Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Moving Story

Well, here I am in another place - I'm renting a flat in Hove - very near to where I was living until one week ago. By golly it was a bit of a sweat moving after nearly 13 years, and I was in a practically comatose state immediately afterwards.
   Packing up and leaving was the most difficult part - as I knew it would be. Even now it's all a blur.
And I'm pretty sure that half of the stuff I decided to keep will be redundant when it finally comes out of storage. This all part of the process though, because some of the decisions were too hard to make on the spot. I know it's daft, and it's mostly only pieces of furniture, but they were all chosen with care and love, and have shared our lives for many years - like old friends really.
   Anyway, it has all gone off in the van and into a shipping container for 3 months, while the work is going on at my 'new' house. The removers were great, worked very hard and were mostly cheerful. I just hope that everything emerges intact in the end.
   I have done very little except fall asleep during the last week - a result of the emotional upheaval and stress I'm sure. Little by little it is improving and I'm able to stay awake for longer, which sounds as though I'm in recovery doesn't it?
   I'm still the practical one though, and have a file with plans, design ideas, notes and quotes, all ready to go for the refurbishment. It's as if I'm two people at the moment - one efficient and on the ball, and the other adrift in limbo. I know who has to win, so I'll just keep on fighting the sleeping sickness...
   My chosen builders  have everything under control; we are meeting tomorrow to go over the plans and they are going to start clearing out the house completely. The old kitchen has already gone to a new home. courtesy of my trusty old handyman, Dave, and there is only some disgustingly dirty carpet, old curtains and poles, radiators and old pipework left to go. I went over to have a look today, and can't wait to see it gutted and ready to go.
   So there we are, or here I am - it feels strange but not necessarily bad,  Time to move on,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stressed-Out City

Not my best day so far - it started with feeling sick with apprehension when I got up, but not with any particular reason. I soon learned though, when my Solicitor rang me to say that the person I'm buying from had apparently received  "an independent cash offer" from person unknown and that if I can't exchange by this Friday they may sell to this "person". Then I really felt sick! So the rest of today has been filled with phone calls. panic and a feeling of  stressed out helplessness. I must say that this vendor behaved similarly when I first offered on the house, threatening to sell to someone else if I didn't stump up an extra 10 thousand. At that time, I agreed because that actually brought the house price up to the asking price, and I felt it was really worth the money. This time, however, I'm not feeling so generous - and not that any extra money has been mentioned anyway. It has just totally wobbled me after such a long time and when we are so close to Exchange. I think we have avoided disaster, and everyone has actually spoken to everyone else today, which has hopefully sorted it out. Fingers crossed.
   I've been totally submerged in negotiations with builders, plumbers, electricians and removers over the last couple of weeks, and of course it's all going to cost more than I had hoped originally - how could I be so naive as to imagine that total refurbishment could be cheap, or even reasonable? No wonder the builders, plumbers, electricians etc are all so charming, helpful and amenable - they're all earning a bloody fortune! Not that I'm complaining, I've got to the stage where I just want to get on with it, at (almost) any price.
   Family news: the children had a visit from their Father who, as you may remember, has been living in New Zealand for the past nearly 20 years. He is now married to wifie number 4, 25 years his junior, and has prostate cancer. I guess he came over to see the new babies, since it's unlikely  that either Son or Daughter would be able to make the journey there (or afford it). And maybe he senses that his time is limited - I don't know, and as I wasn't planning to see him I couldn't ask.  Anyway I think the visit was pretty much as expected - he brought presents for everyone and still managed to rub a few people up the wrong way; that is a particular talent of his which doesn't seem to have faded with time.
   I'm going up to London tomorrow to help Son and his partner with the baby for a couple of days.
Lovely - I'm going on the train and coming back with them in the car on Saturday. I had forgotten it's the Bank Holiday, so just hope the traffic won't be too bad... I hope that when I catch up with you again there will have been proper progress in my property saga.
   Have a lovely weekend, I'm looking forward to some sunshine.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A New Leaf

Nobody would know it's May here - it's cold as Christmas and really miserable. I'm soldiering on with my plans, writing notes and specifications and measuring, drawing out room sizes and trying to fit things in generally. It's not going to be easy, but as I go along I'm actually getting used to the idea
of downsizing. It's amazing how difficult this is as a concept because I suppose we spend most of our lives making a home, which usually means acquiring the stuff we need and like. It's a kind of emotional padding which we get comfortable with, and which we look forward to seeing and feeling every day. It's all part of our precious family structure and in my  case it was doubly precious because my two children and I were a wonderfully close family. It was always us against the world, and when I look around at the chairs and books, the rugs and pictures and all the paraphernalia of family life which accompanied us through that journey, it tugs at my heart to think that much of it will be going. I can only hope that it will go somewhere where it may be appreciated in the same way. Silly me, I know it's only stuff, but it's our stuff, our family.
   Of course it's also to do with acknowledging the fact that I'm getting older and I'm not the centre of their world any more. Fine, that's life and it's ok - I'm probably making too much of it, My nest has been empty for a while now, and I need to get on with my new life.
   Turning over  a new leaf means I will be taking time out, once my new house is done and dusted, and travelling. I'll be heading for some sun, and fun, and first will be joining my lovely BBF in Majorca, where she is renting an apartment in Palma. Actually she phoned me this evening, just when I was feeling rather sorry for myself and overwhelmed by it all. And just talking to her and laughing a bit made everything seem better.
   For some reason, it reminded me of a film I saw many years ago, called "A New Leaf" with Walter Matthau and Elaine May. He's looking for a new wife and she is a scatty, plain woman who keeps dropping things and putting her foot in it. She's a social disaster and not at all what everyone expects him to be attracted to, but as he looks at her across the room, and sees all  her imperfections, he mutters "She's perfect". It's a great comic moment. Funny the things you remember!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nobody Panic...

Honestly, I'm beginning to feel a bit like a rabbit frozen in the headlights where this move is concerned. It's just that I have to get my head around not only moving, but getting rid of so much of the 'stuff' that I have gathered around me over the last twenty years or so. Then there's the fact that I will have to completely gut and refurbish the new place, which will take roughly two months, during which time I will have to rent somewhere short term. If all of this sounds stressful, it is supposed to be but I feel strangely calm most of the time - just unable to actually do anything.
   I should be planning it all, on the computer probably, and I am  getting together a lot of pictures which I'm saving in my "Moving Folder". Typically for me, I can easily visualize what it will look like when it's finished; I can see the kitchen, the sitting room, the bedrooms, the bathrooms and even
the garden as they will be when finished, it's just the getting there which eludes me! I have now seen three builders, all different, and all very helpful in their different ways - they can all apparently do what I want and seem competent enough. But I have heard so many horror stories about builders that I'm naturally cautious and, frankly, terrified of choosing the wrong one. My best option would seem to be the one who is actually working on another house in the same development at the moment. I have been watching their progress over the last couple of weeks and their work looks good. Fingers crossed, they could be the ones...
   I don't want to add any pressure to Son's life either, since he has only just emerged from wrestling with his builders, who were basically a "gang" of Polish men who were often drunk on the job, often not even on the job, and finally left their new house in an unfinished and dodgy state. All I want is for him to come down in a van (with a friend) and take some of my stuff away. They already have one of my lovely rugs in their sitting room, and it works well on their new oak floor. I just wish they had room for more. And if only Daughter could take a few things! But that is just wishful thinking as their flat (a large, three-bedroom job) is already stuffed to the gills with their things, and even when they move I don't think they'll want much of mine.
   Anyway, I'm just whingeing really. We obviously have lofts and attics for the sole purpose of storing things we will never look at again.. and particularly our children's things. Mine contains children's books (still boxed from my move 12 years ago), black sacks full of old stuffed toys,
a half-size snooker table, a travel cot, a rear shelf from an old Renault 5, suitcases full of summer or winter clothes, bubble-wrapped pictures...well you get the picture, and I swear I won't do it again..
   I know I'm going to have to store some things, like the table from my Dad and the elm chest and probably the beautiful C18th corner cupboard, but now I'll have a garage, a dry, solid brick-built garage, in which to store them for a while. Ho Hum...
   Oh and just before I go, here's something I heard on the radio this morning: "What is Dark Matter?
It's called Dark Matter because it doesn't give out any light." Basically, it's the dark stuff in between the stars. Isn't that wonderful?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

First Birthday Celebrations.

   Today is little Grandson's first Birthday and I have been to see him and join in the celebrations. It meant driving to London this morning, which was fine except I'm hopeless at directions and even more hopeless at using a Sat-Nav. I did try once, when a friend loaned one to me, and ended up shouting at the infuriating woman whose voice was telling me what to do. So now I look up the route on my computer, print it out and then sort of learn it before I do the drive.. Anyway this morning I was driving to their new house in Leyton and although I had pretty much memorized the directions, I still managed to get lost, went through the dreaded Blackwall Tunnel three times (don't ask!) and arrived, completely pooped, after two hours.
   It did improve after that, though I'm not sure that the little one  knew it was his Birthday. He certainly  realized that it wasn't a normal day because of the balloons floating around the house and everyone wishing him a Happy Birthday, and he was enjoying the food. It was a gathering of (mostly) Polish friends; one couple have a six month old baby, and two others are about to give birth, so it was very child-centred, naturally enough.  The other three guests were gay men, and I was the only grandmother.. And then they sang Happy Birthday in Polish - which I couldn't join in with,
Ah well, everything changes.
   It was so lovely to see them, and to see the new house which has been mostly done, but which has caused them so much aggravation. There are still things which are not finished, or have been badly finished, but Son seems to have it under control and the results are very good on the whole. It has taken its toll though, and he looks absolutely exhausted. I hope that now they can relax a bit and start to enjoy living there. Hearing about their awful experiences with their builder makes me feel even more nervous about my move - but I just have to be positive.
   This weekend Daughter has been away on a Hen Weekend. They went to a very grand-sounding house in Oxfordshire, with a pool, sauna and spa, I haven't  heard from her but she was due back this afternoon. Her partner has been in charge of Grandson and the baby on his own for the weekend, so I look forward to hearing how he coped. I saw him yesterday morning when I took Grandson to his football training, and he was in very good spirits, having had a fairly good night with just one child.
Of course Grandson is a help anyway, so last night was probably OK.
   Nothing much is happening here, though I feel I should be doing more to get moving. I have a surveyor preparing a report on the house in Shoreham, and have heard that my buyer would like to complete the sale in June. That gives me a bit of breathing space, but it's not that far off. I have had a couple of builders recommended, and I need to get some plans together. One thing is for sure, I'll have to get rid of so much stuff when I move. I look around at all the furniture and things I have gathered around me over the last 30 years and I  feel rather sad. Most of it I love, but there simply won't be room for it all....
   By the way, driving back was much better, thank heavens. I had the reverse route pretty fixed in my head, and only had to go round Bow Roundabout the once ; )

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Slow, Slow, Quick Quick Slow,,

   Not much has happened since my last post, at least I haven't moved yet. I have been busy looking at more houses and waiting for my sale to progress. But it's slow. None of the houses have been as appealing as the little house in Shoreham, and although it's really small compared with where I live now, it could definitely be charming once it's gutted, fumigated and completely refurbished!! Strangely, something about it definitely speaks to me - and not just me; everyone else I have shown it to has had a similar reaction. It looks somehow familiar, and even Daughter felt the same, while we all acknowledge that it really needs a lot of work. I'm feeling rather nervous about it for a couple of main reasons: firstly it's obvious that I couldn't live there while the work is being done,so will have to rent somewhere for a couple of months and secondly I have to find a builder!
   Believe me, I don't underestimate what's involved; I have done building work many times before and it is nearly always trying if not downright horrible. Finding a builder you can trust to do the work, as agreed, on time, on budget and before you all fall out terminally can  be difficult. And here am I, seriously thinking of doing it again.
   Meanwhile my house (well, Maisonette) has been surveyed and I have just been sent a copy of the survey. It is purely and simply 27 pages of negativity, with a fair bit of  bias against 100 year old property in a seaside location thrown in. How, I wonder, have I managed to live here happily and comfortably for a mere twelve and a half years? How have I  managed to stay dry and cosy, with sound electrics, lovely wood fires in winter and perfectly functioning gas central heating? How come I haven't been driven mad by traffic noise or fallen off the balcony? It's absurd.. but it's another thing that's slowing me down. I'm staying calm and giving myself time to think before I react.
     Son, however, has just finished his trial by builder, and they are all about to move into their
new house in Leyton. I'm longing to see it as I have seen how much work they put into choosing every detail: wood floors, bathroom tiles, kitchen surfaces, radiators, paint colours, lighting and furniture. The timing of the move is great as little Grandson will be a year old on 29th of this month,
so I'm going to see the house and celebrate the first Birthday that weekend. His Mum had her first Mothering Sunday last weekend, and that was momentous - I think they had a really nice day. We certainly did, as Daughter and I took big Grandson and little Granddaughter to L'Eglise, a lovely French restaurant just across the road. Son treated us to a couple of glasses of pink champagne (by remote cash transfer as he couldn't be there ;)) which was bliss. and we had a super meal.
   And the latest news is that little Grandson is walking. Slow, slow, quick quick slow.....

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Pastures New..

Here I am on a beautiful and bright Saturday morning, ready to whizz off to Shoreham, which is not too far up the coast, more or less half way between Brighton and Worthing. I have been looking around the whole area for a few weeks now, and have settled on Shoreham because it is a nice little town with s character of its own, and a feeling of community which is lamentably absent from the "suburbs" of Brighton and Hove. This feeling is most important for me - I've lived in truly urban settings for the last
27 years (15 in Cambridge and now 12 here) and before that I was in the country, or in a village and all of those I loved, but I'm afraid the suburbs give me the creeps. I dread twitching lace curtains (or lace curtains of any kind really) and the kind of secret watchfulness that seems to typify the suburbs, Maybe it comes from having grown up in a very suburban area, and then escaping to London, where I lived and worked very happily in the kind of obscurity that Londoners seem to create effortlessly. It's not that they don't care  about everyone else,  just that they get on with their lives in a kind of bubble and don't concern themselves with the rest of the world unless it makes its presence felt.
   Anyway, off to Shoreham this morning to look at a little house I had first seen last week. It's not perfect, and let's face it what is? But in a nice position and with a sunny, grassy piece of garden in the front. Small - but most places would be after this; I have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, three reception rooms and a kitchen, balcony and garden. Too much really, plus a lot of stairs. And a lot of cleaning. Today I went back to the little house (which needs a lot of work), taking the most negative friend I have, so that I could get all the pros and cons sorted out. And it turns out there are more cons than pros - at least today!! It's so hard to make up my mind, and I expect I'll feel differently again tomorrow.
   At least my house is sold, and to a cash buyer, so I'm hoping it will go through smoothly. Oh it's bound to be a trying and stressful time but I do believe it will all be fine in the end, fingers crossed.