Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Time to Breathe...

The end of term was completely chaotic... then suddenly we were on holiday, which felt very weird really.  It was really hard to slow down this time when everything had been so manic. 
Anyway, early on Saturday morning we drove over to Ludlow.  We had decided to do something completely different this holiday and spent one night a 'posh' hotel/restaurant in the town.  I found Dinham Lodge Hotel on Booking.com.  It's postal address is "By the Castle, Ludlow" (which sounded pretty 'Downton' and I couldn't resist it..!)
Our room had a lovely bay window over-looking the gardens and the Teme river valley..

The bed was very grand -with rather a 'film set' look...
(It was also very comfortable)

This was the view of Ludlow Castle from the window by Reception..

And this was the lounge (aka 'The Drawing Room'!)...

The weather was seriously grim (cold and wet) but we managed to wander round the town and try out some of the 'foodie stops'.  In the evening we had an amazing meal, based on another Trip Advisor top tip.  I wish that I'd been organised enough to take my camera, but you'll have to take my word for the fact that the Clotted Cream and Lemon Curd mousse was out of this world!!
There's lots going on over here (both good and bad) which seems to be keeping me from my normal blogging routine at the moment.  I hope that I will be able to catch up with you all properly over the next twenty-four hours, and have time to post a little more about the weekend and other things. In the meanwhile, I hope that everyone is well and having a good week.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A corner of my world...

The days are getting longer so we're getting back into the routine of a quick walk when we get home from work.  It feels great to squeeze in a bit of fresh air before it goes dark.  Here are a few photos from our favourite walk round the block - taken on this evening's circuit.
 Crossing the A38 into the Worcester, at the top of our road...
Following Station Road out of the village to the north.
(You can see the remains of the station to the right of the photo -
it was closed in the 1960s)

Looking back across the fields to the village...

Following the lanes into the hamlet of 'Lower Town' -
past the kennels for the Worcestershire hunt.

A beautifully restored cottage behind the trees in Lower Town..

My favourite tree on the whole walk.
(When the weather is clear you can see the Shropshire hills behind it..)

One of a handful of old black and white houses that are tucked away around the village..

..And the pretty 1930s houses behind the main road...

Tomorrow I'm going to take my camera to work because I need to take some 'evidence photos' for the Year 11 portfolios.  If the weather is decent I'll also take some photos of my working world for another post.
I hope everyone is having a good week.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

My Saving Habit...

I was brought up in the 1970s by a stay at home Mum.  We had a car and a telephone (on a 'party line'!) - but these came with Dad's job as a District Surveyor for a national Engineering Insurance Company and we wouldn't have had them otherwise.  Dad was great at budgeting his salary so there was 'just enough' money to do things.  Mum was an amazing crafter and creative cook, so she stretched the housekeeping as far as possible.  However, I was used to hearing the words "Sorry Jan we can't afford this" pretty much all the time I was growing up.  From a very early age I was taught - "If you want it, you save for it.  Don't have a Credit card.  The only loan you should have is your mortgage."

I've been fortunate enough to be in a situation where I've been able to live by these rules all my life.  (I do recognise that many people are forced to take credit or loans when they haven't wanted them because life has dealt them some really bad luck - I am really lucky here!).  I still save for things, then buy them - and I don't have a credit card.   I also don't have children and I'm married to some-one who is on a similar 'professional' salary to me..... so money has been 'sloshing' around for years.

By habit and nature, I've always liked to keep my spending down.  My wardrobe is factory shop clearance and thrift, rather than designer.  Mark is a 'fixer' and does all the work on the cars and the house (which saves an immense amount of money).  We like to have our weekends away and days out - but it comes with the proviso that this is 'value for money'.  We have an ancient TV and avoid other electrical gadgets and the cycle of up-grades that seems to be a feature of 21st Century living.  We 'look after things' and keep our wear and tear to a minimum.

For the last 20 years, I've saved well over 50% of my salary every month.  Around 5 years ago I paid off the mortgage.  I've also funded Mark's car building project; I've replaced the windows in the house and paid for the conservatory; and I'm still saving like a maniac! 

Now I'm starting to wonder if my saving habit is actually an addiction.... (or some kind of Obsessive/Compulsive/Control Freak thing....Ha ha!!)  When I decided to move on from teaching, I started a new financial regime.  I wanted to see if I could live for a sustained period on less money.  I also wanted to try and create levels of 'financial buffer' so that I had space to make 'real choices' in the Autumn.  My saving obsession is now in full flight - in February I saved close to 80% of my salary.  Seriously.. I appear to be 'saving on my saving'.

However, I'm not sat here being a penny pinching miser!  Over the last few months I feel like I've really enjoyed and appreciated the money that I have spent.  In a strange sort of way I feel like I'm 'buying time' and it feel good.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Not Waving But Drowning?

Things have got pretty muddled here in the last few weeks.  I'm finding it really difficult to untangle the "good busy times" from the "bad stress times" because they both seem to have the same time pressure attached..

The nice things are...
~ Having my harp back.  (The only down side is that it needs tuning at least once per day following the major sound board and re-string surgery.  This takes around 10-15 minutes per tune... and obviously I want to have a play afterwards!)
~ Starting a few private pupils.  (These lovely people will become the basis of my new income stream in September.  Unfortunately it feels like I'm doing two jobs at the moment!)
~ Friends' birthdays and Family Celebrations. (The stuff that makes the world worthwhile)
~ Decent weather.  (Mark and I love days out, walking for miles and photography)
~ Mid-week evening commitments (The monthly meeting for the car club tomorrow; my niece playing a movement of the Bruch Violin Concerto with her school orchestra on Thursday evening - lovely things with the people who matter.)

The bad things are...
~ Level 2 Btec coursework marking (It's taking me 45 minutes per candidate to complete the marking and paperwork.  There are 28 candidates for this Year 11 unit.  Currently I'm doing all this extra work in my own time.)
~ A poor appointment last Thursday for the second in department job (THEN the SMT decided to invite this teacher to start at Easter so I will have to find time to induct them to the department... the sixth new person this year!  I feel like some-one. some-where is having a laugh at my expense.)
~ A strong sensation that this short half-term is galloping by.

You know that I'm not moaning about my 'lot in life'.... it's just that I'd like the time to appreciate the good things properly. 

It's at times like these that I know I made the right decision when I handed in my notice.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Playing Truant..

The weather forecast was so lovely for today that Mark and I decided to play truant from all the 'house jobs' and take ourselves off for the day instead.  We decided to visit 'Tyntesfield', the National Trust property on the south side of Bristol.  We got up fairly early, sorted out a packed lunch and set off down the M5.  We've heard lots about the house but never visited it before, so there was a nice 'buzz of anticipation' going on...
This is the south side of the house, the front door and the chapel.  It's enormous and extremely dramatic...
The Victorian gothic interiors are pretty much original and in fantastic condition..

There's so much detail in the hall and stairs that you can't take it in with one view...

The butler's pantry full of basic, everyday things...

..and the servants bell system is so long that you can't fit it in a photo...

The last room you visit is the family chapel.  We stood for ages trying to take in all the beautiful carving and detail...

After our picnic we explored the parkland and gardens...

Even the potting sheds and gardeners office were on a grand scale..

A perfect Spring Day...

Fortunately it's due to rain tomorrow...so I'll be a 'good girl' and do the housework!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Tomorrow's the Big Day

Tomorrow we are interviewing for the Music teaching post at school.  I intended to keep a very low profile.... maybe meet the candidates informally over coffee at the beginning of the day, but otherwise leave the decisions to Lovely Colleague who is taking over my job.  Of course things rarely work out as planned.  A short demonstration lesson is part of the interview process and my Year 8 classes have been taken as 'guinea pigs'.  As a result, I've now been pulled in to watch the lessons with one of the Senior Management.

There's a strong field of four candidates.  One is an experienced teacher who has run her own department in another part of the country.  I'm guessing that she has moved to the West Midlands for family reasons and is looking for something local.  One has been working in another school in the Borough for 12 months while the other two are just finishing their training.

Oh well.... I guess it will be interesting.

Last night was Year 10 Parent's Evening, where each consultation followed very much the same lines - "Your child is working really hard and achieving really well.  I'm sorry that I've got to leave these classes in the middle of their course.  I will EVERYTHING in my power to make sure that the hand-over is seamless and that your child feels fully supported."  There were 36 appointments - one every 5 minutes for 3 hours.  It was a bit of an ordeal to be honest.  I'm immensely fond of the Year 10 classes and will genuinely miss them.

Apart from the rigours of that crazy appointment schedule, school is generally going quite well at the moment.  The Lovely Lady Supply Teacher has settled in well and has agreed to stay with us for the rest of the Maternity Leave period.  Hopefully this will now give us real stability until the end of June.  She's exceptionally good company and we laugh and joke our way through the days.  It's quite a contrast to the very difficult weeks immediately before half term, and a far nicer way for me to work out the last few months of my notice.

I've formally handed in my letter of resignation now - effective from the 31st August.  This means that I will have one more month of salary than I expected, which will is always helpful!