Thursday, 1 September 2022

FI61.06 - Hot

I want to hang out more with my dearest friends the polar bears. Instead I am stuck with the fire breathing equatorial heat monkeys. I go bonkers in temperatures over 25C, and with the recent weeks being well over 30C several days in a row, I go positively stupid. 

I don’t like being stupid. I am not used to it.

I have to get used to it, this is the new weather in the summer.

When I lived in Latin America, I got ‘used’ to it. When in Greece, not so much.
The difference is if life is flexible or corporate.
didn't expect life in the Netherlands to approach the Mediterranean.
Adjusting to reality or just forcing the day through regardless of circumstances.

Years ago we talked about moving to Portugal, and that I am happy that we did not go through with that.

Spending has been low in the heat waves. But I did order myself a new set of underwear so that I can start kicking out the really worn stuff. When the summer season is over, and we move back into the winter house more permanently in mid October, I plan to have a good go-through of all clothes. I will want to see what is garden-clothes only and what is actually worn out. I want to see what I actually do not wear any more and what needs replacement either by sewing myself or - horrors of horrors - need to purchase.

The financial markets are currently continuing to drop and there is some mental adjustments that will need to be done. Repeating to myself, "there is enough money, you just need to be cautious" over and over. 

My current Financial independence number is 61.06 and the current assets as they currently stand will last me somewhat over 60 years. My life expectancy is another thirty years or so. I have some dribbles of income that will dry out in a few months. I have no debt, no property, no valuables and access to some pension systems that will start paying out in some fifteen years or so. I have a share in my mother's estate that isn't paid out yet. I suppose I could make some money by some employment but I am not entrepreneurial and can't pretend that I would want to work for money again. But theoretical, it might happen. 

So I repeat to myself, looking long and hard at the annual budget numbers and the real numbers ticking in and up; "there is enough money, I just need to be cautious".

And then when I know the facts, I can forget about it and go about my day, growing three types of cabbages which seems to be the best-grower of the year in our summer house garden.

Monday, 1 August 2022

FI - 62.91 Drama-in-pyjama

I marvel at the amount of emergency styled drama in my life and how much of it I have been attending to while wearing pyjama. I was fighting the summerhouse neighbors fire in pyjama a few months ago. Twice (different neighbors).
This month, I was in silk slip nightgown and morning coat (self-sewn bien sur) while the man and I broke down the neighbours toilet door. Intentionally, I might add. First dismantling and ripping out the lock and then cracking the hinges to take the whole door off. Their youngest daughter was on the inside when the lock ceased and stuck. All neighbors attended. The man and I cracked lots of jokes to make her less scared and in the end, we made her ‘break’ herself out to avoid any remaining feeling of helplessness.
She’s 8-9-10 years or so, but the tiniest little girl you’ve ever seen. That she speaks four languages and plays tennis with the oldest kids, you’d never imagine. That she is smart and kind, you see easily. Now she also knows how to take the handle and the lock of a door (that it didn’t get her out wasn’t her fault). Anyway, all neighbours of our floor have now seen my pyjama and the full extent of my toolbox.
There is nothing but full fun feast in Amsterdam's night life.

Heat is not my feast. My DNA clearly crawled out of a cold sea. Any weather much over 25 degrees C, immobilize me. All sun turns my skin pink (cerise) without tanning. All heat turns my head to mush. We’ve touched 30 a few times this month and I am not happy. What really makes me happy is that we have several large trees with our summer house. Of course, the shade stops a lot of other plants from growing or at least flowering, but I flourish under the large walnut, in a hat with a fan, a book and a large bottle of cold water (sometimes tucked into my bra).

When it really gets bad, we return to the winter house in town made of stone. There, at least the northern side of the house is cool through out the day. I say cool, but I mean cooler as in cooler than on the sunny side. Air-conditioning is not a thing outside offices and I am not NOT going back to work just for airco!

The home office now has the sewing machine is in permanent position, ready for any sewing or mending projects. Gardening is a hard labour and I try to mend all little rips early and quickly, and patching every else. Both the man and me are odd sized and anything garment fitting must be held on to as long as possible. The trash-gods do provide clothes and those almost always need alterations. 

During the worst heat wave, I ventured into something called Modern Fabric Piercing or something similar which turned out to be a cross between scap-quilting and advanced architectural sewing. Insanely difficult, even the most simple level, and intensely fun. I made four squares, all wrong in some way, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It did make a dent in the scrap mountain (I save all fabric leftovers for these types of adventures). It is really unfortunate that I do not like the look of patch-works, but that is beside the point of how fun it is to make.

Continuing the tradition from many years back, at least twelve, I count my money on the first day of a new month. I log onto all financial institutes, banks and pension institutes to see the current value of assets and debts. Since 2010 I have only had debts to the tax authorities so it is usually a matter of noting the current value and adding them up. If I have any cash around, I add that too. The total amount is then divided with an annual budget. That is the amount of money I need to carry myself through a year. Monthly costs vary too much to be useful. As it is an annual budget it includes more than I need and not as much as I can spend. It does include expected costs which may not occur, but does not include unexpected dramatic costs (or if the urge to go to Hawaii takes me, that is also not budgeted and would have to have its own budget). Anyway, the full assets minus debts divided with the annual budget gives my Financial Independence number, and tells me how many years the assets will carry me.

This month the FI-number is 62,91. Not as high as it was a year ago, but a good deal higher than it has been recently. The financial markets are not really recovering but they are making money again and I am grateful. 

The costs of living are shooting up so I am very grateful for the rent-controlled apartment, cost-controlled energy provider, the connection to a food-waste eliminator and a garden providing diversion, attention, physical exercise, mental relaxation and occasionally even something to eat.

No, I am not going to Hawaii this year either.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

FI 59,31 - Sleep

This month I have lived in our summer house. I wear my large military raincoat, high green rain boots, bikini, shorts and sports clothes. The lady gardener neighbor asked if I always wore sports clothes (trust the Dutch to be direct) and the answer is a resounding yes. Bare legs until September.
No more nice office clothes for me ever never ever again, ever I hope.

This month I have also learned what a difference weeks of ten to twelve hours of sleep does to a person. Having the time to read and think and just exist does just wonders. There is almost another person under there that is now coming out, slightly dizzy with all the new interests evolving.

Not having children, mortgage, debt or other encumbers is an envious situation at that.  

I have learned that a full length adult book has somewhere in the region of 80,000 words. I have over 18,000 to my story and although there is no end written, there is a sketch for all the other chapters. I sometimes feel sad to what I let happen to my 'critters' but that is where the story is taking me and I am as surprised as they are to the events unfolding. It is an interesting story, I would have wanted to read it if I had heard about it. I try to tell the Man what is happening but he is confused as things change constantly. Still completely unpublishade of course, but I am having fun.

I have also learned this month that there is the beginning of a major depression and that the markets might take ten years to bounce back. I am very relieved that I am in ER (early retirement) with financial assets well above the 4%-rule and the calculated 25 years of annual budgets that it means. I calculated my own FI-number this morning by summarizing all assets (except debt as there is none) and dividing it with my annual budget (a budget that I am already living well under). For the first time since May 2021, my FI-number has dropped under 60, and is today 59,31.  Remembering that I have had a salary the entire time since then, and a very substantial one at that, while also spending less money than usual, this is a drastic dip. 
However, the FI-number means I could live almost 60 years on my assets as long as cost increases follows dividends and interests and value increases. It is more than my expected life time and I do have pension rights that matures in about 13 years. As I have already moved abroad, we are not moving anywhere else in any foreseeable future. We had hoped for some time in another country, a month or so per year, but the covid numbers are rising again and we'll just bunker up, hunker down and stay comfortable.

I have fruit trees, berry bushes and a tiny greenhouse in our summer house that is generating salad leaves enough to garnish my dinner every day. I cannot feed us from it this year, but there is a lot of money not spent by being in the summer house six days out of seven. We have a solid stone house apartment in town which is rent controlled and a spare room could be let, I suppose, if we really need to. 

There are many many options available if Plan A goes unstable, so having imagined the worst, I will now solidly focus on the good in the present. And that is: it is going to rain and I do not have to water!

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

FI62.49 - New life

It is easy to declutter a house one does not live in. We live now in our summer house and come into town and our winter abode only once a week. We then take long showers, use the internet extensively, do laundry, water the plum tree, roses and peas growing on the balcony and sleep uncomfortably because it is so warm indoors.

I look at things in corners, on shelves, in drawers and cupboards, thinking "Where did you come from, why are you here, and where will you go?". I sell some but only surprising items sell for any sort of money. Some I try to give away, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Books and clothes have collection points for reuse and some go to second-hand shops.

Clothes is a fun thing, I am dragging myself around in the oldest and most worn pieces available. It is quickly being worn out and discarded (aka turned into to patches for the next generation of garments.) I doubt I will buy any clothes this year. The sewing I do now is all mending, patching and refitting and sometimes going through a pile of fix-me-things in a few hours. I have a lot to wear: some I've sewn myself, some is dug out of my wardrobes and some has been found on the street (I live in a very generous city). I am working my way through shoes though and there is a distinct need for sneakers, garden shoes, and later on, winter boots.

The financial situation is uncomfortable - but do misunderstand me correctly - we have plenty of assets and a low-cost lifestyle. We are not in any dire circumstances. But the assets are not growing as they ought to. The Financial Independence number rolled in on 62,49 this month, and although devastatingly low, nothing to be concerned about. I still have income so the FI-number should have gone up but since it has not changed much since last month when it was 62,37, I know that the current value of my assets actually have gone down. 

But it is enough to cover my current annual budget until way past my lifetime with a hope and a wish that the cost increased will be covered by interests and dividends. (I grew up with high inflation and remember hyper-inflation of over 500% so I know it will be all right in the end.) We have no morgage, kids, debt or great needs. We'll ride this current depression with few problems supported by the full internal EU market. I have paid rent (capped by law) and fixed costs (fluctuating with uses but essential) until the end of the year. I received a tiny-tiny discount but mostly peace of mind.

The new garden is slowly growing up in front of us. What I was determined I wanted, I did not get. What I did not want, I got and I am loving it. Roses! Twenty-some roses, unknown yet how many different roses there are and which will survive the butchering pruning the previous owners gave them before they handed the garden over to us. (Don't do that!)
Fruit trees, apple, plum, pear, cherry, peach, sloe, and something we still do not know what it is as it did not flower and will not have fruit this year (plum according to an app identifying plants, but who knows.) It will get another year to prove its place in the garden. (It is standing in an awkward place and I have a new tree saw to use.)

The trash-gods have been generous with books, clothes and even tools. I rescued a winter jacket off a pile, spliced in a patch around the torn pocket edge and got myself a winter jacket for when the climate change is reversed and we'll ever get cold winters again.

The off-grid lifestyle has been very good for me. A life with books, gardening, eating regularly, sleeping ten to twelve hours a night has made my brain calm down and I have even been able to start writing again. Nothing fancy, but rather original.
Unpublishable of course.
Since I have not had the focus to write for years (years and years) it is wonderful progress after the burn-out. The man is the real writer in the house but he has turned his writers block into woodworking and is producing benches, walls and cupboards from scrap wood to our old friends amusement.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

FI62,37 - FIRE fires


I spend all my time in the garden of the summer house now. We sleep and cook in the house but we never sit there (there is not really anywhere to sit). It is an off-grid existence but not without its drama. I had to evict a nest of robins built into the wall of the summer house, eggs and all. I felt terrible for a long time. There was a hole in the wall where an old chimney pipe had come out and I never thought to close it up on the outside. Terrible. They moved in, not blaming them, but with all the refugees around, I didn’t need to add more. I hope the sterling in the hedge allows them to set up a new nest there.

This month I have also extinguished two fires; one restarted early one morning in a house burned down the night before down the road from us and one in the neighbour's garden only two meters from our bedroom. That exercise was performed in pyjamas late one night.

When not performing emergency services or potting around gardening, I read. Books. Real books. Paper books. Nicolas Freeling Love in Amsterdam came my way in a 1964 Penguin paper back copy. Parts of it is truly excellent. Then when I read it I looked it up and then I figured out what it was and we had to watch a few episodes of the TV-series Van Der Valk. I enjoyed the old more than the new but also realised what the film crews had been filming around the corner last year. 

Then I read about Lithography in the 1918 edition of Wereld bibliotheek (inscribed Voor Franz van Vader 1925), learning about stone printing techniques. Then I browsed Jan & Annie Romein De Lage Landen bij de zee in a beautiful 1949 edition, and came across a picture of Lodewijk van Deyssel (one of the poets in the poetry group calld de Tachtigers (there is an English Wiki-page about them if you are interested)).
Out came the Dutch anthology of poetry.
The picture was a lithography by Jan Veth [pronounced: feT] and he was of course included in the lithography book. Jan Veth’s painting of Aletrino is a fantastic piece of art and his lithographs are superb. He was also in the beautiful book with paintings of Dutch writers Schrijvers portretten from Letterkundig Museum, as having painted Aäron Aletrino, a fantastic piece of art. He lead me into an interesting rabbit hole. He was connected with Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany and used the term Urania for homosexual men. This term was coined by Karl Heinrich Ulrich in the 1860’s when it was (briefly) legal in the Kingdom of Hanover until the English took over. 

This is a complicated topic so out came Peter Greenberg The Construction of Homosexuality but he does not mention Aletrino, but Ulrich and Hirschfeld. And then we had a long conversation about sex, gender, and sexuality as human rights within the United Nations terminology and within what is now called LBGT+ movement. It is a completely normal thing in Amsterdam to be fluid in both gender and sexual preferences and we have friends, acquaintances, colleagues in all shades of the rainbow.

Then I read (tried to read) Glenn Meade Brandenburg, but would rather read Ira Levin, or Frederick Forsyth. Old fashioned, odd thing that I am not in the mood for in the current political climate. It may be a case of le mieux est l’ennemi du bien as Voltaire is said to have quoted (the great is the enemy of the good) but I am not a natural reader of fiction an the tiniest annoyance makes me lose interest. I also tried to read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova but it is such an accumulation of crap that it made me angry for days and I had to throw it out as a peace keeping mission.

So when I picked up Marghanita Laski Little Lost Boy (1949/1953 Guild publishers) I was surprised at the quality. I came up for air a few hours later. Fantastic story, and more relevant when we are all rebuilding our lives and societies after many dead and war. 

It has been reprinted recently by Persefone Books (Sue in Suffolk mentions it here: Marghanita Laski is related to Harold Laski (uncle) also mentioned in the Nicolas Freeling book. She however holds her own reputation as a literary intellectual and writer. I noted a quote by her from the Spectator on one of my Josephine Tey books, so I know we have a similar taste in books!

The benefit of living off-grid is that whatever books I have available I will read as there are few alternatives or distractions when I need a sit-down.

During the month I also managed to wiggle through administration and to get my second booster to the Covid vaccination. Now I have everything available (literally), and am as protected as I can be unruly the next variant and next full vaccination round starts. I know it is around me so am not reducing my vigilance and it will be part of my new-normal, after the war, behaviour.

One of our waste-not projects gave us over 5 kilos of green beans one day. Not pretty but perfectly eatable, they cannot be sold. Cleaning out the few rotten ones, snipping, and blanching, we now have eight half-kilo bags in the freezer, a sumptuous dinner and a donation to our compost. The waste-not food bank are feeding us regularly with only a bit of work and attention from our side, and it is reducing our food costs enormously. It is also making our food rather adventurous as we never know what we will get. We have this month even eaten meat (but that will probably not be repeated very often). 

This time of our lives is not the time to get rid of clothes, but it is the time to pack up what is not being used. And more importantly, to unpack those saved treasures for the future lifestyle. For now we live our dream lifestyle. So I wear heavy green hunting trousers with side-pockets everyday (bought about 20 years ago for some survival training), a padded fleece jacket (bought 1991 in my grunge period (think Nirvana) and then never found a use for), and I am wearing out my collection of hiking boots. I have packed up all office clothes and shoes because there is no use for lady clothing where I now live.

I pay very little attention to money at the moment. I am still being paid (unfairly but legally correct) so although the market where my money are invested are taking a beating, the Financial Independence number is kept steady. Currently it is at 62,37, meaning my assets divided by the annual budget will keep me until I am well beyond dead (hoping any market increases, interests or dividends can keep up with cost increases). As we are spending less and less money, I will be paying our rent for the next year to let the assets of the man (FI and FIRE in in his own right but with a less fluffy cushion) recuperate.

Friday, 1 April 2022

FI64,19 - Fine

1 April 2022 Amsterdam 2 am
We had snow in Amsterdam last night.

No April joke, I am neither a fish (poisson d'avril) or a herring (en dum sill) and Alva has not lost his glasses (Op één april verloor Alva zijn bril).  

The picture is from 2 am and it is NOT a black and white photo. It is gone by now of course.

Blogger has been trixy for a long time. For a long time I have neither been able to edit the look of the blog, the reading list or comment on most other blogs. Sometimes even on my own blog. I have now fixed it but although I read plenty, I still rarely say anything beyond oddities.

If you want to know who I read, head over to Sue in Suffolk and read everybody on her blog-roll, especially Eileen in her playroom. That is what I do every morning. (Leaving the previous years dedicated reading about ERE, Mustasch Money and Badassery, as well as this winters reading about moestuinieren en natuurlijk koeken. Then I look in on John in Wales, Ken in France, Debra in Canada and see what Samuel Pepys did the day before (add some 350 years). Then I check if the Portuguese historic rudders project has published anything new, jogging around other sites which usually lead me into Wiki, Academia, and down intellectual rabbit holes.
Then I get up out of bed. 

In March we have done a lot of things that cannot be done from the off-grid summer house:
- everything online, including watching the full first season of The Gilded Age, which I found excellent and Cynthia Nixon especially (unexpected as I am not in any way neither Downton nor SITC fan). The man adores it of course, especially the clothes but also the rom-com-movie vibe. (He would wear tails and top-hat with Sandra Bullock everyday if he could.) Also doing the international charity work that can’t be done offline.

- winter/city house cleaning, including sorting out what will go back to the summer house again such as bedding. I had the ambition to clean through all cupboards and boxes in the apartment to use what is there or to get rid of it. For the first time ever, we now have a five year plan and any stuff saved or held ‘in case of’ will now either be used or removed.

- finishing winter projects such as knitting on the slip-over (spencer) for the man I started two years ago during lock-down. The back piece has been finished for a while and the front piece is coming up to the neck. Then only armholes to do but they will most probably not be done until next winter.
I picked up an unfinished cross-stitch embroidery in a free book case. Grachtenpanden from Cultuurpixels (Etsy-link). I have not done cross-stitching in thirtysome years! I have managed to work around or fix some of the mistakes made, adjust the pattern slightly and of course proceed to make more and other mistakes. I will turn it into a pincushion instead of a wall hanging. Also probably not finished until next winter. I have messed up the sewing of my spacesuit and dread lining my white jacket with princess seams, as well as having gone off my many months long sewing frenzy. There is a risk all remain unfinished until the coming winter.

- eating out food stored in the fridge and freezer hoping to turn it off in the summer. and

 - starting summer projects that can travel, including peppers, chilies and bell peppers (paprika, capsicums) that has sprouted wrapped up in bubble-wrap in town. They will move to the us heated greenhouse for hopefully some fruits at the end of the season. The seeds all came from chilies and peppers bought or given the last few years.

With 1 April, we can go live off-grid again (although the snow will make us wait a few weeks before sleeping there). The summerhouse will be our new house. The house is 28 m2, double walled but not isolated. It has central water but is otherwise completely off-grid (septic tank, solar electricity, gas cooking but no heating (so far). There is a gas refrigerator but it will probably not be used. The house is located along a canal in an allotment park in Amsterdam. We have daytime access in the winter and allowed to sleep there from 1 April until end of October. We share it with white-tailed bumblebees, rabbits, neighbour's cat, the other neighbour's dog, ducks, Eurasian coots (Fulica atra, sothöns) and the third neighbour's wind chime making me think I live next door to a herd of Swiss cows with bells. Unfortunately we are also home to the European water vole (woelrat, vattensork, or if you please, Rat from The Wind in the Willow by Kenneth Graham). 

This is our first full season and we focus on growing my own food with slow progress. I put lots of seeds into the greenhouse early in winter but only the cabbages survived an attack of the vole (woelratten). They are all and I had to replant. We have spent the time since September cleaning the garden after the previous owners, finish building a natural (growing) wall while contemplating a lean-to to sleep in, and growing a lawn big enough to walk barefoot on. We also joined several ‘too-good-to-waste-programs’ (the one with the biscuit factory is my favourite) to keep food costs down.

In March we have spent a lot of time in the summer house. Living off-grid and off-line has made me feel calm and to read books again. The peace in the garden makes me keep reading texts even though they are not old favourites. Thankfully I have a library of unread books. Almost all come from free book cases in the neighborhood. 

During March I have read: Muriel Spark The Ballard of Peckham Rye (loved Miss Jean Brody that we read out loud last summer, exclaiming “Prime!” at unsuitable moments) but didn’t like its construction. I’d rather read Pinter or Orton for the tone or a detective novel for the convoluted time line. I’ve also finished Walter Scott Ivanhoe in a wonderful edition from Oxford World Classics and started Waverly. Really some of the best reading in a long time.
I read Dorothy Sayer Five red herrings and Helene Henff Appel of my Eye (sliding again into books reread many, many times) so skimmed Gretchen Rubin Better than Before (not worth a better read, but I learned about Self Organizing as management and that some people find great, drastic lifestyle changes more effective (less boring) than incremental development of habits, so that was eye-opening), Christopher Phillips Socrates’ Café (a book worthy of a better editor; life story interesting, imaginary conversations using Socratic methodology charming, but method is unstructured, the topics not philosophical but rather sociological or (pop)psychology (having a conversation about a serious topic doesn’t make you a philosopher) and the most annoying (ab)use of quotations without sources. However, I like participating in meetings like this, just not reading about it. An American version of Alain du Button, and more flummoxed.
Then I read Xenophon Anabasis ("Thalassa! Thalassa!", describing Socrates and giving an example of the most extraordinary amount of democracy in a war situation; beautiful antidote), Max Havelaar by Multatuli (skipping between the original Dutch and an English 1868 translation by Baron Alphonse Nahuÿs) (Lauriergracht 37 is down the road from me and the Dutch colonialism is all around), Russ Harris The Happiness Trap which is more a book about contentment and fulfilment and not a bad dictionary of tools that could be used to feel better. I especially like that he says "if this doesn't work, try another technique instead", and there apparently is a website filled with resources.
At night at home when I don't sleep, I read Ann Swinfen The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez (and the following six books) as e-books. Charming, good literary read but some chocking historical details wrong for no reason at all. It takes place in the 1580's and my expert time is the 1560's so I know what I am talking about; and so should she!)

I have a huge stack of books to read all from the free book cases around Amsterdam, including Anthony Trollope The Warden, Leo Marks Between Silk and Cyanide (because of Helene Henff and Elena Gaussen) on the OSA operations in NL during WWII mentioning my house in Amsterdam, and John Gribbin Science: A History (one of my favourite writers, I've read a lot of his already; a great find,).

I think all the reading is the result of the relief I feel as I this month finally have been allowed to terminate my employment. There will be a periodical settlement payment but thereafter I am not only unofficially not working, but also officially not having no further income. It is done! Now I can finally fall to pieces and rebuild myself into my new life.

From today, a beginning of a new life.

I have not yet paid taxes for this year and I have not estimated my share of my mother's estate as neither has been finalised yet. Regardless, I have an Financial Independence number (assets minus debt divided by annual budget) amounting to FI64,19. (The man has his own FI-number). The number means that if the dividends and interests keep up with inflation, price increases and lifestyle changes, I can sustain myself with a frugal FIRE lifestyle for 64 years. I'll be 118 then.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

FI62,40 - Degrees

February is a funny kind of month, it is good it was short. March is another different kind of night-mare.

I spent my university years celebrating the end of the cold war and peace in Europe, fighting against war in Europe and adapting to a pan-East and West, North and South European openness. Fighting for the liberation of the three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was my wake-up call. I spent Christmas 1989 in East Berlin on the first Christmas market since 1962 and Easter 1990 in Vilnius following Soviet tanks around the TV-tower and Parliament, chatting up young Soviet soldiers and explaining to them where they were and what they were doing. Then I did Hungary and Romania, standing on the border to Czechoslovakia in August 1990 not being allowed through until the peace protests on Václavské náměsti (Wencelas square) had been emptied out by the tanks. I spent Christmas 1990 with an ear on free Radio Luxembourg reporting on Romania trying to get people out. Then I did Yugoslavia and the numerous refugees with Samsonite suitcases, leather jackets and university degrees worth nothing. By mid-1990s I was in Prague, Budapest, Sofia, Berlin working for Eastern European countries and their Eastern partner countries. It became Russia and the young Russian soldiers became general Russian friends, colleagues and business partners. It was hard, frustrating, shocking culture shocks, vodka, loud voices and lots of love. Then it all calmed down and we all became more or less one with cultural and personal personalities rather than national differences. I hate tanks.

And here we fkkkkn go again. Back to the tanks with young soldiers around TV-towers and parliaments. Back to the refugees that speak German and English and have university degrees and dress in the same high-street clothes as everybody else. Back to fighting the cold war Soviets. 

I feel tired and I do not want to, just do not want to. But I know what to do and I know I can do it.
So here I fkkkn go again.

It interrupts what should have been a peaceful beginning of our first gardening season, and it is worth it.

On the first day of February I put seeds for rocket salad (rucola, arugula), leafy salad and spinach in a large pot in the greenhouse. Far to early of course. Rocket salad came up within a week, had two small leaves within two weeks. Mid-February I put nine different sorts of vegetable seeds in those tiny cardboard pots, in our little green-house at the summer house. It is not heated, not even very light, and the weather has been cold and stormy. It is really an experiment. I know of thing about what will grow when in our greenhouse so it is all a big learning curve. By now I have twenty-two more different vegetable and herb seeds in the greenhouse. I am trying everything I have; old, new, gathered, self-grown, picked up for free. If it doesn’t grow this year, it will not grow better next year. 

Nothing else has come up yet (of course). The storms, frost-nights and a lack of light are all included. In March I will plant the remaining cold-season seeds and start the flowers. Whatever grows will go into larger pots with more seeds and warm compost to be moved outside in late April. What hasn’t germinated by then, try try again. My gardening must adapt to the circumstances; I am not heating the house for seeds or buying them electric blankets.

We dug a small veggie-patch in the lawn on the sunniest spot, after we took down the old swing-set. The learning-curve will include growing in the ground, in pots and in the green-house this year. We will see where sun, light, moisture, soil etc is suitable for growing which where and what will be left alone by the animals (birds, rats, moles, cats so far).

Outside it started flowering with three pale yellow primula flowers and a purple something else, together with the so far blind snowdrops, pearl hyacinths (blauwe druiven) and tulips. A few stands of mini daffodils are flowering on the edge of the house but everything else is blind. The twelve bulbs of red tulips I put in the ground in October came up with beautiful leaves but no flowers yet. I have also found about five large hyacinths randomly burrowing themselves through the clay lawn. (I fear they might be blue.)

Society is opening up, the young in age and heart are out drinking, and omicron and delta are reaching numbers unheard off. They are learning to live with it (read, tolerating that some die, some get permanent injuries and some trying to stay safe, get infected anyway.) I don’t like people at the best of times and am now best kept at a safe distance. The summer house (and its allotment park) is filled with grumpy people which makes me happy.

I am resting by sewing a space suit. I mean, I am sewing a jumpsuit from a fabric with rockets on it. It is coming together and looks so funny. I am scrap sewing as always, using a children’s duvet cover the trashgods provided. As always, it is never enough fabric available so leaving out pockets, splicing waistline and keeping the legs at shorts length became the solution. I am pleased, as I never ever have worn a jumpsuit fitting my body (as body is not much conforming to conventional sizing making pattern adjusting and home sewing great skills). I have learned that the fancy word for scap-sewing to adjust pattern and learn how to sew is called “making a toile”. This, together with my old professional background, I look forward to see the new museum Fashion of Good in Amsterdam. 

The financial markets are volatile but I know from the financial crises in 1989, 1992, 2008 and 2020, that all will sort itself out again as long as you don't need money right now-now-now. I do not need money right now-now-now. My assessment of my financial independence number shows it will provide enough for the next 62,40 years as long as the interests, dividends and value-increases covers cost increases. I have other things to do the next couple of days (!!!) than to follow the stock-market.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

FI64,62 - Going for spring

There will be spring! I can feel it. February is here and all is well.
The man and I have discovered that we find a lot of joy in daily things we (need to) do.
- Going out side on a rainy day - ooo
- Going inside after a day outside in the cold or the ray - oo-oo
- Having a warm shower - OOh (with content sigh)
- A clean stove? A clean sink!? A vacuumed floor! Cheese on food!! Pwaaah!

Our daily winter schedule is currently approximately like this:
- Wake up with alarm
- Drink two cups of coffee in bed while reading news and blogs
- Morning exercise and yoga-ish, followed by meditation or running
- Shower, dressing
- Breakfast porridge with another cup of coffee
- Going outside for a walk in the daylight regardless of weather
- Lunch
- Activities
- Afternoon tea, probably with biscuits.
- Dinner
- Evening activities
- Going to bed before ten

Activities are a number of things, including reading, food shopping, sewing, drawing, cleaning, laundry or anything else. We never have nothing to do.

Heating is something we don’t really do. During our fall months in the new summer house, we got acclimatized to lower indoor temperatures. Since we moved back into town for the winter, the heater has never been on above 18 degrees (65 F). More often it is set lower than that, and very often it is not on at all. Our temperamental bougainvillea winters in the kitchen so we keep that cold (it is a cooking kitchen, not for eating).
The heating is always turned off half eight in the evening (blankets in the sofa). A bit of dancing or a sweater breaks the cold and a tea light makes a huge difference as our apartment has quite small rooms.
The bedroom is cold when we go to bed but we can warm under the covers with a heating pillow for a few minutes. We are never cold when sleeping. 

Our heating costs are still enormous as we only have gas heating and the prices are soaring. So the showers get shorter, less hot water for dishes, and shorter active cooking times. The oven, fridge and washing machine are electrical and we run them on low tariff as much we can. We are moving out to the summer house in April so no heating at all anywhere after that.

Sewing: I have cut and sewed a thick jacket with curved princess seams and two-piece sleeves (curved in two parts), to be lined when I can get my hands on some lining without exposing myself to covid. The fabric is knitted cotton, heavy and sturdy and an absolute night-mare to cut, but sews beautifully and has falls beautifully. I bought it for 1€/meter from the leftover fabric market stand. 

I have also completed a traditional long sleeved shirt with collar and collar stand, manchetts with English pleats (the traditional mens style). Fiddly, as Mark Watson said, but perfectly doable. Fabric is a red starry children's duvet cover the trash gods gave me. All seams are closed felled seams. 

There has also been some more practical sewing;  re-sewed an old pillowcase for the summer house pillow which is an odd size, transformed an old over-sized man's flannel shirt to fit me, and shortened the sleeves of a white office-style shirt to become a more casual summer shirt. There will be no need for office clothes in my new life.

Computers: Our new life will also not include any purchase of expensive computers. I have spent many many hours working on my old white, plastic MacBook, bought before 2009 from Phillippe in Brussels. It had not been charged since 2018 and not updated since 2015 so the battery is shot but the software is still updating (and updating, and restarting and updating, and hopefully it will manage it a bit quicker than announced...). 

Time is not money.
Money is money, and time is time. 

I have time. About 45 years statistically.
I also have money, currently my assets divided by my annual budget will last me 64,62 years.
The financial market where I hold most of my financial assets have gone down a lot this month but recovered a bit these last few days.
I have no intention of using those assets yet for several years so I will not think about it. I just notice it, know it, and then forget it. 

Saturday, 1 January 2022

FI67.94 - Loss

 Welcome to a new calendar year! Yup! Whoop! Twenty twenty toooot toooot!

Our 2022 wall calendar is a huge colourful thing from a Chinese supermarket I picked up from a neighbourhood free book case. We will use it to register the few pre-planned things in our lives, and the daily things that made each day different from all others. Netherlands is in hard lock-down (no shops, events, restaurants or even fire-works) but our boosters are booked or been had (depending on age).

I have spent a month sewing. I have been properly bitten by the sewing bug. I have finished two tops with different types of raglan sleeves in very different fabrics. I have tackled organza (curtain scraps provided by trash gods), lace, French seams, bias binding, flat seams, adjusting patterns and fitting properly. It is so much easier achieving a good fit when there is another person with two more hands available to pin.
I also made two… I want to call them lounge suits, but they are more fancy pyjama. Leggings made using a free pattern from Moodsewing with a top from a 1960’s pattern I removed from my mother's stash over thirty years ago.
All four pieces have been made in stretch material; one silvery double woven from the market for a euro a meter, one red plushy highly flammable polyester from a Sint Nicholaas cape the trash-gods provided. (NOT suitable for children!) Both leggings have elasticated waistbands and are made so long that they reach all the way down to my feet. The tops have six bust- and waist darts each, square yokes and bias bound edges. I have a regular mechanic sewing machine without fancy seams and this is the first time I sew in stretchy or knitted materials. I thought it would be difficult but it is actually simpler than in cotton. I look like somebody who should do the boogie all night long wearing them but it is actually only glamorous and shiny sofa wear. I wore the silver set for Old and New Years Celebration and the man wore his self-made kilt (less suitable a sofa wear).

Our celebration of winter and light has included a “Christmas Countdown Advent Candle Calendar” with a daily candle. (I will just get a bag of coloured tea-lights next year; randomly selecting one each morning will be the same thing.) The month has truly been filled with events and celebrations! We lit Hanukkah candles in the beginning of the month, Saint Nicholas put candy in our shoes on the 5th, I watched the Nobel-price ceremony speeches from Oslo and Stockholm on the 10th, Saint Lucia brought saffron buns on the 13th, winter solstice celebrations from Newgrange in Ireland and Maeshowe on Orkney through live streams for the days around the 21st, Disney on the 24th, yule stollen on the 25th, Innocent Children's Day on the 28th and started cooking for Old and New.

In the Netherlands there is a joint celebration of Old Year and of New Year when most other countries only celebrate the new. Here we celebrate by eating everything we have harvested (or randomly bought and not eaten) during the year. Plum chutney, Jerusalem artichokes, sugar snaps, blackberry jam, dried herbs of all kinds and not to forget the hawthorn marmalade. All either self grown or self picked and preserved. Hopefully we will be able to grow much more in our summer house garden this first year.

It has also been a month of loss. My mother died earlier this winter and the mother of the man died now in December. Both mothers had 'died' mentally several years ago, so for different reasons, we had both already said our goodbyes to the real person. There is something of a finality when one’s last parent dies, regardless of age. Then there is the extra work with dealing with the estates and relatives. So far without major drama but mostly due to restrained communications. (Neither of us expect to have any contact with any remaining relatives after this, here has been too much spilled blood before). 

2022 will be the year of gardening. It will be a very exciting gardening year 2022 for us. Our first year with the summer house (allotment) garden. I am excited to see what is coming up (and where). I try to move scattered plants together for some harmony. The two primula’s (one hot pink, one unknown) are now neighbours. I also try to dig out what I don’t like. The most dispised gevlekte aronskelk (Arum maculatum) is invasive, poisonous and vulgar-looking! It grows abundantly in the front garden and it has to go! (I will probably spend the next twenty years fighting it...)

I spent a few days cleaning the seeds harvested during the year which are now completely dry. Basil, parsley and andijv seeds and also poppies and cornflowers from the balcony where we usually only grow edible herbs but needed to encourage pollination this year, including rose campion (De prikneus (Silene coronaria), Citronmelisse (Melissa officinalis), something else blue that I have not yet been able to identify. 

Most annuals were already gone by the time we got there in September this year so it will be very exciting to see what will appear.  I also went through a whole box with seeds originally part of a supermarket campaign and sorted them by type, discarded the envelopes and gathered all seeds in glass jars I had saved during the year. Now I have fifteen sorts of seeds for flowers, herbs, cabbages, peas, beans and other vegetables to experiment with.
Together with everything already growing there, known and unknown, we a eagerly looking forward to spring 2022! 

The winter house balcony will next year only have the pots with Jerusalem artichokes, the plum tree and the pots with woody herbs (such as rosemary, thyme etc). We plan to grow everything in the summer house as that will be our main residence April-October next year.

The trash-gods gave us a lawnmower! Tiny, manual, perfect for the few walking paths we intend to mow in the otherwise deep growing ‘lawn’. The big electric monster that came with the house hopefully can be given to somebody. (The streets of a wealthy city like Amsterdam and with curb side collection, really, truly, can provide everything!

Until then there are winter activities on schedule. That includes everything needing electricity or communal sewage connection (as we are solar and septic tank at the summer house). 

One activity has been to learn how to repair paper. Book jackets are often worn to pieces and with paper glue and pattern silk paper, they could be restored to be used again. I started with the least worn and less important jacket and moved onto more important (also not valuable) pieces as I grew more confident. I was also allowed to restore the most beloved philosophy book of the man (and I am well pleased with the result). 

As today is the first day of a month, I count my money and the blessings that come from being a frugalist (and starting to save hard twelve years ago). I have, in my own right (not including my expectations from my mother’s estate) enough assets to live on for 67,94 years (not including pension rights as I have no control over them).
My calculation is simple: Total assets minus debt, divided by the annual budget.
The man is financially independent in his own right but with a smaller pillow. Combined we are both covered for our life expectancy. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

FI64.9 - Abstemious

The first winter month has passed and we are now fully into our Winter Life. The summer house is closed up, and although we still care for the garden weekly and enjoying it in good and bad weather; we sleep in our winter house.

Sewing, knitting and crocheting: I am busy sewing summer tops with floppy-funny sleeves (two done, third coming, starting to figure out the pattern, sizing and instructions increasing my skills and level of finishing with each one). I also knit on the dusty blue vest for the man (or me, depending on final size) that I started last winter. It is peaceful to knit, and stops the constant snacking. The trashgods provided a ball of red cotton yarn so I will attempt some advanced crocheting this winter.
I also went through all old sewing magazines and will work through the available sewing lessons, to further increase my technical sewing knowledge this winter. First out: bias binding. Fiddly!

Physical health: The man and I are are back doing daily exercises, rope jumping, push-ups, a core body strength program with some slow yoga moves after, for about half an hour every morning. I also redo the program going from the Couch to 30 min running in three months (aka C25k, as in couch to five kilometres slow running). 

Even as young, I was never a runner. I started running when I turned 50 and so far I am still not a good runner. However, I run and I lost ten kilos and gained stamina for everything else. I will run as long as I can.

Teeth: I intend to keep all my teeth until I die and I spend a lot of energy on them every year (the best toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, toothpicks, and mouth wash (not Listerine), dental hygienist etc). I have blown the teeth-budget this year after not having reached even the upper limits for almost ten years. An old damage had finally to be fixed and I bravely went under the scalpel and had it done. I am now healed and the invoice is fully paid (and forgotten). Hopefully the last dentistry needed in the forthcoming ten year period. Budget stays the same.

Mental health: Yes, there has been a breakthrough, where last years ‘burn-out’ is finally healing.
It is a very nice feeling to have my head again. Although not all days are good days, and I am not ready for a full work-load, I am tipping my toe in the water. I have a very patient (and wealthy) employer so the recovery process can take any amount of time. Then I plan to retire - again.

View from the summer house

Financial Independence: My financial independence is on FIRE.
The initiation of my Financial Independence started in 2009, and I have calculated my FI-number monthly since then. I have calculated it monthly and in the same way since this blog started in 2015. The growth have been due to our cheap lifestyle and to the increased value of my investments. Currently my FI-number is 64.9 and I am grateful.

Economy: The annual budget for 2022 will remain unchanged but I will do some re-shuffling. The fixed costs for the winter house (apartment in central Amsterdam) will go up with 10% and the cost of the summer house (allotment in Amsterdam) will be added for the first time next year. Investments in solar-power may be needed but most other needs will be covered by the trash-gods, second-hand and inventive trading. Food costs for the summer house stays are low as the allotment park is part of a food recovery program. So far we seem to cover a few meals per week on produce that the food banks cannot handle as expiry dates are so short. I think the budgeted amount for food will not be used up next year either. Being vegetarians and cooking all from scratch really are key solutions to our restricted spending. We do not indulge ourself or treat ourselves and enjoy the little things instead. Abstemious is the basic behaviour.

The annual budget will remain unchanged next year but the amount set aside for clothes will be permanently reduced (as not going back to work in an office), week-end trips reduced (cycling and camping is cheaper than European city-trips) and vacations removed (there are no vacations needed in retirement). That will pay for the summer house.
I am so happy we got a summer house. The Dutch are not doing well corona-wise and although there are strong restrictions in place, the infection rates are continuously massive.
There will be no international travels for a long time.
Don't come here unless you are essential.

I try to focus and remember travels I have already done. In 1990 I was in the audience when Penn & Teller filmed Don't try this at home in New York. I was the bright white haired, red faced Scandi in the audience. I found the show on-line and unfortunately, thirty-one years later, I am still fully recognizable.