ember's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

ember's journal

Post by ember »

This is my first journal entry so I’m just going to dive right in and talk about what’s going on in my life lately.

It’s been an expensive week due to medical issues – nothing too serious, but I had to get some dental work done and then had to have a procedure done on my left leg. I had an unsightly varicose vein running down it so decided to get it fixed and this was the final stage. I now have to wear a compression stocking for three weeks, rather than the two I was previously told. Apparently this is because I have pale skin. Cheers! Having spent a vast amount of money on this, because it isn’t something covered by the NHS, I declined to fork out an additional £20 for a leg cover for showering, and tried to keep it ERE by fashioning one out of a bin bag instead. The people in the clinic suggested I could go into production and undercut the leading brand 😊 Unfortunately, the bin bag didn’t work too well (thank god for hairdryers) but I’m going to stick with it. Maybe I’ll take a bath tomorrow instead of a shower and see how that goes.

The other ERE-type thing I did this week was make my own eggshell calcium. I’ve been experimenting with a carnivorous diet but haven’t got round to making bone broth yet. I discovered that eggshells are a good source of calcium so I boiled them, dried them out and turned them into powder, which I shall sprinkle on things. Quite pleased with that!

The reason I’m experimenting with the carnivore thing is primarily to lose some weight (nothing like an upcoming wedding for motivation), and so far so good, but what I didn’t predict is that it’s given me back that feeling of mental clarity and sharpness which is the thing I like most about intermittent fasting. I crunched my way through the spreadsheets at work in record time, which is great as next week I have a new colleague joining us and am going to need to spend most of my time training him. I have high hopes that this guy will be able to take over from me when I leave, which is hopefully going to be in just over 2 years’ time.

I came out of the stock market a couple of months ago after running some simulations, getting my head round sequence of returns risk and feeling uneasy about stock prices, so I’m no longer anxiously checking my investments although I am still anxiously watching the exchange rate. The political situation here continues to be turbulent and nobody really knows what the hell is going on. Neither of the two main parties has any appeal to me at the moment. There was an excellent article about it in the FT a couple of weeks ago here, probably behind a paywall, sorry, https://www.ft.com/content/037a2750-e4a ... 5a370481bc which explained the situation pretty well but didn’t come up with any solutions… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

halfmoon
Posts: 712
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:19 pm

Re: ember's journal

Post by halfmoon »

I commented on your intro, but I'll say it again: welcome!

Regarding your anxiety over exchange rates: is there any way to open a bank account in the US and invest in US dollar CDs? There's a credit union in Pennsylvania that's offering 3.25% on a 3-year CD, which might fit nicely with your plan to move to the US. I don't have any idea if that's possible for someone who doesn't live here, though.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Thanks, halfmoon! That's an interesting idea. About half my capital is tied up in property and most of my savings are in fixed-term accounts in an attempt to eke as much interest out of them as possible. I'm also hoping the exchange rate will improve as it's low at the moment by historical standards, although higher than a few weeks ago. I have actually been looking into CDs, which don't exist in the UK, and will certainly consider it as the time draws nearer. I haven't quite got my head round the mechanism of transferring money from here to the US yet. Interesting that it's possible to get 3.25% on a CD. There's nothing like that over here. I'm getting about 1.6% on my ISAs, although I have a bit in P2P which is paying 5.75%. I don't want to put too much in that though, as several P2P operations have gone bust lately!

chenda
Posts: 1487
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:17 pm

Re: ember's journal

Post by chenda »

Welcome ember I liked reading your intro and long distance love story :)

A refuge in rural Pennsylvania sounds ideal if you don't need to work or worry about immigration rules. I think things could get very bad here soon; civil unrest, supply shortages, fascism, violence...Makes sense to spread the risk and have a get out plan.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Thanks, chenda! I assume you're talking about the UK. I hope things don't get that bad, as I'm not really in a position to stock up living where I do. After the riots in London a few years ago I did store a few tins of tuna in a wooden box for a while. I called it the Riot Diet ;)

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

End of October report. I’ve done my monthly finances and it was an expensive month due to the medical stuff, so I more-or-less broke even. But the numbers are still on track for retirement in 2 years at which point I’ll be 48.

I’ve been keeping a record of my spending for the last 3 years so I have a good idea of what I spend here, but with my plan to move to the US some things are a little unknown at this stage. I discovered this week that a house is for sale in the same road that my fiancee D lives in, and the listing gave information about property insurance and tax, which was useful. After the road trip we took in September I now know how much petrol costs (much less than here in the UK). I think I’ll need to get my own car when I move, because D is a 10 minute drive from the nearest town. I plan to take some driving lessons so that I can get used to driving on the wrong side of the road 😉

I don’t know yet if we’ll stay in D’s house. I like the area and her house is cute and has a nice yard with a fire pit. It’s near her parents, which is important to her. We made some progress with the vegetable garden this year, although by August it had turned into a bunny sanctuary. There was literally a bunny living in it, hiding under the courgette leaves and strenuously avoiding eye contact. I was excited that we grew our own herbs and I introduced D to making our own pesto, and we made a start planting some wild flowers to help the bees out. On the other hand, the house is relatively small, quite dated - it used to belong to her grandmother - and the basement definitely needs work. D has turned one of the three bedrooms into a “hiking room” where she keeps her impressive collection of backpacks, and one is the office. If we did the basement up, I could create a new room down there for myself which could double up as a guest room. I’d like to be able to have friends to stay which at the moment would be tricky, unless we put them up in a nearby hotel, which doesn’t feel like a very hospitable approach.

Work has been busy as I was training my new colleague, doing my own job and covering for someone else who is away at the moment. Less time than usual for ERE surfing. However, the new colleague is enthusiastic and seems to be getting the hang of things which is good for my future plans. I had some social life too – book group, went to the cinema with a friend, and had enjoyable lunch with some other friends on Saturday. This evening I saw the local fox on the way home from work, which was lovely. I saw one earlier in the year, probably the same one, in the early morning walking through Senate House, the extraordinary 1930s building which is the HQ of the University of London. Told a friend about it and quick as a flash he said “Of course, that was the Vice Chancellor.” :lol:

The stocking on my leg continues to be a nuisance, particularly when it comes to bathing/showering. I can have a shallow bath fairly easily but prefer a shower. No matter how much clingfilm I use to wrap my leg, the stocking still seems to end up soggy. I expect I’ll get the hang of it just as it’s time for it to come off. It’s also meant that I can’t go to the gym at the moment which has been frustrating. I wouldn’t describe myself as a gym bunny by any means, but I discovered that reading trashy books on my Kindle while walking on the treadmill at an incline helps pass the time and sometimes I actually look forward to going, if the trashy book is really gripping…

Anyway. Two more weeks and then I’ll be off to Pennsylvania for a few days, can’t wait!

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Last week I discovered that a friend had a copy of Antifragile, which I’d been meaning to read. I borrowed it from him and made it as far as page 32. The author is certainly pleased with himself. One sentence did resonate with me: “academics (particularly in social science) seem to distrust each other; they live in petty obsessions, envy, and ice-cold hatreds”. Yup, sums up my experience very well. I’m so glad I don’t operate in that world any more, although I still have occasional nightmares about it.

After that, I was slightly concerned that my brain might be turning to mush, so I found another nonfiction book to read, which I suspect I found out about somewhere on ERE. It’s called the Rise of Superman (available on Kindle Unlimited) and is about how action/adventure sports enthusiasts harness flow to break records. It’s very readable and there are some fascinating anecdotes about lots of people I’ve never heard of – skaters, surfers, etc. It made me think how can I get more flow into my life and what activities generate it. Hiking is certainly on the list, although, when not concentrating on where to put my feet, I find my mind wandering to important questions such as whether it would be possible to make a British version of trail mix using Smarties instead of M&Ms… Writing is another activity that gets me in the zone, and I really should dust off the piano and get back to playing some Scott Joplin. A flawless rendition of Maple Leaf Rag would be an excellent micro-mastery 😊

In other news, I had an email from Zopa (a UK P2P site) telling me that they’ve sold some bad debt, which offers a glimmer of hope that I might get some of my defaults back, although I’m sure I’ve heard it before. I’ve had money in Zopa for some time but in the past year or so the defaults have often almost cancelled out the interest, particularly in my ISA which is annoying as that’s the tax-sheltered account. I took some satisfaction in moving my cash balance to Assetz, who so far have delivered on the 5.75% they offer and appear to have more security and do a better job of vetting people for loans. I still get a little nervous about having too much in P2P but since I have no shares at the moment, it’s the only risk I’m taking.

I’ve been thinking about how nice it will be not to have Sunday night blues any more, once I pack in my job. Fortunately, my new colleague is getting on well so it looks like my exit plan is coming together. I’m off to Pennsylvania in eight days and will spend some time talking to D about the timeline for the next two years. The whole marriage and immigration thing is pretty challenging but I think I’ve worked out what we need to do and am grateful I’m in a position to make it happen.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Time for another update, as it’s been a while. My plans were thrown out of whack when my mother broke her wrist while I was staying with her for the weekend about a month ago. She had a fall in the kitchen while we were making lunch. I had to call 999 and we spent the afternoon in A&E. Fortunately she is ok and has a lot of friends living nearby who have been visiting, but I’ve been taking it in turns with my brother to see her more often - she’s about 70 miles away - and will be spending longer at Christmas with her than originally intended.

This did make me think about one of the potential benefits of retiring in 2 years time, which is that if something happens to my mother I’d like to be able to drop everything to be there, without any pesky work commitments getting in the way. By then, hopefully I’ll be living in the US so it would involve getting a plane at short notice but at least my brother will still be relatively close.

I had a nice trip to Pennsylvania to see D in the middle of November. It was only a short trip and there wasn’t time to do all that much, but it will keep me going till I get to visit again for New Year. D is working very hard at the moment and often at weekends too, which I really appreciate as she’s going to come over to the UK twice next year, first to give notice and then to get married!

My own work has been busy lately, as the run up to Christmas is a busy period for us, so I’ve spent less time surfing ERE than usual. I’ve been getting some reading done in the evenings. My book group read Circe this month, which we all enjoyed. I’ve also been reading a book called Deep Nutrition, which is mostly about the insidious effects of vegetable oil. It seems this stuff gets everywhere. Lately I’ve been concentrating on eating meat, vegetables and butter, which has been going quite well. This evening I spent some time on a blog https://fireinabottle.net/ which proposes the theory that it’s all about the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat. The science is way over my head, but personal experience suggests that the more butter I eat the looser my trousers. There's also the advantage that fat is cheaper than protein. I’ve just ordered some cacao drops to boost my saturated fat ratio even more, but for the time being I draw the line at eating croissants…

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

A belated happy new year to everyone!

It seems like a good time to do some financial tracking. My expenditure figures for 2019 are as follows:

• Travel £9.3k
• Health £7.6k
• Utilities and property taxes £4.6k
• Groceries £3.5k
• Charitable contributions £3k
• Wine and other alcohol £2.5k
• D’s bathroom £2.2k
• Social life and entertainment £1.8k
• Gifts £1.8k
• Cleaning £1.6k
• One-off items (laptop, phone etc) £0.8k
• Clothes and hair £0.7k
• Professional fees £0.3k
• Gym £0.3k

Total expenditure £39.9k of which arguably about £9k was exceptional.

My net assets increased over the year by £37.8k thanks to a mixture of stock market gains, and savings.

Some comments on the above…

Travel is high due to flying to the USA seven times to see D and one of those occasions was a two week road trip which involved more accommodation costs and eating out than usual. I include all the costs of being away under that budget, including the bottle of bourbon which I always bring back! Having spent most of my life being environmentally-conscious and not flying long distances, I find myself in a long-distance relationship just as flight shaming becomes a big deal. At least I’m working on moving to the USA at which point I expect to pop back to the UK maybe four times a year. £8.5k was trips to the USA, the remainder was trains, taxis and tube in the UK and a contribution towards a short holiday in Sicily with my mother in October.

Health costs were unusually high this year mainly due to having an operation on my leg to remove the enormous varicose vein which had been there for about 20 years. That set me back the best part of £5.5k but it’s all done now and I’ve resisted the clinic’s attempt to get me to have the same thing done on the other leg, which apparently has the same problem but is invisible so who cares. The rest of my health costs were mostly the dentist. I’ll be avoiding bread with seeds in in future and really need to cut down on pork scratchings 😊

Utilities include the £2.7k service charge for my flat which covers heating and hot water.

Charitable contributions include £2.7k school fees for two girls in Uganda – obviously I entered into this arrangement well before ERE was on the agenda, but will honour it until they leave school.

Wine costs are high because it’s one of my enthusiasms. I have a considerable collection in storage and have been getting it out, which means paying duty and VAT, and also paying storage costs on the rest.

D did up her bathroom this year which cost around $5.5k and we agreed to split it 50/50.

One good thing: I’m laughing at how little I managed to spend on clothes this year and I get my mother to cut my hair!

Moving on to my planned budget for when I’m in the USA in two years’ time:

• Travel £6k which will be about £4k for trips to the UK and £2k for other trips. Fortunately D enjoys camping rather than luxury hotels.
• Groceries £4k. I’m allowing for this to be slightly higher than at present as food seems to be more expensive in the USA (although Aldi isn’t too bad), plus I’ll be contributing to cat food!
• Charitable contributions £3.5k – I suspect the school fees may go up as the girls are now about 12.
• Social life, entertainment and booze £3k. D doesn’t drink much by my standards so I’m planning to really cut back on this when I move.
• Utilities and property taxes £2k – a stab in the dark here but we’ll be sharing the bills.
• Health insurance £1.5k. I need to ask forumites more about this in due course, but D plans to work for a few more years and I think I can probably get on her health insurance. After that, we’ll see if the ACA still exists. If not, then this line could go up considerably. Also, my teeth may start falling apart even more than they have already.
• Gifts £1k. I’m not quite sure why I spent so much on gifts this year but plan to get a little more sensible about this.
• Clothes and hair £1k as I’ll probably get my hair done professionally when I move.
• Maintenance and contingency £1k.
• Car running costs £1k. I’m hoping to get an electric car in order to go shopping and go out locally, and don’t plan to be making lots of long journeys.
• Cleaning, professional fees and gym can all come out, hurrah!

Total expenditure £24k, falling to maybe £21k when the girls are through school. Still about 4.5 Jacobs but much less than I’m spending at present.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Good evening from London. I see back in October I was joking about my Riot Diet from a few years ago. Now it's back in force with tinned tuna, ready meals in pouches and a self-indulgent tin of cassoulet stashed in the cupboard. I also have plenty of wine and loo roll! :)

It's actually getting a little scary here. I found out this morning that my boss has the bug! Yay boss for going to Italy on a skiing trip last week... At least he didn't come into the office afterwards, but that's hitting close to home. Apparently he has a temperature of 38 but is otherwise ok and participated on a conference call from home today. I'm not sure his wife is too impressed as he's given it to her too.

I'm on tenterhooks at the moment waiting to see what will happen, as my DF is supposed to be flying over from across the pond at the end of the month so that we can give notice to get married in September. I'm very much hoping that the UK situation doesn't get too crazy so that she can still come. Added complications include her mother not being in the best of health and the fact that she works in a nursing home with elderly patients. It's been hard enough for her to get time off to come over for this trip, which requires her to stay here for 8 days, without having to take a load of time off afterwards. We shall see. I should remember to be grateful that we can even get married at all since that wouldn't have been possible before 2015.

In other news, I've made two significant financial transactions lately. During a walk in the woods on my last trip to Pennsylvania, before the stock market tumbled, I came to the conclusion that I was an idiot to liquidate my SIPP in September, as that's money I won't be able to touch for around 10 years after I pull the plug and hopefully won't even need to touch it then, so the sequence of returns risk is less relevant to that section of my portfolio. When I got back, I kept an eye on the price of Vanguard Lifestrategy 100 and went back in at a price below what I came out at. I'm sure it's plummeted since then but don't intend to look just yet. I'm very relieved that I did liquidate the rest of my share portfolio back then as right now I'd have lost at least £10k which wouldn't have been ideal.

Secondly, I opened up a Transferwise borderless account and shunted some pounds into dollars at the weekend when the rate was relatively advantageous, above $1.3. That money will rest in my account until September, assuming we can still get married then, and then I'll transfer it to DF to pay for my share of her house, which will enable her to pay off her mortgage early, hurrah! Assuming paying off the mortgage early is a wise thing to do, which is a subject for further research, as is the gift tax situation. I'm under the impression that married couples can give each other as much as they like even if I'm UK domiciled and she's US domiciled, but am planning to get some proper advice on everything in the near future.

Otherwise I'm going to keep my head down, keep stashing money away whenever I can and try not to panic too much.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Well, a lot has happened over the past couple of weeks...

Just a few weeks ago my American fiancee and I were still planning to get married in London in September. This required us to "give notice" which in the UK has to be done at least 29 days ahead of the ceremony. An added complication is that you both have to be present to give notice, and you both have to have been resident in the UK for at least 8 days. I worked everything out very carefully so that D would visit me around now, be here for 8 days, we'd give notice and she'd go home and then come back in September for the actual wedding.

That was in a pre-COVID19 world and now not only can she not visit me, but it's not clear when flights will be operational again and I'm working on the assumption that it will be some time before we see each other. There's talk of the virus going away within maybe three or four months, but I don't know how realistic that is, or whether we're going to have a sequence of lockdowns and then be allowed out for a bit and then be locked down again or what. Given all this uncertainty, I've come up with plan B, which is for me to travel to the US as soon as I'm allowed to and get married there. As far as I can see, you apply for a license on day 1, you get it on day 4, and then you have to get married within 60 days of that, so the whole thing is doable within a week if we can find an officiant at short notice. It seems to be permissible to do this on an ESTA as long as I go back to the UK afterwards. This Plan B will keep me on track for my plan to move to the US if we manage to get the marriage done some time in the summer, because then I can still apply for a spousal visa in November as originally planned. After that, I can't visit the US while it's being processed anyway, so if the virus comes back it won't mess up my plans even more than it has already.

In the meantime, thank god for video calling. D and I only started doing this recently and it has made such a difference being able to see her even if it's only on a screen.

I'm now working from home and have set up most of my team to work from home, which is definitely preferable to having to deal with anxious people in the office. It's been five days so far and I haven't gone crazy yet. I'm going out most days for a walk round the nearby parks which are pretty empty, and doing a few kettlebell swings and other weights occasionally to provide a respite from sitting at the kitchen table. So far I'm doing well at not binge-eating - unlike Nigella Lawson who apparently is on a 250g bar of chocolate a day and rising - but I do seem to have acquired a 5pm gin and tonic habit. That's when the government have their daily press conference, although last week's main performers have been dropping like flies and it's unclear who exactly is now running things. Probably Larry the 10 Downing St cat.

My mother suggested I should go and stay with her, which was kind of awkward. Much as I love my mum, I have my own flat and my things here and I'm totally ok spending most of my time by myself. She has a lot of friends nearby and is in constant contact with people, and the idea of trying to work while she does Facetime and makes noisy phone calls to her friends doesn't really appeal. I think she actually forgot that I'm working from home rather than being on holiday.

I've been making the occasional foray to the supermarket as it seems to be impossible now to get shopping delivered. This morning it took 50 minutes to get in because they're operating on a one-in, one-out basis, with pensioners being able to jump the queue. It was interesting to observe different interpretations of the regulation 6 feet distance. I almost joined the queue in the wrong place because people were standing so far apart. The guy in front of me was so busy reading his phone and failing to move along that I spent the entire 50 minutes with steam coming out of my ears. Also, found myself wondering what the fuck the people inside the supermarket were doing taking so long, and indeed, once through the doors, there was no sense of urgency whatsoever. It was more a case of "oh I'm in now, so I'm going to spend all day admiring the Easter Egg selection" or whatever. Looking on the bright side, there is at least now food on the shelves although no toilet roll so far...

Money-wise, I'm very lucky that the organisation I work for is stable enough to cope with what's going on and my job is secure. I've been watching the pound bounce around all over the place for the last few days. It got a little scary when it plummeted to $1.15 but it's back up to $1.25 as of now. Who knows where it will be when the dust settles. All the flight cancellations and wedding celebration cancellations will actually leave me better off financially, but with the world being turned upside down nothing feels very certain any more.

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Egg
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Re: ember's journal

Post by Egg »

Weird times for sure. My brother was meant to be getting married abroad later this year (they both live here in the UK but her family is on a different continent). They've had to cancel for COVID-19. In your case, there are all sorts of additional practical benefits to getting married, which you are clearly keen to get locked down (I did long distance for a while with my own wife after we were together, but before we got engaged, and I know the distance isn't fun) but ultimately, this is likely to be a blip in the grand scheme of things.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Sorry your brother had to cancel his wedding too, egg. I guess a lot of weddings are going to be postponed this year. You're right, it is hopefully only a blip for those of us lucky enough not to be directly affected by the virus itself. I don't intend to pack in my job until my visa comes through, so I can afford to let this play out. Long distance is horrible but at least technology makes it easier.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

It’s been a while since I updated my journal and a lot has happened since then…

Relationship

Still not sure when or how D and I are going to get married. My current plan is to get to the USA as soon as I can and get it done there, but failing that, a wedding in Iceland isn’t completely out of the question. Looking on the bright side, we’re not going to have to spend as much because the London element was going to be fairly pricey and we were going to have a second celebration with all D’s friends and relatives in the US. Now it will have to be much more spontaneous with perhaps two guests. But I do have the difficult problem of what to do with all the vintage champagne and rather nice Sauternes I already bought. Sigh :)

Anyway, D is hanging in there and it’s still a miracle as far as I’m concerned that I found her. Our engagement rings are due to arrive any day now (from Etsy, not expensive, very us).

Previously I was living from trip to trip, and always counting down the days. Now I can’t do that as I don’t know when the next trip will be. I’ve got used to it. I was supposed to be going in May, but obviously that didn’t happen. My next trip is scheduled for July but that seems extremely doubtful. Now hoping for September perhaps?

I’m not sure what the knock-on effects will be in terms of getting a spousal visa to move to the USA but am trying to manage my expectations. I was planning to apply for it in November and assumed it would take around a year to process, so was hoping to leave work at the end of next year, but now I suppose it may be a few months later, not sure. Again, need to look on the bright side – every extra month of work is an extra month’s pay and pension contributions.

Work

Work has been insanely busy lately but that’s largely been a good thing. I work for a hospital charity so we’ve been receiving a lot of donations. Every day is manic but it’s been nice to feel I’m doing something useful in the background to help the people dealing with the crisis. I’ve felt more energised and can concentrate better at home. I’m still going into the office one day a week to do menial tasks like collecting the post and watering the plants. The office has turned into a warehouse for donated items but It’s been better the last couple of weeks, as my favourite colleague has come in too. It does make me wonder how it will feel when I pack in the job and am no longer needed by anyone. I’m definitely going to have to find some purposeful activities when I move.

Money

Things are going well on this front as my May trip to the US was cancelled, the July one is likely to be too, and I can’t go out and spend money on frivolous things. It looks like I’ll have a record low spending level in May. My P2P hasn’t completely tanked (yet) and my remaining investments have bounced back a little. My property accounts for nearly half my net worth, and not sure if its value will hold up – will people want to live in central London after this? An optimistic friend thinks they will, as the ability to walk to work means not having to take public transport. We have a lot of rich international students round here too, and I think they’ll be back in due course. I won’t be looking to sell my flat for another 18 months so hopefully things will have recovered by then.

Other stuff

I’m coping pretty well with the lockdown as have a pleasant open space nearby and my key people are in touch fairly frequently. I’ve managed to set up a fortnightly Zoom chat with my mother, brother and sister-in-law which is something I think we could continue when I move to the US. There was a blip last week when my mother wasn’t well and there wasn’t anything much I could do about it except be at the other end of the phone. Not too impressed with Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s advisor, who had COVID and travelled 260 miles to visit his family in flagrant contravention of the rules – this is the scandal of the weekend here in the UK. Our government is such an embarrassing shambles at the moment. I’m wondering if the PM will last much longer, frankly. He’s hardly made any public appearances since he came out of hospital.

I do find that I’m missing the gym, and am doubtful that the one I go to will ever reopen. In the meantime, I’m going for walks as often as possible, sometimes with a backpack full of bottles of water, and using my 15kg kettlebell three times a week. Work VPN kicks me out every hour, so my method is to get up and do 50-60 swings on the hour. Six sets of those and I’m done for the day. I’m starting to see some physical transformation as a result which is encouraging. Also, I’ve recently begun drinking protein shakes for lunch. It’s early days on that, but they’re cheap to make and with a bit of cocoa, it’s like drinking a milkshake which feels self-indulgent but also good for me!

On the reading front, I’ve been enjoying Agency, the new William Gibson. It’s a sequel to the Peripheral and perfect for a semi-apocalypse. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy his writing style and turn of phrase, and I enjoy recognising some of the locations in London he mentions.

Kipling
Posts: 68
Joined: Fri Mar 17, 2017 11:10 am
Location: London

Re: ember's journal

Post by Kipling »

The new William Gibson is indeed an entertaining read. It has been slightly clumsily reworked to deal with the current POTUS; but Gibson's characters do such interesting things, and have such interesting lives, that he can be forgiven.

ember
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:41 am
Location: London, England

Re: ember's journal

Post by ember »

Greetings from London! I’m pleased to report that the virus has pretty much left the hood https://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/lif ... 0522196741

More seriously, the Office for National Statistics reports that our mortality rates are now below the seasonal average, and evidence from the Karolinska Institute seems to be supporting the idea that 80% of the population are not affected – shades of the “immunological dark matter” so charmingly described by Karl Friston https://unherd.com/2020/06/karl-friston ... -covid-19/

Tomorrow the pubs and restaurants re-open so we’ll see what happens then. I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that people don’t behave like idiots and it doesn’t all kick off again.

I’ve been going into the office twice a week for the past few weeks and my colleagues have been coming in once a week, so I get to see them then which is nice. It’s been great to see my favourite colleague. We have a running joke of double-act names. A few weeks ago, it was Tense and Weird. This week it was Cynical and Jaded. No change there then ;)

June was another good month financially. I saved £3k which was about 70% of my income. Had a big win this week when the boss agreed to pay us all for accrued time off – we’ve been accumulating annual leave and something needed to be done. That should work out at around an extra £2k net in July, which is going straight in the stash.

My exceptional expenditure for June was the purchase of a kettlebell and some serious bourbon, which is expensive over here. I watched a series of videos on YouTube by a guy called Mark Wildman and he said that the one hand kettlebell swing is superior to the two hand https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4XJwbSUKn8 which honestly had never occurred to me. I decided I needed a lighter kettlebell in addition to my 15kg beast. After being out of stock for ages, at last they became available again and I got a 10kg one which set me back about £70 but it was worth it. I’ve been using it a lot and set a new personal best yesterday – 860 swings. Doing 100-120 every hour on the hour is really working for me. The scales haven’t moved for about 3 months but I’m telling myself good things are happening regardless. I’ve been reading Atomic Habits at long last, which had an encouraging section on how you do stuff and nothing seems to be changing but actually it is, you just have to keep going. We shall see…

Our prime minister has indicated that gyms might re-open later in the month, cannot wait. Walks in the nearby park, while pleasant enough, are no substitute for the treadmill. Rather sadly we are having to close the gym at my workplace, of which I am the treasurer, which hasn’t been much fun, making 12 people redundant at a time like this. It does make me grateful for my very safe job, and the whole change to working from home means more flexibility. I still want to hand over to my new colleague but I’m thinking there could be some things I could continue to do remotely, be on hand in the background, and earn maybe £5-10k for a few more years after I move to Pennsylvania.

I’ve been giving some consideration to my financial projections. When I retire, or semi-retire, in 18 months or so, I’m going to have about 12 years to bridge before my pensions come onstream, so my current plan is to have three pots: have enough in cash/CDs to cover the gap, hang on to my SIPP which is in Vanguard Lifestrategy 100, and put the rest in dividend growth stocks which I hope I won’t need to sell and can just compound away.

I’m going to see my mother tomorrow for the first time in almost 4 months, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her and the cats again!

Overall, I’m trying to stay sane and am succeeding most of the time but there are periods of intermittent despondency. Being in a long-distance relationship is challenging at the moment. I had hoped that when the UK wave died down I’d be allowed to visit the US but there’s no sign of that and it seems like things are getting worse over there so it’s going to be a while. It is hard, but it won’t last forever. The vaccines are on their way and I’m cheering on my alma mater, led by a woman from the place I was born!

Kipling
Posts: 68
Joined: Fri Mar 17, 2017 11:10 am
Location: London

Re: ember's journal

Post by Kipling »

Congrats on the exercise regime. Like many on this site I am a huge fan of the kettlebell. The exercises don't take loads of time. It's functional fitness - the exercises replicate things we have to be able to do in daily life. Net result - even if no weight change, big body-composition and posture changes. Overall cost per impact-of-exercise is really low.

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