Sunday, 17 March 2019

Just When You Think......

Just when you think things are going to improve a little, doesn't life sometimes throw you a curved ball?  It certainly did this week. The shop got broken into, and of course, it was the night before my shift, so I had the job of cleaning up and getting the police in, etc.

Due to the actions of the thieves, we had no internet or phone line for a while and had difficulties with the till, too. We battled on though and got through the week without losing too much money (save for the items stolen) and things are back to normal now for my fellow manager returning to work this week after his week off.

As a consequence, it's been a tough week, and I've hardly got much stockroom work done at all, what with the above and the recruitment.  I've still got quite a lot of recruitment work to do, but at least I've stopped advertising now, so it's not still coming in at the same rate. I'm hoping to get as many volunteers inducted as possible by the end of this week, as I then have a week off and I'm not going into the shop that week, come hell or high water, as I need a total break from work to maintain my sanity.

In other news, I had an email from the Allotment Society this week laying down very firm guidelines for maintaining plots this year.  They are going to come down hard on people not tending their plots properly and there are quite a few people who don't do this on our particular site. OH and I are always grumbling to each other about the lack of effort by some of the other plot holders.  They just seem to want to hog their plots, but not actually cultivate them properly.  They plant things and then don't harvest them and the fruit/vegetables just rot in situ, which is a total waste and isn't really fair, when there are over 100 people on the waiting list. Maybe it will give certain plot holders a kick up the backside and make them appreciate how priviledged they actually are.

Living so close to our current plot, this isn't really too much of a problem for us, as we can drop in on dog walks and do a little bit here and there.  In fact, OH has already started digging the plot over and digging in the manure he spread on it a few weeks ago.  Bless him.

I didn't make it there last week, as the ground was just too wet all week, but I'm thinking of going today at some point.  I did manage to sow some salad seeds into one of the garden beds here though, which was progress.

Today, is sunny and bright, but the ground is still quite wet after rain last night, so I might have to just check out the situation on this morning's dog walk before I make a decision about doing anything today.

I'm having a very lazy day today.  OH has gone off to a cycling event with the car, so I've not booked to go to the gym, and besides after working yesterday, I don't have much energy for it. Instead, I'm going to have a leisurely walk with the dog, pop up to the Co-op to do a top up food shop until I can do my proper shop tomorrow and then just chill.

I have fallen into the habit of falling asleep on the sofa at the moment.  It seems the minute I lay down on it, I fall asleep these days and often can't raise myself to take myself off to bed.  This was the case last night, so I feel a little groggy this morning, although I had a great night's sleep.

I've got a bit of a cold at the moment too, which has now gone to my chest, so if I can fall asleep anywhere without coughing and spluttering, I'm lucky and go with it.

We took the dog to a new vetinary surgery this week for her vaccinations. One of surgeries we use got bought out by another company and the location moved further away, but with a voucher for half price vaccinations we decided to move with it and get them done.  The vet was lovely, but our dog was not happy having the thermometer stuck up her bum.  She does make me laugh.  She hates vets, especially the one who took all her teeth out.  Needless to say, she won't be seeing him again if we have anything to do with it. So, that was another job ticked off the list.

LB took a day off school this week to go to the Climate Change march in Central London with some friends. I haven't responded to texts and emails from the school about her whereabouts, as I don't want to lie and I don't know how they'll feel about her going. She didn't have any lessons that day anyway, as she's just finished another round of mocks, so we gave her permission to go on this occasion, as it is an educational experience and it is her generation's future that is at stake, so why not let them have their say.

As the Brexit debacle rumbles on, I'm just bored of it all now and have completely lost interest. Let's see what another week brings.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Enjoying A Day At Home

Today, I'm on the first of a couple of days off work and I'm thoroughly enjoying being at home pottering about.

It's been a tough week, as I am in the middle of  a volunteer recruitment campaign at work.  Our numbers dwindled so much ,that we got to a very critical point and it had to be done with bells on.

Anyway, the last two days I've had a dozen candidates coming in to chat about the volunteer roles we offer in the shop and to be honest, it's been exhausting.  I'm sick of hearing my own voice.  It's very intense and in between candidates, I'm trying to get some work done in the stock room.

Having said this, I think by the end of next week, we'll have a lot more volunteers working with us, which is a relief, so it's been worth it. From now on, it's just got to be an ongoing task that doesn't get overlooked.  We just got into a downward spiral of being so busy, because we were short of volunteers, and then not having the time to recruit, so we've been forced to do it and it has been successful, although very hard work.

We have had lots of lovely young and older applicants, but not all of them become volunteers sadly. Many must get put off or maybe aren't serious in the first place.  Many don't even turn up at the arranged time which is annoying, but sometimes a relief. In fact, I'm not sure how long the recruited volunteers will stay with us either, some stay for a few weeks, some for a few months to even a year, but we've got to keep going. After an intense month of  recruitment, I'm going to give myself a 2 week respite shortly and just tackle the applications I have already received.

In other work news, our returning Manager will be working with me on Sunday, when he officially returns to our shop.  I'm looking forward to working with him, as I haven't done so properly yet, save for one day way back when I began in my current post.

Work covered, today I'm having a stay at home day. I took the dog out this morning and it was lovely sunshine and blue skies.  A bit windy, but I'd call it bracing and fresh.  It's now a bit cloudier and looking like it might rain, so being at home is probably the best place to be.  I'm catching up on paperwork, banking, laundry, etc. and doing my best to unwind and just chill.

I read on the web today that the Queen (aka The Royal Family) has started her own Instagram account (well, her assistants have, I suspect), so I am now officially one of her 4.6 million followers. It's interesting to see who she follows i.e GB Hockey, the Royal Navy, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, etc.  It's all a bit of fun and good to see her getting involved. If anyone's seen her posts, doesn't she look fabulous in that orange outfit. Very stylish.

Talking of Instagram, and yes work again, I've taken charge the Instagram account for the shop, for the moment at least and I am trying to post regularly and increase followers.  I'm quite enjoying it.  If I take a couple of photos whilst I'm at work, I can post them when I'm on the bus on the way home, thus saving time doing it at work. It's good fun and gives me something to do on the journeys to and fro, plus keeps up the social media profile of the shop.

On my days off recently, I've been watching a programme on TV called 'The Best House in Town', where a panel of residents visit three houses/apartments, etc. in their own town and then they all vote on which was the best house.  It's quite interesting and there's some lovely homes in it.  I find it quite compulsive watching when I'm not at work. In fact, I'll probably interrupt this post to watch today's episode.

My house, however, is currently a mess.  I'm now waiting until I have a week off at the end of this month to do a big blitz of it all.  OH is going away on a cycling holiday with some of his chums from the cycling club, so I'll have the place to myself during the day and can just get on with it. It will feel good to get it done and then I can really chill on my days off, knowing that I've got it under control again.

I'm itching to get to the allotment now.  It just needs a quick dig in of the manure.  There's not too much weeding to do, but it's a bit wet at the moment, so I don't want to go until it dries up a bit.  Maybe tomorrow if we don't get another downpour. I'll create a post if I do go. The dog is itching to get back there too, to sniff out any rats, cats, foxes, etc.

Anyway, I'm now back from watching 'The Best House in Town' and getting lost down a Netflix rabbit hole watching multiple half hour episodes of 'The Kindness Diaries'. A series about a British guy who travels the world on a vintage motor cycle with side car, relying on the kindness of strangers.  It was quite interesting to watch him cross the US and Europe meeting random* people who offer him shelter and food. It makes you feel like you want to be more generous in your everyday life, especially when we have so much in this country and many people have so little.

*I am always slightly suspicious when watching this type of programme, that the meetings are all random events, as television needs to be entertaining, but it was interesting nevertheless. Maybe I shouldn't be quite so cynical, as we ourselves have often benefitted from the much needed random kindness of strangers on our family travels.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

February Catch Up

Back to blogging at last.  It's been a bit mad lately, not in a particularly good way.  Just busy at work.  I'm now part way through three full days off, which is great, so I have enough time and energy to catch up on the blogging front.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the original Shop Manager is coming back to the shop soon and my contract will be ending in April.  The Deputy Manager, who has been the Shop Manager for the last two years is, however, definitely reducing his hours and so a permanent part-time vacancy will be available at the shop and will be advertised soon. I will need to reapply, which I probably will.

In the meantime, we are precariously short of volunteers and so I have been especially busy of late participating in a recruitment campaign for the shop. I've managed to recruit a few volunteers so far, but as quick as I recruit, other volunteers are leaving or reducing their hours, so it's a bit fraught at times.

However, we've been lucky enough to secure two new interns this week, for the next 3 months, so this should ease things somewhat once they are trained up.

My role has changed a bit over the last few weeks on account of a longstanding volunteer moving on to a full-time paid job outside of the charity. I have subsequently had to take over the work they were doing, which is a very critical role in the shop.  It still involves working on the clothing, so combines with what I was doing before, but is more far reaching and time consuming.  This has made it very tricky to get everything done that needs doing.  So far we are just about managing, but I have been working extra hours in order to do so.  I'm hoping it's just a short term thing.

Enough of work.  We managed a few days away last week during half term.  LB wasn't too happy to go anywhere as she has mock exams this week, but a stay in an apartment on Brighton Marina was enough to tempt her.  The dog came too, of course.

It was a nice couple of days. No cooking, as we ate out, and just generally relaxed. Not doing any work from home was enough for me. We walked along the front into Brighton town one day for lunch, which was nice.  Unfortunately, we left lovely sunshine in London to stay in a fog pocket.  The sun did appear on the one day we were out and about in town, but over the Marina it stayed mainly overcast during our stay. 

It didn't really spoil our stay though, as the apartment was nice and had very calming and restful views of  Brighton Beach and Pier and there were lots of restaurants a very short walk away. It was a much needed rest.

In other news, I managed to get tickets to Wimbledon again this year in the ballot.  They are for Centre Court on the first Friday of the tournament.  I was shocked at the price, which seemed very expensive, but it is a fabulous day out and OH loves to go too.

Our new frost free fridge freezer also arrived this last week, which is great.  I stocked it up yesterday when I did a big shop.  It seems to fit everything we need it too.  We were almost sad to see our old reliable fridge freezer go, but it had served us well and finding time to defrost it was getting trickier, so we've now entered the modern age of frost free. Here's a picture of the new model;

OH advertised the old model on Freegle or somewhere similar and someone came and took it the same day.  Hopefully, it has gone to a good home and will serve another household for a few more years.

I managed to get myself out into the garden for the first time this year when the sunshine appeared a couple of weeks ago.  It felt so good.  I always realise how couped up I feel in the winter, once I start to venture into the garden again.  I only managed to clear the raised beds of dying plants and weeds, but it is now ready to sow salad seeds into for this year. I'm going to try to do that today.

I haven't had the time or energy to venture to the allotment yet, but I'm due some leave in March, so all being well I will get there then and also get around to spring cleaning the house too. I've been so busy sorting through everyone else's stuff at work, that my stuff is starting to build up again and I need to do a good declutter. It's been crazy how many donations we've been receiving lately.  I'm not complaining, as it's good for business, but I'm beginning to wonder if everyone has been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix.

I've been getting to the gym a little bit, but not as much as I'd like.  This has been complicated lately, by the fact that the fitness studio at the gym I go to is being renovated and classes are now taking place in the large foyer of the leisure centre, on a ceramic tiled surface! Not the best circumstances for jumping around doing aerobic exercise, so I've limited my attendance at the moment, as I'm scared to injure myself. Hopefully, we'll be returning to the newly refurbished studio sometime soon.

There's not much other news to tell you, but I hope you are all keeping well.  I'm still reading where and when I can, so you may see the odd comment on your posts.  I hope to get back to more regular blogging soon.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Keeping in Touch

First of all, another apology for being so absent from my blog.  I'm trying hard to keep in touch and still reading as many posts as I can.

Things are changing again at work. I was told this week that my Fixed Term contract is ending early in two months time, on account of the original Shop Manager returning to the shop in a couple of weeks time, due to his secondment ending.

There may still be a chance for me to have a paid position, but there are no guarantees. I'll let you know how it pans out. In the meantime, work is crazy busy and we have very few volunteers to do the work.  Same old story really.

Anyway, less of work, I have a week off next week for half term, which I am looking forward to. I really need to get on top of the housework and we may go away for a few days, somewhere in the UK.

It's getting to that time of year when I need to do some work at the allotment.  For the time being, it has been covered in horse manure and we will be digging it in over the coming weeks in preparation for some sowing and planting.

OH has ordered us a new fridge/freezer, so that should be arriving pretty soon, and he invited builders around the other day, to get a quote for some interior decoration work that he just doesn't get the time to do these days.

I managed a meal out with friends from the gym last week, in a restaurant near Canary Wharf, which was nice.  It was good to catch up after not seeing much of one another for a few months.

LB worked her first day in her new part time job last weekend and she loved it. She was helping out at a vintage clothing kilo sale and really enjoyed it. She'll hopefully be working one day each month when they have the kilo sales, which isn't too onerous, considering that she's studying to sit her GCSE's this year. It will be good for her to have a little distraction from all of the studying.

Not much other news going down here, but I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

It's Been A While

It's been a while since my last post.  Apologies and all that. The year didn't exactly get off to the start that I was hoping for. I got a bit of an unpleasant surprise on returning to work and found myself managing the shop for the first two weeks of the year. It was a bit eventful, broken lift, no Wifi for a few days, lots of things seemed to go wrong, and I wasn't in the greatest of moods if I'm honest, but I got through it and didn't work very many extra hours.

I did, however, apply for some new jobs that came up with the same charity to help open a couple of new shops in the east end of London.  They were much closer to home, so less of a commute.  I had an interview on Friday, which seemed to go well and should find out on Monday, but to be honest I've decided not to take them even if I am offered them.

I found out yesterday that one of our long term pivotal volunteers has left the shop and got a full time job.  I'm pleased for her, of course, but it means that I can't in all honesty find it in me to leave now, even if I got the chance.  Besides, there were a few issues around the potential jobs that put me off a little. It was, in any case, a good exercise in looking out for myself and keeping my options open.

It's also been a busy month in other ways.  LB had her 16th birthday a couple of weeks ago.  It's hard to believe that she's so grown up now. She's also gone out and found herself a part-time job working on a vintage clothing kilo sale once a month.  She starts next weekend and I know she'll love it. In case anyone's not sure what this is, it is a clothing sale where you fill a bag with 1kg of clothes and pay a set price such as £10 or £15. You might get a couple or lots of items, depending on what they weigh.

In other news the dog had to go to the vets for teeth cleaning under anaesthetic. It was a bit of a shock for OH when he received a bill for £550.  After telling OH that he needed to take a couple of teeth out, the vet took out 9 teeth, 6 of which were the tiny bottom front ones between her canines.  He said they were loose and she didn't need them, but we were a bit upset and thought it a little excessive. She's lost her little toothy smile now.  I call her Gummy Bear, because she looks like a teddy bear and now she's all gums.  I'm sad about it though. Needless to say, we're not going back to that vet again.

I've also just come back from a two day course through work. I had to stay overnight in a hotel with the other people on the course.  It was great to meet other Shop Managers and Deputies and hear their stories. It actually made me realise that I don't actually necessarily have it so bad where I am. Some people have far worse working situations for one reason or another. We seemed to be a friendly enough bunch anyway and some of us stayed up until 11pm chatting in the bar.

Yesterday, I had to complete my final tax return relating to the small business I used to run.  It was thankfully even easier than it had been in previous years, on account of HMRC making some changes to the form, that meant that I didn't actually need to fill invery much at all. It would be pointless to fill one in from now on. (Sigh of relief)

With that done, I'm feeling a lot better and today I'm venturing back to work for the first time in a week. I feel recovered after having a week away from the shop and ready to get back to it. Just as well really, as it's going to be a bit of a slog from now on.

I've decided that I may change my mode of transport for getting to work.  I'm thinking of getting a bus to an Underground station and then take the Tube to work.  It will be more expensive, but much quicker I hope and should shave at least half an hour (hopefully more) off my two hour (in total) daily commute. I'm going to try it out this week and see how it goes.  I might avoid the Underground in the warmest months of the year though, as it can get way too hot and unbearable.

Healthwise, not a lot has changed so far this year.  I've got to the gym a couple of times, but I haven't yet managed to get the results of my blood tests, as every time the doctor has tried to call me back, I haven't caught the call.  One doctor did leave a message to say there was nothing really to worry about and that nothing had changed much, but I still need to speak to her in person really.

I have also had a much needed haircut, which I did before going away on the course and having the interview.  It always makes me feel like I'm actually taking some care of my appearance, but I hate having it done, so only ever go once every six months or so.

A lot to catch you guys up on, but hopefully from here on in things will settle down a bit. I hope your January has been a good one.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2019 - A Year of Self-Care

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone reading.  2018 was a good year for us.  I stayed in paid employment, we lived within our means for the most part and I continued to save money both for LB's future and our own. There were many things to be grateful for, our health and well being and few real problems to contend with. I'm hoping 2019 won't be too different in many ways.

2019 is, however, going to different in one respect, if  I can help it, because I've decided that it is going to be a year of self care for me. On visiting the doctor's surgery on Xmas Eve, I was told that at 52, I have the heart health of a 64 year old. This, as you can imagine, was a bit of a wake up call.  I knew I had a cholesterol problem and had put on 4kg this year, but when you're told your heart is twelve years older than it actually is, it is a bit of a depressing thought. Having already, before attending the appointment, decided that I needed to take more care of myself in 2019, the nurse's words cemented the idea for me.

So, this New Year, I'm going to start taking care of myself.  I've lost count of the number of gym classes I've missed because of work this year and the unhealthy treats I've indulged in after a busy day at work. I'm taking the view that it's time to get a better work/life balance. I'm often so exhausted on my days off, that I overeat and can't seem to summon up the energy to do much at home.

I think the time has come to do a bit less at work.  I know that sounds wrong, but I give 125% most days and it's really not sustainable.  I need to take time out from work to have my lunch (preferably a salad), leave at a reasonable hour (i.e no more than 30 minutes after the shop has closed for the day) and just generally stop overdoing it. I've also developed a kind of repetitive strain type injury to my right forearm, which I think has been caused by humping around bags and bags of donations, and steaming thousands of items of clothing over the last few months.

2018 was a challenging year for the shop for a number of reasons: lack of volunteers, the remaining hours of my post not being recruited for most of the year, loss of footfall due to the heat this summer and Brexit amongst other reasons, all of which took their toll on our figures, which I took to heart and stressed over. As a consequence, I developed several very bad habits: eating too much chocolate and too many bags of crisps, exercising less, not to mention drinking lager at the end of a busy day (this started in the heat of the summer and continued for the rest of the year), all as a treat to myself after a busy day at work, but all of which have led me to where I am this Christmas.

Taking a step back isn't easy, but I've got to do it.  For both myself and my family. If I don't, my body is going to make me and I don't want it to get to that.We now have another Deputy working the remaining 12 hours of my post and lots of interns lined up to work over the next few months, so this should help, but I've got to be disciplined about it too.  It's easy to get used to not leaving until after 7pm and getting home at 8.30pm, but I don't see other managers in other shops doing the same. They've obviously got more sense. I'm not helping anyone and certainly not helping myself by my behaviour at work. It's giving a false impression of the shop results too.

I'm back to work tomorrow, and hopefully, having time off this Christmas will have allowed me to re-program my work mind set and go back with more realistic expectations of myself, as well as break some of the bad habits that have become established over the last six months. I'll need to take it a day at a time and make a conscious effort to pace myself and resist my natural urge to dive in and give too much to the job, at the expense of the rest of my life. I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Little Things

Apologies for not posting very often this Christmas.  As you can imagine, working in retail, it's quite exhausting and manic at this time of year, even in a Charity shop.  My last few shifts have been a little crazy, which is all good for the charity, as lots of money has been raised, but has left me with little energy or time to focus on blogging, once I've caught up with household tasks on my days off.

When I have been off work, it has been the little things that have delighted me this Christmas: watching Xmas movies on TV, opening my various advent calendars (when I remember), treating myself to a new Christmas cactus (white this time),

watching my amaryllis grow extremely tall and straight (how do they do this?)

and treating myself to some festive foliage from Lidl, which helps make the kitchen feel Christmassy too.

I also invested in a festive reed diffuser for the downstairs toilet, (TMI, sorry)

and added lights to my front door wreath for the first time this year.

Bought for £1 from Poundland, they look great, even if I do say so myself.  We still haven't managed to get the icicle lights I bought from the CS in the summer, up on the front of the house, but I'm hoping we might do that on Saturday.

I posted off my last Christmas card on Thursday and also finished my gift wrapping.  I've been happy to see my stash of Christmas wrapping paper diminish, so that I can be a bit more eco friendly with my wrapping next year.  I did intend to do that this year, but I failed miserably, as I was seduced by shiny and cute wrapping paper in Poundland.  Next year, I want to print my own wrap using brown paper and poster paint.  I did it many years ago when LB was small and it worked very well, so I'd like to have another go at it next year. No more foil wrap for me, as it's not very sustainable.  I'm hoping to banish it from now on.

As usual, I've gone a bit overboard on the gifts again.  Many have been bought from the CS though, so at least a good cause benefitted from my spending. I hope to increase the number bought this way next year. It just makes sense, as we receive so many great things in our shop, that are new and unused, that it is totally feasible.

There's just some cleaning, the last minute food shopping and a visit to my GP for a health check on Xmas Eve left to do now, once I finish work for Christmas on Sunday evening.  I've got a complete break over the holidays until January 2nd, when I start back to work again.  I'm really looking forward to switching off completely after the madness of the last few weeks and going back feeling refreshed.

I'm not sure I'll get chance to post again before Christmas, so if I don't I just want to wish everyone a fabulous Christmas and New Year and I'll be reading your posts over the holidays