FIRE Escape - Cheyne Cottage Summary

On average, 1 in 4 people enjoyed the weekend

What another fantastic weekend away with the FIRE Escape crew. Thank you to everyone that came along! 

I'm not sure if it's a case of just getting to know people more, but this was my favourite weekend of the lot so far. It also went far quicker than all other 3 to date. I think this might have been down to the uninterrupted discussions. 

As I enjoyed the weekend, the odds are 3 others didn't. In the picture above you can see how happy Karen is to be there. The unfortunate counter to that was Darren, Jon and Elaine would have preferred to have signed up to a 10 year car financing plan for a SUV, a short term loan from Wonga or to have read the last 3 entries from Gwyneth Paltrow's Blog. 

You can't win them all, and my post today is to reflect on my thoughts from the weekend, and to share an insight for those of you that couldn't make it. I'll also finish up with a feedback survey that those that attended. If you missed this one, I'd still like you to leave your comments below so I can take your thoughts onto future weekends. Enjoy!


The journey down was blissful in comparison to the York trip. Not just for the shorter mileage, but the traffic was far more reasonable. It seems like most people had a fairly standard trip and I'm sure the weather was a big factor in that. 

Lou and I took a slight detour en-route and stopped off at A&Z's house. They've been living in a house that they're renovating. We took the opportunity to look around their work to date, and get an idea of what plans they have in the pipeline. What a beautiful home they have, and I'm excited to see the end result. 

I had agreed to meet the Cheyne cottage home owner at 1.30pm. After A&Z's house tour, coffee and chat we made our way to our home for the next 3 days. 

The owner was such a lovely man. Thanks again Bruce! After he showed us around, I started to get very excited about the prospect of having our own location for 3 days. The set up was fairly basic, but it had more than what we needed and it felt very 'homely'. As such, I whacked on my slippers (which are now falling apart) and proceeded to make myself feel at home. 

Lou shouted "We have guests", which signalled the end of my trouser-less parade (for now). and we welcomed our first attendees - Jon and Elaine.

Jon is a Chemical Engineer and Elaine is a full time Pastry Chef, and wannabe Game Keeper. They live less than an hour away from the location, they're close to paying off their mortgage (Dec 15/Jan 16) and they wanted to meet some like minded people. They arrived with flapjacks, shortbread and chocolate puddings in hand. I couldn't help but imagine the vastly different outcomes if either Jon or Elaine had made them? And luckily for us, it was Elaine. (No offense Jon, but I didn't fancy a 'Heisenberg bake')

A&Z were the next to arrive. As 'FIRE Escape Sophomores' we greeted them in a more familiar fashion and gave them a quick house tour.  

We weren't expecting the next guests for a few hours, so the 6 of us decided to get some fresh air whilst it was still light and check the Big Lights of Potterne. One of A's great strengths is his ability to make puns out of any bleak opportunity. A trait I admire in a person. He suggested we "go up The Butts" or at least come down it on our walk - referring to the main road outside the cottage (The Butts). This followed a text message I received prior to his arrival stating "Hey Huw, we'll be with you in 30 mins. Until then, we'll leave you to your own 'Devizes'". Punning Platinum I'm sure you'll agree. 

Our tour of Potterne was riddled with cheeky pun opportunities, and it dawned on me that A's suggestion might have been more 'planned' than first thought. 

We encountered 'Coxhill Lane' and 'Bell Place', as well as his reference to a 'cul de sac' which was claimed to be unintended. Yes, this was what you guys were missing out on! 

Elaine and Jon purchased some double cream and some ice cream blocks from the local Costcutter to accompany our chocolate cakes and we worked our way back down The Butts to the cottage. 

Next to arrive was a FIRE Escape regular, M from There's Value. Her bump was ever more prominent. She left the fella's at home so she could have a rare, yet much desired adult only weekend (well, sort of anyway). She kindly brought some of her allotment grown Veg along for the weekend, and as we found out in her 'Discussion' on Saturday, M know's her Veg gardening!

The FIbrarian arrived, beers in hand, after a steady 4 hour journey. I won't go into specific details of the man behind the Blog, but he's one of the nicest guys you could care to meet. This was his first time at a Gathering, and he drove a long way on his own to meet us all. He quickly settled in with everyone and was only to willing to spill the beans on funny stories within his occupation.  

Emma was the last person to arrive on the Friday and brought with her some Hotel Chocolat treats, including the strongest alcoholic sweets known to man - Mojito flavoured, indigestion inducing and licence losing chocolate balls), wine, matches from the queen, and a Fire Log for good measure. Emma entertained us all with her outrage towards owning multiple plates, utensils and mugs. 

She's a resilient minimalist, a big Spork fan, a self-confessed Fire addict (confession not required) and proud of it! She had a busy week abroad with work, and although she was stopping over on the Friday, she had already committed to a Hen Do the following day in Bristol so we wouldn't see her for the rest of the weekend as she departed early. 

Lou kindly agreed to cook a dish for everyone on the Friday evening (she's a superstar!). She chose a creamy mushroom and tarragon pasta dish, with emphasis on the word pasta. There was more than enough pasta to feed the whole of The Butts, and the creamy sauce went down a treat. That was all followed up by Elaine's individual chocolate puddings, with yet more cream and ice cream. 

The food was lovely, we were enjoying each others company and having fun!

We went down memory lane by sharing what the impartial careers guidance and information program Kudos had selected for our 'ideal' career choice when we were at school. Can you remember that?!

Jon's came up with 18 out of 20 varieties of Engineer. He puts his current job success down to that underrated program. 

His partner Elaine was suggested to take her career down the route of Game Keeper, Green Keeper and Zoo Keeper - Just generally 'Keeping' animals and land happy. 

But 'Z' had the pick of the bunch, with one solitary job. No other job was suitable for her. This was what she was meant to be - Puppet Maker.

Now I won't go into what 'Z' does for a living, but I'll be as bold to admit that it isn't that. The Puppet world hasn't been the same since the 90's and although I can't say for sure, I think we all know what needs to happen there. 'Z', there's still time! Or as an alternative, you can bring up your daughter, Amberstasia*, to live the life you could have had. It's nice to have options. 

*I had to google how to spell Amberstasia, and the top search result was for the free dating website 'Plenty of Fish', I couldn't bring myself to look. 

Before we knew it, the time had past midnight and it was time for bed. We all said goodbye to Emma, whilst Jon/Elaine and A&Z made their way home. 


The main day was now upon us. Emma had left for Hen Do mayhem, and Lou and I were the first to rise. 

We did a quick whizz around the cottage to tidy things up, I then perched myself in the front room and caught up with some work emails and tasks, thanks to the cottages free wi-fi. 

Within the next 60-90 minutes everyone was up and chatting away on the dining table. From that point on the talking didn't stop - In a good way! 

I have a survey at the bottom of the post so everyone can share their views on how they found the weekend. I'm not sure what others thought, but I LOVED the self-catering option. Here are 3 of the main reasons behind my opinion:

  1. Cost - It's a lot cheaper and more inline with what we stand for on accommodation, food, drinks, snacks and entertainment. 
  2. Comfort - It's more relaxing & laid back - You can wear relaxed clothing, slippers, curl up on the sofa, grab a cup of tea etc. 
  3. Time Efficiency - There were next to no interruptions or breaks in our conversations. In York and SoA, we were moving on from bar, to cafe, to restaurant, and not all of them could accommodate us. This transition time led to less productive conversations, breaks in previous conversations and even frustration when we couldn't find a suitable location for 15 odd seats at short notice on a summer weekend. Having a single location for the entire weekend minimised these breaks and took the additional decision making off the table. 

Jon and Elaine joined us later in the morning and A&Z came just in time for lunch. Prior to their arrival we had our first Saturday guests - Darren and Karen. This is their 3rd official Gathering (including the Symonds Yat one at the start of the year). Darren's an automotive engineer, and Karen works for a supermarket chain. They're hoping to retire in 2018, which is an unbelievable achievement. 

David was the next to arrive. He lives approx 10 minutes away from the cottage so when he heard that we were going to be so close to his home, he felt like he had to check it out. David's the MD of a successful company that deals with other big household names. His job title has allowed him to be very open with his colleagues on his plans for early retirement. He doesn't have to answer to anyone! His first goal is to complete paying of his mortgage, which he hopes to do in 44 months (or so). David shared some useful information with me which I'm happy to pass onto you all. 

Money Podcast

In David's words:
"The popular podcaster who covers a lot of FI territory is Pete Matthew over at the Meaningful Money Podcast. Initially, I thought a lot of his material was fairly basic for people just starting on a journey to get their finances sorted, but he covers such a broad range of personal finance areas that I'm sure there's something new for everyone. I've been working my way through his back catalogue and now know more about VCTs, tax etc."

Investment Broker Comparison Website
I said that I previously used Monevator's Comparison Table for this. David liked this website as it gave you the actual future costs of your portfolio like a comparison website would for car or home insurance - 

Let me know if you've used the website or listened to the podcast below

Guy from Early Retirement Guy arrived just before lunch. We started chatting and I think we talked pretty much non-stop for 45-60 mins. He lives in an area that I have some history with, we talked about Blogging, working on our own, Kindle and being around our friends/family/colleagues who don't necessarily value money like we do. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the company of both David and Guy and it was just a shame I didn't get to speak to them more after our initial 30-60 minute chats. 

One cool thing about having self catered accommodation for the weekend was making people feel welcome and connecting with them straight away. With David and Guy, I offered them a drink as they arrived and chatted about their journey, why they decided to come, what their plans were etc. I didn't speak to David for the rest of the afternoon, but it was great to have had that opportunity to get to know him right away. Guy and I chatted a little more later on, but once again it was great to get to the know the man behind the blog a before I missed the opportunity. 

Darren and Karen kindly offered to cook everyone lunch. It was one of Darren's frugal Uni dishes - 'Turbo Soup'. It was called Turbo for a reason! Elaine's eyeballs started to sweat after a few spoons fulls and she wasn't alone. I loved it, it gave my man flu a kicking, and have asked for the recipe. 

Informal Talks

After Turbo Soup and more of Elaine's fantastic cakes, the FIbrarian asked what the plan was for the afternoon. M and I had agreed to do some informal chats on Veg Gardening and Kindle Publishing, and we also had the 'speed dating' game. 

I suggested kicking things off with the speed dating game, and the group didn't feel it was necessary. I didn't get any poo thrown at me, but there was a sense that we all knew each other quite well already, and there wasn't the need. I was in full agreement. When someone came into the house, we would mildly interrogate them and it helped to get to know people. The setting also allowed for multiple people to join in on the discussion and listen to the new arrival - saving the need for multiple people to get to know each other.

I told everyone that I would go next door into the front room and talk about Kindle if people were interested. I tried to make it clear that I didn't want people to feel forced to come in or attend through politeness. If no-one was interested then that was fine by me. 

Jon said he was interested so we went into the front room and I got cracking. Over the course of an hour or so I talked about what I did, how I do it, and I fielded questions on the process. People started to filter in and listen and I had around 7 or 8 people* listening in the end. 

*A source of encouragement for those of you that were concerned about making this weekend too formal. Half of the cottage chatted in the kitchen, while the other half were with me in the front room. 

A couple of people were interested in the specific process of outsourcing work, but most were interested in how I went about publishing books. My goal is to write all of my own work, whilst outsourcing on the side. I said this in session, but I believe everyone has a book in them. Everyone can write about something they have passion, knowledge or experience in. One of the best things I've found about doing Kindle Publishing is the knowledge it's given me on the process of creating a book, getting a cover done, how to promote your work, how to make more money from it, how to make it stand out from the competition (in the same topic/area) etc. If you choose to outsource all of the work or do it yourself it doesn't really matter - The work is still there to be done, and I've now learned how to do it very well through learning and practice. 

Even if your a middle aged man that ran his first marathon and you'd love to write a book on it as it's your passion, but you feel that you don't have enough knowledge or specialist information to pass onto other marathon runners - I would totally encourage you to do it! 

There are thousands of other middle aged men that would 'like' to run a marathon but feel they're past it or don't have the enthusiasm to start. There's a core market you can target right there!

I'm not sure what people thought of the informal chat. If one person took something away from it and was able to take some action I would be delighted with that. 

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Guy kindly agreed to be a guinea pig for my online course when I release it this year. The knowledge that another person is waiting for it will help to keep me on track with it, and it's nice to know that I'll have at least one sale. Thank you again Guy!

Jon's alarm went off on his phone, and it signalled the start of the Wales vs S Africa Rugby Q-Finals. I had answered most peoples questions at that point and it seemed like an appropriate time to finish, so we put on the game, continued chatting about all sorts of stuff, and started drinking! 

Half way through the game 'A' suggested playing Boule outside in the garden before the light went down. I REALLY wanted to play but I stayed true to Wales and watched the full 80 mins instead........ I wish I hadn't now!

Once the game had finished, M said she was going to do the chat next door on the Dining room table for those that were interested. A&Z, Elaine, Karen, Lou and I were all keen to learn more about the topic. What I can say is that...... M knows her stuff

M was happy to field any questions, and I don't think there were any questions that she wasn't able to answer in some way. She talked us through the set up she has with her allotment, how to start Gardening with a small space, and make the most from it. How to pick the most appropriate Veg to grow based on your circumstances. Her experience with trying Thrifty Lesley's 'cut your grocery bill in half challenge', which she's also written up here. How she plans on putting into practice what she's learned in a more healthy, yet sustainable way. And this was the tip of the iceberg!

I don't do any Veg Gardening at home, Lou is the 'Monty Don' in our household. There were some topics which lost me slightly (easily done!), but overall I still took a lot from it. Thank you for volunteering to share your wealth of knowledge with everyone M! 

Please leave your feedback for M below, as I'm sure she'd like to know what you all thought and took away from it. 

David and Guy departed just before dinner (not together BTW), we offered them dinner but both of them had to get going. Thankfully they both got to meet The FIREstarter before they left.

The FIREstarter arrived prior to dinner. Kitted in his Golf attire, he proceeded to whizz around the group and speak to everyone. I was lucky enough to speak to TFS earlier in the week on Skype for the first time and we had a good chat about many topics. I didn't get a chance to say more than the usual "how's it going" conversation, but his time was limited and he had plenty of other people to meet. He couldn't stay for long, but he made up for it by trying to speak to everyone at some stage. Thanks again for stopping by TFS!

The Next Meal

A&Z offered to cook everyone a variety of vegetarian curries. They cooked 4 wonderful dishes, accompanied with Yogurt, Mango Chutney, Lime Pickle, Rice and Poppadoms. Yet no Naan bread.

I'm a carnivore and proud, but I have to say they did an awesome job. I enjoyed EVERY dish they prepared and they went down a storm. So much so, dessert was delayed until later to allow for more room. 

Our tummy's were full, we were enjoying each others company, and we decided to retire to the front room for the rest of the evening. This was largely influenced by mine and Jon's desire to watch the rest of the New Zealand vs France Rugby QF match. 

The match was much like my hair line, non-existent. NZ thrashed France, which was a little disappointing for the northern hemisphere, and for our desire to watch a tightly contested match. Towards the end of the game everyone had made their way into the front room where we continued to drink, chat and laugh. 

Vaginal Steaming

The TV remained on after the game, not intentionally, as everyone was talking, but before we knew it we were watching Jonathan Ross's Saturday night talk show with Vin Diesel, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Tom Jones. It's not a show I watch or am particularly bothered with, but I did enjoy Vin's emotional discussion about the death of his friend Paul Walker, and it instigated an 'interesting' string of conversations afterwards. 

Firstly, we were discussing films we liked Vin Diesel in, which led the conversation onto other films we'd seen. I recently watched 'The Martian' with Matt Damon, through completely legitimate channels (ahem), and recommended it as a good watch for frugality as Matt is forced to survive on Mars where nothing lives for over a year. 

Other film names were recommended by others, and for the life of me I can't remember which ones, but I do remember admitting having a soft spot for the Ironman films with Robert Downey Jr. I love his portrayal of the arrogant, intelligent and witty Tony Stark. Perhaps it reminded me of someone - Sherlock Holmes. It was at this point M couldn't hide her - I'm going to call it hatred - of Gwyneth Paltrow and her Blog. 

Jon was quick to check out her Blog to see how disingenuous and 'Fad-filled' it was and he 'stumbled' across an amazing find. I can't confirm what he was searching for, but he somehow found it. Gwyneth recommends that all ladies should steam their Vagina. 

Ok M, I see your point!

With little encouragement, Jon proceeded to search the 'hows' and the 'whys' behind this strange but intriguing revelation. He read out that people claim the activity is good for balancing female hormones, it creates an energetic release and it gives your uterus a good cleanse. 

Any fella's feeling short changed?

We were in fits of laughter with how you would go about performing such a task in the comforts of your own home, and although I'm now the latest member of 'Be Quiet Gwyneth', she provided some excellent entertainment for us all. 

It was now gone midnight and it was time to call it a day. One by one we proceeded to go to bed and for the large part the weekend had come to a close. The day time attendees weren't going to come back on Sunday, and most of the people stopping over planning to leave after breakfast.

We said our goodbyes to Jon & Elaine, A&Z, and we went to bed dreaming of frugal living, investing and vaginal steams.


Sunday had a different vibe to it, but in a good way. 

I got up around 7am and proceeded to knock out some emails, and work tasks which had accumulated over the weekend. I was joined by M maybe 45 mins later and we quietly chatted together in the front room about her job, books, reading and morning routines. The chat only lasted 15 mins or so, and I think I could have happily talked to M all day about this stuff. 

The rest of morning kept the intimate, calm and chilled feel as everyone else got up and made their way into the open kitchen and dining room as we discussed a plethora of topics. 

I agreed to cook breakfast for everyone, and I think THAT was that signal that led to Darren & Karen, and the FIbrarian to depart. The FIbrarian had a long trip home and he tucked into a few left-over poppadoms which he said filled a hole. D&K had jobs to take of and before we knew it we were down to 3 - Lou, M and me. 

We quickly tidied the house, emptied the rubbish and collected all remaining items of food. M left around 10.30am, as she had a long journey to make, and by 11am Lou and I were on our way too. 

What an outstanding weekend!

In my opinion, it was the best one we've had so far. That's no slight on previous weeknds, as I've loved every one so far. I just found this one particularly special. I'm not sure if it was having our own house, building upon relationships with people I already knew, or the maximised time of interactions with everyone due to the setting but it was different and I for one would look to book the same type of set-up for next years dates. I'm interested to get your thoughts on this.....
I had learned about all sorts of things, I enjoyed getting to meet new people, building on preexisting relationships, having a bucket load of fun, and reducing the overall cost of the FIRE Escape weekends. 

Without sounding too cringy, the relationships were the best part!

Getting to meet Jon, Elaine, FIbrarian, David, and Guy was awesome. 

Spending more time with M, A&Z, Emma, Darren & Karen, and to a lesser extent TFS (time-wise not enjoyment!) was outstanding. 

I really feel like I've made long lasting friends now, and I've started the ball rolling with some new ones. 

I just want to thank everyone for coming along once again. Everyone brought something to the weekend for me and I appreciate the time you gave to be there. 


I've set up another survey for those of you that attended to find out what you thought of the weekend. 


If you didn't attend, please let me know your thoughts on what you read above, what you'd like us to do next year, and what you'd like us to change. I want to get as much feedback as possible and continue to improve these weekends. 

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