Start of 2017 – what’s new?

The start of 2017 was not really very exciting and there  wasn’t much interesting to write about – hence the dearth of new posts.

There were the work tasks: I’m trying to cut my business costs this year and therefore replaced my IP database at the start of January (which included a couple of on-line training sessions in January/February), I met with an old colleague from my previous employer, ostensibly to talk about possible IP protection for some new ideas that he had been tinkering around with, but ended up having a general chat about how the atmosphere has changed as have many of the people. I also did quite a few professional webinars (always good for my CPD).

On the MS/medical front: There were all the usual things – open gym sessions (Monday & Friday), seated yoga (Wednesday), dentist etc., but there were 2 things that did stand out as not being the norm:

1.  On the afternoon of 04 January 2017 – we took delivery of my “super duper” assisted bike which Kevin had arranged as my Christmas treat. We are hiring it for 3 months on a trial basis and I’m trying to use it every day. At the end of the 3 months, we will purchase it and the 3 months hire cost will be deducted from the sale price. This just goes to show you how expensive it is!

2.  During the last weekend in January, I hosted the “Twitter takeover” on behalf of Shift MS. This might have been quite mundane, but of course in the US there was all the chatter about the election/inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the USA. Fortunately, most of the tweets during my “Twitter takeover” steered well clear of politics!

Unfortunately, this fairly lacklustre spell of progress or rather complete lack of it, gave me the urge to organise several things – another visit with my MP (much shorter and more friendly this time), organising a visit from a carpenter to quote for changes to our stairs and levelling our upper landing and also a visit from a blinds company to quote for installation of electrically controlled blinds in our bedroom. Kevin was NOT pleased, although I have to admit that this flurry of activity was taking place just before my parents were coming to stay with us for a couple of days prior to going on a bell-ringing trip to Devon with a view of their friends from Somerset.

Roll on March: As I’m in bad odour with Kevin anyway, and things still aren’t progressing with the new house, I also arrange for a visit from a landscape gardener to quote for cleaning our block paving area and replacing the paving slabs/edging along the path to our front door. A very nice, young chap (I’m getting to that age when lots of competent adults look ‘young’ to me now) came to visit us, see what was required and provide a quote for the work. My main aim was to get the path to the front door level (making it easier to manoeuvre my wheelchair) and to replace the edging along the path to restrain the gravel between the plants in the adjacent beds, which was spilling onto the path in several places due to accidental hits & bumps from me in the wheelchair. The Gardener said that he could, and would prefer, to do the work before the end of March. In fact, he could start the following week.”Ah, that’s difficult” I said, “because we are off to visit my patents in France next Tuesday and don’t return until 22nd March”. (Mmm, now I’m beginning to appreciate Kevin’s frustration – but I wasn’t going to admit it and he could jolly well sort out arrangements for feeding the cat while we’re away … SULK!) Anyway, the Gardener agreed to start on our return from France and right at the last moment, Kevin organised for a “professional cat sitter” to come in and feed the cat, while we were away.  …

AND SO, OFF WE GO TO FRANCE … (Garden photos courtesy of my Dad)

Now my Mum had warned me that on 17 March (St Patrick’s day) they were hosting a celebratory Irish meal and had invited a number of guests – both French and English. We had already seen the Irish flag and bunting as it was ordered on-line and had been delivered to our house a few weeks earlier, and we had been treated to a viewing of their cheap elf T-shirts (picked up in a supermarket during their quick bell-ringing trip to England). The authenticity of the “Irish food” was somewhat dubious, but they had made several attempts to try out the cocktail ‘Black Velvet’ (a mixture of Guinness & Champagne) – now that was sure to go down well in France (!?!) The verdict on the ‘Black Velvet’ was understandably somewhat confused, ranging from “a good way to ruin both Guinness & Champagne” (majority) to “it’s quite nice really” (minority).

I don’t drink much alcohol and definitely avoided the ‘Black Velvet’, but I think the next two photographs go to show what a terrible effect it can have on the photographer (my dad).

All set – before ‘Black Velvet’

I leave it to you to make up your own mind!

Party in full swing – after ‘Black Velvet’

My parents had set up an office for me in their spare, spare bedroom and I did spend a couple of hours each day at my computer doing some work! There was some socialising, relaxing, watching films and shopping too and it did provide a nice break for us humans. And now onto the cat: He seemed to have a pretty relaxed and fun holiday too, being well looked after by the “professional cat sitter” as can be seen from the pictures at the beginning of this post and the photographs to end. We shall definitely be using her again for our next holiday – Birthday celebrations!

Christmas Preparations – Part II (addendum)

Oops, I got so engrossed in posting pictures of our new house with Christmas decorations I completely forgot to say anything about all the people we had visiting this year. Most obviously, my parents arrived from France in the evening of 23 December and so they were here for Christmas eve and Christmas day. In fact, my dad helped Kevin with the final modification and decoration of the ‘real’ Christmas tree. The stars and artificial Christmas tree (pictured below) had already been assembled by Kevin – OK, only one of the stars was lit because Kevin had to rig up an extension lead for the 2nd star.

artificial-christmas-tree-2016

Then on Boxing Day, Kevin’s family came over to visit (his mum, dad and sister) and it was his sister who helpfully took the glamorous shot of Tramp sitting in the middle of our 3 seater sofa. He’s looking up to the heavens because my father was standing in front of him attracting his attention.

The next day (27 December) my cousin and his wife brought my 80 year old aunt over for afternoon tea and nibbles. It was lovely to see my cousin (much older than me) and his wife, who lives closest to me (between Swindon and Cirencester) and my aunt who was visiting from Greenwich.

Christmas Preparations – Part II

OK – As I said in my last post, on 12 – 13 December 2016 the central heating plumbers arrived and fitted 2 new radiators, new electronic radiator valves on (most) of the radiators and connected up our new super duper electronic control system. Because of the slight miscount of the number of radiators in the house, they could not completely fit a couple of the radiator valves immediately but returned the next day to complete that part of the job. Unfortunately, the radiator in our en-suite is still a mystery to everyone – both us and the plumbers – as no water appears to reach it! However, a new electronic radiator valve had still been fitted, although the temperature recorded refuses to budge from the default setting and no heat is forthcoming from this radiator.

Now Kevin had to do lots of tidying up and we had to start stocking up on Christmas provisions. To cut a long story short, we didn’t even start looking for a ‘real’ Christmas tree until the day before my parents arrival on 23 December. Needless to say, nearly everywhere had sold out of real Christmas trees long ago, but we were lucky enough to pick up a tree (much too tall for our new house). However, after cutting off the base of the trunk and removing some of the lower branches I think we ended up with quite a good looking tree and very cheaply! You will have to judge from the attached photograph.

Christmas tree & presents

Christmas tree & presents

Now I did promise a post with more pictures of the inside of our new house and our few Christmas photos of the ground floor rooms (with decorations) will have to do for now. So here are a couple of photos that were previously posted on Facebook.

front-window-stars-2016

Stars

view-from-the-back-of-lounge-with-a-christmas-tree-stars-bottles-of-drinks-2016

Stars, Christmas tree & drinks

This shows our “very large” living room/dining room. There are no pictures of the dining table from where the 2nd photograph was taken, but I assure you it is now VERY long i.e. our existing table with all extension leaves inserted.

I thought I would finish with a current picture of our lovely cat (Tramp), complete with his Christmas glamour collar. I still think he’s quite an elegant chap, even though he is over 19 years old (quite old for a cat). We don’t really know his age, because he was a stray but we know he’s getting on a bit and a vigorous scratch with his back leg occasionally causes him to topple over – I can understand/appreciate this difficulty being a bit ‘wobbly’ myself! Also, being rather old his neck is a little slimmer than the collar Manufacturers expect and therefore his collar often slips round his neck to form more of a choker/necklace (as shown in the photograph).

Tramp

Tramp

 

 

Christmas Preparations – Part I

 

OK, I agree that it’s quite an unorthodox Christmas tree. However, it is old and is the 1st Christmas tree we erected in our new house. It used to be erected every year in my office at work and for a cardboard tree it has lasted extremely well!

our-1st-christmas-decoration

Now I was going to post some more pictures of the inside of our new house, because there has been lots going on. However, this is likely to be the only Christmas decoration put up for the next couple of weeks – hence the title of this post: Part I. Next week we have major work happening to upgrade our central heating system, which includes new boiler, some new radiators, high-tech radiator valves and a super fancy electronic control unit to adjust the temperature in each room independently. Once this work is complete, our Christmas preparations will conclude and then I will be able to post lots of pretty pictures.

To keep myself in the regular–ish diary mode, instead this will be a post about my first Christmas meal out which took place on 1 December 2016. (I think this has been the most organised and early Christmas meal that I have ever had!) Myself and a group of friends that we call the Midweek Socialites had a great evening at ‘The Old Bank’ brasserie and cocktail bar just around the corner from our new house (see picture).

christmas-dinner-venue

As normal …/ traditional, being the people having the least far to travel, we were the last to arrive. We always seem to be late !!

midweek-socialites-christmas-dinner

Now as far as I am concerned, I would prefer to have been sat at the opposite end of the table, but when you’re late you have to take which ever space you are given – and anyway I got treated to a close-up (look away).

noo-photo

Noo … photo

 

MONTHS OF SILENCE – WE’RE FINALLY IN!

I know that I was meaning to right posts on my blog more regularly, but I’d forgotten just how much disruption is caused by moving house (we hadn’t moved for over 20 years!). Anyway, despite the months of silence our lift was finally installed in the new house on 1st/2nd of September and since then we have been staying in the new house. HOORAY !!

At first we were staying in our guest bedroom, because that is the one that Kevin had managed to paint and transfer all the furniture over in our car. It’s still the only room which is largely clear of “stuff”. Actually, that was true initially but as we have gradually moved things around to furnish all the rooms, the “stuff” has migrated to almost every room, despite getting rid of loads and loads to charity shops, the tip and in Recycling. Looking back at my calendar, we really have done quite a lot in the intervening months, although there always seems to be more stuff to do! Please excuse the list, but it’s just too much to go into in detail.

  • 08 September – Paul from Johnson Gardening Services spent a very productive day pruning all the bushes in our garden and trimming back the ivy growing up the front of the house
  • 09  September – Swintech (man with a van) helped move the final items including the fridge freezer out of our old house – GREAT !
  • 12 September – Completed on the sale of our old house

Just to prove that I was doing something – throughout this period I was sending out ‘change of address’ emails to friends, family, Council & utility providers and also to the various organisations with whom I work on business matters.

  •  30 September – G2S fitted the new UPVC door with cat flap. Cat happy-ish (once strong solvent smell had dissipated) and both cat and owners very pleased that the litter tray is no longer required.
debra-cat-sofa

Cat & Debra chillin’ on sofa

  • 10 to the 15 October – mum and dad visited our new house, dad proudly bearing the outdoor box he has made to receive items which don’t fit through the letter box and would normally be left in our now non-existing porch. This was the cue for Kevin to order and fit the wooden flooring in our bedroom, ready to receive our bed (so that we could vacate the guest bedroom). A couple of extra mobile hands really made the difference and lots of jobs got completed in short time – ending with a trip to IKEA to buy wardrobe units for our bedroom, which my dad helped Kevin to erect. Unfortunately, the only items left in boxes were the sliding doors, which Kevin put together after my mum and dad had left and apparently were very complex to construct – comprising 28 separate pieces!
  • 25 October – was a really good day, because we had the central heating surveyed and because we received the cheque from HMRC returning the excess stamp duty (SDLT) that we had had to pay for owning 2 houses whilst we waited for the lift to be installed.

Now I like everyone else seem to have been sick with a cold just before the weekend and thus spent a few days completely off-kilter and out of time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday with most of my time spent asleep in bed until late in the evening. However, come Sunday I was feeling much better (although still a little sniffily) and …

  • 30 October (today) – Kevin and I have had great fun looking through the myriads of clothes we had stored in cardboard wardrobes. I just can’t believe how many suits etc. that I own, some of which still are perfectly new with the labels, which we will probably sell on eBay and some of which I had completely forgotten I ever owned!

Sorry there are very few (i.e. only one) photos in this post, but as I said at the beginning everything still is in disarray and it seems unfair to post lots of random photos of the mess right now. My post next month should contain photos of a neat, tidy and uncluttered house (one can but dream) and I’ll even include some pictures of the lift which is great!

Now off to eat some Sunday dinner and then watch the video of the latest Star Wars film, which I received as part of my birthday present at the end of May.

WE’RE MOVING ! (Hopefully ?!?)

OK, I can wait no longer – think back to 1st March 2016 and my comment at the end of my February 2016 post … to be continued … Well we can do no more, so here’s the update and it’s now “fingers crossed”.

On Tuesday, 1st March 2016 we went to view the pictured house and before  the end of the week we’d put in an ‘offer’, which was accepted the following week. And now the fun really starts (after 5+ years of house hunting)!

  1. Find a solicitor to carry out the conveyancing (mid-March) only to be asked if we were selling a house at the same time to which I replied: “No, because I use a wheelchair and we have to live in our existing house until a wheelchair lift is installed in the new house”. BOMBSHELL WARNING from conveyancer that in the forthcoming 2016 budget, we did realise that if we owned 2 houses after 1st April 2016, we’d have to pay SDLT (enhanced – double – the stamp duty) on our forthcoming purchase! Thank you Mr. Osborne, even after over 5 years of saving, we don’t have enough money to cover that too. ARRGH!
  2. Cue mad search for more money – Wealthy as yet unknown relative? No. Lottery? No. Premium Bonds? You must be kidding! Loan of some sort? OK, short-term bridging loan then.
  3. Find a surveyor to do a complete survey. Tick.
  4. Lots of signing of paperwork for loan, conveyancer etc. Tick.
  5. Finally, at the end of May we signed the sales contract for the conveyancer and transferred over the required money for the deposit.Now the wait for the “Exchange of Contract” & “Completion” dates to be worked out by the conveyancers.

The vendor’s had already told us that “Completion” couldn’t take place until towards the end of June because they have a daughter sitting her A levels. We didn’t see this as a disadvantage, because we had to have a wheelchair lift installed (6-8 weeks lead time) before we could move in anyway. The vendor’s agreed that we could visit the house on 2nd June  with someone from our chosen lift installation company to survey, measure up and discuss recommendations before supplying a quote. Still no “Exchange of Contract” & “Completion” dates agreed yet, because vendor just has a couple of issues to sort out before “Exchange of Contracts” can take place. I hope the name of the new house is a good omen! – Providence House.

Now, we had to put selling our house in motion. The estate agent came round on 26 May to do the valuation and measure up for the house details and we agreed that it was best to wait until after end of May Bank Holiday before the house details went ‘live’ on-line etc. and this allowed us (Kevin mainly) some time to do major clear-out – charity shop visit, recycling and general tidying round. We woke on Thursday (2nd June) to the sound of a ‘For Sale’ board being erected.

 

We also agreed that it would be better if we were ‘out of the house’ whilst viewings were taking place and this was good timing as we’d be in Cheltenham every day for the Science Festival week commencing 6 June. GREAT PLAN (or so we thought), but then the estate agent rang on 2 different occasions to ask if we could accommodate 2 viewings on Friday afternoon! We got out of the house by 3pm (car packed with yet more recycling), went to Waitrose for drinks/snacks/shopping and didn’t return home until after 5pm. PHEW!!

Tagged

HOUSE MOVE ON GO SLOW – SO A POST ABOUT MY CAT, “TRAMP”

I know I was going to do a post about our potential house move (… to be continued) – that’s right, the house we viewed on 1st March 2016. We made an offer the same week, had it accepted the next week and started looking at conveyancers. At this point, we were informed about the detrimental aspects of the SDLT proposal due in the forthcoming budget and so we had to make some quick adjustments to our thinking/funding position. Come April, we’d appointed a solicitor for the conveyancing, a surveyor to carry out a full structural survey and spoken to a financial specialist about the best way to raise a short-term loan to fund the Chancellor’s SDLT ‘hit’ announced in the 2016 budget. Everything seemed to be moving very fast and at one point I was even hoping that we may manage to have our birthday meal at the end of May in said new property. Needless to say, towards the end of April it became clear that things were becoming ‘bogged down’ and now it seems that I will have to wait a little longer for the promised ‘… to be continued’ post. As you can imagine, we are now halfway through May, my birthday aspirations are out of the window and I’ve been feeling a little bit low.

However, in a feeble attempt to keep my blogging more regular, I’ve decided to treat you to a post about my cat – “Tramp”. He’s a lovely cat really and the name no longer suits him, so as he’s got older (and now he’s an old boy – 19?) we’ve tried to make his name a little posher by occasionally referring to him as “Trampus”, but the fact remains that even though he is now a smart (if a little grizzled) cat – when we first adopted him as a stray he had no fur on his tummy, smelt a little bit and was very timid. At that time, “Tramp” seemed an eminently suitable name, but now he has survived this long and cleaned himself up a lot maybe the name is a little cruel. Our neighbours have always called him “Blackie the cat”, which now seems fairer and alludes to the fact that he is a black cat. Unexpectedly, as he has got older a few grey/white hairs have randomly appeared throughout his coat and he is a little less black than he appears in the accompanying photo – However, I thought it best to show him ‘in his prime’. Also, he hasn’t worn a collar for many years now, as it seemed to irritate his skin.

TRAMP or TRAMPUS

TRAMP or TRAMPUS