Category Archives: Life in general

Life is too short not to have a Filing System

How can people live without at least one small filing cabinet in their houses?  How do they access the mountains of paperwork which drop through our letterboxes, into children’s bookbags, handed to you on the doorstep by frightening, burly men …. oh sorry, forget that last bit.  But you get my point.

At any given time, I have a pile of papers on my desk that are waiting to be dealt with by return letter, the filling in of forms, the production of other documents, ‘phone calls at the very least and almost always requiring the handing over of shining piles of cash.

The only way of keeping on top of this lot is to have an accurate, well organised filing cabinet which is regularly scanned and weeded for superfluous and out of date papers.  I have a large filing cabinet that has been travelling with me for the last 20 years.

The top drawer is devoted to The Wartime Housewife (and who isn’t?), the second drawer is for major household categories that require money to change hands eg utilities, car, schools, bank, tax etc, important documents such as medical cards, passports, birth certificates, and instruction leaflets with their receipts and guarantees.  The third drawer is predominantly recreational – Scouts, vet, English Heritage and that sort of thing.

When the car needs insurance or an MOT, I go the Car File and take out the envelope marked ‘Car Docs’ which contains MOT, Insurance policy and the log book.  Today the Inland Revenue needed a copy of a document from several years ago and I was able to go straight to my drawer and retrieve it while the chap was on the ‘phone.

The thing about accurate filing is that it saves so much time.  Having systems for dealing with incoming mail and tasks means that you have infinitely more chance of keeping on top of things and significantly less tasks of letting something critical slip through the net.

I have an In-Tray next to my desk where papers go for sorting.  I then have three magazine holders on the other side of my desk marked ‘Things to be Done Imminently’, ‘School & Scouts Letters and Forms’ and ‘Things to be Kept at Hand’.  The things in the first two holders will also appear on my (typed) Things To Do List which is pinned to my noticeboard and, when completed, the documents are either filed or thrown away.

I also have plastic folders for ongoing issues (in the To Be Kept at Hand), such as the car accident I had last year and every time I make contact with the insurers, I add a note to the file with the details so that I have an accurate record of every step.

The other things I do which I find endlessly useful, is I keep a sheet on the computer which has a list of all my regular income and expenditure on a monthly basis and every time something changes, it is updated and a printout stored in the file.   This not only helps me to keep a tight rein on my finances but I am frequently asked for this information and I save so much time by having the data at my fingertips.

My only problem is that I do have a box of filing which came with me from the old house, but it is only small and if something isn’t in the file, it will be in the box.

Without these systems I would probably be in jail.  I have poor short term memory and too many demands and variables in my daily life.  My brain is, by nature, chaotic and I impose these structures in order to function. Before I realised the value of systems, I lived in chaos and was constantly fire-fighting.  Life is just too short.

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Filed under Household Hints, Life in general, Slider

Ill-mannered letters and other people’s whiplash is grinding me down

Angry Bird - like wot I am

In fact, it’s not just the paperwork, it’s the tone of the paperwork.

Having recently become self employed, there is an astonishing amount of paperwork required of me on an almost continual basis, mostly because there are lots of things that I now have to pay for which I didn’t before.  I am also constantly asked to account for myself to various bodies and, whilst I understand that this needs to be done, I come close to getting upset by the hectoring tones of many of these letters.

One letter, asking me for details of the work I have been doing has the penultimate paragraph in large, bold type, some of which is underlined, threatening that if I don’t provide this information within 15 days the payment in question will stop.  This is the first letter of its kind from them and I would mind less if it hadn’t, in fact, been sent to the wrong address.

I have two other ill-mannered letters this week.  The first one regarding Council Tax which is threatening me with court action if I don’t pay £27 which is 7 days overdue.  They informed me that I was  constantly falling into arrears in this financial year and that it simply would not do.  I only received the letter confirming my Council Tax bill three weeks ago.

The second made me want to spit blood with rage at the hypocrisy of it all.  For the first time in a very long while, I was overdrawn at the bank.  Overdrawn by £8 for a grand total of 4 days.  This meant that a direct debit was not paid and for which I was charged £8.  Fair enough.

What was not fair enough was the letter that I subsequently received from my bank lecturing me on the evils of being in debt, that it was totally unacceptable to overdraw without authority and would I like to see an advisor and go on a debt management course.

Do you know what?  I would like the banks to go on a debt management course.  Added to that, I would like the writers of these letters to think twice before assuming that everyone is a work-shy, backsliding criminal.

I just get angry, but I wonder what an elderly or vulnerable person would feel like if they received letters like these.

And whilst I’m on the subject of getting angry, I would like to share with you my entire morning spent trying to get a quote on my car insurance.  My insurance has gone up by over £250 since last year and that was the cheapest quote I could get.  I was expecting it to go up a little bit because I took someone’s wing mirror off back in July and, apparently foolishly, owned up on the flimsy grounds that it was categorically my fault.

I asked each insurer (I rather quaintly get my quotes from humans on telephones) why premiums had gone up so much.  Each one told me that a large factor was the no win no fee companies urging people to claim for whiplash.  Apparently the new trick is to get your friend to bang into your car from behind, you both claim on your insurance, then get a whopping payout for whiplash – the going rate is currently £2k.

When some stupid tart ran into the side of me a year ago (still not gone to court, incidentally) I was bombarded with calls from claims companies for weeks afterwards asking whether I was getting headaches or back pain. Several of them suggested that I was foolish not to claim as whiplash was virtually impossible to gainsay.  Needless to say, I refused to play the game, again on the frail excuse that I was not actually injured.

Nonetheless, my premiums have gone up by £250.

I am very, very cross.  I probably blame Thatcher.

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Filed under Life in general, Transport

I ran out of time…

I believe I may be very cute indeed

I had such a lovely post lined up for you today but the day ran away with my.  I spent all morning working on … well working on something, then I spent an hour doing paperwork, followed by lunch (Boy the Elder is still on half term) then some work on the post.  Except that I have just taken delivery of a new vacuum cleaner which needed building, which BTE did with great skill, so I had to try it out as I haven’t been able to vacuum for two weeks. In the middle of that I got a ‘phone call from a friend who was trying to organise a meeting point for the children to do some Halloween stuff, except that Boy the Younger had Cubs first and I had to sort out some stuff for him so he could get his IT badge and then I remembered that I needed another pumpkin to make a big pot of soup for us all.  But the pumpkins were all gorn so I had to use a butternut squash which took twice as long because Boy the Elder wanted it to make another lantern. I was going to write the article when BTY got home from school and then, while he was at cubs, make the soup.  Except that Cubs was cancelled at the last minute so we had to re-arrange the entertainment and abandon the article in favour of the soup.  By the time we got back it was time for ‘Doc Martin’ and now I have a splitting headache and I’m afraid I shall have to retire to my bed.

Sorry.

However, if you click on the link above, you will find three recipes for pumpkin as you’re bound to have some left or be able to pick up some post-Halloween bargains.

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Filed under Children, Food, Leftovers, Life in general, Recipes, Seasonal

Harvest Festival

Foodscape photograph by the wonderful Carl Warner

Aha!  I am back amongst you!

However, I am in such bad humour about so many things today, that it’s hard to know quite where to start.

I will begin with Harvest Festival because I attended the Harvest service at Boy the Younger’s school today.  As we went in, I said to my friend “what do you think the chances are of us singing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ or ‘Come ye thankful people come’.? “Zero,” she said, laughing.

Well it was worse than zero.  I realise that in some aspects of life, I am an unspeakable old fuddy-duddy, but why does everything that involves children have to be turned into an entertainment?  In a moment of desperation, I fed my programme to the beaming baby in the pew in front so I am unable to delight you with the nauseating detail of the ‘service’.

The children sang several feeble pop songs with the word ‘Jesus’ in them, most of which had stupid actions with which the parents were encouraged to join in.  When we were asked to clap our hand to our heart, I’m sorry to tell you that I quietly intoned “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…” followed by a hand-jive, which had the parents on the row behind dissolving into nervous giggles.

Then there was a really good bit where it all stopped and young and delightfully handsome young man from the nearby CARE village stood up and thanked us all for the donations of food which would be given to the residents.

After this, the Reverend Blodwyn stood up and began the ‘It’s behind you’ section of the service where all the children were encouraged to shout out stuff about vegetables, after which she delivered a lecture about the environment.  Just in case the children hadn’t worked out what rain was, she put up a handy Powerpoint presentation with a character from a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon in which the character gets rained on. Ha bloody ha.

There is absolutely no need for church to be boring.  A good minister can deliver a sermon which will not only uplift and encourage, but will leave the congregation with something to think about for the rest of the week.  Hymns can be joyful and spirit raising, a reading in the hands of a decent reader is a lovely thing to listen to.

But Church, among many other things, is one really good opportunity to teach your children that there are times in life when they have to be quiet and behave with decorum.  There is an unending stream of complaints about how children can never sit still, can’t concentrate, can’t keep quiet.

A large part of the problem is that children are not taught to be quiet and behave with decorum.  Everything they do has to be entertaining.  Well life isn’t always entertaining, in fact, quite large chunks of life can be a bit boring and require us to keep our gobs shut when we’d rather not.  Sometimes we have to be quiet for the comfort of others.

Children need to be taught that there are times to have fun and times to be quiet and still.  How can they learn to think and reason if their minds are being swamped with a constant and unrelenting cacophony of sounds and sights and ‘stimulation’?  How can they learn to appreciate the small and simple things with which they’re surrounded if they never have a moment’s peace in which to do it?

I love Harvest Festival; whatever one’s spiritual pathway, it is completely reasonable to be grateful that we have enough food and that we still have farmers out there producing it.  It is a gratifying experience to share some of that produce with those who have less than us. I personally thanked the farmers in the next pew for growing our milk.  They did the narrowed eyes thing and left.

When I was at school, the Harvest service was a beautiful thing.  The girls doing cookery baked fabulous loaves to look like sheaves of corn, flowers graced every windowsill and the joyful Harvest hymns rocked the rafters as the organ thundered and the choir sang descants that could have lifted the tiles off the roof.

The last ‘hymn’ was called ‘Harvest Hoe Down’ accompanied by a tinny recorded sound track and a bazooka solo from some invisible children – I don’t need to draw you a picture of how awful that was.  I left Boy the Younger’s service with my teeth ground down to powder.   I accosted a teacher in the playground and pleaded that, just once before I BTY leaves, could we sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’? Just once. “Why?” she answered.

It all makes ‘Cauliflowers fluffy…’ seem positively Wesleyan.

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Education, Life in general, Religion

Joke

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon.  As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird’s chest.  After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, “I’m sorry madam, but your duck, Cuddles, has passed to the big pond in the sky.”

The distressed woman wailed, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure.  Your duck is dead,” replied the vet..

“How can you be so sure?” she protested.  “I mean you haven’t done any testing on him or anything.  He might just be in a coma.”

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room.  He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador Retriever.  As the duck’s owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom.  He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.

The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room.  A few minutes later he returned with a cat.  The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot.  The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.  The vet looked at the woman and said, “I’m sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck.”

The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman.

The duck’s owner, still in shock, looked at the bill.  “£150!” she cried, “£150 just to tell me my duck is dead!”

The vet shrugged, “I’m sorry.  If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been £20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it’s now £150.”

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Filed under Animals, Jokes

I can live how I like (within reason)

My life is very hectic as I’m sure is the case for many of you; I am constantly running from place to place and the timetable of my day is effectively ruled by my sons’ activities.  I try to sit down for half an hour to have my lunch (whilst watching ‘Doctors’ I’m slightly ashamed to say) and I usually sit down to watch a bit of television or a film for an hour in the evening but then I carry on working, often until around one o’clock in the morning and frequently later.  This does not sit comfortably with a 7am start.

I am a woman who needs my sleep.  Over the years, the only thing that has stood between me and total meltdown is that I fall asleep the moment my light goes out and do not wake until my alarm goes off in the morning.  I lose sleep cumulatively over the week and, at the weekends, I sleep until at least eleven in order to restore my factory settings.

But now, my day is longer, I drive 450 miles a week just going to school, work and clubs and there are things afoot at the Wartime Housewife which are demanding more time and concentration.  I need more sleep and I have decided that whenever possible, I will go to bed for an hour at some point during the day and, most importantly, I will not feel guilty about it because I’m a grown up and I can do what I like.

The problem is that we have all been brainwashed by generations of people who say things like “Early to be, early to rise” and who frown on people who get up late.  There is now a culture of never sitting still, never having thinking time or acknowledging when one needs to rest.  My grandmother always had an hour’s rest after lunch and she was much better for it.  A geologist friend of mine used to put a card on his office door saying ‘Do not disturb – I am thinking’ and would put it on his timesheet as Thinking Time.

The difficulty that both my sisters and I have, is that our mother was ill for many years with depression and agoraphobia and would stay in bed all day, every day, not getting dressed or doing anything in the house.  We have spent our lives doing regular checks on ourselves to make sure that we’re not starting to behave like her or slipping into bad habits.  Even though our mother is now better, she still takes to her bed at the drop of a hat and we sub-consciously rail against any behavior that feels similar.

I didn’t get to bed until gone one o’clock this morning and, as I was coming back from the school run, I could feel my eyelids drooping as I drove along the A6.  Not good.  So I went back to bed for an hour and now I feel better.  And what’s more, I shall continue to do this whenever I feel like it, in the interests of sanity.

I am the Wartime Housewife, I am a grown up and I can do what I like (within reason).

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Filed under Family and Friends, Life in general, The Wartime Housewife Blog

A Weekend in The City

What a busy weekend I’ve had.  The father of my children picked The Boys up at 9am on Saturday and I shot straight off down to Elephant and Castle in London to… oh no, I can’t tell you that, you’ll find out soon enough, but I did have the pleasure of seeing The Marquis of Barnet and Carlos Fandango.   The traffic was pretty good and I was there by 11.45 which included a stop off for a coffee and a bun at The Gates of London service station because I was in danger of falling asleep.

Sadly not my photograph

I came straight in through the centre of town and was, as ever, completely thrilled by the view as I crossed the river via Tower Bridge.  In the wink of an eye I could see the beauty of Tower Bridge, the ancient Thames itself, the Tower of London, The Gherkin, St Paul’s Cathedral and behind me The Shard racing skywards like a living mirror straining towards the sun.

London is beginning to feel like an exciting place again.  There is so much regeneration going on; new and beautiful structures going up and old ones being refurbished.  Yet somehow, London absorbs it all; the old bumping elbows with the new, the ancient holding its head high as it welcomes in the modern with open arms.

After I had finished … the thing I was doing … I headed for Walthamstow to visit my old friend Mrs Gnasher whom I have known since I was ten.  Mrs Gnasher hails from Co. Durham and, despite living in London all her adult life, still has her gorgeous accent and will sing ’The Lambton Worm’ at the drop of a hat (whether you asked her to or not).  For a cheerful version of this song, complete with words and chords, see below.  I suspect the singer might actually be a Manxmen by his accent.

The Olympic Stadium is coming on a treat, giant cranes sweeping over the East End like great, lumbering iron men.  The Velodrome resembles a giant version of those little plastic Pringles boxes – all very exciting.

The Skylon at the Festival of Britain in 1951

I left my lovely friend and headed for The Aged Parent who lives near Staines on the edge of Heathrow Airport.  We had chicken and chips for supper and watched an achingly brilliant documentary about the Festival of Britain in 1951.  The FOB is worth a blog in itself, but I found myself fervently wishing that I had been born in time to have seen it for myself.

They should have re-done it as part of the Millennium celebrations or even for next year’s Olympics but I guess at the moment we simply don’t have the money.  The thing is, that after the war they didn’t have the money either, but what the FOB sang out loud and clear is ‘We’re down but not out’ and the architecture and design that went into it heralded a bright and optimistic new world that gave people tremendous hope for the future.

In the morning, I dragged the AP out of bed and packed her little valise so she could come and stay with me for a while.  Sister the First turned up just before we left for a lovely but fleeting visit, then we headed out to Sister the Second to give her belated birthday presents and have lunch.

We arrived back in Desbo at about 4pm, just in time to bake some cakes for Boy the Elder to take to school this morning for his birthday.  He is 14.  It is not possible.  The Boys were collected from their father at 7.30pm.  I unpacked the … results of my trip … , cooked dinner, put The Boys to bed and now I am here telling you all about it.

It was a lot of miles and I am very glad that I have got a couple of days off to get my head down and  learn how to … (hand is clapped firmly over mouth).

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Filed under Children, Family and Friends, History, Life in general, The Wartime Housewife Blog