in lies a difference.  I may sound like a bitter woman, Im not really, I have a lot of love and compassion for the people in this world, my heart goes out to anyone struggling as I know so many of you are at the moment but please be aware that you don't have to have the latest gadgets for your children, they will survive without them and bring them up to understand that the most important things in this life are a loving family and being kind to others.  Those are the things that mark us as human beings, not how many computers, tablets, I phones etc that we possess.  It needs to change out there and I for one will be working hard with my own children to make them aware of this. 

There are two sayings which I have tried to work to all my adult life, I will leave these with you in the hope that they will help and offer you some guidance.

"Do as you would be done by"  and "Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone, kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own".


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Not Enough Hours in the Day!!!! In other words OMG ITS CHRISTMAS!!

This is Saturday evening and the girls have gone to bed.  I had to go and collect No 3 from her friends' house where they had been having a get together for someone's birthday.  They are all growing up so fast and soooo tall.  No 3 has grown again and is now a good inch and a half taller than me :(  Not Good!  Nos 1 and 2 didn't gain my height of 5ft 6 ins but No 3 is now about 5ft 7 and a half.

No 4 has grown as well and will soon be leaving me behind I fear. 

So, if you are a regular visitor to my Facebook page you will have probably seen that I was very excited this morning to announce that as from the middle of November I will have a retail outlet at Trinity Road in Weymouth, right alongside the harbour.  Ive Google mapped it and looked at the street view (love that I can do this) and have decided its well worth a day out so when its time for me to take in my first lot of jewellery I am going to drive down, will take me about an hour (according to google) and go to visit the shop in person.  I am only going to hire one small shelf in a locked cabinet for now but its in a good place just inside the door so easy to see from the window and will have good lighting I hope.  This will be the third retail outlet I have now and I feel really excited.

As a consequence I am going to have to visit the other two outlets now and do a stocktake as I have got to ensure that I know whats where, if you get my drift. 

As I have five craft fairs now booked before Christmas and am still making stock for those it occurred to me somewhere in the early hours of the morning as most of my daft ideas do, that I needed to make some more stock for this new outlet.  So I have had some designs sitting in my sketchbook for a while which I decided to put into action this afternoon.  You can see these pieces on my facebook page but I will post them here as well

The top one is a hand forged Copper pendant with shell disc bead hanging from the inside top of the pendant and the bottom piece is hand forged pendant with freshwater pearls on a chain of hand forged links.  This is silver plated wire but I would love to make one from sterling silver, sadly this will have to wait until someone orders one because the outlay is too high at the moment.
I think it will probably hit me, most likely at 3 in the morning again very soon that I have an enormous amount of work to do.  Its a good job I have patient friends and children, friends because they are most likely not going to see me between now and January and children because only the basics are getting done and the dinners are slightly singed around the edges because Im in and out of the workroom whilst trying to cook dinner at the same time, juggling customers, orders and stock.
However I have to admit I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love working for myself, still get a buzz when someone falls in love with a piece of my jewellery and buys it.  Really love getting those "likes" under my pictures knowing Ive given someone some pleasure.  And selling at the fairs is brilliant, I love meeting my customers face to face.  I have met some amazing people and loads of great crafters as well in the other stallholders I come across.  I never cease to be amazed at people's skill and ideas in what they make.
During this year that I have been selling through Facebook and building up my business I have also done a little bit of shopping for myself through some of these people who I have found through Hike Those Likes, so I buy jewellery supplies, have my business cards made, and have more recently been ordering Christmas presents.  Facebook is a great community and speaking as someone who is the only adult in our house, its good to have some company in the lonely evenings as well when the girls have gone to bed.  Many of you I have never met in person but still feel as though you are my friends.
And enough hours in the day, no certainly not, and if I don't get much time to be posting between now and Christmas, I hope you have a good one!!!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Virtual Money

This very soggy morning I had to go into our next town and visit my bank.  It brought to mind how when I was a single parent for the first time, over 20 years ago now, I was on benefits and found it much easier to manage my money because everything was paid at the post office in cash.  I didn't have a bank account  until I started working and needed one to pay my wages into.  I was on benefits for a while until I got some work and towards the end of my time as a single parent was again on benefits as I had found working full time with a very unpleasant woman boss was not something I could cope with, the woman almost drove me to a nervous breakdown and life is far too short for that!!

Anyhow getting of my ranty box the point I was trying to make is that I used to go to the local village post office, cash my benefits, child benefit used to be paid weekly if you were a single parent and my little bit of income support and then come home and divide up the money.  I had a little wooden box with envelopes in, each one labelled for each household bill (council tax wasn't paid then if you were on income support), electric, water rates, telephone, food, and I used to put a certain amount into each envelope.  Then when the bill came due I had the money to pay it.

Today its a whole different story, finding myself a single parent again after my husband's death ten years ago.  The day after he died I rang the benefits agency and asked them what I had to do and what was I entitled to as being a full time mum of 2 and 4 year old children with no other means of income as my husband was self employed and had died leaving us with nothing.  So I had an interview and was helped to fill in various forms and then was given a very generous amount to pay for his funeral and allotted Bereavement benefit which will last until the girls are 17 based on my late husbands National Insurance payments.  This helps a lot, together with my widows pensions from his earlier career as a headteacher we get by.  But do I actually ever get to hold any of that money in my hand?  No!! 

Money is virtual today, all payments are made over the internet or using my debit card.  Rarely do I draw the money out of my bank account and go and buy things with it.  I still have to allow so much for each bill but most is now done on monthly direct debit so there are my little envelopes I suppose, but where is the satisfaction of knowing I have saved up for my bills as I cant see the money in front of me and the only people who benefit are the companies who are making huge amounts of interest on our money going in each month. 

I would be so happy to go back to having my money in my hand and choosing where it goes rather than being told you must pay us this amount each month by all the companies.  Yes my bills were always paid but now I must admit I find it difficult to budget each month with money being taken for all my bills each month there is very little spare for other things like clothes!!  Its all too easy for people to borrow money on credit cards because they cant see the money.

If I have ten pounds in my hand I know that I will have to use that carefully and its such a good feeling to hold real money but give someone a credit card and they can go out and spend money in ridiculous amounts and get themselves into trouble.

So Im wishing for money to go back to what it used to be when I was in control of it and I could hold it in my hand and feel good about my bills and have a sense of pride.

Other things we could used to do was to visit the electricity showroom and buy savings stamps towards our bills, where are all those gone now?  We could buy stamps at the post office to save towards our car tax etc, now no longer available, why?  What caused all the companies to stop doing these things?

Id be interested to know how many other people feel the same way.  Cash in hand as opposed to plastic and virtual banking!!


Thursday, 10 October 2013

An Emotional Day

I think I mentioned that I had to go to a funeral on Tuesday afternoon?  Forgive me if I didn't but the memory is not what it was, too much to remember each day methinks.

My father was a policeman, he worked in the county of Somerset for many years, mostly out of rural police stations when there was still such a thing.  He had many good friends amongst his colleagues, the last of whom sadly passed away at the end of September.  My mother and I both felt we wanted to attend the funeral of Dan who had been a really good friend to my father.  In 1977 my father suffered a major heart attack and during his recovery and subsequent depression it was Dan's regular visits that got him back on the mend and back into work again.  Dan was a large, proud, Welshman whose loud laugh I will never forget.  Sadly during his later years Dan suffered from Alzheimer's and to see such a once upright and amazing man reduced to a living skeleton who didn't know where he was or who he was made me very very upset.  What it did to his family I cant begin to imagine.

I had decided that I was not going to be sentimental, or to cry but when I saw the coffin being carried in, draped with the Welsh flag and the police helmet sitting atop the coffin I started to cry, my mum too was in tears. 

It was that symbol, the helmet that suddenly brought back so many memories of my own father and his stature.  When I was small all policemen were built like barn doors, at least 6 feet tall every one of them, and with personalities to match.  I grew up surrounded by this group of men and their families that made me feel safe and protected.  Only now do I look back and realise just how much these men gave to the local communities in which they lived and worked, each bringing their own touch to the job they had to do and going beyond the normal hours of duty.  I have known my dad come home to supper during his night shift and take his best pair of boots to give to an old tramp whose own shoes were falling to pieces and on another occasion, a cold Christmas Eve, he came in and asked my mum if we had plenty of food in the house, she replied we had and he took a box and filled it with food to take to an elderly man who had been caught poaching because he only had half a loaf of bread in his cupboard and no money to buy any food.  Instead of charging the man, he took him a large share of his own food to help him out.  Would that happen now?  Id like to think it would but you know in today's world I wonder.

When my dad joined the police force and had completed his basic training, he was given a bicycle so that he could cycle between phone boxes where at a given time he would receive a call from the sergeant at the police station who would then give him instructions on his next call out or investigation that was required.  Hence the term point duty.  Imagine having to do that in all winds and weathers.

Dan, also had his old police bicycle as had my dad.  My mum and Dan's daughter gave her two sons the old bicycles and they restored them and took them to France on a cycling holiday last year.  I think both Dan and my dad would have been very happy to see those bikes put to good use again.  It just goes to show how well built they were that they lasted over 50 years.

Being a policeman's daughter meant you couldn't put a toe out of line, it was quite hard sometimes as the village kids could be very cruel and call you names, especially if your father had given them a telling off for something.  I never told my dad and mum what had happened, I doubt they would have minded much anyhow, they were firmly of the belief that it "toughened you up" as a child.  Im not sure being on the receiving end of this that I agree, its a bit scary when the village thug, taller and bigger than you threatens you if your father ever tells him off again.  The last village I lived in was a very hard place to be, tell a potential boyfriend your father is a copper and he was gone.  Only the decent ones stuck around, perhaps that was a good test.

So, it was an emotional day, to see the widows of some of the men my father had known for years, good, steadfast friends who supported each other through all their hard times and good times, who enjoyed retirement together, bowls and coach outings and laughing at memories.  They were always up to mischief, the chief inspector had a hard time with them, often they were called in for a reprimand but always seemed to come out smiling, not bad men, just full of mischief.

I recall my father coming home when I was about 9 and explaining to me and my mum that he had got into trouble with the local police station for singing.  At that time my dad used to ride a police motorbike across the mendip hills to patrol his beat and my dad was riding out on a gorgeous summer's day and stared to sing his favourite song, "Oh for the wings of a Dove", okay not so bad you might say until you learn that my dad was tone deaf, couldn't hold a tune for his life and had forgotten to turn off the radio between him and the police station control room, because he was on his bike, engine going, helmet on and singing he couldn't hear the pleading of the control room operator to turn off his radio and they had to endure two hours of my dad's singing!!!!! 

I think that someone should write a book about their antics and about their kindnesses and help in their local communities because policemen aren't like them anymore, they don't have the time and the paperwork and the rules and regulations make it too difficult for them to do their job, half the time the "local" policeman doesn't even live in his/her locality, they don't know the local people, their problems or their lives, cant share in the daily life of the people around them like they could when living amongst them.  All those little country police stations are gone, closed down, sold off, you can still tell some of them because of the old glass blue bottle in the porch apex above the door.  The belief that very often a sit down and a cup of tea and a chat about the problems can do more good than a fine or an arrest.  Of course there were arrests, there was danger, the time my dad had to go and tackle an axe wielding nutter who had murdered the village postwoman and seriously injured her neighbour.  He muttered when I hailed him as a hero, oh by the time I got there he was being held down by two blokes, I suspect that wasn't partly true but Im so glad he was okay, hearing it about it happening made me very very scared till I found out he was fine. 

So here is my tribute to all of those amazing men I grew up surrounded by, Thank you for making the world a better place, to have known you all was a priviledge and to have had one of you as my dad makes me feel very lucky, I just wish I had realised how lucky when you were still alive Dad!!


Monday, 7 October 2013


Its late tonight for me to be writing but its been quite hectic today, well when isn't it when you are a parent?

I had the usual food shopping to do this morning and ended up having a coffee with my son in law's mum.  I feel very lucky that my daughter married such a lovely person and such a hardworking man too.  Its very difficult when your child picks a partner, especially if you aren't too keen on them however I took to my son in law straight away.  I think, personally, he was very brave to marry into our family, we are a mad bunch and take some getting used too, plus the fact that he is allergic to everything on four legs and we have a house full of animals and his future wife worked with horses! 

Of course, if you are lucky enough to get another wonderful member of your family in this way are you going to be lucky with their family?  The first time we all met up was very nerve wracking but I needn't have worried, they are really lovely. 

The day of my daughter and son in law's wedding felt a little odd, her own father not having had anything to do with her life and her stepfather having passed away she asked me to give her away.  After the wedding when we all went up into the vestry and then all walked down the aisle behind the bride and groom, my son in law's father stood in the middle between me and his wife and held hands with both of us as we walked out of the church.  That was something really special to me, a real sign to everyone that not only were our children joined together but as a family so were all of us.  Our two families often meet up at family functions, grandchildren's birthdays, birth days etc.  When our grandchildren were born, I recall hugging and crying along with my son in law's mum at our sheer joy of having a new grandchild.  And so it persists, Saturday was my little granddaughter's 3rd birthday and we all went along, in fact my son in law's youngest brother is in the same year at school as my 14 year old daughter, it was great to sit in the garden and chat, laugh and know we really do care about each other. 

I think it is good for our children too because how often does it happen that the in laws don't like each other and that can cause such tension within a marriage or relationship.  I feel it is very important for families to make a real effort to get along with each other unless of course there are good reasons for not doing so as in the case of criminal behaviour or violence but generally there is little excuse for not doing so.  It makes such a difference to the lives of our children and grandchildren and shows a good example of behaviour for our grandchildren too, how unpleasant it must be for those children whose grandparents never meet up.  I experienced this with my own parents and my in laws from my first marriage and felt quite cross with my own parents who never wanted to have anything much at all to do with my in laws and made any family occasions very tense. 

This afternoon I had to go and collect my 14 year old from school as she wasn't feeling too well.  I think the winter colds are doing the rounds and she has gone to bed early looking not herself at all.  We shall see how she is in the morning.  My youngest has also been complaining of a sore throat which I have to say really didn't look at all sore this morning, not swollen enough to make her as croaky as she was making out.  Someone does like to have a day off if she can. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Today I have visited the local vet with one of our three lovely cats, Peridot.  He has an ongoing eye condtion that requires regular treatment so today he was due for a repeat injection.  Its been a little while since we were at the vets but I am always amazed at their kindness for the animals and their patience in dealing with all of us clients. 

I am sure it must be an extremely challenging profession to be in and at times I do wonder if they have to bite their tongues with some clients.  I have been with their practice now for about four years and I know I shall be a long standing client as I have no desire to go elsewhere.  I have all of my animals on a Pet Care Plan as this means we get regular vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and twice yearly health checks for a small monthly amount paid via direct debit.  Its well worth it because I am, like many of us, on a budget so it makes animal care more manageable.

Our chickens are looking very soggy today with all the rain that suddenly appeared from nowhere mid morning.  Its colder today too, I wish it would make up its mind, yesterday was very warm and today isn't.  Brrr, roast beef and all the trimmings for dinner, courtesy of Lidl who had some great offers on their beef joints today!!

When I was little my mum used to read to me from a story book, its very ancient now and lost its front cover so I couldn't even tell you what it was called but its still in my attic.  Now in this book was a story called Mr Flipperty Jib.  I loved this story and heard it so many times I can still recall most of it by heart, my kids think Im mad when I told them this story but here is how it goes:

Mr Flipperty Jib had a rumble bumble bumble in his right ear and a bumble, rumble, bumble in his left ear.  He and his wife, Mrs Flipperty Jib spend winter in the city and summer in the countryside and Mr FJ has all sorts of problems with the noises in the city and when he gets to the country it isn't any better because of crowing cockerels and mooing cows, but Mrs FJ has a solution for all of this, she tells him that if he ate his roast beef and wore his mittens he wouldn't get these noises in his ears, for a while Mr FJ wont listen but eventually realises that his wife is making good sense and proceeds to eat his roast beef and wear his lovely red mittens knitted for him by Mrs FJ.  And so, of course, the noises in his ears disappear. 

Im not sure what the children of today would make of this story but I loved it!!  Maybe that says a lot about me, I will leave you to ponder on that one!

I am sure you will recall the other day that I was rather annoyed at having been "scammed" over a craft fair I had signed up for, well my patience has paid off because two days ago I received a full refund for the money I had paid out.  No accompanying note but a full refund nonetheless.  I was very surprised but saddened to learn that out of the many people in the same position only two of us have actually had our money back.  The reasons behind this remain a mystery known only to the organiser of the doomed event.

So it pays to have patience I suppose which is something that seems to be sorely lacking in a lot of people, many cannot wait, at the supermarket the checkout operators nervously apologise for "keeping you waiting" when sometimes I have only been stood there for five  minutes!  What kind of people have they experienced that cant wait that long without losing their temper.   Cars impatiently beep their horns at other drivers who are a little slower to respond than some.  And time, its all about time and yet modern technology means surely, that we have more time on our hands as all our chores are done by machines, computers and phones.  However, it doesn't seem to be enough. 

I think the old saying of "Patience is a Virtue" is something that we all need to apply to our daily lives, take a deep breath and think of the other person, its something I do need to do more often.

Have a good afternoon everyone, until next time...