Categories
Money

Travel 2021 update

Last year, I wrote a post about how I had switched from using an annual travelcard to pay as you go for my public transport journeys. Well, it’s now time to look at how my travel in 2021 compared…

In 2021, I kept with the “pay as you go” approach and racked up a total of £1425.85 in journeys. That’s an increase over the £1354.30 in 2020 and is higher than the 1.6% average fares increase last year. A quick check shows I took 370 journeys in 2021 versus 322 in 2020. It’s more complicated though as different journeys have different prices and fare caps and so forth, but it does suggest that 2021 was definitely a year of being out and about more.

But what about comparing my pay as you go travel to the price of a travelcard? In 2021, a zone 1-4 travelcard (with a handful of additional journeys) would have cost me £2153.20. Therefore I saved over £700 by not taking that option. A wise choice and it looks like I’ll be sticking with it again this year.

Come back sometime next year and I’ll update on 2022 changes…

Categories
Life event

Red Moon

An unofficial sequel to the Super Blood Moon.

On Sunday evening I was out for a walk to pick up some milk and looked up to see an almost-full (96.2% illumination) moon. What was different though was that the moon was red. I took a photo with my phone, but it turned out so terrible that I just deleted it.

I rushed home to get the proper camera out. My longest lens is only 250mm so the moon is still very small (1000mm would be better), but I took quite a few photos. Looking at them now, they don’t quite seem that sharp. I’m not sure if it’s just not quite in focus (a longer lens would help) or if it’s blurry due to camera movement (I had to use my smaller tripod as my balcony isn’t big enough for my more sturdy one), but here’s a couple of the better ones:

The moon was definitely less red by the time I finished taking photos and much less red than when I had first seen it when I was out. I imagine that it would have been back to normal not too much later, so definitely a thing of being in the right place at the right time.

(And if you’re wondering why the moon was red, it was probably because of the Saharan dust.)

Categories
Out and about

So long

Back in October 2020, I started walking the 78-mile Capital Ring (in segments, I’ve not been continually walking since then…). This week I had my first free weekend in a long time so thought I’d walk the next leg (sections 9-11). I knew it had been a while since I’d done the previous leg, but when I checked I discovered I hadn’t been out on the trail since April 2021, almost 11 months ago.

I had plenty of time on my 17-mile walk to think of three reasons why it had been so long:

1. I’ve been busy doing other things

Last Summer, I spent most of my time training for a marathon. It’s hard to find time for a 17 mile walk when you also need to do a 17 mile run on a weekend. Last year, my focus was on the marathon. This year, that’s not a problem I have to balance.

2. I’ve done other walks

I’ve actually done over 300 miles of walking* since I last set foot on the Capital Ring. That includes walking the North Downs Way and the Yorkshire Wolds Way, but it doesn’t actually include my 26 mile walk in the Chilterns or my 75 mile walk challenge. So I’ve actually not been short on walking in those 11 months.

* Walking along a dedicated trail or route, rather than just walking in general.

This is what 1500km of walking looks like. I replaced my walking shoes this January after two and a half years of use.

3. It’s just on the wrong side of London

I live in south-east London. The Capital Ring starts in Woolwich and goes clockwise around the city. At the end of April 2021, I was 56% of the way round. To do anymore of the walk I would have to travel all the way across London to get to the start of the walk and then the same to get home again afterwards. It sounds lazy, but an hour and a half journey either end of a walk isn’t particularly tempting. Not a reason not to do it, but when the walk isn’t on your doorstep, it’s hard to remember that it’s still to be walked.

Although now having completed Saturday’s walk, I just have another 17 miles to go to get back to Woolwich. But when that’ll be, I’m not sure.

Categories
Life event

Under Pressure

Aka Car Troubles part 5(?)

About a month ago, I had to go away for a week and the easiest option was to drive there and back. Shortly after pulling onto the main road, the car gave a warning noise and a “check tyre pressure” light came on.

I definitely didn’t have a flat tyre, because I know what that’s like. It could have been a slow puncture (which I’ve also had before) or could it have been that I hadn’t checked the tyres recently and they had all just got low. Thinking it through, the last time I filled the tyres was before Christmas, and I’d driven about a thousand miles since then so it could be that. But my car had also been serviced more recently and I’m sure they check the tyres then. What if the garage had inadvertently done something to the tyres?

Anyway, I turned the car around and headed to the petrol station. I didn’t particularly notice any of the tyres were low when I topped them up, but the car was parked in such a way that I couldn’t see the pressure gauge. This seemed to fix the problem and I drove off on my way. I was however concerned about what would happen if the warning came on again, particularly if I was on the motorway. Fortunately this didn’t happen and I made it home at the end of the week fine (if you count having COVID as being fine).

Fast forward to this week and I had to take the car out again (although only for a local journey this time). The warning light came on again. So this time I decided to take it to my nearby garage.

“Do you know which tyre it is?”

I really didn’t have a clue. “I think it’s the front right. But the pressure should be around 30, except for the dodgy tyre.”

He pulled out his pressure gauge and stuck it on the front right tyre. “19 and a half.”

Clearly my intuition on which tyre was correct. The mechanic looked for punctures but didn’t see anything. He then noticed that pushing on the tyre valve let out a load of air.

Turns out there was a small hole in the valve stem so every time the tyre went round and the valve wobbled, a very small amount of air leaked out. A short time later and a replacement valve stem had been fitted. Much cheaper than a new tyre and the warning light has now gone off. Problem solved!

Categories
Pondering

Rearranged

This week, my flat has been fitted with new windows. That’s pretty exciting in itself, but it’s meant a few other changes around the house.

My bed was previously in the corner of my room with its headboard in front of the window.

To allow the workmen to get access to the window frame, rather than just moving the bed away from the wall, I decided to rotate it 90 degrees to now be along the long wall of the bedroom.

Apart from having to rearrange the rest of my furniture to fit around it, it’s created some big questions that I’ve been struggling with all week: Firstly, should I leave it like this? Secondly, which side of the bed should I sleep on now that I can access it from either side? Thirdly, what should I do with the massive pile of things that were dumped at the end of the bed and are now (metaphorically) floating around the room?

I’ve not slept the best since moving the bed, but sleep quality has many factors and I’m not sure I can pin it on this one change. I’ve not fully transitioned yet as I still need to optimise the new layout (my bedside reading light isn’t plugged in and I probably need to shift the whole bed slightly closer to the window), but I could easily switch it all again and get back to what I’m used to. But it’s probably only for a few months so maybe it’s not worth it and I’ll just leave it as it is for now. Or maybe I should go back to the old layout that worked better and I was used to. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Categories
Money

Inflation

The news keeps telling us that inflation is high and the price of shopping is going up. But can we trust the media, and just how high? Well, I went through 8 months worth of grocery receipts to find out.

I should first point out that this is my personal inflation level and yours will depend very much on what you buy. Fortunately for this investigation, I generally always shop at the same place and buy a lot of the same items each shop.

The dates themselves aren’t important, but the trends are. All items normalised to a starting value of 100% as of June 2021.

There’s some items I buy most shops and these are shown in the graph above. Bags of apples have fluctuated the most, varying between £1.10 and £1.60 over the last few months, probably because apples are often on sale. The next highest increase is for the small packs of cherry tomatoes which have gone up 28% (the large packs have only gone up 8%). The price of cheese also varies depending on what form it’s bought in. A 400g block of cheddar is now 23% more expensive than June last year, whilst packs of pre-sliced cheddar are only 11% more expensive. And 6 pints of semi-skimmed milk have gone up almost 10% in price, but 4 pint bottles have only gone up 5.5%.

Of my non-regular items, I discovered this week that 220g cans of Branston baked beans have gone up 37% after being stable for ages (was 40p per can, now 55p). In other big swings, wholewheat penne has gone up 27% from 55p per bag to 70p per bag.

Of fruit and vegetables, the only item which hasn’t changed price is cucumbers. Cucumbers have remained at a constant 43p for a standard non-large, non-organic cucumber. This is the same price as my local low-cost supermarket so I wonder if there’s some price competition going on here. (Loose onions have also stayed the same price, but I haven’t bought them for a while.)

And the one item that has come down in price is 1.25kg of sweet potatoes. Last June these cost £1.50 a bag, but they now cost just £1.11 a bag, a 24% reduction. And this one does have a sticker they’ve price-matched the low-cost supermarkets.

Long-life items such as cereal and toiletries appear to have remained relatively constant (or gone down), but I only buy these when they’re on offer and then I stock up for a while when I do, because that just makes sense. So fresh foods is really where the impact is going to be felt.

So is inflation real? Yes. How bad is it? Well, it depends entirely on what you buy (and in what packaging).


Full data (for items I’ve bought at least twice in the last 8 months):

Disclaimer: These prices are the most recent price I’ve paid, not necessarily their current prices.

WasNowChange
Apples (6x Royal Gala)1.201.60+33%
Bananas (Loose)0.73/kg0.76/kg+4%
Baked beans (Branston 220g)*0.400.55+38%
Bacon (8 slices of back bacon)*1.251.50+20%
Branston pickle (small chunk)*2.502.500%
Bread – Kingsmill 50/50 sliced1.001.000%
Bread – Wholemeal seeded loaf1.101.20+9%
Cereal – Special K (Peach and Apricot)*2.002.000%
Cereal – Raspberry and Yoghurt Crisp*1.501.500%
Cereal – Shreddies*3.003.000%
Cereal – Weetabix Mini (Chocolate)*2.002.000%
Cheddar (400g)1.702.10+24%
Cheddar (10 slices)1.701.90+12%
Cherry tomatoes (330g)0.700.90+28%
Cherry tomatoes (500g)1.251.35+8%
Cucumber (whole)0.430.430%
Deodorant*1.461.75+20%
Milk – Semi-skimmed (4 pints)1.091.15+6%
Milk – Semi-skimmed (6 pints)1.551.70+10%
Pasta – Wholewheat penne*0.550.70+27%
Onions (Loose)*0.85/kg0.85/kg0%
Pasta bake sauce*1.701.00-41%
Shampoo*3.503.500%
Shower gel*2.201.25-43%
Sweet potatoes (1.25kg)*1.501.11-24%
* Item bought infrequently or only when on offer so may not be accurate of complete trends.
Categories
Pondering

Filling up

Two years ago, a new thing called “coronavirus” was appearing in the news. One by one, all in-person events got cancelled. Sometimes to be replaced with virtual alternatives, sometimes with the promise that they would return when able. I remember a particularly depressing day when I went through my calendar and deleted pretty much all future events.

This week though, I’ve been filling up my calendar again with the events and activities that I want to do this year. Some of them I’ve booked, some of them are just tentative. Some of them I’ll do, some of them won’t fit in with other plans.

Either way, it feels really good to be able to plan ahead and to have things to look forward to.

Categories
Wordless Wednesday

Positive

That’s broken my 33-day, 10,000 steps a day streak.

Categories
Pondering

Same again, but different

Last year I ran my first marathon (I may have mentioned it).

Now, I’m training to run another one. But this time there’s a big difference… I’ve not actually signed up for another marathon yet.

So why am I doing it? Firstly, I really enjoyed training for something, and if I am to train for something, why not a marathon? Secondly, loads of people from my running club are training for marathons (but unfortunately I can’t do any of the same dates).

But as well as not actually having a target race, the other big difference is how much busier life is at the moment. I previously commented on the amount of time it took for training, but at the moment it feels like I have even less time now than last year. I’m still just as busy at work, but other events that were mostly online last year are now back to in-person as normal life has resumed. And the weather is colder, wetter and darker than in the summer which doesn’t motivate outdoor exercise.

I’m not saying I’m definitely doing another marathon, but I’m also not ruling it out either. If one came along on the right date and location and I thought I had trained enough, I may do one. This time around I’ve definitely missed more runs from my training plan than last time. But, if I’m not actually training for anything, does it even really matter?

Categories
January Habits

January Habits: 2021 Remix

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new.

Since nobody gave any (sensible) suggestions for a fourth habit, and since I couldn’t think of anything either, I decided that my fourth choice would be a revisiting of my habits from 2021.

Exercise

I’ve already explained that one of my habits for this year is to walk (or run) 10,000 steps every day. I don’t think this needs to be included again.

Waking up early Going to bed early

Rather than waking up early, I’ve decided to change this to going to bed early. I’ve recently found myself going to sleep after 11pm which is too late. I normally sleep for 8 hours, so my aim is to be falling asleep by 10.45pm. This should mean that I wake up around 7am which is a good time to not be in too much of a rush the next morning. There will inevitably be some exceptions to this rule, but I’m making this my first “2021 Remix” habit to try to ensure that I stick to it.

Cold showers

I am back to doing this, but I’m not going to make it a habit that I track this year. I’m doing it because I very much have a love/hate relationship with cold showers.

Journaling Gratitude

Journaling is one that I included last year but struggled to fully integrate into my life. I was debating just keeping this habit the same as last year, but then I watched this video by CGP Grey last week. There were two interesting things he included in his journal. Firstly, his habit tracker has different levels of completion, i.e. habits that meet a lower threshold can still be scored, helping to keep a sense of achievement. The problem I have is that a lot of my items on my tracker are binary: e.g. “have I been running, yes or no?” I’m not sure how to do that so I’m going to put that to one side for the moment.

But the second idea from the video was gratitude, and how thinking of things that you’re grateful for puts you into a better mood. Grey suggested listing one gratitude in the morning and one in the evening. So far I’ve only been doing one in the evening, but I can see how having a positive gratitude mindset can set up for the rest of the day. It still feels very early and despite a lot of thinking, most of my gratitudes are very generic, e.g. grateful for “running” or “friends”, but I’m sure it’ll become easier as I get more used to the process. So that’s why this is the second part of my “2021 Remix” habit.

So that’s my final habit: Going to bed early and Gratitude. I’m sure I could have tried something brand new for my fourth habit of 2022, but sometimes learning from the past and improving on it is one of the best things to do. Come back later in the year (probably July) to see how I get on.