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Archive for February, 2013

The Charity Shops

February 26th, 2013 at 08:29 pm

Several weeks ago, I promised a short post on British charity shops. For the 20 or so years I've been either visiting here or living here for a few months at a time, I've seen a change in the number and quality of British charity shops.

When we lived in Surrey, there was a small shop supporting the hospice in our town, but that was about it. There was an Oxfam shop in the next town, but now there seem to be more and more shops everywhere. In my little part of London there are two Oxfam shops, one across the street from the other. One specializes in books and music, the other has the usual assortment of clothes and other things. There's also a cancer charity shop, one for heart disease, one sponsoring vet care for those unable to afford it, and a hospice shop.

They're all very well patronized and seem to have a circuit of people going from one to the other. I was thrilled (really!) to find an almost new guidebook to Prague for 50p (about 75 cents) when I'd been pricing them for 8-10 pounds. The quality varies, but here, as at home, better areas seem to have better stuff. I've also bought a Pyrex pie plate for a pound as I broke the landlady's plate. The books are very good, and I predict that some of the ones I bought will end up there when I finish them.

Great jewelry--and very cute boots and sweaters everywhere. I do think the smaller living space encourages people to dump what they no longer can use.

More Interesting Food Waste News

February 25th, 2013 at 09:49 am

I've been watching (with rapt interest) the BBC programs featuring famous British chef, James Martin, as he addresses the lousy and expensive hospital food inn NHS hospitals. I think we all can imagine the problems with rising food costs, inadequate training, and other issues.

The most appalling part was the massive amount of food waste because (partly) of the elimination of individual patient ordering. That, coupled with not running the kitchen like a business and lack of adequate oversight has caused lots of problems. At one hospital, they were not even cooking from recipes.

But, of course, James Martin is coming in to save the day. This link shows some of it:

A Quick Hi

February 23rd, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Two trips since last I blogged, and I'm about to go out the door in a minute.
I spent five days in Barcelona with an English friend and my MN girlfriends. I'd never been to Spain before, and may I just say, this is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. On the thrifty front, we rented a flat, ate some breakfasts there, but really spent very little time there. We went out exploring every day, ate great food, drank wonderful wonderful cheap wine, saw fabulous art, and took public transportation everywhere we didn't walk. I even braved the Tube and bus home from Heathrow with a very big suitcase so no unnecessary transportation costs.

Then a busy week teaching with double lectures one day, replenishing my skimpy larder, then off to Stratford upon Avon yesterday with a student group. I've done the Shakespeare/Anne Hathaway deal twice before, but enjoyed it again. It's been VERY cold here with a nasty wind, but I walked the High Street in Stratford and found a wonderful cookware shop, and at another shop bought a fleece for 70 percent off. That, a nice lunch, and a long conversation with another faculty couple finished off a very pleasant day. Now off to a lecture and to a bunch of used bookstores.

Very "chuffed," as the Brits say, that while waiting for the bus yesterday, three different folks asked me about bus routes. I must look like I know what I'm doing--and could actually answer their questions.

I miss my family, but they'll be here in a month!

The Weekend's Frugal Adventures

February 10th, 2013 at 03:04 pm

First, a caveat. I'm not feeling very frugal. I've been wallowing in art, roaming all over, and I'm not used to cooking for one. My DH eats every scraping of leftovers I can excavate from the fridge. But I'm also feeling the pinch of this expensive glorious place.

I'm off to Spain on Tuesday and have a work drinks (will they have snacks?) do tomorrow night, so I'm trying to use up all the bits and pieces in my fridge.

While I was grading yesterday, I roasted the half bulb of fennel and the lump of butternut squash that's been rolling around since last Sunday's lunch. They'll be the anchor of tonight's dinner. It's very rainy and nasty today, so I cut my walk short and am spending the day class planning.

One of my constant issues is the extreme slowness of the bus. It can take 45 minutes for me to get to the university. But my transit pass only covers zones 1-2 on the tube, and Highgate is Zone 3. I haven't yet been able to rationalize the extra couple pounds this would cost, so I bring a book, look out the window, memorize the bus stops, and sometimes sigh a little. But on Tuesday, I need to get to Heathrow for my flight so will have to top up my Oyster card. The TFL (Transport for London) site is very good, so will spend some time later figuring out how much that will cost or if it's possible to get a regular London bus all the way out there. I sort of doubt it.

I also need to figure out the best place to change money. I usually just use the ATM, but we're getting into Barcelona late-ish, and I want some cash in hand. My suspicion is that the PO offers good rates, but I'll check.

Scottish girl mentioned this site that is very much talked about. It's all about food waste and is pretty darn interesting.

My promised post on the charity shops will follow later. Must dry off and work a bit.

Interesting Article on Library Budget Problems in the UK

February 5th, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I wasn't going to post again today, but have been following this story with amazement. The local governments here are under a lot of financial pressure, and many libraries have closed. But folks in this part of London took matters into their own hands with amazing results:

It made me think of all the avid library users on SA--and Laura the librarian. It's so awful that libraries are so often first victims of budget cuts. But I like how this story comes out.

London and the Budgetary Lessons

February 5th, 2013 at 09:39 pm

I've done some thinking about how folks spend and save around here.
Because energy is more expensive, there is a lot of emphasis on energy awareness. My homestay students tell me they're always urged to turn down heat, turn off lights, duplex print, etc. None of these are new to anyone, but they are certainly more emphasized.

I've also noticed the increasing emphasis to pay attention to food waste. Because food is a bigger part of people's budget, there are lots of articles and supermarket tips on how to stretch things, particularly meat. Many supermarkets charge for bags. I've also seen lots of articles on how to use up things like the last bit of mustard, dabs of vegetables, etc. As with the energy savings, none of this is new, but it's much more stressed.

That said, the lunch places are jammed and I hardly ever see anyone bringing in a lunch--well, except me.
The student office here, cognizant of the cost for students, has installed a microwave. I'm refilling my travel cup with water regularly. Everyone also seems very aware of the cost of transportation, especially with the huge rise in train fares. It would save me 20 minutes to take the bus to the tube, then the tube the rest of the way. I've discussed this with folks in the office, and virtually everyone moans about it, but takes the bus.

There also seems to be increasing stratification, just like in the US.

Tomorrow's topic? Charity shops!

Busy Week

February 1st, 2013 at 09:48 pm

Now what made me feel like I'd have a relaxing time in London? I'm prepping assignments for three classes, grading three, lecturing two, and squeezing in lots of fun. Wednesday we had our first British Life and Culture class, followed by an absolutely fabulous production of War Horse at the National Theatre. I walked back to my bus stop with a colleague since it was such a gorgeous evening, but didn't get in until after midnight, skyped with family, and finally to bed at 2. And up again at 6:30 to teach two classes that next morning. Brilliant and exciting, but I got some groceries on the way home, admired the fabulous view over London from Muswell Hill, came home and fell asleep on the sofa. Horrible to say, but I spent the gloomy day inside today to get caught up with grading and prep.

Good news? I AM caught up and have assignments ready for the next week. Tomorrow some more exploring and then shopping for my Sunday lunch with friends.

I'm aiming for a better job prepping because the next three Fridays I'll be off on day trips or in Spain. Fabulous? Yep. Busy? Yep!