Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Best Things in Life and Other Pretty Wish Ponies

We all know that the best things in life are free.

Of course, if you get stuff for free (air/education/unconditional love), these tend to be the things that you vastly under-appreciate. It does take a moment of centring to properly reflect on just how lucky we are. I've got a lovely life, and though I do get sad at not being able to share my news with my mom, or incredibly frustrated at the crappy news on the telly, I'm still pretty jammy.

But let's keep all the philosophical rainbows for the end when you've stopped reading.

I want to tell you about all the good free stuff I've enjoyed this week. Stuff you could probably put a monetary value to. But if you are hoping I am going to start rubbishing free stuff that is beyond price, please do stick around for the philosophical rainbows. You need them.

First of all, I would like to recommend a listening thing to you: a rather wonderful podcast by the fantasy writer Emma Newman called Tea and Jeopardy in which she interviews different writers each week in her secret tea lair, offers them cake, and then puts them in a spot of mild peril while her slightly psychotic 'butler' makes amusing quips. With a rather busy and stressful week, I tell you this podcast has kept me sane. It's interesting and funny and well worth a listen.

Secondly, a thing to go and see...

You can go and see Richard III - A Facial Reconstruction at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. It's there on loan until 5th January 2014. OH and I went to the private view, which had a grand unveiling and an introduction by Dr Phillip stone, Chairman of Richard III Society. There was free wine, which OH enjoyed (I had a lovely orange juice) and while we gathered downstairs, a lady played some Michael Nyman tunes on a baby grand. We bumped into current Bard of Northampton, Peter James Norman, who was telling us about his Northampton Castle film project, which sounds really exciting.

This was the crowd gathered about the unveiled head.

OH had a whale of a time discussing sword fighting and conspiracy theories. I was fascinated by how the head was made using a 3D printer, and by finding an angle to stand at for his eyes to look normal (you have to be below him; he's then looking down his nose at you, rather aptly).

On further examination, Richard III does not appear to be related to my husband.

My friend Tamsyn commented, "A sword up the backside, wasn't it?"

And it would have been a very frugal and free evening, but the night was young and the pubs were still open when we left the museum... damn!

To enjoy free, fun things going on does involve a bit of organisation. My Saturday was a brilliant day of pampering frugalness.

First of all, I headed to town to enjoy a wonderful Clarins Spa "Face and Eyes Refresher" facial. It was absolutely wonderful! I felt sooo chilled out at the end of it. It was a 45 minute session targeting "signs of tiredness and stress", and oh boy did it work. I won that session from a competition in a brochure at the centre that I completed earlier in the year (- it's well worth doing these competitions, so long as it doesn't cost you to enter. You have to be in it to win it! I was organised in that I made sure I didn't have to use any postage and handed my entry in at the centre office). The session would normally have cost £38, and now I know what it can do, I would say save up for a special treat for one of those as they are great. I also got a lot of free samples of the products used so I can replicate some of what they did at home. Yippee!

Then I had to undo a bit of the work by getting back on the bus and trying to find the Royal Mail depot in the back of beyond where they'd sent a parcel. I could have paid £1.50 to have it delivered more locally, but I'm glad I didn't as it was only my Cokezone Rewards gift (there was a football in the pack so it didn't fit through the letterbox). I'd have been annoyed at paying for something free to be delivered. The only thing was, I didn't realise the depot didn't sell postage, and I had a manuscript with me to send off. So that missed last post as I then had to travel back to Northampton. Grr!

Good thing then, that I had a voucher on me for a free Sprite from Subway - I jolly well needed it by then!

Good job, too, that I decided to replace my makeup that I broke while I was back in town, as I'd forgotten I'd arranged to go to a charity dinner in the evening. There I was in my walking boots and thick jumper, when OH said, "You'd better start getting ready, we're being picked up in ten minutes. Why am I wearing a suit? It's black tie!" Eeek!

But I have been going au naturel and wasn't bothered at all. I had just chosen then to replace my makeup to take advantage of a promotion to get extra makeup stuff that was on offer. So I got twice the makeup for my money, and didn't buy anything that I wouldn't have intended to. It's stuff that suits me, doesn't make my skin flare up, and is low-market price, so all good.

...and on the bus, I was reading my free book, Dream London by Tony Ballantyne. Jolly good it is too.

And as we are about to have another huge financial obligation (not a bad thing) impose on our budgetary  plans, it's going to be all the more important to enjoy ourselves and appreciate the time we have together, without reaching into our pockets too deeply to fund it. For example, tomorrow, we intend to see World War Z for 'free' at the Picturedrome. It will be necessary to buy a drink, but we don't have to go mad. Let's not do a Richard IV...

Of course, being frugal can mean different things to lots of people, but essentially it's about not being wasteful with resources, time, and especially money. I don't see anything wrong with 'supporting' local businesses, especially independent ones. They keep your local economy going. And it's worth investing time -  your bum on a seat - to keep the cool things you love happening in your town going. Sometimes, it's worth balancing what you can get for your buck, with the investment that buck is making into creating more stuff. and that's why I am not totally averse to spending money if I have it on things that I don't necessarily 'need'. Heck, a lot of the time, that's just not possible.

Books are a prime example. I have access to a lot of free books through my work, and through the library. I've been thinking more lately about how I support the creators when I do spend money on books. And I have been thinking about it more since my discussion with writer Juliet E. Mckenna on her blog. Because of that discussion, I have decided to remove my Amazon Associates widget from this blog. It doesn't seem right to have any click-throughs support a selling behemoth that is not really helping readers to discover the fantastic writers out there. However, I am hoping to do my bit to help with a 'bums on seats' initiative that I am thinking through at the moment, and will hopefully be able to shout about soon.

EDIT: the best things in life really are free though. Like the time to write this blog! I'm having such a chilled Sunday - it's wonderful! Going to spend some time with my hubby later watching films, eating roast chicken, maybe make some scones to be consumed with blackberry jam. What could be better than that?

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