Frugal win and plastic-free fail

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Delicious vegetarian food

After the panic halfway through 2018 because our spending seemed out of control we changed our shopping habits with a plan to get things back on track and frugal.  We continue to purchase consciously, rather than conspicuously, only buy what we need and use the think-about-it-for-a-month method for expensive purchases or for something new.   We also continue to make do, wearing clothing until it is only fit for scraps and fixing things rather than replacing them.

Given that we are not prepared to give up our holidays, one of our bigger budget lines is food and grocery shopping.  This represented 14% of our spending in 2018.  We decided we would target this area of our budget and make some changes.  The main alteration we made last summer was to switch pretty much all of our shopping while we are in the UK to Aldi, the German discount supermarket, rather than a combination of Tesco, Sainsburys and Morrisons.

Since last summer we were away during September and October but it is now four months since we returned from this trip to mainland Europe and I have been able to review what we have spent in supermarkets during that period [which includes Christmas].

The savings are clear.  We have saved an average of around £50 a month [£600 a year is not an insignificant amount in our budget]  As we all know, in terms of staying frugal shopping in Aldi is a win-win.  This has certainly helped with our budget and although it is really too early to say, at the moment this year’s spending is on track [there I did say it].

I am less happy with the amount of plastic packaging we come home with from Aldi and this was the main reason we hadn’t shopped in Aldi previously.  I do try and buy as much plastic-free fresh fruit and vegetables as I can from the store but this seriously limits our diet.  Baking potatoes, spring onions, aubergines, peppers and celeriac are all favourites that are plastic-free.  Fantastic, there are good things here that make great meals.  But we also like to include carrots, tomatoes, onions, courgettes and mushrooms in our diet and these generally come wrapped in plastic, whereas in other supermarkets I could find them loose.

Being frugal and taking care of our planet are both important in my life and at the moment it feels challenging to balance these two principles.  I have been an environmental campaigner for most of my adult life and this is very much a part of who I am.  Travelling in our campervan is also something that is close to my heart.  Spending more than our budget [the amount of savings we have are pretty much fixed] isn’t really optional.  The only way we can live the life we want to is by keeping our spending in control.

If we squander all our savings before our pensions kick in we will have to go back to work!  Not the end of the world I know [and don’t get me wrong I am not complaining and I know how privileged we are] … and yet I do wonder who would want to employ either of us in our mid-60s?  And so our shopping continues to compromise our environmental credibility until Aldi start to reduce their packaging.  Hopefully that is only a matter of time.

 

 

 

Caroline Birley: #surprisingsalford #42

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It was a fascinating heritage walk around Seedley and Buile Hill Parks that sparked my interest in Caroline Birley.  She lived in a house, no longer standing, that looked over Seedley Park on Seedley Terrace and we were told she kept her huge collection of fossils and rocks in a building that was constructed on the back of the house that she called the Seedley Museum.  She opened this home-museum to the public in 1888.

Born in Manchester in 1851 [or 1852] Caroline came from a wealthy family that made money from textiles and rubber in Manchester.  She was the youngest of four and had an early passion for science and despite having no formal education was lucky enough to be able to follow interests that were considered the realm of men at that time.  She travelled widely collecting specimens; between 1887 and 1907 she travelled across the world from Denmark to North America and South Africa with her friend Louisa Copland.  A number of fossil species were named after her and although Caroline collected and catalogued her own finds publication about her findings had to come from a man, Dr Henry Woodward, the Keeper of Geology at the British Museum.

She left Salford and moved to London in 1896 and her collection moved with her so didn’t make it in to the Salford Natural History Museum in Buile Hill House.  Before she moved she made a will stating that she wished her collection to be given to the London Natural History Museum and The Manchester University Museum.  During her lifetime Caroline also gave many specimens to Oxford University.  Her executors wanted to see some museums in the north-west of England benefit after her death and so her collection was further fragmented as specimens were sent to Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Radcliffee and Warrington and the Manchester Grammer School museum.

Between 1879 and 1898 Caroline Birley also wrote several children’s books, including the intriguingly titled J

Caroline returned to Salford just before her death in 1907 at the age of 55-years.  She had not married and had no children.  Her obituary, published in The Geological Magazine, said of her:

‘By the death of Miss Caroline Birley, a most ardent and enthusiastic student has been lost to the science of Geology, one who from her childhood to the end of her life never wavered in devotion to this her cherished pursuit, nor thought any fatigue or personal sacrifice too great in order to visit places of geological interest and obtain specimens for her beloved museum’

 

A Communal Hiking Lost & Found Box

‘I think winter wear is communal. You get some gloves and a scarf from a lost-and-found box, wash them, wear them for a while until you lose them. Then somebody else does the same thing.’ Adrian Grenier, actor

I share Adrian Grenier’s ideas about winter wear and I am pretty much working towards never buying hats, gloves or scarves again.  Certainly a frugal win!  It seems you can’t walk far in the British countryside these days before you find a piece of walking gear that someone has dropped and lost.  We found we were picking up so many pieces of gear that we started to wonder if it would be possible to kit yourself out entirely from found items, particularly if you didn’t mind wearing un-matched gloves.

On a recent trip to the Lake District we returned home with the following list of found items.  A micro-towel, one hardly used dhb cycling glove, one Sealskinz padded glove and a Montane beanie, at least £50 worth of gear!  I was already wearing a hat and a fleecy scarf that were both finds from different days out walking over the years.  At home we have a collection of hats and scarves we have picked up.  We had tended to throw odd gloves away but these have now been added to the lost and found box until they can be matched with another one of a similar style.  This collection doesn’t really fit in with my de-cluttering aim but I do hate to waste good quality gear.

Please understand that we don’t pick up items of clothing if we think they have been dropped that day and the owner might return in the opposite direction and be reunited with his or her lost piece of clothing later.  But if something has clearly been there for more than a day then it is really just litter and we always pick up litter!  The wellingtons in the photograph above were one of the few things I dithered over.  They were my size but we left them where we found them as we were sure someone would return to collect a pair of wellingtons.  Yet we were back in the same car park a few days later and the wellingtons still stood in the same place, waiting to be claimed.

I am not fussy about what I wear, but there are some things we find that neither of us is willing to add to our wardrobe.  We give these items to a charity shop or to our local homeless shelter.  In winter homeless shelters are often looking for warm clothing.

When we find something new I think about things that we have lost.  I like to think that items of clothing we have mislaid have been picked up by someone else and they are out there somewhere enjoying wearing them.  On a memorable day out walking to celebrate my partner’s 50th birthday, it was such a windy day we lost firstly a hat that blew off Mr BOTRA’s head on the summit of Pike of Blisco [more alarmingly taking one of his hearing aids with it].  Later while struggling to put my waterproof overtrousers on the wind smartly whipped them away and they disappeared down the steep hillside.  We gave chase but the wind was so strong they were quickly gone.  This was a hugely expensive day on the hills for us but I like to think that someone thought it was their lucky day finding a pair of Karrimor waterproof trousers!

 

A Nostril of Sunshine in the Lake District

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On Nanny Lane

‘Did I see a nostril of sunshine out there?’ the shop assistant asked as he deftly wrapped three packs of Grasmere Gingerbread up for me.  This was our second visit to this tiny and charming shop alongside Grasmere church is just a few days.  A cross between a biscuit and a cake, Grasmere Gingerbread is one of the best things produced in the UK but it does taste better fresh and is only available from Grasmere [or by mail order] hence the multiple visits.  I had never come across the expression ‘a nostril of sunshine’ before and smiled at the use of it.  Imaging it meant a gap in the clouds I nodded and agreed that yes there was a bit of blue sky out there just at the moment.  Perhaps this is a local saying, although when I tried searching for it on the internet I was only offered information about blocked noses!

The heavenly nose had been clear and wide open for us during our week in the Lake District.  We had enjoyed fine days that were just perfect for walking.  After the family outing from Haweswater we took the youngsters up to Orton Scar for a breezy walk among the limestone pavement and to see the view from the Queen Victoria Jubilee Monument.  We had lunch at Kennedy’s in Orton looking through the windows into their chocolate factory then waved as the son and daughter-in-law returned home.

On our first visit to Grasmere we walked up the steep grassy slopes of Heron Pike from Greenhead Gill, returning by the pretty Alcock Tarn, Grasmere lying below us.  Our final visit to Grasmere was on foot from Ambleside, always a favourite walk that takes you around Loughrigg and Rydal Water and back along the old coffin route.

In between these Grasmere visits we hiked up Wansfell Pike from Troutbeck and followed the undulating walled ridge to Baystones.  We chose the route up Nanny Lane, an old track that I thought was a more enjoyable and interesting ascent than from Ambleside.  Nanny Lane is well maintained and we put a small donation into the honesty tin at the gate in Troutbeck for its upkeep; heavy rain can do severe damage to these steep hill tracks and I like to see this lovely lane cared for.  The views from Wansfell Pike and Baystones are hard to beat.  We could make out the remote Kirkstone Pass Inn tucked in between the mountains, the blue length of Windermere shimmered in the sunshine and bustling Ambleside lay in the green valley below.  I can’t help but love the Lake District!

 

On my own on a family walk: Kidsty Pike, High Street & Mardale Ill Bell

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Small Water below Nan Bield Pass

We had planned this weekend in a Lake District cottage with our son and daughter-in-law some time ago.  In my head we would spend time together and enjoy a couple of days good walking that I hoped would become part of our treasured family memories.  So why did I find myself walking on a Lake District mountain all on my own?  The day had started off so well; the weather forecast was perfect, we had shared a leisurely breakfast in the comfy cottage we were staying in and we had managed to find a parking space at the end of Haweswater Reservoir.  Boots on, all four of us had strode out around Haweswater Reservoir to the top of Kidsty Pike.  We sat on the summit eating our lunch while we watched the deer in Riggindale, the u-shaped valley below us.  The eagled-eyed in our group also made out a fox sidling across the hillside around the group of deer.  The day was set up to be a flawless and delightful.

There were three Wainwright baggers on this walk, these are people who are trying to walk up all of the 214 Lake District hills described by Alfred Wainwright in his pictorial guides and I was not one of them.  Our son and daughter-in-law were the first to leave Kidsty Pike to ascend High Raise, just off the main route and already bagged by Mr BOTRA some years ago.  We agreed we would all meet again on High Street, the broad-backed hill that was on our planned route.  What could go wrong?  As they headed up the hill we realised we had forgotten to remind the youngsters that we would be detouring by The Knott, a small nobble of a hill that Wainwright had decided to include in his list and needed ticking off!

We also forgot how fast the two younger family members are when they don’t have to wait for us.  We firstly dawdled over setting off and then stopped to chat to another walker about the local wildlife for quite a few minutes, getting engrossed when she told us she had recently seen otters on the River Greta.  Tearing ourselves away from a chat, we left the main path for The Knott but becoming concerned about missing the others, I turned back hoping to meet up with them as I headed towards High Street.  I was now on my own, Mr BOTRA was somewhere behind me rushing up and down a small hill.  In front of me I saw that our son and daughter-in-law were already heading up the slopes of High Street.  Some family walk this was turning out to be!

Rejoined by my partner we pounded up High Street as fast as my short legs can take me, waving every now and then in the hope that the two of them would look back.  At no point was our pace any match for two people 30 years younger.  They were apparently surprised not to meet us on the summit of High Street and decided that we must be in front of them!  They rushed on without even stopping to look at the view and never once looked back.  We followed behind, occasionally catching glimpses of them as they strode over Mardale Ill Bell.  They chose to use their descent from Nan Bield Pass as good practice in fell running for the National Three Peaks Challenge they hope to complete this summer.  We gave up any hope of catching them and sat down to rest and enjoy home made fruit cake and the spectacular views before tackling the tricky rocky descent.

In the end we were an hour behind the two of them.  On the positive side, we all did get the opportunity to tackle the mountain at our own level and the weather forecast was right, it was a glorious day.  It wasn’t quite the family together time I had planned but it will be a day we remember!

 

 

 

 

Blackfriars Street: #surprisingsalford #40

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Blackfriars Road in Salford crosses Trinity Way, going under the railway line.  From the Chapel Street junction this becomes Blackfriars Street and continues up to the River Irwell where Blackfriars Bridge crosses the river in to Manchester.  Along Blackfriars Street a few impressive buildings from old Salford remain.

The sandstone three-arched Blackfriars Bridge replaced a previous wooden footbridge and was opened in 1820.  The tollbooth on the bridge was removed in 1848.

On the corner of Blackfriars Bridge and chapel Street is the Black Lion Hotel, where John Cooper Clarke gave early performances and the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain was born.  This organisation was founded at the UK Van Dwellers Protection Association in 1889 to protect the rights of fairground workers and changed its name in 1917.  The Guild represents travelling funfair businesses and I remembering finding their lovely and moving memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum that remembers the Guild members who died in the First and Second World Wars.

The splendid building in the photograph is the former Baerlein’s warehouse and was built in 1877.  The building is listed and today it has been converted to residential use and is known as Textile Apartments.  Baerlein & Co were an engineering company that made machinery for the textile industry.

 

 

 

Walking 2,019 km in 2019

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Walking in the woods near Henley-on-Thames

It all started with a conversation with a friend towards the end of 2018.  We were on a walk together and he was keen to take the long way round to the pub because, it turned out, he sets himself a target for miles walked every year and he was worried he wouldn’t make the distance before 31 December.  This conversation made me realise two things; firstly, although I consider myself a keen walker I have no idea how many miles I walk each year and secondly I have a bit of a competitive streak.  We get out for a walk most days now we are retired as this is a free activity that we enjoy.  These walks might just be a circuit around Salford Quays for a mile or two, or to the local park or cemetery or it might be a utilitarian trip to the supermarket.  On top of these daily trips around Salford we take longer and what you might consider ‘proper walks’ in the countryside in Scotland, the Lake District and wherever else we might be visiting.

Although this is not a competition, my small competitive streak wanted to find out just how the distance I walked each year compared with my friend and so I decided to set my own target for walking in 2019.  My own rules are that I can count any distance that I walk, even if it is just to the supermarket, as I have chosen to walk there rather than take the bus, cycle or drive, although I don’t count distances under one kilometre such as to the corner shop or our tai chi class.

Someone I follow on Twitter is aiming to do 2,019 miles in 2019 in aid of the Trussell Trust.   You can combine cycling, swimming, running and walking for this challenge but it is still quite a challenging target and I am in awe.  I don’t intend to put my own target out there for fund raising for a charity but I did begin thinking I could try and walk 2,019 miles throughout the year.  I quickly calculated that this needed an average of around 5.5 miles a day and that this was perhaps too much of a stretch.  Thank goodness for kilometres!  I always walk and cycle in kilometres, they are so much easier to get through and sound more impressive and so it was only natural that I would come up with my own target of 2,019 km in the year, around 5.5 km a day – much more achievable.

A spread sheet was set up and the counting began.   After two and a half months I am feeling the target is achievable [unless, of course, I break a leg during the year] but not easy and I certainly don’t feel I can let up for a few days.  If I have a couple of days when I don’t walk anywhere I know I have to make up those kilometres with a long walk.

Up to the time of writing this post I have walked 486 km (301 miles) this year, which is an impressive [I think] average of just over 6 km a day.

A couple of things I have learnt from being target driven with my walking this year:

  • I am now keen to get out whatever the weather – not necessarily a bad thing.
  • I have to be organised and record how far I have walked every day before I forget.
  • I am more keen to walk than cycle when we are making the choice about how to travel somewhere so the bikes are feeling neglected [perhaps next year I’ll have a cycling target].
  • The added frugal bonus has been that we rarely take the tram into town these days as I prefer to clock up some kilometres.
  • The expensive downside could be that I wear out more pairs of shoes during the year!