Wednesday 31 May 2023

May Spending (ouchy!)


Oh dear, it's not been a good month spending wise 😱  I mean it's not terrible, I'm not in debt but I've been buying things to futureproof my retirement.  I've spent a lot on DIY stuff and on the garden.  Although I'm getting the garden and house ready for the party next month it all needed to be done any way.

I managed to cobble the damaged raised bed together with some metal brackets.  It's not that sturdy but it will last until I sell the house and then the next owners can decide what to do with the raised beds.  They might remove them altogether like the folk across the road from me did when they moved in.

Rhubarb from the plot this morning

So, to the details.  Supermarket spend was £269.73 which is the highest amount so far this year.  It did include plants from Waitrose (£10) and a denim jacket from Sainsbury's (£25) so around £235 was on food and household.  I've cut back even further on buying meat and I'm eating a lot more veggie meals.  Food is just expensive to buy so I'm working on growing more!!

Cucumber and 3 varieties of pumpkin seedlings

Pet spending was £251.71.  £206.65 of that was on Emma's painkillers and steroids!!  While she still has a good quality of life I'm happy to pay it but I'm painfully aware her health is deteriorating 😭

Youngest son in the garden in 2013

My lovely mum in the same spot 3 years ago today

Same spot this morning!

Amazon spending was £129.84 and Other Spending was (gulp!) £358.72!!  I bought 2 books, some Urban Fruit and went for coffee and a bacon roll with a friend.  Everything else was on  garden/plants/compost/paint and DIY supplies.  All things that will improve the appeal of my house and garden when it comes to sell next year.

I've also paid for new laminate flooring for my kitchen and utility room and the window repairs.  But they came out of a separate savings account.

I'm hoping next month will be less spendy!!!!

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Fixing windows


It might not be obvious but there's no glass in the bottom part of that window!  I finally got round to getting a company in to fix 3 misted double glazing units in some of my windows.  This window has been misted ever since I moved in almost 10 years ago!  I'm not sure when the previous owners replaced all the windows but they were pretty old even 10 years ago.  I also got some hinges replaced on 4 hopper windows and a new door lock installed.  Total spend just under £1,000 which is much cheaper than replacing whole windows.  I'm trying to anticipate what a surveyor will pick up on the Home Report when I sell and remedy it as cheaply as I can so future buyers won't reduce their offers 🤞

Unfortunately, the guys stood on the edge of my newly painted raised bed to reach the window and it's collapsed 😠 They didn't tell me at the time, I discovered it when I went out to check my plants.  Luckily I have a liner so the soil hasn't burst out but it's in an awkward place close to the house.  I'll get some metal corner brackets and try to hold the planks back in place. 

Meanwhile, it's been another gorgeous day here with a high temp of 22C.  Actually too hot to do much except look at all the pretty flowers.  My son commented that all my flowers seem to be blue, pink or purple.  Yep!! 😂

Monday 29 May 2023

Blue Monday


I bought a pot of Cuprinol wood stain in Barleywood which is a gorgeous blue colour and painted the potting table.  I think it looks bright and cheerful!  And it hides a bit of dodgy rough casting on the wall!

I did the raised beds at the front too.  They were badly faded in places but a quick coat on each of them brought them back up to their former glory.

It only took a few hours and luckily the weather was dry and sunny so it it all dried really quickly.  Even though I was really careful I did end up with quite a lot of blue splashes on me too!! 💙

Sunday 28 May 2023

Plot, garden and cinnamon rolls!


I must confess I've been feeling a bit meh this week after my attendance meeting.  Now I know I'm not going to be back at school again it feels more final.  I've been messaging with some of my colleagues and I'm really disheartened to find out that nothing has changed.  My class is still challenging despite full time SLA support and the acting Depute taking groups of kids out daily hasn't made a difference.  No input from any specialist support services either.  The teacher covering my class now only has 14 kids in the room and he sends the 2 main culprits to other classrooms daily.  So he has 12 kids with an SLA full time.  Big fat MEH!!! 😠

So I've been outside in my garden and on the plot thanks to a run of consistent good weather.  Every single time I go outside I pull a few weeds or dead head a plant.  No wonder retired folk have lovely gardens!!! 😂

I finally built the potting bench my Lovely Mum got me for my birthday last year.  I just didn't have the oomph to do it last year.  I've added the above pic to show you what it should look like with 2 wee drawers underneath the top 😂

The wee drawers just wouldn't fit together!!!  So I put the support planks on the front instead 😂 Looks fine to me!!  I'll stain it blue as I'll be getting some Cuprinol for the raised beds at the front of the house.  My plan is to have lots of plants on it so it's really colourful! 🌸🌻🌺

I bought 2 more folding festival type chairs and created a wee colourful seating area.  Much cheaper than buying a garden bench!  I'll ask folk to bring their own chairs if they want to sit down.

I also put together my new garden hose.  It was rather fiddly and the instructions were useless so I found a video online and that made it much easier.  I had to cut a bit of the hose off and unscrew various bits to feed the hose through.  None of that was on the leaflet that came with it.  It's a Hazelock so it's a decent brand but at £39.97 it's their most basic version so I guess building it yourself is the price you pay!  

I was in the mood for baking so made some GF cinnamon buns!  Recipe HERE.  It's the most complex recipe I've followed for a long time.  They're fluffy and light but way too sweet for me.  I shouldn't have added the icing.  My teeth were on edge!!  But it was fun trying something new and I enjoyed playing with yeast!  Plus I had all the ingredients in my store cupboard 😊

Friday 26 May 2023

Quick peak at my garden


My garden is starting to bloom beautifully but I've still got a month to go before my garden party!!  It's peaking too early!  Hopefully some other flowers will be in bloom as the aquilegias and irises will be done.  I've been potting up all my bargain plants plus a few I paid full price.  I'll do a full back garden tour soon as I'm really pleased with it 😊

I was in Sainsbury's the other day with my DIL.  I rarely go into the store these days (I prefer Tesco.) I just get my main deliveries from them.  I bought 2 items and got 2 coupons with my receipt.  I just shoved them into my bag and didn't check them until I got home.  Imagine my delight when I saw one was for £9 off a delivery over £90 (my usual once a month big shop) and the other was for £12 off an £80 spend in store!!  So £21 off if I do 2 big shops BUT they expire within a week of each other.   I could do an extra  store cupboard stock up.  See above photo for the only tins I have left!!  Then I'd do my normal online start of the month shop.  I could get a lot with that £21 off!  

My fridge and freezer are running very low too.  I've been trying to make sure I use up everything I have.  After tonight's meal I only have 2 frozen servings of meat left (1 beef in gravy and 1 minced beef with veg.)  The only veg I have frozen peas and brussels sprouts!  I used up the last of some quinoa lurking in the store cupboard and cooked it with rice.  I saw this somewhere recently (maybe FB) and thought I'd try it.  It was pretty uninteresting!!  Luckily I had enough beef and gravy to give it some flavour.  I've still got some GF polenta to use up.  It's not my favourite but it's edible with a lot of butter and cheese!! 😂  Waste not want not and all that!

Monday 22 May 2023

New plot video!

I had my online attendance meeting this morning with HR, my Headteacher and my local EIS secretary.  It was pretty straightforward.  

How are you feeling?  Good.  

Is there is anything we can do to help your return to work?  No, I'm retiring and my GP wants to sign me off until my retirement date.  

If there's anything we can do until then just let us know.  Ok, thanks.  

And that was pretty much the gist.  There was no point in dragging up all the things my headteacher did and didn't do.  Allegedly she couldn't get her camera to work so she couldn't even look me in the eyes.  She did say that there's still no input/support from the Pupil Support Service or Educational Psychologist for some of my kids despite us requesting help back in October!!  I didn't expect there to be.  But I'm just done with the whole thing now and can't wait for the last day of term.

Afterwards I went to the allotment and played with my my new cordless strimmer to create paths.  It's a bit rough but you can see the 'grass' aka weed paths beginning to take shape.  Turns out I'd assembled the strimmer guard the wrong way round and the lovely Tesco delivery man fixed it for me this afternoon 😂

I finished another pair of socks.  This was using 2 separate balls of sock yarn to make my own stripes.  Joining the colours was a nightmare and I've got lots of wee threads inside.  Ah well, only I'll know they're there!

Oh and I've got another energy bill for that one day in May 2020.  Last bill said I owed them 64p, this one says I owe them £66 exactly for the same day.  The saga rumbles on...

Friday 19 May 2023

It's not over yet!


The saga continues!  The phone calls, texts and emails demanding money have finally stopped.  But 2 days ago I got this bill demanding payment of 64p!!!! For a single day back in May 2020.  WTAF!!!!

And today they sent me a refund cheque for £65.43 😮  Despite them agreeing I never owed them any money and they don't owe me any money because I never had an account for that period in the first place!!!!  My son still hasn't been sent a bill to repay the refunded £2,578.47 they put in his bank account 🙄🙄🙄

I fear this saga is going to rumble on and on and on...

I've been working on my garden to get it ready for the garden party so my plot hasn't had any extra time.  But this morning I noticed that so far (without too much input) I've got potatoes, onions, rhubarb, blackcurrants and gooseberries all quietly doing their own thing.  I need to get over more regularly to get the grass/weeds down before they take over my paths!  

There's a shortage of woodchips that most of the plot holders used to create weed free paths between their beds.  Apparently local tree surgeons and landscapers now get £100 per ton from the council for their wood chippings instead of giving them to us for free.  So a few of us are trying out grass paths instead. My paths are too narrow for the site lawnmower so I bought myself a lightweight cordless battery powered strimmer to cut it back. Never used one before so that'll be fun figuring out how to use it! 😂😂

Thursday 11 May 2023

Plant Power


I 'think' after another full week of phone calls and emails, the Scottish Power saga is resolved.  I spent 1 hour and 52 mins on a single call yesterday being bounced between departments with every single person I spoke to agreeing this should never have happened.  I then had to follow up with another 34 min call to get the final bit done.  That's the hugely abbreviated version!!!!  Basically someone/something attributed past already paid bills to my closed account on 3rd April and refunded 2 years worth of direct debits to my son.  Totally their error but no one knows how it was even technologically possible.  

So I've had it confirmed that I don't owe them any money, the account is closed and they've promised to take my name and number off their list (already had a phone call and a text today so not holding my breath on that yet!!)

And of course there's a punchline...

When I checked my account this morning, it's over £600 IN CREDIT!!!!!!!!! 😲😲😲

To cheer myself up I've been buying plants, bargain plants!!  I got 2 trays of 6 violas in Dobbies for £1 each.  They just needed watering.  And some half price ones in B&Q! I got 2 dahlias, 2 impatiens, 2 snapdragons, 2 marguerite daisies all £2 each and a dianthus for £1.50.  The lady at the till said thanks to wet Bank holidays they had too many left hence half price even though they're not the usual sad bargain corner specimens.  I deliberately chose ones that flower from now right through the summer so they'll be in full bloom for my garden party 😊

Plant power beats Scottish Power any day!!

Thursday 4 May 2023

Energy Dispute Saga


I am in dispute with an energy supplier, specifically Scottish Power.  They're not even my energy provider and yet according to them I owe them several thousand pounds.  Their customer services are polite and helpful but after 6 weeks I still have been unable to get anyone to sort it out.

Settle in, it's a saga!!!!!  Read to the end for the punchline 🙄🙄🙄

When my son and his wife moved out of the flat they settled their final bill and closed their account.  No issues.

The flat was empty for over 4 months with just the minimum heating left on to prevent a burst pipe in the cold weather, as per my insurance. When the flat was sold I asked Scottish Power for a final bill and that's when the issues began.

They asked me for lots of paperwork to prove I was the landlord etc and I sent it all by email.  As requested by them.  So far so good although this took many phone calls and emails.

Then, they simply sent an estimated bill several times despite having actual meter readings.

I finally got an accurate bill of £202.07 for the 4 months and I paid it.

THEN they sent me back dated bills from 3rd May 2020 and that's where the fun began!!!!!!

To cut a very long saga short, according to their records (!) someone closed my son's account in May 2020 and immediately reopened it my name.  WTF!!  No one from Scottish Power ever contacted either of us to ask for the proof that I now know is needed to open and close accounts.  So how that's even possible I don't know.  Zero contact from them at the time or even in October 2023 when my son closed his account.

My son continued to receive bills from May 2020 to October 2022 as usual and paid them by DD.  He has all the bank proof if needed. 

So, for the last month I have been getting 2 texts, 2 phone calls and an email on a DAILY basis and letters demanding I pay these back dated bills.  All automated so can't actually respond to a real person.  According to them, I have a debt of over £2,000 for the last 2 years in unpaid bills!!

Emails take 48 hours to turn round from their end and sometimes they just reply we can't sort this by email please phone us.

Every time I phone them to sort it out, I'm on a 40 min call with someone different each time and it just makes it worse.  I've sent all the paperwork requested via email as evidence.  I've even been on the phone while sending the email and the guy at their end opened it and read it back to me.

Finally I got a sensible person who said he could see exactly what the problem was, opened a Promise ID and said don't worry it will all be fixed within 14 days.  

7 days later (Monday) I get an email saying the team sorting out my issue don't have the ability to download any of the documentation I've sent by email (as per THEIR request) and could I please contact them to arrange sending a more 'readable' format.  WTAF!!!! 😠

The last 3 times I've phoned I haven't even been able to get through as they cut off the call after 2 mins saying there is too high a demand to speak to anyone and suggest their chat bot on the website.  Which doesn't have the subject area of sorting out erroneous billing!

Even though I know I don't owe them a single penny, it's still very stressful.  I've had to put my phone on mute so I don't hear the ping of the texts or phone calls.  I can't begin to imagine how someone with genuine fuel poverty issues and debt must feel.

Next stage is to involve the Energy Ombudsman.  I was on their website last night and I meet all the criteria.  I have to wait for a Deadlock letter from Scottish Power before I can proceed so I'm guessing I still have a few more weeks of this pish!!!!

Oh and to top it all off, last night around 11pm my son got a text message from his closed Scottish Power account saying they'd refunded his over payment on his bill of £2,578.47 and yep it was already deposited in his bank account 😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮

You can't make this stuff up!!!!! 😒

Monday 1 May 2023

May Day/April Spending


I spent the morning on the plot on this fine May Day.  Well, it was fine for a wee while then it rained!  I managed to clear the long strip by the path of weeds, planted my red and brown onion sets, planted my wee blackcurrant bushes beside the originals and discovered that my echinacea survived the rabbit mauling in the tub.  I finally found where rabbits are getting in.  My gate has been nibbled and the wire pulled back.  Hopefully I can fix that next time I'm there.  We should be past the last frost date now but I'll wait another week or 2 before risking direct sowing seeds.  There was a frost last week and some of my potato shoots were damaged.  They'll bounce back though.

As yesterday was the end of the month, I did my end of months totals.  Bit of a mixed bag.

Food/supermarket spending was £161.74 which is lower than last month and I still have loads of food in the freezer.

Pet spending was even higher as I had to take Emma to the vet again for further tests and more drugs.  She's starting to become incontinent yet another sign of her old age 😢 She now takes 10 tablets throughout the day.  I always said I wouldn't keep a dog alive just for me and I fear the dreaded day is looming closer.  She seems happy enough although she is in some discomfort with arthritis.  Total for the month for dog and chicken £196.74.

I bought a few items on Amazon last month.  A couple of things for the allotment (inc hot spot tape for my polytunnel!) and I needed a cover for my new phone.  Total £85.24 for the month which is less than March.

In Other spending I needed petrol, I bought seed compost (although my Lovely Mum gave me cash for birthday to buy compost), I paid for my brown bin collection permit, we had a take away for my birthday tea, I bought a wee greenhouse and I had a dentist check up.  Total £263.45

Plus I paid £250 cash for the skip hire.

I'd like to get my spending down even more before I retire which is why I'm buying a few extra things here and there in preparation while I'm still getting a regular salary.

The huge declutter of the back room has begun.  My son and DIL managed to put all their boxes into the eaves and cupboards upstairs.  My friend took 3 full bags of stuff for school.  I've filled many other bags with books and textiles to be recycled or donated.  I've filled 3 black bags full of unrecyclable stuff and sorted out a ton of 'stuff' that seems to have multiplied since I brought it out of the upstairs cupboards.  It's getting harder to to dump/recycle things as there was a change in the law recently that I didn't know about.  It's taking me much longer than I hoped as it all needs to sorted/taken apart and taken to the right place!

I've set myself a deadline of the above room being empty by Friday!!! 😱