Welcome! Honest Lies is the personal site of a 26 year old graduate electrical engineer living in the UK. Covering every day life, books and various other randomness. Read more about me and the site here.

The One With The New Year

Happy new year!

The first week back at work has been difficult for me, and it was not even a full week as I started on Wednesday. It was a shock to the system to have to get up, get ready and go sit in the office for eight hours. It was a little difficult to concentrate; I felt completely out of it. The office was very quiet and it felt odd and only added to the sense of unreality of it all. A Where am I and what on earth am I doing sort of feeling. I missed lazing in bed and eating too much and doing very little else besides.

Anyway, I was thinking of whether I should do a 2018 year in review or make some goals for 2019. In regard to the review, there is probably little point; I think 2018 passed somewhat in a depressed haze, with moments of joy such as my big trip back home (to South Africa) in February, my staycation in summer and a trip to Scotland with my dad too. (This I sadly forgot to blog about. We had limited connectivity there and I somewhat enjoyed switching off, enjoying nature and spending time with my father.) There were a few smaller things too, off the top of my head I think about a weekend spent looking after my sister’s cat, fun weekends with my sister, and a lovely relaxed Christmas. But the whole being depressed and anxious thing followed me around and filled up the majority of the year, the empty spaces around holidays and fun weekends, the bit with real life and the daily grind, I struggled. I felt very stuck in my sad, anxious and self-critical mindset and am still working my way through that.

Looking forward to 2019 I know that everything will not be magically ok, but I was thinking about what I could do to improve things. I was thinking about the things I would like to achieve this year. I think these goals would look something like this:

Continue to tackle my Anxiety and Depression – keep seeing my therapist, engage with my treatment, take my medication regularly, and do things that will make me calmer and feel more in control (read: less procrastination and panicky self sabotage).

Build my savings and pay off my credit card – continue to work on managing impulsive and emotional spending, basically. Also- continue to work on identifying the difference between need and want, and then really think through my purchases why do I want this and how will I use it. I want to have a proper emergency fund!

Buy a new bed – buy a double bed in particular. I have been sleeping on the same single bed since I was a child and I am also ready to move to a double bed, however I am having some trouble commiting to spending this much money on something I technically don’t need (I have a functioning bed already!) and am also stuck on the logistics of it (Can I manage to make a bed up myself?) If I managed to succeed at the above savings goal though, I’d love to go ahead and get my new bed.

Carry on ‘locally’ travelling – this year I did go abroad once, to South Africa at the beginning of the year. However my other trips were a ‘staycation’ to Northumberland and I also spent a few days in Scotland with my dad. I would like to not go anywhere abroad this year, in line with above savings goal, but definitely still travel a bit. I am contemplating another staycation, am definitly going to Scotland with my dad again, and would like to explore my local area more – I started doing this but as depression took over I…stopped. I have a mental list of gardens, abbeys and areas of countryside I want to go to and I’d like to really commit to going out and seeing them this year. I can’t keep hibernating indoors, wallowing in my depression, after all. And if I explore like this, it should hopefully help me not feel like I’m missing out by not going abroad.

Become better at organising and managing my digital backups (and well, making them in the first place) – I have developed a fairly ok system for my paperwork over the past couple of years, next I want to develop a system for my photos and other important bits. I have sort of started but very half heartedly and my harddrives are still too messy for my liking. I also need sort out all the photos on my phone and get them backed up. (Does anyone else find themselves with a huge “Camera” folder of unsorted pictures just floating around your internal storage/SD card and clogging up space? Just me?)

Of course, nothing is set in stone. Who knows what 2019 will bring and if events will allow for the above to happen. But these are the things on my mind, and these are the intentions I’ll start my year off with. If I start well, hopefully I can end well no matter what happens.

The One With Christmas

Christmas has been strange this year. My father is in South Africa right now which left my mom, my sister, my sister’s cat and myself to celebrate by ourselves.

I finished up work for the year on the 20th, and on the 21st I spent a lazy day in my flat doing far less chores than I should have. The next day I went into town to meet my mom, who I had managed to persuade to come visit me to help me clean up the flat for the new year, and keep me company on the drive back to my parents house. My mom and I spent several hours shopping, then went back to the flat to clean and organise. Sunday, more cleaning and organising before a (thankfully) uneventful drive back. There were a lot of cars on the road but fortunately no traffic and we made good time. (I still can’t quite get used to motorway driving, feel nervy and on edge, so my mom was welcome company.) We needed a few more food items for Christmas, so we stopped at the supermarket on the way, which maybe we shouldn’t have done as it was heaving with people. We ended up queuing down the aisle for a till. It can’t be much fun to be working in retail at this time of year.

Once we had our items we could finish our journey home. The next day was lazy, spent waiting for my sister (and cat) to arrive. Finally, Christmas day itself was much better than expected. We opened presents, then my mom made lunch and I made dessert. My mom put in a lot of effort to get everything right; my dad usually does the cooking on Christmas day. Lunch was delicious and overly filling, as it should be, and we had to squeeze pudding into our pudding stomaches, which is also how it should be. (I successfully made an apple crumble, a simple but effective dessert.) After lunch we all just relaxed and boxing day was much the same. I have not left the house, have been living in my pajamas, and have eaten far too much chocolate and biscuits. Am still doing so, if I’m honest. It’s been nice. There has been minimal arguing and we even spent some time playing games with each other without it ending in bloodshed. My dad meanwhile has had a great Christmas with his mom and siblings. I feel happy that he managed to do that, and happy with how Christmas turned out here, but I did miss him and I worry he will worry that we had a better Christmas without him.

My dad comes home tonight and we will have a mini Christmas again, giving him his presents and receiving ours from our family. I’m excited to see him.

The days are somewhat blending into each other, time ceasing to matter so much when you have nothing to do and nowhere to go, but I am faintly aware that the end of the year is approaching and with it, the return to work. I am not sure how I feel about either. This year has been terrible, with my anxiety still awful and the added bonus of the return of my depression. A lot has been happening this year, especially in work, and it’s been tough. I know that the new year is no magic switch, but I wish for a 360 change. One moment everything bad, but then suddenly! The year changes to 2019 and everything is better. There is also a big part of me that wants to stay frozen where I am, in my parents house, being looked after by my mom, living in my pajamas, not leaving the house and having no responsibilities. I know this is childish.

I hope you all had a pleasant Christmas if you celebrate, or a pleasant winter break otherwise.

PS. I renewed my domain for another two years today. I was contemplating not, but I still like my little blog and am willing to see how far I’ll take it (I am definitely past the “10 years blogging” mark, so basically myself and my blog are a bit of a dinosaur by this point. Oh well. This has always been my random little corner of the internet and that is how it shall continue on.)

The One Where I Continue to Fail at Not Spending

I’ve been hibernating inside all day because the weather is just vile right now – icy cold and spitting with rain. I have spent most of the day in bed under a huge pile of blankets with the heating on, trying to stay warm. And I have been reading. Pretty much finished an entire book today. It’s been a long time since that happened, I just don’t read like I used to, and I often find myself picking things up and putting things down again. But I started the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson the other week and I am completely immersed in it. They are slightly odd books and a little improbable, but clever and interesting and with a dark sense of humour.

(I will add though that I did do some good deep cleaning today, in preparation for the new year. I started in on my living room, and in particular I took all the books from my bookshelves and dusted said bookshelves and rearranged all my books as well as the pictures, art and knick knacks I have. (I’m not one for minimalism. Bring on the knick knacks.) But anyway – I remembered working in the bookshop, hours spent rearranging books, how peaceful and enjoyable it was. There was nothing better than those days when the shelves were half empty and we had a huge chunk of books to go out and it was down to me to bring them down and set them out. I can happily spend hours sorting books – making sure they are in the right order, alphabetically, making sure all the spines align, that the shelves are balanced out, spreading the books evenly across the entire set of shelves instead of cramming them in on one shelf and leaving others with hollow spaces. I almost felt a little annoyed seeing customers come and mess up my alignment, my spacing, put books back wherever instead of in the exactly right alphabetic position (ma before mc there is a difference) anyway. I had some chill music playing and my Christmas lights on and afterwards I felt so very relaxed. If only I had a constant input of new stock to be sorting and shelving. I sometimes miss volunteering at the bookshop. )

I realised I never posted my November spending recap , even though I did write it. So I thought I’d post it now. I’m not sure anyone wants to read these or why I am still writing them, I guess I’m trying to hold myself accountable.

It’s proving very difficult to reign my bad spending habits in.

So.

Things I spent money on in November:

– Food – supermarkets, fast food and takeout. Starbucks. Only had takeout once though – trying to resist! Also didn’t have my food box this month – thinking of cancelling it to streamline this category more. Let’s still avoid talking about my love of chicken mcnuggets and chocolate when stressed and/or hormonal.
– Plastic plant pots and trays. Wanted to propagate my schefflera plant. These weren’t expensive.
– Christmas Presents. These really added up, but I’ve done most of my Xmas shopping now so finances can breathe a bit in December.
– Two new work skirts. My current work skirt, that I wear everyday, has a giant irreparable hole so I needed a new one. I had a voucher for a particular shop so went there, saw two skirts I liked, couldn’t decide between them, and so got both in the end. These will get a lot of wear though. And because of my voucher I got some money off.
– A cushion. As in a couch cushion. It was very on sale so I got it. It is awesome and I’m so glad I could get it on sale, as I really wanted it, but the full price was too much for what it is.
– Audible Membership. But no books! ‘Shopped’ my bookshelf instead.
– DIY thing. I needed some plastic spacers.
– Floor cleaner.
– Rent and Bills.
– Car – Petrol.
– Two DVDs and a CD. Desperately wanted the new VIX live DVD and to watch The Sinner. Pretty expensive though :(
– Makeup I don’t need (oops). I put in a big Revolution order on a whim. This is my one “I was feeling emotional….” purchase and although I’m pleased it’s just one, I’m still annoyed with myself about it. Not necessary!
– Skincare and makeup actually need / had been thinking about for some time. Needed a replacement for my cleanser which had run out, wanted to try out the Missha glow me range and the Etude House double lasting serum foundation. These makeup items had been on my mind for a while, and I do use base items a lot so I give myself a pass on these.
– A new skirt and trainers. This wasn’t impulsive but it wasn’t really necessary either :/
– Doctor and Therapy appointments and medication

I tried super hard last month to a) avoid impulsive shopping, b) think through my purchases “do I need this, or do I want it?” And c) say no to myself. Sometimes I was more successful than others. I think I’m allowed some things I just “want” rather than need, but not everything. I am further trying to identify why I want things, and if I will genuinely use it and love it. Versus: I want this because I’m feeling sad…. I get emotional, I get bored, I’ve been Christmas shopping so I’ve been on websites which are advertising amazing sales and limited edition Christmas sets and it’s been hard. Especially the bit about the sales. This is a terrible time of year to try and restrict spending. Still, I only had one really impulsive purchase and another which was a bit questionable. I’m still spending too much on food, which sucks, because to address that would mean addressing my complicated disordered eating habits. :/

Some other things I have noticed last month: this one was very weird, but I realized I tend to be very weak when it comes to cotton clothing. As I’ve mentioned before I can’t wear most synthetic materials and my wardrobe is primarily cotton. I realized last month that sometimes I want to buy things just because they are cotton and I’m worried I’ll never have the chance to buy that item again in cotton. Which is crazy as there are only a few items where this worry would have a genuine basis (see: my work skirts. Another reason I got them both was because they were both cotton and finding nice thick cotton work appropriate skirts can be hard) Still, I have a whole wardrobe full of cotton so clearly, the situation is not so dire. Recognising this behaviour was embarrassing but also really great – I sent back one top I’d bought because I realized I was hoarding it for this reason (“it’s such a soft cotton I best hang on to it!”) and stopped myself from buying some others. It felt good to recognise this and stop myself from giving into it. I’m going to keep this in mind now when I’m shopping “am I buying this because I genuinely need it, genuinely want and love it and will use it, or just because I feel “I might as well because it’s cotton”?”

Another thing I do sometimes, especially with Amazon purchases, is pay more for fast delivery. Not only is this worse for the environment but it’s not necessary! I need to learn to wait for my items.

Finally I am a sucker for limited edition and sales. I need to remember that something being limited edition or on sale is not a reason in itself to buy it! For the cushion, I wanted it originally so it being on sale was just a bonus. For my Revolution order, I found myself impulsively buying things in the sale, cos I was emotional and sifting through the site out of boredom. There is a difference right?

I have been trying to do better in December but my progress both right now and last month are proving…. extremely slow. This is quite hard.

The One Without Any Spending

So I had this brilliant idea that October would be a “no spend” month, or at least a “spend less/stop impulse spending month”. So in September I sat down and wrote this:

Saturday 29th September

I mentioned before, that financially things aren’t going well right now. I am stuck in a horrible rut with my depression and anxiety right now (yep, my depression is back. Yay- lucky me!) I have been emotionally spending.

Although….

To be honest, I’ve never been the best with money. I went from living at home with no income to living by myself at university where money appeared in my account three times a year. (That’s how student loans work in the UK.) Those times would be like “Yay money again! Spend!” There wasn’t enough money to even consider saving – it was a struggle to get the money to stretch across the months. You’d stock up on everything you needed when there was money and scrimp and dig into your overdraft when there was none. I learned to be very scared of checking my bank account, of ignoring overdraft fees, and generally, nothing particularly healthy. At the same time I was anxious and binge eating and wasting money in small but frequent amounts on food to meet my endless appetite. And I compared myself to others, began to want things I couldn’t afford. Without money there wasn’t much I could do. Then came work, and an income. My bad habits had the source they needed. More food, now takeaways of junk food and more expensive binging foods, and I compared and I wanted and I bought. The other week after a particularly rough week and a rough doctors appointment I went to town and spent and I went online and I spent and I went and bought a takeaway and I spent. I wanted to make myself feel better, but in the end I returned half the stuff (that I could) and feel vaguely guilty about the rest. It’s too easy to convince yourself that you need something, rather than just wanting it. To compare yourself to the images you see on social media of women your age with their West Elm furniture and designer clothes/makeup and to want, to compare yourself to your family, your sister and cousin who have bought houses and filled them with nice things and want. (So many people my age seem so settled and so together and it leaves me feeling anxious and like I need to prove myself like them somehow.) Look, I’m not so bad. I resist massive purchases, but the relatively small bits again and again all add up. I realise belatedly that I could have some of the more expensive things I want if I could stop wasting so much money on smaller and more frequent purchases. I hate how meagre my savings are. I know that saving interest rates are a joke in this country and that’s demotivating, but it’s no excuse. I feel scared that I have no fuck off fund – if things go wrong I have nothing to fall back on. Every unexpected expense – like an upcoming car service – is enough to make me feel scared. How am I going to afford it? I have some debt. Nothing awful, but small and persistent. I just can’t seem to pay my credit card off, despite capping it at a low and reasonable value (I am at least not so stupid as to arm myself with some massive credit card when I have not yet learned how to manage the little one.) So this month I want to do two weeks without spending. During this time I will be allowed-

– £40 food allowance.
– to pay for my doctor’s appointment next Tuesday and buy my meds
– to buy petrol
– bills obviously won’t count
– if the fish need anything, that won’t count*

* As in food runs out, filter breaks and needs replacing, that kind of thing.

I am going to try and leave the credit card at home and rely on my debit card.

I want, actually want –

– A fuck off fund
– To buy new drawers for my room, a new bed and new mattress
– To be able to pay for my car repairs without any problems

I can do this – maybe?

So two weeks morphed into the whole month in my head; I started with the best intentions to ace the two weeks and then onwards! To the whole month, easy as. But then…

Monday 8th October

I was involved in a minor car crash.

And everything went to hell.

Now to-

Thursday 1st November

I have reviewed my bank account and October’s spendings are looking something like this:

– My car: aforementioned service, plus bonus! accident repairs (Also bought steering wheel lock to secure car when it was sitting on road side parking without a window….) Also petrol.

– Food: supermarket, takeaways, fast, food stalls, Starbucks, food delivery service, the works…

– Started Christmas shopping!

– Bought some makeup and cute accessories

– Bought a book. Ok, two books…Fine, three books.

– Also my Audible membership

– Bought a DVD.

– Typically, my moisturiser and cleanser chose this month to run out. So I replenished those.

– Bought a pajama tshirt with little fishes on it (it was on sale so I convinced myself it was meant to be. And I resisted buying the matching pants! )

– Therapy and doctors appointments and medication (I’m using private healthcare.)

– Rent and bills

– A couple of bus tickets.

After the accident my anxiety spiralled and I got into a weird headspace. I just kinda lost track of this thing, and there was also an element of it just seeming so pointless to scrimp and save over minor things like food when I was facing paying my insurance excess to repair my car, on top of its service, plus all my bills, my rent and medical costs. I felt and still feel rather overwhelmed by it all. Life is expensive and it’s very hard to begin forming good habits and saving when you are scrambling to cover necessary payments and unexpected little surprises like car crashes…

On the plus side, I have been restraining myself in some ways this month. I have done much less online shopping than normal – I only spent a little on clothes and makeup, compared to previous months, so I feel pleased with that. I forced myself to think through my purchases more, and I said no to myself more. The food situation is pretty bad – I need to stop being lazy and start cooking more and relying less on takeaways and fast food. (I refuse to give up my weekly Starbucks though; we all need something to look forward to.) (Let’s not discuss the binge eating.) I am also pleased that my Amazon usage was quite low this month, apart from the books. I failed to set aside my credit card which is annoying.

So some wins, some losses. I’d like to try again this month. I want to be less ambitious this month though. I think I should focus on continuing to say no to my impulsive online shopping, attempt to limit the amount I spend on food (perhaps this should be a no takeaway month?) and also be careful when Christmas shopping that I don’t start slipping too many things for myself into my basket! I want to keep my clothes/makeup and Amazon purchases low again. I am still reasonably determined to figure this out.

The One Without the P Plates

The Angel of the North

I don’t know how it came about, but I was talking to my coworkers about ideal places we would like to live. I mentioned my love of the countryside, somewhere quiet and remote and close to nature, and my coworker said that I would like Northumberland. I found myself returning to this conversation when I decided a couple of months ago that I really wanted a break. My birthday was coming up, it was summer, and the weather was beautiful. I was stressed and tired. I wanted to go chill out on a beach and go for long walks and enjoy the summer and just…be away from everything for a little bit. I didn’t want to fuss with flights or adjusting to another culture, I didn’t want to spend that kind of money. I wanted to stay in the UK. I wanted to get in my car and drive somewhere. At the same time I didn’t want to drive too far, still being a relatively inexperienced driver. So, remembering that conversation, I looked into Northumberland. Sandy beaches – check. Nature – check. Impressive castles – check. Me – sold. And it was under a three hour drive from me to boot. It was perfect. Everything was pretty expensive and booked out as I tried to find accommodation last minute in peak season but eventually I found myself a little cottage for a reasonable price. I booked it, booked my leave and counted down the weeks. Finally, it was July 21st. I packed up the car and I was off. One week in a little self-catered cottage in a tiny village in Northumberland, no responsibilities, and a list of things I wanted to see, but no itinerary.

Bamburgh Castle

First stop – the Angel of the North. The total journey time from home to the cottage in Budle Bay was around two hours 40 minutes so I had to stop, so why not make that stop touristy? Seeing so I was in the area I thought I may as well view an iconic British landmark. I pulled off the A1 and parked up and walked around the statue which…wasn’t as ugly as expected? I found it quite impressive? It’s bloody massive – I saw it well before the turn off. (It was very exciting. The drive was kinda boring so I got quite excited to realise I was near Newcastle, and thus finally in the county!) – and the engineering behind it seemed impressive. I took a bunch of pictures, had something to eat, and then carried on. I stopped at a supermarket, I got lost, I got hopelessly excited at my first glimpse of the sea, and finally I found my cottage. I admit, when I first saw it the location blew my mind – I was right next to the beach! But inside I wasn’t quite sure – the cottage was a little bland and there were a lot of bugs and I realised it didn’t have a shower. I started to fall for the cottage when I saw the beach views out of the window, and by nightfall I had definitely fallen for it – it was so damn cozy, I just had to adjust to all the bugs (which, is probably to be expected for such a remote location.) I did not do much that Saturday, or even Sunday. (On Sunday I literally lay on the beach and read for almost the entire day, that was it.) (It was perfect.)

On Monday I decided to venture out. I was going to go on a boat trip to the Farne Islands but I didn’t feel up to it, so instead I walked to Bamburgh to see the castle. The walk from Budle Bay to Bamburgh was unexpectedly long, and the weather was much hotter than I expected too, so I was hopelessly overdressed and feeling it. There were amazing coastal views though, and eventually pretty good views of the castle and the Farne Islands in the distance. Once I got to the castle I ate lunch (which was amazing – in particular the cake I had was to die for) and had a look around. The castle has been restored beautifully and it was really interesting. I took the bus back after, and chilled out back at my cottage (by this point I was really settling in. I had all my stuff out, my own bedding on the bed, and it was nice that. A real benefit of self-catering in your country is the amount of home comforts you can bring! I’m sad I forgot to bring my own pillow though…)

Dunstanburgh Castle

The next day I lazed away the morning then in the afternoon I drove down to visit Dunstanburgh Castle. I was expecting to park at the castle so got a bit lost before parking up and actually researching and finding I had to park at Craster and walk up to the castle. Oops. This did mean it was pretty late in the afternoon by the time I had parked up and started on my walk. I got to the castle about an hour before it closed. I think that was enough though. I had a look at the ruins, saw the kittiwakes on the cliffs by the castle, climbed up to the top floor of the gatehouse of the castle and admired the views, and then left. I had rushed the walk to the castle because I was aware I was pushing it for the opening times, so as I left I lingered, taking my time to walk back. The walk is right along the coast with rocky beaches with oyster catchers and gulls there. And, in a lucky moment, I turned back for some reason, caught sight of movement in the water a little way behind me. My first thought – whales!

I turned and ran pell-mell back the way I had come and paused on a high point and was amazed to see dolphins out in the bay. I ran a little more back, then set out to cross the rocks, trying to get closer to the water, trying not to trip and hurt myself, trying to watch the dolphins all the meanwhile. There were so many of them, they were moving northwards, and all I could really see was their fins, occasionally a dark sliver of their backs, but occasionally they would jump out the water and show themselves. It was the most incredible thing. I really couldn’t believe it. Real, wild dolphins. I knew they got them in the area but I never imagined I’d get to actually see them, not without taking a boat into deeper water. But there they were – a huge school, travelling together along the coast. I watched them and watched them and even when they had long disappeared I stayed there, desperate for another glance. Then I realised where I was – on a beach where I had no idea of the tide times and retreated reluctantly back to land. I kept on walking back towards Craster, even slower now. I kept watching the water, hoping to see the dolphins again, but they didn’t show up again.

Sunset, with Bamburgh castle to the left and the Farne Islands to the right

I got back to my car and then drove to Seahouses, where I bought some chips and a battered sausage – typical British chip shop fare! – and found a place where I could eat them near the coast. From my vantage point I could see the sun set over the Farne Islands directly in front of me, and to the left of me, Bamburgh castle, also backlit by the warm tones of the setting sun. There in the bay I saw those black shapes in the water and I like to think they were dolphins, though it was so far, they could have been seals, or even nothing at all but my hopeful imagination. It was very peaceful and absolutely beautiful. I drove back to the cottage, ready to take an early night as the next day would be the highlight of the trip – a boat trip out to the Farne Islands.

What are these Farne Islands? A series of rocky islands in the North Sea where hundreds of sea birds come to breed – including puffins and arctic terns – and which seals also use as a laydown area. :) I was not looking forward to the boat trip in the slightest, but I was very excited as to what I was going to see out there!

Random beach panorama. I like the shape of the clouds…

(Title explanation – I decided that for this road trip I would take off my P plates. These are a sticker you put on the front and back of your car which have a big green “P” on them, with the theory being that these will alert other drivers to the fact that you are a new driver and so hopefully give you some space/understanding/patience. Yes, it’s been like a year since I passed my test. But I never had the courage to take them off even as I knew I was pushing it, with these that are meant to only be used when you have recently passed your test. I decided that I wanted this trip to either be the first or last trip with them on though, that it was time to take the jump and get rid of the P signs once and for all. The last trip seemed like it would cast a sadness on my trip, so I decided that it should be the first. To add a bit of extra excitement. In the end, it wasn’t that big a deal. Taking them off, or driving with them. I mean the P plates didn’t want to come off they had been stuck on so long, I had to take a soapy solution and very carefully wash the residue off. But once I’d started taking them off it was easy and I didn’t miss them, it was no different driving without them than with even… It was all rather anti-climatic really :| )