Life is full of surprises isn’t it? You would think by my age I would have seen it all by now but no like everyone else there is always something to surprise. Speaking of age and all that comes with growing old I can say I am becoming a victim, if that is the right word, of it. According to one theory we begin the downward slope of deterioration once we are beyond the age of twenty-one. Until that age we evidently continue to grow. Obviously twenty-one is only an approximation though I remember noticing small things happening to me at around about that age which would seem to support the theory. Physical ability and strength are usually the first things one notices which begin to deteriorate. We simply cannot do things as we once were able to. Oh yes we can do them though often more slowly or with less strength but as the years pass even that sometimes dwindles away to nothing. We begin to forget things as we age.
Though I still have an excellent long-term memory recent events sometimes elude me. I can remember events from forty, fifty, sixty years ago, even further back in some instances which were part of my life. Often though I forget events which are very recent, months, weeks, days and even hours ago disappear from my thoughts. I would guess I first noticed poor short-term memory loss around the age of sixty. An example would be my going upstairs either at home or in someone else’s house to collect something and upon getting there no remembering what it was I was collecting! I have a poor memory when it comes to people’s names though faces I do remember. Where I had seen the face is usually forgotten though. What has all this to do with a dining room? No, I haven’t forgotten…….honestly! I was up in my bedroom a few days ago searching for something to wear and inside the wardrobe I noticed a cardboard box on the shelf. That in itself isn’t unusual for I have many boxes and other things in my wardrobes besides clothing. Wanting to refresh my memory as to the boxes contents I removed it from the shelf and delved inside. I found amongst other things some small plastic bags which I thought E might find useful so I removed them. Whilst doing that I saw a plastic money bag of the type used in banks with something inside it. To my surprise it contained banknotes, two hundred and sixty pounds in twenties, tens and fives. I couldn’t remember when it was I put the bag there or why. There is a small purse in the same wardrobe in which I keep banknotes and it has a similar amount in it but I know what that money is for. This separate bag of money I must have placed there for a rainy day as the saying goes but I had forgotten about it completely. It must have been there for more than a year waiting for me to use. I took a trip to the bank and deposited most of it. With the remainder I took E out to lunch. That is where the dining room comes into the story. We drove into town and went to the plush Bold Hotel restaurant for our meal. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g191255-d568615-i180703826-The_Bold_Hotel-Southport_Merseyside_England.html
Well Tuesday lived up to the forecast it was given, wet, windy and cooler, a typical Autumn day. The season begins in earnest but I’ve an inkling the weather won’t stay that way for already the weather people are saying it will get milder for a while. It makes no difference to me, unless I wish to work outdoors but even then it would depend on what I wanted to do. I had no work for the day but had to go out anyway to make deposits and donations and to buy fuel for the van. I had intended to slip in a little shopping but I changed my mind and left that for another day. When I got back home I spent some time on the computer shuffling money about between accounts and at the same time I logged in to my credit card provider account to see how much I had spent. As I have a direct debit set up to make the payment I have to ensure money is available in the relevant current account when the card provider wants paying. Usually the procedure is straightforward but on this occasion I made one error when filling in a piece of information on the log-in page and immediately my access was denied. Now I am all for on-line security, it is absolutely necessary in these evil times but I wasn’t given the opportunity to re-submit the details. I had to make a telephone call to arrange for the account to be unblocked. That took some time but it was a frustrating few minutes trying to understand what they wanted of me but I finally got there. I don’t know how they have the patience! In essence I was given a new customer number and I had to input a new password number and verify it though I had to use the telephone I was using to connect with them to do that. They think of everything when it comes to possible fraud. Once that was done I had to erase old signing-in information and save the new information on my automatic data input site account. All that for making one small error when signing in. It was lunchtime but before I could have lunch the house phone rang. The call was from an elderly lady I had worked for in the past and she was calling to ask if I would do a small job for her. I arranged to go in the afternoon and after lunch.
I don’t usually need an excuse to go for a walk, I like walking but on Tuesday I had no choice, I had to visit the bank in town. The bank is a mere one and a quarter miles or so from home and it was a pleasant and sunny day, just right for a walk. When I take my walks they are usually much further but this time I had a handbag with me, something I almost never take with me when out walking so it was a case of carrying out my business and then returning straight home. I could go for a longer walk after lunch. On Monday I received a cheque in the post for the grand sum of ten pounds! An organisation I subscribe to run a monthly draw and my number came up as a winner. The prizes range much higher than that, into the thousands but alas I missed out this time. Still ten pounds can buy a decent meal in many restaurants. My winnings could have been credited to my bank directly but that would mean my bank details if stored electronically might be vulnerable so they send out cheques instead. I had to visit the bank in any case as I had a few hundred pounds in bank notes which needed depositing too. I generally receive payments from my customers in cash and I wait a few weeks until I have a substantial amount to deposit. My bank now encourages the use of their machines to carry out deposits and of course withdrawals too. Unless other business which cannot be transacted using the machines needs to be conducted there is little reason to speak to staff. First I had to deposit the cheque but the machine wouldn’t accept it even after a couple of attempts so I made the cash deposits instead. I had to call for assistance to get the cheque processed. This time I was successful but I have no idea why. Maybe the machine was afraid of the staff! Banking this way is so impersonal I feel and one day in the future I know there will be no such thing as paying a visit to the bank, all transactions will be done at a machine which doesn’t necessarily need to be in a bank! If prophecy is true there will be no such thing as cheques or folding money in the future. Perish the thought I say but that’s the way we seem to be heading. It might seem like progress to some people but I am not one of them. The walk was nice though!
I have always had a steady flow of work since becoming self-employed back in September 1997. Prior to that time I worked for others and in my last job doing that the workload had become minimal and the routine checks I had to make on equipment became tedious and boring. My colleague and I were well on top of things and little needed to be done to maintain things. I left that employment at just the right time it seems. What actually happened was my employer was streamlining the industry (asset stripping) and encouraging those who were of suitable age and thereby could retire voluntarily to do so. I was of suitable age and because the terms were so favourable I chose to take early voluntary retirement on a full pension with the added bonus of a ‘golden handshake‘, a tidy lump sum. That lump sum and the fact that I was ensured a monthly income from my pension with immediate effect meant that I could continue working as a self-employed person. I have never looked back since that day and in fact my fortunes took a turn for the better. Over the years since then my workload has been steady and often too much at times for me to handle. Gradually I have wound things down and no longer take on projects I consider too much for me to do at my age.
The strange thing is there still is plenty of work I am able to do, small jobs that no-one else seems to be able to fit into their schedule or perhaps are not interested in doing. I did one such job on Thursday morning. I had to disconnect and remove a hard-wired bell circuit and replace it with a wireless type. Next, I had to replace a light unit on an outside wall and finally replace the base box (called a pattress) beneath a power outlet in the garage as it had been broken. Simple little jobs yes but nevertheless financially rewarding. I also discovered that a plug-in type of RCD unit they had been using whenever they used their electric lawnmower was faulty. They told me that they had used it for years and I asked if they ever tested it before use. It appears they hadn’t even though printed on the unit are instructions to do so. The test simply involves pushing the device’s test button! I thought to myself why have a safety device and never test it to see if it is working? As for the work I do, the way I look at it is this, if I am continuing to work I might as well get paid for it! Whilst at the house I received phone calls asking for my services. So despite there being no work on some days there is enough to keep me going, to tide me over as it were.
I had a small job to do on Tuesday morning but was back home within the hour. The mail had just been pushed through the letterbox and unusually two of the items were addressed to me. I don’t get that much mail, well compared to what E receives. One of the letters was from an insurance company asking if I wanted a better deal on my car insurance. I don’t have car insurance as I have commercial vehicle insurance for my van and that has already been sorted. The other letter was from my bank sending me some good news. Yesterday’s post reminded me that it doesn’t always go well in life, my life at least but it’s not all bad. Last year sometime, I cannot remember exactly and in fact I had forgotten all about it, I filled out a form sent from one of my banks, specifically the Halifax enrolling to a monthly draw. Winners in the draw receive cash prizes ranging from £100 to £3000 but as the last draw was what they called a ‘super draw’ it meant the possibility of winning £100,000 or £300,000 too. I received a letter from the bank on Tuesday indicating that I had won a prize. I had to provide proof of who I am and provide a recent utility bill one that fell in the same time period as the draw that is October last year through January this year. The latter was supposedly to ensure that I was resident in the country at that time. Proof of who I am was easy, all I had to produce was my driving licence or passport but the utility bill proved a problem for I hadn’t received any during that period. In fact I only receive notifications of my annual payments due either in February or early March. I receive no other notifications on paper as all my transactions are now done over the Internet. I was allowed to produce a notification letter sent last month by the same bank telling me about the forthcoming changes to certain accounts. Not knowing what prize I had won I set off for town on foot. It was a very windy day on Tuesday and by the time I had reach the bank I was somewhat windswept. A member of staff took my paperwork and details to the manager. He spent a little time contacting the office running the monthly draw and sorting out my details. When all was done he congratulated me on my ‘win’ and told me my account would receive the deposit within a day or so. How much? Well only £100 this time but at least it was something. Considering the poor rates of interest I get on my savings there it could be considered as some form of compensation. I walked back homeward in the stiff breeze but took a detour to my local pub and had a late lunch.
Today, Thursday, I went to a house in another town nearby to sort out a problem they had with half the lights not working. The problem I felt lay in the rear of one of the kitchen fittings from where I thought the supply to the upstairs lights which were not working, was taken. I was right and soon traced the fault and had it repaired in minutes. I was back on my way home but called into a filling station for diesel. My tank was down to about one-third full and I usually don’t let it drop below that. If you let the fuel drop too far there is the risk of sucking any debris that might be in the bottom of the tank into the engine, in a diesel, the injection nozzles and in some cars the carburettor. The worse case scenario for a diesel would be allowing the pipes to run dry and then having to prime the whole circuit. Anyway I pulled into the filling station and spent most of the cash I had just earned. To save the mathematicians from trying to work out the spend, it was £44. I had been paid £50.
All it meant was that I didn’t have to take the cash from my current account at the bank. Despite the knowledge that I had earned the money it felt as though I had been out for an hour for £6. I am old enough to remember being paid that amount for a week’s work! How times have changed. I like to have the cash in my hand but know that is impractical, at least for large amounts. Having cash to hand is beneficial in an emergency so I try to keep a couple of hundred pounds all of the time in my purse or somewhere I can get at it easily. Over the months this year I have been spending rather a lot of my home projects and it wasn’t worth putting any cash I’d earned in the bank knowing that I would need it to buy materials. Usually though my cash flow is literal, in one hand and out of the other. Steadily as time goes by I am spending less on the house and more on me!
Like water trickling through my fingers or sugar escaping through a broken bag, money sometimes has a habit of coming my way, slipping through my grasp then disappearing out of reach down some bottomless pit. I earn it and it escapes through the hole in my pocket. I am a saver, I put money in the bank whenever I can but once in a while it is impossible. I earn it and straight away have to spend it on some unforeseen expense. I returned to work on Tuesday and had some money in my purse after having no disposable income for some time. Under normal circumstances I would treat myself to some new clothes or a bottle of perfume or other things once in a while then bank whatever remained but this time I had to spend out for a new water pump and other accessories essential for the house which actually cost me more than I’d earned. That’s not the end of it though as there are more things to buy before I can carry out the repairs. I do have spare income from my monthly pensions which would normally be banked too but even that extra cash has been spent on the house lately. Recently I spent some of my savings on cosmetic surgery for myself but I don’t do that normally. It was more by way of personal maintenance if you like. Well if the house has to be maintained then so should I! By the time I pass away everything will be just as I would like it to be but I won’t then be able to enjoy it! I could sell up and live a life of luxury, so people tell me anyway but I would be as bored as hell after a while. I think I prefer life’s little catastrophes and the expense they incur, the home projects that eat away at my savings and any spare cash I might earn for I am that type of person. Life would be so boring if everything went according to plan and nothing ever went wrong but that’s just it, things do go wrong. However much we have in this life, whether it be a lot or a little we have to leave it all behind one day and the cash we earn cannot be taken with us when we depart either. As the saying goes, there are no pockets in shrouds and even if there were mine would probably have holes in them! Do I live to work or do I work to live? I’m afraid I have to do both to a point else sit around like a couch potato all my life doing nothing and being bored in the process. If there isn’t anything to do I usually invent something anyway.
I don’t know if you have ever had to telephone your bank to query something but the experience can be very frustrating. I have accounts with three banks and am in possession of three debit cards two credit cards. The credit cards both operate on the same account, that is they give me credit from the same pot of money, my allowance or credit limit. One card gives me a 1% cash-back payment whilst the other only 1/2%. I didn’t know they were in actual fact two credit cards when I was given them a couple of weeks ago to replace the single credit card that I had on the account. I was under the impression that one of the cards, the one with the lower return, was in fact a debit card! I had never heard of an account with two distinct and separate cards using the one account before. When I went to use the one I thought was a debit card to pay a large bill the card was refused twice. I didn’t wish to use the other card which I knew to be a credit card as I also knew a surcharge would be added which would negate any cash-back reward I might have received. There didn’t seem to be a valid reason for the card being blocked but later I was told that because the amount was so large it had flagged up on their security fraud prevention system and it was blocked accordingly. That is fine in some respects but it proved an inconvenience to me at the time. In the end I used one of the three other debit cards I have and paid the cash from another bank current account. The following day I went on the Internet to check my credit card account and saw that I had been debited a small amount of money (£2.46) though I hadn’t spent anything using the card since my last bill was paid. Although it was only a small amount I wanted to check it out and at first I tried doing that whilst on-line. If you are familiar with the way many businesses use the Internet for answering queries you will know just how frustrating the experience in getting an answer can be. I call it the run-around because you often end up in the place you started without really getting the query answered, or you end up pages away from where you are supposed to be! I must have had half a dozen tabs open on my computer trying to follow the on-line information. In the end I resorted to the trusty telephone. Did I say trusty? Ha! I telephoned the organisation and was answered by an automatic system. A male voice asked several questions in turn regarding security, cards details and other things but I replied only when asked my age. I knew I would eventually get to talk to a person in real-time which is exactly what I wanted. Well I waited a full 35 minutes and still waited to be connected. I hung up the phone and immediately tried again. I was faced with the same procedure but this time I waited twenty-five minutes and was connected to a guy in a call centre in India. When I first called I could have remained on the phone all day long as it was a toll-free number but I was fed up to the teeth having to listen to an advertisement continuously being piped down my ear-hole! Unfortunately I had to call the second time else not resolve my query. The guy was very helpful and eventually told me that the charges to my account would be dropped as I hadn’t actually used the cards. There was no explanation as to why the charges were there in the first place though. It pays to keep tabs on your accounts for incidences like these could go unnoticed and you could end up paying for services not rendered. I was satisfied with the information I received and ended the conversation. I was asked if it would be alright for customer relations to call me later to have a chat and I agreed. About an hour later I received the call and a woman answered. She was very apologetic that I should have had problems in using my new cards and she was one who told me that the two cards were in fact credit cards. I told her it would be unlikely therefore that I would use the card with the lower reward cash-back and wondered why they had issued it in the first place. She told me there might be a situation whereby the other card might be useful. I spoke to her about having to wait so long on the phone and having to listen to the incessant advert the whole time. She replied that all customer complaints would be collated and used to improve their system. Well I do hope she was being honest about that one! About the advert? The male voice telling me that if I wanted to add a service to my account I could do it easily on-line was followed directly by him saying that I could get information about my account much easier on my ‘smart phone’ by downloading the ‘app’ from the relevant source. Well isn’t that just dandy? I haven’t got a smart phone and I never want to check my bank accounts using one. Oh how I hate technology and the brainwashing attempts to use it all the time wherever we are.
Children, who would have children? They are a responsibility that’s without a doubt at least whilst they are growing to adulthood. We expect them at that time to be able to stand on their own two feet and take upon themselves the responsibilities that the world throws at them. We want the best for our children if we love them and we help them as best we can when they come across problems they find difficult to cope with once they leave the nest. It is a burden we must be prepared to bear as loving parents. Both our children have flown the best, the eldest son is married with a young daughter but hasn’t a home of his own at present and he lives with his wife’s parents until they can accumulate enough funds for a deposit on a property of their own. They spent the first couple of years in their own house until they chose to sell it. It was a nice house but too small for a young family and it wasn’t in a very desirable location. It made the journey commuting to and from work too long and time-consuming so it was better that they moved out. Our youngest son has been living away from home for some years firstly in an apartment in another town until his friend’s father who employed him decided he didn’t want to any longer and our son lost a good well-paid job and apartment and had to find employment. He returned home for a while and found himself a post in the housing industry with an estate agency but the pay isn’t as good as it could be. There can be bonuses to earn but because the housing market has been struggling over the last few years those bonuses are hard to come by. He moved to a new apartment with his girlfriend last year closer to where they both work in a city a few miles away. They have been looking for a property they can buy and finally found what they thought suited their needs. They needed proof of a healthy bank account to pay the deposit they needed to get a mortgage. That cost me a few thousand pound, our contribution to the sum they required. His girlfriend’s parents contributed the other half. They expected to sign the contract this week and be able to move into the house immediately but there was a snag, there always is. It appears that the lender of the mortgage wanted a more thorough survey conducting before they would loan the cash. The survey was to cost another few hundred pounds and resulted in the need for an extra six thousand pounds of remedial work to be carried out either before they are allowed to move in or soon after. Those funds will probably be tagged on to the mortgage so they will not have to have the money up-front. Just as well really as they cannot afford it. However they made the mistake of declaring their intention to leave their apartment on Tuesday this week without securing the right to move into the house first which will result in them being homeless for perhaps a week or so. They shouldn’t have cut the cord before they had somewhere to go. It would only have meant renting the apartment for another month and they could then have taken their time sorting out the problems with the house purchase. This means that they have to pack up their belongings and put them in temporary storage and find somewhere to live in the meantime. They will probably move here in Southport for the duration. He will come here and she will go and live with her mum who lives here too. To that end E and I had to rent a large van locally and drive the forty-something miles to the apartment to collect their belongings and bring them home. They told us to leave the furniture in the van and park it on our driveway but later we were asked to store it in the house which meant we didn’t need to rent the van for more than a day. As it happened we knew the hire company folk who were members of the church I used to attend and we kept the van over the weekend at no extra charge. We will need to re-hire the van for a day when the move finally takes place. It is just as well we have the space isn’t it? It’s just as well we have the time isn’t it? It’s just as well we have the funds too! Children, who would have children?
I have always been a saver, always insisted on putting something aside for a rainy day so I am never taken by surprise when something requires that I spend money on it. That ‘it’ can be anything from a broken piece of equipment to a hand out to help my sons in their moments of need. I always try to maintain a healthy savings account for I never know when the funds will be needed. I have spent very little, if anything, out of my savings accounts when doing my home projects like the wet room and bathroom both recently completed, instead I have simply gone out and earned the necessary funds over the months we have been doing that work at home. Our next project, which is beginning to get off the ground, will require a couple of thousand pounds I am sure, even though we will be doing a lot of the work ourselves. To that end I have already begun to put money aside in order that we can get the basics done, opening up a new doorway and fitting a new door and bricking up the existing doorways are the main things we will need the cash for. There will not be a window in such a small room but we plan to have a door which is fitted with a double-glazed pane of glass at the top. That will allow some level of natural light into the room which will have electric lighting as well. The floor will want lifting up and levelling out which shouldn’t be that difficult as the present floor consists of sandstone block tiles bedded on compacted sand except for one part which has been cemented. Fortunately that part is also the lowest part of the presently sloping floor so it will not have to be dug out. We may find that we will have to tank the floor as it is very close to the existing damp-proof course in the brickwork. Digging out the sand won’t be a problem and we do have plenty of hard-core material to hand to lay down beneath the membrane if it is needed, ‘crush and run’ I think is the term builders use. Obviously a layer of sand will level the rough surface before a membrane is fitted. Then it can then have a layer of concrete or screed over, probably a hard screed will do it. The finished floor will be tiled as will the walls. There will only be a toilet and wash basin unit in there when it is complete. The hot and cold water supplies already exist within the room so there is nothing special we need to do in that department. A rain water gulley exists immediately behind the wall where the wash basin is to be located and the main soil-pipe is situated immediately behind the wall where we intend to locate the toilet. There is no hurry to complete this job but it would be nice to have it done before the Summer is over and that all depends on whether I can amass the funds and have the time to work on the project.