Tuesday 21 October 2008

Pension plans

We are off to France tomorrow, staying in the Dordogne. We were supposed to be attending Mr FF's nephew's wedding with celebrations in a chateau over 3 days but sadly this was called off on Sunday as the bride's father is ill. Poor things must be devastated but we like many of the guests have paid for our flights and accommodation so we will still go. We have booked this lovely house and will stay on after the wedding date so that we can celebrate my 60 birthday there, not that the celebrations haven't already started. Cards have arrived and a parcel came this morning from Rose on the Isle of Wight that I am taking with me so I have something to open on 01 November.
I've been trying to sort out my pension arrangements which has just about reduced me to tears. I have various personal pensions that I've had to open as I've changed jobs, this is before the portable stakeholder system and the forms, options and greedy charges for moving my money are impossible. I don't actual want to draw any pension yet either state or personal, but if I try to move all my own money into one place it seems I forfeit 5%. I do wonder if its all been worth it, the projections made when I was in my early 30s haven't materialised, final bonuses no longer payable, no wonder I'm such a pessimist, my pension glass certainly is half empty.
Still I'm healthy and happy and on a brighter note, when I return my bus pass should be waiting for me, I completed my application last week. All set to travel and I've got somewhere to keep it too, such a good look for a pensioner don't you think.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Lunch n Vouchers

I've been such a lady who lunches this week, into town both Tuesday and today. The first delicious lunch was with ex colleagues who are both retired and lasted almost four hours leaving me full and sleepy, I need more practise. Today I met my friend Helen who I won't see again until after my 60 birthday, so an early celebration. A slightly lighter but equally enjoyable occasion during which Helen gave me two birthday presents, a bottle of Aveda body mist that smells gorgeous and really lifts the spirits (I love Aveda) and this voucher that she had made specially and entitles the bearer and spouse to a weekend in the house featured (gin and tonic on the deck included) and is not redeemable for cash.
Helen and her husband Malcolm are both architects, each with their own practice in Edinburgh, and have recently designed and completed for themselves this house on a remote sea loch on the west coast of Scotland. They use it regularly at weekends and for longer holidays with their three children, it featured recently in the Sunday Times. So Mr FF and I can have the place all to ourselves for a weekend, a wonderful generous gift, I can't wait to get there but it won't be just yet because we are off to the Dordogne next week for 11 days that will include my birthday. I feel really lucky to be able to flit off when I want and to take long lunches, as my retirement card from Helen said 'stuff work'.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Garden path

For the past umpteen years we have stored these block pavers in our garage, together with a variety of paving slab off cuts from the patio and assorted bricks from the house and garden walls. We used the blue blocks to pave the drive and because a couple of pallets were faulty and not suitable for vehicular traffic the manufacturers kindly replaced them and didn't take away the rejects that are fine for paths. Mr FF recently took possession of a new and already much loved car that doesn't quite fit in the garage, not of course that this has any relevance to him finally getting round to using up some of the left overs.This path leads from the front of the house, round the side of the garage to the back, it was covered in gravel that we have removed and used elsewhere and the blocks have been expertly laid as you can see. Luckily we had a weekend of great autumn weather and we worked long and hard.My job was to barrow just under 1,000 blocks, about a third of our stock, round from the garage placing them handily, checking for obvious faults and making sure that each was facing the correct way ready for use. I loved this work, Mr FF mentioned how surprised he was that I took such joy in demolishing the brick mountain. I think its the consumption of material, turning a basic ingredient into something useful and pleasing, not unlike knitting really. The results are obvious, the reward for hard work immediate and the exhaustion so satisfying. I can only wonder in the current climate if the executives who baffle us all with smoke and mirrors paying themselves huge bonuses for failure sleep so easily.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Treats from Toronto, Presents from Peaches

We're no longer responsible for Peaches, her family are home from Canada and called round the other morning to tell us about their trip. They also brought a couple of gifts from Peaches, a photograph and a jar of caramelised plums from those I picked and put in the fridge. Good, well behaved, polite cat.
There were also a couple of very nice presents from the trip, a beautiful tin of maple syrup, which we just love, and a 100 g skein of pure dehaired baby alpaca that is making me very happy. This is so soft and gorgeous, its as delicious as the syrup and the colour couldn't be better. I don't know yet what I shall make with it, maybe gloves or a cowl, actually I could happily just wear the skein round my neck. Karen and Sheilagh said that even though they are not knitters they had a wonderful time in the yarn shop. I checked on the web and it does look amazing with some beautiful patterns available as well as fabulous yarn, though there doesn't seem to be a mail order service.

We're delighted with the gifts and the thought that went into them. We really enjoyed spending time with Peaches and our evening strolls up to the cottage, nice people, nice cat, nice presents.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Strictly so far

It makes me so happy that Strictly Come Dancing is back, close my engagement calendar until Christmas, I am not available during broadcasts of either SCD or Strictly Take Two. Having said that I was out both Saturday and Sunday last weekend, had to catch up when I got home which means I've had two very late nights and am still a touch grouchy today. I am so enjoying the boys, I love love that high kicking Austin and John Sargeant is adorable, like a proud dad dancing with his daughter on her wedding day. The standard is so high this year in every respect, the couples are well matched, beautiful routines, fabulous outfits, it is so exciting and there are many weeks to come.
Speaking to the working girlies last week they told me that the office Awayday - psycho speak for a day out of the office that involves meetings, presentations, activities and lasts from around 8 am to midnight with the expectation that you will catch up on missed work and not be exhausted next day - involved a high level assault course at a local climbing centre. They said everyone was terrified to the extent that several people couldn't even take part, how that is useful or motivational I fail to understand. Now if the directors had got Vincent and Flavia along to run a tango workshop that would have been different. Everyone could have trained with the gorgeous couple during the day and in the evening got fully costumed, fake tanned and made up for a dance off in front of an invited audience of key clients. That would have been team building, that would have had me begging for my job back.

Sunday 5 October 2008

Happy Birthday Catriona

Catriona who I used to work with is 40 today and sadly far away in New York State. I posted this clapotis off to her a while ago with instructions not to open the package before her special day. It was knitted in a wonderful Noro wool, silk, cashmere mix, a delight to handle, and it blocked out so well, big enough to wear as a wrap but soft and light enough to use as a scarf. I hope she likes it, I hope she has a wonderful birthday, I miss her.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Peaches and Plums

For the last two weeks we have been feeding this young lady, Peaches who lives up the lane from us, while her family is on holiday. Peaches has one of those automatic feeders that dispenses 5 meals opening twice a day, we were told how to fill it with dry biscuits, set it going and that she would be fine. We asked if she would be lonely if she didn't see anyone for a couple of days but her family said she would be perfectly happy as long as she had food and water. The first time we went up to set the feeder Peaches was torn between getting her nose into the dish or winding herself round her legs, so we stayed on while she ate and then gave her some fuss which she loved. We decided we would visit her again the next day so she had some company and to make sure the mechanism was working, and we've gone to see her every night since.As I said Peaches lives up the lane from us, in this gorgeous little white cottage with a beautiful garden and I've loved spending time there. I generally prepare our dinner before we set out to walk, we spend about half an hour in the house, I check the greenhouse and fill the bird feeders while Mr FF tops up the cat biscuits and entertains Peaches. Then we both pick a few plums from the tree that grows outside the back door to munch on the way home before dinner. We usually leave just before it gets dark, we love the views from the cottage, the darkening sky and the noises from the farms as the birds and animals begin to settle in for the evening. Tomorrow will be our last visit, its been a very enjoyable duty, in fact not a duty at all.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Quick Update

In case you were wondering about a few things from recent blogs, I can confirm that

(a) Our Italian bank has now received the interview forms, Mr FF scanned them, got a translation on line and filled them in. We are able to move our money back into the interest paying account, though in the current climate this may not be a good thing.

(b) My car is still in the garage, one of the pieces of metal I picked up on the road was indeed mine, a spring to do with the suspension had rusted. A new part has been ordered and should be fitted fairly soon.

(c) Cleo continues to eat the diet cat food, over 10 days on the same dried food and she a cat who was bored before reaching the end of a tin of Whiskas. She had put on some weight and is doing well, bless.

(d) I am still gardening and not patchworking, but Joanne, queen of the quilts, is coming round tomorrow evening with the other girlies from my ex-work, so there could be some progress soon.