Slow and Steady

Posts Tagged ‘life lessons

I’ve had some very interesting experiences this week. They have reminded me that sometimes you just have to leave people to their own devices. Also, sometimes, instead of being quiet to avoid argument, I really must speak up.

The bathroom in my mum’s house has a massive hole in the exterior wall, and the panel for the side of the bath isn’t on so the bathroom is permanently cold. There were also some problems with the toilet, the sink, and the sink in the kitchen.

I decided that even though it’s not my house, I’ll get the panel put on because I don’t want to go into a cold bathroom. I got someone round and he wasn’t able to do it immediately because the panel wasn’t the right size. He did everything else, and promised to come back next week (this week) to put the panel on.

Then I noticed a leak in the bathroom that wasn’t there before, so I called him, and he came round and changed the valve. I asked him what day he’s coming to fix the panel, and he said next week or the week after. I said ‘oh. What happened to this week?’, he started going on about how busy he was so I just said OK, and left it.

What I should have done, is tell him we had an agreement, and let him know I wasn’t happy with the change. It’s not like he’s doing it for free! It might not have changed the situation, but it would’ve made me feel better, and show him I’m not a pushover.

My Mum was away last week, and I thought getting the panel put on would be a nice surprise. Last night however, the leak started again, and she got upset with me for causing this new problem. I felt really hurt because I was only trying to help. The kitchen sink isn’t leaking any more, the toilet and sink are fixed, and you’re upset with me? After calming down, I realised that you know what?

It’s not my house.

If going away is more important to my mum than getting HER house sorted out, that is her decision. I’m not going to get the panel put on now. I’ll just run the shower before I go in so it’s warm like I have been.

It’s not my house.

Then today, my mum comes in shouting the odds about how much money is being spent on gas, as we have a meter. I’ve told her before that the meter is the most expensive way to pay for heating, and sent her the comparison table. What has she done about it? Nothing.

The heating is timed to go off in the mornings at 8.30 when she leaves for work, and come back on at 5.00 so she can come into a warm house.

I spend the days in the house with no heating, under covers with a hot water bottle. So why am I getting shouted at? Is it my fault that you didn’t notice there was no thermostat when that idiot of a man installed the boiler? I didn’t respond to her shouting because I thought if I opened my mouth and said what I thought, she’d get upset, but you know what? Sometimes the truth has to be told.

I just need to practise responding to these situations in a calm non-emotional manner.


I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and don’t really know how to articulate it without sounding like a big headed person.

I’m blessed to have a lot of good people around me. My friends are amazing, and without them I really don’t know how I would’ve got through the past 18 months.

When I hear about some friends of others’ and see the reaction I get for some of the things I do for my friends, or the reaction I get when I say what my friends do for me, it leaves me baffled, and a bit annoyed at the world. Do people just not care for others anymore, or are my friends and I just really really soppy?

I went to hospital with a friend this week, and the night before I went online and copied a list of questions to ask the doctor. When I showed him, he was shocked, really shocked. Mouth opened, bug eyed shocked. He couldn’t believe that I had actually written it out, and even left a few lines to write the answers in. When I spoke to him a few days later, he told me that he showed his friends the paper, and they said how nice I am.

But to me, that is normal behaviour. I can’t understand the fuss, because that is what you do for your friends isn’t it?

Later in the week, I met a friend and she had a care package for me… Slightly off topic she bought me some toffee waffles and they are amazing!… Anyway, in this package there was also every article she had seen for chronic pain cures over the past few months. I started telling someone about a treatment in one of the articles, and when they asked me where I had heard about it, I told them about the care package, and they couldn’t believe it.

They were really surprised, and I was very surprised that they were surprised. Isn’t that friendship?


Egg and quorn fried rice


Sardines and pasta


Lamb with steamed vegetables









I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to cook this week. There is still no rice in the jar, even though I have asked my sister and my mum, who she is down stairs at this very moment. I’m going to buy some brown rice, that is the rice I normally cook with, and will using that. If they don’t like it,  it’s their business because I’ve been asking them to fill up the jar for weeks now!

Here’s my revelation

I can only change myself.

For months I’ve been trying to get my mum and sister to waste less money, and to eat healthier. They simply don’t want to do it.This weekend my mum went to the supermarket and do you know what she bought? A loaf of bread and some nuts. The rice and pasta jars are both empty, there’s no tinned tomatoes, no fresh vegetables in the house and that is the only thing she could buy?

Instead of stressing about it, and trying to make everything perfect for everyone, I’m going to just cook. If they eat it fine, if they don’t I’ll freeze it and eat it another time. There is just no point me wasting my time, money and energy on them.


Goals for the week.

The first tier are ‘musts’ and the second tier are ‘would like tos’.

1st tier

In bed before midnight.

I’m going to keep trying to be consistent with this one.

Drink water.

2 litres of water everyday.


Even though it doesn’t help the pain go away, I feel better when I stretch regularly. I’ve found some stretches that can be done without lying down (I don’t have the space) and so will start my daily stretching again.

5 minutes of movement everyday.

Read another investment book.

I’m going to start How to read the financial pages this week

Cancel Love Film

Only use the laptop 6 hours per day.

I  find I’m spending too much time online. Rather than a curfew, I think giving myself a time limit is more realistic.

Continue looking for car insurance

Keep trying to bring my doctor appointments forward

2nd Tier

Spanish Grammar.

Half an hour per day.

Go to the pool twice this week.

I’ll drop the repetitions and see if that makes a difference.

I saw this article in the week and wanted to share it.

This is the perfect example of why you need to; 1) Read the small print and 2) Understand what you are signing up to.


Fifty-six pence – barely enough for a pot of yogurt or a packet of crisps. But that’s exactly how much Claire McDermott was told she would get after saving £25 a month over 10 years with Scottish Friendly. Her £3,000 investment was set to pay £3,000.56 – earning 5.6p for each year.

Her experience puts a huge question mark over the value of tax-free friendly society plans held by millions of lower- and middle-income savers in Britain.

McDermott, who lives in Surrey, bought a plan in 1999 after she saw a Scottish Friendly advert proclaiming that its “Scottish Bond” was the “ideal way to take advantage of your tax-free savings allowance”. Under legislation dating back three decades, friendly societies can take in up to £25 a month to invest in tax-free savings plans.

She received a keyring bottle opener – worth more than 56p – for responding to the mailing. McDermott, 29 at the time, signed up to start in March 1999. She was sent a £10 Marks & Spencer gift voucher.

The large print on the mailings promised “substantial tax-exempt saving” and “security plus growth potential”, adding, “as we don’t have shareholders, all the profits we make are paid out to our policyholders as bonuses”. There were unattributed ­testimonials telling how customers used plans to fund cruises, conservatories and weddings.

Finally, the clincher for McDermott: the big print showed anyone saving over the previous decade would have turned £25 a month into £5,203. But in the small print was a warning of high charges and big initial deductions, both now familiar to endowment victims.

The Glasgow-based organisation took the entire first year’s £300 payments – covering her keyring and M&S voucher more than 20 times over. So had she wanted to exit the fund after one year, she would have had nothing. There were other deductions as well.

The key-features document, home of the small print, showed that if the fund grew at 12% a year, policyholders would get £4,740. Achieving the £5,203 would have needed growth of around 15% each year – unlikely at any time, the more so when inflation and interest rates were falling.

The costs were also expressed in another way – reduction in yield. This shows the percentage an investment has to grow to pay the plan’s expenses before the policyholder starts to earn any money. In this case, the reduction was a massive 2.9%. But even that, as the small print shows, was not guaranteed. “Our deductions may turn out to be higher than anticipated,” it warned.

McDermott received optimistic bonus mailings in the early years. But by last year, the bonus notice had no heading at all – and only 0.75% added.

“To make matters worse,” she adds, “they offered me the option of a further year of paying £300 but all they would guarantee was an ­additional £225. They failed to answer requests for information over charges, how my money was invested, and what I would have earned without their fees.”

Scottish Friendly was more forthcoming when Guardian Money called. It said the costs incurred in providing the policy amounted to £867, including the £326 setup charge and the cost of “life insurance” – the value of the policy at the time of death. For a woman of her age, this would cost pennies.

It added that without “tax freedom” she would have received around £100 less from her savings. Friendly society tax-exempt savings plans (Tesps) are free from the “composite” tax rate levied on life companies. But as this contains an element for capital gains, which most investors do not pay, its value is limited.

Scottish Friendly says it amended her payout to £3,015.93. It concedes this is “not a massive difference” and says: “While we clearly understand her disappointment, in the context of returns achieved by competing products, we believe we have sheltered investors from the worst excesses of the market downturn as well as providing life cover.”

But if McDermott had put £25 a month into an Abbey regular saver plan, her £3,000 would have produced £3,841 before tax.

Some other friendly society plans have produced slightly less worrying returns. A similar policy at Liverpool Victoria’s LV= scheme would have come up with £3,509 and although Engage Mutual was unable to produce a figure, pleading “prior actuarial commitments”, a recent Money Management table points to around £3,600.

But the best result comes from the little-known Sheffield Mutual. It has only a handful of investors but would have turned the £3,000 into £6,356.

Fewer friendly societies now market tax-free plans than 10 years ago. Family Assurance only sells plans to existing customers, although Scottish Friendly is active in pushing the policies.

Many question the point of Tesps when tax-free Isas will be able to take in £850 a month after limits were raised in last month’s budget.

“The charges are high, the product is inflexible, the funds are unexciting and the tax savings are negligible for most,” says investment specialist Mark Dampier at Hargreaves Lansdown. “Over 10 years, an Isa is a better bet.”

Martin Shaw of the Association of Friendly Societies is, unsurprisingly, an advocate. He says: “Societies have worked hard to ensure charges on more traditional products are competitive. Over the past 25 years, friendly society with-profits funds have outperformed non-friendly society funds, But we are about more than investment. Friendly societies are vibrant and vital, and should be an important part of plans for a more secure financial future.”

I would be furious if this happened to me, however, I would hold myself somewhat accountable.

I think the lady in question should have made sure she understood what costs are involved, £867 in just sounds ridiculous.

I really hope that the lady in  question learns from this and puts her money in a better home, although to be honest most saving accounts are paying virtually no interest now.

I was back in a classroom for the first time in over 10 years yesterday, and was interested to see that all the personalities that make up a usual class are still the same.

The goody two shoes (GTS), the know-it-all (KIA), the class clowns (CC1, CC2), the nice but dim one (NBD), and the one who kind of is a bit of everything (MIX) were all there. I couldn’t believe it!

I started thinking about the different types…

The goody two shoes.

Homework is always done, pays attention to the teacher, and gets annoyed with the clowns and dim one for holding up the class. The GTS also is secretly jealous of the KIA because they wished they knew the answers as easily, and is very happy when the KIA gets something wrong.  Of course they wouldn’t show all this. That would tarnish they GTS image.

The know it all.

Appears to find the work easy, and always cuts in with the right answer for a question they probably were not asked. The KIA will not hide their frustration with the clowns and will laugh at the dim one to their face.  They always seem to be far ahead. If the teacher says read chapter 20, they read up to chapter 25 and start talking about the following chapters in class to look really smart. The teacher usually hates them as the KIA messes up their lesson plan.

The KIA works hard at home to keep up the façade of intelligence in class and are very likely not that smart. They just don’t have a life out of the classroom, and no friends, so they have plenty of time to study. They are secretly jealous of CC1, as they seem to be intelligent AND have friends.

The class clown

There are 2 types of class clown:

Type 1

This clown is really intelligent, they fool around because they have done the work and are bored, and are sometimes scared of looking smart in case people think they are a GTS or KIA.  At times they wish they didn’t have to be funny, as they always seem to be in trouble, but decide being  friendless like the KIA is worse then getting into trouble.

Type 2

This clown finds school really hard. They aren’t stupid, but just can’t do the work, but are too ashamed to admit it, so try to disguise it by causing general mayhem in the class. When you get them alone, you’ll usually find they are quite shy and scared of looking silly.

Nice But Dim

They are the ones that stare blankly at teacher and have no clue what is going on. They try their hardest to keep up, but just finds it so hard, so they sit quietly and hope the teacher doesn’t call on them. If the teacher does, they’ll open their book as though they are looking for the answer, and pray that the KIA butts in as usual (which of course they do). Everyone sort of feels a bit sorry for this one, but not enough to partner with them for an exercise or project.

The mixture

This one seems to be everyone’s best friend. They hang around with all the others at different intervals. They’re usually in the higher ability group so will hang out with GTS as the class will be full of them. They’ll also sit in the top tier classes with CC1 and get into trouble, and will secretly help CC2 with their work in breaktimes. They talk to the KIA and find them quite funny and a bit odd. The MIX will probably defend the NBD one to the others, and will end up being their partner in lessons that aren’t separated by ability and do most of the work.

They secretly wish they could be one of the other characters to feel part of a group and not flitting about on the edges, but doesn’t want to change to fit in.

I’ve not worked in an office environment, so don’t know if it’s the same there too, but do you ever really change your basic class personality?

I was the mix at school, and realised yesterday that in a class setting I’m still the same

I have to admit; I was surprised as there were two characters I didn’t expect to see when you pay for a course.

Class Clown type 2

If you don’t want to do the homework, and not really understanding the work, why are you paying to do it? Unlike school it’s entirely voluntary.

Nice But Dim

Granted, the course is not accredited, but why has the tutor let this person pay again when they are clearly lagging behind? There are lower level courses. You know this person couldn’t pronounce the words, couldn’t read from the book and answer the questions.

He kept saying ‘I don’t know the answer to that question’. I thought ‘he can say that really well’, then realisedthe phrase was hanging up on the wall behind me!

It’s sad that they are taking his money, but surely he’s accountable too? He knows he’s struggling so why doesn’t he stop paying?

An oft-used cliché, but in this case so very true.

Yesterday I was really upset about not being able to do the sewing class. It wasn’t just the sewing I was upset about; I was upset because it signified so many things to me. It meant I was getting well, that I would have something else to talk about other than pain, that I was getting out of the house, and have used my time productively.

After crawling through the list of available classes, I found that Spanish classes weren’t full. I rang the learning centre to speak to a language advisor, and he asked a series of questions to determine what level I should start at. I was slap bang in the middle of levels 4 and 5. He said that the choice was up to me, whether I wanted to go over some things I knew and do level 4, or push myself and do level 5. I chose the latter.

He suggested that before I enrol, I talk to the tutor to make sure I could handle the level. Luckily there was a class yesterday evening, so I went along just before the class to talk to the tutor. He was lovely, and suggested that I stay for the 2 hour class and then decide whether or not I wanted to enrol.

The class was good, and luckily they were reviewing the past tense, which is what I’m currently stuck on.  I’ll share some observations in my next post about the class in general because I found it really interesting.

Even though I stood up regularly to stretch, by the end of the class, my back was killing me, and my neck started to cease up. The tutor had to help me downstairs and the security guard helped me to my car.

One of my sister’s friends came to drive my car home, as by this time, my neck had ceased up.

Needless to say I will not be signing up for the class.

While waiting for my sister’s friend to arrive, I thought about what had happened. This is the first time I’ve had to sit down and do something that is remotely like work outside of my home, which means I couldn’t lay down if I felt I had done too much. I have done some MS excel training at the library, but that was purely computer based and I didn’t have to look at a text book, write on a whiteboard, or put my head down for writing in a book for 2 straight hours.

Then I thought about how I would have felt if I had enrolled on the sewing class, and the same thing happened.  Using a sewing machine is not easy; you use your whole body. I did use one in occupational therapy at the pain clinic, but it was only for about 45 minutes, and I took breaks. I would have been absolutely devastated if I had turned up and not been able to complete the class, and I wouldn’t have been able to get my money back as the classes are not refundable.

So in a strange way yesterday was really positive, I saved money and learnt a bit more about my tolerance level.

In this post, I said that to reward myself for paying off my debt I was going to enrol in a clothes making class.

As I was set on money saving, I decided to wait until I was confirmed for incapacity benefit as the course price would be drastically reduced.

Well the letter hasn’t turned up, and the classes are now full. I’m kicking myself because I have the money to pay full price.

I guess this is a lesson to me that when it’s something you really want, paying full price is worth it.

I’m soooooo annoyed with myself.

I suppose I should feel good to know that one of the courses sold out before I had the idea, mid March the enrolment line said.

*banging head against the wall*