Wow, what a weekend! On Saturday 21st March we held the inaugural Spring Gathering for UK Bloggers and Readers at Stratford upon Avon. People came from far and wide to be there (from Surrey to Wensleydale).There were 12 of us in total. I want to thank you all for coming along. Thank you Weenie, M (and family), Darren, Karen, Richard, Alison, Al and Bill. Lou (Miss FFBF) and I had a brilliant time meeting everyone. We had a lot of fun, we left feeling inspired and I'm sure it's the start of many long term friendships. So, what happened? Lou and I arrived in SuA just after 9am, dropped off our kit at the hotel and headed off to the swan sculpture. After the 5 minute walk to the sculpture it dawned on me that I didn't know what most of the people looked like and who I was supposed to be meeting. I kept 'checking' people out, making eye contact and waiting for a reaction. After freaking out a small proportion of the SuA population, we decided to go for a little walk, as we were early, and it was bloody freezing. Stratford is a lovely town, and if you haven't been there, I would highly recommend it. It's quiet, easy on the eye, it's buildings are filled with character and we're partial to any location where there's a river or sea nearby. We almost got to the bottom of the street and my 'spider sense' started tingling. I sensed someone was behind me, and to my horror delight, it was Darren and Karen, who had been stalking us for a few minutes. I introduced them both to Lou and we went to Carluccio's to get a coffee within eye shot of the swan fountain. I had met Darren and Karen at the New Year Gathering near my home town on 3rd January this year, so apart from Weenie, I had no idea what the others looked like. A man was lingering around the fountain on his own, which was about 100 yards away. I decided to approach him and see if it was an 'attendee'. As I approached, he threw a coin into the fountain, turned around, and walked away. I thought to myself "This could be a long morning!". Before we knew it, the four of us were in deep communication about everything we do, living in Sweden (Miss FFBF and Darren), thoughts for the day ahead and having a blast in general. I had my phone on the table to signal any incoming calls/texts and an answer phone message popped up. As I dialled it and was listening to the message a gentleman came over and asked "Are you Huw? I'm Al". Al has a 6 month old baby at home, and his wife kindly agreed to look after the baby whilst he came up to meet us. Within 30 mins or so, I had an incoming call from M at There's Value, who when I answered the phone, was stood right next to our table with her husband and son. The UK Gathering was well and truly under way now. The 7.5 of us were chatting away about what we do, house prices and investing. It was at this point that I had my first satisfying thought about the Gathering. It was so refreshing and nice to speak to like minded people about all of this stuff. That moment came back to me time and time again throughout the day. It was a big reason for me setting the whole thing up in the first place, and I was pleased to feel it so early on. We were running out of space and seats, just like Weenie from Quietly Saving who was running to get her connecting train! Thankfully she made it, and dropped me a text to say she was on her way to SuA. Our transition was a lot less dramatic, but equally comforting, as we made our way indoors to a big table where we could all sit together and warm up. Within the next hour or so, everyone had arrived. First Weenie, smiling from ear to ear. No sooner had she sat down, ordered a drink and told us about her running escapades, I received a call from Richard & Alison who had come all the way down from Yorkshire! Hands down the most impressive commute - over a 400 mile round trip. Richard was explaining to Weenie and I that he reads our Blogs every morning, without fail, to see what we've been up to. I felt a thud on my shoulders. I checked to see what it was but there was nothing there. I then realised it was just the pressure of Richards morning routine that had landed on me! :-) He said "Yeah, and I checked your Blog for just over 2 weeks recently and you didn't post a single thing". Bloody hell, I've gotta pull my finger out and write some more stuff as people are spending their time reading this Blog. Joking aside, what a lovely compliment to receive. To think that my writing is part of someone's daily routine is amazing. Thank you for sharing that Richard! Richard, Al and I were talking shares and investing (I was loving it!), everyone was chatting away and I thought, this is what it's all about. I'm so glad I got the ball rolling with this thing. Weenie and M traded their 'brews' and we're all interested to see how they grade each others work (in a 'come dine with me' type of way). M said she's been doing it for years and for readers of Weenie's Blog, they'll know that she's only recently been dabbling with it. I felt truly honoured when Weenie pulled out this little beauty out of her bag.
It says "UK Spring Gathering 2015, Stratford Upon Avon, Brewed By Weenie, Drinking our way to FI". A friend helped her to put it together and she used the picture from this Blog for the sticker. What an amazing gift, thank you again Weenie! Her brew did come with a verbal warning. "Don't open the bottle for a few days as I was running to catch the train with the bottles in my bag". M and I duly noted the advice! I then had a text from our final attendee Bill from North London. He came up to join us for lunch. His arrival meant we were all there. Now that everyone was there, it was time to eat. Lunch was great for me, and I got the impression that most people were pleased with Carluccio's offering. The bill paying however, was on another level. Phone calculators were out, initials were recorded with amounts all on the one receipt. It was the most efficient bill calculation I had seen of a group that size. These are my type of people! So, what next?
A pub of course! Darren's local to the area, so he lead us to a pub that had plenty of space, wasn't showing any sport and wasn't too far away. I stand by Meat Loaf's lyrics, two out of three ain't bad. Sport was on, there was a crowd around it, but we found plenty of space outside (much to Alison's horror!). The drinks were flowing and the chatter continued. I purposely sat next to Bill, as I knew he wasn't staying long and I wanted to find out what brought him here. He said he was an avid investor, and wanted to support the community in some way. He liked reading Blog's within our group and was a big fan of Monevator. He said his investment strategy is basically Monevator's site. He said it would be great to get someone like him (them) to come along. I told him that I had contacted him to ask if he was interested and he politely declined. Monevator was a big fan of what we were doing but he wanted to keep his anonymity. It was a shame for us, but I completely respect his stance. I then thought for a moment, was Bill Monevator?! After my brief conspiracy theory, Bill asked if I had thought about inviting people to do talks about their areas of expertise, similar to the MMM Gatherings in the US. I had thought about it eventually, but wanted it to be more relaxed and social to begin with. I asked the rest of the group about their thoughts on how they wanted this thing to pan out and it seemed quite conclusive - Keep the set up relaxed and social for now, at least for the rest of this year and perhaps review it next year. I agree entirely. I want these Gatherings to be about meeting new people, making friends, helping each other, having fun, and once our relationships have been built, we can perhaps spice things up by adding talks/presentations etc. Within an hour or so at the pub, Bill had to leave, and was quickly followed by Al, who had to provide his wife with some respite. Not long after their departure, it dawned on me that I hadn't taken a picture with everyone present! Damn it! I seized the opportunity to ask if we could have a group photo. Karen stepped up with her camera, set the timer and ran around to make the shot. After our second round, we decided to make our way indoors. The conversations kept flowing and I got a chance to speak to Weenie a little more. I asked what her plans were for Quietly Saving. She shared the first thing that popped into her head and it sounded like a lot of fun. I'll let Weenie reveal her plans, but for those of us listening to her, we were all excited to see how it would work out. By the end of her explanation, myself and M were game for joining her too. Keep an eye out at Quietly Savingfor some investing fun. Summer Gathering 2015 No sooner had we been experiencing the Spring Gathering, we found ourselves talking about setting up the next one in the summer. We went on to discuss possible locations too, including one of Richard's houses! :-) Darren said that as I was the 'mummy' of the group (yes mummy, not daddy), it was down to me to make the call. I wasn't comfortable making the decision on my own, or with being called 'mummy' for that matter, but what I felt strongly about was making sure we go to all parts of the UK. I want to give everyone a chance of attending and to keep things fresh. I committed to doing a Gathering 'Oop North' and 'Dan Sath'. For this summer it made sense to do it Up North, to increase the chances of the weather playing to our favour. We'll then go down south for Autumn. I can't remember who suggested it, but we decided on making York our location for summer. That's the only thing confirmed at this stage. I'll get back to you all on dates and specific location over the next coming weeks and months. Due to the distance, I'll be making it a two night stay. Lucky Lou get's to use it as one of my registered holiday in my relationship goals list. I know, I know, she's a lucky lady! Alison said we should set up a name to call ourselves. I think it's a great idea. I'm not the most imaginative person, so I'd love to get people's help on this one. Answers on a post card please. I'll collate the suggestions from you all, and set up a poll on the Blog to make it official. Thanks Alison! Coming to the end It was now time for M and her family to make their way home. It wasn't long after M's departure that Weenie had to make her way back to the train station too. As the remaining 6 of us were stopping overnight and going out for a meal, we decided to walk her to the station. She had done enough running for one day.
After we said our goodbyes, we made our way to Lambs for an evening meal. Alison had pre-booked a table for two prior to coming along, and kindly offered to extend it to six. She'd been researching the town for reputable reviews and had carefully selected Lambs. What a great job she did! It was a cosy, 16th Century building and the service was excellent. It's the first time I've been out for dinner where all six people ordered meals from the Set Menu, and guess what, not one 'sarcy' comment. The six of us got to know each other a little more, and once our bellies were filled, we all decided to call it a night. The time was around 8.30pm if I remember rightly, and I was knackered. As were were saying our goodbyes I was planning on exchanging numbers with Richard, but he didn't bring his mobile. He said he 'hates the bloody thing' and likes to stay uncontactable if possible - Superb! I exchanged numbers with Alison who said she would pass on any communication. The day came and went so quickly. Lou and I had a fantastic day and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone once again for coming along. It was sad seeing people leave as I felt quite close to everyone in that short space of time. I'll use that motivation to set up the next one. I look forward to meeting everyone again, and hopefully some new faces in York. I want to thank Darren again for his help in selecting the location. It was bloody perfect. He also invited me and Lou around for a cup of tea at his house the next day. He kindly treated us for lunch in the park, we fed squirrels, and he showed us how to powerslide a car around a roundabout (which was awesome by the way). Thank you Darren and Karen! I've said this already, but I feel a great sense of motivation to continue on my journey to FI. There were people there who had just started their FI journey, and people who were close to their FI date. I learned a little bit from everyone I talked to and my only wish was for the whole thing to be longer. I'm intending to go to York for two nights and once I confirm dates and location, I welcome everyone to join me for an extended stay. Until next time..... Can you think of a name to call our group? Are you interested in Joining us in York for the Summer? Can you beat a 400 mile round trip commute?