Home sweet home….

Well, it is a month now since we moved into our new home.

When I say “moved into” I mean took residence in, because many boxes remain unpacked while many, many others are providing insulation in the car port ahead of being collected by the removal company. It is a move in progress….

Similarly, most rooms remain festooned with pictures and photographs still ensconced in bubble wrap, leaning against walls in positions where, inconveniently, there exists as yet no hook upon which to hang them.

And, C is assembling a healthy car boot cum charity shop cum eBay collection in my man cave (!) as she declutters elements of the previous owner’s collection of mostly butterfly-orientated decorations.

The pictures remain unhung because it is difficult to find/retrieve power tools from the car port, because they are hidden behind a wall of cardboard and packing paper. This is the same reason why we still have no curtains in our bedroom, which makes for early wake ups and the need to be careful not to flash the occasional dog walker, horse rider, or Polish builder that might be passing the end of the garden early in the mornings.

When I say “took residence” I mean that C did. I have had a week (nearly) in Paris and a week in Portugal since “the move” and still feel as if I haven’t fully settled in – and I am back en route to Paris as I write this.

And, in fact, C is not the only one to have taken residence….

There is a heady mix of hairspray and germoline mixed with damp nappy and expensive perfume in the air which is due to the arrival of the mother-in-law, C’s youngest sister, her husband, and their adorable 15 month old daughter, our niece Ella Rose. I will let you work out which of the odours belongs to who. They have all fully settled in. Believe me….

R and J and Ella are staying with us because they like our gin and are having a new kitchen installed at their home. It was supposed to have taken a week and a half but we are on week four and counting….

They seem to have taken to communal living and a tribal/collective approach to childcare (if not all of the advice so freely offered by the mother-in-law….). We are beginning to distrust J’s regular photographic evidence of the lack of progress on their kitchen refurbishment, to the extent that we have now insisted any new photos should include the front page of a newspaper so that we are able to verify the veracity of the date….

The mother-in-law is staying with us because she was supposed to be staying with R and J. Go figure. And, she likes our gin.

eeyoreThankfully, none of them have any pets. Although Ella does come with an impressive array of teddys, mousies, and Eeyore.

As such, our shiny new home has been turned into a shiny up-market B&B with lunch, and dinner, and afternoon teas, and chocolate before bed…. One of our number (I will not embarrass her but she knows who she is) follows the Seven Meals A Day Hobbit Diet. A B&B cum Chinese laundry. And C’s usually immaculate study now looks like the busy end of the Calais Jungle before they burned it to the ground.

And so, our lovely, shiny new home is as chaotic as a scene from the Durrells. A scene in which the locals have all turned up for dinner a week early and the animals are running amok upstairs.

Mornings are necessarily carefully choreographed as R and J take turns in the bathroom and leave for work, while remembering (thankfully) to take Ella to the childminder, while C and I sit staring into mugs of strong coffee in between multiple trips to the bins (our guests show a casual disregard for the rather draconian recycling rules imposed by C), the washing machine, tumble dryer, and the supermarket (supplies are often exhausted faster than they are being replenished as evidenced by the great sugar disaster on Saturday…..), while trying to not notice the pile of washing up, or the occasional waft of perfume, hairspray, germoline and nappy…..

It is somewhat of a relief when I have made my retreat to my man cave or caught the train to London in order to earn a daily crust…. A crust which is being stretched a lot, lot further than we are used to. While C enjoys the company of her mother and entertains her with trips to local attractions that I have yet to see.

And then there is the food. There is the baby’s food, of course. And, then there is the mother-in-law’s gluten-free food, of course. And then there is the help yourself to food. Except it isn’t help yourself (although bananas do seem to disappear faster than a ferret up a drainpipe and there is definitely a sausage roll thief amongst us) as C and I have been doing all of the cooking…..

Thankfully, it has been warm so we have been able to put the barbecue to good use. And, I have benefited greatly from C’s excellent advice, freely given, on how best to cook a sausage, which she has so selfishly denied me these past 25 years…. And a very clear path to the local farm shop has been worn, in the search for sausages (gluten free), lamb steaks (gluten free), pork loins (gluten free), beef and chicken kebabs (both gluten free), and sausage rolls to replenish those that have been stolen. N.B. The sausage rolls are not gluten free as this will be the quickest way to determine whether the mother-in-law is the thief or not…..

And then there has been Ella. Ella is a joy. She is quite simply as cute as a cute thing could be. She is an absolute credit to her mummy and daddy (or daddy and daddy – she calls everyone daddy at the moment, except Eeyore, who she calls Eeyore….) and my credentials as an uncle, obviously.

She is absolutely adorable and has us all wrapped around her chubby little finger and attending to her every need, which seems to consist of food, pebbles, things to splash in, naps, and climbing.

The climbing bit is raising grandma’s stress levels somewhat and sends the mother-in-law into a flurry of failed distraction techniques which mostly consists of her shouting “ball” very loudly and often, and chasing Ella about the garden while walking like a Teletubby (grandma that is…..). Ella likes teasing grandma….

Guys, I’m gonna miss you….

 

June 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm 1 comment

Arise Little England….

Well, as one of my better and wiser friends tweeted (being a cool guy who is down with the kids): “Well. Democracy works. We have a parliament that reflects the country: split and a bit mixed up.”

Except that we are now left with a broken Tory party, with a weak PM who is wondering what the hell this “social media” thing is that everyone was talking about, in an unholy alliance with a quasi terrorist party (oh the hypocrisy of it) with tendencies towards the right of Genghis Khan. Well done us.

But, I am already bored with the smugness of those previously in the closet Corbynistas who are now popping their heads above the parapet, somehow claiming this as a victory for the young; a victory for the many; a victory for the hope.

Twaddle.

It was nothing more than victory in the face of the most inept Tory campaign in history by a Prime Minister with the personality of a Dementor, and Boris….

It was not a victory for the many but an election which has proved divisive for all. And, not just between young and old, between the left and the rest, between the Remainers and the deluded (sorry, but I still think it is going to be a BIG mistake), between the top 5% and the rest….

I recognise the appeal of the Corbyn ideology. But, I also recognise that it was flawed. It was flawed when Marxist wrote it. It was flawed when China implemented it. It was terrible in the 1970s when the unions held sway and the utilities and other nationalised industries did not work. And, it doesn’t work in Venezuela today. It is flawed.

Any ideology that relies upon a compliant top 5% of earners acting like a charity to fund the social and welfare needs of the rest will not work. And, why should it! Why should we punish the successful and the wealth creators? Why should those already bearing the biggest burden (in taxes) be expected to give even more of their own money away and for no reward.

I watch programmes like “Broken” and films like “I, Daniel Blake” and I genuinely feel for the people trapped in a broken system. But, it is not the fault of the wealthy. It is not going to be fixed by chasing the wealthy French who fled from Francois Hollande’s imposition of punitive taxation all the way back to Paris. Or, by chasing the city fat cats to New York or Singapore. It doesn’t raise more funds for the rest of the country. It just chases away those who currently pay for 30% of everything.

I am a Labour voter at heart and left of centre. But, I am not so far left as to have fallen off the same cliff as Corbyn. He is not some caring, wise old grey man. He is not Father Christmas. He is a Marxist ideology intent on driving us all down a route of equality in which wealth is redistributed to the extent that nobody has it.

He maybe anti-war (at least with his ideological Motherland) but he was not so cuddly when he took the decision to throw Diane Abbott under the campaign bus.

So, we have a divided nation. A divided Tory party which is sure to encourage Theresa May to spend more time with her husband. And a still divided opposition with a smug old guy with a Messiah Complex fuelled by a Marxist ideology and the people who vote for the winners of the X-Factor.

And so, prepare for political and economic uncertainty. But, above all, prepare for another imminent election where we are likely to have a choice between Crazy Corbyn and Barmy Boris. Someone please hide the Trident remote control now.

Unless someone has the sense and vision to form a new centrist party around which we can all come together. An En Marche for the UK. Not a party for the few. Not a party for the many. But, a party for us all.

Meanwhile, I will just keep on having my French lessons…..

June 11, 2017 at 4:35 pm 1 comment

We’re in!

Well we are in! We have moved. We are tenants no more. We are landowners again (well, we have a wrap-around garden at least) and, more importantly, we are home owners. Home. A place to put down new roots. A place to grow. A place to share and to entertain.

The removal guys were great – punctual, polite, accommodating, hard-working, considerate, and, above all, patient. There were a couple of heavy items that they lugged all the way from the bottom of the garden, up to the house only to be ushered back by the Director, C, sending said object back to the bottom of the garden and up to the “man cave” above the “car barn” (you don’t have garages in Surrey but open barns with space above where the cars are parked). And, despite the heavy showers they were gone by mid-afternoon, leaving C and I as happy as pigs in sh*t and surrounded by boxes, and boxes, and boxes. And boxes.

But it was knackering. There was a lot of standing around. So, much that my knees are aching today. Just from standing around.

And, it has not been without frustrations. Indeed, my first task upon arrival was to remove the bannister at the bottom of the stairs. Without which neither of the beds nor wardrobes would have gone up the stairs. As I do not possess a hand saw (and even if I did I would not have been able to find it) my task involved befriending Kevin, the foreman at the building site across the lane (they are converting barns). Kevin is a burly but jovial guy who was up to his waist in mud and unmentionables but was gracious enough to provide me with a quick lesson in the use of a circular hand saw and the job was done. It was not the neatest of carpentry but got the job done!

Other than that my major contribution of day one was heading to Cranleigh for fish and chips at about 5pm – the first thing C and I had eaten all day (apart from the bag of Quavers I snaffled after a trip to the petrol station).

The major frustration was, predictably, technological. The TV. I spent hours untangling the various cables and leads left by our sellers and pouring over the manuals for the new BT Smart Hub and BT TV box. I managed to get wifi working (result!) but was unable to get terrestrial TV. It turns out that the vendors had omitted to mention that there was no TV aerial- C is already on the case. They also forgot to mention that the en suite shower cold water tap doesn’t work and that there was no plug in the bath. The latter was particularly annoying as I was looking forward to soaking my aching knees in my first bath for a year (the one in Shere was too small).

But, we will forgive them these slight omissions because they have given us a home. A home of our own.

May 20, 2017 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

The joy of moving home….

I have read recently that “moving house” no longer makes it into the top list of most stressful life events. I was recently reading about this because we are moving house. Today. For the second time in just twelve months. And, if moving house is not right up there with the death of a spouse or getting divorced, then I do not want to encounter whatever else might be….

But, surely the worst of it must be behind us?! It was very stressful.

The stress of finding an estate agent. You know, the people who charge you a huge percentage of the sale price for the privilege of taking a couple of photos, sticking one of them, briefly, in their shop window, and posting your details on Rightmove.

The people who demonstrate a total lack of social skills and an inability to remember which is your garage and garden, so that you are forced to do the viewings yourselves lest potential buyers leave confused or misinformed.

We changed one incompetent estate agent for one slightly less so mid-process and still begrudge their percentage.

The stress of the viewings. The cleaning. The de-cluttering. The turning on of lights. The filling of the fruit bowl as a feature on the dining room table (which was clearly the clincher!). The lighting of a cosy, welcoming real fire even at the height of summer. The simulation of the smells of roasting coffee beans and fresh-baked bread. Praying that next door’s dog doesn’t bark. The waiting for viewers. The waiting for viewers. Waiting for viewers.

The viewers. Don’t they not read the details or look at the photos before turning up? No it isn’t a detached house. Yes it is very rural. No you cannot build a conservatory on the side of a grade two listed building. Yes, the three bedroom house does seem a bit small for you, your husband, your five teenage kids, three dogs and the donkey. And, worst of all, the divorcee just gong through the motions, horrified at the prospect of downsizing, despite being evicted from the family home by her vindictive ex on Monday…..

The chain. Oh, the chain. I guess we should count ourselves lucky in that we had no onward chain as we were renting. But, our buyers pulled out / fell through twice before we finally got there. Stress. Stress. Stress.

The joy of renting – which will be a tale to follow, once we have (hopefully) secured our security deposit!

The depressing search for a new home which won’t bankrupt us; is within at least twenty minutes of Waitrose; is not going to end up next door to a new estate or a traveller campsite; or, is right next to a busy dual carriageway.

 

But we found one. It is very exciting. It is very exciting in spite of the subsidence. Despite the survey. Despite the flood plain. Despite the lack of mobile phone signal. No. It is really, really exciting.

And at last it is moving day. Well, it is day one of a two day move. We are literally being put into boxes as I write. We have the keys for our new home and our sellers vacated yesterday. Today the removal guys pack everything apart from a bed, the TV (hopefully), the kettle, and a sofa. And, tomorrow they pack those and deliver them to our new home. Where we will unpack.

I sit here now midst a flurry of removal activity and sugary tea (3 sugars!) as two very nice (hopefully) men pack our lives into a thousand cardboard boxes secured by miles and miles of masking tape.

Fortunately we had decluttered ahead of our move down South a year ago, with most of those things of mine deemed to be superfluous ending up on eBay, at the local charity shop, or in the local dump.

C had embraced the opportunity for a clear out. Of my stuff.

The rediscovery of items unseen for years. Discovery of items that you hadn’t realised you had at all. Wondering what mysterious locks might be unlocked by the myriad keys you’ve held on to …. just in case.

The pile of wires and adapters for electrical equipment long ago sold on eBay. For gadgets long unused. Multi-shaped “USBs” for generations of iPhones. It is far too much trouble to decide what might be useful versus that which is superfluous so they all get chucked back into the “useful” draw until the next move, which will, hopefully, be never, ever, never again.

So, there has not been much of an opportunity for C to declutter me further. Indeed, many boxes still remain unpacked from our move to the rented house. Mostly books, and pictures. And, electric cables and adapters. And keys.

C has gone on ahead to do a clean of the new house and open the windows to air it in the hope that the last vestiges of the previous owners’ little dog with be wafted away so as not to trigger allergies.

The essentials have been secured lest they be inadvertently boxed and put on the back of the van. Passports, a change of clothes for the restaurant this evening, toothbrush, laptop, and a bottle of wine have all been hidden in the boot of my car.

So far, so good. There has been a constant stream of packing cases down the path to the van. And, of sugary tea. No breakages yet. I still have a TV, a sofa, a kettle, and hopefully – I haven’t ventured upstairs in case I get in the way – a bed.

Wish us luck!

May 18, 2017 at 12:04 pm Leave a comment

Happy Easter Everyone….

What the heck is going on in the world?

Little Britain (for we are sadly no longer the United Kingdom) has turned its back on the one institution which has largely kept the peace on the continent of Europe (if you ignore the Balkan wars that is….) since the Second World War (which ended in 1945 in case we have stopped teaching that in history lessons for fear that we might actually learn from the errors of the past….).

Those that voted for Brexit seem to have been motivated by frustration with having to eat straight bananas; “fake” advertising on the side of a bus; or the ridiculous notion that taking control of our own borders would somehow mean less of those people who “aren’t like us” streaming across. You know, those who do the jobs we don’t want to do, keep our institutions running, and make a huge contribution to our economy. But, maddeningly, they do so with a strange and untrustworthy accent….

And so, we have “triggered” (a very apt term methinks….) Article 50 and turned our shoulder to our neighbours to build closer ties to China, Saudi Arabia and the Commonwealth (or former Empire as we like to call it….) while continuing to lick the arse of the ginger Mad Man in the White House.

It seems to be going very well at the moment. Not. The Scots are demanding independence yet again, and we English hope to deter them with common sense (yet hypocritical and ironic) arguments that it would be economic suicide for Scotland to separate from its largest trading partner….

There is a renewed call for the reunification of the Island of Ireland as an alternative to rebuilding the wall between North and South. And, the Welsh are also upset, spurning the allure of the structured funding it received from the EU (some £4 billion since 2000) and are looking to rebuild Offa’s Dyke, restart their campaign of burning holiday homes, and, reprinting all the road signs in Cymraeg….

The Government, somewhat at a loss at what to do, seem to be resorting to that Thatcheresque (or Putinesque, or Trumpesque) strategy of looking for a winnable foreign war to distract us from events at home; and, doing its level best to stoke our jingoistic fervour.

Thankfully we stopped short of unleashing Bumbling Boris on Russia, preferring instead to antagonise easier targets; reaffirming the Britishness of the Falkland Islands; sending “the Fleet” to Gibraltar; and issuing a new pound coin and a fiver with a picture of Winston Churchill on it….

And, we have taken this great leap into the blindingly obvious at a time when there is a mad man in the White House; a mad man in the Kremlin; a mad man in Pyongyang; and, a mad man in power in Istanbul; a murderous mad man gassing his own in Syria; the Chinese building airstrips and naval bases in any part of the Asia-Pacific that has proximity to oil; and, fanatical Islamist mad men wielding kitchen knives, automobiles and road-side bombs just about everywhere.

Bumbling Boris has his hands full at a time when diplomacy seems to have died a death and our great leaders prefer to send messages to each other via Twitter and email, and in the form of gun boats, barrel bombs, nuclear weapons testing, and the Mother of All Bombs….

At least it is a long weekend here in Blighty. The shelves at Waitrose are now empty of lamb; devoid of all varieties of festive confectionery; and we can bury our heads while chasing the Easter Bunny and hunting for eggs and pretending that we are safe and sound, green and pleasant, and soon to be Great again!

Unless one of the mad men blows it all up….

April 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

The morning commute….


This weekend we were blessed with a visit from the mother-in-law who was staying with us as we were celebrating the first birthday of our niece on Saturday. So, it was a welcome relief that C taxied me to the train station nice and early this morning, leaving the mother-in-law snoring in the spare room, in the knowledge that she would be long gone by the time I return on Wednesday.

Unusually, my trip to Paris this week started with a commute into London as I had a business meeting there before heading over to Heathrow in the afternoon.

Thankfully my way into London starts at the sleepy idyll which is Clandon station and a South West train complete with empty seats, a guard and, unlike Southern Rail, a semi-reliable service. I was joined on the platform by a small group of rather sullen and weary looking commuters – perhaps their in-laws were staying for the whole week….

The Guildford to Waterloo train is a very middle-class service, full of a professional clientele sporting briefcases, Mulberry, and expensive hairstyles, traveling into the City from the Surrey Hills and the leafy suburbs of Cobham Stoke D’Abernon and Surbiton of the the Good Life fame (sigh Felicity)

After a few stops the train began to fill up. Those seated sat knee to knee or shoulder to shoulder. Those stood were rucksack to laptop bag or briefcase to handbag.

The modern commuter has seemingly mastered the art of standing while holding safety bars with one hand or leaning against them and operating smart phone with the other hand. Most of the carriage was head down, ear pieces or headphones in place, swiping their phones left to right while rocking gently with the motion of the train and studiously avoiding eye contact with their fellow passengers.

There were the occasional muffled conversations – parents talking to their children having left home before get-up time; some early-morning business telcos. But most were head down on iPhone or Android exploring the overnight updates on Facebook and Instagram, planning their evenings on Tinder, assessing the latest banal Tweet from Trump, or, playing Candy Crush. And, the carriage resonated with a dawn chorus of text message pings and the whooshes of tweets being sent.

Those not engrossed with their smartphones sipped coffee from various chains with a history of tax avoidance. Some ladies applied their makeup. Some, mostly older male, follically-challenged and pin-striped passengers, pretended to do the cryptic crossword of their favourite broadsheet. Others simply closed their eyes and put their heads back to catch a five minute snooze or simply to block out the world.

The rather mild morning had obviously confused many. The on-board dress code was varied with some in shirtsleeves and others sporting full overcoat (mostly those pretending to do the crossword).

Some, like myself, were simply people watching or looking out of dirty windows and watching the transformation of the landscape from fields and forests to suburbia, looking into passing gardens or fleeting back bedroom windows, until they gave way to graffiti-strewn hoardings and office blocks interspersed with cemeteries and abandoned, ghost like stations – due to ongoing engineering works the train did not stop between Surbiton and Waterloo.

Finally we were free of the building works around Vauxhall and Battersea and emerged into a skyline punctuated by glass and chrome steeples and cranes before being disgorged onto the platforms of Waterloo station where we shuffled our way to the underground or though the barriers into the main station accompanied by the click and rattle of a thousand trolley bags.

I pushed my way outside through the smokers and vapers to the relative quiet of the taxi queue and the inevitable conversation about Uber and Brexit. We stuttered through the bikes, the delivery vans, and the buses and I wondered what the traffic would be like if we didn’t have congestion charging, before awarding myself thirty minutes of tranquility ahead of my meeting, courtesy of the free wifi at Pret, an almond croissant and a vanilla latte…..

March 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

It is Nineteen Eighty Four……Resist.


At first I thought it must be “fake news”……but it wasn’t.

Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean “Goebbels” Spicer, excluded many of the leading journalists from some of the world’s most prestigious news agencies from a briefing in Washington, including the BBC. And then he tried to “spin” it as an attempt to expand “the pool” of journalists. It just so happened that it was the “cess pool” of journalists, including only sycophants from like-minded red neck rags who are happy to tout the same right wing, racist and frankly delusional rubbish that comes from the flabby lips of the Great Narcissist in the Oval Office. Think of them as the Daily Mail on steroids. Think the KKK with typewriters.

So it seems that nation will no longer talk unto nation until such time as “the leader of the free world” (sic) can control the message and remove all criticism. Trump has branded the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and others as exponents of so-called “fake news” – for pointing out facts that run contrary to the political rhetoric spilling forth from Satan’s jowls. “Facts that run contrary to” being otherwise known as “the truth”. Or in an Orwellian dystopian world of Trump, which seems to be just around the corner, as “thoughtcrime “…..

Resist. Resist. Resist.


Meanwhile, closer to home, democracy is also gasping for air in the absence of any credible opposition. After Copeland fell to the Tories for the first time in 80 years, the Great Narcissist of Islington North, blamed Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Storm Doris and the emotional backlash to the sacking of Claudio Ranieri……

He refused to entertain the absolute home truth that HE might be to blame. That he and his policies, and Diane Abbott have made the Labour Party unelectable, no matter how many “members” or how grassy your roots….. Without the people; without the voters, you are nothing more than an ineffective protest party pissing in the wind.

Resist. Resist. Resist.

February 25, 2017 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

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