It’s January 3rd and I don’t know about you, but I’m spent out – in all senses of the word. In the town centre where I work, the streets and shops are so crowded with grim-faced sale shoppers that it is difficult to get anywhere or get anything done at lunchtimes. And at the same time, there is a dozy atmosphere hanging over the place, like peoples’ heads are still in the holidays. Perhaps it will change on Monday, when the kids go back to school and everybody is finally back at work.
For me, 2013 was the year I learned to cut myself some slack, after a difficult 2012. That year started with an ill newborn and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it maternity leave (the joys of self-employment), and ended with an exhausted me, floored by a common cold. That cold ended up bursting my eardrum. It REALLY HURT, but it was the health equivalent of a bugle in the ear, proclaiming that things had to change around here. Change they did, although it’s still a work in progress.
For this reason, I don’t want to make any ambitious New Year’s resolutions. I have three and they are all doable.
1. Go to FinCon 2014.
FinCon is the annual conference for personal finance bloggers, which takes place in a different American city every year. I went for the first time in October, after being invited to speak, and returned fizzing with energy and a renewed sense of purpose. You gotta love our can-do American cousins! In truth, going to FinCon was one of the best things I did in 2013.
This year FinCon takes place in New Orleans. It doesn’t take place until September, so I have a little time to work out how to do it all as cheaply as possible. The countdown clock starts here. Any ideas on getting a return flight for a bargain price will be welcomed, because I checked the prices on Opodo just now and they are eyewatering…
2. Renew my love affair with my sewing machine.
I haven’t used it much over the past couple of years. I still have the pieces of a dress I was making before I was pregnant, all folded up neatly in a box. When The Times sent a photographer last year, he wanted to take lots of pictures of me “being thrifty”. This is more difficult than it sounds, because photos of me browsing Quidco and cleaning the bog with homemade toilet cleaner aren’t exactly… visually arresting.
The photographer asked me to dust off my sewing machine so that he could take lots of pictures like the one that now appears in my sidebar.
I extracted my sewing machine from the back of the cupboard, and then realised that I couldn’t remember how to wind the bobbin and thread the machine properly.
“Oh, don’t worry about that”, said the photographer, artfully arranging my pincushions and cotton spools. “I promise you that nobody will be able to tell, from these photographs.” And he was right. They couldn’t. It did make me feel like a fraud though. And it annoyed me something rotten, not least because I come from a family of stitchers. I have a lovely little machine, fabric aplenty and a giant bag full of vintage patterns from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, handed down from my mum and great-grandmother, to be getting on with. It’s all there on a plate.
Right now my sewing machine is sitting on a shelf next to my desk, twinkling at me. I have also discovered a splendid sewing blog called Tilly and the Buttons, to give me a little push. So watch this space…
3. Start as I mean to go on.
New Year’s Eve was just as I wanted it to be: relaxing, inexpensive and filled with good chatter and good company. My good friend N came up from London for the night. We had dinner at home, with apple crumble and custard for pudding: is there a better way to sign off on a year than with a good pudding?
When midnight neared, we wrapped up warmly and walked down to the Market Square. This is where everybody in my little Yorkshire city gathers to see in the New Year. This year, as always, there was a late-night service in the cathedral and the bells were ringing. Just before midnight, people streamed out of the big doors holding candles, mixing with the pubgoers on their way to the Square. The New Year was counted in, the city horn was blown from the balcony of the town hall, everybody sang Auld Lang Syne and then there were the fireworks that you can see in the picture at the top of this post.
Afterwards we strolled back home (above), chatted into the early hours and slept well.
This is how I mean to go on in 2014. What about you?
P.S. Don’t forget that you can still claim your free packet of Fisherman’s Friend sweets, from now until 10 January 2014. All the details are here.