My Perfect Day

I joined a new team a little while ago. The first meeting we had together the boss did a little getting to know you all session. He asked us all what our perfect day was. Quite a few people said their wedding day, or the day they had their children. I’ve been married twice and divorced just as often, so whilst I had a really nice time on both my wedding days, I definitely wouldn’t say they were my best days ever. The days I had my fabulous children. Er, no. Maybe if I was a father that might be the case. As the woman having to get a child out of my body I would most definitely say I’ve had few worst days, and definitely had better ones. I remember the day I had my youngest my mum came to visit me. She asked me how it was and I just looked at her. “That bad?” she said. “He’s worth it though isn’t he?” “Not yet he isn’t” I replied. Both of them most definitely are worth it now, but the actually giving birth days themselves have to be as far away from perfect as it’s possible to be.

Photo by Jeremy Wong on

It got me thinking about what my perfect day would be. I realised that for me it’s not necessarily about the momentous days, the ones you’re supposed to remember as perfect. In the end I settled on two days that were vying for the title of perfect day. They were both quite different, but had a fair number of common factors. In both of them I was abroad on holiday, the sun was shining (although not all the time) and on both of the days I was spending time with a good friend. I’ll tell you about the first Perfect Day, and maybe I’ll write about the other one another time.

My first version of my perfect day is set in Havana. I had a holiday in Cuba a few years ago. We went to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday. We’d both wanted to go to Cuba for ages, so this seemed like a fitting excuse to finally get over there. We were renting rooms in a Cuban home, under the Casa Particular scheme, which is Cuba’s equivalent of Airbnb. We were staying right in the centre of Havana, and it was like being in a different world. The poverty was overwhelming, but then so was the zest for life evident everywhere. People were playing dominoes out in the street, the bars were full of real characters and everybody wanted to talk to you to share their story and find out about you.

This particular day started with me waking up really early. Even jet lag can have its place in a perfect day. I put my running stuff on and at 5am I quietly let myself out of the big wooden door and into the street. I ran down the hill towards the malecón where people were already out and about getting their days started. I ran along the seafront, passing fishermen, couples strolling hand in hand and plenty of other runners. Even at that time in the morning it was already starting to warm up. Any later and it would have been far to hot for me to contemplate my five mile run. I ran past the capitol building and stopped for a selfie. Well, it would have been rude not to.

Photo by Alex Azabache on

Back at the room I got myself ready for the day ahead, with that feeling of satisfaction you get from having got some miles in your legs before other people have even made it out of bed. We then strolled into the centre of Havana for a fantastic breakfast. Can a perfect day really be perfect without a truly outstanding breakfast? Maybe, but luckily this one had a fantastic one that set us up for the day.

We decided to do an open top bus tour to get our bearings a little bit. The weather was doing that thing where it’s boiling, but rain is threatening. Not just a shower, but that really laugh out loud rain that you only really seem to get abroad. We got on the bus, made our way upstairs and settled down for a tour of Havana. Apparently health and safety is not really a thing in Cuba. Pretty soon we were having to duck for electrical cables, street signs and traffic lights. Then the rain started. Calling it rain doesn’t really do it justice. It was bouncing off the bus and we were immediately soaked to the skin. We were having so much fun that we didn’t go downstairs to the dry. We just laughed our way through the tour. When they got to the outskirts of Havana they were clearly running out of things of historical interest to point out. When they mentioned a supermarket that Fidel Castro used to frequent we pretty much dissolved into hysterics. Maybe you had to be there, but take it from me it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on

By the time we got off the bus the sun was out again and we pretty soon dried out. Then we did one of our favourite things to do on holiday. We like to call in soaking up the atmosphere, but it could look like just walking around looking at buildings, people watching and stopping occasionally for refreshments. There’s certainly plenty to see in Havana. We sat in a little square for a rest. My friend disappeared off for a bit and came back with cake for us both which someone was selling from a cart. It was the best cake ever. And let’s be honest, a perfect day isn’t a perfect day without cake.

Next we took a tour in a classic car that Havana is famous for. I generally view cars as lumps of metal to get me from A to B, but even I could appreciate the glamour of what we were being driven around in. We got dropped off at El Floridita, a bar made famous by Hemingway, and the home of the daiquiri. Even as a non-drinker I had my photo taken with a daiquiri. It just has to be done in Havana, even if you’ve no intention of actually drinking it.

Photo by Dimitri Dim on

By this time we were ready for some dinner. We were walking around looking for a restaurant. Someone approached us to take us to one of the small scale restaurants that have been established in people’s houses. We followed him up a winding staircase and entered a lovely restaurant with a handful of tables. He apologised for the balcony table not being available, but we assured him things were perfect. We were enjoying our drinks. It took them a little while to reconcile themselves to the fact that I wasn’t drinking alcohol, but they made me a virgin cocktail which was delicious. Then the guy who’d brought us in rushed over. He’d noticed that the balcony was now free. He moved us over and we settled ourselves in, making the most of the views of Havana. The lobster we ate was out of this world. Would it have been more perfect if I was there with a partner rather than my gay best friend? You know, I don’t think it would. We have the best holidays and I can’t imagine doing that trip with anyone except him.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

In Havana terms the night was still young, so we walked along the malecón where I’d started my day with my run. We followed the sounds of music, laughter and glasses clinking and found some sort of a festival going on. There were a few tourists there, but mainly it was locals enjoying themselves on a Friday night. We got a drink from one of the outdoor bars and walked around. We got chatting to a group of people and one of the guys offered to teach me to salsa. I love to dance anyway, but when a Cuban offers to teach you to salsa in Havana you snatch their hand off. It really was the perfect end to a perfect day.

June and July Review

I’m going to do a combined June and July review seeing as I hadn’t got around to doing my June post by the time July was ready to get published. What can I say. I’m a summer girl at heart and when the sun shines I’m outside making the most of it rather than being huddled over my laptop.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I used that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.


Mortgage £92,377.27 June £91,885.11 July (£92,869.64)


Cash £34,541.56 June £34,725.71 July (£35,002.04)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £14,026.62 June £14,534.87 July (£13,131.25)

Shares £65,289.39 June £66,050 July(£66,329.57)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £494,511.17 June £495,964.18 July (£495,116.46)

Net Worth including house equity

£494,511.17 – £92,377.27 = £402,133.90 June £495,964.18 -£91,885.11 = £404,079.07 July (£402,246.82)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£14,026.62- £92,377.27 = -£78,350.65 June £14,534.87 – £91,885.11 = -£77,350.24 (-£79,738.39)

I’m reasonably happy with those figures. The work share price is pretty rubbish at the minute, but even so things are all going in the right direction. I’ve still got too much cash sitting there as a bit of a security blanket, but I’m in the process of transferring £6k out of my savings account and putting that into my Vanguard ISA. That will show in my August figures. No doubt I should get rid of even more savings, but for now that’s enough for me. I like having enough easily accessible so that I feel I can deal with unforeseen circumstances. I might move a bit more money around at some point, but for now I’m happy with what I’ve done.

Not much else to say about those figures. As I mentioned in my last blog post I’m a bit bored with thinking about FIRE. I guess it’s probably natural. I’m doing what I need to do to get to where I want to be. I don’t need to think about things too much. I go through spells where I spend far too long looking at my spreadsheets. Once in a blue moon I’ll have a Eureka moment, where I think of a way to work smarter not harder with my finances. Putting extra money into my AVC fund instead of overpaying my mortgage was one such instance. Thinking about how much cash I have on hand is another example, even if my naturally cautious nature means I haven’t gone as full on as I could have done with depleting my savings account and putting more into index trackers.

As I mentioned at the beginning I’ve been making the most of the summer. I love it when the sun shines, so I’ve been dashing out to the garden on my breaks and straight away after work. Yet another benefit on working from home. Although I don’t feel like I’ve been particularly productive, I have managed to tick a few things off my 60 for 60 list. I’ve also amended it a bit; replacing a few slightly dull activities with more adventurous ones. I’ll write a post at some point with an updated list and a bit of chat about how I’ve found the things that I have got done.

I’m just coming to the end of my two week holiday. I’ve managed a slightly more normal holiday than last year, but still far from what I would have planned. I managed to get away camping in the north of Scotland, back to one of my favourite camp sites. I could only get three nights booked, but it was great to get away and enjoy the fantastic views. I also visited my folks and made the most of parkrun having restarted in England. I got myself to Hexham for a fabulous riverside parkrun which was lovely and flat. I also met up with my brother and sister and we walked a mammoth 26 miles around Kielder reservoir. That’s the furthest I’ve ever walked, and I was completely exhausted by the end. The sense of achievement was incredible though. It’s been a good summer of walking for me. I climbed The Cheviot, the highest peak in Northumberland and also walked a stretch of Hadrians Wall. Next weekend will see me back down south and climbing Scafell Pike. I’m definitely getting some good things ticked off my 60 for 60 list.

Photo by JACK REDGATE on

It’s back to work on Monday and I’m already dreading getting back in the swing of things. As usual my time off has made me reflect on what my life will look like when I do finally achieve FIRE. I’m hopeful that there’ll be lots of running and walking in there and plenty of travel too. I’ve noticed that lots of the conversations I have with my friends eventually come round to retirement and what our plans are. I don’t think it’s usually me that brings it up, so I guess I must just be of that age where my friends are making plans hopefully to stop working in the next decade or so. It will be nice to have other people retired so that I have some people to hang out with during the week. Much as I enjoy my own company it’s good to have people to share the fun with.

Unusually I didn’t set myself any goals to achieve on my last post. Making the most of the summer seemed more important. I still feel like that, but I do have the Great North Run coming up in September, so I really need to focus on that. Let’s hope some goals around that will be useful. Here goes then.

  • Do at least one 13 mile training run. I’m already up to ten miles, so this should be an easy one. Training plans don’t usually recommend that you do the full distance in training, but I’m a rebel and always like to know I’ve done the full amount before the big day.
  • Get down to ten and a half stone. I was doing great with my eating and my weight was more or less where I wanted it to be. After two weeks off work that’s definitely no longer the case. I’ve not even got on the scales, and have no intention of doing that before Monday morning. Come Monday though I need to be on it healthy eating wise.
  • Get at least seven and a half hours sleep a night at least five nights a week. Sleep is always important, but never more so than when you’re in training. I’ve been a bit bad with this for a while now, so it’s time to sort that out.
  • Climb Scafell Pike.
Photo by James Wheeler on

I think that is plenty to be getting on with. I’ll focus on my health for a bit and reintroduce some good habits. All in all things are ticking along quite nicely. I’m having a lovely holiday, even if I do seem to have spent a fair bit of it getting stuff done, like booking dentist appointments and cleaning the house. That’s always the danger with a staycation. It has given me the time to make some plans though and I can’t tell you how much I loved getting back to parkrun. Only a week to go until it restarts in Scotland and then I can get my Saturday morning fix on a regular basis.