Thursday 23 July 2009
Why I’m not convinced by the swine flu stats
Hels and Tom both have colds. I’ve had a bit of a sore throat, but it hasn’t come to anything.
When they first went down with a little lethargy, sore throat, snuffliness and all the other usual symptoms, we immediately thought that our turn might have come for swine flu. If it had, we wouldn’t be too worried – we’d get our way through it and get it out of the way. Unpleasant and inconvenient, yes, but probably not life-changing. For the vast majority of people, it’s just a nasty bug.
So, given that, Hels called the doctor. We’d heeded the advice not to actually go to the surgery and it seems our local surgery is well-prepared. Our doctor was able to take Hels’s call (not just the receptionist team) and talked through the symptoms. She (our doctor) seemed a little fed up with the Government’s diagnosis-by-checklist approach. Hels described her symptoms, including her temperature of 37.8 Celsius. The doctor laughed and said that, given her symptoms and according to the checklist, Hels did not have flu but had a cold. If, however, her temperature had been 38 Celsius, that woud have been enough.
So we are carrying on life pretty much as normal. Hels has taken a little time off work (heavy colds tend to knock her down a bit anyway due to previous illnesses in her 20s). But we are not putting ourselves into quarantine.
What I wonder is this: given that our doctor is aware that this cold bug is going around at the moment, how many of the 100,000 new cases this week really are H1N1 flu and how many are just summer colds? Are we getting false information and is the Government making decisions based on that? What will happen if/when we actually get real flu later in the year?
As an aside, the Government gave advice last weekend (as reported by the BBC) that expectant mothers and mothers of under-5s should stay away from crowds. I presume they haven’t visited your average ante-natal clinic lately, because they are never crowded, obviously. And, what of fathers of under-5s? Presumably, if they stayed away from crowded places (like shops, offices, railway stations and workplaces) the economy would grind to a halt.
As Hels put it – the Government takes the nation to war but can’t seem to work out what to do about a virus.
Tuesday 24 February 2009
On suffering temporary partial disablement
Apparently, I’m suffering "temporary partial disablement". Or so my insurers say (so, hopefully, they will pay up).
As a sufferer, I can report the following:
- it hurts
- one becomes the centre of conversation
- going to the loo becomes a challenge
- climbing stairs becomes even more of a challenge
- going to the loo or climbing stairs on a cross-Channel ferry is even more of a challenge. I’d hate to be a one-legged pirate
- the cat still wants to sit on you
- small children (well, our small child at least) suddenly become remarkably understanding and helpful. It’ll never last
- your bum gets numb from all the sitting around
- it is very easy to get bored or frustrated; or bored AND frustrated
- it hurts to carry a cast about
- you become very reliant on people around you. Thank goodness for Hels
- you tend to blog more frequently
Sunday 22 February 2009
Breaking a duck, err bone, duck… bone.
We have just taken the opportunity to have a little holiday. Well, that was the plan. I had to go to Angers for an exhibition and took H and T along with me, something we have done for four out of the last five years.
After staying in Angers for a couple of nights and a (very successful) day at the exhibition, we took the car to Saint Malo, via Rennes and Dinan. We got to our hotel and wandered into the Intra Muros, had a nice meal and then, to entertain Tom, clambered up onto the city wall to head back towards the hotel. So far, so good. But it was mightily dark and I decided to carry Tom as we descended the stone steps. Hels stumbled on the last step as we went down. And then I fell down on the same step, heavily. I managed to hold on to Tom and lower him gently to the step. But I had a fair idea that I’d really hurt myself. I could tell this by the tears in my eyes and nausea, not to mention the pain.
We hobbled back to the hotel and went to bed. But, in the morning, it became quite evident that I was in agony. The evidence consisted of me yelping with pain whenever I stood up, and yelping twice as much if I put any weight on my left foot.
With guidance from the hotel receptionist, Hels took me over to the hospital. After a short wait, an x-ray revealed the tiniest chip off a bone. My reward – a French plaster cast with matching crutches and painkillers. My first damaged bone. Bugger.
We changed our homeward travel arrangements and got ourselves on the next ferry from Saint Malo to Portsmouth (we originally planned to travel to Dieppe and then back to Newhaven – but if ever you take that boat, pack a lunch as the food is utter crap). I’m hoping that my insurers will pay for the change of ferry plans and the lost night of accommodation (about four hundred quid in total).
Since then, I’ve seen umpteen medical people and been the centre of much attention. I’ve got to wear the cast for at least ten days before it is swapped for a removable boot. Which means I can’t drive, can’t put weight on it and can’t walk more than a few paces. Which will make life a little difficult, to say the least.
And, to top it all, Tom has chickenpox. Spots. Lots of them. And itchy.
Hels has got her work cut out. She’s pretty amazing.
Wednesday 24 December 2008
The hyperactive child is asleep. The wife is wrapping presents. Monty is in his basket. Treacle is sitting next to me.
Me? I’ve just signed my Corporation Tax return and written a fat cheque to the Revenue.
Ho ho and, indeed, ho. Merry Christmas.
Saturday 11 October 2008
Five years ago today, I met a tall, blonde, beautiful woman with a lovely smile, gorgeous eyes and very sexy calf-length boots, outside a cookware shop in Tunbridge Wells. After apologising for being late, I kissed her on the cheek and took her hand. We went for coffee, then for a walk in the autumn leaves, a pint and then fish and chips.
Six and a half weeks later, in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, I asked her to marry me.
We still enjoy days like that. And I still fancy her like crazy.
Friday 30 May 2008
Graybo’s Yummy Tarragon Chicken
Really, it’s yummy.
INGREDIENTS (serves two):
- 1 small tub (200ml) of crème fraîche, reduced fat if you must.
- 2 chicken breasts, roughly cubed. For goodness sake, get decent chicken, not cheap water-filled, factory-farmed rubbish.
- 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
- a little butter
- a little olive oil
- a good handful of tarragon, roughly chopped or torn, stems removed. You’ve got this growing outside the door, right?
- tagliatelli sufficient for two. Fresh stuff.
- black pepper
- a bottle of good red wine, maybe two
- open the wine. Have a glass for yourself and one for your dining partner.
- boil some water for doing the tag.
- in a large pan or, better still, a wok, melt a good dollop of butter over a medium to high heat.
- fry the leek until just beginning to soften. Remove from the pan and reserve.
- refill your glasses.
- add a little olive oil to the pan and get it hot.
- throw in the chicken and scoot around the pan until lightly browned.
- get the tag going (I assume you have decent fresh pasta, none of the dried stuff – if you have dried pasta, you should have started this a while ago).
- add the entire pot of crème fraîche to the chicken. Stir.
- return the leeks to the pan. Stir some more.
- mill in some black pepper (nice if you have one of those crusher-type mills, rather than a grinding-type). Stir it.
- throw in the tarragon. Yes, you guessed – stir.
- stir it all up some more.
- drain the pasta and get it on the plate.
- pour the chicken/tarragon/leek/crème fraîche mix over the top.
- blimey, those glasses look low. Top ‘em up.
- Eat. Drink. Relax. Candles. Good music. You know the deal.
Takes but ten minutes. Ideal for Friday night. We had it after a starter of fresh local asparagus with shaved parmesan, butter and apple balsamic vinegar. With gin. And tonic.
Monday 12 May 2008
Time to catch up
A few things that I haven’t had/made time to remark upon here in the last week or so:
- my gorgeous wife had a birthday. The three of us went to London for the day and ambled around Covent Garden, Regent Street, Tate Britain and the South Bank. Tom was particularly impressed with the sculpture at the Tate, remarking that The Three Graces have bottoms “just like Mummy’s”, which is possibly the best compliment a girl could wish for.
- subsequently, my gorgeous wife went on holiday with her mum to Morocco, leaving son and husband to fend for themselves. Thanks to sitting in train stations with poorly-inked cardboard signs, we survived this ordeal and only went to the pub once.
- Hels and I completed the 20km JustWalk on Saturday in blistering (literally) heat. We were accompanied by our brother-in-law Kevin all the way round the circuit and were able to enjoy some lovely views and some splendid wild flowers. But it was bloomin’ hot and we had to work hard to keep hydrated and to avoid heat stroke. The sections of the walk in the open were particularly hard, especially the mile or so down the south-facing slope into Charlton which was on a chalk and flint track in a bit of a dip – no breeze, bright intense sun, no shade and lots of reflected light and heat from the surface. Thanks to some remarkably generous people, we have now passed our original sponsorship target of £500, for the Parkinson’s Disease Society but we still want to raise more money. What do you mean, you haven’t sponsored us yet? Go here and give now, please and thank you.
- Oh, and it’s my birthday today. I’m already enjoying my first present.
Tuesday 18 March 2008
Better start training
Take a look at this. You’ll know what to do. And do it big!
Saturday 29 December 2007
Hold onto your hats, it’s the End Of The Year Post
Yes, once again we come around to the annual grayblog end-of-the-year introspection. I know you’ve been looking forward to this for at least, oooo, twelve months?
Firstly, let’s look back and get the resolutions thing out of the way. At the end of 2006 (the archives are over there, on the right), I said I’d carry on improving the things that I had starting improving in 2006. But who has time for that? The garden isn’t finished, I haven’t done enough exercise and the writings here have become ever more sparse as the year has gone on.
So, do resolutions have any value if they are so easily broken/ignored? Comments welcome on that subject. And, given my obvious feelings on the value of resolutions, you can set as much store as you feel is appropriate in the following:
- to write here more frequently (not too hard)
- to take more exercise (we now have bikes which spend far too much time locked away)
- to keep my office in a more tidy condition (also not hard)
What else can be said about 2007? Well, at a professional level, things have generally improved through the year. I don’t think it’s a huge secret that I wasn’t terribly optimistic about the prospects for my business late in 2006 and was feeling pretty demoralized. Things have improved markedly since then and whilst it is still tough going, the light is clearly visible at the end of the tunnel and, if all goes to plan in 2008, I might be able to talk about my business and the “P-word”* in the same sentence without laughter. To a large degree, I’ve been carried along by the faith shown in me and my business by others around me – my backers and my clients. Even my bank has been supportive (although I’ve yet to ask them to dip their corporate hand into their corporate pockets for me, and hopefully won’t need to). The one person who keeps me from believing too much of what they say has been Hels, who frequently questions me and challenges me to test what I’m doing and show that things truly are going the right way. That is a good thing and has encouraged me to look hard at the business and the direction that it is going in. And I’m happy with it right now.
2007 has also seen us seriously (VERY seriously) looking at emigration to the Netherlands (or possibly just inside the Belgian border). Ultimately this plan has been shelved – we have decided to stay close to friends and family. We also can’t really afford it at this stage – if my business was making more money and we hadn’t been so crippled by not selling Hels’s flat for so long, then maybe it would have been different. Note that I say that the plan is shelved, not abandoned. It’s something that we will keep at the back of our minds and may return to in the future. And our love for Maastricht is undimmed, as you might have guessed from the number of Dutch-related del.icio.us links that I post.
The year has seen its usual bunch of travelling, this time including trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Poland. I didn’t get to a few destinations that I had in mind for lack of time and resources, but the opportunity is not lost, merely deferred. I do promise to stick some photos on here somewhen of some of the places that I/we have been to this year – feel free to nag me to keep to that promise. Highlights of this year’s travel for me included:
- San Pellegrino in Alpe, Italy – breath-takingly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful (although I suspect it might be busier in high season)
- Hamburg, Germany – drinking cocktails whilst standing in the rain on the morning of my birthday
- Warnemünde, Germany – bobbing about in a launch on the Warnow river with Hels and Tom
- Kanne, Belgium – getting the “I could live here – this just might work” feeling
- A12, Netherlands – driving from Gouda towards Zoetermeer and marvelling at the sodium-lamp orange mist with enormous wind turbines looming darkly out of the gloaming and wishing my camera was handy
- Tiercé, France – having possibly the best cheese board I’ve ever had or am ever likely to have in “Sarkozy’s restaurant”
- Przydworzyce, Poland – driving through the woods and seeing locals who had gathered mushrooms offering them for sale at the roadside, often only a single punnet-full
Travel plans for 2008 are subject to change, but look likely to include Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands (no surprise there), Switzerland (2008′s first for me – 2007′s was Poland) and Italy. Maybe Spain. And maybe Ireland and Poland. Too many places to go to, for both business and pleasure, and too little time and money to do them all.
Of course, the true highlight of 2007 has been watching Tom growing up. He is fantastic, a life-changing element of existence. He continually amazes and surprises us. It’s impossible to feel down when he’s around. I’m looking forward to more in 2008. And more of married life with Hels, but I’m going to stop on the emotional family gushing now before your keyboard gets covered in vomit.
What do I think 2008 will bring? Goodness knows. If there is one thing that I’ve learnt, it is that you can never tell what the future will bring. I think politics and the economy will both be fascinating in 2008 (and might finally push crappy nonsense “entertainment” out of the headlines a little) although the ride might be a bit bumpy. My business will increase in strength and stature. Family life should continue to be splendid, particularly as we have settled on our home here for the time-being and should have fewer disturbances to routine (famous last words). And I might knock-up a decent duck à l’orange or two.
Thanks to the regular readers who keep coming back here – I know there must be at least half a dozen of you still braving the digital elements to come here. Happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all.
Tuesday 16 October 2007
Hels is off work with a bug which Tom seems to have as well. So celebrations are deferred to the weekend when we shall go for dinner and take in a little jazz.
Sunday 24 June 2007
Life in bullet points
Just to keep Matt The Bakiwop happy, here is a genuine update:
- I’m working like a mad thing at the moment. I haven’t even had time to update my work weblog, which is bad. Work is generally busy in a good way, though, so things are quite good. Just don’t mention the Germans.
- We’ve been travelling a bit lately and I owe readers some photos from recent trips. So far this year we have been to Angers/Nantes, Utrecht/Maastricht/Aachen/Namur, Hamburg/Rostock and I made a solo trip to Vlaardingen/Aalsmeer. There have also been a few UK-based days out and there are some photos from those too. When time permits, I’ll upload some.
- On the domestic front, I’ve been working on developing the front garden (although progress has been in fits and starts and has stalled again lately – I need to get the footings out for the retaining wall, but time constraints and the weather both conspire against me) as well as getting the side and back gardens looking good – I’ll try and sort out photos of that too.
- I bought Hels a bike for her birthday and this has spurred me to sort out getting my bike restored after having left it in a shed for six years following the spectacular failure of the derailleur whilst bombing along the Avenue de Chartres in Chichester in 2000. Following a suggestion from Kate, I’ve taken it to Baker Street Bikes in Brighton for restoration and should get it back on Wednesday. All I’ll need then is to add a child seat for Tom and we’ll then be able to go out on family cycle trips (although bike mounts for the roof bars on the car would be good and I think I’d like to have the chance to dump the child seat so that I can get a few miles in on my own terms too).
- We’ve started doing a bit more work to the house – currently, we’re remodelling the bathroom. Not a major change, just new paint, new taps and a new shower screen. We’re also eyeing the
conservatorycombine harvester (shhh, don’t tell Dave), which needs some major work – we’ve spied a couple of rotten timbers, which isn’t good. Repainting of the kitchen is also scheduled in for “somewhen”.
- Tom has taken to refusing to go to sleep in the evening. We’ve just had him up for a 9.30pm snack, which he took whilst lounging in front of the telly in the living room – he has the makings of a good couch potato.
- Finally, it’s the Garden and Art Event at West Dean, near Chichester, this coming weekend. I organise it. I’m seriously hoping that the weather improves considerably between now and then.
More updates. Soon. I promise.
Monday 23 April 2007
Happy birthday to Mrs Graybo, who is [knows better than that!] years old today. Cake has been consumed (by me, at least).
Tom was most excited by the presence of paper, cards and gifts this morning, but less impressed that there was nothing in the way of gifts for him. It looks like he’ll be more aware of presents by the time Christmas and his birthday come around than he was for the last time.
Monday 19 February 2007
Ce n’est pas un fait accompli
I understand that following some of the links that I’ve posted recently on this site, people are wondering what is going on in our lives. So I’d like to clear up a few things.
- yes, we’re thinking about moving.
- no, we will not be moving for some time, at least two years.
- yes, we are looking at the Netherlands. Why? Because houses are considerably cheaper there and we want to reduce the amount of our income that we spend on our mortgage each month. In addition, a lot of my work is in the Netherlands (at least as much as is in the UK), we like it there and it was recently ranked the best industrialized nation in which to bring up a child by the UN (compared to the UK which was ranked the worst nation).
- BUT, it is not a certainty that we will move there. At the moment, we are deeply involved in research which includes:
- working out where to live
- deciding what we can afford
- looking at what mortgage we could get
- investigating employment options for Hels
- sussing out education and childcare facilities
- language, running a business, mortgage system, property law, tax system – everything! There are lots of hidden factors to consider.
- IF we go there, then we would rent for at least one year to test the water – and if it didn’t work out, we could move back to England or to another place.
- we are also investigating other alternatives – in every town we visit, in the UK and abroad, we always look through estate agent windows, partly out of unbridled noseyness and curiosity and partly out of serious research to see what property we could afford if we moved to that area. So far our research has shown that moving within the south east of England would not improve our lot – either we’d still have a vast mortgage or we’d be in Ramsgate.
- in any case, whatever we decide, we have a whole bunch of factors to consider. These include but are not limited to (and in no particular order):
- Tom – particularly the environment and education/childcare
- us – we want a nice house in a relatively green neighbourhood (i.e. not a concrete neighbourhood) with a little garden and enough room for us to not be under each other’s feet
- work – both for me and for Hels as, without work that we enjoy and which pays reasonably, our life would be poorer in terms of quality or money or both
- family – we are close to both sides of the family and we want to be somewhere that is relatively easy for them to access, including by public transport
- cats – they’re important too! So no main road homes for us and always at least a little garden, even if/when we rent.
So you see that nothing is certain. Well, almost nothing. The only thing that is certain is that the current fixed rate period on our mortgage expires on 31 December 2008, which is why there is a window of opportunity for moving around that time and into early 2009 (if we move before then, we have to pay a heavy penalty to our lender when we redeem the mortgage) – and we don’t want to leave it much later than that as we want to get Tom settled in a new home before he starts school. The reason for moving is also fairly certain - we want to move in order to achieve either a reduction in our mortgage liability and/or an increase in our living space.
Even the “when” is not guaranteed. As we all know, events have a habit of overtaking one’s plans, so we have no idea what might happen over the next two years. I think the only thing that is likely to remain constant is the “why”. The “what”, “where” and even the “how” are all still to be decided.
At the moment, the mission is research. And with a life-change of this magnitude, I think anyone would agree that we need to be thorough and use all the time available to our advantage.
Wednesday 24 January 2007
Things and stuff
- Tom was one yesterday – it’s been both the longest and fastest year of my life (and Hels’s too, I think it is fair to say - and, by definition, Tom’s). We celebrated with cake, balloons and a trip to a farm. There shall be further celebrations at the weekend.
- We had snow last night. Up to six inches of the stuff is forecast to fall tonight. That should make for an interesting commute for Hels in the morning. Tom was non-plussed when I introduced him to the stuff this morning. His face simply said: "cold. wet. yuk."
- I’m in Germany at the moment for an enormous trade event. I’ve just had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was eye-wateringly expensive. At the next table was Michael Heseltine. He was not wearing a loin cloth.
- I really need to update this site more often. Sorry.
- This site and my email (including work email) have been down for most of the day due to problems at 34SP. Apparently, the aircon failed causing the servers to overheat. I couldn’t help thinking that, on the coldest day of the winter so far, opening the window would soon solve the problem.
Saturday 30 December 2006
Annual Review Of The Year
It’s that time of year again. Last year, I made five resolutions. I have made a good start on the first one, although it is a massive project and has taken much longer than anticipated, not least due to distractions of the Tom kind. The second I failed on miserably. The third hasn’t gone too badly, although it has improved of late. The fourth, well let’s not go there, shall we? – only 186 posts this year, including this one – not good enough. And the fifth one I’ve done reasonably well on – I’m certainly a lot happier on that score than I was this time last year.
So, for 2007, I’ll continue the good work where the good work has started. Beyond that, I haven’t really got that much that I feel I particularly want to resolve to do – there is plenty to keep me occupied.
2006 has been a year like none before it, entirely due to the arrival of Tom. He has, as I expected, changed life totally and for the better. In addition, we’ve had a lot of travel (I’ve been to Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Hungary this year) and there is more planned for 2007, with trips to Germany, France, Netherlands (naturally), Portugal, Poland, Ireland and Italy on the cards. 2006 has also seen us starting to make new long term plans. We’re not yet sure if they will come to fruition, but the notion of emigrating doesn’t look beyond the realms of plausibility. We’re also much closer to finally sorting out our finances, which has to be a good thing and has implications for all areas of life.
New Year’s Eve this year will be spent with friends, eating and drinking too much whilst (hopefully) Tom sleeps. Then I’ve got to wind myself back up in to work mode after an extended Christmas break – which, when I wasn’t being ill, I’ve enjoyed and was much needed, particularly as I’ve spent nearly the whole break at home with Hels and Tom, undoubtedly a good thing.
Happy New Year to all grayblog readers. Keep coming back if you like this sort of thing.
Sunday 24 December 2006
Not quite normal
This is going to be a not-quite-normal Christmas. Firstly, it’s our first Christmas as a threesome, although Tom doesn’t really have an inkling as to what it is all about. I’m sure that he will be more excited by the wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes than by the gifts themselves, although I suspect that the maracas, tambourine and glockenspiel will all be hits as they all make a good noise. Shopping for Tom is remarkably easy (the problem is knowing when to stop) and we’ve worked particularly hard to buy only a moderate number of presents and to aim for quality over cheap tat.
However, this Christmas will also be not-quite-normal as we all fight illness. Tom has a stomach bug which has resulted in vomiting and diarrhoea, although he has remained remarkably cheerful in spite of it all. I took him to the out-of-hours clinic last night for a little medical reassurance (“plenty fluids, a little Calpol, lay off rich food – call back if anything changes”) and he sat on my knee smiling broadly at the doctor (but then he is a bit of a flirt, so I shouldn’t be surprised). Hels has sinusitis, which is causing her to be nauseous and dizzy as well as taking all the flavour and fun out of food. She spent much of today in bed and seems a little better this evening. As for me, I’m pretty tired out by caring for them both and tonight I feel a little flaky – I’m hoping that is a symptom of fatigue and not a harbinger of Tom’s tummy bug (having been around unpleasant nappies for the last two days, nothing would surprise me).
But the presents are wrapped (I’m just tying ribbon on the last few), the cards are delivered (save for three to be dropped through neighbours’ doors in a moment) and the fire is burning (although we can’t get near it for cats). I’m just about to break open the Bristol Cream and Hels is browsing the TV guide. Tomorrow we begin the round of parental visits with my parents, followed by my in-laws on Boxing Day.
All we need now is a holiday. Merry Christmas.
UPDATE: I was struck down on the evening of Christmas Day by Norwalk virus – look it up if you want to know the symptoms, but I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say that I’m a few pounds lighter now. Tom is better but Hels is still not well.
And, as if anticipating my holiday sentiment, my brother and his fiancée gave us a bunch of hotel vouchers so that we can take a break.
Monday 16 October 2006
Today is our wedding anniversary. We have celebrated by taking Tom to a children’s farm, having tea and cake in a tearoom and collecting some sweet chestnuts (something that we did on the slopes of Mount Etna during our honeymoon). Tonight we’re going out for dinner.
Low key, but just right.
Wednesday 11 October 2006
Three years ago today, I saw a very beautiful, tall, blonde woman for the first time. She was wearing black leather boots with killer heels, which she’d bought just for the occasion. The fact that she could barely walk in them was neither here nor there.
We’d celebrate this anniversary, if only we both didn’t have filthy colds. Bah! Still, we have our wedding anniversary next week, so hopefully we will recover by then.
Friday 18 August 2006
Why we are not exactly leaping around at the moment
This week has included:
- learning that a friend and client is very unwell
- literally dozens of phone conversations with two different sets of lawyers and two different sets of surveyors
- realising that I’ve cocked up my plan to go to a trade show in Poland (note to self: VIII means August, not September – d’oh!)
- dropping a client because he is really not on my wavelength and I can’t be bothered to struggle for what would be a potentially small reward
- getting a very long document from the Borough Council
- not getting a whole bunch of things sorted out that I planned to do this week
- cleaning up purple projectile vomit after Tom had blackberries for tea (he’s fine now, but I’ve got to redecorate a wall)
- having to clean the cat litter tray every day after one or other of them decided that the garden was too cold and wet to use now that the weather has turned.
And that is just what I’ve had to do – Hels has had just as much.
But there are positive things too:
- Sussex beat Durham in the cricket
- it rained (very good news in this part of the world)
- we caught up with some people in the pub
- it’s Friday
- we’re going on holiday soon
- Tom “pulled” a waitress in the place we went to today for lunch (very funny – you had to be there)
So it’s not all bad. It just feels that way.
Monday 17 July 2006
Quiet around here
For once, this isn’t a post making lame excuses for the lack of new content on this site. Instead, I’m remarking on the fact that it’s a bit quiet at home today, even though Tom is here, my mum is here and the two cats are around somewhere (although trying desperately to find somewhere shady and cool, much like the rest of us).
The reason it is quiet is that Hels has gone back to work today for the first time in seven months. To say that she was not looking forward to it is an understatement – the thought of having to deal with daily stresses, irritating people and a stifling office environment are not the things that encourage someone to be enthusiastic. Added to that, H feels guilty at leaving Tom. Tom, of course, is going to be ably cared for by a combination of grandparents, childminder and me, so he’ll be fine. Furthermore, H is caring for him in a way by going out and earning the money we need to keep home and family together. So I’ve suggested that she shouldn’t feel guilty or even worried, but I guess it’s a natural reaction.
Meanwhile, I’ve had my mum for company today and she and Tom have taken a nap this afternoon on the lawn in some shade. She’s ably dealt with trying to get Tom to eat food he doesn’t really like, drink water that he doesn’t really want (I’m concerned about fluid intake in this heat) and is currently poaching some chicken for his tea this evening.
But it’s not the same as having Hels here every day. Anyone want to make a cash donation so we don’t have to work and can just enjoy Tom together?
Monday 29 May 2006
I’ve really been neglecting you readers lately, haven’t I? Umm, well, sorry. But hey, I’ve been somewhat busy lately:
- Last weekend: up to Stafford with Tom to spend the weekend with Jo and Bob. Excellent time had by all.
- Last weekend and this week: much concern about SiL, who has been really quite unwell. But she seems to be making a steady recovery, which is good.
- Tuesday: an all-day meeting with my New Zealand sub-agent, who is in the country at the moment.
- Wednesday: a day out with H to the Chelsea Flower Show. We dressed in our finest summer clothes and were subjected to repeated heavy showers, with the result that we looked like a pair of muddy drowned rats. But it was worth it. Not sure that it is worth paying £35 a head to get in, though, particularly when you have to sit on the floor to eat your sandwiches and drink your tea because the catering facilities are so inadequate. They were absolutely awful when I last went ten years ago and have only improved marginally.
- Thursday: catching up in the office.
- Friday: to Chichester for a haircut and to distribute publicity materials for my event coming up at West Dean at the end of June.
- Saturday: Charlie and the Peet came for lunch – a thoroughly relaxing and wine-filled event.
- yesterday: up early to go to Heathrow to meet some American colleagues of their plane, collect plants, deliver them to a nursery near my parents and then join my parents for Sunday lunch and some plant talk.
- today: dozy sleeping and much talk of "we really should go for a walk" and "the lawn needs mowing" or "I really must start on the front garden", but it’s chucking down with rain (between burst of intense hot sunshine) – that’s my excuse, anyway.
There are many, many things that I really should find time to write about, but I’m not sure when that will happen. If you’re very lucky, I’ll provide you with some photos, as a picture is worth a thousand words (or several thousand, if your usualy verbage is as poor as that which generally graces these pages).
Thursday 13 April 2006
Signs of maturity, or something
We have two cars. My car is, as you might expect, a messy hellhole most of the time. Occasionally it gets cleaned. It rarely gets serviced. It has done 120,000 miles and it shows.
Hels’s car is more of a "family car" and features the following accessories:
- a "baby on board" sticker
- a "GB" sticker
- a baby seat
- baby toys
- and now, most humiliatingly, a roof box.
I feel thoroughly middle aged.
Wednesday 29 March 2006
What a fruitless day. A large chunk of it was spent trying to track down the correct brake parts for Hels’s car – ultimately I gave up searching the interwebnet and went to my local garage where they, helpfully, assured me that they were as confused as I am and suggested that the best thing to do was to take the old ones off and take them as patterns to a motor factor. Hmm.
After that, I went seeking some transparency film. Call me old-fashioned, call me a luddite, but don’t call me late for tea (very old family joke – sorry). "Why do I want transparency film?" I hear you ask. Well, the answer is that you don’t want it, I do. The reason is that I need to update my slide collection that I use when I’m giving presentations, particularly with new pictures of some of the plants that I look after in my work. But does anyone sell transparency film any more? Nope. Finally, I tracked down a particularly obscure old-fashioned photographic shop in a particularly obscure corner of NearbyTown (which is obscure in itself) and purchased two rolls of Konico-Minolta 100ASA film – not my preferred brand (always been a FujiFilm kind of guy), but given a choice of that or nothing, that will do.
I’ve also purchased a new (25 year old) lens for my (equally old) Olympus OM2N – my current one is not in the best of health and, for the sake of ten quid, the new one might just be better. Of course, the camera is not technically mine, as it really belongs to my brother, but as it has been in my possession for a considerable number of years now and he hasn’t asked for it back, I’m claiming squatter’s rights.
Subsequently, I’ve discovered that the camera had a part-exposed roll of film inside. So I’ve squandered the remaining frames on pictures of plants, of Tom and of the cats (Monty is so much better at posing than Treacle) and dropped it into Boots. I’ll be able to collect it on Saturday and, as I’ve asked for a CD of scans, you might get to see some pictures from it too. Of course, since it must be at least three years old, there is no telling what is on the first 23 frames of film. I suspect that it may well feature ex-girlfriends, which could make it, um, interesting. Hels has already said that she will delight in destroying any such photos as soon as possible. I’ll keep you posted.
Monday 27 March 2006
For Mother’s Day, I made a chicken, bacon and leek pie with the word “MUM” on it, and fed it to the newest mum in the family. As a bonus, there’s enough left-over to feed to, um, the most experienced mum in the family later. Double result.
I should have taken a photo – it was a particularly handsome pie. Now it is just two-thirds of a particularly handsome pie (yes, Waitrose, I’m talking to you – the recipe says “serves 4″, but we reckon that it would easily serve six extremely hungry people with some to spare).
Friday 3 March 2006
Things they don’t tell you
As we go along with parenthood, we’re slowly discovering more and more things that you are either not told about beforehand or are glossed over. So, in order to forewarn a few other prospective parents, here are a few that we’ve found out:
- sleep deprivation. OK, so everyone jokes about the fact that when the baby comes, you won’t get much sleep. It’s always mentioned and, as soon as it is, everyone sits back in their chair and laughs. Heartily. But it really is no laughing matter and the severity and impact of sleep deprivation is not to be underestimated. Sleep deprivation has so many knock-on effects. It makes you short tempered and irritable, generally lacking in patience. For a breast feeding mother, sleep deprivation makes what can be a difficult and tiring task doubly so. And for a father, it makes your workspace seem like a terribly attractive place to take a nap (if only I could afford the time to do that – I’m working 9 or 10 hour days at my desk, plus taking the laptop into the house in the evening to do a little more). How anyone who already has children copes with this, I really don’t know.
- looking after an ill baby is even less fun. Tom has a cold. As a consequence, he is finding breathing difficult, particularly when feeding. He also has problems with catarrh so that he is coughing quite a bit as he clears his chest and isn’t sleeping terribly well. As parents, it is difficult at first to understand what the problem is – your child can’t talk and say “Mum, I’ve got a cold” or “Dad, I’m all blocked up”. When the baby starts to cry, you work through a mental checklist (hungry? dirty nappy? too hot? too cold? cholic? needing a hug? ummm – now what?) but when you get to the end of the list, you are left flicking through books or wondering if you should call up the GP. Fortunately, the onset of this illness coincided fairly well with a scheduled visit from the health visitor, and she decided fairly quickly that Tom was suffering from nothing more serious than a cold. A check-up with the GP confirmed this (the GP was actually very pleased with his progress and seemed to spend most of the consultation comparing Tom to actors and dead politicians). But it does nothing for the stress levels.
- mastitis hurts. And compounds all of the above problems. There is a lot more to it than that, but I’m not sure that Hels would appreciate me discussing that here!
- nappies aren’t made for bottoms. First nappies are quickly out-grown. Yet the next size up seems huge by comparison, so much so that I have little confidence that the nappy won’t leak because it doesn’t make a good dry seal around Tom’s legs. We’ve already had a couple of unpleasant leakage experiences. Not nice.
But in spite of all of the difficulties, when he’s laying on his playmat and follows you with his eyes as you walk around the room, perhaps even throwing the odd smile or gurgled giggle in for good measure, you can’t help but think that it’s all worth it.
Sunday 5 February 2006
On being a new father
Being a parent is an utterly exhausting experience. Long nights of fitful sleep with an ear cocked for gurgles, snuffles, whimpers and the occasional outright cry. Disgusting nappies and fountains of pee add to the experience. But the rewards are fantastic. Tom is already fixing his gaze on our faces when we hold him and displaying a definite sparkle in his eyes. Starting as we mean to go on, and following a tip from our midwife, we’ve succeeded in teaching young Tom to stick his tongue out at people. Next is the challenge of teaching him to blow raspberries. From there, it’ll be a short step to having him swear like a trooper.
I know that one or two regular readers are either expecting a child or considering parenthood, so here are a few handy tips from our experience:
- You will get more advice than you can handle. It will come from family and friends; from books and health professionals; even from total strangers. Most of it will be contradictory. Much of it will be totally useless. Nearly all of it should be ignored. Everyone is being genuinely caring and trying to be helpful – I do appreciate those sentiments. But after a while, you will be totally overwhelmed and wish that it would stop. With this in mind, I’ll try to keep the rest of this post concise and truly useful.
- Don’t waste too much time and money on books. We had a good pile of books about pregnancy which were obtained at not inconsiderable expense. Most are still unread, even though the pregnancy is now complete. The most useful book that we had is the free one given out by the NHS – it has got all the essential information presented in an unvarnished style. It answered most of the questions that we had.
- Ante-natal classes are well worth attending. We tried to get on to the NCT classes, but these do involve a not insubstantial fee – as it was, they could only fit us on a course that started 14 days before the due date. If Tom had come early, they would have been useless. They also tend to have components related to breathing (I practice every day, so I’m quite proficient) and vocalizing your pain (a.k.a.: screaming). Instead, we went to the classes held by the NHS at the hospital where Tom was born. These were run by the midwife team there, were informal (and irreverent), free and, like the NHS book, told us what we needed to know in a concise and unvarnished manner, including a tour of the facilities (knowing your way around is vital). The NCT classes are reputed to have a social element which we found was also present in the NHS classes – we’ve made friends with a couple who had a son two weeks before Tom, with whom we can now share experiences and, more usefully, a pint.
- Birth plans are useless. Mostly. Most books will advise you to make a birth plan. We had a plan that extended to a whole sheet of A4. When it came to the crunch, everything on the plan went out the window – the only thing that actually came to pass was that I was present at the birth. However, making a birth plan does serve the purpose of forcing you to research all the things that might happen and understand what the choices are and what they might mean. That knowledge was very useful on the day, at least for me, as I was able to guide Hels through the process and choices as we went (she was a little distracted to be able to think consecutively – I can’t imagine why).
- Mothers – do not expect to have a shred of dignity remaining after more than 5 minutes in hospital. Any air of mystery that you have tried to maintain around your partner will also disappear. Let’s face it, you’re going to be in agony, shouting and screaming, with all your bits on display. Get used to the idea – once you do, you’ll relax a bit more. And you’ll need your sense of humour.
- Fathers – be warned that midwives will size you up in seconds. I had what can only be described as a very hands-on role in the delivery of my son, acting as the midwife’s assistant throughout the entire process. This did mean rolling my sleeves up and getting my hands dirty. It was only afterwards that we learned that, when you arrive in the delivery suite with your partner, the midwife will use her experience to quickly get a measure of you. If she thinks that you are the type who is going to sit in the corner and pass out at the sight of blood, then you will be given a seat and a corner and left to it. If, on the other hand, you come across as being made of stronger stuff, then you’d better be ready for some hard work. If you can, try to get the latter result (if you think you have the stomach for it) – helping our midwife deliver Tom is going to be an experience that will be with me for the rest of my days. It also means that you are too busy to pass out!
- Be prepared to be very, very scared. When we got to the end of labour, one or two things started to go a little awry. Tom was born at 5.18pm, with the midwife cutting the cord and then turning to her assistant (the official one, that is, who was present only for the final few minutes) and saying “Theatre! Now!”. Tom disappeared through the doors and was gone and we were left wondering what the hell was going on and if our child was alive or what. As it turned out, Tom was not breathing and needed to go to theatre (the next room) to be given a bit of a kick start in that department. A minute later, the nurse came back and held the door of the delivery room open so that we could hear him crying. I don’t think I’ve ever be so relieved in all my life.
- Post-natal wards are the noisiest places on Earth. You think your local bypass is noisy? Or that nearby building site? That’s got nothing on the post-natal ward. Twenty mums, twenty newborns, twenty partners, perhaps twelve staff. You will not find a quiet corner. Mums should not expect to get much sleep.
- Keep the number of visitors to an absolute minimum. Everyone will want to see you and your baby. Both parents will be utterly exhausted and will want the baby to sleep whenever he/she can as it gives them a chance for a little shut-eye. Even your parents can be told to hold-off visiting for a while. The only person you will welcome into your home will be the community midwife.
- You will end up with three pushchairs. Fact. Get used to it.
- You will go around grinning like a loon. Assuming you’re not fast asleep at the time. And your child will be the most beautiful baby in the world. You will turn into a baby bore. It’s fantastic, though you may seriously consider whether you would ever wish to put yourselves through it for a second time.
Friday 20 January 2006
The Day After Tomorrow
There is a three-word entry in my diary for Sunday:
So, if you find it’s gone a bit quiet here, you’ll know why.
It’s not much of a secret that we’re getting fed up with the waiting now. H is extremely uncomfortable, no matter whether she sits, stands or walks around. Neither of us is sleeping very well at all, with the result that concentration has gone out of the window and we pass chunks of the day in a zombie-like trance. And we know that it probably will not get any easier in the next few weeks, with more sleepless nights and the novelty that is a smelly nappy to contend with.
You have to wonder why people volunteer for this sort of thing.
UPDATE: Not more than half an hour after writing that, Hels became concerned that things were kicking off. So we phoned ahead and went to the hospital (a 30 minute journey from here). H was attached to monitors and given a trace and lots of prodding, but it proved to a false alarm – nothing had started and the baby was acting normally. So we relaxed, came back home and actually had one of the best night’s sleep we’ve had in the last week. But it does all keep you on your toes.
Friday 13 January 2006
Cyclops kitten – thanks Bob.
Hmm. A baby due any day now and people send me links to deformed kittens.
Sunday 1 January 2006
For the first time since 1986 (I think – understandably, my memory is a little hazy in this regard), I didn’t go out for New Year’s Eve. Although we had tickets for the cheesey disco at The Pub Next Door, Hels and I are full of a particularly unpleasant cold, so we decided to stay in and in fact retired at 9.30 – ridiculously early. Having said that, I do feel better this morning, so perhaps an early night paid off.
Today we have spent the morning tidying the house in preparation for the arrival of the parents for NYD lunch – a suitably low key way to spend the day.
Of course, you’ll all be expecting a review of the year. Well, here it is:
- trip to Essen
- trip to Angers and Honfleur
- stuff you don’t need to know about
- announcement of the result of the stuff that you don’t need to know about
- trip to Maastricht and Bruges
- trip to Devon
- three other trips to the Netherlands
- other not very exciting stuff
In general, 2005 has been a year of consolidation and was always going to struggle to live up to the excitement of 2004 – but there has been excitement enough for us. Both home life and work life have been successfully consolidated, although we’d like to have more money coming in in both areas. And, thankfully, 2005 has generally not featured much in the way of bad news, certainly not anything that I’m still dwelling on now.
As for 2006, clearly there is one event that is going to dwarf all else. Becoming parents is going to change our lives in ways that we probably have yet to even imagine. I think we are reasonably prepared for what is coming – certainly from a practical point of view, we have pretty much everything under control (all saving the final touches to the nursery).
As for resolutions, I’m not a huge fan of making promises that I know I probably won’t live up to, but here goes anyway:
- finish the garden. This is a major project that could take weeks or months, involving relocating our car parking area and moving large quantities of soil by shovel and wheelbarrow – but it will radically improve the look of our house.
- get some learning done. Not sure what yet – something towards my MCIM or Chartered Marketer status would be good. Perhaps some language learning. I’ve even been thinking about learning shorthand.
- really get on top of business. There have been moments this year where my business has led me and I’ve not been leading the business – clearly that must change, although I think I’m ending the year in a much better position to that which I started it in.
- to update grayblog more regularly, probably with more photos. And hopefully not just of the cats or the baby.
- to take more exercise and lose a little weight. We eat healthily in terms of what we eat, but fall down on how much we eat. Which in itself is not a problem, but when coupled with my increasingly sedentary lifestyle has resulted in a noticeable bulge. This year, the bulge will go and probably by means of increased activity. Doing the garden will help that.
Crumbs. That’s enough for one year!
Anyway, happy new year to all of you who come here regularly and particularly to those who are good enough to comment. Blogging remains good fun, both writing and reading, so I fully expect to still be here in another twelve months. I might even fix the archives!
Meanwhile, go and check out the good news at Uborka.
Saturday 24 December 2005
Last year, my Israeli clients all seemed to make a point of sending me emails on Christmas day, as if to say "Ha! Makes no difference to us!". It’s not a tradition that I wish to see encouraged.
So, having put together our quiz for the family for tomorrow (goodness knows why we have to do this sort of thing – I’d rather eat loads of food and then sit around being bloated than have to entertain people), wrapped all the presents (there were lots – and I only had to do the ones that I’m giving to H, as she has taken care of gifts for everyone else – delegation is the name of the game), stocked up the food and fuel stockpiles in case of unexpected snowdrifts (60% chance of snow on Monday and Tuesday could render Ruralville isolated if the gritters don’t make it out to us on Bank Holidays), we’re now fully prepared for whatever the next few days throws at us.
Expect quiet here for the next few days (though you probably won’t notice much difference from normal) except for automated posting of the quiz here tomorrow (can’t do it today in case the in-laws read it). Whatever you’re celebrating, I hope you have a good time.
Thursday 15 December 2005
Hels has now officially finished work. She has a little bit of holiday to use up, then her company’s Christmas holiday and then her official maternity leave begins – but, in effect, her maternity leave begins now.
Of course, once the baby arrives, there’ll be no shortage of things to do. But, in the meantime, she’s now engaged in some sort of phoney war preceding the onslaught of the nappy hordes. I give her three days before she is bored rigid.
UPDATE: three days? More like three hours!
Thursday 1 December 2005
To bring you up to date, in the last seven days:
- Hels went to hospital, but everything was fine
- We started ante-natal classes – Hels now knows how to scream convincingly during labour
- We bought six pies at the farmers’ market
- The family came over and we did more work to upgrade the Global Headquarters building
- We watched Hels’s dad in a village panto (actually very funny)
…and I’ve been very busy with work and stuff, hence the continued quiet here.
Sunday 16 October 2005
Married life is one year old today.
If in the futre we live in a paperless society (yeh, right), will first anniversaries be bits or bytes?
Wednesday 24 August 2005
Hello Amsterdam, my name is Fernando
I’m off to the Netherlands this afternoon to visit a trade show in Boskoop tomorrow. I’ve got a few meetings lined up with the great and good of European and American horticulture – a real encouragement to find that, after two and a half years of doing this, the biggest companies now make a point of talking to me at these events to see what I have to offer them. When I started out it was more a case of me banging on their doors and saying "hey! talk to me!"
My mum is coming over to keep H company. H is worried about being on her own whilst 18 weeks pregnant. I’m not sure that there is really anything to worry about, as the pregnancy has been running smoothly of late (just the usual tiredness to contend with and the fact that none of Hels’s clothes fit anymore), but if it reassures H then it’s fine by me.
Maybe H needs practical help looking after the cats. We’re cat-sitting for the in-laws at the moment, and it isn’t something that I plan to repeat as she (Kitty, the in-laws’ cat) persistently picks fights with Monty and Treacle who are so soft and mild-mannered that they don’t know what to do (other than be frightened).
I really should mow the lawn before I head to the airport. Nah, it can wait.
More exciting blog entries soon, kids! Blimey, this is getting boring, isn’t it? perhaps it’s time for another one of those long airport rambles?
Thursday 21 July 2005
Chocolate store supplies film stars
…as well as providing wedding cake for a famous blogger and his wife.
Well, maybe not famous.
Wednesday 20 July 2005
Today I took Hels to the hospital for a new scan and something called a Nuchal Translucency Test (which definitely merits capital letters). I won’t bore you with too many details about it, nor with another grainy black and white image of the baby (although we could clearly see the arms, legs and nose, as well as the spine, thigh bones and stomach). The test is for Down’s Syndrome and the result gives a probability for the baby suffering that condition. The starting point for a woman of Hels’s age is 1 in 131, but as a result of the test we now have the surprisingly precise figure of 1 in 704 which, apparently, makes her the equivalent of a woman ten years younger. Naturally this went down well with my wife. Anyway, the baby is considered to be at low risk of Down’s and no further testing for it will be required.
Amusingly, as the sonographer tried various angles with the scanner in order to get a clear image of the foetus, the Graysprog decided that he/she was definitely not happy with being pushed about and gave Hels a fairly hefty kick – which we could see clearly on the monitor. That was very cool indeed.
Friday 8 July 2005
In case you were wondering…
A few people have noticed that things have been generally quieter than normal in these parts lately. One friend even suggested that I was coming across as distracted.
In addition, I’ve alluded to a few sleepless nights that we’ve had lately.
I even had to turn down an invitation for drinks from the Uborka Two and will be writing to the Sevitz to say that we can’t fit into his bra. Or something.
Hels and I are absolutely delighted to announce that we are to be parents, with a baby due in January. When we’re not being absolutely terrified, we’re smiling like loons. Not everything has run smoothly thus far, as we’ve had a couple of scary moments in the emergency ward at the local maternity unit (where the staff are splendid, I must add). But things seem to be running relatively smoothly at the moment, with just the usual nausea, tiredness and urges to vomit. And that’s just me.
More news as things progress, and feel free to kick me under the table if I turn into a baby bore.
And before you ask, we don’t know yet if we need blue or pink baby clothes. We do intend to find out when the time comes, but we’ll be keeping it to ourselves until the baby is born (and I’ll try ever-so-hard only to refer to "it" or "the baby" and not to "he" or "she". Or "Dave".)
And if you can’t figure out what is in the picture, that’s the baby in its little sac thingy with the head on the right, the bum at the bottom and four little limbs in the upper left.
Saturday 23 April 2005
It’s your birthday, baby
Today is St George’s Day. It is also my wife’s birthday. So expect quiet here as we spend the day doing birthday things.
Saturday 16 April 2005
Half a year
I’ve been married for exactly six months today. By a strange coincidence, the woman I live with got married on the same day. Fancy that!
As our first anniversary will be paper, half-cards should be sent to the usual address.
Wednesday 30 March 2005
Tuesday 29 March 2005
…due to being away from the laptop, either due to work and non-work committments or due to DIY and gardening tasks, some of which resulted in downtime on my internet connection whilst cables were taken out of the way to facilitate painting. Anyway, since we last spoke, H and I have:
- demolished the wood store in the garden
- extended the outside dining area around the barbeque
- created a new small flower bed by the outside dining area
- planted various plants including Brachyglottis, Cytisus, arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica Crowborough), Oenothera, Osteospermum, a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), burnt-sugar bush (Cercidophyllum japonicum), magnolia (Magnolia stellata), two clematis (the varieties Henryi and Piilu) and assorted herbs
- sown seeds of coneflower (Rudbeckia) and sunflower
- painted the woodwork on the stairs, in the porch and in the master bedroom
- painted one interior wall of the conservatory – aqua, for turquoise fans
- painted the troughs along the side of the house and part of the summerhouse
- visited Borough Market and the Saatchi Gallery
- spent a day with the in-laws/family.
The garden is certainly beginning to take shape now, particularly as the seeds that were sown last week are beginning to sprout. I’m fairly sure that there are going to be too many of some plants if all the seeds germinate – our small garden is unlikely to be able to accommodate 70 sunflowers – so some judicious thinning-out might be called for in a few weeks time (I expect I might be able to donate some seedlings, if they come out of the ground in good shape, to Sil – depends how they all grow). We also feel like we have made some progress on the house, although we have at least two more full days of painting in the conservatory and porch, just to complete what we have started. The bathroom and kitchen have both been put on the back burner for the time being – maybe we will tackle them as autumn projects before the dark nights set in.
There will be photos, certainly of our trip to the South Bank, and possibly, if I get round to taking some, of the garden.
Also, since we last spoke, my parents’ MP has caused a furore in the Tory party by speaking his mind and then standing his ground – more on this when I have a moment.
Friday 18 March 2005
Today’s theme seems to be to toughen me up. I’ve just been moaned at telephonically by my wife for not leaving enough petrol in the car (I know that there was slightly less than a quarter tank when I drove down the lane towards home last night – I checked!). Before she left she gave me a list of household chores to do (harrumph!). I’m now sitting in the conservatory with the door wide open in an attempt to brave out the chill breeze and pretend that it is really spring (it’ll be better once the sun moves round – or, rather, the earth rotates – sufficiently that the sun reaches my seat). And I am having to deal with two manic cats who seem determined to make up for my absence yesterday by shedding as much fur as possible over my keyboard and clothing. All this and I haven’t had a coffee yet.
Tuesday 22 February 2005
We’re back after a day in Angers and two days in Honfleur, a change being as good as a rest.
When we got home in the small hours of the morning, I picked my way up the lanes of Ruralville with around two inches of snow on the ground, heavy snow falling, my wife asleep in the passenger seat and two kittens in the carrier in the back – a combination of things that tends to make you drive with care.
This morning, I had to travel up to Nearbyton in order to visit the local council. The snow was hanging on the trees and looked absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me and now a combination of warmer temperatures and strong wind has rather spoiled the effect – but it was good whilst it lasted.
Busy busy this week, so expect quiet.
Monday 14 February 2005
In a reversal of the usual stereotypical rôles, I’ve spent much of the afternoon cleaning the house and preparing a (hopefully) wonderful meal for my spouse, whilst she slaves away over a hot keyboard in her office. Safe in the knowledge that she has now left work, I can reveal that I’m preparing a steak in ale casserole, with roasted shallots, mashed sweet potatoes, carrots and peas, which will be accompanied by one of the "special" bottles of wine from the rack. I’ve also baked a spicy fruit loaf.
I’m not a big one for buying ostentatious gifts or excessive cards for Valentine’s Day, but I think it is good to be extra romantic and make an extra effort every now and then. This is our first V Day as marrieds, so we both think it is a good thing to do something special. Such a shame that it falls on a weekday – which is why we’re scooting off to France for the weekend (tying the trip in with a visit to a trade show – so PFE can subsidise the trip).
Whether you are coupled or not, by choice or by circumstance, I reckon February 14th is the perfect opportunity to crack open a decent bottle of red – and that’s just what I’m about to do.
Thursday 3 February 2005
Let there be light (at the end of tunnel)
Joy at Graybo Towers this evening as news comes in that, subject to references, H’s flat has been let. Of course, this means that muggins has to go and fix the leaky washing machine fitting pdq. Gah. But yay!
Monday 31 January 2005
I want to telephone my bank. The "contact us" section of their website doesn’t include any telephone numbers. However, by using their "search for your nearest branch" section, I find the central telephone number.
When I dial this number, I am presented with two options – press 1 for account holders, press 2 for non-account holders. Simple enough. I press 1. I am then asked for the number on my cashpoint card. OK. Then I’m asked for the first and fourth digits of my five digit passcode. My what?
So, I go back to the main menu in the hope that there is an option where I can actually speak to a person. No such luck. I can’t get access to the system without my passcode and I can’t speak to someone in order to request a passcode without access to the system.
Time to move bank?
UPDATE: I finally managed to get a person. It seems they have my old address. He can’t update my file because I need a telephone passcode due to security reasons. So I have to go to a branch. In the meantime, all my statements are going to the wrong address – how secure is that?
FURTHER UPDATE: I’ve just called our other bank, and they "can’t give any information today" because I’m not set up on their telephone system. This in spite of the fact that I’ve just answered umpteen questions that only I (or possibly Hels or my mum) would know – inside leg measurement, shoe size, number of hairs on my head, etc.
I’m brassed off. I just want to speak to someone who can do the things I need done!
EVEN FURTHER UPDATE: at least the mortgage people are normal and can do the things I ask. In future, the payment will go three days later and our credit rating will not be harmed – all done quickly and efficiently.
Saturday 29 January 2005
I have a direct debit from my Barclays sole account to our NatWest joint account. My pay goes into my account on the 15th. The direct debit goes out on the 22nd. The mortgage goes out of our joint account on the 25th.
Because the 22nd fell on a Saturday this month, the payment was not processed until Monday the 24th. A check at my local Barclays branch cashpoint showed that the money actually left that day. When I went to the NatWest on the 25th, they said that it had still not been received. Apparently it takes three days.
Three days??? Why? Surely these things are all automated on a computer and all that happens is that a few 0s and 1s move along some wires (possibly more 0s than 1s in my case).
Where is the money in the meantime? It isn’t in my sole account and it isn’t in our joint account – so where is it? I consider it to be my money all the time, yet it is nowhere where I can find it.
Today we have received a letter from NatWest, telling us that we have been charged £35 because there were insufficient funds in our account to cover the mortgage payment. Furthermore, the mortgage payment has not been paid, which has probably had an adverse impact on our credit rating.
On Monday, I will be writing to both banks. I want the £35 back from one or other bank. I want the mortgage to be paid ASAP. I want any damage to our credit score to be rectified. I want assurances this will not happen again.
And I’m going to copy the letter to the local trading standards office and to the Consumers Association.
Monday 24 January 2005
Bad luck Monday
This is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, isn’t it? Well, I’m not sure about that, but we are a little pissed off that H’s car has broken down with clutch failure. Bah.
We held our housewarming on Saturday. There were lots of people and even more alcohol, as well as some cracking home-made pizzas that H and I made between us. People brought flowers, gifts, food and drink and (I think) everyone had a good time. Heads were slightly delicate yesterday morning, but thanks to help from Charlie in particular, the mess wasn’t bad at all and normal service has been resumed.
Wednesday 12 January 2005
One man went to mow
Great excitement in our little house in Ruralville tonight as we use eBay to purchase a lawnmower, finally breaking my duck on successful eBay purchases.
Now to see if it is any good when it turns up. Further bulletins to follow.
Saturday 1 January 2005
My wife is de-Christmassing the house already. Somehow, I feel that it is slightly premature to do so, but she tells me that it is "New Year’s Day – not Christmas any more".
This does have one significant advantage. With all the cards removed from the shelves, I can now get to my CD collection again without causing an avalanche of festive greetings. This is a good thing, although I am reminded that I am yet to alphabetise the discs and update the catalogue of the collection to cover recent purchases (admittedly very few, but we got three CDs for Christmas and purchased a further eight in Brighton the other day). It also looks like we’ll be merging our collections, so there will be two or three duplicates that will be sold off on Amazon in order to fund a new purchase or two.
Two thousand and five
We prepared for the New Year by taking the waters at the pub next door last night, before retiring to our sofa with the kittens. Today, we walked off the excess with a long walk through the fields and woods around the next village, in the company of a whole bunch of the locals, plus H’s parents, sister and brother-in-law.
And we’re still eating chocolate.
Friday 31 December 2004
Oh blimey! There are only a few hours to go, most of which will be spent in the pub next door, and I haven’t written my end of year review yet! OK, time pressures mean it’ll be bullet points:
- Highlights, in roughly chronological order:
- my trip to Saumur
- birthday trip to Lisboa
- the grand tour of the low countries
- selling my flat
- finally getting to live full-time with Hels
- the grand tour of Germany
- getting married! (obviously!)
- the honeymoon in Sicily
- getting our own home in Ruralville
- not selling Hels’s flat
- generally not having enough money or time for all the things we want to do
- ummm… that’s about it really
All in all, 2004 has been excellent. PFE continues to plod along, family are healthy and happy (mostly!) and I married the perfect girl for me. You can’t ask for much more than that really.
Happy New Year to you. Come back to the same place this time next year for another exciting annual review!
Sunday 12 December 2004
Today, for the first time in my life, I made and baked a loaf of bread*. And very good it was too, even if I say so myself.
Saturday 11 December 2004
So, whilst I may not be at the bloggers’ party tonight, I can live up to one other blogging tradition – yes, at long last, a post about kittens! I just know that this is going to make Vaughan jealous.
This week, we went down to the RSPCA cat rehoming centre at Hastings and put our name down for these two "poor little fellas". They’re going to make it, Rolf.
This one has been named Monty by us.
He’s completely mad, a total livewire. He’s bound to wreck the place.
This one has yet to be given a name.
She’s much more quiet and retiring, in marked contrast to Monty. We reckon that, once we have her here, a name will come to us.
The RSPCA will send out a visitor to check that we’re ok to own cats, but since we’ve already passed the test with another animal rehoming charity within the last week, we’re confident that it will just be a formality. In fact, we’re so confident that we went out and purchased kitten food, a litter tray, litter, a new cat flap (now fitted), a scratching post, a basket, a carrier and assorted toys today.
This is going to be fun.
Thursday 9 December 2004
On the main church in Taormina, right at the top of the façade, there is a skull and crossbones. Catholic pirates?
Monday 6 December 2004
Home is where the blog is
I’m sitting in our conservatory, happily blogging in a wireless stylee. I’ve not tested it yet, but I reckon I’ll be able to log into my wireless LAN in the pub. Then I’ll be really happy.
Life is gradually settling down in Graybo Towers. We’ve repainted the lounge, stairway and both bedrooms. The house has been furnished cheaply but stylishly. The new sexy sofas have been ordered and will be delivered in the new year. We’ve got countless jobs still to do on our new home, but we’re getting there. We are both very tired, but we’ve been helped a lot by our family, and we finally managed to relax in our new home this evening – meatballs in tomato sauce, a bottle of Vinho Verde from our trip earlier this year to Lisboa and some lovely music – all by candlelight on our new table. All this coupled with waking up this morning to the view of the horses in the field across the road as well as the peace and solitude of our rural retreat. It feels like our home.
Wednesday 1 December 2004
As has just been pointed out in conversation between my wife and her sister, you can tell that Graybo has been very busy because he has written hardly anything at his website.
Thanks to the help already mentioned, the back of the decorating is definitely broken. Needless to say, we collective feel like our backs are broken too.
Top discovery of the week: the local pub (walking distance door-to-door: ninety seconds if you drag your feet, but not named here because Hels doesn’t want the whereabouts of our new abode revealed at the site) does a mean curry night on Tuesdays – two curries for £8.50 is not bad at all, and they are very tasty and generously proportioned.
Monday 29 November 2004
Paint everywhere. Boxes everywhere. Slightly frayed tempers. But getting there.
And big thanks to Tim, Lu and Kev for coming over to help.
Friday 26 November 2004
We have the keys. We’ve cleaned. We’ve started spotting some paint here and there. We’ve had bacon and egg sannies. We have two phone lines. We have broadband. We have gas. We have electricity. We have water.
We’ve got a home.
Not bad for day one.
Good news and bad
Just had the call from our solicitor to say that everything is running smoothly with the purchase of the New House™, and that we should be able to get the keys from the estate agent in about one hour. Which is good.
I’ve also had a call from the BT engineer. He wondered why he couldn’t get into the New House™ at 8.30 this morning. He was scheduled to go in somewhen between 8am and 12 noon. This in spite of the fact that I told BT that I wouldn’t have access to the property before lunch. Gah. Thankfully, I have his mobile number, so can call him back as soon as we get there.
Thursday 25 November 2004
Look at the size of those zucchini!
Tomorrow, we get the keys for the new house. Today, I have to go to HomeBase for some decorating supplies, and to Sainsbury’s for some first-day-in-new-home provisions (teabags, milk, readymeals, etc.).
Yesterday, BT phoned me. At 1pm tomorrow, my old office telephone and broadband should be switched off, and my new phone line and broadband should be switched on. At the same time. The chap from BT (who had a very strong west Scotland accent) said to me "well, we’re still on for it at this end, but who knows what’ll happen on Friday – we’ll just have to wait and see". I’m not filled with confidence.
Monday 22 November 2004
Strutting our funky stuff
More wedding photography. This image courtesy of Mrs Peet.
A rare photo of me dancing. Note that I succeeded in carrying this feat off without falling over, whereas my wife has sufficient grace and elegance to not only look fabulous whilst dancing, but can also hold a large gin and tonic without any spillage.
Just how many…
…shades of off-white are there? I’ve just been down to HomeBase, thinking I could get a wedge of testpots for us to daub artfully on the walls of the New House™. However, the truth is that without my new (to me) free (when purchased with any Peugeot 306) wheelbarrow and a very large sum of money, there is no way that I was going to get a representative selection. So, this evening, H and I will sit with the colour charts and try our best to decide which ones to get testers of.
And, incidentally, how can Farrow and Ball justify charging three times the price of anyone else for their magnolia paint? And would anyone want to paint "Dead Salmon" on their walls? Who comes up with these names?
In case you were wondering…
..what happened this weekend, I couldn’t possibly tell you. Alcohol was not involved. Oh no. Ahem.
Friday 19 November 2004
Feeding the hordes
You asked for wedding photos. You get wedding photos.
Thursday 18 November 2004
A packed day
Yesterday, we spent the day driving around the south-east of England sorting out various things for the new home.
First stop was our solicitors, where we handed over a very large sum of money, the last payments on the new home. We get the keys next Friday, all things being equal, which, talking to the vendors, they should be. We’re lucky that Sharon and Graham, the couple selling to us, are really lovely people, and have helped to make their part of the transaction really smooth. They’re off to Canada next summer after Sharon has given birth to their first child – which helps us to keep our own adventure in perspective!
After the solicitors, we headed north to Croydon, calling in at the splendid Wing Yip store on the Purley Way. Hels had never been to Wing Yip before, and was as amazed as I was the first time that I went there – aisle after aisle of the most amazing ingredients for oriental cuisine, ranging from huge sacks of rice and noodles through to bulk bags of baby squid and cuttlefish.
From there it was on to IKEA for meatballs, followed by a research session on sofabeds (decision made, subject to checking the measurements of the new living room when we go round there on Sunday – though the design isn’t on their website, so I can’t show it to you) and dining tables (a shortlist of three, with one that was preferred, but again subject to checking the measurements) and chairs (pretty certain on these). We also stocked up on some Christmas decorations for the new home too and, as is usual in IKEA, found it easy to spend £50 on not very much at all.
After that, it was back into the car to "scoot" (for which read "crawl") around the M25 to BlueWater, which was beautifully lit for Christmas, to visit John Lewis. We were fortunate enough to have received quite a sum in John Lewis vouchers for our wedding, sufficient to purchase a HotPoint fridge/freezer and a Tricity-Bendix tumble dryer. The tumble dryer is a damaged ex-display model reduced in price by £50, but still with a full two-year guarantee. Bargain! Both will be delivered in the days immediately following our arrival at the new house.
We also had some Habitat vouchers which we used to purchase some towels (not very exciting, but very functional), as well as some House of Fraser vouchers. We planned to use these to buy a new vacuum cleaner, but were not impressed by the choice in the House of Fraser store at BlueWater, so we’ll wait until we’re next in Chichester and will check out the range in Army and Navy there.
All in all, not a very exciting day for you to read about, but we feel that we’re really making progress on getting things together for the new home. Of course, we have absolutely no money at all now, but isn’t that the lot of every new home owner?
Tuesday 16 November 2004
We’ve been married a month. Where are the cards and gifts?
Saturday 13 November 2004
This afternoon we took delivery of our new (to us) car. Hels seems very pleased with it. Colin, the guy who sold it to us, has very kindly thrown in a wheelbarrow. I kid you not. I’m actually very pleased with the wheelbarrow – it’s suitably cement-lined, battered and slightly rusty, and is currently in the back of Hels’s shiny new motor, much to her chagrin.
We also went to the Hardy Plant Society Sussex Group’s 10th birthday bash today. I set the group up with considerable help from several like-minded people, and it is really quite rewarding to see the group is in such good shape. Hels came with me, and had to deal with a large number of ladies-who-lunch saying "oooo! you’re Graham’s wife!" but, in spite of being thrown in at the deep end, took it all in her stride, as usual.
Wednesday 10 November 2004
Picture double bill
From the honeymoon – Mount Etna erupting.
We decided that close inspection of the crater probably wasn’t called for.
From the wedding – Lord Percy and Peet ham it up.
The full effect of the red wine was setting in by this point. (Photo courtesy of Mrs Peet).
Tuesday 9 November 2004
Come on in…
…the water’s lovely.
Alternative caption: Hels’s poor hearing meant that she was oblivious to the horns of the supertanker as it ran her down.
Just for once…
…a major company offers good service (so far!). Top marks to BT for making transferring our home telephone account, my business telephone account and my broadband connection to our new address so simple. It’ll all be installed on the day we move in and should be up and running by mid-afternoon. And all this was organised with two simple telephone calls.
Of course, we have yet to see if they actually deliver this service on November 26th!
Monday 8 November 2004
- I think I have the beginnings of a cold – sore throat and general lacklustre status.
- Yesterday, we bought a car – a 2000 silver Peugeot 306. If I’m lucky, I may get to drive it once a month – for me, it’ll be the handmedown 1992 Peugeot 106. Seriously, I think we got a good deal, having spent most of Saturday and a large part of Sunday morning trawling through used car dealers (limited choice, some expensive), used car supermarkets (big choice, very expensive) and the small-ads (good choice if you don’t mind travelling, and sometimes good value, but no warranty, servicing or extras). The car we have chosen comes to us from a small dealer and has actually been used by his fiancée – he had the V5 to show it has been in her name for quite a while. Only one previous owner, a very low mileage, brand new MOT and a service history at a Peugeot main dealer. He’s also getting a minor bump on the back bumper fixed and getting a new service at the dealer before we take delivery of the car this weekend.
- Amsterdam was its usual hectic and mildly aggressive self. I can’t recommend the Botel floating hotel – although the location is great (right by Amsterdam Centraal station), the thin walls and ceilings mean the rooms are noisy. It was also particularly cold. However, flying EUJet from Kent International is a good thing – cheap and cheerful, yes, but cheaper and easier than EasyJet from Gatwick, assuming you have the means to get to Manston.
UPDATE: it seems our new car is an import, so we may have problems with insurance.
Thursday 4 November 2004
Hels in Cefalú harbour.
You know, there was something about the markets in Sicily that set my pulses racing:
Off to Amsterdam for 24 hours. There will be more photos, I promise. And possibly more puns.
Wednesday 3 November 2004
Forgot to say that Hels and I signed and exchanged all the papers and paid over a hefty sum of money on Monday for the new house. We will get the keys on the 26th. We’re immensely relieved that we are on the home straight now with the house purchase. If only we could make progress with the sale of Hels’s flat…
Sunday 31 October 2004
…and absolutely adored every minute in Sicily. Even if a few places were a bit fishy.
There will be more photos from Sicily and from the wedding. It may take me a few days to sort out, as I have a load of work to catch up on, lots to sort out with the house move, the BBC News archive to catch up on, and I’m off to Amsterdam for a flying visit at the end of the week.
Sunday 17 October 2004
The best day ever
This the only photo in which I’m not grinning like an idiot.
More when we get home from the honeymoon.
And thank you for all your lovely messages.
Friday 15 October 2004
I am, officially, excited.
I’ll try and post a picture or two on Monday. Have a good weekend.
Thursday 14 October 2004
Two days to go
Cake to collect.
Wine to deliver to reception venue.
Nerves? What nerves? (runs off and hides)
Wednesday 13 October 2004
Three days to go
Can I confess to being a bit nervous?
Today is my last day officially working. Tomorrow will be spent running around with cases of wine and wedding cake, and Friday is supposed to be a day for relaxation before the mayhem of Saturday. So, I’m working to tie up a few loose ends and put PFE to bed until I get back from the honeymoon.
I’m finding concentration very difficult indeed.
Tuesday 12 October 2004
Four days to go
Well, the weather forecast is good for Saturday.
The last 24 hours has seen us working on exciting things like the place cards, orders of service and seating plan, as well as ensuring that the DJ plays the music we want to hear (no Robbie, no Queen, no Freddie – but Dancing Queen is ok. Plenty of Stones, Beatles, Van Morrison plus a bit of Madonna and Prince as well as a few newer tracks we like too). And I’ve put my foot down over the whole first dance idea – I don’t want everyone staring at me as I tread on Hels’s toes!
Yesterday was the first anniversary of the day that Hels and I met. On Saturday, directly after we are married, we are going to walk the 100 yards or so from the church to the spot where we first set eyes on each other, just outside Trevor Mottram’s Cook Shop (where we have our wedding list). To get to the church, I’ll walk past the café where we had our first coffee and biscotti together.
It’s been a strange year, at times stressful, mostly wonderfully happy, but undoubtedly the best year ever.
Monday 11 October 2004
Just five days
Not long now.
The weekend was spent settling in. Not that it is really that strange to be here – I’ve lived here for half the time for a quite a while now, but now there is nowhere else to go back to.
On Saturday, we had the wedding rehearsal. I can’t say that either of us remember very much about it – where we are supposed to stand, when to sit down, when to kneel – but we did learn that we can’t expect much from either the chief bridesmaid or the best man – both are likely to dissolve into tears on the day. Great. What hope is there for us? At least we are confident that Reverend Sue will guide us through the whole thing with a sense of humour.
Yesterday, a little safer in the knowledge that it will be our home by the end of November, Hels and I went down to the village where we shall be moving to, went for a quick drink in the local and then for a short walk across the nearby fields. We sussed out a lovely circular walk that will be ideal for exercising the legs of visitors after a heavy meal, or building an appetite in advance of one. It’s a beautiful spot, with gently rolling hills, lots of woodland and the odd bovine spectator.
Friday 8 October 2004
The man from NatWest, he say yes!
We now have finance in place to buy our new home, in spite of Hels’s sale falling through. We are one very relieved and very happy couple. Our solicitor is on the case with full speed.
Speaking of reckless or, to be more precise, homeless…
I finished packing and dumping the stuff at the parents’ house very late last night. It would have been later still without the huge help of Tim.
A few minutes ago, I went round to check my mail for the last time and then went to the estate agent and handed over the keys.
So, that’s it. I’m homeless.
Thankfully, a very nice lady in Tunbridge Wells has agreed to put me up.
Thursday 7 October 2004
Today I shall mostly be moving furniture and stuff.
Wednesday 6 October 2004
Looks like I’m "go" for moving out on Friday of this week, handing the keys to my estate agent by midday.
Number 188 has been home for almost exactly five-and-a-half years. Not only that, but it has also been the first home of my own. It’s seen a lot of stories unfold within its walls, and I’ll be sad to leave, though not as sad as I am to leave Chichester.
On the other hand, and much more happily, life is turning a new corner, and the future and its opportunities look fantastic.
In other property news, we’re still trying to sort out things with the sale of Hels’s flat. We’re also looking at re-negotiating the purchase price of the house we’re still attempting to buy, as we have received a valuation survey that prices it a little lower than the offer price.
Stress levels are still high.
Monday 4 October 2004
This picture does not show me tied to some railings with clingfilm whilst being soaked with a watering can and garden hose. Oh no.
Thanks to everyone that came along for my stag night on Saturday. Particular thanks to Kristian at W2, and to Tim for putting the whole thing together. A very good time was had by all (I think – I can’t remember!).
My solicitor has just called. We have, in the last few minutes, exchanged contracts on my flat. I should be out by the end of the week, or next Monday at the latest. Hurrah!
And she continues to work hard on all the other issues relating to Hels’s sale and our new home too. Top marks to her.
Friday 1 October 2004
Things are looking up – we now seem to have satisfactory paperwork so that any subsequent sale of Hels’s flat shouldn’t fall at the same hurdle that this last one did (although I’m convinced that the buyer simply changed his mind and used petty reasons as an excuse to weedle out of it). In addition, we’ve confirmed exchange on my flat for Monday with completion by the end of the week.
So we feel a little more positive today.
UPDATE: evidently the paperwork isn’t good enough. Bah. But we’re working on it, and feel confident we can get paperwork that will staisfy everyone by the middle of next week.
Thursday 30 September 2004
Currently occupying 110% of my concentration:
- the Formula 1 calendar – it impacts significantly on planning of my Garden Event at West Dean, as we must avoid a clash with the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the date of which is dependant on the Formula 1 calendar (wot no British GP???).
- trying to establish exactly how well my clients are doing with certain plant material I have supplied them with, and whether I need to arrange a trans-Atlantic cross-supply.
- dealing with some politics that some potential clients have arising from some legacy representation arrangements (though to have my main competitor described as "yesterday" is a nice boost).
- trying to help along another client who seems to have been messed about by his clients (who also happen to be my clients).
- sorting out a list of trial material required from my breeder clients to get things moving with my grower clients – upon which rests the future earnings of PFE.
- fixing up paperwork on all the house sales and purchases – too late to save Hels’s sale, but paving the way for a quick and smooth new sale as soon as we find a new buyer, as well as salvaging the purchase, which has become an all-consuming passion for me.
- oh yeh, the wedding.
Bugger this, I’m off for a pint.
Breasts in the elevated position
In a totally unexpected development, Hels’s buyer withdrew yesterday. We spent the day being extraordinarily stressed and trying to salvage the purchase of our new home. I think we can achieve the latter, although it will be expensive. Our solicitor continues to be splendid, although she too was pulling her hair out over the whole thing.
We’ve had easier days. And with only just over two weeks to the wedding, the timing could have been better.
Wednesday 29 September 2004
Theoretically, we might get to hear today from the people who effectively hold the success or failure of our Moving Home Project™ in their hands. I do know for a fact that our excellent solicitor is on the case and will be chasing them this morning – she’s very nearly as stressed-out by this thing as we are!
At least my sale seems to be ticking along, which is one very important part of the equation. Hopefully I’ll be moving out next week, seeing that lovely chunk of money falling into my bank account (ready to fall out again as soon as we move in to the new house!).
Tuesday 28 September 2004
Hels and I have, jointly and independently, been on the receiving end of some moaning and complaining lately, as well as not a little pressure. This pressure concerns people who have not been invited to our wedding or to the stag and hen events.
Firstly, to deal with the stag and hen events. These events were both only ever intended to be low-key events for closest friends – an opportunity to get together for some food and drink, followed by some silly dancing in a cheesy club (both the hen and the stag are following a similar formula). We never wanted to have a huge event with gazillions of alcohol-fuelled people, some of which we don’t know well. I’m happy that what we’ve got planned will be just right, not just a riot.
In the case of the wedding, the event is already considerably bigger than we had originally planned. We will have over one hundred guests in attendance, far more than we would really like. Besides, we are picking up a large chunk of the bill ourselves, and our resources are limited – the budget currently exceeds the original estimate by more than thirty percent. So we have had to draw the line, which means that some friends and not a few family members will not be in attendance.
Please don’t think that we do not want these people to be there. It has just got to the stage where it is as much as we can cope with. We are both tired and run down with the planning for the wedding, combined with the house moving and everything else (such as the other everyday things we have to do, like holding down busy and sometimes stressful jobs) – this is something that we almost resent, as this should be the happiest time of our lives (though we are more happy than you could possibly imagine, trust me!).
But please accept that it is our wedding. Our day. And we would like it to be something along the lines that we would like. We think we’re achieving that (thanks to help and support from many people), and we’re both looking forward to it.
Slices of brain
A few weeks ago, I went with Hels to our local private hospital so that she could have a brain scan. She had been referred for the scan as she has a hearing problem, and the doctor wanted to check that there was nothing untoward going on inside her skull. Yesterday, we went back to get the results.
The interesting part is that you get to look at a big sheet of acetate showing about three dozen "slices" through the head, a bit like looking at slices through an enormous ham. Each slice is a fraction of a millimetre thick, and each sheet of acetate shows the ham being sliced at a different angle. It provides a unique opportunity to look at something you would never otherwise see – the inside of your own head (or, for me, the inside of my fiancée’s head). It is something that you can not reach with any of your senses, yet it is there and has been carried around by Hels for all her life.
The most shocking thing to discover, though, was that in spite of Hels agreeing to marry me, her brain is "normal".
Monday 27 September 2004
So much for getting answers by the end of the day – the guy who can give us the answers that we seek is on holiday, and won’t be back before Wednesday. We were trying to get things tied up this week, but currently feel utterly powerless. Our solicitor is tearing her hair out over this.
For those awaiting news on the house sales and purchase, there were no significant developments on Friday, so we’ve spent all weekend holding our breath. Hopefully, we should find out more by the end of the day.
Thursday 23 September 2004
We’re having something of a major crisis in the home sale department today. We’re both working on it, as is our excellent solicitor. If it goes wrong, then we will be in a pretty grim situation indeed. If it goes right, then we should be home and dry. When I first heard about it from Hels, I was pretty pessimistic, but having discussed it with my father, who has some experience of these things, I can see that there is a possible solution. Whether it will work depends on a lot of people and will likely cost us money, but it may just save the day.
Stress levels are off the scale.
Wednesday 22 September 2004
It almost seems slightly unseemly to post this here. However, decorum and manners notwithstanding, I should like to inform anyone who still intends to purchase a gift for our wedding that the John Lewis list has now been exhausted. There are, however, a number of gifts remaining on the Mottrams list.
We are very fortunate (and grateful) indeed.
Monday 20 September 2004
Long rambling post
Today, I’m spending rather a lot of my day on trains. Tunbridge Wells to Charing Cross; Charing Cross to Euston; Euston to Birmingham International – and then the same journey in reverse. The purpose of my trip is to visit GLEE, a huge trade show for the garden and leisure industries, held at the NEC. Ironically, after what has generally been a difficult season in horticulture as a result of bad weather, a weak economy and chronic overproduction in some sectors, I suspect that the last thing that most participants will be is gleeful.
So, in order to look like I’m working on the train, and to provide some light relief in the absence of my paperback (left at home in order to conserve weight in my bag), today I’ll be providing one of those fascinating "blogging-whilst-travelling" posts that I know you love. And there’ll be trouble if anyone attempts to steal my format.
Observations – some people really could use plastic surgery. There is a woman sitting opposite me with the most grotesque nose. I have to say that it isn’t helped by the sour expression on her face, as she has clearly got onto the train in a bad mood, but even so, a nose job wouldn’t do any harm. Also opposite me is another woman who really needs to eat some pies. When will young women learn that having the physique of a broom handle is about as attractive as a …errmmm.. broom handle?
Wow – lovely huge drifts of Michaelmas Daisies growing on the railway embankment between Orpington and Chislehurst – great soft clouds of mauve.
Anyway – a weekend catch-up. I spent Saturday doing not much at all, taking the opportunity whilst Hels visited friends to have an extended kip on the sofa, having ploughed my way through a thick wad of paperwork sent to us by our solicitor. I also drifted by the bookstore to get some new paperbacks (I must update the current reading and current listening entries in the sidebar). In the evening, feeling in need of a moderate level of adventure, we headed out to Masala, a reasonably new Indian restaurant in the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. It certainly wins out over our usual preferred home of curry, the Kirthon, in terms of atmosphere – the Masala seems more lively and trendy than the Kirthon, and just a little more refined. But whilst the food was generally good, and the naan was the best we’ve ever eaten, the menu was generally lacklustre and staid. The Kirthon definitely offers a far more adventurous (and possibly authentic, although I’m no expert) selection of dishes, and their rice and sauces are of far higher quality. So, we know where we’ll be going in future.
Yesterday (Sunday), we met up with my family to go around the house that we are purchasing, enjoying a mug of tea with the couple that are selling to us. It was only the second time that we had viewed it, but it confirmed our initial feelings that it is exactly the right home for us, and that was endorsed by the family. The views are still great, the road is still very quiet and the pub is still just over the back fence. We took the opportunity to walk around the village, surveying the village hall, tiny post office (open two afternoons each week only), beautiful church with Italianate ceiling (no, really!) and, most importantly, the pub. Ticks against every item.
OK – I need to conserve laptop battery as I might need this thing at GLEE.
Hurrah for Virgin Trains with sockets under the tables. Pity the northbound train was old stock, pre-laptop.
Well, the big news is that my first hour at GLEE was filled with phone calls to and from our solicitor and the mortgage people. Our mortgage has been approved, subject to a favourable valuation survey. We’ve also been told that we don’t need the bells and whistles survey unless the basic survey shows any cause for concern. And the solicitor has ironed out a few other creases in things – it looks like everything is beginning to slot into place, although I’m holding my breath on celebrating, as there are still a few potential pitfalls yet. However, I’m pretty confdent that we won’t fall down at any of these small hurdles. I might allow myself a small port and lemon to mark the occasion.
In other news, one of my clients contacted me today with a tip-off for a potentially very exciting new breeder client for PFE in the Czech Republic. Which seems like a perfectly good excuse for a flying visit to Prague at some point. Furthermore, in spite of being able to cover the entire plant hall at the GLEE event in 2.5 hours, including coffee break and diversionary chat with Paul C at his stand in the neighbouring hall, I think I’ve picked up a small number of potential new grower clients for my charges and, more importantly, a crackingly good new breeder client in Worcestershire. Droitwich is probably not as exciting as Prague, but money is money wherever it comes from.
The bonus with finishing at GLEE early is that I’ve been able to get an earlier train, which means that I’ll be home shortly after 7 and able to relax a little this evening. The tube across London and the train from London Bridge will both, inevitably, be miserably packed, but home for dinner has to be a fair pay-off for that. And for now I can get on with some work, with an archived edition of GHC to listen to.
In general, GLEE failed totally to live up to its name. Growers there were in two camps – the "not bad considering" camp and the "sorry, we can’t hide the dismal prospects for our business as our faces are so long" camp. Thankfully, most of my clients fall into the former camp and not the latter, and tough times seem to be forcing companies to look at ways of innovating in order to differentiate their offerings from those of their competitors – which is good news for an agent representing new products such as myself. It was also good to see Paul C looking very upbeat indeed – his company had paid considerably more for the stand this year so that they could have a prime position, and it seems to be paying off, with the promise of meetings with some very large potential clients as well as substantial interest and orders from smaller customers. Paul works really hard for his business, probably much harder than I do for PFE, and it looks like he is getting the rewards he deserves.
Note to self – the online timetables do not always tell you the whole story. If I believed everything that I was told, I’d currently be trying to fold myself into an already-packed train at London Bridge. As it is, I’ve got a table and air at Charing Cross. No doubt it will become hellish later, but for now I can feel like a smug, hardened commuter.
Having said that, I’d hate to do this every day – the blank, staring and empty faces of so many commuters, idling in brain-neutral as they grapple with the journey home, is enough to deter anyone from this way of life – and that’s just the ones who are awake. I’m glad that my work calls only for very occasional forays into The Smoke, and more time spent in the countryside – and, soon, lots of time at our lovely new home, with fields and woods all around.
Saturday 18 September 2004
Just to keep the stress levels up, the bank have said that we will not now get a final answer on our mortgage until Monday because it is "not a straight-forward case". This in spite of the fact that we have been promised answers on Thursday, and then on Friday.
However, our solicitor seems to be on the case, with a hefty ream of paperwork arriving here today. It seems that just about everything is in order, with only a couple of questions to be raised.
I’ll be glad when this is all done.
Friday 17 September 2004
I’ve just ordered Hels’s wedding present. The item that I want is still in stock, much to my huge relief. I’m not sure if it is customary for the bride and groom to buy each other gifts, but we thought that it would be a rather nice thing to do – the wedding gift lists are full of more mundane items, such as an iron, plates, cutlery, saucepans and pillows, so it seems nice to purchase some real "gifty" gifts for each other.
I really should get Hels to put some CDs and books of her own choosing onto my Amazon wishlist, which needs updating anyway.
Thursday 16 September 2004
In one month from now, precisely, I will be standing in front of an altar, with palms that will most likely be very sweaty indeed.
Currently, our patience is being tested by surveyors who suggest that the house we are about to buy is going to fall into a large hole that could open up at any time. This in spite of the fact that all the houses in the street were built at least fifty years ago, and none have yet fallen into any mysteriously appearing holes. In addition, there are no nearby mineworks or quarries.
Furthermore, we may find ourselves being slowly poisoned by terrible toxic waste arising from evil landfill. This in spite of the fact that these very same houses were built on a green field site just after the Second World War, and nobody has been poisoned yet.
Our suggestion that we could bring in our own (local, knowledgeable and experienced) surveyor (and I don’t mean Dad) to provide an impartial view of the situation has had scorn poured upon it by the dear folks at the NatWest, who insist that we must only use one of their registered surveyors. My knowledge of EU competition regulation would suggest that this practice is anti-competitive and therefore illegal, but we are in no position to argue with a bunch of surveyors who are clearly only out to serve their own interests by suggesting that we have surveys done to check against things that exist only in their own imaginings. At our expense, of course. Considerable expense at that.
Later today, we are expecting a response from the NatWest to our full application for our mortgage. They’ve already said that they will give us the mortgage, based on Hels’s income, but it seems clear that they want to check my financial status to ensure that I won’t be reliant on H for financial survival. Which, of course, I am not (*cough*). What’s the betting that the financial statements that I have sent to them will not be satisfactory?
There has to be an easier (and less stressful) way.
Saturday 28 August 2004
House viewed in the middle of nowhere.
New offer tendered.
Now for the hard work. Fingers crossed, eh?
Last night at Schiphol…
[written yesterday at the airport]
There’s something about being in airports, even the more cosmopolitan variants such as Schiphol, that makes you feel like you are suddenly a character in Rocko’s Modern Life. As I fought my way through the aisles of the shop in the departures lounge, surveying the endless rows of over-priced tat in a half-hearted and ultimately futile attempt to find a small gift for H (cow-shaped photo frame, anyone?), a clearly over-enthusiastic floor-sweeper operator patrolled across the store in an excessively frenetic and slightly crazed manner, literally sweeping all (including magazines, postcards, stray luggage and unattended children) before him. Meanwhile, a grotesquely overweight American, complete with shockingly pink navel glaring out through an opening in an over-stretched mid blue nylon shirt, ambles vacantly with an air of the lost (in every sense of the word). On the travelator, a tattooed Dutchman speaks rapidly to a girlfriend via his mobile phone whilst walking at full speed against the direction of the belt – perhaps some bizarre form of exercise for exhibitionists.
At gate D8, waiting for the flight to LGW, all one can hear is the monotonous, rapidly-repeated refrain of "Mind your step", delivered in a delicately accented female voice to travellers reaching the end of the moving walkway. A group of teenagers run for the end of the walkway, hoping to reach some sort of terminal velocity at the point where the walkway folds back under itself and they are catapulted onto the shiny tiled airport floor.
"Mr O’Toole, please report to airport information. Mr O’Toole, please report to airport information." Isn’t that one of those coded announcements, informing staff of a suspect package?
Evening sun is glowing across the aircraft on the apron as incredibly dark clouds loom over distant Amsterdam city centre. It’s been an incredibly foul day, with torrential rain, lots of standing water and slow-moving traffic on the A4. The sky promises a rough flight home. I ponder whether to go and get a copy of Wallpaper* Navigator, the new travel sub-brand of my favourite magazine that I’ve only just noticed (I tend not to browse magazine shelves at home, as the special subscriber edition of Wallpaper* is delivered to my home each month), but I feel that €10.99 is rather a lot for a magazine that costs £3.99 at home.
This has been a useful trip, with considerable amounts of knowledge gained, a few new contacts made and several old contacts refreshed. But I forget just how exhausting trade shows are to attend – an eight hour day yesterday of trudging the aisles, constant talking and vain attempts to absorb all of the information that is being presented to me; today, a 10am meeting (at least a civil hour at which to begin the day) followed by another four hours of aisle trudging, etc.
At the back of my mind are thoughts about our impending house-hunting and move. My travels here have been punctuated by several phone calls (including a very long one from the Gatwick departure lounge) to mortgage people, estate agents and Hels, all on that theme. Somehow, in spite of all the distractions around us, this weekend we must focus our attention on finding the right home in which to begin our married life – possibly the biggest decision we will make during our thirties (aside from the actual decision to marry, of course!). We have three candidate properties to view – two in need of significant refurbishment and one that has been recently refurbished but is in the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere option is the most appealing to us both at the moment – the property details are encouraging, the pictures of the property are encouraging, the location is encouraging and the price is encouraging. We have two properties sold. We have mortgage agreed. The pieces may, finally, be fitting together. But celebrations will be withheld until we have the keys in our hands.
Do Japanese tourists really shout a lot and take photographs of everything, or is it a popular myth? There is a group here that is doing nothing to dispel the untruth, if that is what it is. Oh oh, I’m getting grumpy.
Oh my god. There are dozens of them! Enough to half-fill the aircraft. Gah. AND I’ve run out of Maynards’ Wine Pastilles. This flight could last a lot longer than the scheduled hour. And nothing to read besides an EC Directive, as I arrived sufficiently early to demolish the entire Indy already.
And I’m sure I passed H’s local vicar by the tat shop.
Wednesday 25 August 2004
I’m off to the Netherlands later today, and will be back on Friday evening. So expect some quiet in the meantime, although, if you’re lucky, you might get one of those rambling airport-based posts. I should also be able to connect from my hotel, so there is the prospect of some brief entries.
The reason for my trip this time is to attend the Plantarium trade event in Boskoop. I have three or four meetings lined up, all but one of which I am looking forward to (the one I am not looking forward to involves sorting out some political issues, something that I never enjoy doing), and one of my plants has been entered in the Best New Plant Competition, so fingers crossed for that.
We’ve got a packed weekend in store too. On Saturday morning, we plan to view three properties. In the afternoon, Hels has a medical appointment that she is not looking forward to. On Sunday we shall be with the in-laws-to-be. Monday will involve some time in the office and picking Mum up for Tuesday’s booze-cruise to Calais to get the wines for the wedding reception. Wednesday and Thursday features a trip to a trade show in Cheshire, Friday an overdue haircut, Saturday packing for a week-long trip to Germany and Sunday flying to Hamburg.
Actually, it may be quiet here for some time to come!
Tuesday 24 August 2004
Hels has accepted an offer on her flat. We’re back on full time home-hunting again.
Unfortunate, then, that I’m going to be out of the country for four out of the next seven days.
Saturday 21 August 2004
Barry White first thing in the morning? My fiancée is very strange.
Tuesday 10 August 2004
Sale agreed, with an additional £1000. Yay!
Thursday 5 August 2004
Busy busy pop busy
No, I don’t know what that title means either.
Anyway, highlight of the day so far was receiving the Uborka Mix CD, a truly yayworthy event if ever there was one.
Lowlight of the week was reducing the flat price again. If it doesn’t sell by the end of the month, then young Dave will probably get a phone call (yes, I know I’ve said that before, but we kept hoping).
And this is bloody difficult.
Tuesday 27 July 2004
You want content?
It comes to something when the log-in page for updating this site has nearly fallen off my "recently visited" list. Sigh.
Still, the good news is that the sale of Hels’s flat may not be completely scuppered after all. Completely scuppered with this particular purchaser, yes, but not scuppered entirely. What does seem to be scuppered, though, is any realistic hope of living together in our own home when we are married. It looks like I’ll have to cram as much of my stuff as is reasonably possible into Hels’s flat whilst still making it appear like a home that someone would want to buy, thereby allowing us to at least live together even if things are not ideal.
In other news, I’m psyching myself up for a 4am start on Thursday for my trip to Ireland. Looks like there’ll be an opportunity for some airport blogging, which I know that you all love for its increased level of rambling.
And finally, I really need a pint. Thankfully, it’s Tuesday – cue a "beer with…" post later.
Friday 23 July 2004
Hels’s flat sale has fallen through. Again. F**king bastards.
We are at wits end.
EDIT: Before events conspired such that I wrote this entry, I was working on a piece about how Hels’s sale seemed to be going well, and that I had had a second viewing of my flat, had another second viewing imminent and had a third viewer on first viewing. The house we want(ed) to buy had still not been sold and things were, generally, looking pretty good and promising.
Now we are wondering what we are going to do. Without going in to detail, it seems that the sale of Hels’s flat is going to be problematic for the timebeing, for reasons entirely out of our control and through no fault of ours. We still need to raise some money fairly quickly, with the expense of the wedding looming very large indeed. So hopefully a purchaser for my flat will materialise very soon (and we can persuade them to buy windows from Dave).
Now we are looking at the possibility of me moving into Hels’s flat and working from there. It’s not very large, and to try and sell it whilst I’m working in it will be difficult to say the least. But there are several options available to us – we need a few days to review them all and think things over.
Meanwhile, I’ve just been and collected H from work. She wasn’t feeling very well before and, needless to say, this has drained her a lot. It’s drained me a lot too. So this afternoon will be spent trying to collect ourselves, and drinking several cups of tea.
Thursday 22 July 2004
I’ve just spoken with a lady at the parish office of my local church in order to arrange the reading of the Banns (the Banns must be read not only in the church where the wedding is taking place, but also in the parish church of the spouse). She’s going to send me a form, and tells me that there will be a fee of £27 – that’s £9 for each reading! Considering that all they do is read out the names of the bride and groom and state the parishes in which they live, I reckon that is pretty steep!
Tuesday 13 July 2004
Because I can, here’s a picture of my beautiful fiancée, browsing the menu at Charlie and Pete’s wedding on Saturday.
And, yes, we really did have four wine glasses each.
OK, let’s bring you up to date on the current property status.
Firstly, if all goes well, it seems that Hels has sold her flat. She changed agent about ten days or so ago, which resulted in a flurry of new viewings and two offers in the space of 24 hours. The second was much better than the first, and we’re working towards a completion date in mid September.
My flat, on the other hand, continues to sit in the market doldrums. I’m not convinced that there is anything wrong with the flat, nor with the price – £134,950 makes this one of the cheapest properties currently for sale in Chichester. I think part of the problem is that my agent is just too "nice" and simply not aggressive enough. There is probably a very good reason why most estate agents are irritating social outcasts – that reason being that irritating social outcasts are the best people for that particular job.
So, as of today, my flat will now be in a joint agency situation – I’ve managed to negotiate a good wheeze where both agents are charging the same commission rate as I would have paid under the old sole agency agreement. The manager of the new agent came across to me as a greasy and irritating individual, rather too sure of his own abilities, and bound to annoy anyone who has to spend more than a few minutes in his company. These, I feel, are the ideal qualities for an estate agent.
I’ve kept the price the same for now, and we shall see how the new agent progresses. If there are no developments within the next fortnight, then I’ll review things again.
Meanwhile, Hels and I went back to look at a house that I viewed some time ago. It’s a spacious three bedroom mid-terrace property, with quite a big garden, a garage and great views. We discussed it over the weekend, and I phoned the agent yesterday to register an interest and to sound out what sort of offer would be acceptable. Unfortunately, it seems that another offer is pending that is higher than the maximum that we can currently bid, although that purchaser has had their own sale fall through. Our sums were based on an ultra-realistic appraisal of the value that my flat might realise, although if we exceed that then we might be able to get in on this property again by making an offer closer to the asking price.
It’s a shame really, as it is a rather lovely house that is in good enough condition to live in it without unndertaking major works, yet still offers scope for improvements that would add to its value. It also has room for me to work in peace and even space for (whisper it!) a child or two. Hels and I have a mantra that we shouldn’t become "emotionally attached" to a new home until we have the keys in our hands, but that’s much easier said than done.
Monday 28 June 2004
Babe in arms
One of the guests at Saturday’s party was a five week old baby called Katie. At one point, I turned to see Hels standing in the conservatory, cradling Katie in her arms. Apparently, I looked "proud". Proud that my fiancée can hold a baby?
Hels said I should write something here about this, although, to be honest, I’m not quite sure what to say…
On Saturday afternoon, having run a few errands and sorted out a few more wedding bits and pieces (invitations posted today), we sauntered down to Worthing for Sarah and Paul’s housewarming barbeque. We were a little bit early, so nipped into a seafront bar to kill a little bit of time and watch a squally shower lashing the shore. It was clear from the weather that we were in line for more of a "grilleque" than barbeque, and that proved to be the case once we arrived at Sarah and Paul’s spacious new home.
In spite of the inclement conditions, the party trundled along pleasantly enough, particularly as it gave me a chance to catch up with Gary, who I haven’t seen in ages, and also to meet the other usher for Sarah and Paul’s wedding (I’ve been practising my ushing ever since they asked if I would do that honour). However, what I hadn’t realised was that both Andrea and Kate would be there. It was good to see Kate again and to catch up on all the news – over the years, we have built up a good friendship, which some might say is what we should have stuck with all those years ago instead of trying to have a relationship. She and Hels got on well, which is without doubt a good thing.
The upshot of all this is that I stepped in to the living room at one point (having taken a "comfort break") to find Kate, Andrea and Hels standing next to each other and looking at me. That was the point that I decided it was time for us to leave!
The strange thing is that I really felt quite ambivalent about the whole situation. I don’t really view Kate as an ex any more – she’s a friend now. I don’t really have any time for Andrea at all, as regular readers of this site will know. And H stands head and shoulders above them both, both literally and figuratively.
As I said to H on the way home, the one thing that the evening did teach me is that it is true what they say – things do tend to work out for the best in the end. I can’t imagine how they could have worked out better than they have.
Wednesday 23 June 2004
Honeymoon car hire dilemma
Four door Fiat Punto (cheap) versus Mazda MX-5 (not frighteningly expensive).
Are we going to get much luggage in the back of an MX-5?
Wednesday 2 June 2004
Hels’s flat sale has fallen through – the purchaser was intending to buy-to-let and has got cold feet over the interest rates. This is a major setback. We’re very pissed off and incredibly stressed, with just over four months until the wedding and nowhere to live.
I have to go to France later today until Saturday – I’d rather be here sorting all this out, although I’m not sure if there is anything much that I can do. Aside from support H, of course.
Wednesday 26 May 2004
Sometimes I wonder what life will be like when Hels and I can finally stop stressing about selling flats, buying a home and organising a wedding, not to mention work, family and all the rest. We’ve yet to experience anything that approaches what most people would consider to be "normal life" together. We frequently talk about the prospect of blissful times together, when we don’t have to do anything to a particular deadline, don’t have to worry where we will be living, not have to plan a major event and concern ourselves with the needs and desires of other people – and, most importantly, don’t have to hold those discussions over the telephone because we live 65 miles apart. We can’t wait for those days to come – at the moment, the prospect of those days is all that is keeping me going. Positive mental attitude. Positive mental attitude. Positive mental attitude. If I repeat it enough times, it may sink in and actually work.
[EDIT: actually, that's not entirely true. What's keeping me going is a very beautiful, amazing and wonderful woman who I love very much and who I know loves me too. But I didn't want to say that too loudly in case you all threw up.]
In other news, happy 40th birthday today to Lord Percy. I spent a few hours this afternoon with Lord Percy and Lady Bren, helping to tidy and pack at Percy Towers, as they are moving to the new and more imposing Percy Towers, complete with columns, tomorrow. To say that they are mildly stressed would be an understatement – I hope I provided a little light relief.
Saturday 22 May 2004
I’ve spent the whole day driving many miles and visiting umpteen estate agents. I also viewed three properties, one of which is "really quite promising and high on the list". Another would rank as "very interesting". I looked at a third from the outside and ranked it as "having potential". All in all, however, the whole experience has been utterly exhausting and I’m fit to drop. I’ll be more than happy when we’ve settled on a place.
EDIT: it seems that I’m not alone.
Wednesday 5 May 2004
I don’t think I’ll show this post to my future wife. I don’t think that she has yet expressed any particular preference for men’s underwear (when worn by me, I hasten to add – she doesn’t wear men’s pants herself). I like my boxers from Next and I’m sticking to them (not literally, you understand).
Friday 30 April 2004
Bricks and mortar
For those following our house-buying story, the one we looked at yesterday was nice, but not quite right. It needs quite a bit of work done to it, and would stretch our budget and time availability beyond breaking-point, I believe. Shame, as it has a nice pub across the street.
The other half of the pair is also up for sale, and may actually offer a better option for us. I’ll be contacting the agent today for more information.
UPDATE: Whoa!!! The other half is on the market for £65,000 more than the one we looked at! Whilst the one we looked at needs redecorating and a new kitchen, it does benefit from an extension. Suddenly, I’m wondering if we can stretch that far – it would make a fabulous investment.
If only we had more money…..
Tuesday 27 April 2004
From the property details of a house that Hels and I will be viewing on Thursday –
Ah. That’ll be a semi-detached house then.
Monday 26 April 2004
….wherefore, thereupon and not in prejudice of…
Today, I have received all the forms that my solicitor would like me to complete in advance of the sale of the flat. They relate to the leasehold. As I also own 50% of the freehold, there will be a similar pile of forms relating to that. It appears that I need to check my inside leg measurement, shoe size and IQ, and write those into the appropriate sections of the form, along with a full and complete tally of the number of doorhandles (10), fluorescent tubes (none), extractor fans (1), curtains including net curtains (6) and picture hooks (4). Interestingly, two things that the forms do not require are my name or date of birth.
Friday 23 April 2004
St. George’s Day
Today is St. George’s Day, and I intend to celebrate this later with a pint of good English ale.
On this day, some years ago, a little girl was born. She grew up to be a beautiful, intelligent, funny, quirky, caring, smart, loving, savvy and wonderful woman, much loved by everyone around her. She’s my fiancée.
Happy birthday, Hels. I love you very much.
Tuesday 23 March 2004
It won’t be health, education or Gordon’s flower borders. No, the subject of the rant will be the cost of wedding car hire. How much??! Suddenly I see the attraction of Worra and his "beautiful Nissaaarrrn!" – it would certainly be cheaper. OK, I can see that vintage cars might cost more than a modern car to maintain, and there is the cost of a driver to be considered. But it looks like it might make a fair dent in our budget, as our previously volunteered car has been withdrawn, as the owner/driver is not sure he wants to drive it the thirty or so miles that it would have to cover. Ho hum.
And when I say a fair dent, I mean a bloody great huge dent. The sort of dent that, were it to be inflicted upon a wedding car, would render it unroadworthy. Permanently.
Ironically, the cheapest element in the whole wedding plan is the church. Vicars seem not to respond to market forces by inflating their prices on Saturdays like florists, car hire companies and reception venues tend to do.
So now I’m looking around for other volunteers who might help us out with vintage cars. I’ve got a contact into the world of oily rags and spanners, although he is based around Chichester and so probably doesn’t know anyone in the Kent borders area who could help. All very frustrating.
Saturday 20 March 2004
It looks like things are progressing with the home-moving, as Hels has a tentative offer on her flat that is acceptable, and will hopefully be confirmed on Monday. There are also plenty of other people interested in it, so that is very encouraging.
My flat is progressing too, with the bulk of the decorating work likely to be finished this week, and new (cheap and cheerful) carpet to be laid on Wednesday. Hopefully I should be able to officially launch it onto the market around March 28th.
We’ve been exploring the house market for the last few weeks, and have seen a couple of places that we like and can afford in areas that we would like to live in. We should even have room in our new home for a cat or two, and even a little bit of garden so that I can actually have some plants around my own home.
I’ll be working from home in our new abode, so I’m going to have to get used to a life with less social interaction than I have now (there are usually people coming and going from my parents’ place, which is where my office is based now). I know that quite a few homeworkers read this site – any tips on sanity preservation?
Sunday 7 March 2004
…in bullet points:
- Sarah and Paul
- still grumpy
- washing walls
- Bill and Rosemary
- Lu and Kev
I am, officially, utterly utterly utterly fed up with bloody decorating. I’m also pissed off with never having enough money, energy or time to do the things I really want to do.
Friday 5 March 2004
The Old Vic
We’re going to see the vicar this evening to discuss our forthcoming nuptials. Should be interesting.
Thursday 4 March 2004
The value of shopping around
Last night I got a quote for carpet. £680, or so. Today I got some new advice and a second quote. £328. Hmm.
Last night I put the first coat of paint on the bathroom walls. This morning I painted the radiator in that room.
Later this morning, I had a half hour meeting with an Israeli nurseryman.
Life is still on that edge.
Monday 1 March 2004
…your lawful and wedded….
Today, we went to see the bank about a mortgage. Then we went out to a store and purchased a rug and a pot plant, and looked at a selection of beds. After that, we went to some other stores and purchased very similar tops and bemoaned that they didn’t have my size of socks in stock.
This evening, I shall be wearing my carpet slippers and smoking my pipe.
Sunday 22 February 2004
Redecorating at home has made a striking amount of progress this morning, thanks to help from Hels – the first coat on the hall and living room is now pretty much complete, and I should be able to make some headway on the second coat this week. Dad has also been here, helping to get some improvements to the bathroom done.
The target for market-readiness (repainting complete, new carpet where appropriate, planning application for windows submitted, front door improved) is March 15th. It’s an ambitious and tight schedule, but I reckon it can be achieved. Just.
Saturday 13 December 2003
The devil is in…
Crumbs! This getting married malarkey is hard work! And incredibly expensive. We’ve just been and booked the venue (deposit = one month’s net pay) and checked out the church (yes, I know – me, a confirmed atheist, getting married in church). We’ve costed out the food and wine for the guests (yikes!), allocated some cash for flowers (double yikes!) and music (yikes again!) and figured out how many favours we can call in (photographers, wedding car owners, floral artists, musicians – we’re coming for you!) in order to keep costs down to a figure that won’t leave us mired in debt for the whole of our married life.
I’m having palpitations.
But I’m also determined that we should enjoy it, so now that some of the fundamentals are falling into place (and Hels is wonderful at organising all this – it’s all in very safe and capable hands), I’m hoping we can relax a little over Christmas and New Year and soak it all up a little. And I know it is going to be a fun and fabulous day, as it should be.
Friday 12 December 2003
It looks like I’m going to become just another statistic.