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With the exception of seeing family a few times over the last few weeks, I have to say I'm glad Christmas is all over.
Maybe because I'm getting a right miserable old Git, but going down town and seeing all the plastic commercialism really did get on my wick !
I spent from Boxing Day to the 29th. in Southampton and in those days didn't venture out the House atall. This needless to say, made me tired and I spent much time simply dozing.
But it was great to be with them all and always a joy to watch the Grandchildren having a good time. Brings back some happier moments of my childhood.
On New Years Day I returned to my Sisters in Golders Green. I didn't even bother asking if Leo was coming. The chances of him either being well enough for the journey or come to that, home, were slim.
I was right, but I enjoyed yet another window shopping stroll through the West End for an hour or two on the way back.
This in turn brought back memories of the years I worked there; Trafalgar Square, Regents Street, Soho Square etc. were all alive during the 60's and full of scarlet hipsters, flower shirts and white shoes! All it seems to be now is Tourism, but it's economy I guess.
Another place of fond memories has also left us - Woolworth's. I recall years ago, going into the Sevenoaks Branch every Saturday and browsing through the plethoras of things you didn't really need and those copy versions of Hit Records!
It's a shame that over recent years they didn't seem to look at themselves and move forward. They became a place of selling a few things of a Range, but not all, things like Paint, Curtain Hooks and non cost effective small packets of screws.
But a sad sad loss all the same and my heart goes out to those many people who have loyally worked for them for such a long time.
Looking back over 2008 brings about two main themes,
1. A much better year financially
2. Being over 60 !
For the first time in 9 years of downshifting I leave a year in the black and if I wanted it, could work far more than I do at present.
It's odd how, when you haven't money you don't open the Bank Statements, but when there are a few pennies in there, you spend half your life looking at the Account Online and pick out any discrepancies etc.
Much of that though is down to being a Bloke I think!
Turning 60 is not as good an experience has I was expecting. Sure, the Bus Pass, free Prescriptions, Fuel Allowance are a great benefit, but the older brain goes into overdrive a bit upon thinking of the next ten years.
The best solution for this is to think only about the next ten minutes !
Also, this year has brought about a few aches and pains I never had before and obviously, this worries me a bit in my line of working.
The secret there is to have as many options up your sleeve as possible, duck, dive, wheel, deal and generally have about 27 Business Plans !!
I went to the Doctors this morning to get the results on my Shoulder and Hip problems. When I was there last, they just put 5th. January on the Appointment Card. If they'd have put Wednesday beside that date, I'd have queried it - so I have to go back in two days time now.
I did ask the Receptionist if she could tell me if the result was OK, but she wouldn't.
Upon walking away from the desk, I turned suddenly to observe if she was weeping and doing the sign of the Cross, but I think she was reading OK Magazine - so hopefully it's not that bad.
It snowed this morning for the first time this winter and tonight it's expected to go down to -5. Half an inch of snow needless to say caused havoc going to the Doctor's this morning. So much so that, guess what, I'm writing a Blog entry on it !
I have succumbed to the modern way of life and have purchased an Electric Underblanket. I never have heating in the Bedroom, but admit defeat on being cold at night.
I like air though, so have put it well down the Bed to allow for a clear face.
The cats haven't noticed it yet, so they're still sleeping about a quarter of an inch away from the Rayburn and Mimi virtually sits in the Sitting Room open fire.
In fact the other morning I couldn't find her, but after a grand search found her sitting on the ledge bit in the Chimney. Lucky for her, we don't light it til about 6pm !
Oh well, 2009 here we come. Regardless of everything that's going on, I'm very optimistic. I've survived most things and I'll survive with flying colours I know. Well, I think, maybe, with a bit of luck and a following wind !
Busy, busy, busy. It seems very ironic that whilst everyone and everything around me is being so badly affected by the Credit Crunch, I have more work available than I can handle and for the first time in 8 years, still maintaining my financial head above water before the year's end.
I am not in any way complacent though and tread very carefully, but the policy of not tying myself down to one specific line of income, seems to be paying off.
But how I know too well how it can all suddenly turn upon yourself.
Maybe, just maybe, after eight years of a downshifting experience, I'm actually beginning to understand what it's all about - more apt perhaps is - understanding what it's not about!
I'm afraid I'm suffering from a Downshifters ailment. It's called 'Shirtentienitis'. This is a common complaint at this time of the year when those 'posher' doo's come around.
Last week has seen three of these and the strain on my neck of wearing a shirt and tie for longer than three hours at a stretch has paid it's toll.
First there was a Christmas Dinner on Wednesday at the Cricket Club, on Thursday a Kent Cricketers end of Benefit Year Luncheon and yesterday, Sunday, my brother-in-laws Mother's 90th. Birthday Party in London.
The London event did bring all the family together for the first time in about four years though and this was much enjoyed by Leo and myself.
After the Party, we took the Tube and alighted at Tottenham Court Road from where we walked back to Charing Cross via Oxford Street, Regents Street, Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square.
We decided not to snack in the Cafe Royal and went for a small Burger King instead.
What it did confirm was my comments in a recent Blog Article about Christmas Lights energy saving is pretty accurate.
Seeing all the Street lights and Shop Window decorations did come over as being a tad OTT !!
With the pound the way it is against foreign currencies at present, it certainly seems to have brought a smile back on the Tourists faces. They all seemed quite happy with it all.
I have to admit to finding this time of the year a bit of a struggle, not financially, but the pure commercialism of it all.
It seems that a Christmas Present for the Kids less than around £200 is an insult to them and the fact we are told al year round to save energy, think green and go eco - then the whole thing is blown out the window in four weeks of general mayhem!
But my Christmas social commitments are now over and I look forward to Boxing Day when I join my family for a few days of proper stuff !
The rest of this week will be spent continuing my work in the big house opposite and I plan the whole of next week doing website work.
This week also saw another senior moment when I booked my Car for an MOT to renew my Road Tax. Got it all booked in, came the day, found the old MOT Certificate only to find it doesn't run out til next March. You can now bet your life that come next March I'll completely forget!
I've also just received the Cricket Fixture list for next year. Already it seems that preparation and pre-season training is on the doorstep. Oh how time flies and all you want to do is slow it down.
It all puts me in a very Jekyll and Hyde situation. The Summer is spent full of Cricket and any spare time spent in the Garden - the Winter being spent on bits and bobs and generally getting by, but with a lot more spare time.
Winter though is far more tiring and I'm guaranteed to doze off after about half an hour of TV viewing.
This is annoying when you've specifically ringed something in the TV Magazine, then woken up to find you've missed it. You then say you'll catch up with it on iplayer - then remember on the 8th day after.
The recent very cold weather has put my wood levels down, but nature has a funny way of sorting things out. Just at the right time it seems we're about to go into a mild spell and I can have a couple of happy hours milling around the woods finding some of nature's free gifts.
The Chickens are well, but proving to be an overhead financially. That's to say zero eggs in three weeks.
I've never had ten chickens so easy to get back in their run if I let them out. I only let them out if I'm working in the Shed and can see them (hungry Foxes about at present). Just before dark I go out the door, they all circle round and we do 'walkies' up the garden! Mind you, they do know there's going to be a bit of food in it for them if they all get there OK !
It's going well at the moment