UK Gathering Spring 2015 – The Round Up

Spring UK Gathering (Minus Bill and Al)

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Saving for 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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?


  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply 23rd March 2015

    Nice write up Huw.

    I was smiling to myself as you recited the days events, and what a day it was. I loved it.

    We will most certainly be at the York gathering and will stay over for both nights (a shorter commute this time at only 135 miles for the round trip).


  • weenie

    Reply Reply 23rd March 2015

    Great round-up, Huw. Like Richard, reading the events again in detail really made me smile at the memory. Your recount of trying to catch strangers' eyes made me laugh!

    It was a superb day, thank you so much for organising it. It was great meeting everyone and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest in PF/FI and just wants to chat to like-minded others in a very candid and friendly fashion.

    Anyway, hopefully by the summer, I'll have another batch of beer brewed up so I'll bring another bottle for you, with a new label!

    A great idea of Alison's to suggest a name for our group but I need to have a little think as can't come up with anything original just yet!

  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 23rd March 2015

    Thanks Richard. I'm pleased to hear it put a smile on your face! Like you I had a smashing time and I can't wait for the next one.

    135 miles is still a cheeky distance, and the York one is classed as your 'home' location. Thanks again for your commitment to joining us. Outstanding effort!

    Speak soon and pass on my regards to Alison.


  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 23rd March 2015

    Thank you very much. I'm glad you liked the post. I'm sure I freaked out at least 2 people with my staring!

    Thanks again for coming along. It was great to meet you in person, and like you said, put a face to a name. Likewise, I would recommend anyone interested in this stuff to come along and have some fun.

    Now I'm really excited for the summer! Thanks again for the bottle, the label made me laugh so much, it was totally unexpected. I have to create a gift for you now Weenie. Not sure what it's going to be but I'll think of something.

    Yes, we must get our heads together and find an original, slightly silly name to call ourselves. I can't get Monkey's out of my head. Perhaps it's to do with Darren and Karen or the idea on your Blog 'that might or might not be about monkeys'. There are a lot of creative folk out there and no doubt we'll have some great suggestions before the next one.

    Speak soon!

  • Cerridwen

    Reply Reply 23rd March 2015

    Thanks for this detailed account of the day – it sounds great fun. Hopefully I will be able to make the next date in York as it would be really good to meet you all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply 24th March 2015

    Huw – Bill here – I had a good laugh at your excellent write-up. WELL DONE for your organisational heroics. And York is an excellent call for the Oop North venue. I really enjoyed meeting everybody, learnt some useful stuff, and discovered some great blogs I hadn't found before. Keep up the good work, live long and prosper.

  • Theres Value

    Reply Reply 24th March 2015

    I really loved it and I really want to do Weenie's monkey challenge.

    love the fact that the wee baby is right in the middle – with his SIPP and Stocks & Shares JISA already in full swing. He'll be all over FI/PF by the age of 5, LOL

    really looking forward to the next one, and hopefully will get to speak to more people in depth next time


  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 24th March 2015

    Hi Cerridwen,

    I was thinking about how you're birthday was going in the Cotswold's as we were driving home. I hope you had a nice weekend!

    It was a lot fun, and I hope you can make the next one too. I'll try and get the date our early so people can work around it.


  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 24th March 2015

    Hi Bill,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the write up. That's very kind of you to say. Darren suggested the venue and parking area, so he deserves some credit too.

    Thank you once again for coming along to meet everyone. I'm sorry we missed the photo opportunity, but something tells me you wouldn't be too fussed on that anyway. I also noticed there was no 'denial' of being Monevator…….. ha ha. I must stop these conspiracies!

    I'm glad you enjoyed the day. Like yourself, I came away having a lot of fun and some additional knowledge. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the day.

    All the best

  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 24th March 2015

    Hi M,

    I'm so pleased you enjoyed it. Your little man looked like he was having a wail of a time. The knowledge that young man soaked up over the course of the weekend, coupled with his parents upbringing is going to result in one super frugal, sufficient, rich kid. He'll retire in single digits for sure! ๐Ÿ™‚ ha ha

    Yes, Weenie's challenge sounds great. I'm well up for it. I like the idea of making investing a bit of fun too. It doesn't have to be serious all the time.

    Likewise M. I can't wait for York already, and I must set some time aside to speak to you in more detail. It sounds like you lead a very interesting life and I was keen to speak to you about Blogging and investing but there'll be plenty of opportunities no doubt. Lou was also hugely impressed with your linguistic skills and she can speak 3-5 languages at various stages.

    Thanks once again for making the effort to come along, especially with the whole family. All the best and until next time!


  • Mr Zombie

    Reply Reply 24th March 2015

    Hi MMM UK, I mean Huw ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good work on organising the gathering! Looks like it was a cracker. Sad to have missed it, and the next one as well I imagine, but with exams in a few weeks time and at the end of the summer it looks unlikely. Still that should come to an end after September.

    Intrigued by the monkey chat.

    Mr Z

  • weenie

    Reply Reply 24th March 2015

    Awww, that's a shame Mr Z. You're already a cult figure, with many people citing that they wanted to meet you!

    Looks like I've piqued people's interest, so I'd best continue developing my monkey idea….soon…soon!

  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 25th March 2015

    Ha ha. Not quite Mr Z, but I appreciate the comparison!

    It was a cracker. It was a shame you couldn't make it. We haven't decided on dates for the summer one, it could be in August. I think the autumn one will likely be in Sep/Oct (before it gets too cold), hopefully you'll be able to make that one.

    Weenie's idea would definitely be on Karl Pilkington's 'Monkey News'.


  • Tawcan

    Reply Reply 25th March 2015

    Sounds like a great time! Love that Huw beer bottle lol! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • The Big Monkey

    Reply Reply 26th March 2015

    Hi Huw,

    Thanks for organizing a great day. It was a pleasure to meet and talk with everybody.

    We are both looking forward to the summer gathering.

    Say hi to the good lady.



  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 27th March 2015

    Hi Tawcan,

    We had a great time thanks, and yes I am treasuring that beer bottle!

    All the best

  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 27th March 2015

    Hi TBM,

    No problem at all, and likewise thank you for your help in organising the location and car parking etc.

    Lou and I feel the same way, bring on York! I'll pass on your regards too.

    All the best

  • theFIREstarter

    Reply Reply 27th March 2015

    Great write up Huw, I almost feel like I was there reading that!

    Will do my upmost to attend the summer bash, I think we only have 2 weekends tied up the whole of July/August so hoping it does not clash with either.


  • Huw Davies

    Reply Reply 28th March 2015

    Hi TFS,

    I'm glad you enjoyed it! We wish you were there, and hopefully you'll be able to make the summer date we put forward. I'll let you know as soon as it's finalised.


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