It's proving to be a funny old week already and it's only Tuesday. The whole of the Coromandel Peninsula is flooded and parts of it have been cut off since Sunday. I couldn't go anywhere if I wanted to but it's just as well as today is my third day in bed with a horrible head/stomach virus. The worst part is not being able to visit my mum in hospital and feeling so helpless and far away. Fortunately Liam is working in the same city as the hospital so has been able to go and visit her but as her only child I feel terrible at not being able to be with her during something so huge and traumatic. Hopefully she is through the worst now but has had a couple of really horrendous days. Still, in typical Mum style she's managed to keep her sense of humour, although even she was a bit lost for words when the doctor asked if she would like to take her newly removed and far from healthy bowel home to bury in the garden! One positive thing to come out of this is that keeping everyone updated on Mum's progress has put me back in touch with some family members on the other side of the world who I haven't spoken to for years. It's lovely and just goes to show there really is nothing like family. It's been almost 25 years since I've seen most of mine and that's far too long.
It's a bit of a pain that all the dreadful weather and me being sick is also causing delays getting the house all ready for viewing. You can't mow the lawns or weed the garden when it's full of puddles and this rotten weather is supposed to continue all week! At least I can still write. The great thing about working from home is that as long as your brain is still functioning you can still work, even if you're sick. This morning I'm writing the Simple Savings newsletter propped up in bed with a snoring dog at my feet and a rescue kitten next to me chasing the raindrops as they run down the window. The September one is already done but I don't know if it will go out in time as Matt and Fiona are away until October and unfortunately thanks to a last minute glitch as they were preparing to leave it was unable to be sent out. Still, I hope people enjoy reading it when they get it!
Some subjects are harder to write about than others and the September theme of preparing for retirement was quite a challenge. I did a lot of research on the subject for a long time and learned a huge amount but my overwhelming and recurring throught whilst doing my homework was WHY DOES NOBODY TELL US THIS AT SCHOOL?!! According to both the NZ and Australian governments, we should all be aiming to retire with at least a million dollars in the bank. This is not something that you want to be hearing about when you're 43 for God's sake! At least I'm not alone there, I don't know anyone else with six figures in the bank either, not that it's the kind of thing you really ask people. The point is, EVERYONE should be told this stuff before they even enter the workplace and WHY it is so important so that it doesn't get put on the backburner. It's not freaking hard! If someone had told me when I left school that I needed to save a million dollars by the time I was 65 I would have started a retirement fund then and there! As it is, according to a recent documentary by Nigel Latta (himself a very smart and respectable chap who by his own admission will not have even half a million in the bank by the time he retires, no matter how hard he saves) a growing number of people quite simply will not be able to retire at all. A sobering thought indeed.
Still, October's newsletter is already proving enjoyable to write and is always a lot easier when I have personal experience to draw upon. You see the most evidence of this in the Sad Sally stories as her character is loosely based upon myself - or at least what I used to be like before I joined Simple Savings, just without the blonde hair and big boobs. What Sally says and does comes very easily to me. For years my kids have likened me to Bridget Jones and Sally is a bit like that too; disaster prone, disorganised and a hopelessly messy cook. Always well meaning but a bit clueless, with a long suffering partner who is well aware of all her flaws but loves her anyway. Sally and Hanna arrived in Simple Savings land in November 2004, shortly after I did. When Fiona got me to write the first story I didn't really know what the heck she was getting at. I certainly never thought I would still be writing them 12 years later! But Fiona is a smart lady and knows that there is a Sad Sally or a Happy Hanna in each and every one of us. Which one we choose to be is up to us - but we do have a choice.
When the stories first started they didn't even have illustrations, so all I could do was imagine how Sally would behave. Back then it hadn't been too long since I myself had been the one hiding credit cards and statements from my husband and stretching the truth about how much things had cost (make that more like halving than stretching!) so channelling Sally the shopaholic was easy. Hanna, on the other hand? I didn't know anyone like Hanna. I'd never met anyone back then who was living the dream and always got things right. We used to have a standing joke that if Hanna was real we'd throw a stapler at her head for being too perfect, too much of a goody two shoes. But I don't feel like that about her any more. If Hanna was real these days I would hope to be her friend. When I write as Hanna I think of her as being like some of my favourite Simple Savings members. Sweet, kind and a genuinely good person who just values the things in life which are important. When I think about it, I still write Sally as myself when in fact I've actually evolved into far more of a Hanna! I guess that's the thing though isn't it? That's been the point of the stories all along, to see if people can spot themselves in any of the characters and their traits. The very first stories always used to end with 'Who are you most like, Sally or Hanna? Which one would you rather be?'
I don't slip up too often these days but I did have a real Sad Sally experience last week I am still cringing about! You may remember Gareth and I recently celebrating Parsley Day, which marked our first year together. Seeing as he had only just started a new job that week and hadn't been paid yet, we celebrated in true romantic style with him shouting me a pie from the bakery. The following week however, having received his first pay, he wanted to get me something a little more special to mark the occasion. I'm not much of a jewellery person but I had recently mentioned seeing a beautiful ring at the local jewellers when getting a new watch battery. It was from NZ brand Evolve and the bright blue of the stone really jumped out at me. It made me think of blue sky and clear water and it just made me happy. So he knew just what to get me and I love it! Most definitely Number 1 on my 'favourite things' list.
I love the tiny diamonds too, to me they look like cute bubbles in the water. I wanted to reciprocate in kind and knew just what I wanted to get him too. Being Welsh, Gareth is proud of his Celtic heritage and I wanted to get him a ring to reflect that. I found the perfect one online, a silver band with gold insert featuring an engraved pattern of Celtic knots and even better, a dragon. What better could there be for a Welshman!
I had to move fast as there was only one left but it happened to be the right size, hooray! It was a bargain too, at only $50. I admit, the price did make me think twice but it was Trade Me after all and I had bought countless things from there over the years including jewellery with no problem. It never said in the description that the gold band was 9 carat or anything but that didn't matter. Reluctantly I allowed Gareth to see the picture, just to make sure he would like it, which he did and promptly hit 'Buy Now'. For the next few days we couldn't wait for the ring to arrive! When it did he was at work. I excitedly grabbed the package from the courier and took out the gift box. Straight away I had a feeling that the ring inside may not be as we envisaged. The tacky gold box with a bow looked like something out of one of the jewellery parties I used to go to with my mum as a kid. I opened the box and... OK, well I admit I said 'What the f***?'
The ring, supposedly made of titanium looked almost plastic and was sealed over the top with this sort of clear resin stuff. As for the gold band with the carvings? No word of a lie, it looked like a sticker! It was so bright and sparkly it looked like someone had gone to town with a bottle of glitter nail polish, and the Celtic knot and dragons which had appeared so beautifully etched in the photo above, you couldn't even see. It even had bubbles in it and bits of 'gold' missing. All in all it looked like something you would expect to find in a Christmas cracker. I'd been had good and proper, and to top it off Gareth had had a rotten day at work. 'Ah well, day off tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting my ring, hope it arrives!' he said, brightening up at the thought. 'Um, yes. About that', I said nervously. From memory I think his reaction was the same as mine upon opening the box but by that time I found the whole scenario so bad that it was actually funny. Needless to say I shall be sending the ring back and contacting Trade Me for false advertising! I have since seen the 'real thing' online at genuine Celtic jewellery retailers for around $1,400. For now, the search goes on for a suitable replacement!