Thursday, 28 February 2013

Unbunging the toilet...

This has to be one of the worst jobs to tackle yourself but if you want to save money, it has to be done. Yep folks, the smelly question of a blocked sewage pipe!

We had noticed the toilet water was taking an age to go down and today, it wouldn't empty at all. Good job we noticed otherwise the next flush would have seen the toilet contents all over the floor and probably out into the rest of our house. Heaven forbid.

Anyway, B. who we go walking with, lent us her brand new rods, and off we went. After getting changed into gardening clothes, the drain cover needed to be located under the gravel. We had a rough idea where it was and after removing a small lavender plant from above it, it was exposed.
Lifting up the rather heavy lid we could see nothing untoward in the drain. There are 3 that feed into it, one from our kitchen sink (the other side of the house and under the floor!), the bathroom sink and the toilet. Having un-bunged the kitchen pipe 25 years ago, when DB was away and I had to do it all by myself, this pipe was easy to identify.
The bath sink was also easy to identify after putting some water down the plug hole (saved us having to get our hands in the full toilet – see, quick thinking wins the day). Now we knew what pipe to tackle and it took about 20 minutes to clear. I'll spare you the gory picture, it smelt as bad as it looked.
Needless to say, lots of stuff came down consisting mainly of baby nappy liners. I had been using one of these each time I cleaned the toilet and without thinking flushed it down. A few weeks ago, I stopped doing so but obviously by then, they had got stuck. We had remembered to use a catcher to get things out, otherwise they may have gone down the main sewage pipe which leads onto the street and got stuck there. That would have cost a fortune to get sorted out.

Many buckets of washing soda crystals flushed out the whole system (we took this opportunity to clear all 3 pipes) and everywhere was once again, draining, flushing and smelling sweet and clean. We have bought B. some potted hyacinths as a thank you.

After cleaning everything we had touched and used to do the job with, we got stripped and everything went into the washing machine. It has now finished and they will hang on the line to get a good dry.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A glimpse into the frugal life

It has to be said, there is something very soothing, almost hypnotic like, about stirring a pan of frugal laundry liquid. The hardest part (and none of it is either hard or difficult), is grating the soap. You can of course use soap flakes but they are more expensive than a cheap bar of soap. 
The batch I made today used up three small blobs from all the hand washing areas in the house, plus 1/3rd of a new bar. I'm not going to post the recipe or pictures as I have done so before. Simply put into the search box of my blog (top right) frugal laundry liquid and you'll find all you need to know about how to make it and how much cheaper it is to use than bought detergent. Chose the post dated 10th May 2012 for the recipe.

Here is the 1/2 batch from today, cooling in the re-used milk containers. The red tape is simply to remind DB that these need to be kept rather than be thrown into the recycling bin.

Yesterday I made two loaves of 'corn' bread. I use the word corn in inverted comma's as it is not your regular corn bread. To make two loaves, I used 2lb of bread flour 4oz of fine polenta. As you can see from the picture below, I am not very accurate at dividing the dough into two equal portions!

Many moons ago, I read over at Sue's blog 'Our New Life in the Country” (see my blog list to the right), how she had invested in an electric food slicer to slice their bread, meat and anything else she needed to. 
We followed suit, saved up and bought ours from Lakeland for the investment of £40. Not cheap by a long shot but it does save a lot of work and is now used every week without fail.

Thought I'd show you it and us in action. Each of my loaves of bread makes 18 slices, including both crusts. 

Here is the bread loaded into machine ready to cut. The first half of the loaf is very carefully held in place by hand otherwise it squirms all over the place. Once half way through, we use the safety tool that comes with the slicer.
Here it is, finished and bagged up. One to use, one for the freezer.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Take some left over soup and a couple of lemons ...

Welcome to my new follower, Sharon Larkin.

We had some of our favourite bacon, leek and potato soup the other day. The pan made us two good bowls full over 2 days plus a small amount left over, roughly 2 ladles worth.

Not quite enough for two people for a snack or a meal on its own but it didn't go to waste (I know people who would have thrown it away!). 
No, some pasta was boiled, the soup stirred in, a layer of grated cheese added and grilled. It was lovely.We finished off with a slice of home made mincemeat tart and custard.

I had planned on freezing enough meals this month to see us through March. Not for any particular reason other than seeing if we could do it with little effort. Any savings made on food buying this month can go elsewhere. I think we have managed to freeze around 24 meals/items for meals and have the makings of enough other things to do the rest.

For Shrove Tuesday I bought 4 fresh lemons (have no idea why as I only really needed one). I was appalled to see one growing a fine blue moustache the other day and had to throw it away. Stung into action I prepared the others for keeping.

Firstly, I lined two smallish containers with cling film. DB zested a lemon into each as I can no longer do this:(

Then he put the juice of each lemon into each container (after quickly zapping them in the microwave to help release more juice).
After being in the freezer overnight, they were wrapped up with the remaining cling film and will keep in the freezer until needed.

One question I have to ask of you all, when you work out how much you spend on food shopping (or have to spend), are you only referring to food here or toiletries etc. as well? I tried to limit myself to £40 per week but as our shopping includes everything, just couldn't do it.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Make do and mend...

Many years ago, some friends gave us an old recycling bin (they had just been issued with wheelie bins) and over time, it has had numerous things stored in it, usually associated with our fire.

DB came to show me it had badly cracked in two places. Was it thrown out, was it heck! No, he disappeared to the garage and a few minutes later was back to show me his 'stitching' handiwork, he was duly praised!
A few days ago I posted about going into some woods to gather two carrier bags full of pine cones that were just beginning to drop and were a little damp. They were tipped out into a large compost bag tray (the plastic things 2” deep x 4 feet long x 1 foot wide) and placed under the car to slowly dry out. No wonder they had been so heavy to bring home.

This morning, we went back to gather more before any wet weather returns, but this time, only had one heavy duty bag for life with us. Once home, they were tipped into repaired green container.
You can just see the two repaired cracks, back left and middle front.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Isn't the price of meat shocking...

First of all, a lovely welcome to my new follower Sara Oliver, do you have a blog that we can view? 

We were warned last year about the rising cost of animal feed and how the poor harvests around the world would affect the cost of meat and other foods that rely on grains such as bread and its associated baked products. Alcohol also falls into this category but at the end of the day, if you need to, you can either do without or reduce your intake.

Food however, along with water, is necessary to sustain life. In our current season, the cold makes us want to eat more so we have to eke out dishes with more vegetables which in themselves, have also risen in price.

Friday saw us doing a small top up at a local supermarket looking at the price of meat, fancying a Sunday roast other than chicken or ham. No luck, I just wasn't prepared to spend so much on so little. Although we normally get our meat from a local butcher, due to us being in said supermarket, we ended up buying 3 packs of casserole meat for £10 (would have been £12 for the 1.2 kg– not a huge saving).

We know the farmers in general are missing out and that shops have to satisfy the needs of their shareholders so we can probably take a rough guess at who is winning here. It certainly isn't us!

The first lot of meat went into a large saucepan to make a vegetable and meat stew. Gone are the days when it was a meat stew. We had a portion Friday night with dumplings. What was left had a can of kidney beans and some hot and spicy sauce added to it to make it into a chunky chilli. The contents of the pan were then divided into 2 portions and frozen. Sorry, forgot to take a photograph.

The other two packs were minced, along with an onion and dry fried with a good dash of Worcestershire Sauce. Then, 3 carrots, 1/4 of a swede, 3 small leeks, a 2” portion of butternut squash and a tin of tomatoes were added. It was slowly cooked for 2 hours, stock cubes added, thickened and divided into 2 dishes and a container. What was left of a bag of potatoes was cooked and mashed and put on top of the two containers to turn them into Shepard’s Pie. 

One is for Sunday along with the small carton of gravy. The other plus a bag of mince, will be frozen for a later date. 

So I managed to get 6 meals for 2 people from those 3 x 400g packs of beef. I'm sure I could have done better by adding lots more vegetables. Some days, my brain just isn't up to it plus, it is the end of the month and my fridge and vegetable rack is almost empty.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Video Games - The New Crysis 3

Whilst watching the final episode of Utopia, Channel 4's bleak drama about the future of mankind, an advert appeared for the next version of the video game Crysis 3, which will be released in the UK tomorrow. Here is the link to the trailer: Crysis 3

Whilst I don't play this myself, I irritate DB to hell and back yelling out things to him, such as "watch out, duck, to your left, to your right, they're behind you". We have a 'vested' interest in this as DS, amongst many, helped create it. It is all too easy to have very negative feedback about games such as these (in this case fighting aliens already on our planet as well as those who chose to be their allies) yet the graphics are superb and you really feel as though you are at the cinema rather than in your front room.

There is more to games like this than the mere shoot em up types, which I find incredibly boring to watch and DB finds them even more boring to play. We like a story to our games and believe it or not, you actually care very much about not only the person you are playing in the game but what happens to them, do the good guys win etc. A whole gamut of emotions is played out in this and similar games.

Two other games DS has introduced us to (but who is not connected with) are Red Dead Redemption whose lead character John Marston (he of the very sexy voice) is forced by government agents to do their bidding otherwise he won't see his unfairly jailed wife and child again. You really care about what happens to him and I for one, felt shattered at the ending. It was very similar to watching a really good western that has an unexpected ending, leaving you feel angry and sad at the same time.

Finally, the Nathan Drake series, a charismatic character who seems to be a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones. Another character you care about, get angry with, annoyed at yet want will him to succeed. A bit like being a mother in real life, you want to remonstrate with him yet ruffle his hair at the same time. A very likeable and lovable rogue!

The only comment I would make to the makers of these games is to not put all your energy into the multi-player versions. Anyone who is slightly older (or even greatly older) than the age range such games are aimed at, cannot react as quickly and often find the multi-player versions too fast and confusing (which is irritating as those are the versions DS works on!). Just a comment which I hope someone might take note of.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Cheese and onion pie

Quite a while ago we watched a cookery programme called 'The Good Cook' and on it one week, he made a cheese and onion pie. The recipe can be found here

We thought we'd give it a go and see how it tasted. It was quite nice but the pastry is far too short so shall use my own version another time. Also, as I was using up a mixture of 4 cheeses rather than the Lancashire recommended, shall also try that next time as well.

First of all the onions had to be fried in butter quite slowly and for a long time until they were soft and cooked without being browned. Then left to go cold.
Next the pastry was made and used to base line a tin.The onions were divided in half and half put on top of the pastry.

Then followed by a generous amount of pepper and half the grated cheese. This was then repeated (I forgot the second lot of pepper). No salt is needed as there is enough in the cheese.

The pastry lid was applied and it was cooked. 

Next time, we think it needs a little longer as it was not as brown nor the cheese as molten as his (could have been the combination of my cheeses). Also, his pie when cut held together, mine slightly fell apart,  hence the need to use normal rather that ultra short pastry next time.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Skinny Lizzie Pizza

Although this afternoon has been sunny and mildly warm, this morning we awoke to freezing fog and -2 Celsius. It stayed cold and foggy most of the morning, not helped by a breeze which made it feel colder still.

The kitchen was the place I wanted to be this morning and so I stayed in there, making bread, doing a jigsaw in the room next door and generally meandering between the two.

Forgot to make some soup so instead pinched off some of the bread dough before the rest went into two loaf tins and decided on a pizza for lunch.

Only problem was a lack of toppings, hence the title of this post. There were no fresh tomatoes, cheese, meat etc. Instead I had to compromise - my middle name.

I made up some tomato paste with a squirt of garlic and a little water and smeared it over the base. Next came a finely sliced small onion and a 1/4 of a yellow pepper (the rest was going off). I had an unopened tub of low fat garlic and herb cheese and mixed a little with a small amount of milk to make a sloppy paste and dropped it on top in small blobs. Finally, an end rind of parmesan was finely grated on top followed by a few good splashes of hot cajun sauce and olive oil.

20 minutes later and we were eating it piping hot for lunch plus a nice cup of tea. 
After lunch we went out to gather pine cones to dry to help eke out our kindling. Two bags are now spread flat on the floor of the garage and should be ready to use in a few days. We aim to go back and gather some more bagfuls as they are dropping quite well now and we need to gather as many as we can. What aren't used this season will be stored for next autumn/winter. 

We are well aware they give off tar but as we sweep our chimney quite often, don't think it will be too much of a problem. Anyway, as wood burner owners are aware, they can be a little cantankerous at times and on rare occasions, just refuse to go.

Monday, 18 February 2013

A rather touchy subject...

First of all, welcome to my new follower Frances Hilder.

Anyone who was a fan of The Good Life, will be saddened to hear today, of the death of Richard Briers who played Tom. Paul Eddington (Jerry), died quite a few years ago. That officially leaves Penelope Keith (Margo) and Felicity Kendal (Barbara). DB and I think of ourselves as Tom and Barbara, he is often to be heard whistling that little ditty that Tom did.
In real life, women generally, but not always, outlive men. If you are married or in a civil relationship and your partner dies without leaving a will, things whilst being difficult to cope with, will not be all doom and gloom as shown here in this extract:

Married partners and civil partners

Married partners or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are actually married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. So if you are divorced or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy. But partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.
If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £250,000, the partner will inherit:

all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and the first £250,000 of the estate, and a life interest in half of the remaining estate. This means that if you are entitled to the life interest, you cannot get rid of or spend that part of the estate. You can, however, have the benefit of it during your lifetime.

However, if you are simply living with someone and they die intestate (without leaving a will) you are probably going to have many problems to deal with at a time when quite frankly, you could do without them.

Who cannot inherit

The following people have no right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a will:
Unmarried partners, lesbian or gay partners who are not in a civil partnership, relations by marriage, close friends and/or carers.

If children are involved, it gets even more complicated. If you want to find out more, then go to this page here

My topic for discussion today is due to knowing people who find themselves in such a predicament. For example, I know someone who has children by a previous relationship (not marriage). She seems to be under the illusion that she will inherit everything from her ex partner because of the children, she couldn't be more wrong. He hasn't made a will and has no intention of doing so.

I know many people personally as well as those whose blog's I read, who are living in these relationships. Nothing wrong with that at all providing each has made a will. If you haven't, I suggest you seriously think about it. Never think you are not old enough or that you don't have anything to leave or it will never happen to you because it will.

I'm not advocating getting married as many people have done that and got the scars to prove it. Each to their own. I'm simply reminding folk to think hard about what they would do should their common law partner die. Would you be able to stay in the home? If you have never worked, how would you support yourself? Would you be entitled to any of his pension (this is still something you can deal with as well before anything happens). Would any of his National Insurance payments be transferable to you? 

It is also too easy to think that it will be primarily the female dealing with all of this - not so. You also need to make a will to enable your DB to benefit after you have gone.

Expected death is one thing. You may have the chance to discuss things and still get them sorted out in time. An unexpected or self inflicted death is quite another kettle of fish. You will have no warning, no time, no property or financial expectations!

Don't keep fooling yourself it will all be alright. Sort it out whilst you can. 




Saturday, 16 February 2013

Gardening and Baking again ... Updated

Welcome to my new follower Alternative Foodie. Glad to have you aboard the Norfolk Express.

Yesterday saw us both in the garden (the first time actually working rather than looking at the soaked mess). DB was busy moving the 1/3rd full compost bin to one side in order to lay bricks down. This was eventually done and the bin and compost put back.

The bigger challenge will be the full bin, can't say we are looking forward to dealing with that but it has to be moved to put bricks down underneath it. Once that is done, we hope it will be enough to discourage rats from entering but who knows.

We went outside dressed like two Michelin men, layers of clothing but after a while, had to take some of them off. Today we hope to carry on where we left off.

Managed to get a full line of washing almost dried but not quite, so it finished off in the front room, taking advantage of the residual heat from the wood burner.

I managed yesterday inside the fruit cage, to remove the wood chip from around the blueberries and raspberries and carefully dig in some grit to help drainage. The amount of squelching going on was amazing. We can reach most of our garden from paths and have little need to stand on any soil apart from a small patch along the back.

Today I hope to top dress the area with some more ericaceous compost then replace the wood chip. I had to dig out the loganberry as it died last year and no growth was showing. The blackberry on the other hand, newly planted and dying in a few short months, has sent out the beginnings of new leaves so fingers crossed, maybe it will make it.

I've been busy in the kitchen already, making some Pain de Campagne (French bread) courtesy of this page here.

Here are the photographs of a loaf and 4 baps using half the recipe above. The middle picture shows the texture of the dough.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Gardening - yay!

Welcome to my new follower(s) Roxie & Clem Yeah.

Although the temperature outside is around 7 Celsius, it is dry (ground underfoot very wet though) and on occasions, sunny.

After wrapping up to go outside to work for the first time this year, we found we were a little too warm!. I have been busy in the fruit cage removing the top layer of wood chip. This is to allow us to put more grit into the soil as well as a new layer of ericaceous compost.

Once that is done, the wood chip will be put back down in an effort to keep out the weeds. It seemed to work relatively well last year except for some mare's tail which is very difficult to get rid of so we don't even bother. This ancient, early world plant has survived this long, who are we to deny its existence. When up and in full 'green growth' it helps the garden look bushy!

DB was busy in the compost area, beginning to lay bricks underneath the area where the bins sit. We will leave gaps in the middle so the worms can keep coming up but hope Mr. Rat doesn't find his way back in (or any of his mates).

We had a lovely tea last night (don't celebrate Valentine's) of a cheesy jacket potato (only the second time this season, must be slipping), tuna and salad. I cooked 4 potatoes and the other two will be eaten as potato wedges another night.

Also thawed a bag of faggots to have for tomorrow, don't think they will last until Sunday. We seem to be a day out in our household with walking on a different day, it has really thrown us.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Welcome to my new follower Stef.

Our walk this week took us to and around the area of Barton Bendish. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera so no photographs. Due to that, I see no point in explaining it. Suffice to say, it was cold, grey, depressing, wet underfoot, you get the general idea!
We think we may well go back later in the year when the sun is out, the fields will be more interesting and hopefully, it will be dry underfoot.

Popped out to do a quick top me up of fresh vegetables and one or two other items. Although the temperature was 2 Celsius, the wind was gradually picking up and it was penetratingly cold. We were both glad to get home. 
Also bought some bricks to build a partially aerated floor under the compost bins in an effort to keep the rat out. No sign of it has been seen since we dealt with it, but we don't want to tempt fate. The job however, will have to wait for a warmer day. By the time DB had unloaded the bricks his hands were blue (and he was wearing thick gloves).

I'm trialling a new recipe today from The Iowa Housewife, the link to which can be found here

Herewith some photographs of them being made: We tried half of one each after they were cooked and they were very nice. As plain flour is used rather than strong bread flour. I don't expect them to last too long but who knows.

Tea tonight will primarily be a root vegetable curry. Certain vegetables in the fridge are going soft and need to be used up. Bet you'll all be glad to see the back of my depressing liver risotto picture but it was lovely, honest.

Monday, 11 February 2013


Firstly, welcome to my two new followers, Mabel & Maisy and Frantic's Antics.

Well I am glad to say the snow that was forecast did not arrive, seen enough of that for a while.

Not a lot happening here. Needed to do us a quick tea yesterday so made liver and mushroom risotto. Sounds disgusting but using my normal weight watcher's risotto menu (on the above pro points page, listed as mushroom and chive risotto), we had one small slice of ox liver left over so stirred that in at the end.

It was rather an unusual colour though as I used a beef stock cube rather than the normal vegetable one.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Baking and making

The temperature may only be around 2 degrees Celsius at the moment but the sun is shining and the sky is blue with streaks of white cloud.

A full line of washing is out blowing in a slight breeze with the sun fully on them. You can tell now that the season is beginning to change as only a few weeks ago, the sun wouldn't have been on the line at all!

Yesterday afternoon, I was busy in the kitchen, keeping warm. First on the go was a half batch of granola for DB.

Having made chicken and vegetable 'pies' the other day with scones on the top, I decided to make something similar but with ham. Divided between these dishes is one pint of savour leek sauce plus half an onion, a whole red pepper and about 4oz home cooked diced ham.

Mashed potatoes went on top this time and we both agreed, it was a better topping. We had half a dish each for tea followed by fresh fruit salad and the remains of some cream.It could have done with a little more browning but was already beginning to boil over.

The other dish was put into the freezer for another day.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Chinese, soup and compost

Welcome to my new follower Ikling, glad to have you on board the Norfolk Express!

Last night was our half term Chinese takeaway with our chums from school. A good and jolly time was had by those who came. We walked home along frosty pavements, getting into a barely warm house at 10.45pm. Although the wood burner had gone out, we had laid our jim jams out to capture its final warmth and it was a pleasure to sit in them whilst we watched the end of the Folk Awards.

This time of year, we nearly always have soup for lunch so yesterday, I set to and made a large pan of lentil, tomato and vegetable. 

This is it before it has been whizzed up. 

DB had the remains of a polish smoked sausage in the fridge so he had some of that chopped up and later dried fried. 
The paprika oil was added to the soup. I'm not too keen so had the addition of grated cheese on mine. For Christmas, he had receive 5 mini bottle of varying degrees of hotness chilli sauce. Each time we have a bowl of soup, some of it gets added into the bottom of our bowls.

This was the leftover peelings from preparing the soup and was added to our mini indoor compost bin. 
This is how full it gets, 2 or 3 times a week. 

It is then put into one of the large outdoor compost bins to work its magic. You will note also, the full tin of tea leaves, ready to go around my acid loving plants. I'm hoping it will help raise my alkaline soil ever so slightly so that they don't suffer too much. Time will tell.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


It is certainly chilly today although I believe tomorrow will be worse once the wind switches over to coming from the North.

Went for an eye check today as I feel the need to keep cleaning my glasses so was worried something had changed in my left eye. It has a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) in progress (the jelly in my eye is thinning and the eye ball is ever so slightly coming away at the back).

I also had to inform them that we have newly diagnosed glaucoma in the family so now I need yearly check ups and they are free.

Anyway, a good look entailed including eye drops to expand my pupils – all is well. I didn't need a digital photograph of my eyes as that is done at the hospital but decided to pay the £10 and have them done. That way, the optician's (whom I have always used) have a visual record of what is actually going on and can compare things on each visit.

Luckily, nothing has changed except I have a huge floater in my left eye which they think is what is causing the very slight but noticeable blurred vision.

When the PVD first started the floaters were very apparent but you learn to live with them. However if you get a big one it might (and has) slightly affected the vision even though I can't actually see the floater itself.

Ah well, such is life, no doubt all part and parcel of the ageing process.

Have you had your eyes checked recently? Don't skip it as they can pick up glaucoma, high blood pressure and diabetes amongst other problems that you may not be aware of.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Donating to charity

Month 2 of my charitable donations goes to Canine Partners, whose web site can be found here

I recently watched a fascinating programme about such dogs and how much they do to help their owners. Like most charities, they rely on donations from interested people. I always check out charity numbers to ensure I am giving to a registered charity and not some sleeze-ball who has apparently set up a charity to pocket the money for themselves!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Pensions Part II

Following on from my post yesterday, I found this link here quite useful if you are in a similar predicament to me and are not sure whether it is worthwhile paying voluntary contributions. Judging by what I have read, it would seem I would be better off paying although I don't know yet, whether I would get the current or the new rate and that would have a bearing on my decision.

If you are in the position where it is now too late to pay them, this link here may or may not be useful to you. I followed the procedure as a married woman, I have no idea what the situation would be in you are living together. Again, check this link if you are in that situation.

My mother in law only had a small pension but as she was 10 years older than her husband, had to wait until he had retired before she got anything - doesn't seem fair does it? Luckily, her husband was in the Forces and received part of his pension after he died, for the duration of her life.

The other point for you all to ponder is, what will you have to live on as a pensioner, if you are living on the pension of your husband, if he were to die before you?

You may think me obsessed by the question, but I am not, I am merely thinking ahead. Let's face it, I could go before him so it wouldn't matter as he currently draws his pension and that is what we live on. No more money will enter this house for quite a few years yet.

If you live mainly on his pension and yours is/will be 'just' the state pension (however much that might be), do you know if his private pension dies with him or whether you would be entitled to any of it after he has gone? If you don't know the answer to that, maybe you should try and find out.

Thanks for all your comments from yesterday. Jo, if you read this today, I would be interested to know, if they told you the cut off birth date for those of us who will be affected by now having to contribute 35 rather than 30 years. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

Now for some information for those in the UK

In the 'good old days', when you wanted a pension forecast, you had to send away for one, now you can do it on-line. If you go to this site here you can register to obtain a Pension forecast on-line and within a few minutes once registered.

Once upon a time you needed 39 qualifying years to get a full pension, then it dropped to 30. I had thought I had recently received a letter stating I had the 30 but couldn't find it anywhere. Imagine my shock then when I used this service (having registered a while ago) and within a few short minutes, had been informed I only had 26! Maybe the lost letter stated I fell into the new category - never usually misplace important letters, they are filed away once read.

Although that would give me a pension, if falls short of the full pension. Also, I don't know about you, but I have no idea whether I still only need 30 or the new 35 qualifying years as mentioned in government changes a few weeks ago.

If you don't know what your pension will be, I suggest you check. Voluntary Class 2 payments can only be backdated for 6 years. As I am still in a quandary regarding my position, I have been in touch with HM Revenue and requested a statement of my National Insurance Account so I can see where the gaps are.

Although you can do this online, I needed to produce forms which I don't appear to have and for that reason, have chosen to write to them. If you decide to write, you need to provide them with the following information:

Your National Insurance Number
Date of birth
First, middle and last name
Current address plus previous address if needed
The tax years that you need to see such as 2002-03 plus 2005-6 etc
Why you want a statement of account (a brief explanation will do)
A daytime telephone contact number including area code. 

You then send that information off to this address:

H.M. Revenue & Customs
Individuals Caseworker
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ 

Hopefully I'll get an informative letter back in the not too distant future. If I need to start paying, then the sooner the better, especially if I have to go up to the 35 year mark! 

I could kick myself really as I was self employed for 7 years and could have paid the very much cheaper contribution. However as I wasn't earning enough to warrant paying it, opted out. How short sighted I was!

On a different tack altogether, remember my chicken challenge. Last night we had the final 8th meal, chicken and mushroom risotto.