Blue January …

January 21 2023

Gosh; is anyone else struggling with January? Setting off for work at 7am and returning around 6pm, I feel as if I live in darkness at the moment. So this morning’s run, in the glorious, snowy sunshine is a real pick-me-up. But, aside from ‘living for the weekend‘, if only to see daylight, are there any other tips for getting through the dreary 31 days that start each year?

Much is written about poor old January. An entry entitled ‘Why is January depressing?‘ for the Foundations Wellness Center by Justin Baksh on 2 January 2022, claims that,

It is often said that January – dubbed “the Monday of months” – is the most depressing month of the year.

And many of us would resonate with a catalogue of reasons why: end of the holiday season, dismal weather and mounting debt. It is, I read, scientifically proven that shorter daylight hours and lack of sunlight do lead to SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which can play havoc with our body clocks and reduce energy and motivation. Possibly this is why the cheery resolutions of New Year’s Day can so often wither away as we battle against sluggish despondency?

Psychologist Cliff Arnall, even hit the headlines in 2004 with a proposed formula for low mood! I think he has since admitted that this was a partial publicity stunt plus a mathematics model for mood feels unlikely, nonetheless, you cannot argue with the list of variables that definitely do contribute to the misery of our much-maligned opening month of the year.

So what can we do about it?

Canadian blogger ‘Mommy Kat and Kids‘ promotes self -care and ‘sit and soak‘ is her number one tip. Kat espouses the merits of a candle-lit bath and I can vouch for this one in a slightly different guise as, after months of inactivity, I fire up the hot tub on Friday night and have a fantastic evening in there with a friend.

The joy of a hot tub, which is not often mentioned, is that it is wonderful way to enjoy the great British outdoors, because as you sink into the deliciously depths of the steamy water, you are actually warm and can just relish the peace and stillness of beautiful winter’s evening. It is great for conversation, relaxation, shaking off the working week and having fun!

So folks; if you’ve a hot tub; hop in. Or get running those bathtubs and basking in bubbles with candles, music … and escape the wintry chills!

Cygnet Health Care list ‘keep fit and stay active‘ as tip number three. I must concur with this one too; I am loving my January running. I do actually like to exercise in the cold, running on a hot day is my nemesis and, as the icing on the cake, I got blue tooth earphones for Christmas so I am now pounding the pavements to the beat of my favourite rousing anthems! For an hour each Saturday, it has become my definition of ‘happy’.

And few of us would argue with the benefits of being active. So when we’re lucky enough to see a glimmer or sunlight, pull on the trainers or enjoy the beauty of a snowy walk. In grimmer weather, and let’s face it, we’ve had a lot, blogger Kat recommends digging out your yoga mats. Worth a try… again if only to warm up!

So mostly, but not all about the weekend? I’ve now got the suggestion of a bit of downward dog and a midweek bath to brighten up a January evening! Alongside the delights of Friday nights and the rare glimpses of daylight that Saturday and Sunday bring, will this be enough to sustain me through the gloomy grind of the working week? I fear not. And I’ve yet to mention the desperate need for a pay day! Whose idea was it to put two 31 day months back to back at the most expensive time of the year? Not a parent I’ll wager. Sheer insanity!

On the bright side… we are over half way through! Nonetheless, please hurry up February…

There’s a hot tub in my garden…

Saturday 23 April 20222

Golly gosh; can my two girls shop!

As the Easter holidays draw to a close, I hardly recognise my own home! Cheered on, at times propelled on, by my daughterly duo of retail fanatics, not only does my conservatory proudly boast a new furniture but our aged plastic garden chairs have also been binned in favour of ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners.

Have I taken leave of my senses? Well I just might have done exactly that, because the shopping frenzy all began….with a hot tub!!

Gosh the hot tub! Now that is a long story which at some point demands a post of its own but for now can go down as a fanciful notion floated after some bargain deals bounced into the inbox. And now here it is, at least until my energy price fix runs out in Summer 2023, our very own outdoor spa!

It is certainly an extravagance on its own, yet, scarcely has the froth subsided on our first dip in the bubbles, when purchase number 2 is in the boot of the car. I innocently agree to potter into town with my Eldest, to pop into Boots for a new moisturiser when my girl steers me into a store promising ‘unbeatable bargains‘ on garden furniture. Before I know it, I find myself trundling to the till with four new ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners in my trolley!

Mum, you have been looking for new outdoor furniture for years!”,

my Eldest smiles reassuringly, as I appear a little flustered. This is true, but I had anticipated at least another half decade of looking and wondering and weighing-up before I actually made any daring dash to the cash-till. In addition, I am not at all sure what ‘zero gravity‘ chairs even are! But, as we try them all out upon our return home, they are very comfortable. And apparently, my offspring tell me, together with the hot tub really ‘freshen up the garden experience!

I know what you’re thinking, by now I had surely learned my lesson! But no, as Prom-dress daughter arrives home to swell the youthful and carefree ranks of the household, I am persuaded to head out to Ikea to replace a few broken glasses and try out the new plant balls’. Five minutes! We are there for only five minutes, before we are are snuggling on a new sofa and admiring the display of accompanying rug and table!

You’ve been looking for ages, Mum”

“Don’t you just love it – so comfy!”

“The poor conservatory has been completely bare for 18 months now!”

They do actually allow me to stop and consider this one, over (delicious) plant balls, mash and gravy. Possibly, I am distracted by the delights of my redcurrant jelly but equally the fact that they are correct and that my lovely, sunny, garden room has been an empty shell, for a very long time, does also register and I decide to go for it, rug, coffee table and all!

At the warehouse, things are slightly complicated. We discover that, despite endless permutations of collapsed seats and car-boot boxes plus much hilarity as the three of us career around the carpark with the weighty beast, the sofa is never going to be squashed into my car. In now rueful resignation, I wave my credit card at the cashier and fork out for home delivery!

So the time honoured clash of their youthful exuberance and that dash of ‘carpe diem’ with my single-mum (crippling) caution. There is a clear victor on this occasion. I’ll admit however that, for once, I am glad to have been defeated. Left to my own devices I would doubtless have a few more £100s in the bank, awaiting the proverbial ‘rainy day’, but the conservatory would still be an empty room and the tired old plastic chairs not up to the task of tempting anyone to sit in the garden this holiday. Whereas, we now live in the conservatory and the new garden equipment has also been fun. It has made the Easter holidays seem pretty idyllic and contributed to me falling a little bit in love with my own home again.

Nonetheless, the bank manager and I do heave an audible sigh of relief as my two shopaholic students set off back to uni-land …

Is it time for a 5 year plan?

21 February 2021

It’s a funny old half term and it all start with this Monday morning call.

Am I speaking to the one and only Becky ….”

Yes, one very confident, chirpy cold caller! And life insurance broking is his game. Whilst I choose not to invest in any of the deals, he does make me stop and think about the insurance I do have. I root out my policy to find that it covers me for a bizarre number of years, with a seemingly random sum of money. It is clearly no longer fit for purpose and needlessly pricey. As I start to research alternatives however, I hit a brick wall of indecision…because making a wise choice depends on where I see myself and the teens in the next 5 or 10 or 15 years . And I just do not know. A lot can change in 5 years…

Here I am 5 years ago. It’s my birthday 2016. I am coupled up, dressed up and out for the evening!

Fast forward 5 short years to my recent 2021 Birthday and here I am, single, sitting in my lounge and Locked Down with a take-out curry!

Who could have known quite how different life would be? And the next quinquennial, promises to be no less dramatic in terms of change. No more teens, no more mortage, no need to work as many hours, no need to live in this corner of the North-west. It is difficult to know how to even start thinking about it all.

It has been a year when I have grown accustomed to living; day to day, tier to tier, Bojo press conference to inevitable U-turn! But if I thought I could run away and hide behind the covid curtains for a bit longer, I was mistaken. Half term also brings necessary negotiations with tree surgeons and roofers. Thinking through some fairly substantial financial decisions keeps bringing me resolutely back to the same daunting, dithering ground. Because, ‘How much to pay?‘ and ‘How much to do?‘ are all balanced by looking ahead to how much longer I expect to be here.

There is certainly a lot of advice out there for those of us facing the prospect of ’empty nesting’. Indeed the Citizens Advice reports finding “a huge demand – nearly half its enquiries” – from the 50-plus age group, for whom the main issues were pensions, mortgages, wills and life insurance. I have to be honest though, at the heart of my unease is the fact that I’d never expected to be facing these choices and ‘resetting the life plan’ as a single person. Without a partner to bounce ideas off and help me to frame a way of thinking about it all, I’ll confess to feeling absolutely terrified. So I start smaller. Next week I have an appointment with a, Independent Financial Adviser to talk… about me. Not stereo-types, not ‘typical case studies’ for my age group, just me. And I feel calmer. It was clearly time to stop avoiding the issue, I am a long way from a plan at the moment, but getting some facts hearing some options, doing my homework…none of that can hurt…