This week I haven't written much in my spare time, as I had a flare-up of overuse syndrome in my right arm. I was advised by a kind person not to wait for my NHS appointment but to "go private," and so I got an appointment with a physio the next day after her office called me back.
I love to read penny-pinching blogs, and my favourite says to buy top-end tools that will last forever. Well, my arms are as top-end as tools get, I think. Thus, I happily spent £60 to talk to my physio, get a proper diagnosis and enjoy a very painful arm massage. I felt 20 years younger--because the last time I got that kind of arm massage was in 2000 or 2001, and it hurt like billy-o.
Naturally I don't like throwing about £20 notes, but the brilliant thing about writing down absolutely everything we spend, down to the penny, is that it almost magically presents spare cash like that. At the same time, I am becoming more reasonable about how much we are able to save. For example, together we spent £60.97 on books in April, so I raised the budget figure from April's £35 to £60. Meanwhile, although this month's clothing budget is £0, I just cold-bloodedly bought £45 worth of made-in-England socks.
My financial philosophy is finally taking shape in my middle age; my advice for all youngsters is to get with the program earlier, like the first time you ever get a paycheque. Try to save 50% of everything you make, I say, but at the same time buy quality stuff from your own country (or, at least, continent). (This may mean three great pairs of socks from England instead of ten rubbish pairs of socks from Primark plus a double-frappuccino.) Aim to possess these quality goods for the rest of your life, or to sell them when you don't need them anymore. Use your savings to pay down the mortgage (if you have one) early and to invest in legal tax-defeating ways, so that you are not working full-time at 70--unless you want to, of course. Make coffee at home and bring it with you in a thermos flask.
Meanwhile, I'm very excited by a new possibility, which is that I might live until 102. The women in my family generally cash in their chips around 87, which made me thoughtful when I was 44. However, if I live until 102, I have not yet climbed to the top of the hill (as it were), which is an amusing thought. Since I have at last got it together financially, if I get it together physically, I could have a delightful old age, doing the kinds of things I most like to do for longer. And naturally I want to bring Benedict Ambrose along for the trip. (B.A., to his credit, is unsure he wants to put off going to his judgement until he is 102.)
What inspired these worldly thoughts about long life and unusual geriatric health was the Fifth International Vatican [Health] Conference, which had so many mottos and titles, I was never really sure what the official name actually was. Possibly "Unite to Prevent." Possibly "Unite to Cure." Possibly "Body, Mind, and Soul." Body, you'll note, came first, and Soul, you'll deplore, came last. At any rate, I watched as much as I could and still have time to write about it for work, and I enjoyed quite a bit. I bought two of the books being subtly advertised--Eat to Beat Disease and The Blue Zones. The Eat to Beat Disease man interviewed Cindy Crawford for the Vatican Conference, and she was a very good advertisement for healthy eating, I must say.
The Blue Zones has very big print but also many interesting stories about very old but healthy people around the world. All of them were deeply religious, either Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists or ancestor-worshippers. They were also very active, either doing vigorous workouts (the Americans) or walking for miles as part of their usual day or putting in hours of vegetable gardening every day. All the ones who weren't Americans didn't have a lot of cash. After belief in God or their ancestors, they took their greatest strength from their friends and families. They were all, the author noted, very likeable. I may have to work on that side of things, especially as I don't have any children to take me in when they're 80.
Eat to Beat Disease is full of SCIENCE. The author insists that you read all about the body's five lines of defence before you go on to read about the disease-beating foodstuffs. It's very technical, and you cannot read it in a day. I couldn't find it for less than £11.95, so I was happy to see it contains 486 pages. I was also delighted that it is on the side of red wine, dark chocolate, cheese and beer, and although naturally it is very anti-smoking, it inadvertently shows what smokers can do to counteract at least some of the damage. B.A, and I don't smoke, but Polish Pretend Son, who might have to take me in when he's 80, smokes like a dragon.
Therefore, although I didn't say bags of nice things about the Vatican Conference for work--work would prefer the Vatican to concentrate on teaching the Catholic faith as it was handed down by the Apostles and explicated by the Fathers and Mothers of the Early Church, St. Thomas Aquinas and Sw. Jan Paweł II*--I must admit that I did enjoy the parts about food and living for a very long time. It's too bad that nobody at the Vatican spoke to the Blue Zones man about the role the Christian faith plays in the lives of Sardinian, Costa Rican and Californian centenarians, but there it is.
Gardening Note: Something has begun to eat holes in the leaves of my young broad beans. I spotted a bug on on of them, so I squished it. There may have to be more squishing. Meanwhile, Paul the Blackcurrant is flourishing, his wife Pauline is slowly unfurling leaves, and Goose the Gooseberry is speedily growing. I sowed French beans, rhubarb, peas, lettuce, kale, chard and chives this week, but the seeds are all still just thinking about it.
*So would I, of course. But if the Vatican hands you Chelsea Clinton, make lemonade, is what I say.