Staying Healthy

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Well, after such a great holiday where I was exercising every day I have crashed back to my sedentary life. I am putting on weight and have been during the last lockdown. The combination of weather and dark skies meant I struggled to exercise as much as I needed and with the cold weather comfort eating I have piled on the pounds and really need to get rid of it. I thought my job was bad for me as I sat around in an office desk most of the day but at least I did get some movement, being at home has reduced my activity levels to non existent. I enjoyed my holiday and I got out and about enjoying the exercise but I also noticed how much additional weight I am carrying and I so need to LOSE IT!

I am a woman of a certain age which means I am now going through the menopause which is wreaking havoc on my body and mind. I started getting symptoms a few years ago and part of the reason I left my last job was because I couldn’t function due to the brain fog, anxiety and fatigue due to insomnia. ( I have read a number of articles on women leaving the workplace because of menopause. I was hoping not to be one of them but have joined the statistics now. There was no help available at my last place. Their view was get on with the job or leave. – They had no new projects and they didn’t want to pay me any redundancy, so leaving did them a favour. – Cynical I know ! )

The brain fog meant I was struggling to think sometimes and was being bullied and generally derided for not being ‘on the ball’. If I forgot something I was seen as incompetent. The workplace was unforgiving and I had panic attacks brought on by my anxiety which was reducing my threshold levels so things I could do with my eyes shut became major anxiety generating events. God – I felt so stupid and thought I was going mad. I couldn’t cope with the negativity and panic attacks and when the project finished I decided to leave and have some ‘Me time’. I have worked continuously for over 25 years so a break was well overdue. I have found that the brain fog has actually started to get worse, I had a really bad day while on holiday where I just couldn’t think at all. I was just responding with “I don’t know” all the time as my brain was just frazzled, I just couldn’t think straight.

Insomnia

The insomnia did start to ease once I left my job and I was hoping that I would recover enough that I could consider getting a new job. But – during the last few months the insomnia has come back with added intensity. I have been trying to sleep but do not want to resort to medication as that is not good over the long term. I wondered how I would be while on holiday as I wanted to use that as a control and see if the lockdown was a major cause – I still had sleepless nights but due to the exercise I was managing to sleep a few more hours than before. A step in the right direction, so how to I improve it even more?

I looked for something to help me. I have started a sleep course. I am using sleepio and have a free sign up, it is used by the NHS and was created in the US, it is a CBT self-help course which lasts 6 weeks, it can be access for free via some UK GPs. I managed to get a free link.

Sleepio.com

Free signup link here : Use the code : G69JAN

I am hoping this will help me get back to a decent level of sleep and help me on the road to recovery. I didn’t know this but lack of sleep / poor sleep can also make you put on weight so as well as trying to increase my exercise levels to reduce weight I also need to improve the quality of my sleep. I am only a week into the course so no idea if this will help or not, time will tell.

Fitness

I also need to improve my fitness. I want to be able to cycle more and look at some longer cycle rides and possible do some cycle touring in the UK as a way of travelling while COVID restricts holiday options. Now the weather has improved I need to get into a fitness routine and crank up the exercise to try and get rid of the excess weight and feel better about myself. I have never been so overweight or so down. I need to find ways of motivating myself and improving my outlook. My self confidence is at an all time low. I guess I am having post-holiday blues. I need to get myself into a better mindset and be more positive and regain my self confidence and self esteem. I have started some yoga and kettlebell sessions using YouTube channels to get some variety in my sessions and get into a routine. It is giving me some focus as I try to work out what to do next. I feel like a write-off but need to give myself a kick and motivate.

Monthly Update – May 21

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May has been a bit of a wash out generally. I have not been able to do as much exercise as I would like. I have felt somewhat down with the limited activity but have had the motivation of my up coming holiday to cast some brighter light on the days.

Financially, my net worth has taken a bit of a hit from the markets and I ended the month down 1% on last month. I have been preparing for my holiday though, I had to move my holiday from last year and the new date has arrived and I ended the month on holiday in Scotland.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as the lockdown is only just easing. The normal hotel stops on the way up were possible. I had to download 2 different apps to track & trace in Scotland. The weather also improved during the holiday, so I ended up being able to have what felt like a normal holiday. Other than checking in and out and sitting in sectioned off seating, as per COVID rules, I had a great time. It felt so long overdue and I enjoyed every minute and every activity as though it was my last. Being able to see another part of the country was great, I felt my batteries recharge and my whole demeanour changed and I smiled more than I have for a while. I hired a bike and cycled nearly 200 miles and soaked up the great weather and the wildlife. I could cycle so close to wild animals (deer, squirrels, rabbits, hares and even weasels) without them fleeing so quickly. Some great sights and with the sunshine and warm weather it felt like a really good restorative break. Something I was hoping to do last year to shake off the ‘toxins’ of my last job.

Income

On the income front, some more share dividends were paid this month to add to my funds. Not much but better than nothing. I also sold down some of my old employer shares, I have used this year’s CGT to sell down and I will pop that money into my ISA as part of this year’s allowance.

I have been trying to earn more money online but the volume of users has now grown so much the site has been crashing. There appears to be some good jobs being published at a fixed time every day. This means everyone logs in to work it and its resulting in the site crashing. I think there are users using bots to poll and grab the work too which means it is almost a DDOS attack, the site crashes and no one can do anything until the jobs have gone. I have had poor earnings as a result so I have given up working and am taking a break for a few weeks either side my holiday. I changed my payment supplier and have already seen a better return from exchange rates and I will just have to monitor the work options as it is looking like I will have to find another way of earning money. I have been looking at jobs but nothing really appeals. Again, the jobs are full time, long hours and expected to be in the office as soon as this is possible.

My NS&I savings have renewed, I didn’t get much interest and it will just get worse over the next few years but I will hang onto them as a diversification. I will review my other accounts and see if I can move things around to gain better interest where ever I can. My passive income is dropping and I am trying to find ways of increasing it and make my money grow without losing capital.

Tax Year

I have received my tax paperwork for last year from my accountant so I will fill that in and see what tax I have to pay. I have my online income to declare but I haven’t earned enough to trigger any tax or NI payments so if I want to accrue any credits towards my state pension I will have to pay a top up contribution.

Month End

As a positive end to the month I have returned from my holiday. I was a bit concerned on what I would find on holiday but it was better than expected. It has been good for my mental health and I so needed to have something ‘normal’ to do. I found out from the holiday neighbours that the owner of the self-catering place I was staying in has sold up. I had wondered if the lockdown and lack of income last year has encouraged them to sell up and get out of the holiday let market. I also found out that there had been a fire in the place I was staying and I was the first visitor since the repairs were completed.

On the journey up I had never seen so many motorhomes and caravans. The towns I visited were packed so I had to look for quieter locations and enjoyed the cycling and walking in the countryside away from the crowds. The locals were saying how they were glad of the tourists and others were saying how accommodation costs had risen two or three-fold and they knew people who were raising prices to recoup their losses from last year. Some of the cafes/shops I normally visit had gone bust and others were struggling to survive. There was lots of positivity though and with the sunshine it was great to sit outside and chat to people, at a social distance! The B&B places that would normally be fully booked had vacancy signs up and limited occupancy. They are missing the foreign tourists who would be travelling around, stopping off in different places every so many days and filling the rooms.

Now I am back home and the weather is better I will try to stay positive and active and look at ways I can live without a job as I am really feeling down with the work situation. My anxiety levels have been bad with regard to working and I am not wanting to go back to the rat race and the toxic environment I was experiencing. Until COVID is over I cannot see opportunities arising which enable me to move into a better environment. Why take on someone you have to train when there are plenty of people out there who can do the job and qualified from day one. I need to seriously rethink my life path.

Personal Development II

I watched the TV programme by Ian Wright about home truths. It was great to see someone who has managed to get through the mess of a troubled childhood. It made me look back at my own childhood which wasn’t good.

BBC – Ian Wright: Home Truths

I had a troubled childhood, I was unwanted and had similar treatment with the constant nagging that I was unwanted and I was blamed for the adult problems, it was my fault they were together and that they had no money and lived in an overcrowded house. My mother had mental health issues which meant she would beat me up and use me as a punchbag for her frustrations. I think my dad was quite controlling which didn’t help either, I didn’t have much of a relationship with my father, I was just told to stay out of his way when he had a temper. He always seemed to be in a bad mood.

I was bullied at school because I was ‘different’ I have skin grafts due to burns I received when I was young and had few school friendships. Others would tell kids that my skin grafts were a disease and that they could catch it off me so stay away. I was isolated as a result of this and spent most of my time on my own, teachers did not help. Some were just as insensitive with there reaction and treatment of me. It wasn’t great but better than being at home. It was good to see that schools have changed and now understand how to identify children having troubles.

I was psychologically abused at home and Ian Wright realised it himself while speaking to a psychologist. He had never thought about it that way and it shocked him. I look back at my own childhood and wonder how I survived the constant oppression I received. People don’t see what goes on behind closed doors and silence is part of it, speak up or retaliate and you get more grief. I used to get angry and it didn’t help as it would just escalate the issues and it was interesting when Ian spoke of how he realised his anger was his way of releasing the pressure as he just didn’t know how else to communicate. He realised it was part of it, I never thought of it that way but it makes sense for me too. I had no outlet so it would be released as anger.

Similar to Ian, school was my escape, there were a few teachers who helped to give me confidence to excel at some subjects and give me confidence that I could better myself. I managed to get into a grammar school, I did well in exams, getting a degree and having the foundation for a good job. Leaving home was the pinnacle for me, it was leaving home and the oppressive environment that help me start to believe in myself. I was supported by a network of student friends at that time which really helped me. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders when I left my childhood home.

I don’t see my parents much now because the psychological effects still bite. I find it hard to see them, I am an adult but I cannot forgive. They still throw negative comments at me. I will never be good enough for them and I will never be anything in their eyes. They are stuck in a hole and cannot see what they are doing or a way out. It’s a terrible way to live but one I have come to accept. I am glad that programmes like this are made, showing others that this can and does happen to anyone. Don’t judge a book by its cover!

Is that my driver for FI ?

For me, this IS the core driver for FIRE – I had looked at FI in my early working years, the RE bit is not really a target. Financial Independence is the aim to be able to pick and choose when to work and to not be locked into dependence on a partner or employer. I wanted to be able to survive and support myself. I want to be self sufficient and saving became a core part of that. I really could have done with a mentor but I try hard to learn and self educate.

I am getting there, i don’t think I am fully FI, if I am at the moment it is in the form of thin FI as I am surviving but don’t have the correct setup to supply a good passive income for the long term but I am trying to get there. FI is a long journey and it takes time and I have to remember to be patient and let the compounding do its thing. I keep checking my progress and seeking out new routes to provide better growth but also balance that with diversity and distribution to make sure I don’t have all my eggs in one basket. It seems to be working at the moment.

I continue on my journey into the future and feel relieved that my childhood is a distance past.

Divorced from work

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I was amused but also total agree with the article I read recently in the Guardian about being married to work. Link below:

Guardian – Married to the Job

I worked for an employer where the work culture was ‘full on’ and I was on call 24/7. I would get calls during the night to resolve issues – or just to confirm that they were not important and could be left until people were in the office during office hours to fix. It was a work hard play hard culture – I had fun there and I did enjoy it. I felt like I belonged.

At the time I was of an age where I just thought I was getting on and needed to be like this to climb the ladder and succeed. It did eventually take its toll on me as my relationship was destroyed – partly by this but other factors were at play – as my partner didn’t like the amount of times I had to cancel personal activities due to work commitments and expectations. It was double-edged because that work paid for lots of things and kept the roof over our heads, it also meant he wasn’t under pressure to earn. ( He came to realised this afterwards)

When there I remember talking to a work colleague who worked in a different department and they spend a lot of their time travelling and her husband had started to say that it was too much and she had realised that she was as he said ‘married to the job’. It was taking its toll as those that did well were the ones who were single or had less dependencies in their personal life. She eventually left and realised after a bit of a decompression that she agreed with her husband because she was inside this ‘work bubble’ she couldn’t see it. Once she step outside she realised how it was affecting her life and even her health. She didn’t realise how poor her general health was until she stop, she told me how it leaving had really enabled her to change her life for the better.

After my relationship split I realised how married to the job I was. I ended up doing more hours as I had no home life and I realised how I had no non work friendships. It is still the same now, I don’t really have a social circle because I have invested all my time into my work to the determent of my personal life. I spend so much time travelling I just don’t get time to step out of it.

The last year has made me realise how bad that has been for me. I left my job at the end of 2019 with the plan to spend some time cultivating a more balanced personal life only to find the pandemic has trashed that. Now that lockdown is being eased again maybe I will be able to start trying to grow a social network. We just don’t realise the bubble we get into when working. Our work is not ‘us’ and I have fallen foul of the ‘work is my status’ and had that tag of ‘workaholic’. I was so overweight on the work side of the work/life balance that I have some serious rebalancing work to do.

Hindsight is a good thing, I would tell my younger self to not neglect the life side of the equation but what is done is done. I now need to find a way of getting a better work/life balance. With the pandemic in play I am struggling to find a part-time role which suits me. I would like some locally based work so I can start to make some local friendships and start to cultivate a social network for real. I am not really feeling the ‘pull’ to go back to a full time job – all of which have job descriptions implying if not explicitly expecting long hours and high work demands. All this is making me want to just retire and step off the treadmill and work on getting my finances in order so I can be truly FI and just live off this until I reach state retirement age and draw my state pension and my deferred DB pension.

I read the summary of the ‘Die with Zero’ book and it has made me think. I could use these principles to be FI and just kick the work dependency and just pick up a job when I feel like it rather than feel I have to have a job to fit in with family expectations. I am starting to ‘slow down’ I have taken time to decompress fully but I am starting to get there, I think.

Monthly Update – Apr 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

April seems to been an average month for me. With UK lockdown beginning to ease, I can start to feel more positive about activates. It’s the start of the tax year so a chance to review my current situation and determine a plan for the new tax year.

Financially, my net worth has risen and I ended the month 6% up compared to the start of the year. This is a relief given that I have been living off my emergency fund and watched my shares and investments roller coaster over the past 18 months. Both shares and funds seem to be rising and picking up well after the pandemic year. What a write-off 2020 has been. I was hoping to have spent the time doing ‘me things’ and detoxing from my last job and looking forward to moving on to a new role. Things just didn’t work out as planned sadly. As I am in my 50s, I am going to struggle to find work as there are plenty of younger people out there also searching for work. I do need to watch my spending as I draw down my cash and leave my investments to grow, at some point I need to take some growth cash from my investments so I keep a balance of cash and investment to cope with any down turn in the economy.

I read TA’s article on Monevator where he announces that he has pulled the plug on work. It was good to read and will be interesting to see how life changes and what articles will be posted in the future. He is still working really, just not for the ‘The Man’. In some ways I am happy I am not working at the moment as the amount of working stressed-out people I am seeing seems to make me not want to go back to the workplace. They are saying how they wish they could be a ‘lady of leisure’ like me, not tied to ‘The Man’. I keep feeling divided over work, I feel anxious when I think of going back to the workplace but also feel guilty for not working when those around me are.

I can be grateful as I speak to ex work colleagues and family who are now being asked to go back into the office and submit to weekly COVID testing – I am glad I don’t have to put up with that. It feels like a drug test, proving that you are ok and fit to work and “irresponsible”. I know it is necessary but it also illustrates how bad our workplaces are with such poorly ventilated buildings and office spaces. Where I used to work they fitted new double glazed windows with NO opening windows, it was really bad when working on a hot day. I would almost pass out as there was no air flow even with the doors open. There was no air-con so I was working in a sealed box. Where my sister works it’s an old building with rotten windows that are painted shut so cannot open to gain any ventilation. If they want fresh air they have to go outside.

If I can stick this out I will try to stay on the lightly self-employed boat for a while and drift along trying to soak up the sun and try to stay away from full time work. I would like a part time job but they don’t exist in my line of work and the normal part time roles are scarce due to the pandemic, so for the moment I will continue living off my cash and letting my investment pick up the slack.

Income

On the income front, some more share dividends were paid this month to add to my funds. It would be good if my other share holdings would start paying dividends but understandably these companies are holding back to maintain cashflow as they struggle with the effects of the current lockdown. Instead I will just watch the share prices begin to recover and grow via share price rather than dividends appearing in my accounts. I can see that I have another dividend declared for next month but others due that month have now issued results and will not be paying out any dividends until they have reviewed their trading season later this year. They may start paying out in 2022 but it is very unlikely this year seems to be the ‘between the lines’ thought reading through their results documents.

I have been trying to earn more money online, the site I use has had terrible problems this month including a full on outage for 3 days. It didn’t help that their hosting company had a fire in one of their data centres, which didn’t affect them directly at the time but may have limited their support for this event. It is now having problems making payments via one particular payment processor – which just happens to be the processor I use to receive my payments. Bad considering it is supposed to be a rated platform. They have advised us to change our payment provider to try and enable them to send our money via a different route. I am just waiting to see what happens. The associated user forum is full of pretty annoyed users, including those who depend on the money being paid weekly. I have therefore completed the setup of a transfer account which will offer better exchange rates so I can increase the amount finally received and cut processing fees. I will see how that works for the next few months. It also means I can collect some cash earned on a US site which I have been unable to pick up until now. I don’t do much work on their site as US tax rules restrict the amount I can earn before US tax is due.

Savings wise I have collected what I can but the rates are pretty poor and getting worse. Again, as per Monevator I have a NS&I savings cert that is up for renewal next month. They have sent out the paperwork this month and as per TI I will let it auto renew and take the hit on the poor interest rate. It has moved to CPI from RPI and it is about the same as the rates I am now getting from my bank savings accounts. I could close and put into investments but it is my cash pot and so I will accept the hit and let my investments balance out the poor returns in this cash pot. It will just keep pace with inflation.

Tax Year

Now the new UK tax year has started, I have sent a share cert off so I can transfer it into my trading account and sell down at a suitable point this year. I will use up my CGT allowance to sell and move the money to my ISA and/or top up my SIPP to diversify into broader funds. I have started receiving my tax certificates and I will start putting my tax checklist together ready for my accountant. I am hoping that they confirm the amount of tax I owe for last year is minimal, if any tax is due at all!

Month End

As a positive end to the month I have been to a pub! Yes, I have managed to meet up with friends outside and have a drink in sunny weather. Whether it was rain or shine we were going to meet up, the weather was on our side. It was a good, positive note to signal the end of the latest lockdown. I am also crossing my fingers that I can travel to Scotland soon, now the border has been opened earlier than planned. I can then have some time away from my home locale and feel like I am getting a break from the prison. A holiday at last, it’s the holiday booking from last year that was moved and the date is now imminent and the property owner is gearing up for me to travel there. Wow, a holiday would be great and a real mental boost for me as I have been feeling down recently. A change of scenery will really help me. Some good weather would help, I am writing this on the first UK May bank holiday Monday as I look out the window all I can see and hear is heavy rain and strong winds!

Solar Update

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Well, I received my quote to have a solar panel installation on my roof. It is part of a group discounted deal via my local council. The price is better than the last time I enquired but they have based it on more panels than my room can take. They have based the quote on the ‘average’ installation. It gives you the ability to change the number of panels and other options to vary the installation and when I do this it reduces the price savings down so that I will not get much of a benefit from the installation at all and it would take 25+ years to get anywhere near the money back as my electricity usage isn’t enough to make it worth it. Even using the buy back into the grid isn’t giving me much of a dent in the ROI. I will be dead by then.

I think I will pass on this and focus on other areas to save money. I am not about to get an electric car, too expensive, so unless someone wants to give me an electric car to review I will continue to potter around in the fossil fuel car I have. I can’t see the point in solar for me at the moment as I think it would be worth it if I have batteries and an electric car. The issue is the potential failure of the batteries and the replacement of the invertor every 10 years does not help. I agree with others who say that solar should be fitted to new houses and developers should be made to install them by default.

Once the driverless car is sorted we will not need to own a car and will just ‘pay-as-we-go’ and that will really sting the car industry and the government as we will not require driving licences. Wonder what it will be like in 100 years time when it comes to our personal travelling options?

Anyone looked at solar?

Did it work out for you? If so how did you manage to do it?

Monthly Update – Mar 21

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

March has proved to be a little better than expected.

Financially, my net worth has increased and I ended the month 3% up compared to my year end for 2020. This is a relief given that I have been living off my emergency fund and watched my shares and investments roller coaster over the past year. I completed as much work as I could on the virtual ‘gig’ site and equalled my Nov total so that has given me some extra cash. With the additional workers on the site and the currency fluctuations, the site has changed its currency ‘fees’ so I am not getting as much £££s as I was in Dec due to the poor exchange fees they have now started to charge. I am looking at ways to mitigate this so I can try to obtain as much value out of my work as I can. I have passed an English authoring test to enable me to access content work but no tasks have appeared yet. The content work should be offered on a site where I am paid in Euros but can hopefully reduce the exchange rate issues.

I have kept my expenses down this month and with lockdown, I have only been out to buy food & gifts (Mother’s day and my brother’s birthday). My brother has now had two birthdays in lockdown, not a nice feeling. Hopefully we will be out of lockdown my the time my birthday happens this year so I may be able to actually celebrate. My other expenses this month has been on my car, to keep it roadworthy, so the MOT and a new battery. Lockdown hasn’t been good for my car. I have only done 2,000 miles over the past year when I normally do about 16,000 – that’s a big difference ! So my car is now MOT’ed for another year and ready for use when we can travel further afield.

Job Hunting

I continue to keep an eye on the job market, but nothing interesting on offer at the moment. I will have to live off passive income and ‘gig’ work for the foreseeable future, which means that for this tax year I have been ‘freelance’ and had no full time employee employment – wow – I have never spent a whole tax year out of work. It also means that for the census I have had to put down that I am a freelancer.

With more people and ex-work colleagues being laid off and/or with the axe of redundancy over them, I don’t expect to find a new job soon. I have seen a few ‘nearly’ matches but they have a list of responsibilities that’s a mile long and the hours seem hard, long and arduous. I will have to start looking at other sectors where I can re-apply my skills. I am pondering a part-time job as I would like to change my work-life balance and not end up working the long hours I have previously done. A job within a less toxic environment would be bliss. I had a bad experience at my last workplace where a work colleague collapsed with a brain aneurysm after a traumatic office meeting. It was a 50-50 chance of survival for them, they were on the operating table for 6 hours, luckily they survived. I really didn’t want to go down the same path, I was having headaches and panic attacks and felt that it was the last straw for me so left while I still had my health.

Other Income

In a bid to find other avenues of income I have created a print website where I can upload my photography and any artwork and sell framed/unframed prints of my work. I now have to find ways of marketing the site so I can pick up some sales. I am not expecting a big success but if I can get a few sales via the site it will help to earn some extra income. I have posted links to ex work colleagues and business contacts. I am looking at how I can use Instagram to market my imagery and see if I can generate sales via that platform. I have signed up with some photo stock sites to see if I can sell images – all in $s again so will have the pain of exchange rates to deal with. I am no influencer and see this as a hobby and may give me more incentive to do more photography and also start doing some artwork.

I won another £25 on premium bonds this month so I already have £75 of ‘interest’ on my bond investment this year which is better than it would earn in a savings account and is tax free.

Some more share dividends were paid this month to add to my funds. It would be good if my other share holdings would start paying dividends but understandably they are holding back to maintain cashflow as they struggle with the effects of the current lockdown.

I managed to do some match betting this month, it was a bit dry for me last month, and I have increased the MB fund holdings. The total is slowly growing and as it snowballs the amount used for betting is improving and enabling me to obtain a wider range of betting options. I have grown my initial investment by 60% so far which isn’t too bad for a couple of minutes a month. All tax free too! I am only betting on the football as a ‘newbie’ and so the end of the football season will mean I will have to look at other sports to continue to earn a little bit of cash.

Rental

The good news is that the electrical work has been completed on my rental so I now have a compliant house. The certificate lasts for 5 years so this should help for a while as I ponder selling as the landlord rules continue to become more onerous. I will have to start considering when I should exit this sector as rules and regulations increase. It will be a hit to my passive income as this currently makes up a good percentage of it. It would mean looking at a part time job to provide a steady income source as its replacement.

Tax Year End

As the tax year end approaches I have been topping up my pension and ISA to their max so I can utilise the annual allowances using savings cash which is sitting earning no interest in their respective accounts. I have sold down shares to utilise my CGT allowance and have put this cash into my ISA and some into my pension. Hopefully this will be a long term good choice and I am already seeing some growth as prices rise a little. Based on my tracker, which shows the shares dipping due to the sale, the share trend has risen as share prices increase again so not looking too back. The cash injection in my ISA is already seeing an uptick too.

Month End

As a positive end to the month I have had my first COVID vaccine jab. I am now experiencing the side effects of headaches, stomach aches, sickness and tiredness. These are all minor compared to the possible affects COVID could have on me. I attended a large vaccination centre which was well run, very calm and efficient. So I am one of the 30 million to have received a vaccine in the UK. I have my second jab booked in so I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Can’t wait for the 12th April so I can go to a pub!

The Powerless?

I am watching the media and getting tired of the press coverage. It is annoying that you have to watch your back all the time when out alone. I have experienced ‘being followed’, I think the guy was actually just trying to unnerve me rather than actually do anything but it is the principle. They think it is funny to hassle women, he just kept laughing at me. I know it isn’t a female only issue, I know a guy who was attacked while waiting for a train by a gang of men – it was all caught on CCTV. The police arrested but never prosecuted the perpetrators. The world seems to becoming a harsher and more dangerous place.

When I was a schoolkid I was kerb crawled – the classic – Can you get in my car and show me where ‘X’ is – and NO I just kept walking and ignored the driver until they drove off. There was another occasion when a guy was hassling us while we waited at the bus stop for the school bus. It was reported to the police and next time it happened an undercover policeman appeared and arrested the guy. The police also did a ‘keep safe’ session with us to provide some guidance on what to do if it happened again. It means I cannot trust anyone and still find it difficult to help any male who comes up to me asking for help. I am sorry but after that experience I just don’t hang around. I may appear an unapproachable person but its a persona I have had to wear to keep safe. A sad fact of life.

The final straw comes when you get exploited because you are female. I have had the rip off sales patter for services so many times now I have become a terrible cynic. I have had to get male friends to obtain proper quotes for services to stop being ripped off. The latest attempt has been for house repairs. I have been quoted £11k for some replacement plastic guttering – ridiculous! It is just a joke, it should cost a fraction of that ! I know that guys get ripped off too but it seems to be more prevalent for women. The world just seems to be getting more aggressive by the day. This lockdown is not helping as it is fraying people’s nerves.

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Solar – Is it worth it?

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I thought I would pop this post up to see what others think. With the push to increase electric car use and reduce our country’s reliance on gas as a source of domestic heating (and electricity generation via gas powered power stations), we are being encouraged to change to use electricity rather than other fuel types.

When I was younger I was interested in solar as a form of domestic power supply and was an avid visitor of the CAT project in Wales ( https://cat.org.uk/ ). I think it is a good form of off-grid electricity generation. As I got older I found that the ability to install solar was expensive and not cost effective. I keep reading articles about the technology improving and the costs coming down but they still seem too high. I have looked at the costs a few times now, each time the numbers do not stack, I would be dead before I would break even on the installation cost. I know there were discounts in the past and a strange loan/lease scheme which back fired on home owners.

If the government is so taken with green energy, why don’t they force new build housing to have solar by default? Maybe it is because it will dent the profits of the house builders, but economies of scale should bring them down and if the government offered the right incentives to the builders it could work.

Retro fitting solar to an existing house is still too expensive. I have just received a letter from my council who are looking to do a group-buy scheme to try and get a better price. I have signed up ‘no obligation’ to get a quote and see what happens, the current average seems to be about £6k. This is still too much for me. I can but try and see if it is feasible to have solar and use it to heat my water and provide lighting and power. My heating is provided via gas and in the UK this is still the most cost effective form of domestic heating – storage heaters and electric heating is too expensive in comparison – I have never seen a good installation.

With the increase in electric cars I can see the price of domestic electricity just going upwards. Those saying how cheap it is to run an electric car will have a shock when the domestic electric price rises and we have larger energy bills. This is where solar would be a benefit, having less of a draw on the power grid and pushing any surplus back onto the grid would be ideal. If only my house already had solar

Has anyone had solar installed or considered it? Has anyone bought a house with solar fitted? What are the running costs? What are the maintenance costs? I have heard horror stories about problems selling houses due to solar installations. Has this been an experience for anyone?

Reading Books

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Well, as I spend time at home ‘idle time’ has increased as the ‘online gig working’ has slowed down. There are not as many jobs going and I have also found that with the change in user base I need to actually work US hours to pick up work which is messing up my body clock. I am therefore trying to rearrange my day so I can balance gig work with doing other activities within UK hours.

One good thing about lockdown is that I found the local council’s online library. All the books can be loaned for free, so great news for using my time more constructively. I have been reading and listening to quite a few books and I am currently reading “The Fear Bubble” by Ant Middleton. (This is coincidental, nothing related to his current media coverage!)

It is all about managing your fear and using it to your advantage. It also had some comments about negative people and how whoever they are, be they family or friends, you need to shake them off if they are causing you to spiral into a bad place.

The idea of focusing the fear, accepting its presence and then reframing it to your advantage and into a positive opportunity is good. Some mental exercise for me to do. I am not about to jump off a cliff or climb Everest but changing my mindset would be a good thing. I have been spiralling into a negative space due to the lockdown and the lack of contact with positive people and places. I have an inherent negative inner voice which I battle with constantly. When I am working and have plenty to do I can block it out but this lockdown means it is getting louder and pulling me into a dark space.

Reading is a great escape and makes me think about ways out of this and how to contain this inner voice and get on with life. I am creating a list and will post comments in future months about the books that I have found most interesting.

Have you found your local online library? Have you found some solace during this period of lockdown in books?

Post your comments on reading below….