May 2022

I’ve been a bit lazy and didn’t do an April review. With the markets as they were I just couldn’t be bothered. I did update my spreadsheets, but never quite found the motivation to put out a post. I’m just going to skip straight to May’s review and take it from there. The figures in brackets are from March.

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 use 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.

Debts

Mortgage £87,006.60 (£87,933.02)

Assets

Cash £24,780.48 (£27,468.16)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £19,912.26 (£19,416.17)

Shares £82,037.05 (£79,431.87)  

House £278,089 (£278,089) 

Total £542,404.79 (£541,991.20)

Net Worth including house equity

£542,404.79 – £87,006.60 = £455,398.19 (£454,058.18)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£19,912.26 – £87,006.60 = -£67,094.34 (-£68,516.85)

It’s all a bit depressing really. I’m trying to tell myself the markets are just on sale, but I’m not sure I’m really managing to convince myself. My cash amount is down a bit as I got some dividends from my work shares. I took this as cash and added some money from my savings to put into my index trackers. I hit £50k in my Vanguard account at the end of May for the first time. Of course it’s since ducked under again, but it was still nice to hit that figure. Considering it doesn’t seem that long ago that I stuck £600 in of dividend money just to test the waters. My plan is still to get rid of more of my work shares, but I’ll do it gradually.

So my overall figures are up, but considering this covers a two month period and I’m putting in as much as I can it’s not the most heartening of reads. It’s not impacting my strategy though. And in fact I have just increased my AVC pension contributions again. I’ll keep plugging away and hope that by the time I come to retire I’ll have squirrelled enough away to have a fun retirement, and hopefully be able to go a bit earlier than I would have if I hadn’t discovered FIRE. I need to remember that I’m looking at a worse case scenario of retiring at 60 on more disposable income than I’m living on now. Before I’m not sure I could have ever really fully retired. So that has to be a win.

I’ve got my five year fixed rate mortgage up and running now. I was sad to say goodbye to my staff base rate tracker mortgage, but the time was right for some peace of mind with rates as they are at the moment. It was the right decision for me, no matter what happens to interest rates. You can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep.

I seem to have become a bit of a spendy pants recently. I seem to be saying yes to everything that’s suggested. I’ve barely got a weekend with nothing happening between now and the end of the summer. That’s unheard of for me, but I’m really enjoying making up for lost time. Saying that, I’m still trying to do things as cheaply as possible and I still haven’t ventured abroad. I’ve even slightly curtailed my parkrun tourism. It’s difficult to justify a 2 hour plus round trip for a 30 minute run when there’s one a mile from my house. I am however getting very good at combining trips to fit in multiple activities to make the most of the astronomical petrol costs.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It seems like a long time ago, but here are the goals I was working for in March.

  • Finish Duolingo Unit 6 of the Spanish tree. PASS. Delighted to get this one done and I’m working my way through unit 7 now, which I should hopefully get done by the end of the year.
  • Read the Spanish Intermediate short stories book that I’ve bought FAIL I’ve not even picked this up. I think it’s a bit too difficult for me which is putting me off. Must do better.
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY PASS. I am about 75 episodes into this. It’s total trash, but it’s pretty much my go to if I have a spare 45 minutes and fancy watching a bit of telly.
  • Reach 100 parkruns. PASS. I’m so happy about this one. I’m wearing my 100 tshirt with pride
  • Book a trip to Alton Towers for the summer PASS. This is all booked and we’re off there next week.

I’ve managed to tick off a few things from my 60 for 60 list as well. (I did say I was saying yes to things!) I’ll do a post on that later in the summer as I’ve got a couple more things coming up soon that are on my list. The main one is the marathon I’ve just recently completed. I’m so chuffed with that, even though it was incredibly tough. And there’s not long till my ultra marathon, so I just need to get my legs sufficiently recovered to be able to manage those 34 miles.

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

As I have so much going on running wise just now I’m not going to set myself any goals for June. I need to get myself to the start line of the ultra fully recovered from the marathon, injury free and believing that I can complete the route. I know what I need to do, I just need to put my big girls pants on and get it done.

March 2022. Warning, there was lots of running and not much else.

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 use 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.

Debts

Mortgage £87,933.02 (£88,443,23)

Assets

Cash £27,468.16 (£26,496.43)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £19,416.17 (£17,360.11)

Shares £79,431.87 (£75,798.37)  

House £278,089 (£278,089) 

Total £541,991.20 (£535,329.91)

Net Worth including house equity

£541,991.20 – £87,933.02 = £454,058.18 (£446,886.68)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£19,416.17 – £87,933.02 = -£68,516.85 (-£-71,083.12)

The figures are pretty consistently better than last month. It’s nice to see a bit of a bounce back in the markets. I’ve got a bit more cash as a result of my annual bonus, although I’ve spent that already on car expenses this month. Not very exciting, but at least I didn’t have to dip into my savings to cover the cost. It’s great to see my AVC’s doing a bit better. I’m putting a decent chunk of my salary into those, so it’s good to start to see them grow a bit. It will be nice to get my net worth including the house to half a million. I imagine I’ve got a while to go with that depending on what happens to house prices. It’s a bit of an arbitrary one as I’ve no intention of selling my house any time soon.

I do worry a bit that I’m spending more than I should be. I’m putting a good amount in investments each month, but that doesn’t leave an awful lot over for fun stuff. Nevetheless I do seem to be having plenty of trips away. I’m working on the assumption that I should say yes to things as none of us know how long we’ve got on this planet. It’s all well and good saving for the future you, but you also have to take care of current you as well. I guess if that means I’m using up some of my savings then I can probably live with that. I still have far too much cash sitting there anyway, so using it for trips down to Cambridge to drop my son off and visiting far flung parkruns is probably a pretty good use for it.

Let’s have a look at the goals I set myself for March now.

  • Follow marathon training plan PASS This is most definitely my priority just now. The rest of my life is having to fit around my training plan.
  • Follow ultra training plan PASS I still can’t quite imagine how I’m going to make it around 55km, but I’m following the plan and there’s still plenty of time to go.
  • Complete half marathon race I did the Alloa half marathon which was a gorgeous one. The villages we ran through were a bit on the scruffy side, but the views of the hills more than made up for it. I was chuffed with my time too. 2.08 hours and I felt pretty strong. I didn’t even totally hate the killer hill at 11 miles.
  • Trip to Ipswich to do parkrun (sorry I mean to collect my son from university, even if Ipswich is 50 miles in the wrong direction. That is absolutely nothing to do with needing an I for the parkrun alphabet challenge!) PASS Dad and I had a lovely trip to Ipswich, bagged an I for our challenge and spent some quality dad and daughter time. We even remembered to go and collect my son. Result.
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY PASS I’m still enjoying this, understanding a fair amount and not finding it a chore to watch it. The only problem is making the time with all this running that I’m doing.
  • Set up retire at 55 spreadsheet FAIL As this was a goal for February too then I think it’s safe to say I’m not all that fussed about getting this done. And let’s be honest there’s no great rush. Chances of my retiring at 55 are slim to non existent. No doubt one rainy afternoon I’ll get around to setting this up, but for now I’m going to stop setting it as a goal.

A pretty good month one way and another. I’m doing absolutely loads of running and walking. I’m managing to get the miles in one way or another. Really it’s finding the time that’s the most difficult thing. This working for a living really gets in the way of my training. I can just about manage it if there’s not too much else going on, but try and fit in a bit of a social life and it gets pretty difficult. So this weekend dad came to stay for a night for yet another parkrun related adventure. Not long after he arrived I finished work and then promptly had to go out for a 9 mile run. And next week I need to do a 14 mile run before driving to Newcastle for yet another parkrun/uni dropping off road trip. We’ll not even talk about the day after the Alloa half marathon where I’d booked a day off work to recover and realised that was the only day that week I would have time for my long run, so had to go out and run 18 miles.

The training period for the marathon has had to be extended as well. I was due to do the Stirling Marathon in May, but they’ve just cancelled it. They’re saying it’s because there weren’t sufficient numbers signed up, but that doesn’t seem all that likely. They postponed back in October too, so this is the second time I’ve been training for this marathon that’s not going ahead. There’s no way I wanted to have to start afresh for another race later in the year, so I’ve signed up for another marathon a month later than the original one. It’s in Perthshire and should be beautiful, if somewhat hilly with 1500 ft of ascent. I’d better get hill training!

Time to set some goals for April then. It goes without saying that I need to keep plugging away at my marathon and ultra training plans. Keeping that in mind I’m not going to set myself much else to do. I’ve got to be realistic about how much time I’ve got.

  • Finish Duolingo Unit 6 of the Spanish tree. As long as I’m consistent on this one then I should be fine. I’ve worked out what I need to do every day, so I just need to stick to that
  • Read the Spanish Intermediate short stories book that I’ve bought. I’ve already read the Beginners one, so hopefully I’ll cope with this one just as well
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY
  • Reach 100 parkruns. I’m very excited about this one. I’m almost there. Helped by the fact that I’ve gone on a secondment and so am not working Saturdays for the next few months.
  • Book a trip to Alton Towers for the summer. I really want to book some family time in whilst my offspring are still happy to spend time with me
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

That’s plenty to be getting on with along with all the running that I need to be doing. All in all it’s not been a bad March, and it’s great to be seeing the signs of the summer to come. We’ll just have to ignore the snow and hailstorms that randomly keep appearing between the sunny spells!

February Review

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 use 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.

Debts

Mortgage £88,443,23 (£88,933.02)

Assets

Cash £26,496.43 (£26,841.91)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £17,360.11 (£18,132.06)

Shares £75,798.37 (£82,111.70)  

House £278,089 (£269,000) 

Total £535,329.91 (£533,671.67)

Net Worth including house equity

£535,329.91 – £88,443.23 = £446,886.68 (£444,738.65)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£17,360.11 – £88,443.23 = -£-71,083.12 (-£70,800.96)

We all know the markets are down. The world is going to hell in a handcart and there’s not much we can do about it. Apart from some minor adjustment to my strategy, which I’ll talk about in a moment, I’m just carrying on the same as always. Yes my shares are down, but then that’s the same for everybody. I’m still putting money in each month to investments, so no change there. The one good thing about the state of the markets is that it seems to have cured me of my daily habit of checking my Vanguard account. It used to be my treat to myself after work. It’s more trick than treat now, so funnily enough I’ve not checked it for weeks!

Based on recent Bank of England base rate increases, including yet another one yesterday, I was starting to get a bit jittering being on a tracker mortgage. Yes, it tracks the base rate exactly, so for a long time I was only paying 0.1% It’s hard to argue with that. We now have an alternative staff mortgage which is a discounted fixed rate. If you go over to that you can never revert back to the base rate tracker. I absolutely love my  tracker mortgage, but this month I bit the bullet and moved over to the discounted fixed rate. I’ve tied in to a 5 year fixed rate at 1.49% Considering the base rate is already up to 0.75% I’m more and more convinced I’ve done the right thing. There’s no way I’ll be in a position to pay my mortgage off before the five years is up (I wish!) so I reckon it’s a good call. I feel like I’ve future proofed my mortgage nicely there and it will help me sleep at night without worrying about future rate rises.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

As a result of that application I found out the index valuation for my property rather than relying on the Zoopla estimates that I’ve been using up till now. Not that an index val is necessarily all that accurate, but I’m happy to go with the higher figure. As my plan is to use the cash lump sum from my AVC fund to repay my mortgage when I retire I have slightly increased the amount of AVC’s I’m putting in each month. I can’t really afford an increase, but I’m sure I’ll manage somehow, I always do!

Not much else to say really. The figures are rubbish, but in the grand scheme of things there’s more important things happening in the world. At least I’m not getting bombed, so I’m counting my blessings. I’m readjusting my mindset to a potentially slighter later retirement age. I was thinking 58 was definitely possible, with 57 being potentially achievable with a following wind. I’m now thinking that maybe I should pace myself for retiring at 60, and if I can go earlier then fantastic. I think if I have the expectation of going at 57 and then I have to work an extra 3 years then that will feel awful. Much better to over achieve I think rather than grumping my way through an extra three years of work that I didn’t think I was going to have to do.

Without further ado let’s move on to how I did in February against the goals that I set myself.

  • Continue to follow my marathon training plan PASS I’m now half way through the plan and although I’m slow as anything I’ve done all the miles that I’m supposed to up to this point
  • Find an ultra training plan and figure out how to combine this with the marathon plan PASS I’ve found a plan with the best name in the history of the world. It’s the couch to 50k plan. My race is 55k, so I need to tweak it slightly, but I’ve started already and so far am managing to combine the marathon and ultra training
  • Walk at least once a week PASS I’m doing twice a week. Once for 90 minutes and one for just under an hour. This is not a chore, I absolutely love it. Particularly nice now the nights are getting a bit lighter
  • Do 2 lessons a day on Duolingo Spanish PASS I’m doing great with this. I’m really enjoying it and feel that I’m definitely making some progress
  • Watch at least 4 episodes a week of Betty en NY in Spanish PASS I actually watched more than this. This has become my go to boxset. Crucially I don’t have an English language boxset on the go, so if I fancy some down time watching telly I just stick this on.
  • Finish setting up spreadsheets with alternative retirement dates and how much I need to have in investments (Finally a FIRE goal, yay!) ALMOST! I’ve done up to retiring at 56. I’ve still got the retire at 55 spreadsheet to do, but quite honestly that is such a fantasy spreadsheet that it’s barely worth doing. I’ll get around to it at some point, but honestly there’s no rush
  • Go to the cinema and watch The Godfather (It’s always good to have a fun goal, and considering how much I love this film I have to take advantage of it being on the big screen for an anniversary showing) PASS And I even saw the second one at the cinema too. I didn’t manage to make it there for the third one, but it was fabulous to be back at the cinema

Reading that back I’m pretty chuffed with myself. I’ve worked hard this month. I do feel that I’ve pretty much just worked, run, done Spanish and slept. My house is chaotic, I’m constantly chasing my tail and despite getting to bed early I feel like I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m doing it though. I’m on track with my training plans and as long as I can stay injury free I should be good to go with both the marathon and ultra.

There’s not much time in my life for much except work and running just now. My goals for March are going to reflect that, so they’ll be very similar to last month’s

  • Follow marathon training plan
  • Follow ultra training plan
  • Complete half marathon race
  • Trip to Ipswich to do parkrun (sorry I mean to collect my son from university, even if Ipswich is 50 miles in the wrong direction. That is absolutely nothing to do with needing an I for the parkrun alphabet challenge!)
  • Watch 16 episodes of Betty en NY
  • Set up retire at 55 spreadsheet
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

That’s more than enough to be getting on with. There are only so many hours in the day after all. 2022 seems to be turning into the year for running. I’ll focus on that, get some of my 60 for 60 goals ticked off and then turn my attention to other things next year. I probably need to stop entering so many races though. It’s starting to get beyond ridiculous. I’m sure there’s worse hobbies to have though.

January 2022. Running, Eating, Spanish and some FIRE Stuff

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 use 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.

Debts

Mortgage £88,933.02 (£89,423.23)

Assets

Cash £26,841.91 (£27,620.56)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s  £18,132.06 (£18,246.40)

Shares £82,111.70 (£82,183.43)  

House £269,000 (£269,000) 

Total £533,671.67 (£534,636.39)

Net Worth including house equity

£533,671.67 – £88.933.02 = £444,738.65 (£445,213.16)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£18,132.06 – £88,933.02 = -£70,800.96 (-£71,176.83)

Cash is down a bit yet again. Life seems to be very expensive at the minute. Car repairs, insurances, trips away, lots of petrol for yet another big long trip to Cambridge to drop off uni boy. You know what though? Life is for living. The car repairs I could do without, but the trip to Cambridge was brilliant and the more things like that I can do the better. I’m not frittering money away on nonsense. I’m spending money on things that I need or experiences that I want. I’m not breaking the bank and I still have plenty in savings, so I’m not going to worry too much. Not very FIRE of me, but what the hell!

Photo by Aleksandr Neplokhov on Pexels.com

Considering the state of the markets just now I’m fairly happy with my investment figures. Down very slightly despite me having paid another month’s worth of money in, but it could be a lot worse. Given the recent Bank of England base rate announcements I’m slightly jittery about the amount of mortgage debt I have. I’m sticking with my decision to barely overpay my mortgage and stick the money into my AVC fund instead. Unless interest rates get ridiculous I’m happy this is the right route for me. Time will tell I guess.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

January has gone fairly well. Mum and dad came up to stay for a week which was lovely but quite full on. I was working, but we managed to get plenty of walks and talks in. I’ve lived on my own (well with the kids) for so long I find it quite exhausting having other people in the house. It’s made me realise how much I value my own company and time to myself. Saying that we did have a great time and it was lovely to spend time with them.

I’m well in the swing of half and full marathon training now. In terms of the number of weeks I need to complete on my marathon training plan I am now a quarter of the way through. Of course the miles really ramp up the further you get through the plan. In a moment of rash confidence I have signed up for an ultra marathon in the summer. An ultra is anything longer than a marathon, in this case 55km or 34 miles. Having said last year that I thought I should stop doing the longer races as I kept getting injured, I now have 2 halves, 1 full and 1 ultra marathon race this year.

Doing a full marathon and an ultra is on my 60 for 60 list, so it’s not completely come from nowhere. My thinking was if I was training for a marathon then I might as well combine that with training for an ultra. Having signed up I’m not quite sure how compatible the training is going to be. In an ultra the idea is that you cover the miles as efficiently as possible. So you walk the hills and run the flats and downhills. You also eat as you go, so I need to practice fuelling on the go. How bad can it be??? I go from complete and utter exhilaration at the thought to total terror at getting lost in the woods and never being seen again.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

I didn’t set specific goals for January, but this is what I wanted to work on.

‘A trip to Cambridge, start my marathon training plan and get my eating sorted and my weight back to  where it usually is. I also want to finish unit 6 of the Spanish Duolingo course.’

I had a great trip to Cambridge and I am well in the swing of my marathon training. The eating is a little bit all over the place. I’m doing a bit better now, but it’s not been great. My weight has fluctuated quite a bit. I started HRT this month, so I’m going to go with that’s the reason. I’m not quite sure it is, but it’s possible I guess. Either way we’re mid February now and I’m less than half a stone from my ideal weight. I’m trying not to focus on that too much. I want to eat for my health and not for my weight. Saying that I really don’t want to be dragging excess weight around with me when I’m running long distances. I’m working hard on my Duolingo Spanish. I don’t know what I was thinking saying I could finish unit 6. Getting unit 6 and 7 is realistic by the end of the year, so unit 6 is going to take me a while. I’m enjoying it though and still feel that I’m making some steady progress.

For February I don’t think it’s going to be a massive surprise that running features quite a lot. Here’s what I want to work on

  • Continue to follow my marathon training plan
  • Find an ultra training plan and figure out how to combine this with the marathon plan
  • Walk at least once a week
  • Do 2 lessons a day on Duolingo Spanish
  • Watch at least 4 episodes a week of Betty en NY in Spanish.
  • Finish setting up spreadsheets with alternative retirement dates and how much I need to have in investments (Finally a FIRE goal, yay!)
  • Go to the cinema and watch The Godfather (It’s always good to have a fun goal, and considering how much I love this film I have to take advantage of it being on the big screen for an anniversary showing)

That’s plenty for me to get cracking with in February. Work is busy with lots of new things for me to learn there. Managing work, getting my runs in, not eating too much rubbish and getting plenty of sleep . If I manage all of that then I’ll be happy.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

A Constant Striving For Improvement

I recently watched Eliud Kipchoge breaking the 2 hour mark for the marathon. It was an incredible thing to see. I stood in my lounge shouting encouragement and crying when he achieved his dream. The physical aspect of it is totally amazing. I was delighted when I managed to break the 2 hour mark for a half marathon, so the fact that he’s done that for a full marathon completely blows my mind. He clearly has a remarkable talent. The conditions were just right for him, with everything from the location, the pacers, his shoes and his fuelling all controlled as closely as possible. Ultimately though it was down to him. His belief that he could do it this time and pushing through the pain to succeed in his goal.

Listening to the commentators, they were talking about some of the things that make him such a great athlete. Clearly he has the innate talent to make him an incredible runner. That’s not enough though. He had a tough start in life, with hardship being an expected part of his life. Even now in his training camp the mantra is “run, eat, sleep, repeat.” That’s what’s needed to be the best. Even if I had the talent I don’t think that life would be for me. There’s too many things I want to achieve in my life to focus exclusively on one thing.

Apparently Eliud is a big believer in reading self-help books. He likes to think deeply about things and then applies this to his running. He doesn’t have a mental coach, which is a bit unusual for a top athlete, but rather he likes to read and apply what he’s learned to his sport. I must admit that I’m a big fan of books that help me to improve myself. I like to read books about setting and achieving goals and how to make changes to my life. Some of these types of books are a bit too pie in the sky for me, but as long as they’re offering practical advice that I can see how to implement in my own ife then I’m in.

The Need To Take Action

Of course the danger with these types of books is that you just read endlessly, nod sagely and do nothing about implementing the changes that are needed to change your life. I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past, and although I do take action nowadays, I’m sure I could be doing more and making grander changes to get me to where I want to be much quicker. I think the key is to read enough to galvanise you into action, but not to spend all your time setting goals and reading about how to achieve them, rather than actually doing something about bringing about the change you want to see.

I like to think that I’m pretty good at reaching my goals once I’ve set my mind to them. For me the difficult thing is working out what I want to do in the first place. I have a spreadsheet set up with goals for the different aspects of my life. So I have separate tabs for health, running, work, learning, money and the house. The danger is that this just turns in to a massive To Do list. As long as these are all steps along the way to reaching an overarching goal, then that’s good, but sometimes these feel as though they are a little unconnected.

Streaking Is a Wonderful Thing!

Something I’m really enjoying working on at the moment is improving my Spanish. I’m currently on a 143 day streak on Duolingo. I work on this twice a day, going through the tree and listening to the stories and podcasts. This is something that I love doing. I like to feel that I’m learning new things and improving my skills. But how is this going to help me in my life? I’m not planning on using it in my job and I don’t even have a holiday planned where it would come in useful. I suppose it’s possible that at some point in the future I might move back to Spain so keeping up with my Spanish keeps that open as an option for me. I’m not sure if that’s really why I’m doing it though. It’s fine if I’m just doing it for fun, but I didn’t really plan to spend so much time on this, I just started and got really into it.

Coding Is Messing With My Mind

Something new that I’ve started working on is coding. Again, it’s not something that I’ve consciously planned to do, but I suppose it was in the back of my mind. You know when opportunities just seem to present themselves and everything seems to come together almost as if it was meant to be. The kids are both into their coding, with one of them in the midst of building a game for his Computing project as part of his Higher course. The other kid wants to do this as a living, so there is a decent amount of computing/coding chat around the house. It’s maybe inevitable then that it would be on my radar at some level.

At work we have the opportunity to give back to the community with a day off work to volunteer. Most people go and do gardening or painting or something similar. In the past I’ve done that, but last year I went into a school to talk to the students about managing their money. It was a bit nerve racking, but I really enjoyed it. Don’t even get me started on how little so many of the kids knew about basic budgeting, saving and borrowing. Anyway this year I’ve been holding off on using my day looking for another interesting opportunity.

Finally a project was advertised to go in to schools to help kids with coding projects. It said it was suitable for complete beginners as the idea was you would work through the project first of all yourself and then guide the kids through it. The idea terrified me, so that immediately told me it was a great idea for me to apply for it. I’m going for my induction shortly to get all my vetting done and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in.

Meanwhile posters appeared where I work about drop in sessions to learn how to code. They will be once a week and you work away yourself on the freeCodeCamp website, but there’s someone there to talk things through with. Again I was terrified, so again a good reason to go along. Sometimes things just seem to come together and you just have to go with the flow. Probably if I hadn’t gone for the volunteering opportunity to teach the kids how to code then I wouldn’t have even noticed the drop in sessions that were on offer.

So I’ve been to that first coding session and to say I was bamboozled to start with would be the understatement of the century. I think I probably already knew that I would find it hard, but that’s no reason to give up. I worked away during my hour’s lunch break and made some progress. I then got home that night and worked away some more, this time with the assistance of my home grown computer experts. I’m on holiday this week, so that’s given me some time for some more practicing. It’s hard, but I’m really enjoying it. When the penny drops on a particular part and I get something to work I’m so pleased with myself.

So for now my plan is to keep working away at the free Code Camp curriculum. I’ve started with html and seem to be managing that without too many issues (well, you know, a bit of tearing out of my hair, but I’m getting there). I’ll just keep plugging away, use my lunch break once a week to go to the drop in sessions and keep practicing at home. Hopefully my vetting will come through quite quickly for getting in to the schools and I’ll manage to help the kids with some of the projects. Who knows where all this will lead? Not me anyway. Will this lead to a change in career? I have my doubts, but I suppose it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. The fact of the matter is though that I’m learning new things, expanding my horizons and peering into the future to see what might be possible. If I don’t try then I won’t know what I can do.

Get Out Of That Comfort Zone

I’m shocking at dealing with change. I retreat into myself and try and resist at all costs. Ironically though I get bored if things don’t change often enough. Although I want things to remain constant, I get incredibly frustrated when they do. I really need to force myself out of my comfort zone. Learning is what sustains me. I’ve always loved learning new things. Ideally I would be a student or on a training course for the rest of my life. Probably not the most practical plan, but lifelong learning is definitely the way to go for me.

This is partly down to loving learning, but also because I always want to be improving myself. I always feel that I have so much more potential than I’ve ever come close to achieving. It seems to me that there should be a switch inside myself that I could just put on that means I would understand so much more about the world. I know this switch doesn’t exist, but I sometimes feel that I’m so close to understanding things, but I just can’t get my head around them. Although I studied sciences up to O level, I’m much more on the social sciences side of things. I love language and my brain really struggles with the maths side of things. I do feel though that if I could just understand some basic maths concepts then lots more things would become clear to me.

It just so happens that I have two maths and science fiends living in my house with me. Both of them have those sorts of brains that revel in maths and science. One wants to study maths at university and the other computing.  I know all parents think their children are amazing, and I’m no exception, but just from an objective point of view my kids are good at this sort of stuff. Both of them have taken exams a year early and sailed through them and one of them is trying to get in to Cambridge to study maths. The other one wants to study computing, and would aim for Cambridge too but unless tuition fees get abolished he’s going to stay in Scotland (clearly my FIRE rantings have had some effect!) I have to say I can take absolutely no credit for the brains on these two. I’m not exactly dragging my knuckles on the ground, but I’m not in the same league as them. What can I say, clever men are my thing, which means you get clever kids when you procreate.

It would be ridiculous not to make use of these live in maths brains to get them to help me to understand some of this stuff. They won’t be living at home forever, so I might as well make the most of it now. So one of them is teaching me some algebra. I don’t quite know how this started, but suddenly I was solving equations on the blackboard. My house is a bit random in that we have blackboards around the place and both of them have a blackboard wall in their bedrooms.

One day I was walking home from work thinking about how big a pot I needed to accrue so that using the safe withdrawal rate I would have enough to top up my defined benefits pension. My sociology brain somehow realised that algebra would be able to help me with this. I burst through the door and got one of the kids to sit down with me and point me in the right direction to figure it out. I was insanely pleased with myself, and this has become a bit of a regular thing over the last week or so.

Part of this is that I just want to know how to do this stuff. To some people it just seems so easy, and I want it to be like that for me. Sadly it’s not, well not yet anyway. The other part is that I want my kids to be proud of me. I’m not saying that I’m some dummy, or even that intelligence is the only important thing in life, but I really want to be the best that I can be. What is it that they say? You are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with? Something like that anyway. Well at least two of those people are my kids, and they are pretty incredible, and I want to be like that too. They’re still only teenagers and yet they are so interested in learning things. I really don’t feel like I can have any credibility in the house if I’m not striving to improve. I realise that I should be the role model to my kids, and not the other way round, but honestly if I could be half as clever and interesting as they are then I’d be more than satisfied with myself.