Saturday, July 30, 2005

A New Home?

We may have a new home. Fingers crossed.

We trundled down the M1/M69 this morning with five houses to view. We ended up viewing six.

The first was a farmhouse near Harbury, down its own track with two gates to open and close to keep the sheep in. It stands completely on its own in fields, about half a mile from the village. It has quarry tiled floors and original fireplaces – and some serious damp in the cellar that is not so much creeping as gushing up the central wall, giving the lounge a musty smell. And this is the middle of summer! We loved it, but fretted about the damp and the size – really it is too big for just the pair of us. And as we’ve only got one car, I’d have to get my bike out if I wanted a pint of milk – the realities of rural living. Nice though - some part of me dreams of having such a house.

We popped into the estate agent while we were there. Five minutes later, he was in our car directing us to the next village along, where some tenants were just moving out of a property. “They’re from Nottingham!” he’d brushed aside objections from the landlord who was with the tenants at the property. “They’ll understand about the mess.”

We didn’t understand about the dog sick, or the hamster bedding in the downstairs toilet and utility room. And we hated the kitchen anyway, it was tiny and dark. We made polite noises and pleaded lateness for our next appointment.

Which was a new-ish semi. Nice enough. But very small, no countryside views, nothing really to warm to. The letting agent kept checking his watch, so we hurried out, happy to move on.

Next stop – Fenny Compton. Pretty little village, just at the top end of the Cotswolds. We started to see the lovely honey coloured Cotswolds stone appearing, along with a cluster of hills. The keys to the house were held by a local farmer and his wife, so we visited their farmhouse to pick them up. A very large, very friendly dog rubbed its face happily on my trousers, leaving two pale dusty patches on the black fabric. The farmer’s wife told us how friendly the village was, and gave us a copy of the village newsletter. They both wondered at how the property had stood empty for so long. “There was a lot of interest at first, and then it went quiet,” she said. I’d asked the letting agent about that, and been told that some work had been done to it, and that a tenant had been lined up and then dropped out. “Hmmmm,” they said.

The house itself is ten years old and backs onto fields. Someone had left a door open and a bird had got in, which was rather painfully evident from the state of the carpets. However, I had been warned about this by the agent, and promised that the place would be cleaned. Other than this, it seemed fine. Big kitchen, good size rooms, nice views. Quiet road. What, we wondered, could be wrong with it?

We moved on. An old farm workers cottage wedged in countryside between an army barracks and a vehicle testing track (not that you could tell). But it was also beside a busy road and had holes chewed in the corners of the carpets. Mice, perhaps? There was certainly room for them to get up through the floorboards. And the place seemed to be full of dead flies. I had a very uncomfortable feeling about it, although Rick thought it was OK.

Last stop – a barn conversion outside Offchurch that I had been assured would be available in time for us. As we stepped through the builders dust on concrete floors and eyed wires hanging out of the plaster, and no shower door in place …. I doubted it very much. Besides, any views that there might have been were obscured by other buildings and a very large workshop where prototype models are built. Interesting - fascinating even - but also noisy. And there were no windows as such upstairs – just skylights.

We found a wonderful farm shop (Hilltops, I think) with tea room and view over fields. We had something to eat (chocolate cake and cream in my case, I’m afraid) and discussed our options. There was only one that we felt comfortable with – the house at Fenny Compton. We are curious about why it’s been empty for a while, but if we take a six month lease, we are not tied in if it turns out something is wrong with it. So now, of course, I’m just worried in case someone else gets it! Told you I’m a worrier. I can see Monday being a bit fraught, what with applying for this house and waiting to hear whether we’ve exchanged on our sale. I can’t wait until all this is over.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Had a call from the solicitor. Apparently the first buyers in the chain didn't get to the bank today, so won't pay their deposit until Monday. Oh, and we are causing bad feeling, by hassling them. "We only agreed the completion date 24 hours ago," they said. "Why the rush?"

Because we need somewhere to live!

Jumping the gun

The champagne is still in the fridge. We got a call yesterday to say exchange had not happened because the solicitors had not managed to contact each other. It should happen today, they said.

This morning Rick spoke to the solicitor who said we are waiting for a deposit to go through the banking system. It should be done in banking hours today, so we may exchange on Monday. Where did that come from? What deposit?

Meanwhile, we need to rent somewhere and letting agents do not look too kindly on people who have not yet exchanged - not when there are plenty people out there who have, and who want the same property as you.

Am I just a worrier, or what? We have to have moved out by three weeks today. And we have nowhere to go.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

And breathe ...

Finally – we are exchanging contracts this afternoon! It has taken an unbelievably long time. We signed our papers last Wednesday 20th. Then we went to our favourite hotel, Amerdale House in Arncliffe – highly recommended . We’ve been there year after year, and had booked this break well before we sold our house. No way were we going to cancel.

Good job we didn’t as it turned out, as we didn’t get a call to say everyone was ready to exchange until yesterday (a whole week after we’d signed). We tried to give ourselves four weeks (we still need to find somewhere to live after all!) but no-one could make that date, so we’ve agreed 19th August for completion. Which gives us three weeks to find somewhere to live, book removals, pack and all that other stuff.

I’ve booked some viewings of houses to let for Saturday. They are all available immediately, so hopefully we will like one of them (and manage to rent it before someone else does). Then we just have to move. Simple :)

But for now, the champagne is chilling in the fridge and we are going to get drunk. Let’s celebrate before we start panicking!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Here we go ...

Just had a call from our buyer to say their buyer has finally got their mortgage offer. This is the last piece of the jigsaw in place. We are ready to roll.

We're going into the solicitor tomorrow to sign, and expect to exchange this week.

Just the small matter of finding somewhere to live now. And guess what? Everyone's in a hurry now that everything is done, and four weeks seems like a lifetime to them. Not to me - find a house, apply for it, wait for the references to be processed ...

Everything WILL work out. It always does. :)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I survived

I'm still exhausted writing this, 24 hours after I finished running yesterday's career change workshop. But I think it was worthwhile. People said some nice things about it.

I arrived home, exhausted but pleased it was all over - to find Rick covered in grazes and with several stitches in his chin. He'd been rock-climbing and fallen off. So now he's limping around like some creature from a cheap horror movie. Boys.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


We've just had another humdinger of a storm - thankfully. It has been far too hot.

I sat quietly at 6pm, thinking of the people gathering in Trafalgar Square. And then BANG the thunder arrived. A vengeful God, or a breaking of the tension that can allow people to begin to heal? I prefer the latter. We need more love and healing.

I've been writing my socks off today. Completing an assignment on the writing course that I've been struggling on with since January. It feels good to complete it.

I feel ready for new beginnings. But tomorrow, I have a workshop to prepare for this Saturday. That's four days I'll be working this week. Practically full time!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Maybe not too much longer ... ?

I had a call from the Estate Agent this afternoon. Our buyer is ready, and we are just waiting for their buyer's mortgage offer to come through.

"There's nothing to worry about," she said. "It shouldn't be much longer."

Oh, I hope she's right! I had a sneaky look at houses to rent today. I must break that habit. It is utterly pointless until we have a date.

What is going wrong?

I've been reading the news on the BBC website, and found Rachel's Diary

I am struck by the courage of this writer. I think reading her account has had a profound effect on me. Partly to know that it is possible to survive such a thing, but at the same time to really understand the scars that it leaves.

I don't know how I feel about developments. What is happening to communities in this country that a group of people (hopefully a small group, but who knows?) can get so angry that they cease to value human life?

I don't think there are any 'right' answers, just a terribly complex system that we all play some part in. What part do I play, I wonder? It's really got me thinking.

My response last Thursday was that I wanted to escape - to my beloved Yorkshire. Now the police investigation is centering around West Yorkshire. Is anywhere safe?

Oh, for a paddling pool

It is so HOT today! It takes me back to Saturday, when we called round to T&A's. The paddling pool was out in the shade of the trees. Scarlett was lying in it, no clothes on, her face decorated in black and sparkling gold face-paints. With a little black nose and curved lines from her eyes, she looked dainty and cat-like. She scrambled up and then fell down again with a satisfying splash. Abi, in a chair beside the pool, bent down to brush water from her linen trousers.

Luke was trying to crawl. He leaned over, his arms waving in the air in front of him, reaching for the ground. But his legs just wouldn't get the message. They wobbled about as he tried to move them with odd jerks, his knees bending at random.

Scarlett raised her arms to Rick, demanding a cuddle, then dribbled a long streak of scarlet cherry juice. Rick held her at arm's length while Tony plied the toilet tissue. Rick and Scarlett went for a walk. Rick later told me that Scarlett told him what the names of all the vegetables were. Meanwhile, Luke enjoyed having the paddling pool to himself, splashing with the flats of his splayed out hands, blinking as the water hit his face. He smiled broadly, two tiny teeth just visible in his bottom gums.

Scarlett came to sit on my knee, clutching a tumbler of ribena.

"Do you want your nappy on?" said Tony with a nervous look at me.


"I think you should!" he crooned coaxingly.


"What about a swimming nappy?"

Scarlett looked thoughtful. "Yes."

I must admit, I felt much more secure with Nemo Nappy in place.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Glad to be home

"I'm afraid I've got some news to tell you." Our facilitator had the difficult task of telling us about yesterday morning's events while we were doing an exercise to draw where we saw our team fitting in with the wider environment. It rather changed the picture. Faces paled, eyes filled or darkened and people rushed outside with their mobile phones.

I think on the whole they managed to make contact with their friends and family - but not everyone. I still don't know for sure that everyone was OK.

Today I'm back home. Trying not to think about it. Trying not to give into my impulse to escape to the outer reaches of Scotland, or the depths of Northumberland. Over a cup of tea, I found myself suggesting that we open a farm shop. Hmmm. I don't think.

I've not done enough writing today. This is writing though, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Flowing today

My head is buzzing. I've just been freewriting a hero epic tale involving a pink moon and an octopus creature. I've had a thoroughly magical time. Its a bit - well, wierd.

And I've done my tax return. I've been putting it off for ages, as last time I did it I was in floods of tears. This time it was a doddle. Memo to self: don't put off something you are dreading; it might just turn out to be easier than you think.

And all my blood test results came back normal. I am a healthy person. I just get tired. Who wouldn't, if they got up every morning before 6 o'clock?

And finally - I went for a run this morning. Anyone who happened to be watching would probably describe it as more of a joggle - a mixture between jogging and ambling.

Time to pack my bag for work tomorrow - I've changed my days this week as we've got a team day on Thursday. Seems a long time since work last Tuesday, and I'm completely confused about what day it is. It is Sunday - isn't it?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Is that the time?

Eeek, it's 3.30 and all I've been doing all day is writing. My eyes are tired from looking at the screen, and my body is feeling irritable and slightly cramped. It wants a walk. Perhaps I should take it for one. I'm just in time to get caught up in the school run - blast!

I've also got a film to take in to be processed. We went to Renishaw Hall yesterday, and I got to play with my Canon SLR. Something I don't do much, as it's a bit bulky. But I love the depth of field that you get with it. And that nice clicky noise it makes.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Scarlett and Luke

Scarlett ran in with sticky fingers, cheeky chuckles and bright eyes.

“Is this the dining room?” “Is that a chair?” “Table?” “Stories?” she asked pointing to the wall of bookshelves filled with Rick’s precious books.

“Do you have a telly?” she handed me the remote control for the stereo. I gently took it from her and blew sugar-coated oats from between the tiny buttons.

“No,” I answered. “That’s a stereo. It plays music.”

Scarlett nodded wisely. “Yes,” she said. “Has that book got pictures?” A small sticky finger landed on the spine of Rick’s ‘History of Painting’. I removed it from the shelf, and turned the pages for her. “Don’t touch,” I said. “You’ll make the page sticky.”

Scarlett reached out and touched a corner of the page.

I persevered. She tried to turn the pages.

“Let’s put it away.” I gave up.


Luke, full of milk, grasped the sofa cushion and tried to pull himself up. The cushion had slid out from the sofa slightly, so that it overhung the edge. Luke wasn’t getting much leverage from it as it bent under his weight. Scarlett was not helping, edging closer and closer to him, sucking a bright pink lollipop.

Later, with Abi holding him, Luke reached out his arms towards me. I took both hands and he grasped them tightly and beamed at me. We had a little dance together, grinning broadly at each other as Abi jiggled him around. Spotting the wall, he let go of one of my hands to point at it – then realised he’d let go and hurriedly reached for my hand again.

He’s trying to talk already. “Mam mam mam mam mam,” he said, opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish.