Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: FIRE as a single. (Page 1 of 9)

Day 13- 14. Drogheda, Ireland. Head in a box.

Yes, I can see that my reflection is messing with this head in a box. I’m sorry. But this is the first thing we went to see on our day touring around Drogheda and the surrounding towns.

This head belongs to St Oliver Plunkett, He was born in 1625 in England, made his way over to Ireland at some stage before doing some things that really annoyed the English, like teaching stuff to Irish kids and making them literate. You know, that kind of thing.

Anyway, he was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn Hill in London in 1681. Friends rescued his head from the fire and brought it back to Ireland, where they stuck it in a box in a church.

Here’s his profile.

He was made a saint in the 70’s, which was exciting for the Irish because he was the first Irish saint in 700 years.

I thought that this was a little insensitive, though. They’ve placed the actual door to his jail cell right where he can see it. You would’ve thought that he’d have seen enough of it when he was still alive.

That’s what it looks like, just to the left of the altar. There’s a piece of the one true cross somewhere up on that altar, too.

We walked up a steep hill to Millmount Fort, which looms over the town of Drogheda. Read this information sign… it’s dark humour is impressive.

After gazing at the view of the town, we walked down the stairs to street level, crossing this bridge with a colourful display of blooms.

Here is the only surviving part of the Norman-built wall that originally encircled the whole town. James said that they used to let traffic drive through it, until a truck driver got stuck. Now it’s blocked ogg by some lovely red tubs of geraniums.

Quite tall.

To the left you can see the groove where the portcullis used to be.

Then I was whisked off to a genuine Irish farmhouse for some morning tea,

There am I in my grey merino sack dress, with Toby the dog peering out from under the table beside my Antarctica pee bottle, with James’ parents having a toast with our cups of tea.

Scones with homemade raspberry jam and cream, a type of fruit cake called Brack and another cake I didn’t get to try as I was too full. They are lovely people.

Once on the road again, we stopped at this cracking site. It’s the burial ground of the 7 foot tall lady. To be fair, it’s definitely a very long grave.

Here’s the story:

The Long Woman’s Grave or “The Cairn of Cauthleen” is the grave of a Spanish noble woman who married Lorcan O’Hanlon, the youngest son of the Chieftain of Omeath.
On his death the Chieftain ordered that his lands be divided between his two sons, Conn Óg and Lorcan.

However Conn Óg tricked his brother Lorcan by bringing him up to the Lug or hollow in the mountains, telling him that he would give him the land” as far as he could see”.

Lorcan was dismayed as he looked on at the mist and the bleakness of the hollow which was now his legacy.

Lorcan owned a ship and begun trading in the East, making his fortune and becoming prosperous.

On one of his voyages to Spain he bravely saved the lives of a Spanish nobleman and his daughter.

Lorcan was enchanted by Cauthleen and the pair made a handsome couple; she was 7ft tall, only three inches smaller than Lorcan.

Cauthleen was already engaged to be married but was wooed by Lorcan’s professions of love and the promises of the good life that they would have back in Omeath. The pair eloped when the couple arrived in Carlingford Lough the locals were enchanted by this tall beauty adorned with jewels.

The couple set along the mountain path until they came to the Lug or Hollow in the rocks.

Lorcan bade his bride to stand in the centre and look around as far as she could see as he “Was queen of all she could survey”.

Cauthleen looked around, so great was her disappointment and the realization of what she had left behind in Spain, she fell to the ground and died.

Lorcan was horrified that his dishonesty had caused his bride to die and flung himself into the murky waters of the marsh at the crossroads.

His body was never recovered.

The locals found the long woman’s’ body, and dug a grave for Cauthleen in the “Lug Bhan Fada” (Long woman’s hollow) where she lay.

Each person laid a stone on the grave to raise her burial cairn and here she sleeps today in the hollow of her disappointment and unfilled promises.”


I love first off that a Spanish noblewoman had an Irish name, and also that she fell down and died from disappointment. That’s hardcore.

This is the sight that caused her demise.

We kept driving up into the hills. The clouds were rolling in, as it hadn’t stopped raining all day. The hills were impossibly green, especially to the eyes of an Australian.

We arrived at the very pretty little town of Carlingford, right beside the sea, where James pulled the very same red hat out from the car that I followed around North Korea when we were on the tour.

I was so happy to see it again!

I mean really. How can you not be enchanted by it, even in the rain?

We ducked into a little pub for lunch, where I had the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had.

Old buildings are right next to the new.

Here’s the Carlingford version of the town gates. Down on the left hand side was a dank, wet cell that they used to use as a holding cell.

That’ll sober you up!

we were looking for the ancient monastery that was close to the centre of town. We took a detour into a churchyard, but that wasn’t it. Then James found it.

This place was built in the 14th century and was torn down when Henry VIII got rid of all the monasteries and kept their lands and wealth for himself and his friends. *cough John Petre from Ingateston Hall, for example cough*

The only things we could hear was the falling of the rain and the crunch of the stones under our feet.

These walls were intended to stay up for centuries. It was sad to think of all that effort wasted because Henry wanted to divorce one woman to marry another.

Then we stopped in at a gift shop, where I would’ve bought this metal sculpture if it wasn’t so heavy. See? Only taking carryon is saving me a fortune!

James bought me this little sheep with Irish colours as a souvenir. It’ll travel around all of Ireland with me.

A quick stop at the ruined castle overlooking the town, and then we were off again.

Just in case the tour doesn’t take me to see the ancient Celtic burial sites in the West, we stopped at this little one.
Then we went to a place called Masterboice, a working churchyard that has a huge round tower and three enormous Celtic crosses.
Because if one is good, then three must be absolutely great.

Here is the round tower with the top bitten from it, probably by lightning.Many of the graves had Celtic crosses on them, in imitation of the real ones. One grave had soccer balls at the end. To each their own.

Then we drove through the Irish country’s to one last place. And this place was amazing.

Mellifont Abbey. This place was the best at giving an idea of just how big these places were and how vast a loss they must have been to the poorer communities when the monasteries were destroyed.

This site wasn’t just one building. It was set out over quite a large area, with the walls and foundations of many of the original buildings still clearly visible.

They think that this building was where the monks would wash their hands and purify themselves before mass.

This was tucked in behind it.

Some decorative pieces still remain.

As we walked back to the car, the sound of a briskly flowing stream was right on the other side of a hedge. The monks had chosen this place carefully. And now, here we are.

I’ve got to say, we covered a huge amount of ground in 2 days. I even got to see the house James is building – stunning polished concrete floors – and later that night we went out for a tapas dinner, then to drinks at a pub. There we met a New Zealander who was staying at the same hotel I was.

I went back to the hotel, while James went off for drinks with some work friends.

The next morning I stayed in and wrote blog posts. I was nearly a week behind.

James swung by, picked me up and we took the scenic route to the hotel where I’ll be joining the tour. We had lunch, said our goodbyes, and I wrote all afternoon to catch up.

The tour group has around 26 people in it, I think. A sprinkling of Aussies, a few Brits but the majority are American. Funnily enough, there’s a disproportionate amount of retired teachers and engineers.

They don’t appear to be party animals. Most people were going back to their rooms at 8 PM. Still, we’ll see. It’s early days yet.

It’s now 10PM and I’ve totally caught up. I’m going to schedule the publishing time, then I’m going to bed. It’s a big day tomorrow… we’re heading into another country.

Northern Ireland.

Day 5: Kensington Palace and the mystery house.

First stop of the day was Kensington Palace. I wasn’t terrifically excited about seeing this, but it was a convenient thing to see in the morning, before I made the trek to see the next thing on the list in the afternoon.

I had a ticket for 10AM. As I was walking across the park toward the palace, the heat was already noticeable. 

Lots of families and groups of young mums, buggies and dogs in tow, were sitting in the shade under trees. As I walked, Kensington Palace came into view, the gilt on the gates glistening in the sun.

I was surprised that there was no airport style security here. Each bag was searched by hand. 

The tour is divided into two sections. The first is a fashion exhibition – “ From Court to Couture.” The next was the permanent exhibition of Queen Victoria’s childhood.

So what’s so important about these stairs? Why, only that these two lovebirds first met on them!

Victoria was smitten by his dashing good looks from the start. Fun fact : she had to propose to him because, being a queen, she outranked him.

Queen Victoria ended up HATING her mother.

Queen Victoria was actually lucky to be born. She never would’ve existed except for the fact that her cousin Princess Charlotte, who was George IV’s only legitimate heir, died in childbirth. The king was never going to have another heir – he and his wife lived apart and absolutely loathed each other. But he had 3 brothers who were single…

Some of them were living contentedly with their longtime mistresses and families, but that all changed when Charlotte died. They were ordered to get married to suitable wives and get busy producing heirs asap.

Two of them actually produced kids- a girl and a boy. But because Victoria’s dad was the elder of the two dads, she became heir.
Her daddy promptly died, leaving Victoria’s mum to bring her up. The royal family didn’t like her much – the mother, I mean – especially when she made Sir John Conroy the head of the princess’s household. Over time, they both became very keen on the idea of running the regency should Victoria become Queen before the age of 18. By this time, another king was on the throne – his wife is whom Adelaide in Australia is named for – and although he was failing in health, he vowed to stay alive until she’d reached that magic birthday.

Conroy’s rules for the princess were very controlling. She was never allowed to use the staircase alone, she had to share her bedroom with her mother and that’s all I can remember, though there were more.

When Victoria was 16, she was very sick from a fever and while she was so sick, her mother tried to force her to sign a paper giving the regency to herself and Conroy. Victoria refused, perhaps showing the first sign of that stubbornness she showed in later life.

As soon as Victoria became queen, shortly after her 18th birthday , she moved from Kensington to Buckingham palace, sacked Conroy and put her mother’s rooms at the opposite side of the palace to hers. Fair enough, too.

When I entered the palace, first I had to go through the fashion exhibition. For anyone who follows fashion and celebrities, this exhibition would be amazing. For me, I was more interested in the older exhibits, so that’s pretty much what you’re going to see.

This is a silver court dress from Charles II’s time.

This is the widest surviving court gown in Britain at nearly three metres wide. At Court, most people chose to make an impact wearing expensive brocaded fabrics.

This is a plain silk and so would have been cheaper fabric to buy. However its size and the sheer quality of workmanship and design make up for the less expensive fabric. Worn in 1760.

What got me about this tiara was the “accepted by the government in lieu of inheritance taxes” bit.

Here’s a list of the rules Princess Victoria had to follow. Once I’d finished seeing her rooms it was time to see the Diana memorial.

The sunken garden where her memorial statue is located is surrounded on 3 sides by this walkway, with strategic spots being cut out for views. Considering that this was another 30C day, you have no idea how welcome this shade was. I sat here on a bench for a while, contemplatively licking the ice cream cone I bought earlier.

After this, I jumped on a bus and went for 12 stops to a place called 575 Wandsworth Road. I fell asleep along the way and only woke up when I dropped my water bottle with a CRASH.

I was coming here to see a National Trust property that I saw online a couple of months ago. The description was very brief, but it said that they only allow tours of 6 and that you have to take off your shoes to protect the painted floors. What sealed the deal for me was that they only run tours here two days a week, and they only release spots for the tours a month ahead.

There has to be something niche about this house, I thought, as I began stalking the website. Then, one day I logged on and there it was! Tickets available on “my” week! I dithered… Thursday or Friday? I had to hurry… those places could go at any second! I jabbed at Thursday and the deed was done.
because I was a National Trust member in Australia, ( my card arrived a few days before I left), I was able to get in for free. Bargain!

Along the way, I saw this rhinoceros being suspended from a building. I was on the upper floor of a double decker. This was just before I took that nap I was telling you about earlier.

Here it is. Such a nondescript place. No sign outside except for the tiny one obviously put there only when it’s open. I had a big chunk of time to kill before 3 o’clock so I made myself comfy in the shade and began writing a blog post for Greenwich.

After a while the previous tour group came out. One woman said to me, “You’re going to love it. It’s like setting foot into Narnia!”

As it turned out, 3 people didn’t show, so I was on the smallest tour ever. This house is totally unique. I’m so glad I visited.

Basically, this house has carved fretwork everywhere. Khadambi Asalache bought this house in the 80’s and set about making it entirely his own space. A bit like what I’m doing with my place, but I’m not putting in anything like this effort that he did!

It’s well worth the train or bus ride to see this place in person.

Day 4: London, the birthday edition.

When I woke, it was to lots of birthday wishes from everyone I love. Yes, today Frogdancer Jones enters a new decade!

I was originally supposed to arrive today, but I brought my trip a few days forward so that I could be sure that I could attend lunch at the Sky Garden with Scott.

But first I had to check out of the hotel and get to Corinna’s place. As I was zipping up my case, the fire alarm sounded. I looked around the room, then at my fully packed bags and thought, “We’ll, I’m ok to evacuate!” and I left. 

Seeing Corinna again was so lovely. The street numbers on her street aren’t very clear, so she had to come out on her balcony to guide me in.

“I can see you,” she called.

“I can’t see you!” I called back.

I dropped my case, we had a quick chat and then she was off to work and I was off to meet Scott, who was coming down by train from his place in Market Harborough.

He suggested we meet outside a church that is near a big junction of roads. Citimapper got confused, but luckily I bumped into a woman giving away chocolate truffles – she gave me 5 when I said it was my birthday – and she directed me down the correct arm of the junction. She used to live in Sydney. 

I was sitting on the steps of the church, blogging about Buckingham Palace when Scott arrived. Big hugs all round and after a quick look at the church – St Mary Woolnoth for all of those T S Elliot fans out there – we walked to the Sky Garden.

( This tall pillar with gold on top marks where the Great Fire in 1666 first started. It destroyed over 80% of the city.)

It’s as the name suggests… it’s a garden in a skyscraper. It’s free to get in, but you have to book in advance otherwise half of London might turn up on any given day. There are 3 restaurants. We were heading for the mid tier one. 

Before we went in for lunch, we had a look around.

Scott said that The Shard’s viewing platforms were higher, but they were so high as to be almost too removed from the ground below. The Shy Garden’s platforms are high enough to have the city sprawled out below, but you can still see people. You’re still a part of the city.

Lunch was delectable. We were given a window table and the first thing we ordered was a glass of bubbly each, to celebrate this auspicious day.

Over lunch we began the big “ catch up “ conversation. It was such a treat, sitting across from such a good friend, with an extraordinary view below, eating the best plate of food I’ve had in a looong while.

It was worth coming here a few days easily to ensure I didn’t miss it.

After lunch we went on a walking tour of Landon’s City district. It was interesting, but was made completely memorable when, after Corinna happened to send me 4 or 5 WhatsApp messages, the guide rather snappishly told me to stop filming him.

As I was doing no such thing, I quickly set him straight and he was very nice to me for the rest of the walk. But there was no tip for him at the end!

The day was hot at 32C, so we sheltered in an ancient Roman exhibition that was really boring, but the aircon was excellent! Then upstairs in an air conditioned Starbucks we continued our conversation until it was time for Scott to catch his train.

It was a beautiful birthday present, but the day wasn’t over yet.

I walked back to Corinna’s after leaving the tube, passing by these two beauties.

Just wonderful.
I had to walk along the docks for a bit. It was bustling with people and there were a few boats too.

Corinna took me to an Israeli restaurant for my birthday. I’ve never tasted Israeli cuisine before and it was amazing! The complexities of the many spices used in each dish were like a party on the tongue.

With free birthday shots from the restaurant and a cocktail each, we were feeling no pain. We lingered over dinner and then took the 2 walks and 2 trains home.

It was an absolutely wonderful birthday and the perfect way to enter into a new decade.

Life’s good!

Day 3: Greenwich

Today turned out to be another very hot day in London. My arrival coincided with one of the biggest heat waves on record here. Day after day of 30C heat.

Of course, I turned up wearing merino wool, almost from head to toe. This week was going to be a test for the dress and the t shirts!

Greenwich village is a little way down from London proper, but a short ride on the tube, the monorail and a short walk was all that was required to get me to the first stop of the day. 

The Queen’s House.

I got there a little early so I settled myself on the balcony outside and gazed at this glorious view. Isn’t it beautiful? It’s the perfect mix of old and new.

Then I saw Deana approaching across the lawn. She was giving me a Greenwich tour for my birthday.

Deana and I met eight years ago when I announced on the frog blog that I was going over to the UK. She emailed and introduced herself, explaining that she’d read the blog for years and invited me to stay at her place for a few days. 

She didn’t sound like an axe murderer so I accepted. I spent 3 happy days with Deana and her family, and she took me to see Hever Castle ( Anne Boleyn’s childhood home), Jane Austen’s house in Hampshirite, which is an absolute Must See) and Canterbury Cathedral.

It’s been a long time between visits, but here we are again!

The Queen’s house has an interesting history that, if I was blogging on my laptop I’d link to it, but I’m not so you”ll have to do it yourself. It has many beautiful things in it, but I was here to see one thing in particular- the Armada portrait of Elizabeth I.

There are a lot of paintings here, which isn’t surprising as the house was an art studio during Charles II’s reign. He allowed a family of maritime Dutch painters to work here, so there are MANY paintings of maritime battles and such. Yet there are other paintings hidden among them that delighted me as well.

I loved this painting, It’s a Rembrandt, called “Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the tomb.” It’s depicting when she sees Christ and realised that the impossible has happened and he’s risen from the dead.

He is sporting a nice sun hat. I guess it’s sensible – it’s warm in the Middle East.

This one is really cool. It’s “The Parting Cheer” by O’Neil. It’s showing the pain and heartbreak of those left behind when their loved ones sail away towards a new life. I love that there’s one little girl who’s aware of our presence and is looking straight at us.

These paintings are of the Normandy landings in 1944, by Stephen Bone. They think they were painted on the spot because there are traces of sand caught in the paint.

Look at the beauty of the Tulip Stairs.

We loved them!

Charles II gave permission for a father and son team to live at the Queen’s House and paint. Here is a picture of the father, Willem van der Velda. It’s thought that the parchment he’s holding was originally blank, but his son, (same name but with “the younger “ attached) painted some plans that his father had been working on. Sort of like saying, “This is what my Dad did.”

This is an engraved Nautilus shell. I actually have one of these in my china cabinet at home. My grandmother Dolly found it on a beach in Queensland and was so happy about it. This one is far larger than mine, but I know how delicate they are. Being able to carve into one is great craftsmanship.

This is a very early Australian painting. The emu isn’t bad, but the kangaroos are a little chunky.

look at the next two pictures. I never knew this guy existed. Imagine if he had’ve lived? Maybe England wouldn’t have executed their king? It’s funny how history exists on the spin of a coin sometimes.

Poor thing.

Here’s his mum, Anne of Denmark. Notice her pearls. I’ll be referring to them a bit later on.

Mary I, ( Henry VIII’ daughter, also known as’Bloody Mary’ because she burnt a few Protestants at the stake) and her husband Phillip II of Spain.

Poor Mary led a thwarted life. Henry VIII has a lot to answer for when it comes to the women in his life.

Henry VIi , who defeated Richard II and ended the War of the Roses. He doesn’t look too happy about it. Below is his grandson Edward, Henry VIII’s long desired son. It’s sad to think that he died at 16, poor boy.

His big sister Elizabeth, looking regal. A guide here told us that Elizabeth had once had a miniature painted of her, and forever after, she insisted that anyone who painted her had to copy her face from that miniature.

It must’ve been like getting a great driver’s licence photo. You want to hang on to it forever.

Here he is. The man whose grave I’ll be standing on in 3 day’s time.

Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria. He believed so strongly in the divine right of kings that he refused to compromise and move with the times. It ended up costing him his head.

Remember him. He comes up again a few days later.

And then I walked into a room the same as all the others… and there she was.

Queen Elizabeth I, after the English had kicked Spanish butts when they tried to invade. Remember the portrait of Mary I and her husband Phillip?

He was the one who tried to take England from Elizabeth. What an arse.

anyway, look at how she’s standing proudly. One hand is on a globe of the world, with her finger pointing to Virginia, the first colony in America and the first one named after her.

Her gown is embroidered with the sun and moon symbols. In medieval portraiture, the king is the sun and the queen the moon. She is stating that she embodies both.

the panels at the back show before and after pictures of the Spanish armada. Really rubbing it in.

and look at those pearls. Look familiar? Anne of Denmark has recycled them and worn them in a different way in her portrait.

I was a little bit happy. Here’s a few close-ups

Look at the pearls. They have an iridescence about them.

It’s also a statement of wealth. Pearls were horrendously expensive back then, as they had to be dived for and searched for. Therefore, having strings of matched pearls like this is a tremendous show of wealth.

And look at the feathers in this fan!

I was so happy to see this portrait. What a piece of history! She’s saying to the world, “ Phillip fucked around and found out. Don’t mess with me.”

I love it.

After that feast for the eyes, we sat in a shaded spot and ate the picnic Deana brought. Then it was a walk up a VERY steep hill to see The Royal Observatory. This is where the famous meridian line is located.
Here I am doing the obligatory photo with one foot east and one west. It had Sydney, Canberra and Hobart, but no Melbourne.

We wandered around the cobbled courtyard and found ourselves at a little balcony overlooking the wonderful view we’d seen before. Then I saw a sign directing people to the Camera Obscura.

Obviously I couldn’t take a photo in the dark, but trust me – the picture that was projected down from the mirror in the chimney was a perfect representation of The Queen’s House. What made it even more memorable was that it wasn’t a static image, like a photograph. Every time a car went past, you could see it moving, which really brought home that we’re not just looking at a photograph, but we’re seeing the space in real time.

Remember the photo at the top of this post? Here’s the same view but from the hill at the Observatory. There’s the Queen’s House.

Next stop was a look through the house that a long succession of Head Guys of the Observatory lived. One poor woman had 9 kids on top of that hill in a house where all the rooms run into each other. At least the constant breeze up there meant that drying the washing would be… well, a breeze!

I took a snap of this dress. It belonged to the daughter of one of those guys and it’s so wonderfully Georgette Heyer.

The bottom part of the building was devoted to watches, clocks and the quest to find longitude. (Or is it latitude? I can never remember which.)

This sort of stuff didn’t grab me much, but I found this clock very interesting. 

We discovered there was an easier way done, so we took it, ambling back down and talking all the way to The Cutty Sark.

This was really interesting. The Curry Sark was a clipper that was primarily used for delivering tea. She used to swing by Australia to pick up bales of wool. Considering the distances she travelled, she was small. The men who signed up to sail on her were clearly crazy.

As soon as I stepped into the ship, I could smell tea. Deana didn’t, until I mentioned it, but then again, she’s English. About three quarters of the liquid components in her body would be tea.

I liked this one- how a lot of guys took the opportunity to get a free trip to Australia!

This was on the deck near the steering wheel. I felt sorry for him.

After seeing all that there was to see on the ship, we settled down on a shaded part of the deck and had a good chat. We lost track of time and were interrupted by a member of staff who wanted to clear the ship before locking up.

We weren’t ready to call it a day, so Deana suggested that we find a pub with a garden. I have to say, that gin and tonic with lime went down a treat. It was growing dark when we parted.

I admit that the Underground bamboozled me towards the end of the journey, but I fell in with a really nice Canadian couple who were also looking for Aldgate East. We all made it home.

I’m so lucky. What a way to see out my 50’s! Thanks Deana.

Day 1- London.

At last I’m back!

Long time readers would know that I’ve always wanted to go to England. I’ve always loved the history of the place and read everything I could about it. I planned my trip to the UK and Europe when I was 15, but due to being all-too-practical in my younger years … “!’ll finish my teaching degree and THEN I’ll go!” … and then life, babies and single parenthood… I eventually ended up going when I was 51. Talk about delayed gratification!

I had the trip of a lifetime. 9 weeks travelling around the UK and Europe, seeing all the main things I always wanted to see and denying myself NOTHING. I’ve never tatted up the cost of that trip. But however much it cost, it was worth every penny.

I never dreamed that it’d be 8 long years until I set foot here again, but I’m back:. It’s going to be a different sort of trip this time. Last time I was a very unseasoned traveller and my dear friend Scott planned every day for me. I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but he was gradually educating me in how to travel; beginning by mansplaining everything ( thank god!) and sticking by my side, then gradually stepping back and letting me learn to navigate by myself around Pais for a day, then sending me off to Bath for 3 days on my own.

This time, after going to North Korea with friends and then Antarctica on my own, (where I met fantastic new friends), I planned the itinerary myself, with days by myself, a tour around Ireland for two weeks, all interspersed with catching up with people I’ve met on my travels. It’s going to be so much fun!

I jumped off the plane bright and early and 6 AM and after buying a sim at the airport, I took the tube to Kings Cross station. Honestly, this whole place is a big Monopoly game. My plan was to stow my carry-on suitcase for the day so that I could visit some museums, then pick it up and take a train to my hotel.

The man at the baggage check was very helpful. “Your day is going to be challenging,” he said. “Many tube lines are closed.”

He got out his phone and I told him whereI wanted to go. Fortunate Frogdancer picked places that were accessible by the Piccadilly line , which was open. Sadly, my hotel was not. I left that problem for Future Frogdancer to work out and I went on my way.

First stop was The Wallace Collection. Scott and I visited it back in 2015, when I was enraptured by seeing The Laughing Cavalier. I have a postcard of him on my fridge to this day.

Look at the lace on his cuffs! You’d swear it was a photo.

And look at his collar. Incredible. Legend has it that this is an engagement painting.

Another reason why I wanted to come back here was that they were hosting an exhibition of dogs. Naturally, this is right up my alley.

Here is my Thrill of the Day. ‘The Cavalier’s Pets’ by Landseer. I have had a print of this hanging in my house since before I was married. The boys have never known life without it being there. And now, casually hanging in a gallery- here it is.

I was so excited! It was huge! I stood there and beamed at it like I was meeting an old friend. It was a wonderful surprise.

Da Vinci, anyone? As in Leonardo. Are you kidding me?

I was excited to see this one because the tricolour Cavalier on the left is Dash- Queen Victoria’s beloved pet when she was young. After her coronation, she went home, took off all her regalia and gave Dash his bath.

Here’s a sketch she drew of her Daschund , Waldmann. She clearly had good taste in her dog breeds.

Read the panel next to the portrait. It’s an interesting story.

I took a photo of this pup, not from any artistic merit but because I was going to the Sir John Shane’s museum next, and here is a picture of the dog that he loved.

Then I wandered through the rest of the collection.

It’s amazing how really old and famous artists pop up as if out of nowhere. How about a Rembrandt?

A bust of Napoleon.

A young Josephine.

I wandered around for nearly 2 hours, then boldly headed off towards my next museum – The Sir John Soanes museum.

Where I found the same dog. But the dog isn’t the point of this museum.

I didn’t know anything much about Sir John Soanes, except that he was an architect and an avid collector of things. But everyone I spoke to said that it was a must see. 

This house was incredible. It was designed purely to display his collection in the best light. And when I say light, I mean that he had hundreds of mirrors put in to bounce the light from the extra windows he’d built. I was there on a very bright day, but I could imagine that even on a dark, winery day, this house would be well lit.

At the end of his life he arranged with politician friends to have a law made to protect his collection by donating it to the nation. The reason he did this was a bit sad. He’d lost his wife and elder son, and his younger son was a spendthrift and wastrel who hated his father and his collection. Rather than have his son break apart the collection and sell it all off, this was his solution. 

Lucky for us!

Apollo. Plus hundreds of other antiquities. Some real, some plaster casts. But they were everywhere. I was glad I had put my carryon in a locker and my handbag in the cloakroom. Imagine if you knocked one over!

He also bought a 3,000 year old sarcophagus.
As you do. The bottom part of the house is like a crypt, with everything being about death. The light from the roof is designed to highlight it.

It has hieroglyphics outside…

… and in. The guy who discovered it in Egypt brought it back to England and tried to sell it to the British museum for £3000. This was too much for the museum, particularly after they’d just bought the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Athens, and so he didn’t have a buyer. After he died, his widow dropped the price to £2000 and Sir John Soanes swooped. He knew it was there, he designed the space for it and he was waiting for the price to drop.

The whole place looks like this. No wonder he was devastated when his wife died. No other woman would have put up with this.

Imagine the dusting!

The Wallace Collection has a rule that nothing in the house can ever be removed. Sir John Sloane went one further and decreed that nothing in his collection could ever be MOVED. So we are seeing everything exactly as he wanted it to be seen. 

Anyway, go and see it. It’s got far more than I’ve shown you.

Once finished here, I decided to take a walk to the Foundling hospital. This is a sad place. The guy who started it was a sea captain who arrived back in London one day and was horrified to see all of the abandoned babies left in the streets. This was in 1722, which wasn’t exactly known for its effective birth control and social safety net.

it took him SEVENTEEN YEARS before the king and other influential figures gave him the funding. You see, he wasn’t a gentleman…

There were so many women who couldn’t support their children that they had to run a ballot system to select which babies they’d take, and which wouldn’t be. It was said that there was just as much crying from those that were rejected as from those that were accepted.
The mothers used to give tokens with their babies, so that if ever they were in a position to reclaim their child, they’d have a way to show that they were getting the right child.

Here are a few of the tokens up close:

Being a single mother myself, I can clearly imagine the distress and heartache these women would have felt, but at least this way they had hope that their child would have a better life. These tokens were so sad…

Here’s the room where all of the baby ballots happened. If theses walls could talk…

And a cruel reminder of how unequal society was, this (frankly, overdecorated) room was where the wealthy would come to shmooze and feel good about themselves and their financial donations.

if you’re a fan of Handel- come and see this place. He was a huge supporter of this place and the top floor has one of the best museums about him. Sadly, lost on me…

Then I was walking towards the last place on my list – The Charles Dickens museum.

This was a house that he and his family only lived in for a few years, and I noticed that a lot of the furniture and Knick-knacks were brought from the last house he lived in, but that’s ok I guess. At least they were all genuine Dickens memorabilia.

Here’s his desk. Just like when Deana and I saw Jane Austen’s writing table back in 2015, I had to touch it.

I even had the same ring on my finger!

I love how they’ve recycled this keystone into a decoration of the garden in the cafe. My feet were tired and I wanted to try a scone, jam and cream with REAL clotted cream. It’s been 8 long years…

It was ok… but they were a bit light on with the cream. It was just like normal whipped cream. This wasn’t the thing I’ve remembered fondly from 8 years ago! I walked back to Kings Cross station to pick up my case, feeling vaguely cheated.

Until I saw a pink McLaren. That made me laugh!

Sometimes it’s ok to be extravagant.

Sometimes on this whole ‘Financial Independence’ journey, things seem to drag along without anything changing for ages. Then something happens to drag you back into reality and makes you realise just how far you’ve come.

This happened to me yesterday.

Those of you who’ve read my ‘About’ page or have been reading my personal blog for a while would know that for many years the boys and I were, not to put it too bluntly, on the bare bones of our arses financially after I left their father. It took me almost two decades to fully financially recover from that (correct) decision. Raising four boys on your own isn’t a cheap exercise!

It has left a deep mark on how I approach most spending decisions in my life.

Things have gradually eased up over the last few years. I’ve discovered that as a spender, I’m what you’d call a ‘Valuist.’ I’ll cut expenses to the bone with things that aren’t exciting to me, but with things like travel – I’m happy to spend.

But this ‘valuist’ spending has all been scheduled and organised. Until yesterday.

Remember how I told you that my dear friend Scott organised an amazing lunch and walking tour in London to celebrate my birthday? I went to Flight Centre yesterday to arrange to push back my arrival in London from the 6th September (my actual birthday) to a few days earlier. It occurred to me that even ONE flight delay would cause me amazing stress and would probably mean that Scott would be sitting in the fabulous restaurant he booked, all on his own while sobbing uncontrollably with loneliness and disappointment, while I’d be sitting on a plane miles above him, circling the tarmac waiting to land. I would be BESIDE MYSELF, which is not a great way to celebrate a birthday.

I realised that it’d be best to fly into London a couple of days earlier to make darned sure that doesn’t happen. An added bonus would be that with some extra days under my belt, I’d be almost over the jet lag by then. Jet lag hit me hard last time – on my first night in London in 2015 Scott and I were in a cafe having an early dinner at 6 PM and I literally stopped myself from face-planting in my dinner. I woke up with my nose an inch away from disaster. I don’t want to do that during lunch.

Turns out that yes – I could change my booking. No problem.

It also turned out that it would cost $1,400 to do so.

I know. I know. I was horrified too.

I won’t lie… the possibility of backing out and hoping that ‘Fortunate Frogdancer’ would get me to London on time DID flicker across my mind. But luck is a fickle mistress. I’m convinced that the reason I’m so lucky is because I don’t rely on her – so she just pops up all the time to give me a smile and a wave. Murphy’s Law would probably ensure that I’d have 47 flight delays and I wouldn’t get to London until sometime in 2025.

So I smiled through gritted teeth and gave the guy my credit card.

“There’ll be a fee attached to using your card,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”

“At this stage, I don’t care,” I said. “I’m committed. Just lay it on me!”

The fee was $7. Ok, still ridiculous for just using a credit card. But I was still reeling from the flight cost, so it was just an incidental. No biggie.

The thing is – it wasn’t so long ago that there is NO WAY I would have; or could have, made such a luxury purchase. It’s a huge unexpected expense, especially when you add in 3 nights of extra accommodation in London before I’m set to go to Corinna’s place, which means that it’ll be around the 2K mark – not counting food and entertainment costs on top of that.

This is pretty much a sentimental decision.

For most of my adult life, this would have been a definite no-go.

But now? Sure, I wasn’t happy about spending such a large amount to gain three extra days. But could I afford it?

Well… yes.

Did I want to do it?


So I did it.

When I wake up in London on my birthday, I’ll be leaving first thing in the morning to get to Corinna’s place before she leaves for work and I’ll collect her key and drop off my carry-on case. Then I’ll probably wander around until Scott’s train arrives and we’ll saunter off to lunch together. It’ll be chilled, relaxed, and not filled with tension and anxiety.

I know I’ll be glad when my alarm goes off on that Wednesday morning and I have the whole day stretching before me — the start of a whole new decade going around the sun for me. Airport queues and possible flight delays on the way over will all be a thing of the past. I’ll be dewy-eyed and jet lag free. It’ll be fantastic.

Sometimes you don’t fully realise that you’ve reached a new stage in your financial independence story until something like this happens.

I don’t have to work to earn the money for these luxuries that I’ve been paying for. It’s ok for me to get something that I really want. I can afford it. This is a totally new mind space for me to be in.

So once I got home, I totally lost my mind and took Ryan27 to Ikea. I bought $800 worth of storage shelves and drawers for the sewing room. Ryan27 bought a big new gaming desk, which is something that he didn’t intend to buy until he saw it. They’re all being delivered today. (I hope he’s good with an Allen key…)

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t have the sort of wealth that can sustain this level of spending every day! But I’ve reached the stage where I can buy things that I need and/or are important to me without stressing over every dollar.

It’s quite incredible to contemplate. Past Frogdancer, leaving her marriage with $60 cash and 4 boys under 5, would never have believed that in 26 years we’d be in this position.

It’s a humbling thing to experience.

Dad joke of the day:

I’ve trained my dog to go and fetch me a bottle of wine.

She’s a Bordeaux collie.

How do we prepare for the unexpected?

Last week I received a text from the guy who used to share a flat with Tom31, asking if he could call me. Although Tom31 left the flat on bad terms with this guy, it’s been over a year since that all happened, Tom31 now has his own place and they have friends in common. They now have a civil relationship. Let’s call him Fergus.

I also knew that Fergus had unexpectedly lost his Mum a few days before. Fergus and his Mum were close and she also had a great relationship with my son. She did the conveyancing on his property and only charged him ‘mates rates’ and they always got along like a house on fire.

Of course, I took his call.

What followed was heart-aching.

Fergus was still reeling over his mother’s death. He called me because he really wanted to keep his Mum’s house and he wanted some unbiased advice. He has two siblings who want to sell it and split the proceeds equally.

“How much is your Mum’s place worth, roughly? Is there a mortgage on it?’ I asked.

“It’s worth around 1.2M and she paid it off,” he said.

“What assets do you own?” I asked.

“I have around $500 in the bank,” he said.

I sighed. “I’m sorry Fergus, but no bank will lend you that much money if you have nothing to offer as collateral. You’ll have to let the house go.”

He sighed as well and said that he thought so, but he wanted to hear it from someone who wasn’t out to make something from the sale.

He’d said earlier that the house was like a refuge for him – that when he’d had a rough day, he’d “get off at her station, go around there and we’d solve the world’s problems over a bucket of wine. “

I gently said, “You know how you talked about her house as being like a refuge? It wasn’t the house; it was the person. I suggest that you go around there on your own one day, walk around and quietly say your goodbyes. Then once the house is sold, you can move forward with whatever money you get from it as her legacy.”

“That’s the problem,” he said. “I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve already had people making suggestions about investments, but I feel so confused.” He added bitterly, “Her body isn’t even cold yet and people are already picking at what she left.”

Yikes. It was a few days before the funeral, so I totally got what he was saying.

What could I say? I’m not a numbers person. But then I thought: what advice would I want someone to give one of my boys if I suddenly popped my clogs? I’d want them to be given advice that was safe, conservative, and would be easy to implement when they were still grieving and not able to think clearly. Advice that would allow the dust to settle before any life-changing decisions were made.

It also had to fit in with the stage of life Fergus is in.

He’s not in a relationship. He’s not starting a family and looking to put down roots in a house that will suck up all of his money and shackle him into a mortgage for the next two decades. (This is the position one of his siblings is in – they’ll be using the money as a house deposit for their young family.)

Fergus is still studying. Once that’s done, he’ll be putting his efforts into establishing his new career. Who knows? He may decide that he wants to spend that money on buying into a law firm somewhere. He may choose to relocate to another city or country. His options are wide open. He probably needs that pool of money to be safely waiting for him.

Yes, he might make a few extra dollars if he put it into shares, but I still think that on balance, safety trumps a little profit. Besides, the way the share market has been bouncing around? A little profit isn’t exactly a certain bet in the short term.

I decided to go with the term deposit route. Luckily for him, interest rates are better on savings accounts than they have been for a long time.

My advice was to put 90% of whatever money he received from his Mum’s estate into a term deposit and to leave it there for 12 months.

“The other 10%? Spend it. Go on a big holiday, buy some clothes, furniture… whatever you want. She’d want you to enjoy it. But DON’T spend any more than that. Respect her legacy and only deploy it for something that’s going to establish your way in the world – whatever that turns out to be.”

I then added, “And for God’s sake don’t put any of it into crypto!”

He laughed ruefully. “I’ve already been burned by that,” he said.

“Hey, how lucky is it that you learned that lesson when you didn’t have a lot of money to lose?” I said. “Don’t beat yourself up over it; just be glad that you’re not going to make the same mistake with your Mum’s money.”

“I definitely won’t! he said.

“If you do what I’m saying, it gives you time to move through your grief and not risk making big decisions when you’re not thinking clearly. Then, when the dust has settled and you have a clearer idea of what you want to do, then you can make decisions that aren’t going to be based on raw emotion. Besides, speaking as a single mother myself, it’s hard to pay off a house on your own. You don’t want to waste her final legacy for you.”

‘You’re absolutely right,” he said. “That’s the last thing I want to do.”

At the end of the call he thanked me, saying that he felt at peace for the first time since all of this stuff started to come up.

“I think I’ll do what you suggest,” he said. “It sounds really sensible and it gives me time to breathe. Is it ok if I call you again when it comes closer to the time?”

Of course I said yes.

But this conversation really gave me food for thought.

We all expect to live till we’re old. My own parents are both in their 80’s, still living together at home and although they’ve slowed down, they’re still going strong. I don’t know about you, but any thoughts I’ve had of my children inheriting my estate have them all as grey-haired old men, with decades more life experience behind them than they have now.

But what if a similar thing happens to us? Fergus’s Mum was only in her late 60’s.

How would the boys make these huge financial decisions if I suddenly wasn’t here?

It’s a big responsibility to suddenly have a large sum of money given to you at any age. Not many people in their 20’s and 30’s have a rock-solid plan in their minds of what they’d do with a cash windfall of a few hundred thousand dollars. (And if any of my sons did, I’d be a bit worried that they’d decide that I was worth more to them dead than alive…)

I don’t know what the answer is. Do we write a letter “to be opened in the case of my unfortunate demise” to be read aloud, giving our advice? Do we hope that older, wiser people will take our loved ones under their wings and give them excellent advice? What if there’s no one around our kids who is good with money?

It’s a conundrum.

At the end of the day, I gave Fergus the same advice, given his situation, that I’d hope that someone else would give my kids if we were in the same situation. I can’t do any better than that. It was heartbreaking though, seeing a young man almost shell-shocked with grief and yet being forced to grapple with uncharted financial waters like this.

It made me hope that my boys will never be in a position like this. At least, not until they’re grey-haired old men! But if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, I hope that they have access to someone who will give them sound, unbiased advice to give them time to come to terms with their new reality and that they’ll be able to make unrushed, sensible decisions.

Anyway, this is the sort of stuff that I haven’t given much thought to until now. When they were small, I worried more about who would look after them if I suddenly died, rather than worry about inheritances. Once they grew up, I didn’t think about this stuff because, as I said at the start, I probably believed that I was immortal.

I’ll be doing a bit more thinking about this…

Dad joke of the day:

My wife told me to stop singing “I’m a Believer” or she’d kill me. I thought she was kidding..

… but then I saw her face.

Less than a week to go!

This time next week I’ll be in Santiago, Chile, all going well. These last few days before I go, I’m planning on starting to pack and buying the last few things I need to get before I go.

One is a waterproof case for my phone. I’ve decided to buy a waterproof pouch rather than a case, so after doing some research I’ve elected to buy this one. The reviews are good and I think it’ll do the job well. My quilting mat came in handy when I had to measure the phone in inches!

I also bought a sim card for my phone which will work in both Chile and Argentina. Surprisingly, most of the sims I looked at only had one or the other, which was annoying. My travel agent advised me to get one when I was there, but as I’m arriving in Santiago in the middle of the night, I didn’t think there’d be too many phone stores open. Better to be safe than sorry. The sim should be arriving today. I’ll take it with me and swap the sim cards over on the plane. It just occurred to me that I’ll need to learn how to get the sim card out in the first place.

You’ve already seen my pee bottle, which has traumatised people both here and on FB. Steveark’s comment on my previous post made me laugh! I’m hoping to bring back the bottle untouched by human urine, which will mean I’ll have a very useful souvenir to remind me of the trip. It will have been with me on the ice on every excursion. You can bet I’ll be reminded of Antarctica every time I use it.

I’m a big fan of buying useful souvenirs.

This olive oil container is from San Gimignano in Italy. Every single time I pull it out from the pantry I’m reminded of that beautiful village on top of the hill. When my friend Scott and I were going through security at Paris airport, we were looking at my case as it went through the x-ray. “Is that YOURS? What on earth have you bought?” he said as the image of what looked to be a miniature watering can glided by.

I also have a very cheap-looking spatula that I bought in a supermarket in Pyongyang. I was there, mingling with the locals as they were buying their groceries, when I saw it and thought, “I’ve been meaning to get a spatula for ages!” It’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, but I know where I bought it and I love using it.

Every Christmas I blog about my Christmas tree which has decorations from all over the world on it. No one has a tree quite like mine!

So having a water bottle that has travelled with me to the end of the world and back seems like a very good fit.

I still need to buy some lip balm. This morning I was looking at the blog 43 Blue Doors. Bonnie and her partner Trin retired in (I think) 2016 and have been slow travelling around the world ever since. It’s a fabulous blog with incredible photography and detailed descriptions of the places they’re travelling.

I posted about ‘My New Goal’ in October 2020, when I had 3 references to Antarctica in the one day. Up until then, I’d never even dreamed about going there. Bonnie wrote a post about her trip, which was the third nudge from the universe I received that day. This morning I looked at the page again and played the video of the chinstrap penguin colony. The sound of the wind made it obvious why lip balm is on the list as a necessity.

I hope Penguindancer! still checks in here and knows that I’m finally going. She was working in Antarctica and used to read my blog. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt I’d be going.

Today I’m going to be getting out my itinerary and hopefully booking a couple of day tours for Santiago and the surrounding countryside. I will only see the inside of the airport in Buenos Ares, but I’ll be spending a couple of days in Santiago and I think that being ferried around in a group might be the most efficient way to cover as much ground as possible.

Unless I buy a horrifically expensive souvenir, I think that all of the major expenses for my trip have already been paid for. I have tiny slivers of time on either side of the cruise where I probably won’t be spending a lot, especially if I’m on tours, and once I’m on the ship everything except alcohol and souvenirs are taken care of. I’m hoping that my pesos for Chile and Argentina will be enough for taxis and food, while the euros and my debit/credit cards will take care of everything else.

I’m known for being frugal in most areas of my life, but travelling overseas isn’t one of them. Being able to see and do everything I want when I travel is one of the reasons why I’m so frugal in other areas. I like to get bang for my buck! So who knows what I’ll end up spending?

I’m already starting to look at where I’ll travel in 2023…

… I have just one continent to go to complete the set.

Dad joke of the day:

Adult kids – helping with a house deposit.

“Kids. Can’t shoot ’em, can’t tie ’em to a tree!” said one of my American friends in a heavy Southern accent to me when my boys were young. It made me laugh.

Most FI/RE bloggers who have kids seem to be young parents, so their posts are all about paying for child care, sourcing cheap clothing, and optimising after-school activities. Fair enough – I used to be concerned with those things too.

I’m writing this to forewarn you all that even when your kids enter adulthood, there are still possible expenses that you’ll choose to bear. I have 4 adult sons, ages 30, 28,27, and 25. You’d think that as a frugal person, I would have locked them out of the house the instant they turned 18 and abandoned them to let them make their own ways in the world. But it’s a funny thing… parents become quite attached to the humans that they’ve made and even when they grow taller than us, we still want the best for them.

So what’s the best thing to do, financially speaking, once the kids grow up?

We all know the wisdom encapsulated in ‘The Millionaire Next Door‘, (excellent book, by the way), that shows that adult kids who rely on their parents’ “economic outpatient care” end up significantly worse off than those who don’t receive it.

So what is Economic Outpatient Care?

It’s substantial gifts, usually financial, acts of ‘kindness’ etc that allow the adult children to live a lifestyle beyond what they can afford by themselves.

Adult children who sit around waiting for the next dose of economic outpatient care are usually less productive than those who forge their own paths. Cash gifts are too often earmarked for spending and the support of an unrealistically high lifestyle. This Economic Outpatient Care to adult children typically results in:

  • encouraging more consumption than saving and investing.
  • the gift receivers never fully distinguish between their wealth and the wealth of their gift-giving parents. (THIS WOULD ANNOY ME NO END!!!)
  • gift receivers are significantly more dependent on credit than are non-receivers.
  • receivers of gifts invest much less money than non-receivers.

When I read The Millionaire Next Door more than a decade ago, it cemented the decision I made about whether or not to help pay for the boys’ uni fees. I decided that they were responsible for their uni fees, books, and so on.

They needed skin in the game.

I would support them by not charging them board while they were studying for their first degree, and paying for any medical bills they might incur. Typically, this ended up being dental.

Fast forward a decade or so and I have four sons, all with tertiary qualifications that they’re paying off. (Higher Education Loan Program). They pay their own bills and receive no regular financial assistance from me. Anyone who chooses to live at home pays $50/week board, which I put aside in a savings account and will give back to them when they leave. This is a choice I’ve made because I’m in a financial position to be able to do this. Believe me, if I needed the money, I’d be spending it!

When David28 and Izzy decided they were going to tie the knot, I told them I’d contribute 5K to their wedding. Obviously, in my head, I’ve multiplied that by four to account for the other three boys. I’ve also told everyone that this is a first-wedding-only deal… any weddings after that, they’re on their own.

They are also able to take a week-long honeymoon using points from my timeshare to pay for their accommodation. David28 and Izzy will be going to New Zealand using this offer. They’ll be paying for every other expense themselves.

That was all I thought I’d do for the boys. Giving them a bit of help when they get married, as most parents do. After all, the last thing I want to do is weaken them. Life’s tough enough without deliberately making them vulnerable to every strong wind that blows. I raised my boys to be independent men. No handouts from The Bank of Mum!

But then something changed.

When Tom30 unexpectedly boomeranged home at the end of February, he was already saving for a deposit and was about a third of the way there. He’d been out from home for 7 years, paying around $250/week in rent, sharing a flat with a friend. Initially, he was only going to stay a few weeks, but when I told him about the $50/week board, he did some mathematics. He’s an accountant, poor thing, so doing the maths was inevitable.

He asked if he could stay longer, to accelerate the savings for a deposit.

I liked the sound of this, so I agreed. After all, he was 30 now and it was time to start getting some assets together. He changed jobs last year, nearly doubling his income in the process, so I was pleased to hear that he was looking to get ahead.

Then, I sat back and watched.

Would he be a typical ‘Millionaire Next Door’ second-generation child who’d work out how to make it on his own, or would he loll around and expect economic outpatient care?

Tom30 works in a company with mortgage brokers, so he picked their brains and found out about how to harness Superannuation to stretch his dollars, how to avoid paying LMI (Lenders’ Mortgage Insurance) and which criteria the banks would use to assess his loan application, along with a lot of other stuff that I’ve forgotten. When Tom30 starts spitting out numbers, it all begins to merge together for me.

Once he got his head around this information, he set his budget targets, home loan target amount, and savings timeline. We then started driving around and looking at apartments and units/townhouses in his (then) price range of high 400’s. Given this price range, looking at freestanding houses was simply not an option. He works very near the CBD so his commute time was a consideration.

What did I think of his plans?

I admired how clearly he’d laid out his way forward. I thought there was a bit too much fat with his spending money, but then, I’ve been through hard times where I really had to tighten my belt in order for the boys and me to keep the roof over our heads. But then, I realised that this is an area that could always be adjusted if needed. Flexibility is key.

All things considered, I was happy with it. He was finding solutions by himself and was all set to be in a property by the end of the year.

All went along swimmingly for quite a while until the reserve bank started to raise interest rates. That in itself wasn’t a problem – Tom30 had stress-tested his calculations to account for a 7% interest rate which we’re nowhere near (yet) – but suddenly the banks reduced the amount that he could borrow.

Overnight, this went from around 520K down to 475K. Real estate prices were softening, but nowhere near at this rate! If too much time went by, he’d miss his chance to get into the market for a 2BR place. I could see him getting stressed about it. When Tom30 decides he wants to do something, he gets very focused.

I did some thinking.

He needed a little more to get his deposit together, so I told him about the wedding gift of 5K that I’ve earmarked for each child and asked if he’d prefer to use this money as part of his deposit instead. Seeing as he’s single at the moment, he chose to do this.

Of course, I told him that when he DOES get married, he has to tell his beloved that I’ve already paid for my share of the wedding! There’ll be no double-dipping on my watch!

Then, a week or so later, we saw the perfect place for him.

It’s a couple of suburbs over, in an area that is starting to gentrify. It’s a 2BR unit with minimal body corporate fees and is in really good nick, very close to a train station, which will definitely come in handy. He first saw it when I was away on my Little Adventure in Manly, As soon as he was back in the car he rang me and we talked it through. I went with him to see it the following weekend when I was back in Melbourne.

I liked it. It was definitely one of the nicer properties we’d looked at. Honestly, property prices are crazy. The number of absolute dog boxes we looked at that had asking prices around the half million mark was appalling. This one has new flooring, was freshly painted and had new blinds. The kitchen and laundry will need renovating at some stage but everything else was good to go. It was a definite step up from the cruddy little flat he’d lived in during his twenties and, as he says, it’s future-proof. There’s enough room for two, or even two and a baby. And if he stays single, he’d be able to live there for ages quite happily.

The area it’s in is ok, but is definitely on an upward trajectory. In a few years it’ll be described as being in “a most sought-after location, close to beaches, transport and every amenity.” It’s a good buy, if you have an eye for the future.

He wanted to put in an offer, but he was missing a little from his deposit. Interest rates were set to rise and the banks would cut his borrowing power every time this happened. It was a very depressing balancing act that he was undergoing.

I had to do some more thinking. Honestly, all this thinking was getting exhausting. And expensive. But would I be weakening him by helping out a bit more, or would I be helping someone who deserves it?

The good thing was that it was obvious that he was doing everything he could to get there. There was no lolling around going on. All he needed was a start… some seed money, if you will.

I had 10K in cash in my emergency account, sitting in an online bank. I’ve written a few times before about how important an emergency fund has been to me. It’s saved our bacon a few times, turning what could have been huge dramas into mildly inconvenient occurrences, simply because I had the money set aside to deal with them.

That emergency fund was my first line of defense against things going wrong. But I also have 3 years of expenses put aside in a term deposit to guard against Sequence of Return Risk when the stock market falls. Obviously, I have enough money, combined with my CRT work, to look after myself. Meanwhile, my son needed a hand.

I won’t lie; it was hard to withdraw that 10K and flick it over to him. This was the emergency fund that has represented security to me for well over two decades. But once it was gone, I felt nothing but good about it. He’s taking on a loan of around 450K, which is a heck of a lot of money. Me giving him an extra 10K towards the loan isn’t going to ‘save’ him from having to make sacrifices and to be disciplined with his finances, but it’ll help him right now when he needs it.

This isn’t Economic Outpatient Care. It’s a one-time gift to help him as he’s starting out. He’ll have plenty of time to struggle and develop a backbone! It takes quite a while to pay off 450K.

Besides, even if I was inclined to baby him and lavish money on him, I can’t afford it. I have 3 other children, after all. I have to provide the same help to all of them.

Fortunately, the younger two won’t be looking to get into the property market for years, while David28 has a wedding to pay for before he and Izzy can even think of saving for a deposit. I have time to spread out these gifts.


Anyway, a week ago Tom30 put in an offer, with a bid of 470K. There were 4 other bidders, all of whom were property investors. One couple outbid him by 5K.

Tom30 got the property! The owner decided that he’d rather sell to a young person just starting out, rather than to someone buying their 9th property. Isn’t that fantastic? Who knows, maybe sometime in the future Tom30 will be able to pay that forward to someone else.

The bank put a spanner in the works by insisting on a 10% deposit instead the 5% that Tom30 was aiming for. Remember how I said that his budget was a little ‘roomier’ than I thought was necessary? Now all of that is gone. After he approached his father for a little bit of help and was rudely knocked back, a family friend who has known him since he was a child offered to loan him the cash to make up any shortfall by the time settlement is required. They were disgusted by my ex-husband’s attitude, as is everyone who hears about it, and they decided that Tom30 deserves a start.

Fortunately, he has a long settlement, so he’ll be living with Ryan27 and me until October. We’ll be looking on Marketplace for free/cheap furniture and appliances, though he already has a free washing machine that a mate from school has given him. He accepted the offer from our family friend and he’s determined to borrow as little as possible from them. He’s selling everything he owns that isn’t nailed down and is actively looking for accounting customers to bring into the company he works for to add to his income through commissions.

I’m very pleased, though not surprised, to see that this son is doing as much as he can to get the property he wants with as little help as possible. He’s always been extremely organised with his finances.

It was interesting to see how my thoughts and ideas evolved around the question of how much or how little to help my adult children. When they first emerged into young adulthood, I pulled back on the financial help I gave them. They were told, “My job was to get you through secondary school. You’re absolutely expected to get a qualification, but YOU are responsible for paying for it.”

They have spent their 20’s learning how to rely on themselves and to become independent, especially the oldest and youngest who’ve both been out of home for years.

Now, when they’ve settled into their adult lives and are wanting to take the next steps forward, I’m prepared to give them a little help along the way – if they’ve already demonstrated that they’re putting in the effort.

I’ve come to realise that it’s fair enough. A little help is beneficial… it’s when too much ‘help’ is lavished upon them that the rot sets in.

As I’ve said before, if you look at the cost of an entire wedding or the total cost of a mortgage, the help I’m giving barely moves the needle. 15K in a 450K loan is a drop in the ocean.

But if you look at the up-front costs of getting that seed money together, the help I’m giving will spit off huge dividends in the years to come. Everyone needs to start from somewhere. Getting a little help at the start is a great gift that I can give my boys.

It’s funny – I began the trek of getting to financial independence for a lot of good reasons. But once I got there, the freedom to do all sorts of things I’d never thought of has been amazing.

This is just one more.

Dad joke of the day:

I would love to get paid to sleep. It’d be a dream job.

What’s it like to be happily retired – then go back to work?

In the FI/RE space there’s an abundance of posts about how to get to financial independence. (Quite a large percentage are written by people who haven’t yet managed to get there themselves.) There are fewer posts written about what it’s like to actually reach FI and retire. I’ve written quite a few of these sorts of posts during 2021 – the year of lockdowns and my blissfully happy first year of retirement.

But there aren’t too many posts about what it’s like to retire – then pick up work afterwards.

Surely I’m not the only person to have done this? Maybe it’s seen as a sign of shame; that somehow the financial independence hasn’t ‘worked’?

Whatever the reason that people don’t write about this much, I’m stepping up to shine a light on what it’s like to say a blissful goodbye to a career – with a kick-arse speech goodby that I’m still proud of – to then, a little more than a year later, fronting up back at the school again. As I write this I’m sitting in front of a year 9 class, tapping away here while they’re putting the finishing touches onto a political campaign they’re running. Fiddy bucks in my pocket for 48 minutes’ work, before I move onto the next class for another fiddy.

Here I am, swapping my precious time for money. This is something I didn’t think I’d ever do. Except, in the back of my mind, I had a feeling in my waters that this massive bull market probably wouldn’t keep going for another 5 years. I had a vague game plan in my mind that if the market fell before 2026, I’d probably pick up a few days of CRT, (casual relief teaching), to ease the Sequence of Returns Risk.

So, as we all know the market has taken a tumble. At the same time, schools are desperate for CRTs due to covid and the flu, along with regular things like school camps etc. I went back into the classroom as a perfect storm was hitting Australian schools.

I was lucky, in that I still loved being in the classroom when I retired, so it wasn’t as if I was dragging myself back to a job I hated. And as luck would have it, all the boring admin, report writing and diagnostic testing are things that CRTs don’t get asked to perform. Talk about a win right there!

When I began, I had a couple of weeks of a day or two of teaching, then I was suddenly plunged into a month of full-time teaching. The last two weeks have been back to the retired life with no work days, with today, Wednesday and Thursday being back at school in this last week of term 2.

So it’s been interesting to see how I adjusted to going back to work, especially during the month when I was essentially full-time.

To be honest, it was a little scary how easily I went back to the old routine of getting up when the alarm rang and racing around the house to get out by a certain time. I’d had over a year of leisurely mornings waking up when I felt like it, (or really, when Jeffrey decided it was time to wake up and he’d shake the bed with his scratching. ) In retirement I tend to ease into my mornings, staying on the couch until 9 or 10, laptop on my lap and the dogs snoozing by my side.


Now, suddenly I was pitchforked into day after day of early starts, one after the other. I honestly thought it would take longer to adjust back to the old routine than it did. It took the middle of the first “full-time” week and I was back in the swing of it.

Clothes organised, lunch organised, water bottle filled and my bag packed with everything I’d need for the day ahead. No lollygagging around on the internet, oh no! Pour a coffee, solve the Wordle, post a couple of Dad jokes on Facebook, check my timetable to see what the day will hold and then it’s off the couch and into the shower. Keep moving! Time is ticking!

In the car, podcast on. Driving on the freeway, having a goal in mind of being at the last main intersection before school at 8:20. Winning if I shave a minute or two off that time. Walk into school, grab a laptop and keys, up to the staffroom to see what’s in store for me today. A couple of minutes before the bell, start walking to the first classroom to let the kids in and be ready to call the roll at 8:50 when the bell goes.

It’s honestly like riding a bike.

The ease of slipping back into that old rushed routine was, as I said, a little scary. I’d absolutely adored my 2021 year of being absolutely free and it was astonishing how quickly it was overtaken by the requirements of the work routine. Even the little woofs quickly worked out which day was going to be a “Mum’s home” day or not. During 2021, every time I left the house they’d freak out and wait for me all day, if necessary. Since I started work, Ryan27 says that it took a week before they went back to their old routine of sleeping through the day and only starting to wait for me at the front window at about 4PM.

We’re all conditioned by The Man!

It’s not just the blissful retirement morning routine that was affected. After a calming 2021 free of the tyranny of having to fit things in on the weekends, I was suddenly doing the ironing on a Sunday afternoon, making sure I did the bread baking (for lunches) on the weekends, and generally cramming all of the activities that I used to spread luxuriously through the working week all into two days.

I realised that I was starting to think, “I don’t have TIME for this!” whenever something went even the slightest bit wrong. Apparently, I used to say that a lot before my retirement. Time suddenly switched from being my beloved friend to my enemy.

Once I’m at work, my days are a strange mix of watching time drag and being really entertained. There’s no denying that I talk to a hell of a lot more people when I’m at school. The kids are always funny and up for a bit of banter, while my free times are spent chatting to work colleagues and having a laugh.

The social side of going back to work is lovely. Don’t get me wrong; I adore my hermit life at home, but I’m also enjoying being with the people at work.

The downside of being with people is that I’m mixing with around 900 of the hormonally challenged. Yes, I’m talking about teenagers.

Now, teenagers are sometimes hilarious, sometimes deep and sometimes thoughtful. The kids at our school are, for the vast majority of the time, polite, considerate and lovely. However…

… occasionally you’ll strike a kid having a bad day. They don’t WANT to be told to do their work, they don’t WANT to be quiet and not disrupt the class and they’ll be DAMNED if they’ll listen to a ‘sub’.


As I’m in the middle of doing the dance that is maintaining control of the class without pushing this sort of kid into open rebellion, I’m thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t need this shit. I could be doing anything else right now…”

Or you’ll have a class at the end of the day or week who are just over it. Their regular teacher has left screamingly dull work for them to do and all they want to do is get through the next 48 minutes so they can go home. Low-level talking gradually rises in volume as more and more kids switch off and start talking to their friends. It seems like every 3 minutes I’m saying, “Ok year 8! Too loud!”

And I’m thinking, “I know. I’m bored. I feel it too. Only 15 minutes till the bell goes and we’re free! Oh no. I’m clock watching again.”

Man! Clock watching is definitely a THING. When you’re a regular teacher you have to be conscious of the time. Every lesson has an arc and you have to know where you are within that 48 minutes to drive the lesson to a successful conclusion. So clock-watching is a necessary part.

CRT is a different beast. I enter the room, call the roll and introduce the lesson. Then, unless kids have specific questions that I can help them with – which is never when I’m taking a Maths class- the rest of the time I’m pretty much making sure that the kids stay on task and aren’t misbehaving. I find that I’m watching the clock a lot. Not in a productive “lesson arc” way but more of an “oof, there’s still half an hour to go… I could be doing anything with my time… hmmmm, if I was home right now, what would I be doing?”

I REALLY don’t want to get covid and, as we all know, working in schools is a high-risk thing to do. I’m one of the few teachers to mask up. I wear a KN95 mask from the moment I get out of the car in the morning to when I get back into it at the end of the day and this, coupled with being triple vaxxed and vaxxed for the flu, has so far kept me covid safe.

(Touch wood, as my grandmother would say.)

But then, every fortnight I get paid. I like getting paid.

In this post I designed a chart to track where my earnings were going. So much more motivating than just plodding into work every day! I’ve modified it slightly since then, but I’ve basically worked my way down the chart “paying off” every item in turn.

Of course, the money I earn usually goes to my credit card, which I always keep in the black, to pay for our day-to-day expenses. But this protects my savings, which is incredibly important. Six months into a market downturn, I haven’t had to sell any shares or touch any savings or emergency fund money due to the combo of earnings and dividends. I’ve even been able to top up my savings.

This makes me feel very good.

Later on today, I have an appointment with a travel agent to find out about airfares etc to Easter Island and Ushuaia for my Antarctica trip in December. I know I should probably bring a defibrillator with me to start my heart after I hear the prices. I’ve already earned 2K towards airfares, but now that I’m definitely going to Easter Island, I’ll be adding an extra line to that chart for lots more funds needed.

Tom30 is looking to buy a place of his own and is living here to turbocharger his deposit savings. I’ve offered to give him 5K in lieu of wedding costs and lend him a further 10K if he needs it. I’m chipping away at that 5K on the chart – just under 3K to go!

I won’t deny – knowing that giving up some of my days to be able to provide extras for myself and my family without tapping shares during a bear market feels like a good trade-off long term. Knowing that I’ve actioned the flexibility in my FI plan is satisfying.

Would I have gone back to work if we were still in a bull market?

That’s an interesting question.

The catalyst for me starting CRT work was that I heard that the school was desperate for CRTs because so many staff were getting sick. I owe the school BIG TIME for the financial security I was able to build for my boys when they were kids. Part of why I went back was that I was giving back to the place that had saved our financial bacon, back in the day.

I think that I still would have gone back, but I would probably have worked fewer days. Still, I can’t deny that it was interesting to see that I still had it in me!

After working off and on for 3 months after experiencing nearly 18 months of retirement, I have to say that it’s been ok. In fact, it’s been better than I expected. To be fair, I have a huge amount of flexibility. I can say “no” to work whenever I want, and if the school doesn’t offer me enough work I can always work elsewhere as well. There are many, many secondary schools in Melbourne!

The feelings of regret over my loss of freedom in the days when I’m in the classroom are definitely offset by the security offered by an extra income stream during a market downturn. I absolutely know that I did the right thing when I decided to pivot. I’ve had too many years of being terrified by my financial situation to want to risk having sleepless nights again! A few days back in the classroom in the early days of my retirement is a very small price to pay for the huge benefit of feeling like I’m doing the right thing for Future Frogdancer’s financial security in her golden years.

The intangible positives of returning to work are a nice bonus. I enjoy 98% of my interactions with the kids and I work with truly lovely people. I’ve met some other CRTs who are great, but I was always too busy to sit down and get to know them when I was a ‘real’ teacher. I also like the pattern of the days as a CRT – you are given every single period on AND a yard duty, but at the end of the day you can walk out right on the bell, instead of having to attend meetings etc. I’m getting home at a reasonable time nowadays – with no marking!

My mindset about this shifted when it occurred to me that my 3 year stash of living expenses that I’ve put away in case of a market downturn could be stretched indefinitely if I earned just half of my yearly expenses doing CRT.

How many days a week would that be over the first 3 terms of the school year? (Term 4 is pretty much a write-off for CRTs. Once the year 12s start having their exams, the year 12 teachers start taking all the spare classes.)

Two days a week. That’s all it would take.

Hmmm. Interesting…

… Or I could get sick of it and decide to simply stop doing it. Financial Independence is a wonderful thing.

Dad joke of the day:

The kids loved this one today!

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