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

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Christmas Catch Up

Well, it's officially now the silly season.  I enjoy seeing people spill out of Christmas office parties in Central London looking merry and spreading festive cheer. The shop has become crazy busy this week, which is a very good thing, but means that I've been very preoccupied getting as much stock into it as possible. It's amazing how many people come into the shop on a daily basis, we're kind of running out of stock of some things and finding it hard to replenish stocks of other things due to the speed with which things are being sold.  Obviously, this is all good and I'm happy that so many people are doing at least some of their Christmas shopping with us.

Last night, was our shop Christmas meal out.  We have a limited budget for eating out in Central London and last year we went over a bit, so I tried to make sure I booked somewhere that was well within budget.  We just about managed to stay within the budget, but the Manager and I split the bill for drinks between us in order to do so. I don't mind too much, as it's a way of thanking everyone for their hard work and I think we all had a pleasant evening. There were just 9 of us this year, as opposed to the 14 or so that came last year, but this kind of reflects the fact that we just don't have as many volunteers at the moment, as several volunteers have drifted off over the year, which is to be expected in many ways and is, of course, their prerogative.

I've decided that next year, I really do need to get a better work/life balance going on.  There have been too many nights this year when I've got home at 8.30pm or 9pm, which is way too late.  I'm going to try to resolve to get out of there by 6.30pm each night, so I should be home by 8pm at the very latest. I don't think that many other managers in our group will be staying so late every night, so why should we.  My manager agrees thankfully, so after all the festivities are over, we are hoping to do something about it.

Today, is my only full day off this week.  I worked on Monday afternoon/all day Tuesday, went in late yesterday for the meal and am going in late on Friday as our intern is leaving this week, then I am working all weekend. As a consequence, I'm trying to make the most of today and trying to get the things left on my list done and dusted.

This morning I wrote most of our Christmas cards.  I just need to complete the addresses on the envelopes of the ones I'm posting, buy some stamps and send them off.  Then I need to hang some chocolates on the Christmas tree, attach some small lights to the door wreath and then do a bit more gift wrapping.

Tonight, we are heading out to the mall for one last Christmas shopping outing.  I just need to buy a couple of cards for family members and OH's trainers and I'm done.  OH, however, has a bit of shopping still to do, so our outing will mainly be for him to complete his shopping. We will probably eat out too, which saves me cooking.

I'm feeling a bit tired today, as I woke up at 5am feeling cold and couldn't get back to sleep. I may  have a nap this afternoon or watch a Christmas movie on TV and just chill. There's always tomorrow for everything else and I do need to spend some time relaxing when I'm not at work.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Monday, 10 December 2018

A Festive Saturday

This Saturday, I spent the day decorating the house for the festive season. It's a job I don't exactly relish, but it needs to be done and I do enjoy having the decorations up once they're in place.  I always like to clean the reception rooms before decorating them, so the day started with a good dust, hoover and mopping of the wooden floors.  I put my latest music playlist on, country music this time, I'm a secret fan.  My dad was crazy for country music and I guess I've inherited it a little.

Everyone had gone out, LB to a meet up with a friend and OH to a cycle race, so it was just me and the dog, who spent most of the time outside in the garden. As a consequence, I was left to get on with the job in peace, which, if I'm honest, I prefer. Once the cleaning was done, I set about getting the decorations out and putting up the tree.

I started with the decorations.  Nothing too special.  A few twinkly lights here and there, a few fir cones and artificial festive decorations to brighten up the furthest corners of the rooms.

The photo is of LB with Father Christmas when she was 10 months old.  So cute, it comes out every year.

The paper mache reindeer was made by LB when she was small, and also comes out every year.

I seem to have quite a collection of reindeer, so I found them a spot to hang out together on the sash window this year.

Last year's addition of a white berry wreath bought from a charity shop was back in use again.

Door adornments.

Finally, the tree, with LB's hand made angel (again made when she was small) and the wicker skirt I bought in a charity shop this year for £4.99.

One last new addition, that I couldn't resist, was our naughty elf, who is keeping an eye on the new sofa covers and will be reporting back to me any bad behaviour.

As you can see, the room is now looking pretty cosy and festive. One step further to being Christmas ready and it was very satisfying to tick this one off the to do list.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Christmas Starts Here

It's December 1st and as far as I'm concerned, Christmas starts here and now.  Well, actually, it probably started yesterday for me.  I was working in the morning and when I left work I decided to take a walk down Oxford Street, to get a few last Christmas gifts, namely some LUSH items for LB and an intern at work.

I was shocked walking down the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street, to see that part of the street was a building site, on account of the construction of the Cross Rail project.  It just shows how long it is since I've been down there.

Anyway, it was crazy busy with Christmas shoppers and there were buskers on street corners.  A girl with a particularly beautiful voice was busking outside M&S.  I had to stop to drop what change I had into her box and tell her what a beautiful voice she had.  Definitely a future pop star. I wish I'd paid more attention and asked her name to maybe look up her work online, but stupidly I was rushing like everyone else.  I continued to listen to her from the bus stop across the road after I'd done my shopping.

That little jaunt and the purchase of a few last things from the Charity Shop, all but concluded my Christmas shopping.  Just the trainers for OH to go and cash gifts to hand out and I'm done.  It feels great, as I can now savour the excitement of the season without the stress of thinking what to get everyone.

When I got up this morning, the first thing I did was to start off my digital advent calendar from jacquielawson.com. I love these and sent one to each of my sisters last year.  They aren't super cheap at £3 or so, but I had a little money in my Paypal account, so treated myself again this year.  They include little games and tasks, which are great fun.

After having breakfast, I decided to do a Weekly Home Blessing on the kitchen, hall, vestibule and downstairs toilet, using my new cordless vac, of course.  The battery just about lasted out for these parts of the house and is now on charge.  I'll probably do upstairs using the corded vac, as it is carpeted and takes a little longer too.

Aside from this, I've spent this morning watching Vlogmas videos on YouTube, writing my Christmas To Do list, (which I printed off a favourite Vlogger's website, namely www.lifeinthecottage.com.  She has provided lots of other free printables for Christmas and everyday on her blog, which you might find useful), baking star shaped mince pies and listening to a Christmas music playlist that I devised for the shop last weekend.

I'm starting to feel very festive and am looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations out of the loft some time this weekend.  I'll probably put the tree up next weekend though, as I'm working tomorrow, so I won't have time.

Work is starting to get busy, so I'm looking forward to concentrating on enjoying the hustle and bustle of the shop at Christmas.  We do have a few more volunteers this year, so it should be a bit less stressful than last year, when I spent most of my days working on the till, as there were so few of us.

Do you enjoy the lead up to Christmas? It's my favourite time of the year and always has been, particularly since I had LB. I'm also looking forward to reading about all of your Christmas preparations over the next few weeks.

I'm now heading off to get my chocolate, paper and candle advent calendars out and start opening all of the windows.