Friday, 26 November 2021

You don't have to buy that stuff

Pumpkin tarts

It's so-called Black Friday, and even though I know--most--businesses have had it rough this year, I'm not buying. I'm certainly not buying from Amazon, which had a VERY good year.

The emails from the few retailers with my email address have been coming thick and fast, and I'm a little disappointed. Despite my patronage--carefully and thoughtfully buying Christmas presents or a snazzy diary for 2022--they are trying to get me to part with our savings. How mean and ungrateful of them. 

Of course, there is a wisp of desperation about these emails, so instead of resenting them, I'll feel sorry for them. 2021 was a tough year for everybody--except Amazon and all the other pandemic profiteers makers.

Anyway, you don't have to buy that stuff, and if there is something you do need to buy, consider buying it tomorrow. Don't be the advertisers' stooge. 

I dimly remember Boxing Day shopping (or Day-after-Boxing-Day shopping, as it was illegal for retail shops in Toronto to open on Boxing Day for much of my life) being exciting--goodness knows why--
but there are other ways to have fun. For example, the next winter I am in Canada, I will take my mother for a hotel tea. I'll invite my sisters, too. And my niece, my sister-in-law and (if possible) her mother.

Maybe there will be two hotel teas: one in Toronto and one in Montreal.  

Thinking of money in terms of time and freedom is a mental revolution.  If you think of money as time, and you don't have much time left over at the end of your day---the time having been converted into the products of work for your employer and money for you, you are less likely to spend it willy-nilly. That is, I am less likely to spend it willy-nilly. 

Another mental revolution is considering how much money is spent by advertisers and data-gatherers determining how to make people buy more stuff. These are very clever people, and I suspect many of them are more clever than I am. Fortunately, I am too clever to pay attention to the "Earn a thousand   dollars a week" advert that appears on Youtube, even though it is in Polish, and yet vain enough to appreciate having thoroughly confused the algorithms. 

Anyway, one of the benefits of writing down every penny we spend (literally a penny when the London hotel charged us 1 p to "check that [my] bank card was the one that made the reservation") is that I am wonderfully organised now and ALL the Christmas presents we bought for our family in Canada are now in Canada. Thanks also to the Royal Mail.  

But of course the primary benefit is having account to my ledger how much money came in and why it went out. It is not at all depressing. Sometimes I feel my heart lift when I look back and see something like "Late lunch @ 1926/Eating Out/37.00 (We paid for the wine.)" I think about the spontaneous decision on the train back from a TLM at the National Shrine to have lunch with various Youth of the Parish, our fun meal at 1926, and the bottle we, properly fulfilling our role as the eldest, ordered for all (but drank most of, come to think of it). It's a good memory, and not only was it a delightful use of our time, it was worth the time we paid for it, too. 

Ah well, writing about money again. Now I must go away and either write about the spike in the deaths of newborns in Scotland in September, which is very sad, or see what someone has written about something equally important and depressing and fix their punctuation. 

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Period Features

Our room with a view

Some days the fact that our dining room must do triple-duty as my office and the guest room rankles, and then Benedict Ambrose and I look at property websites. Well, to be honest, we mostly look at RightMove. And I am often heartened to see that there are flats for sale that cost less than ours would, if we sold it, and to discover that, as the years go on, we have more flats--and even semi-detached houses!--to choose from. 

Sometimes there are real surprises on the market, nice-looking homes that are so cheap, we give into the the temptation to have a look to see what is wrong with them. We went to such a home--or, to be precise, a rental flat the absentee landlady wants to sell--late this afternoon. 

In some ways, it was a wow. A double-upper built c. 1890, it has four bedrooms, beautiful windows (B.A. is a great connoisseur of windows), a large kitchen (which needs gutting), fireplaces, and a sitting room so large and so resplendent with period features, it truly serves to be called a drawing room. Wood underfoot---well, wood laminate. 

However, this gem--which needs work on the roof, the chimney breast and very likely the wiring--does not have a garden. And it does not have a view of something pretty. We have a garden. We have a view of something pretty. 

We also have neighbours whom we like. On the way back home, we discovered that one of them had put out our recycling bins again, even though he hurt his back earlier this week. We found him smoking a meditative cigarette near the scene of the charitable act, and B.A. accused him of wanting to get injured and sue us. Our neighbour laughed merrily and bantered back. 

When looking at the front of building our flats comprise, I am reminded of someone in one of the Oz books who explain that his people's design philosophy is to have homes that are very dull on the outside and dazzling on the inside.   

"Outside? Who cares for the outside of anything?" asked the Chief. "We Horners don't live on the outside of our homes; we live inside. Many people are like those stupid Hoppers, who love to make an outside show. I suppose you strangers thought their city more beautiful than ours, because you judged from appearances and they have handsome marble houses and marble streets; but if you entered one of their stiff dwellings you would find it bare and uncomfortable, as all their show is on the outside. They have an idea that what is not seen by others is not important, but with us the rooms we live in are our chief delight and care, and we pay no attention to outside show."

I am not entirely convinced, but it is worth thinking about. If I could make our flat as much like a New Town dwelling on the inside as I could, I might even consider it a candidate for our "forever (earthly) home." However, we are hospitable people, and although we do not need four bedrooms, we would like more room for guests. 

Wherever we go, though, we must have either a private garden or, like New Town folk, a key to semi-private one. At very least, I must have a south-facing balcony on which to put my veggie trug.  

Monday, 15 November 2021

London Minibreak

On Friday Benedict Ambrose and I took the 17:30 train to London, arriving shortly after 22:00. Our journey was uneventful save for an argument directly behind us between a man in mask and a man not wearing a mask. This happened shortly before they got off at York, and there was a goodly amount of effing and blinding, or effing, certainly.  The man not wearing a mask said that he had recently recovered from the virus and therefore was immune and unable to spread the virus, and the man who objected said he didn't care what he had had, which struck me as illogical.  
Whereas 4.5 hours in a train is nothing in Canada, it is something in the UK, and I was very glad to reach our hotel in South Kensington and have a bath in our large, inviting bathroom. We opted to get there via the Tube as it is fastest and least complicated, if the more expensive, of the public transport options. Happily, you can now travel about London on your contactless debit card, just as you can in Edinburgh, so one more complication of life has been ironed out. 

The next morning we consulted the internet and went to La Brioche on the Old Brompton Road for an economic and delicious breakfast. Then we walked about South Ken a bit, admiring the silent Daquise Polish restaurant (begun in 1947) and the amazing shop window of the Medici Gallery card shop, full of Advent calendars. Naturally, we discussed the impossibility of ever being able to live in one of the stately white row houses along our route to Brompton Oratory unless we won one of the bigger  lotteries or did astonishingly well on the stock market.   

The primary reason for our trip to London was the baptism of the second son of a formerly Rome-based German friend and his American wife. Thus, we turned up resplendent in green tweed at Brompton Oratory at the appointed time and noticed the young men in Tyrolean jackets with interest. They were soon driven from my attention, however, by the sight of an unexpected American friend. He has relatives in London, so he thought he might has well fly over for the baptism and be the official photographer. 

The baptism was in the Old Rite, and the priest spoke to any evil spirits around quite strictly in Latin while occasionally addressing the infant in English.  I remember this bilingual routine from my Polish godling's Old Rite baptism. I respect that the baby's godfather was German, so he too had to say the Apostles Creed in a foreign language. 

Afterwards there was a reception in St. Wilfrid's Hall, featuring champagne and delicious, buttery viennoiserie: croissants, ham and cheese croissants, almond croissants, pains au chocolat. They were small, so they were very easy to overeat. We chatted with several people, those we knew previously, and those who are now new acquaintances, and then we toddled off towards Knightsbridge tube station to see my London-area work buddies. 

We emerged at Covent Garden, and B.A. took me to see St. Paul's Covent Garden, the Anglican Church in which London actors tend to marry and/or have funerals. It was designed by Inigo Jones, but the massive crowd in front of it was not looking at it but at a man balancing a long stick on his nose. I will mention here that although the sky was grey, the weather was fine and not very cold. London teemed with people--but mostly British people, with some Europeans, usually French or European, thrown in. 

We went into the Actors' Church to have a look inside, and B.A. said that he understood why people would want to live in London, as it has so many beautiful things. He may even have said that he could live in London, although I surely misheard him. But we next went down Maiden Lane to say hello to Our Lord in Corpus Christi, and the dark church--lit by 7 sanctuary lamps--was amazingly beautiful. It was an oasis of silence with the dull sea-like roar of London, including from the patio of a Canadian bar across the road, behind it. And then we went to The Harp, an old-fashioned London pub which serves "real ale," and stayed there until dark, drinking and chatting. 

For once I was happy about the dark falling early (although later in London than in Edinburgh, of course) because the next item on my London agenda was seeing the Christmas lights. We certainly saw a lot of lights, for we walked past Trafalgar Square and Canada House and Piccadilly Circus and then down Piccadilly to Fortnum & Mason, which was lit up with scarlet lights and disguised as an Advent Calendar. I was in Christmas light heaven. 

One of our London plans included buying a tin of tea from F&M, so we plunged into the massive crowd  on the ground floor swirling around the tea caddies and chocolates. To celebrate the grand occasion that had brought us to London, B.A. chose a tin of "Christening" tea--originally blended to celebrate the baptism of Prince George of Cambridge, but that's fine, too. As soon as I could, I escaped the crowds by going downstairs to the grocery section and almost fainted from hunger. 

We had not had anything but beer since our early lunch of miniature croissants. Thus, I fulfilled another friend's London tradition by buying a Scotch egg. B.A. and I shared it outside afterwards, and it was terribly good. Before that, though,  I climbed all the way to the third floor and looked at the hampers, the Christmas decorations for sale, and the stationary. It was all gloriously maximalist, but of course we didn't buy anything except the tea and the Scotch egg.

We had a brief saunter down Burlington Arcade, admiring its lights, before turning around and heading down Old Bond Street and then New Bond Street. These were lined with the world's most glamorous shops and lit up with white lights shaped into peacock feathers.

"I could never live in London," said B.A., and every time we passed an outlet of Church's footwear, he observed that my boots were better and had cost less, etc. 

When we reached Oxford Street, I admired the lights stretching away out to both the left and the right, and then we went into Bond Street tube station as we were too tired and hungry to walk anymore. After some discussion, we got some bread, pate, cheese, crisps, cream buns, and wine from Waitrose and had a picnic supper in our hotel room. I think we fell asleep around 10:30, for we are boring old people. Well, I think we would have been less boring had we prioritised a proper lunch. 

On Sunday morning I breakfasted in bed with coffee and a leftover cream bun. B.A. opted to get a pain-au-raisin from "Paul" on our way to the Victorian and Albert museum, and he said it was a highlight of his trip. We reached the V&A at the dot of 10, joining a long queue, and then spent a happy 40 minutes amid the 18th century clothing and ornaments (mostly from the John Jones collection, I believe). We then went back to Brompton Oratory for the 11 AM Mass, which has a professional choir, making sure to be there in time for Remembrance Sunday's Two Minute Silence.

It was the Oratory's Latin-language Novus Ordo "High Mass"and, not to be a Donatist, but it struck me that the priest's (or the priests') disposition really makes an enormous difference to whether or not the New Rite is palpably holy or not. The Oratorians celebrate the N.O. with enormous reverence and care. I was quite edified. Afterwards we sang the National Anthem, i.e. God Save the Queen, and I choked up a bit, in part because she is very old. 

We then had a little time, so we went to the parish coffee-and-tea hour, where we discovered too late that it's meant to raise money for the choir. We didn't have any cash, and so we had to throw ourselves on the mercy of the young tea gentleman. Fortunately, he was as generous as the two regular parishioners we chatted with were friendly. Thus, we went back to our hotel in high good spirits to pick up our stuff, and we went back to King's Cross station on a high note. 

We arrived in Edinburgh at 19:09 and bought some groceries in Sainsbury's for supper. We went to bed early again, not because we are boring, but because I had to get up at 6 AM. I had volunteered to converse over Zoom in English with some children in a Polish village school at 7 AM. It went well, but that is another blogpost. 
Update: Sorry about all the typos before. 6 AM is really too early a start.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Fully Redeemed

A surprise.

Last night my husband and I had one of those rows common to married people, in which Spouse 1 says something bad happened that day, and Spouse 2 attempts to present it in a sunnier light. This irritates Spouse 1, who tuts, sighs, and insists that it was too bad for sunshine, which goads Spouse 2 into doubling down on insisting on the triviality of the complaint. This leads Spouse 1 to go woke and accuse Spouse 2 of "denying" his/her "experience," and so on. 

Happily, it ended well because when I escaped to my computer, I found a message from our mortgage lender saying that our mortgage was "fully redeemed." This was so very unlikely that I laughed with glee. Someone at Moneylender Inc. had screwed up royally.  

But of course hope springs eternal, so I tapped a few keys to make sure the mortgage balance wasn't zero and indeed it was not. It was as I had seen it yesterday morning. Therefore I just called Moneylender Inc. as soon as they opened this morning and reported the premature email. Benedict Ambrose, who once got a bottle half a case of wine from a rival moneylender when it made a mistake, is hoping we get a bottle of wine, but no bottle of wine was mentioned by the sincere Scottish voice on the line, so I am not. 

When the mortgage really is fully redeemed, we will have a party.

Meanwhile, the only other recent event of note is that we took two Cambridge philosophers to lunch on Wednesday afternoon, and we all ate very well amidst Victorian architectural splendour, which is to say within an ex-bank on George Street built in 1884. We heard many interesting stories about Elizabeth Anscombe, et alia, although we didn't have confirmed the story that Anscombe's husband Peter Geach had called a Catholic priest to minister to the dying Wittgenstein, for Anscombe apparently would never talk about it. (Wikipedia, however, thinks Wittgenstein asked for the priest himself.)   

(Short break while I asked B.A. if he thinks Wittgenstein would be said to be fully redeemed if he indeed died a Christian. "I see what you're doing there," said B.A., having been told about the title of my post.)

The occasional delicious lunch out is not as ruinous to my proud parsimony as travel, I must say. Today we are going to London, where people spend money as they breathe. Train fares in the UK are no joke (although they can be reduced a bit through planning), and the cost of hotel rooms isn't funny either. (I suppose there is no reason middle-aged people cannot book bunks in a hostel, but, my dear, the discomfort.) An Edinburgher travelling solo can sometimes find a place on a London's pal's sofa, or (if the pal is a Pole of the old school) be given his/her bed while he/she sleeps on the floor. However, it is much kinder to one's London pals, who are constantly asked by travellers for house room, just to book a hotel. Thus, we will be temporarily domiciled in South Kensington, and I am looking forward to it. 

Our plans are to spend as much time with pals as possible, to visit up to three museums, and to see the Christmas lights in Oxford Street and/or Carnaby Street and/or Soho and/or Marylebone Village, and/or Regent Street. The excuse for the visit is, however, the baptism of a baby, after which he will be...

Yes, you've got it: fully redeemed. 

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Bright Evening

After years of sitting at my desk, cranking out articles as either a reporter or (now) an editor, it feels so strange to go out on a work night, especially after dark. 

On All Saints' Day, a holy day of obligation in Scotland, it felt very romantic and festive to trundle through the dark streets to the local parish church for Mass. (Beautiful old church, speedy new Mass, with a homily and prayers citing COP26--naturally.) Last night going out felt vaguely alarming, but that was because Benedict Ambrose was already in the centre of town and I had to take the bus, which was late, and not miss the next bus, which I missed, and then walk through the dark, wet streets alone. Weep, weep. 

On Sunday we met a half-Swiss, half-Chicago couple trying on our TLM for size, and the Chicago half said that he wondered if Edinburghers knew how lucky they were to have such a safe city, and I was so bent on making a good impression that I completely forgot the dangers of Fair Edina's peripheries and sighed my agreement. 

Fortunately, the dark, wet streets I hurried down last night were through one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the city, so my fears were rather silly, and I arrived at the lecture at the archdiocesan centre with a whole skin if a wet coat.  

The event was a philosophical lecture about Truth, and the room was packed with the bright university young, two priests in clerical suits, one priest in Dominican habit, one sister in habit, two silver-haired lay women, a seeing-eye dog, and Benedict Ambrose, who kept a seat for me. I was proud of Benedict Ambrose, for he was following the lecture easily and making notes. Me, I quickly surmised that the lecturer was not a Lonerganian and seemed to have a bone to pick with geneology philosophers, a group with which I was not familiar until I looked them up right now and saw he meant Nietzsche-heads and Foucault. 

Some of the bright youth in the room (formerly the gymnasium of a convent school) had grasped at least some of the lecture and asked questions. Half the questioners were "our people", which is to say the Edinburgh Uni students and graduates who go to the FSSP Traditional Latin Mass. Indeed, I was very cheered and edified to look around the four-or-five strand bow of 100 people and recognize so many faces. There was also a good question from a young woman I didn't recognize, but who was very attractively dressed in Toast clothing, about arguing with Marxists as an English Lit student.

Her first mistake was studying English Lit, I thought with all the ironic humour of an English Lit graduate, and I repeated this to a pal who arrived late for the lecture but in time for the tea, wine and biscuits. My mother had suggested that I study Modern Languages instead, I revealed, and my pal asked what I wish I had studied. Given the year I entered university, I wish I had studied Russian and Business, for then I would be terribly rich today.

"You would have married a Russian oligarch," suggested my friend. 

"I don't think life is nice for Russian oligarchs' wives after they turn 40," I said, or words to that effect, perhaps unfairly.  My hindsight was more that I could have made a mint as an exporter of caviar or a top exec at Gazprom---but never mind. We must be rooted in reality.

Also near the tea table was a young lady I hadn't yet met who told me that she read my blog, and so addled was I that I forgot my blog's name. I think I was surprised that new people still read my blog, for it has been many years since the the relative success of "Seraphic Singles" and Notre Dame students in South Bend telling each other that "men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life." The Golden Age of Blogging, y'all! Anyway, hello to L, and thank you for introducing yourself. 

It was splendid to chat with the beloved young of the TLM community and with their interesting young friends, and I am reminded of how the presence of one young person in a night school writing class I taught years ago invigorated all the mature students. He was 19, but I notice that my concept of youth is  on a sliding scale. At this point I count 35 year olds as young people, as do World Youth Day organisers. I get why, too, the Church is seeming obsessed with the Youth: it really isn't healthy for the generations to be isolated from each other.... Well, it isn't healthy for the Over-40s. I'm sure the Under-40s are fine---although I suspect they profit from the advice of, the networking with, and the occasional bang-up meal paid for by, the richer Old. 

Speaking as the After-Mass Tea expert, I was impressed by the biscuits on offer by the tea pot, which were mostly covered in chocolate, and I ate three. After a long day at thumping away on my keyboard, restructuring a 3000+ word account of lecture by a Texas internist opposed to spike proteins, etc., I very much needed a cup of tea and three chocolate biscuits, so thank you to the students responsible.  

Update: Yes, the restrictions on the TLM in Rome are shocking and sad, and I feel deeply sorry for our brothers and sisters at SS. Trinità although relieved that the Mass of Ages has not been completely suppressed there. I find it helpful to remember that, in the end, the Immaculate Heart will triumph.


Wednesday, 3 November 2021

The Struggle to Remain Rooted in Reality

Yesterday I reserved myself a spot in a friend's car almost 3 weeks in advance of the Una Voce Scotland AGM, as the friend noted. On the one hand, I seemed very organised. On the other hand, it was just more parsimony, for I had just looked up the train fares to Cleland and didn't like them. 

One of the reasons I enjoyed studying the thought of Bernard Lonergan so much was that Fr. Lonergan was so interested in reality: if you can know reality, how you can know reality, and why people tend to avoid grasping reality, which Fr. Lonergan called "the flight from understanding." Occasionally, during my studies, someone who knew Fr. Lonergan personally or who had heard unpleasant gossip would comment ironically on Bernie falling short of his own standards. However, this only suggests to me why Fr. Lonergan would be so interested in reality in the first place, or so aware of the human tendency to flee it. After all, my mother used to tell me that I was not rooted in reality, and after much archaeological introspection, I know this to be true. 

An atheist materialist would inevitably suggest that practising Catholics, let alone traditionalist Catholics, are not rooted in reality because we do our utmost (or say we do our utmost) to be rooted in the God the atheist materialist does not believe exists. (I once corresponded with an atheist materialist whose answer to everything was "Evolution", leading me to surmise that Evolution was his god.) However, a number of realists (and critical realists, as Lonerganians call themselves) are convinced that God is the Realest of the Real. Descartes, the apostle of doubt, believed firmly in God and insisted that he was a "devout and orthodox Catholic" in the words of this blog I have just checked. 

The trouble with God, when you are trying to make plans based on budgets and timetables, is that He makes plans without slavish reference to your notes. This can be very good--like when, for example, your husband gets an unexpected tax return from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs--and it can be very annoying, like when the boiler conks out. 

That said, it is in the nature of  boilers to conk out, so I am suddenly grateful that we have been paying £9.50 a month in insurance to the gas company. 

Thinking this through, I see that if God is the Realest of the Real, then remaining rooted in reality means leaving space for the unforeseen decisions of God, while trusting that He knows best, of course. And of course I do not mean that God will contradict Himself,  an idea a certain somebody in Italy seems to be pushing, but that we need to leave room for things that we simply can't understand, like a brain tumour found in children (on the mercifully rare occasions it is) being found in your middle-aged husband. 

It is, by the way, in the nature of men to conk out also, which is why most married men with children or dependent spouses need life insurance, and why even the traddiest of trad families should ensure that their marriage-minded daughters have been taught a trade or focus on a saleable specialty at university. (Exceptions, of course, for the financially independent.)

Because human beings have a tendency to flee from understanding unpleasant or difficult realities, like the length of time it will take your plastic disposable razor to decompose or that experts estimated in1990 that 2 billion of them end up in U.S. landfills every year, we need to practise standing still and facing reality head-on.

We also need to encourage each other, which is why I will now disgust Polish Pretend Son by boasting that I have not bought a plastic disposable razor in years. (Polish Pretend Son once voiced an interest in bohemian activities, so I sent him to my most bohemian pal, who invited him to the bohemian theatrical performance of a bohemian woman with bohemian underarm hair. He was dead shocked. Possibly he only wanted the address of a good Czech restaurant.) I have not been divorced or bankrupted or expelled from society for my lack of plastic disposables, so take heart. *   

One way to practise remaining rooted in reality and facing unpleasant truths head on is by practising a cherished language on a native speaker brave enough to tell you afterwards how many mistakes you made. This is also, by the way, pertains to the definition of humility: knowing the reality of who you are and what your capabilities and limitations are. I have had to learn not to hate myself for forgetting how to actually speak Polish upon arriving in Poland, and I have had to learn not to feel embarrassed by explaining that I don't actually need native-like fluency in Italian to do the linguistic tasks I need to do. 

Thus, being rooted in reality is not optimism or pessimism but attention to the truth. And the truth is that I'm now late for work, so talk to you later.  

*Although I would literally take up arms (or pay lawyers) to fight for the right to personal property, I do hope we all become dirty hippies in future, at least insofar as plastic bathroom and kitchen disposables are concerned. 

UPDATE: A better photo to illustrate. 

Monday, 1 November 2021

Home Economics: October Report

Happy November! I delight to inform you that we have bought, wrapped, and boxed 8 of 10 Christmas presents for overseas. (I will probably commission Amazon to handle the last two.) In an hour we will carry them to the post office for posting. Today is the Royal Mail's recommended deadline for sending parcels to North America via "economy," whatever that means. No doubt we will discover this at the P.O.

This unprecedented Christmas preparedness is thanks to my Budget Planner and the insight that one can enjoy shopping on holiday without guilt if it is, in fact, early Christmas shopping.  


Meanwhile, after what I thought was a ruinous trip to Waitrose yesterday afternoon, I was delighted to discover that we had not blown the food budget as much as I suspected. 

October 2021: Groceries--£327.00; RBCT (Restaurants, Bars, Cafes, Takeaway)--£100. Total £427

I had optimistically budgeted £300 for groceries and £70 for eating out, probably because I anticipated a whopping Wellness bill of £350. Happily, the Wellness bill came only to £312.28, largely because my arm is sufficiently better for me to have given up private physiotherapy mid-month. My dental bill was, however, a little more punishing than I expected.  (More on Wellness anon.)

To compare October's food bills to previous months: 

September 2021: Groceries--£296; RBCT--£156.89. Total £452.89

August 2021: Groceries--£288.35; RCBT--£153.22. Total £441.47

Looking back at previous months, we haven't spent so little on food since Lent, so budgeting £370 for Golden October was not entirely rooted in reality. Nevertheless, I am very pleased and glad that at a certain point I counselled Benedict Ambrose, who does most of the shopping and cooking, to frequent Aldi instead of Tesco. 


Living in the UK, B.A. and I don't have health insurance because the National Health Service, for which we pay through our taxes, is supposed to be our health insurance. And indeed the NHS supplied the GP, optician, surgeons and oncologist who saved B.A.'s life (some of them more than once), so we are grateful for it. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic made access to NHS-supplied medical care very difficult. It also made it more difficult for dentists, for example, to offer NHS services. Thus, we learned what it is like to "go private" in the UK for dental emergencies and work-related injuries, and the first thought comes to mind is gratitude that we had the money for it. Yay, parsimony!  Yay, Budget Planner! 


A reader mentioned looking forward to my savings tips, and so I thought about what they might be. The number one reason for my newfound fiscal responsibility is B.A.'s near fatal illness in 2017. That, as they say, was a wake-up call. However, I wouldn't recommend brain tumours to anyone, so here are a few things I find helpful. 

1. Libraries are free shopping. I am not sure why shopping is such an entertaining pastime, but it is, and you get to "buy" all the books you want from the library for free. 

2. Do present shopping on holidays. Last-minute Amazon shopping is a pain whereas shopping in exotic (or at least romantic) locales is fun. 

3. Don't base your identity on a supermarket. To this day, the UK has a weird obsession with social caste, and supermarkets get mixed up in this. An otherwise brilliant scholar once informed me that "only students and foreigners" shop in Aldi. Madness. 

4. Always ask for the receipt and write down everything you or your spouse spends. Always, and because this can be onerous:

5. Invest in a Budget Planner and turn it into a scrapbooking project. I love my little Budget Planner and the one time I thought I had left it somewhere, I burst into tears. I actually decorate it with stickers, and I colour in the "Difference" box that follows the "Total Income" and  "Total Expenses" box. 

6. Have short-term, medium-term, and ultimate goals.  I probably should have put this first. A short-term goal might be to write down all expenses for a single month. A medium-term goal might be to save up an Emergency Fund (enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses). An ultimate goal might be to pay off the mortgage, although having read Fr Crean's and Dr Fimister's Integralism book, I suggest that most of us have a duty to become financially independent of both employers and the state, if we can. Turns out that the girls who became hairdressers and started their own salons were better Catholics (from an Integralist point of view) than all of us who went to university and then into an office.  

7.  Distinguish between the Real You and the Fantasy You when about to buy a camel-coloured long wool coat on sale.  So there was this camel-coloured wool coat on sale at my very favourite Edinburgh shop full of high-end Made-in-Scotland clothing. It is on sale. In my size. And as I looked at it online yesterday morning, my hand hovered over the computer keys. 

I have long wanted a camel-coloured long wool coat because they are photographed so beautifully in the fashion magazines which, year after year, call it a wardrobe classic and a must-have for your capsule wardrobe. You can dress it down with jeans and boots. You can dress it up with a silk dress and stilettos.  I have often imagined myself in such a camel-coloured long wool coat, and there it was in my size, at my favourite store, and at half its usual price. 

But then I suddenly remembered having coffee and a baklava with a pal the day before. While chowing down in my usual inelegant way, I apologised to the pal as I brushed phyllo crumbs from my jacket. It is a dark jacket, flecked with green, which means it doesn't show stains from the foodstuffs or beverages I inevitably spill on myself. Alas, no camel-coloured coat could be a month in my company without being stained with something--probably cappuccino. 

Readers, I didn't buy it. Instead I looked at the dark red puffy coat I got for £35 at a charity shop on October 17 and was content. 

8. Be reasonable. If the radiator isn't working, you have to get it fixed. If you decide to except a London party invitation, you have to put aside a goodly sum for transportation, accommodation, and--as this is London--apparently just breathing in and out. And this accepted, when you do spend the money spend it joyfully and with gratitude that you had it in the first place