Monday, 29 March 2010

101 Lightbulbs

I did an audit today and there are 101 bulbs in the house (not counting the garage and floodlights in the garden). And just one of them is a CFL. The previous owners clearly had very deep pockets when it came to energy bills!

Pretty much every room uses vast quantities of 60W candle bulbs, residing in ornate chandeliers, the kind with fake candle wax dripping down the side of the fitting - very tasteful. I think we need to find a bulk supplier of energy efficient bulbs pronto!

Which leads seamlessly to the exciting new world of switches! Nothing makes a great deal of sense yet. Light switches come in banks of eight or so, so you feel like you're producing a minor theatrical event whenever you enter a new room. Night one, we accidentally left the fountain running all night after having turned everything on in the utility room, trying to get the heating going; night two we accidentally left a floodlight in the back garden on - still have no idea how to control the outside lights, to be honest.

We've managed to confirm that the burglar alarm is very noisy, but are still unsure as to how to set it correctly.


We're In!

Well, we finally made it!

Four strapping men from Pickfords arrived on Friday morning, a bit grumpy at not only having to heft all our stuff down from the 3rd floor, but also halfway down the access road. Despite leaving notes for the neighbours and leaving out 'keep clear' notices some of the neighbours had blocked the lorry's access.

Despite the setbacks, it all went very quickly. They were loaded up by 9.30 and, once I'd done a quick clean, we were ready to go! I'd just dropped off the keys at the agents, when we got a call from our solicitor to say we'd completed. Wow. After every single thing to do with this purchase had taken so damn long, we'd managed to complete by 11am. Much whooping and delight all round and then the long drive to Kent, with two adults barely containing the excitement and one child snoozing in the back, completely oblivious.

We were clearly a bit all over the place by the time we got nearer. Should we get some lunch, then pick up the keys or pick up the keys then get some lunch? Pub lunch? Supermarket sarnies? After many wibbles and detours we finally arrived At Our New Home.

The magic of the moment was a little broken by Rosie tripping over the front doorstep as we came in and having four burly delivery men accompany us for our first tour of the house but even so, it was even bigger and better than we remembered. The previous owners had also obviously made a real effort to make us feel welcome, everything was clean and tidy and they'd left us a big folder of information, together with a nice bunch of flowers in the sink and some hot cross buns.

Parents-in-law arrived shortly afterwards and wrangled the small one whilst I directed boxes at the front door. All a bit bizarre as I hadn't seen most of them for four months and hadn't actually packed any of them!

The only big annoyance of the day was that our lovely fridge-freezer is too large to fit in the gap in the kitchen. Luckily the kitchen is so damn big (and/or our furniture is so damn small) that it's not a big problem for now, but we'll need to sort something out in the medium term.

After a huge takeaway from the local curry house, everyone retired to bed in a crumpled heap.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Pack up your troubles

I've been gently introducing the idea of moving to Rosie for the last week or so. She barely noticed the last move in December (from beautiful but compact home to The Flat) but this time I've been carefully breaking the news that everything she knows is going to change. We've mostly concentrated on the idea of boxes, as I thought this would be the thing she could grab hold of. Everything we own will go into boxes, then the men will come and take the boxes to Our New House but mummy and daddy and Rosie will still be together. She's coped pretty well, although I thought she was going to lose it at bedtime when she turned to wave goodnight to her In The Night Garden poster and it was gone! I think that was the moment when it all became real for her, and me.

So tomorrow, for the first time since a scant half hour one morning in September last year, we see our new house (lawyers permitting). I only hope it's a beautiful as I remember.

So, bye bye hell hole! Hello beautiful new life in the country!!*

*(that will inevitably fail to live up to my impossibly high expectations but will, nonetheless be infinitely better than what we've got at the moment.)

Monday, 22 March 2010

Disaster Averted

Popped into Nationwide on Saturday to arrange the transfer of our savings to the solicitor for completion.

"Oh, I'm sorry, we can't do that without your passbook."
"What passbook? Are you serious?"
"Yes, we can only transfer a maximum of £500 without the account book."
"But the book's probably in storage, how long will it take to get a new one?"
"About two weeks."


Luckily, the book turned up at the in-laws' so it was all sorted today. But, really. This is 2010 people. If you walk into a branch with a bank statement, a driving license, a passport and an ID Card, one would rather hope that you'd be able to get at your own money!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Things I have missed

Baking scones, sponges, cupcakes, my lovely chicken, leek & apple pie, and that scrummy pudding with oranges and passion fruit, even a nice simple apple crumble. How I've missed you all.

Stock Chicken, vegetable, even a bit of beef sometimes. One of the many joys of being home with a small child was that you could do these kind of domestic chores that need a small amount of actual effort but a large amount of hanging around at home. Ditto, bread making, marinading, long slow braising...

My dishwasher Whose life was measured out in teaspoons? I don't remember but mine has recently been measured by the washing of them.

Composting Why everybody who lives at ground level don't do it is quite beyond me. Our bins have (unsurprisingly) stunk of rotten food unless emptied once or twice a day. I used to only have to empty the kitchen bin once or twice a month. Which leads to...

Recycling OK, so maybe washing out the yoghurt pots isn't the best fun ever but each and every piece of plastic, paper and cardboard I've had to trash due to complete lack of recycling facilities in this block has been another tiny twinge of guilt. And all those disposable nappies clogging up the landfill when I've got a perfectly good set of washable terry cloth ones in storage. We'll have to plant a good few trees this summer to ease my conscience.

Living at ground level I had heretofore not understood the profound luxury of getting from car to front door to fridge with a a couple of bags of groceries and a toddler and not needing a sit down afterwards. Rosie has now started huffing and puffing in sympathy when I get to the top of the stairs, which is cute but shaming.

Our old sofa OK, it wasn't the greatest piece of furniture ever and most of the cushions had been replaced more than once but it was a darn sight more comfortable than the one in the flat. We have mostly sat on the floor for the last few months (which has probably done our posture no end of good, so, maybe 'yay!' after all?)

Falling asleep to Radio 4 Our lovely Squeezebox had a 'sleep' function so you could switch on the radio (or music, or a podcast) and it would turn off after x minutes. Needless to say, this is in storage so I've had to fall asleep either (a) fitfully or (b) wearing glasses and with a book tented on chest/fallen on the floor/lost under the quilt. They still play 'Sailing By' every night, don't they?

A clear complexion Stress has played havoc with my (meagre) looks. The woman in the mirror is a good 5 years older than the one that started this foolish project.

Peace and quiet We used to live under the flight path into Heathrow airport. I think I preferred the planes to the neighbour's dreadful music (why is it always R&B that people want to play at top volume? It's as though they're saying "I HAVE NO TASTE! I HAVE NO TASTE! I HAVE NO TASTE! BUT I HAVE A BIG SUB WOOFER!!!!"

But all these things will be ours...

In less than a week!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

T-10: A Point of View

We had the first viewing on the flat yesterday from potential new tenants.

"What are the neighbours like?" she asks.

"Well, apart from the shouting/screaming/arguing throughout the evening, the interminable loud music all afternoon, the swearing at me, the dog barking (then shouting at the dog barking) and the time they let their dog crap on our landing, they're just lovely," is what I wanted to say.

"Well [beat], it depends..." was my actual answer.

"Oh God, is that why you're moving?"

"Goodness no, look at the lovely picture of the Jacobean manor we're buying!"

And try to ignore the intensity of the big red crossings out of each day until we move on that enormous calendar...

Friday, 12 March 2010

More lists. And tombliboos

Planning comes along apace, and delivery confirmed for the cooker for hubby's birthday. Looks like I won't need to get him a present after all! Am also putting together the list of stuff that we'll take in the car (in case the removal van goes awol):

- Knives, forks & spoons, Cups, Sippy cup, Bibs, Kettle, Teabags, UHT Milk

- Bin bag or two, Box cutter/knife

- Change of clothes, Toilet roll, Nappies, Wipes, Toothbrushes & toothpastes, Soap, Towel, Noonie (Rosie's binky), Travel cot

- Phones & chargers, Laptop, charger & mobile broadband dongle

Any other suggestions?

Also, somewhat spookily today's episode of In the Night Garden... (Rosie's favourite show, along with Something Special) involved the Tombliboos playing such very loud music that the Pontipine children had to jump up and down on their roof to get them to be quiet! Fact and fiction then divided when my neighbour told me to go away using some very grown up language indeed, involving special mummy and daddy cuddles and lady dogs. What a naughty little boy. Hubby suggested that we poo in the shoes they leave outside their door before we go. Who's being childish now?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Chancel Repairs

Here's a fun fact: when buying your old manor house you also take on potential responsibility to repair the local church. Apparently, this applies even if your an atheist, which seems a tad unfair. Anyway, from

Chancel Repair Liability dates back to medieval times, when churches (or more specifically their chancels) were maintained by wealthy land owners... [and] the potential for chancel repair liabilities has been passed down to successive owners of the land or buildings.

And I thought it would just be the vicar coming round asking for tombola prizes or a tin of beans for harvest festival. Looks like the CofE has gone a bit hardcore in recent years.

Before you ask, yes we're taking out an insurance policy.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

T-15: The Vexed Issue of Stationery

The man from British Telecom has given us our new phone number but said that it couldn't be guaranteed until we've moved in. He specifically said that we shouldn't 'order any stationery' until we're moved in and the line has been connected. On any previous move, my response would have been "???" but this time...

...I'm absolutely itching to get change of address cards, correspondence cards, play date cards (hubby only knows about the first ones on the list - so far). Maybe it's partly that we're moving to an old house and I want to do things 'properly', maybe it's also that this is going to be our family home (our 'forever house' as Kirsty would say), maybe I'm just a huge snob.

But, the happy hours I've spent looking a printers' websites, comparing the prices for engraved this versus tissue-lined that, laid vs. woven card, oyster vs. cream. I think I may be a little bit in love.

And then there's the picture problem. Debretts is quite clear in vetoing pictures of your new house on change of address cards but honestly, whilst it'd be lovely to say that you're just letting people know your new postcode, in reality you're saying "Woo, look at our lovely new house! We love it!! Isn't it marvelous!!!". It's worth also mentioning that I'd spent a considerable number of hours on the lovely pen and ink you can see above before I found this gem of etiquette, so I wasn't best pleased. The debates rage on...

Incidentally, if you , like me always had trouble with which stationary/stationery to use, here's a quick quote from Bill Bryson (the last sentence being rather patronising, but useful):

stationary, stationery. The difference in spelling goes back centuries, though etymologically there isn't any basis for it. Both words come from the Latin stationarius and both originally meant "standing in a fixed position". Stationers were tradesmen, usually booksellers, who sold their wares from a fixed spot (as opposed to itinerants). Today in Britain stationery is still sold by stationers, which makes the misspelling here less excusable.

Monday, 8 March 2010

I've got a little list

First there's the master to-do list. This week's jobs: set up utility accounts - mostly done - must give a quick shout-out to Ecotricity. Lots of the power companies proclaim themselves to be 'green'. Ecotricity really are, and they'll match the price of the big companies.

Then there's the packing lists (what's in storage, what Pickfords are taking from the flat, what to take in the car) - these still need tweaking.

The 'what to buy' list: cooker, washing machine and microwave all ordered now. With a bit of luck the two big items will arrive the Monday after we move in. Slightly nervous about the microwave as I got it from a shonky catalogue website - they all seem to have a terrible reputation for reliability but at £33 for a Which? Best Buy model, it was too good a bargain. We'll wait and see...

Big news from the weekend is that the in-laws have offered to swap their huge (10-seater) oak dining table and sideboard with our smaller G-Plan dining room furniture. So pleased, as, although ours was perfect for a two-bedroom terrace, it was always going to look a bit funny in a larger room.

This is going to be a recurring theme, I think. All our furniture is going to be too (a) small and (b) modern for the house but there's no way we can kit the whole place out with C17th antiques! I am, however, reliably informed that the market for 'big and old' stuff has gone through the floor so maybe we'll pick up a bargain here and there.

Maybe I should start another list: Auction Houses in Kent...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

T minus 20

Just twenty days to go until we quit London and, in a sitcom/novel/docusoap cliche, start a new life in the country.

We certainly won't be sad to say farewell to the looping real-life episode of Eastenders taking place in the flat below. Teenage son and his posse attempted some intimidation last night whilst I was popping to the supermarket - the hardman image was somewhat undermined by the Westie dog that mum had insisted they take for a walk...

We'd been trying to work out a suitable revenge for the awful time the neighbours have given us for the last four months. Eventually we decided that leaving them to live out their lives in this dreadful place was bad enough.