I'm back again with a new blog. What's gone on since I wrote last, hmm, loads but, from memory it's all good stuff.
I've been extremely busy with work lately, I've spent some time working from home on an important project but have also been busy at home.
I'm busy at home making, baking and crafting all of which started off as an attempt to save some money but, I guess it's no surprise that it's ended up being a costly exercise.
With just 83 days to Christmas now the festive season is looming fast. In previous years I've always been pretty organised but I've still been able to be a little lavish and generous with my gifts. This years simply can't afford to be. Being a Widower is no fun and just because you're a Widower you don't get discounts or rebates on those commitments you may have taken on as half of a couple. They are the same but your means is considerably more constrained. This has prompted me to do something I've been wanting and meaning to do for many years.
Before Stephen passed away he was keen to make presents for people as he felt that they were more personal and mean a lot more to the recipient when they know you've made a special effort for them. We did make a few things together before he passed away and those people received those gifts but we also had a tradition of making our own Christmas cards, at least for the past few years but this year I'm making a concerted effort.
I started a few weeks ago when I decided to make some chutney's. the recipe said now is the right time to make it and that it tastes lovely with cold meats and cheese at Christmas. Roast Apple & Garlic Chutney, it's delicious. I've not had a jar for myself but just the bit left over when the jars were full. It's not been a cheap gift to make though, I calculated some of the jars would have cost me at least £5 in ingredients! Even taking off the £1 or so the jar cost there's not many people who would appreciate or pay that much for a jar of chutney.
With this in mind has it been a good gift to make? Will it be appreciated? I am sure some of my friends absolutely would not appreciate the work or cost involved in making the gift but, I suppose the idea will be that I only choose to give them to those who may appreciate them. That being said if friends read this and don't receive chutney then it may not be because I don't think you'll appreciate it but because I've made relatively few jars compared to the number of friends I have so some people may be disappointed.
In addition to this I have also been stitching and sewing, that's something I learned from my Mum many years ago and is something I continue to practice and learn. I have loads of ideas as to what I can make but unfortunately I don't have time to execute them all. The cost of the items I sew or make may not be very high, I think the lowest priced item so far has cost me just £3 in materials but in time has probably cost me an hour. That, for me, is where the cost lies. Time is the most precious thing I have and the most precious thing I can give, whether that be in person or in making and crafting something for someone, my time is valuable to me and I am selective on whom and how I spend it, I'll come back to time later though.
In addition to sewing and cooking I've been making jewellery. Not fine jewellery but fashion jewellery. There's already a few friends who have pieces of my jewellery but again, the cost of the item may not be huge but the time it takes to make is probably a higher cost. I'm also spending time customising things too, taking a basic item and turning it into something more interesting or beautiful with a sprinkle of my artistic flair. Knitting is something I've toyed with but I find it a slow process and not one of my greatest skills so I'm not committing to that craft just yet.
All of the things I've mentioned take time. Whilst the cost per item may be low the cost of the tools or the cost of acquiring the skill is often high. As I mentioned earlier, the most precious thing I have and that I can give, in fact that anyone can give, is time. I think too many people lose sight of this too easily and focus on material things or adopt a "what's in it for me?" attitude. I believed this to be true before I lost Stephen but losing him has reinforced this belief.
I've been saddened lately by a few things, by things I mean friends, circumstances and attitudes. I've learned of some friends experiencing difficulties and have tried to be there and be supportive. They are a lovely people and I really feel and appreciate the difficult times they are experiencing. On the other hand I'm aware of a difficult situation where someone has turned their back on friends. It seems many years of friendship can be discarded by some when they no longer have a need for that friend or when the friend becomes un-cool. This has made me look at my friends and the time I spend, no not spend, but invest in them.
As I scrolled through my contacts on my phone and looked at the names of friends and associates as they rolled past I found myself taking a moment to think of each of them in turn. There's acquaintances in there, friends, family and just a few people who make me wonder why I have their number. Maybe it's me. I have been told I am too analytical and perhaps I am but as I look back over the last 12 to 18 months I can see how I have changed and how my circle of friends has changed.
There were some I've disassociated with because they made me unhappy and some who have been much better friends to me than I ever imagined they would. I also have friends in there who I have not spoken to for many months. This doesn't make them less of a friend it's just that I have a different relationship with them. If I look at the time I have invested though I can see there are some that I have invested a lot of time in, high maintenance friends with, to put it bluntly, little or no return.
There are many others though whom I have invested just a little time in and the rewards they provide are substantially greater. By that I mean the feelings that their names conjure up in my mind are more pleasant, they've not been demanding of my time or difficult to connect with but they have been there and will continue to be there. I have never been one to categorise my friends, never would and am not doing so now I am just stating a fact though which is that some people understand and appreciate your time and effort and others do not.
I'll go back to my original point about Christmas. This year I won't have lots of money to spend and I don't have a lot of time to spend but I can find time and am making time to invest in showing my nearest and dearest how much they mean to me. If you don't get a home made gift from me it doesn't mean I don't love you it just means I ran out of time to be creative but hopefully I'll be able to make it up to you by giving you my most precious of gifts, it is of course.... Time.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and please feel free to share this gift of time.
Xx Mark xX