Back Home

Returning home after a holiday is always an anticlimax. It’s nice to be home, but we’d still prefer to be doing something different, somewhere else. The journey home was uneventful, but bitty.

After breakfast and a chat with our host, Noreen, then

  • We walked to the tram stop and caught a tram into Dublin city centre, then
  • We walked around the corner and caught a bus to the airport, then
  • We walked to the gate, via the shops, then caught an airport bus, then
  • We walked to the aeroplane and up the stairs and flew to Gatwick, then
  • We walked off the plane and caught a bus to the terminal, then
  • We walked to the station and caught a train to Clapham Junction, then
  • We walked to a different platform and caught a train to Tolworth, then
  • We walked across the road and caught a bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • We walked around the corner, home, sweet home.

Interestingly, we walked straight out of Gatwick airport, nobody and no machine checked our passports. It was a bit of a shock to be out on the concourse with hundreds of members of the actual public.

Liesel declined my invitation to come for a walk the following day, despite it being sunny rather than the predicted wet. And walking around the streets of Chessington, I was reminded why I usually take out my phone and play music or radio programmes. The sound of traffic is inescapable, even away from what might be described as main roads. The birds around here have to squawk really loudly to compete with the traffic. Walking in the forest last week was so peaceful, heating the birds singing without having to shout. And the silence in between was only disturbed by the susurration of the wind in the leaves.

Today was the day we caught up on all of our admin, not very interesting really, having to pay bills and check bank accounts and process all the mail, throwing a good 75% of the paperwork straight into the recycling bin.

As far as the house-move is concerned, some progress has been made. We responded to our vendor’s enquiries and our seller’s solicitor has answered some of ours. One thing that is a little disconcerting, that we hadn’t previously even contemplated, is the question: Is our new flat likely to be affected by the impact of the High Speed Railway (HS2) from Birmingham to Manchester?

While away, we tried to follow the Giro d’Italia but now we’re home, we can watch it on TV, or at least, the highlights. Sean Yates has been leading for most of the race but today, he cracked on the final climb, so, excitingly, it’s all to play for! (As they say.)

Today is the final day of the service provided by Which.net, the site of my first websites and our first email addresses. Over the years, I’ve said farewell to a number of different email addresses but I still have a soft spot for some of them:

  • delphinus
  • more-chocolate
  • dark_horse
  • mickeydoodah
  • mick_the_wonder_horse
  • mickey_moose
  • mickeydoooodah
  • mickeydoodledoo
  • mick.freed (yes, one of those had to go because it clashed with an American who shares my name)
  • cc_s435 (my very first one, at Kingston University)

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.

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.

Post Office Tower.jpg
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.

img_6320.jpg
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.

 

Bannister, Baylis

Roger Bannister is famous for being the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. He’s also big in my world because he shares my birthday. In fact, he was the first notable person that I was aware of to share my birthday.

When I gew up in Guildford, there was a sports field named Bannister’s. I never did know for certain that it was named after Roger, but I like to think it was. My only sporting event there was a cross-country race for my school. I was not a big fan of cross-country running but one day, I decided to volunteer for the team, thinking I was safe. It was not  to be.

The only reason I volunteered, really, was it was close to home. I would get a ride to the event and then I’d be able to walk home afterwards.

What I didn’t anticipate was the weather though. It was raining very hard. The mud was awful. I stood no chance of winning in those conditions. Especially when the gloop managed to pull of my shoe at least once. With water and mud now inside my running shoes too, I was not very happy. I could have been on the usual, dry bus going home.

So that’s my memory of Bannister’s sports field. Sadly, it is now the site of  big ugly Tesco.

But I still feel special having the same birthday as Roger Bannister, who, sadly, died yesterday.

Other people with the same birthday include:

  • Chris Hoy
  • Mo Farah
  • Steve Redgrave
  • Mike Atherton
  • Gail Porter
  • Damon Albarn
  • Barry Cryer
  • Jimmy Edwards

and we are all very special. I feel I mised out on the sporty genes though…

Another ‘hero’ died today. Trevor Baylis invented the clockwork radio for people who didn’t have a reliable power supply. What a wonderful invention. Like everyone else, I wondered why nobody had invented one before. It’s so obvious. Clockwork toys, clockwork clocks and even a clockwork orange have been around for years, so why not clockwork radios?

Trevor lived on Eel Pie Island which I have cycled by a few times over the years. But my real Trevor Baylis story takes place in about 1998. I met him at Clapham Junction railway station. In the heat of the moment I couldn’t remember his name. Trevor Something. But I wanted to say ‘Hello, Mr Something’, instead, it felt more polite.

Anyway, I shook his hand, he shook me off and resumed talking to his companion. I never did own a clockwork radio.

RIP Roger Bannister and Trevor Baylis.

Well it’s all go on the house front. Miss Sharma and her family came to look at our house again this afternoon, and especially at the furnitiure we’ll be leaving behind. The agent seems as certain as he can be that they are very interested in the house.

But still no more viewings organised for new people. At least the weather has improved dramatically from last week’s so-called Beast from the East, which included the coldest March day on record.

 

Winter Draws On

Yes, it’s cold. Paris was cold and windy. Now back home and it’s cold, windy and it’s snowing as well. It probably won’t last long but we don’t really need it at all. We don’t need people looking around our house in this weather. We wouldn’t want to to and look at other people’s houses either.

It’s rotten timing for sister Pauline, though, coming over here from the warmth of a New Zealand Summer, she’ll definitely be packing her Winter drawers.

And rotten timing too for the crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops that are beginning to bloom.

Back to the house: We’ve had a few offers, which is good, but none match the bottom-line figure that we’d agreed on.

In the post on our return were two unsolicited letters from other estate agents that basically said: “When your current agent has failed to sell your house, come to us, we’ll sell it for you, quickly, and for a higher price”. If only we’d known.

I haven’t been on the phone so often in one day since I worked in an office. So many calls to make, so I addressed them all in one go. We haven’t had one for a while, so here’s the list of people I called:

  • The man to come around, look around the house and provide its EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). He’ll be nicely frozen when he visits the loft.
  • The man to look at the garden fence with a view to moving it back to where it should be, on the boundary between our house and the neighbours’.
  • My dentist to cancel my August appointment because we won’t be living here then.
  • The hospital to cancel the second, now unnecessary, follow-up appointment after my eye surgery.
  • Our estate agent here to say that despite his best efforts, our doorlock still appears to work and we were able to get into the house when we returned from Paris. And to discuss the lastest progress.
  • Our flat vendors’ agent to report on our progress so far to to remind the vendor that she was going to send us some further information.

Liesel made a big decision this week. She Shook me Cold. And not just because of the weather. Well done, Liesel!

 

Viewing Properties

The good news is that today, EIGHT families will come round and look at our house. One offer has been made, a bit on the low side, but we’ll see how it goes.

Yesterday, we went up to have another look at the apartment in Northenden. We measured up some of the heights, as the roof rafters intrude in places. It looks like most of our furniture won’t be moving with us. But it’s all old and if it encourages us to get rid of even more stuff from the cupboards, shelves, wardrobes, then that’s got to be a bonus.

The vendors are planning to leave a lot of stuff behind which will help us out of course. So, in effect, we’re exchanging our old stuff for new stuff that actually fits in the new place.

Next week we’re off to Paris, meeting up with Monica and Neha from Anchorage, Alaska. We’ll do the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, maybe Disneyland but really, Liesel needs a nice restful week. I’ve been on Eurostar before but it’s a first for Liesel. Station to Station, St Pancras to Paris Nord.

So what with one thing and other, I’ve compiled a To-Do List. I have a long To-Do list that’s ben going since before 2006. These quick ones usually get added, but not always. It’s quite interesting looking through the Done part of the list. It proves I have done a few useful things over the years.

One new thing today is to discover whether I can add an entry to this blog by sending an email. If it works, great. If not, it might not have much action while we’re in Paris. Or, there might be a series of entries that are badly formatted or otherwise substandard. Even more substandard.

Have a nice weekend, y’all!