Week two: where I try to work the camera

Friday

Wake up with: £40

Go to bed with: £22.50

I’ve always loved a Friday. And now it’s new budget day, I love Fridays even more.

However, there is a caveat: this week, I’m going to have to try to get by on £40. I have the husband’s anniversary present, birthday present and associated celebrations to account for later in the month. One of my god-daughters is turning one and the other’s christening is in the diary. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through a full bank holiday weekend and a work week on £40, but I’m game for a challenge.

A round robin informs me that I need to pay my dues if I want to join the office lotto syndicate this month—time to bow out. Here’s hoping this isn’t the month we hit the jackpot.

It’s date night in the LoveRichCashPoor household, so I cycle to Camden to meet the husband from work. He tells me that he’s withdrawn money for the week in cash. Oh and he’s bought us a selection of bank holiday breakfast goodies. This calls for a celebration—the drinks are on me.

Saturday

Wake up with: £22.50

Go to bed with: £14.39

After a princely brunch, courtesy of the husband’s treats, and an afternoon spent rather optimistically readying the garden for summer, thoughts turn to dinner. It’s unseasonably cold, so comfort food is on the menu: we settle on bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potato). The husband is dispatched to the shop with a £10 note from my wallet.

After dinner, we snuggle up on the sofa for a film, the rain beating against the windows and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Sunday

Wake up with: £14.39

Go to bed with: £6.89

I use the leftover mashed potato to make potato scones for breakfast, which we eat with black pudding and poached eggs. The husband is happy.

After a relatively lazy day of pottering yesterday, it’s time to ‘make the most’ of our long weekend so we walk into Central London to visit the Sony World Photography Awards at Somerset House. It’s just as well we saved on public transport, because the entry fee is £7.50. Ouch.

Monday

Wake up with: £6.89

Go to bed with: £2.21

Trivia question of the week: how many meals can you make with 2 peppers, 2 courgettes, 4 onions, 2 carrots, a bulb of garlic, a bunch of spring onions (scallions), a bunch of coriander (cilantro), 4 cans of tomatoes and a rapidly depleting store cupboard?

Answer: 14 and counting

With just £6.89 for the rest of the week, there’s no scope for largesse at the grocer. I improvise a Mexican black bean soup for the week’s lunches and cook up a mega vat of slow-cooked chilli con carne for tonight (and the foreseeable future) as well as an avocado and mango salsa. I save some of the fresh vegetables for a ratatouille later in the week.

Now to turn water into wine…

Tuesday

Wake up with: £2.21

Go to bed with: £0.73

Mega excitement. First thing I do at work: check my email and what does it tell me? That people are actually reading my blog. And not all of them are my mum!

It feels surreal and brilliant. To anyone who might be reading this now—and to those of you from across the pond in particular—please feel free to pitch in with comments or questions—especially if you don’t understand my British terminology. I will try to provide ‘translations’ where possible.

Well the thought that someone out there might actually read this spurred me on to bite the bullet with the photography. I am scared, very scared.

Firstly, because I do not ‘do’ technology (the husband assumes the role of Chief in Charge of Wires in our household, and I can’t even set the video—yes, exactly; I haven’t even graduated to DVD yet).

2) When I dreamt up this project, I read a couple of articles on the do’s and don’ts of food photography and there seemed to be an awful lot of don’ts—I am not to take pictures in artificial light and under no circumstances am I to use patterned plates. Oh dear. We only have patterned plates and I normally eat after dark. Hence the distinct lack of photography thus far.

Still, there’s a brief five-minute window of sunshine in the evening, so I decide to go for it. Patterned plates or no patterned plates. I blow virtually all the remaining budget on a couple of props (sour cream and a lime—I know, I’m living it large), then completely forget everything the husband has patiently told me about ISO and exposure (let’s face it, it’s a bloody miracle I remembered how to turn the thing on). I almost spill an entire bowl of soup down the stairs while trying to find the best-lit spot in the house and that’s before I discover that there’s no time to mess about with food photography. It congeals, it slops, it wilts, it melts. What’s more, I can’t afford to waste perfectly good food, so there’s only so much experimentation that I can do—there will not be any varnished chickens on this blog.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £0.73

Go to bed with: £0.73

We’re having our boiler replaced and relocated this week in a bid to magic a second bedroom out of some redundant space in our flat, and install a non-electric shower after ours exploded a couple of months ago. This is a job for the professionals but our experience of workmen in general so far has been thus:

Us: “Please can we pay you a vast amount of money, more than our monthly salaries combined, to do what appears to be a relatively simple job, if one that we do not have the balls expertise to do ourselves?”

Builder: “Yes, but I’ll be doing you a huge favour at that price.”

Us: “We’re eternally grateful. Any chance you could do it when we’d like it to be done?”

Builder: “No, but I could start about three weeks after that.”

Us: “Oh okay, I guess that will work. How long will it take?”

Builder: “Hard to say, about three days.”

[Up to five weeks after the builder said he’d complete the job, house in chaos, with all furniture from one room piled up in the other room]

Us (unsuspecting): “So, when you said three days, we assumed you meant three consecutive days—silly us. It’s just we’re running out of clean clothes and washing the dishes in the bath isn’t ideal in the long-term.”

Builder: “Well, you see, I have to fit it in around other work because I’m doing you such a huge favour.”

[two years later—job is complete, if a little wonky]

So you can see why we approached the latest instalment of the works at no.53 with some trepidation. This time, however, is different. We receive an utterly reasonable-sounding quote via email, which we accept without question. When can they start? Next week. Really? Yes. The team turn up on Tuesday morning as promised. Tuesday evening, the new boiler is in, the builders have moved the furniture themselves, and put it back in roughly the right place. Nothing has been broken and they have stacked all their tools neatly, out of our way. We still have hot water.

Wednesday evening, the new boiler is in, the old boiler is out. The house is tidy, nothing has been broken. Oh, and they happened to notice one of our radiator valves is broken, so they’ve replaced it. We still have hot water. It’s a miracle.

So maybe the boiler will spontaneously combust or something next week. But right now, I am very impressed.

Thursday

Wake up with: £0.73

Go to bed with: £0.73

“It’s good this cash-only policy isn’t it?” The husband muses. “When you use your card it’s really easy to lose track and spend money without even realising.” Too true, oh husband of mine, too true.

I have £0.73 in my wallet and that means I have spent £39.27 this week. Truth be told, it’s a simple formula: do I want to change my life, or do I want that cappuccino?

We’ve been to the pub, out for dinner, had friends round for supper, been to an exhibition and eaten magnificently (if I say so myself). To me, that is the very definition of money well spent.

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