And so we keep on writing

I have attended my last formal class at University. In truth, it was a tad disappointing. My lecturer was forced to cover another class, so we were permitted to leave after only half an hour. A shame, but I did spend the next couple of hours chatting with dear friends.

Although classes have finished, my University experience isn’t over yet. I have two assignments to be submitted after the Easter break. This period after Easter will also be filled with lots of social events. Graduation takes place in October, so it will be autumn by the time I close this particular chapter.

But, until then, I have plenty to be getting on with. Now we are on holidays, I can increase the intensity of my job search. I need to have the guarantee of secure employment before I can commit to a new home. I can admit, I’m very much looking forward to living by myself for awhile. As much as I adore my housemates, the thought of having an entire kitchen to myself can only be compared to paradise. I cannot comment on long term plans, as there are too many ifs and buts to contend with. As it stands currently, I’m seeking a suitable job and flat to allow me to remain close to the chap. Yes, moving to the parental home is the most lucrative option, financially. But I know in my heart of hearts that such living arrangements would make me miserable.

So I’m taking the difficult route, but this path isn’t foreign to me. I know I can take all of the knowledge I’ve gathered at University, academic and domestic, and employ it correctly during the next stage. The margins and budget might be smaller, but hopefully, my happiness should be greater. I plan on making the next chapter just as successful as its predecessor.

Advertisements

No snakes, just ladders

On Monday morning, I have my Creative Vigilance and Metafictions class. My lecturer (who also happens to be head of the programme) is fond of reminding us that we’re third year students. Very soon, he says, we will be leaving the comfort blanket of University life. This never fails to prompt a groan from several students.

But for me, I see no reason to grumble. On one hand, I am lucky. I know exactly what career I want to move into and the active steps to take to get there. My various tutors have been invaluable in sharing their knowledge about the publishing world. I’ve had kindly advice in abundance and even an offer to set up a work experience placement. But I don’t believe it’s just luck that has set me on this path.

You see, on the other hand, I’m a stubborn hard worker. Even going right back, I had to work for my A-levels to get onto my chosen degree course in the first place. Now that I’m in my final year, I attend every single one of my lectures. I complete the additional reading and homework tasks. The library has become my second home. I know I’m not the only one that has adopted this intense working ethic, and we’re the ones who don’t moan. We’ve used the opportunity of higher education to its full advantage and are prepared for the world outside. Personally, I’m not only prepared, I’m excited for it! Having a clear view at the mountain in front of me makes me feel content.

Young adults today are so often told how hard it is in the “real world” that they’re giving up before they’ve even had a chance. Sadly, they think that because there are no easy options, that must mean that there are no options at all. This is not the case. I’m not going to take the smooth route and move back in with my parents next summer. I’m going to take the rocky path, budgeting my life in order to live in my very own home. I will work long hours in a low wage job in order to get a foot in the door to be on track for the career of my dreams. It’s not luck that will make me Head Editor one day, it will be rolling-your-sleeves-up hard work. Something, I fear, that is drifting further and further away with every escaping moan in the classroom.

Lunch Date: Loch Fyne

Lunch Date is my intermittent blog series where I write about restaurants I have visited. These are previous establishments that I have posted about:

The Good Life Cafe/Buddy’s Diner/Carluccio’s

I hope they make for a pleasant read!

*

            If one cannot be spoilt on one’s birthday, then there is no justice in the world. That makes me sounds awfully bratty, but I confess, I was looking forward to being fussed over on my 21st birthday. The chap rose to the occasion wonderfully.

I was showered with gifts when he first arrived. I found myself falling for him even more with each unwrapped parcel. The man bought me pyjama bottoms, I know he is a keeper. The indulgence didn’t stop there, as I was whisked off for dinner at Loch Fyne.

Although I frequently walk past it, I have never visited any of the Loch Fyne restaurants. We were welcomed into the spacious venue by an enthusiastic waiter. We were informed about the choices on the fresh counter and the catch of the day. Loch Fyne predominantly (although not exclusively) serves fish.

We sat down at our table and perused the menus. All manner of seafood, fillets and whole fish tantalised us both. I am a big advocate for fish although I haven’t sampled many varieties. The chap had whispered the golden words; I could order anything I desired. Perhaps it was the unavoidable status of being a student, or an innate sense for a bargain but I was leaning towards the set menu. Then two dishes grasped my attention fully and I confirmed my order from the set menu. The chap followed suit.

DSCN2130

My starter was a simple charcuterie plate. Everything tasted fresh, delicious and was displayed in order to make an impact. It’s not often that I go to a restaurant that can be referred to as “fancy”. Even on a Monday evening, the place hummed with a warm atmosphere. It’s nice to be in the company of other diners, even if you don’t engage with them. We sipped our wine, a true extravagance, and relaxed into the evening.

DSCN2131

My main course was beautiful. A kiln smoked salmon fillet on top of a salad of pear, butternut squash and pumpkin seeds. The dish leapt out at me from the menu, as it featured some of my favourite ingredients. The fact that it came with a side of twice cooked chips was a real treat. I can honestly say I enjoyed every mouthful.

The chap started with crab cakes and had a whole mackerel alongside chips for his main. He enjoyed his dishes too and would like to return. The feeling is mutual.

If we didn’t order wine, the entire meal would have been £19.90. I think the set menu was incredibly good value for the quality of the dishes. Both menus were extensive, but they do specialise in fish and rarely deter from that, which is worth bearing in mind. I happen to love fish, so it was the perfect option for me. Heartfelt thanks to the chap for making me feel so special.

A penny for the pot and a pound for the piggy

With my income grinding to a shuddering halt by the end of October, I have to think wisely about where to place each coin. I am paying a price for my freedom, but as a girl of simple means, I plan to relish this challenge. It’s not completely foreign territory to me.

I have always had a penny pot. They have come in various guises throughout the years, from hand painted jam jars to decorative wooden boxes. My favourite was a large figurine of Belle from Beauty and the Beast, brought back from a trip to Disneyland Paris many moons ago. She is not retired, she is currently housing the household fund for our house.

DSCN2090

My current penny pot was inherited from my mother, as the best things often are. It’s a retro HP edition, featuring cartoon characters from back in the day. It holds the required plastic bags as well as plenty of copper. I never keep pesky pennies in my purse, opting to purge them into the pot at the end of each day. Then, when it is too heavy to lift, I tip the contents onto the carpet and count it out into neat rows. It is bagged up, carried to the bank and transformed into gold.

I sometimes use the pound coins gathered to purchase some essentials – see Frugal Fridays #11. But most of the time, the coins tumble into here:

DSCN2087

My piggy bank was a charity shop find from when I first came to live in Winchester. Even at the start of University, I knew I would have to save for those rainy days. This year, as I did last year, I’m saving exclusively for Christmas. When I unplugged it last December, the treasure found went towards stamps, wrapping paper and other such festive things. It was so nice to have a helping hand, all ready and waiting. I worked so well that I am repeating the exercise this year. I don’t keep a record of what goes in, it will be a jolly surprise when the time comes. It will roll around soon enough.

I have been saving in my piggy since June, but other Christmas preparations have begun more recently. I have kitted up several craft projects to make as gifts. I have dug out Christmas cards that were purchased in January, naturally. Lists have been drawn up to tick each person off when a gift has been found. Just a short list, featuring only those who truly matter.

It may seem unfathomable to mention Christmas already. But when you’re adhering to a budget, careful planning ensures a merry time for all.

Home grown headache

Thanks to the lovely Dc over at Frugal in Norfolk, I have gathered more accurate knowledge on the points system within rationing. It seems I was way off beforehand. I bought four cans of chopped tomatoes with 2 of my “points”, but in reality, just one can would be 6 points! Full details can be found on Frugal in Norfolk’s Rations page here. I shall be implementing proper points rationing on Monday, including soap rations. Yes, I’m committing to rationing 100 per cent. I still believe it will aid my quest to live frugally.

Another thing Dc made me think about was imported food. Bananas were removed from my shopping basket, as I know they were non-existent during the war years. But it led me to think about where the rest of my produce was coming from. After trying to decipher a few labels, I was very surprised to learn that my frozen bag of sweetcorn has come all the way from Hungary!

In a realm where “packaged in the UK” doesn’t necessarily mean “grown in the UK”, it’s a minefield. Not to mention the illusive definition of organic. One solution to this problem is to venture back to the farmer’s market. Hampshire Farmer’s Market is wonderful, as I have mentioned before. I can get the majority of my foodstuffs (including rationed goods) there, just using the supermarket from UK milk and sugar. This is a more time consuming way of doing groceries. But I think the benefits of supporting local business, as well as the environment, outweighs this. Plus, food that has travelled less tastes better, there’s no two ways about it.

However, I am conflicted because the whole exercise is to help me stick to a budget and spend less. Farmer’s markets are more expensive than popping in to the local supermarket. I think I will go to the market this weekend and see what I can get for the money I have. Original rationing was all about home grown and supporting British farming. I would like to repeat these values today. I’ll let you know how I get on next week. What do you think is best? Lots at the supermarket, or some at the farmer’s market? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Give and take

The Clash summed up my recent predicament. Should I stay working at Cath Kidston, earning a decent wage but becoming increasingly worn out? Or should I go and focus on my creative writing degree but manage on less? I’m sure you are not surprised to hear I chose the latter option.

I handed in my four weeks notice yesterday. My manager was sad to see me go, but I think she understands my reasons. I would be spreading myself too thin if I tried to balance both during the crucial final year. I came to Winchester in the first place to achieve a decent degree, not to work in a shop. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved working at Cath. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to save for my incredible Europe trip, or be able to fund my third year. But my goals and my passion lie elsewhere.

I know I have made the correct decision, because when I left the office, I felt a huge weigh lifted from my shoulders. I can solely concentrate on my stories now. I cannot wait to have more uninterrupted writing sessions.

Finance was another factor in my thought process. By sticking to a clearly defined budget, I should be able to sustain a very good standard of living. This year is going to be hard work, there’s no doubt about it. But now I feel like I can rise to the challenge, rather than just struggling through. Although I will miss my monthly pay day, living frugally gives its own rewards. And just because I have very little doesn’t mean I can’t share.

My housemate working for Trinity Winchester and has organised The Big Sleep Out event coming up in a few weeks time. I know how fortunate I am to have the luxury of giving up my job to follow my ambition. So it feels right to help others in any small way I can. If you have a spare 50p, I would be very grateful if you could stop by my charity page. Trinity does wonderful work at their centres and any support would be gladly received. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Lunch Date: Buddy’s Diner

I love Sundays. I love the peaceful feeling that accompanies them. It is a day of lazing before an evening of gentle preparation for the working week ahead. Even if I have to work on a Sunday, it never feels like much of a chore, because I’m guaranteed to be finished by 5pm.

I had the perfect Sunday last week. I woke up slowly and proceeded to dress and head out with my housemate bright and early. Well, early at least, the freezing conditions didn’t allow sunshine. But that was not to dampen my mood, as we were on our way to the farmer’s market.

The best bargain of the day had to be two 400g packs of frozen organic beef mince for £4. Seeing the decent prices of the meat and the selection of produce available really turned my housemate’s head. She said she’s definitely going to go along to the next one. Another person for the cause! One thing I find great about consistently going to the market is that you start to recognise stall holders and other visitors. When I approached my normal egg stall, he was already packing half a dozen eggs up for me. It’s great to feel part of the community in that way.

With full shopping bags, we headed to Buddy’s for breakfast.

DSCN1066

The Americana themed diner is my favourite restaurant in Winchester. I have been there countless times for breakfasts, lunches and dinners with various friends and family members. The staff are friendly and the food is always exceptional. If it was lunch or dinner, I’d soon have a plate of sticky BBQ ribs in front of me, meat falling off the bone. But as brunch was the meal of choice, the order of the day was The Buddy Breakfast.

DSCN1071

It beggars belief that you can get all of this food for £5.50. Sure, it’s not a healthy option, but on a lazy Sunday morning with latte and good conversation, there is really nothing better.

I didn’t realise how popular it is to go out for breakfast on a Sunday morning; we had to wait for our booth. It was a treat for me personally and not something I would undertake every week. One, because my student budget wouldn’t allow it. Two, because I have no control on how it is cooked, it’s not really a nutritious start to the day. And three, you can whip up most breakfast dishes for a lot cheaper at home. Take breakfast for me this morning, two chipolata sausages, a mini can of baked beans, a slice of griddled bread and a mug of tea. Grand total? 72p!

Whilst it’s very nice to sit amongst the Winchester set, sip coffee and set the world to rights, it’s often even better to spend a relaxing time at home with a big (cheap!) breakfast and a glossy magazine. Ah me, living for the weekend.