#thehottestdayoftheyear

Yes, it was the hottest day of the year so far. This usually occurs in April of course, only to be surpassed later on in the year. But the main topic of conversation on a few of the radio stations we briefly tuned into on the way home was the fact that the top trending hashtag today on Twitter is #thehottestdayoftheyear. Other hashtags are available too, such as #hottestdayoftheyear and #warmestdayoftheyear. And capitalised versions. But after such a long Winter that didn’t really want to finish, it’s fabulous to see blue skies, see the Sun and feel its heat.

We went for a walk in Richmond Park, the biggest and our favourite royal park in London. We saw a couple of single deer, several dogs, some even on leads, loads of birds and many, many muddy puddles. One day, we’ll take our grandchildren there to jump in them.

We enjoyed a picnic under a tree, listening to the birdsong. The occasional aeroplane was seen and heard as it flew towrads Heathrow Airport. A group of young menĀ  were listening to music on their ‘device’: radio, ghetto blaster, phone? We’ll never know.

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Mick and Liesel

I am no good at taking selfies. At least we’re both in this one, but I usually miss. And of course, the horizon is horizontal in real life.

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A tree

This is the dead tree that we didn’t climb, despite the temptation.

We walked over five miles today, not bad since it’s the first time in the park for ages. Other firsts for the year today include me wearing shorts, we both had an ice cream and it was the first application of sunblock (one of us, not me).

 

The Daisy Chain is Growing

We knew that moving house would be long-winded, emotionally stressful, probably not straighforward and yet, full of surprises.

What we hadn’t anticipated was that as time went on, the whole process would become so much more complex, with many more links in the chain, and so many more bodies involved.

We found a place to buy. Our seller has an estate agent and a solicitor. We can pay for it with the proceeds from selling our house.

We put our house on the market, someone made an acceptable offer quite quickly, so we accepted it. Our agents told us she was in a position to buy. We all thought that meant she had the money available in used fivers in a suitcase.

But then it transpired that she needed a mortgage. So we had the house surveyed by her mortgage provider. A very long time later, we learned that the mortgage had been offered.

An even longer time later, we learned that she is having an existing property re-mortgaged so that she can raise some cash for the deposit. That means the mortgage provider is having to conduct a survey at the old property too.

All these surprise are annoying because they’re holding up the whole process by adding more links to the chain. And all being done serially, not in parallel. Many more bodies are involved too.

We have to deal with two estate agents (our own and the one selling us our new abode) and a solicitor. We might deal with the seller’s and/or buyer’s solicitor, but not necessarily so.

Our buyer is living in east London and planning to rent out our house. That’s not a problem, but there’s no sense of urgency on her part. To now be dealing with a broker and another mortgage provider is really disappointing.

It leaves us wondering what other steps we’ll have to go through that we’re not aware of at present. Out agent is (or says he is) confident that the sale will go through. But if the buyer changes her mind for any reason, we’ll have to start all over again.

The most worrying thing is that one day, our vendors may get fed up with waiting for us to sign the contract. We can’t do that until our buyer pays a deposit for our house, and we can use that as a deposit for our new place.

We’re trying to keep our vendors up to date and fully informed, but that’s not easy when we don’t know what’s happening ourselves. We have to call the agent for an update when we think that for their fee, their commission, it wouldn’t hurt them to call us every few days, even if only to say there’s been no further progress.

What we want to do is start packing up, even if the moving date is still several weeks in the future. We dare not bring all that stuff down from the loft because if we have to prepare the house for new viewings, well, that would be so frustrating, to say the least.

More importantly though, we want to start making detailed plans for our travels, booking flights and accommodation and so on. It’s hard to get really excited about all that while we’re still in a state of flux.

There are some things about this house that I will miss, though, some quirks that we might leave as a surprise for the next occupants:

  • The bathroom hot tap that supplies hot water for a few seconds, then turns to a trickle, so you have to turn it up more.
  • The shower that, if you turn it to its limit, causes some water to also come from the bath tap. The solution is to turn the main control back a notch.
  • The bedroom door handle which works by pushing up rather than down. I’ve tried many times to fix it, but if I put the handles in the other way round, they don’t move at all.
  • I don’t think we’ll leave the washing machine, because it leaks, but if we did, the new user would notice the on/off switch is permantly on.
  • We won’t be taking the old stereo system with us. Nor can we leave it. The record player went many years ago, the cassette players’ buttons are broken, AM reception is ropey, FM reception requires the stereo option to be turned off, any CDs played will jump and worst of all, only one of the two speakers works.
  • In one of the bedroom windows, there’s a patch of what looks like grease, that can’t be removed. It’s in the cavity between the two panes of glass.
  • We like our garden but we do the bare minumum, just maintenance work, in it, and I won’t miss the guilty feeling I have when I can’t be bothered to do any gardening, because we won’t have a garden.
  • I will misss the view of The Shard from the second bedroom. But since that tree has grown an extra few inches over the last couple of years, it’s not as easy to see, except an night when its lights are on. The loss of this view is the main reason we’re moving, of course.

We won’t miss the neighbours: rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, loud.

  • The stench of fish curry on a Monday, a cauldron of thick, pink gruel that might be fish or it might be offal, boiling away outside on their patio.
  • They and their visitors parking on the shared drive preventing us from driving into our own garage.
  • Their almost daily coming back from somewhere late at night and slamming car doors over and over. The record was 19 car door slams one night, from one, two, maybe three cars. Nineteen. You may well be shaking your head in disbelief too.
  • Talking very loudly outside their house (and therefore just below our bedroom window) late at night.
  • The pile of rubbish that they leave in a pile at the end of the shared drive, outside their garage, until such times as they take it somewhere to be fly-tipped. They take it to the correct facility, surely? Not in the middle of the night, they don’t. And don’t call me Shirley.

No, we won’t miss them at all.

But that’s all in the future. How far in the future, we can’t say. Meanwhile, here are a couple of nice things to look back on.

On this day in 2004, Liesel and I saw ‘When Harry Met Sally’ on stage in Haymarket. We’d known each other for less than a year at this point, so it was maybe a bit risky going to see a story that discusses whether men and women can just be friends. It was very good though, great fun, and the famous scene in a restaurant was very well done.

One of the attractions for me was that the leading lady was Alyson Hannigan who we knew from playing Willow in ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’.

On this day in 2011, we went into London for the London Marathon. I could lie and say that both Liesel and Mick ran and both did so in the best times ever. But really, we were just there to cheer on Adam, along with Helen and some of their friends. Liesel and Mick used hire Bikes from Waterloo to beyond London Bridge to see Adam as near the start as we could reach. We then we watched from a bridge near the Tower. His time was 4h37m, not bad with not much training due to dodgy knees thanks to some unfortunate footballing injuries.

Adam so enjoyed the experience that within a year, he and Helen had moved to Sydney, Australia, so that neither of them would be tempted to enter again.

Fences

The house move is still ongoing. We will move one day, but progress is very slow.

Today, I heard noises from outside and assumed it was our next-door neighbour. He is a big DIY fan and his father(-in-law?) is a builder so they’re doing all the ‘improvements’ themselves. There’s a makeshift path between the bottom of the garden and the patio. There are two ‘temporary’ structures in the garden. The original 1950s garage has been dismantled and a new one built, although I’m not sure it’s finished yet. And they have permission to build an extension at the back, next to ours, and for a loft extension.

You’re probably wondering, why didn’t they just buy a much bigger house in the first place? We wonder that too.

So when I heard the sound of work being done today, it was a fair assumption that they were up to something again. But no. When I looked through the window later on, I could see the house next to ours at the bottom of the garden. The house is around the corner, and until today, it was concealed behinh what’s left of an old wooden fence and well established ivy and other plants. That’s all gone, and we just hope they’re going to put a fairly decent new fence up across the bottom of our garden. But, yes, how strange that they never came and told us what they were planning to do.

We put up a new fence a couple of years ago, on our other neighbours’ side. It was erected on the line of the old, dilapidated fence, that was put there by the occupants three or four ago. As soon as the For Sale sign went up, the neighbour sent his wife round to tell Liesel that that fence should be put in its correct place, on the boundary line, about 4, yes, 4, inches over. I can understand them not wanting to have trouble with whoever buys our house in the future, but they were happy a couple of years ago with the fence in the wrong place. The fence as now been moved.

Our searches are being conducted on the flat we’re buying, but we haven’t had the response yet. We believe searches are being conducted on our house, but it’s quite frustrating how difficult it is to get information from the agents. We think our buyer has her mortgage sorted, but we don’t know for certain.

All this waiting and hanging around and waiting for a progress report creates a lot of anxiety. And until we have a definite moving date, we can’t start booking up our planes, trains, automobiles and accommodations for our gap year travels.

And of course, our old house is still throwing some half-hearted spanners in the works. When we were away for the weekend, my toothbrush started to act up. It’s battery operated and runs for a good two-minute clean. Well, it kept stopping spontaneously while I was using it. And then, later on, it kept starting up spontaneously. Thankfully, it stopped starting through most of the night but in the morning, again, it started stopping again. I suspect it started up several times on the drive home, although we couldn’t hear it, as it was fully discharged when we got home.

The laptop likes to do long, long, long Windows updates every time we use it, but when it sticks on 92% and tells you not to turn it off, that is a cause for concern. But, it’s going again now, thank goodness.

The car’s left headlight has ‘blown’ again, the third time in three or four months. I suspect an electrical fault so we’ll have to take it to a mechanic with the right sort of equipment and have it checked.

My iPhone’s battery is rubbish. I rarely see a charged figure between 60% and 20%. I’m not sure I like iPhones anyway, too many things I don’t like about the way Apple, iTunes all work. But I’m not sure an Android phone would solve or avoid some of those problems. But I will need a new smartphone very soon. I can’t blame the house for that, I suppose, but it’s just another thing that at least need some consideration.

I still can’t get used to looking into our garden, seeing a house at the bottom, now with the addition of a 4×4 vehicle parked on their drive.

Another Museum and a Zoo

Liesel and Mick spent a lovely long weekend in the company of granddaughter Martha as she celebrated her second birthday. She, her Mummy, Daddy and baby brother William are also in the throes of moving house. No date for moving yet, but such is the uncertainty, we weren’t sure that Martha would be having her birthday at the proper time (but don’t tell her).

We grandparents took Martha to Chester Zoo one day which was good fun. No, we didn’t tick many animals off the mental list because most of them seemed to be taking shelter from the cold weather. It’s April, and it should be warming up a bit but the cold spell is going on a bit.

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester is probably too old for Martha, really, but there is an area where she can play with things: move magnets, turn whees, press buttons, interact with the exhibits. She can also hide in the lockers which may have been a highlight.

Back home, Martha was having fun chalking on her blackboard.

Oma, Liesel, drew this:

Oma fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What’s that, Martha?”

“A fishy!”

Rounds of applause.

Grandad, Mick, drew this:

Grandad fish

“What’s that, Martha?”

“Horsey!”

Howls of laughter, and a whip-round so Mick can go back to art school.

Two Museums

The Museum of London is onre of those places we ought to visit more often. We’ve seen the Roman artefacts before, and the state coaches, but there is a lot more on offer. On one of the lower ground floor, some of the exhibits are from ouyr own lifetime. I visited the then new Post Office Tower in 1966 and I still have the brochure from that visit. It cost 2/6d. They have a copy in this museum.

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Post Office Tower brochure

The London Stone is usually hidden in a cage, at a bank in Cannon Street. While building works are taking place there, the London Stone is being exhibited at the Museum. It’s just a stone, yes, but there are so many stories round it, and it was good to see it close up.

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The London Stone

The other ‘main attraction’ is a small sample of the famous 130-tonne fatberg excvated a couple of years ago from the sewers of London. Not at all photogenic but we were pleased that there was no assault on the olfactory senses.

I used to watch Watch With Mother with my Mum half a century or more ago, and it was great to see some of the puppets here. If I remember correctly, the schedule was:

  • Monday – Picture Book
  • Tuesday – Andy Pandy
  • Wednesday – Bill and Ben
  • Thursday – Rag, Tag and Bobtail
  • Friday – the Woodentops

There’s nothing like seeing your childhood in a museum to make you feel old.

But being a museum exhibit yourself is a whole new experience.

The Museum of Futures in Surbiton is currently hosting the Wheels of Time exhibion, describing the history of cycling in the Royal Borough of Kingston.

This video talks about a couple of local cycling heroes.

Liesel and Mick attended the opening night of the exhibition which was very well attended. Mick’s mugshot is on the wall with a transcript of the interview conducted a couple aof weeks ago, about his experience of using a bicycle for his job as a postman. Snippets of the interview are available to listen to too, and are as embarrassing as you would expect. So embarrassing, I didn’t want to draw attention so I took a few photos with my phone, but not using the flash.

It was interesting to learn that there used to be a couple of tracks in the area, in the very early days of cycle racing.

A second visit is on the cards, not least so I can get some better pictures. If you can, go along and have a laugh at my bits look yourself.

 

Stairs & Ramps & Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

I couldn’t find the car in the multi-storey car park. My ‘best friend’ from school, Oscar, was with me but he was still of school age. He said he knew where the car was and he set off. I tried, but I couldn’t keep up with his youthful speed.

On one level, there were no cars, just a lot of children playing and laughing and having picnics. It was wonderful. As I stepped through the door onto another level, I realised it was one huge carousel, rotating slowly, but without any horses to ride. So colourful, though.

I ran up and down stairs, up and down ramps, but I just couldn’t find the car, nor Oscar. So I went to the ground floor, to the ‘customer services’ desk to see whether they could locate my car using the CCTV system. Well, they couldn’t because they only had black and white cameras and my car is red. But they did say that just a few minutes earlier, a young man had asked the same question. Aha, I thought, so Oscar can’t find the car either.

It was at this point of course that I woke up. I was feeling quite excited about the possibilities of having shared use facilities: half car park and half children’s playground. But also feeling quite disappointed that I had a red car: that would never happen in real life.

It’s Bank Holiday Monday andĀ  of course, it’s raining. In fact it’s rained quite a lot recently, the bottom of the garden is quite soggy. The grass is growing and probably needs its first cut of the year, but electric mowers and water-logged lawns don’t mix.

Another small contribution to Mick’s 15 minutes of fame was broadcast last night on Tom Robinson’s Now Playing show on BBC 6 Music.

Intrigued? You can listen to the whole show until May 2nd.

 

Nelson and Hardy

For a long time now, Liesel has wanted to visit The Hardy Tree in London. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone. Most people that we’ve told have never heard of it, either.

Before he became a well-known writer, Thomas Hardy worked in the cemetery at St Pancras Old Church. When the then new railways began to encroach on the graveyard, many bodies had to be exhumed and reburied. A young man was given the task of storing some gravestones. His solution was to place them around an ash tree in the graveyard, presumably intending to relocate them at a future date.

A century and a half later, the tree is still doing well, it has taken some of the stones to its heart, you can see the roots above the gravestones. Just another episode in the fascinating life of this church. The sign tells you all you need to know:

(Oh, here’s a tip: if you need the lavatory and you’re in the area, go to St Pancras Station, where the facilities are free.)

The Hardy Tree.

Yesterday, Liesel and Mick were both pleased to see the tree in real life after all this time. We should be inspired to read a Thomas Hardy novel I suppose, but I have quite a backlog and Liesel’s reading list is partly determined by her WI reading group.

We caught a bus to Trafalgar Square, mainly to see the latest installation on the fourth plinth. I never would have thought that 10,000 empty, repurposed, date syrup cans would look so good. The sign tells you all you need to know:

Fourth plinth: how a winged bull made of date syrup cans is defying Isis.

My favourite ever is still Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle from 2010, which can now be seen at my favourite museum, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

Have a look at past commissions.

Nelson from the top of his column watched as we visited the so-called Lilliputian police station at the south-east corner of the Square. No longer a police station, of course, it contains bags of salt for ‘weather control’ and a comms link to the BBC.

As always in London, we walked much further than originally planned. Leicester Square, the Odeon is being refurbished and will in the fullness of time be more comfortable, offer more choice and no doubt, be even more expensive. We walked through Chinatown which always has the same smell, which neither of us could identify. On to Covent Garden, always busy, and then to the Duchess Theatre where we bought tickets for a performance in a couple of weeks time: thanks for the theatre tokens, Helen and Adam.

A few more photos here.