Monday, 28 November 2011

Lidl doesn't sell prosecco

One week: a crisp twenty quid note. A fellow blogger asked if I would be up for the challenge of only spending £20 over the course of the week. ‘Why the devil not’ I said.

It has not gone well.

I mean, I was cocky enough at the start. 3 days in, and of my £20 weekly budget I had almost £16 remaining.

I had caught the bus to work on Monday and Tuesday and walked the return leg. The bus fare is £1.30 a pop, but I had illegally chucked in a few foreign coins that I’d found in an old handbag, and thus on 2 days travel I’d only spent £2.29. I surprised myself at how quickly I’d turned to crime; but I suppose self awareness is an important lesson in itself.

Food already in the cupboards and fridge was not included in the £20 spend. Yes, I know, giant cop-out – but hey - they weren’t my rules.

In a disastrous spot of poor planning, we ran out of teabags. No problem I think, there’s a free supply at work.

Packed lunches were covered. I had purchased a pack of 5 tesco value bagels and a tub of philadelphia as my lunches for the week. Week’s lunch: £2.01. Excellent.

£15.70 left. Easy.

And then, dear readers, it went pear shaped.

On Wednesday I took the notion that what my bedroom was lacking was a valance. Yes I know they’re a bit 90s, but I’ve decided they’ve come back into fashion. And besides, a valance would hide the ugly bed legs perfectly.

And so, what did I do? Well, on autopilot I load up ebay, find a very reasonably priced valance, and, you guessed it, click ‘Buy it now.’ Credit card details saved in the system. £9 down before I remember where I am and what I’m doing.

£6.90 remains. This is a disaster. I cannot afford the bus fare.

Thursday and it is my birthday. Luckily I am at work. I pay the full fare on the bus –imagine the shame of being pulled up for fare-dodging on your birthday. I have a hair-cut scheduled. Thank God it’s already paid for with a Groupon voucher. I don’t tip the hairdresser, even though my fringe is straight and I am happy. Sorry love,  that 2 quid will pay a bus fare.

Furthermore I shun office policy of buying treats for colleagues on your birthday and steal some of the mini chocolate rolls remaining from someone else’s special day earlier in the week. I am finding out a lot about myself that I do not like.

Friday and I am off work for a birthday ‘day of fun’. The boyfriend pays my bus fare to town as a birthday treat. We go to the fair but it begins to hale and thus the ferris wheel suddenly seems unappealing. I buy us both a cup of tea to thaw us out. 'That's £5' the woman says. I wonder if the woman is joking. I ask her if she is joking. She obviously wonders why anyone would think this was a joke. I pay up.

I now have £1.90.

The boyfriend has run out of change for the bus-journey home. I refuse to walk 2 miles in hale on my birthday-ish. £1.30 is grudgingly coughed up.

60p left and one day to go.

It’s Saturday. Surely, I think, I can just enjoy this stunning sunny wintery day in the city for free. That's until I remember that I’m having friends round for a drink before we go out for lunch.

Right. A drink. I’m not sure I can offer them lemon barley squash. Lidl. I’ll try Lidl. Lidl, it turns out, does not sell prosecco. I am disappointed, although I do realise that even if Lidl did sell prosecco it would not be 60p. I move onto Tesco. Even the half price stuff in there is £7.99 a bottle.

So I just give in. I’m going to overspend, so I decide to sod it. I buy 2 bottles of fizz, fresh strawberries and some of their ‘finest’ range treats. At the till, for good measure, I chuck in a £4 glossy magazine.  Total spend in Tesco £26.

Lunch, in the end, was free. My lovely friends picked up my share as a birthday treat. But I didn’t know they were going to make this sweet gesture and had not gone for the soup, (as I had planned to do during the frugal days that had proceeded) but instead had ordered the steak.

And so the week ended. My willpower, well, let’s not ever talk about my willpower. I had stolen from the bus company, from the teabag store at work, and from a colleague’s birthday treats.

But I was tiddly on prosecco and full of steak, so it wasn’t a total disaster after all.

My fellow ‘frugal livers’ faired much better than I. You can read about their weeks at  <Lucy's blog> and <Helen's blog

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Glitter tastes funny

I’ve come over all Kirstie. This year I decided stop trying to buy a lovely Christmas and instead attempt to craft one. And who wouldn't agree that a handmade anything is always lovelier than the poshest version from the shops? Well, we’ll see.

I gave myself plenty of time. The decision was made in October – Christmas was months away.

I turned to the new hero of the crafting world, Kirsty Allsopp. The problem was that some of the things I was expected to copy for my own gifts were a little ambitious. Not because I couldn't do them, you understand, but because they required so many out-of-reach materials. I’m not sure I have a spare £30 to splurge on gold leaf to decorate a couple of pears, and I certainly don’t have acres of woodland from which to forage for evergreen foliage for my wreath.

So, as a city dweller, how was I going to use the materials I found on my doorstep to fashion a Christmas wreath? I look out of my window at the block of flats across the street: popping out to find some festive-looking twigs is rather more difficult when they are buried under a great mound of concrete. 

Newspaper seemed the only available option, and so, in a spirit more ‘Blue Peter’ than Middle-Class-Allsopp, I began. 

For several weeks it sat, looking a lot like a wire coat-hanger with newspaper wrapped around it. Ahh, festive. Even when I started adding ribbon the boyfriend could only muster, “That will be such a lovely gift for someone who appreciates effort.” Thanks love.

I don’t have an artisan lurking around my house, and heaven forbid I have a full-time job to go to, so I haven’t quite managed to glass-blow my own baubles.

But I have made, painted, varnished and glittered angel tree decorations. There was a disastrous morning when I was multi-tasking – finishing off the glittering whilst simultaneously eating my breakfast – and I got a bit confused, but we’ll gloss over that.

My fabric stuffed robins are a little wonky, but will certainly brighten a friend’s tree.

And the wreath? Well, it came together quite nicely, thank you very much. 

“I just couldn’t see its potential”, the fella finally conceded.

However, a final word of warning: making your own Christmas presents will not be a cheap alternative if you manage to get paint all over your coffee table. 

Just saying.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

I didn't think I was the type

A few months ago I stumbled upon something you might have heard of. It’s called Twitter. A friend gave me a quick overview.  I didn’t entirely get it.  I did not understand what this "twitter" thing was.

But I joined, because in the end this technology lark catches up with you, and I began casually tweeting, without a clue that it would one day TAKE OVER MY LIFE.

I am not exaggerating.

I have begun having Twitter dreams in which people turn into 140 character messages that dance madly about. I’ll be halfway through a conversation and start considering how I could turn our chat into a re-tweetable gem.

I have started hashtag tweeting through tv shows. #xfactor #kirsty #downton.  Two months ago I had no idea what a hashtag was. This was a happier time.

I could barely contain myself when I got my first celebrity retweet.

I am about to reach the milestone of 500 tweets. Maybe I need to kick my habit?

Rachel is drinking tea, Rachel is at work, Rachel might brush her hair in a moment, Rachel does nothing except play on Twitter, really.

Rachel is making some changes. 

Rachel needs to get out more. Rachel cannot seriously be about to choose a new phone based on its tweeting ability. Rachel shamelessly wants followers. Rachel should get a life.

So goodbye. I’m going. I am definitely leaving. I need to leave before I start using haha and lol at the end of every sentence.

But first I should probably tweet this new blog post. And really, Stephen Fry is so witty. Actually why don’t you just follow me for a little bit?

Turns out, I really am a twit. Lol.

You can follow Rachel about Town on Twitter here

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A blogger bereft

Downton has finished. I got a telegram with the news and I’m heartbroken. I’m not entirely sure what I will do on a Sunday evening now. Songs of Praise just doesn’t cut it.

Let’s face it, Downton Abbey is brilliant because it looks like a costume drama but behaves like a soap.  The characters change personality every few minutes, and the plot has moments of absolutely lunacy; but as it’s about posh people and is loosely based on historical events, we conclude that it must be acceptable to watch.

And acceptable it was. The nation was hooked.

Who amongst us will forget Matthew’s tingle?  We didn’t see that coming did we? That miraculous leap when paralysed Matthew jumped from his wheelchair to rescue Lavinia from a falling tea-tray.

Lavinia sadly lost out in the public vote and died. Too obvious? Apparently not. Thank god for Spanish flu as a useful device for bumping off characters.   "It's a strange disease with sudden savage changes," said the doctor, as Lavinia began to look distinctly peaky.

Mr Molesley however did not have Spanish Flu. No, turns out he was just pissed.

And who was the mystery mummy – the one who’d survived the sinking of the Titanic, woken up with a Canadian accent and remembered that he was the long lost heir of the Abbey? Even the Eastender’s writers couldn’t have dreamt that one up.

Luckily for us all, Lord Grantham remembered just in time that he was not a lothario, and will be sticking to discussing port and dinner jackets rather than groping the maids.

Sir Richard will be starring in panto this Christmas as the wicked witch of the west.

And Edith, who used to be a bit evil, is now throwing concerned looks left right and centre.

But of course Mary and Matthew can never be together; not least because of Matthew’s over-reliance on white-face paint. “We're cursed, you and I, and there's nothing to be done about it," Matthew told Lady Mary.

I would guess that there's at least another series to be ‘done about’ exactly that.

We certainly hope so, because how would we cope without it? I’m not sure. But I won’t be defeatist. After all, it’s so middle class.