Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A moneyless existence

A couple of weeks ago (Mother's day), I sat browsing through a book in the straw bale cafe and came across a whole list of things that sounded interesting and which I jotted down information about on a little scrap of paper  rustled up from the darkest corner of the bottom of my bag. I'm always doing that these days. Things look as if they inspire so I write down just a fragment of info and then store it away until I return home and the next available opportunity to look it up on the good old WWW.
Anyone else like that?
Anyway, on this occasion one of my little snippets of inspiration was a brief reading about a chap that lived for a whole year without any money. I know you probably all think I'm crazy but the idea of having no money is far more appealing to me than having endless amounts. I'm guessing you really are thinking I've lost the plot now....(if you hadn't already thought that!).
So I got home and was rather excited about finding out more.

In 2008, Mark Boyle an Irish business man currently living in Bristol, decided to try his luck at living for a year without spending any money. He foraged for his food and became a dab hand at 'skipping' for food thrown out by shops but still in perfectly good and edible condition. He also worked three days a week on an organic farm in exchange for further food plus land on which to live in his caravan which he obtained for free from his local Freegle website.


After initially reading about this chap I wanted to have him come give a talk locally, however he seems pretty busy and didn't seem overly keen on taking a trip to Oxfordshire anytime soon. I decided I would just have to buy a copy of his book and find out more about what possessed him to  carry out such a challenge and how his year went.

Upon reading the first page it was obvious why he perhaps isn't so enthusiastic about visiting every individual who is interested in his story. For the past seven years he has been inundated with requests to give interviews, talks etc etc....he has to move on and live his own life......

So I purchased a copy of the 'Moneyless man'. From the moment I retrieved it from the dogs jaws after she beat me to the letter box, I have been hooked on the chaps story. It wasn't just the whole living without money thing that grabbed my attention it was more about the love and joy that seemed to evolve when no money was involved. Mark could work but couldn't accept a penny (his rules), what a joy to be able to help someone and not expect anything in return.
It occurred to me that this is just NOT how the world works these days. The vast majority of us don't like to do things unless we get something in return.

To me this is rather funny. Many years ago Saturday nights used to be all about the National Lottery and what we would do with our winnings. I craved that life 'when money will make us happy'. Of course it didn't take long for me to realise that the odds are seriously stacked against your winning and besides what would you do with the money anyway? These days, winning the Lotto would be my worst nightmare, I don't do it!
During my recent clear out, I've dug out oodles of 'things' that I could potentially 'sell'. I've chosen not to and have instead given the items away to folk who could make better use of them. What's more, I don't have any feels of regret about doing so. I've actually gained pleasure from the experience.
The same has happened recently with my shoe selling. Much as I need to make a living from the sale of the shoes I purchased back in January last year, I'm not against sharing the savings with others in the form of accepting offers. One lady in Russia was deeply upset about the depreciation of her national currency due to the political situation. It made me feel really good to be able to ask her how much she could afford to pay for the shoes including the postage. She actually paid more than I expected and was thrilled by my generosity. It feels good to be able to help others.

The Moneyless Man set up all kinds of skill sharing and free swapping type arrangements during his year and makes many suggestions about getting by with no money. I'm pretty frugal anyway and not really interested in 'keeping up with the Jones' so much of it was reinforcement of things I am already aware of. For me it offered a new kind of inspiration that I haven't quite put my finger on. I think it's probably more to do with the possibilities relating to being liberated from systems....oh hang on, when did I ever conform to systems anyway??!!

Do look up the 'Moneyless Man' and Mark's second book 'Moneyless Manifesto''s free to borrow from the library or to down load HERE, or you could buy it and all the proceeds go towards helping set up further moneyless ventures :-)

Right, need to find something else to inspire now...............
(finds self looking up caravans on Ebay and thinking about solar panels....)

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mothering Sunday

What I lovely day today has been. Not the weather, that's been rather dull, but the day itself. It's been one of those lovely rolling days that just drifts by allowing for fun and business but also calm and relaxation. Arrrr......

The children woke me up a minute before my alarm with token gifts and cards as signs of their appreciation of my efforts. Handmade trinkets and vouchers for massages..... shall look forwards to cashing those in!

A hand warmer, card and 2.5hr massage voucher from the Little Lady, two beautifully handmade bracelets, a card and a Hama bead photo frame complete with fun photo from Miss P, oh and a further 2 hr back massage voucher and a picture and army coloured loom band bracelet from Small Boy. Such thoughtful children :-)

This morning we headed off to church for the 'All age worship' service, it's always especially lovely on Mothering Sunday. This morning we were armed with 62 mother's of the gingerbread kind all decorated with love and arranged in rows on trays ready to sell.

We host a little cake sale after the family service every month and the proceeds of our sale goes towards the sponsorship of a young eight year old boy called Ravi who lives with his family in India.
We've been doing this as a family for about eight years now. It came about when Miss P was little and as a mother I wanted her to learn about others in the world, especially those in countries less well developed than our own. Back then it cost just £18 a month to sponsor a child, with over 80% of the donations going directly to the needs of the children who are part of the project. It's not a huge amount of money when you break it down into daily increments but to us at the time it wasn't something I felt I could commit too due to our low income. So we put it to our congregation and asked them if they would help us. I committed to bake cakes every month and pay for the ingredients and the proceeds of the sale sponsor the child.
For seven years we sponsored a young girl called Tina who lived in Bangladesh. She wrote to us and told us about her life. She seemed very happy but extremely poor financially compared to us in the UK. When we sent her £10 for her birthday, she was able to buy a goat, chickens, a new dress and books. Amazing!
Upon reaching fourteen, Tina moved away from the area to an area no longer supported by the project we were funding, the financial help that we provided gave her food, education, medical care and religious teaching. Now we are helping Ravi, the monthly fee has also risen to £24, not much per day but in a third world country it can stretch a long way. To find out more visit Compassion UK it's a worthy cause.
During the service, all of the females were given a small bouquet of flowers and foliage, a lovely gesture. I did have to shut my son up upon heading back to the car though. He announced that the bouquets were dead and that the flowers had been taken from someones grave! I questioned his story and he informed me that there were several other similar flowers in the bin.......honestly, that boy!!

From church to my favourite cafe of the moment. The wonderful strawbale cafe at The
Whichford pottery. I knew it would be busy today and imagined we'd have to wait for a table, but as luck would have it our absolute favourite spot on the sofas right next to the wood stove were free :-). It was meant to be! So we spent an hour or so loving our surroundings, chatting, eating the scrumilitious food and me....I found myself totally engrossed in a book on Transition Britain. Food for thought and then proceeded to figure out how the cafe could actually be my home! Oh yes, I've got it all worked out. It would be amazing. An open plan living area downstairs with kitchen at one end and perhaps an added bathroom area/shed on the back and a mezzanine floor area in the roof space to house our low level beds.......dreaming again. I find the place so grounding and peaceful even when it is bustling with chattering mummy's!

Back home for an afternoon of relaxation. Everyone was busy doing their own things, it's perfectly lovely!

Oh, and homemade pizza for tea........

......and entertainment in the form of an air show!

I have to say that I struggle with days like today. Not because I'm n old grump, it's just that I feel we should take time to make our mother's feel special and loved everyday and it's not just mother's. There are many folk in this world who aren't mother's and may never be so but still play a huge part in the role of being carers for children and adults in someway. They should be recognised too :-)

Hope you've had a wonderful day folks!

GCSE's home ed style

It's quite some time since I sat my GCSE examinations and back then I do recall not really working too hard for them. I kind of assumed that all would just fall into place. How wrong! It may have been due to the fact that my entire life and being focused on gymnastics, but what I do recall is that I had a feeling of true awakening once I had flunked the majority of them. An awakening that drove me forwards and ensure that second time around things would work out.
As I look back now, I wonder if I just wasn't mature enough the first time? Or perhaps it was that I hadn't been surrounded but the right kind of stimulation? Who knows......

One of the many questions that people often ask when they find out that I home educate my children is 'What will happen when it comes to exams?' (That is of course once they have almost died on the spot at the thought that we actually don't do much in the way of 'school' and have....FUN in our days!)
The truth is that 'yes' our children like those who attend school can also study for and sit GCSE examinations. Generally students actually take iGCSE's (that's the international version that doesn't have the coursework element).  Home educated children either study with a tutor usually in small groups in the comfort of ones home, through one of the many on line providers out there or at home by themselves usually using the exam boards student course book.
Often these children have very little prior knowledge of the subject having not formally had classes in the subject area before.
Last September, Miss P decided that she might like to give her first iGCSE a try. She chose geography as the subject as a lovely fellow HE parent was planning to run a course. In those early days, Miss P found the lessons and studying all rather confusing and the homework......goodness! It took US forever!! After a few weeks she seemed to experience a similar kind of awakening to that which I had experienced (several years earlier). It seemed that overnight everything seemed to fall into place.
The beauty of home education is that you can choose to study the subjects you want and you can also start formal GCSE's earlier than you might if you were in school. We've chosen to spread the courses over three years, just because we can really.
The other thing that was pointed out to me last week, is that in the school environment you engage in study of say ten or eleven courses often not knowing what you want to do. 'You buy the ticket to an unknown destination'. As home educators, we chose our destination first and then buy our tickets, i.e if we only need five grades to get somewhere then we only take five courses. This takes the pressure off and means that we can spend any extra time doing the things we enjoy.
The downside of course is, that we have to pay for everything ourselves.
Not all home educated children choose to take GCSE's, some still get into university based on their interests and interview alone - inspiring!

It is true in life that if you want something in life, you will do everything in your power to get it, that includes your choice in career.
In my own life I always wanted to be a teacher. Having flunked my GCSE's initially and then going on to pass only one A Level, I wasn't going to university without re-sitting or going through clearing. I didn't do either but still followed my dream and qualified to teach as a Montessori teacher through two amazing establishments. In all fairness, I probably wasn't ready to face the world at 19, I had to find my way through alternative routes.

Miss P currently wants to study fashion design in Banbury. She loves creating garments and is becoming a dab hand with the sewing machines :-)

Several of my friends are running courses starting around Easter, (English, Physics, Combined science (double award), Environmental Management), if you're interested for your child then please make contact and I'll point you in the right direction. Another friend is running courses in English, English Lit and Art History. They're live home study courses that are delivered weekly via the internet. Check out dreaming spires home learning, she also offers GCSE revision crammer courses.

You're never too young or old to learn!

Ed note: I have just been reminded of the very informative Wiki site that is an valuble source for anyone wanting to take their GCSE's at home. It might also be good for those doing them in school as there is quite a bit of information on support resources, find it here HE exams.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mini adventure

We've been on mini adventure this past week. Two nights glamping at The Royal Umpire Caravan Park, in Croston nr Preston in a wooden tent. I know, we're really living it up these days!

Back in December when the short cold days were full on I booked this little 'get away' imagining that the weather would be much warmer and definite signs of Spring would be evident and indeed they are. The thought of a little Spring loveliness was just what I needed to look forward too and to gently encourage me through those grey Wintry days and icy cold nights.

So Monday morning we arose and began packing our 'going away' stuff. With five of us travelling in my little estate car there isn't a huge amount of room for belongings. As always I embraced the usual battle with one Little Lady who always places claim on the 'biggest' bag and insists on taking her double duvet when everyone else follows my instructions to only pack a sleeping bag! Hmmmm!!!
The usual morning squabbles drive me to the brink of insanity and I fear the torture of living in a seriously confined space - What was I thinking of????
What I really ought to have a arranged was a trip away just for me. A room somewhere, anywhere....or even a caravan in a field......

Trying to put those thoughts behind me and make the most of the change in scenery we set off.
Surprisingly Preston isn't that far. I always think of the North as being miles and miles away, but no, it's not that much further than the closest area of the south coast.
In my family, the draw of the north is just not there. Folk think it's cold. I personally think there are some very beautiful places 'Up North' and the weather isn't that bad, I've spent many memorable holidays visiting some lovely areas and actually prefer it to many of the areas I've visited in the South.

So two nights in a wooden tent/shed. It was really rather fun. The shed was situated on well equipped and orderly campsite. Many beautiful caravans and no crazy tenters at this early point in the year, (well apart from us in our little wooden dwelling). We had to go outside and walk a minute or two to use the facilities but the weather was kind to us and that wasn't really too much of a problem. Our little wooden tent was perfectly adequately kitted out with seating, which converted into a very large bed, plus a kettle, fridge, microjobby and all the crockery and kitcheny things that one would need. It was perfect as a base for a couple of nights!

The first night we thought we'd eat out as there hadn't been much room for packing essentials for a meal. The site receptionist recommended a couple of local places that were decent and a fiver a head. Five pounds for an 'eat as much as you like' meal! Bargain! It actually was as well. The food was a little salty but we didn't grumble at the price. Where can you eat out for a fiver these days in the south??

Our little adventure took us to Blackpool on the first day. We drove the sixteen or so miles to get there, drove along the coast and past the tower and then turned around and drove right on back again. Say no more!!
We did then stumble across an amazing little Aladdin's cave of a place; Bygone Times. What a fabulous little hideaway. Five layers of neat little curiosity shops all packed with treasures from the bygone eras and housed within a into an old mill. I was indeed in my element! I purchased nothing but thoroughly enjoyed browsing and reminiscing over the items on display. The kids were kept entertained too with the tales of ghostly hauntings of the place!

Dinner on night two was a home grown concoction. I hate the use of microwaves and purposely don't own one anymore. Sometimes though I do go against what I believe in and on this occasion we had a number of meals in their bags that we microwaved and served up. It's amazing what you can conjure up when you have too. Pilau rice, vegetables with noodles, fresh raw pepper slices, sweetcorn, chickpeas, quorn pieces with oyster sauce....mmmm, made for a scummy offering!

The second day took us along the coast on our trip home, to Liverpool. My surname Fazackerley (spelt Fazakerley) comes from Lancashire near Liverpool.
Now Liverpool is an area I did always imagine was slightly deprived and run down. How wrong. It really did seem a decent place and not at all how I imagined.
Our brief visit was not to muse at the City but rather to visit the Antony Gormley sculptures that align the mile stretch of beach. Gormley has created 100 sculptures created out of steel of himself in various statures and buried them in the sand looking out to sea. The exhibition entitled 'Another place' was really spectacular and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. We hadn't told the children about the exhibition and it was rather lovely when we pulled up and the Little Lady commented that there was 'someone out there'. It was a very blustery morning on the coast of Liverpool Wednesday but we embarked on a little stroll along the coastal path to view the sculptures, some were submerged up to their heads, others only had the waves breaking over their feet. The children dodged the waves to walk up and touch one.....

So back home, refreshed? Hmmm not sure, but good to have done something a little different. It crossed my mind in the car on the way home that life is all about little adventures, it's important to occasionally have break from routine and do something just a tad different, whatever that may be.....

Friday, 6 March 2015

Out with it, not in!

The second week of my 40 day de-clutter.
Not quite as much of a breeze as the first week mainly due to the unregulated hoarding tendencies of my children.
Clearing out is in itself relatively easy once you set your mind in gear and body in action, it's the children's inability to 'let go' of belongings that seems to be scuppering plans.
I get the novelty factor of the exercise. Clearing out means rediscovering things you never knew you had and things long since forgotten about. In someways I guess it feels like Christmas! But then there's the discovery of having grown and clothing that no longer fits. Trying to convince the younger children especially, that it's a lovely act to pass on unwanted or ill fitting items is painful to say the least. I've been spending the past week trying to smuggle out stuff to avoid the upset and and arguments but is that right?
Then there are the vast numbers of cardboard box buildings that are scattered around the place. A home for a teddy, a bed for Rara (that's Small Boy's comforter), a castle for the Playmobil people - the list goes on.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the use of such things, in fact I quite openly encourage it. recycling and all that, but there does come a time when it becomes apparent that such constructions are taking over or have seen better days. It's not always easy to crush and inconspicuously disguise a cardboard city in the council waste boxes.
So two weeks in and the house doesn't actually look that much tidier. Certainly areas are less cluttered and the contents of my cupboards are looking orderly for once, but in general I seem to have created more mess by forming piles everywhere of things to be re-homed, things to be recycled and things to be put away within our home. Uuurrrrrggggghhh!

Today I have been gathering together some of my many 'throw out's' for the local community swap shop that is running tomorrow. The sheer frustration of the matter when the children catch on and start unpacking my bags and reclaiming things.....

The temptation is there to give up!!!!

On the plus side.... I'm feeling somewhat liberated. I can easily find things in the cupboards and drawers, I have sorted my email box and now have under 1000 emails so my computer is working faster and the feeling of having passed stuff on that others can make good use of is wonderful :-)

I suppose with so much clutter lifted there will be space both physically, mentally and emotionally for more of the desirable things in life :-) :-) :-) :-)