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.
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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.

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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!!

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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

 

2 WEEKENDS OF ACTIVITIES & NO POSTS (AGAIN !!)

Sorry for the dearth of posts once again, but I have been doing lots – really!! So now I’m afraid that this will have to be a consolidated post again and also you will have to excuse my definition of a weekend, which includes the preceding Friday too (on both weekends).

Friday, 22 April 2016 we had booked an ‘advice surgery’ appointment with our local MP to discuss our issues with moving house and the implications caused by SDLT announced in the recent 2016 budget. Hardly something to look forward to, but I have to admit that I did look forward to it and it was ‘FUN’ in a rather perverse way. It was raining at the time of our appointment and the MP was running a little late, so we had to wait under the overhanging ‘shop front’, which was fortunately just wide enough to accommodate my wheelchair if I sat parallel to the window. While we were waiting, we noticed several parking spaces being vacated opposite the MP’s office and so Kevin went off to collect the car to be closer in case it started raining even harder at the end of our meeting. Eventually the previous meeting ended and the MP himself came out to greet me, apologising profusely that our appointment was late. He wheeled me into the office preceding all the while to refer to me as ‘sir’ – not a good start for him and in accordance with my ‘evil streak’, of course I didn’t make any admission of the fact that I was actually the ‘Debra Smith’, who had booked the appointment and therefore was not a ‘sir’. Once inside the warmth of the office and upon his observation to his assistant that we were “just waiting for Debra Smith, who was currently moving the car”, I felt it only fair to say that in fact I was Debra Smith and it was my partner who was moving the car. (Not the ideal way to start a meeting in my book, but that’s the reason that I found it ‘fun’ and quite liberating really!) So, we had the meeting, said our piece including pointing out how simply the draft bill could have been written to exclude those people unintentionally (?) hit by SDLT despite having no desire to own a second home or buy to let property, but requiring modifications to their new property before they could move in. For us, we need a lift installed, which has a 6 to 8 week lead time and we did point out that SDLT meant that we were having to take out a loan (for which we pay interest + set-up fees) just to provide HMRC with an interest-free loan which we knew they were required to repay, supposedly within 14 days. We’ll see! Having worked for the MOD (civil service) in the past, I commented that unless HMRC were planning a major recruitment drive, I thought this was highly unlikely! The MP tended to agree.

Meal with Kevin's family

Meal with Kevin’s family

 

Valerie & Maria

Valerie & Maria

Saturday, 23 April 2016: Unusually, we drove into West London (Cheam to be exact) to meet up for dinner with Kevin’s parents, his sister, aunt and eldest cousin. This was a special opportunity because neither Kevin nor I had seen his aunt since she visited us at our basement flat in Chelsea (and that was years ago!). This is because both his aunt Valerie and cousin Maria live in Majorca, Spain and were over for a couple of days because his cousin had meetings in London. I have never met his cousin Maria before, but she is almost the same age as me (she was born in January and I in May of the same year). I thoroughly enjoyed myself, which undoubtedly meant that I was being my usual, extrovert and ‘naughty’ self. (Maria is the one who described to me as ‘naughty’ and she also said something in Spanish which neither she nor her mother were able to translate and I speak no Spanish – however, they assured me that it was complimentary! Mmm.)

 

Now spin forward to the following weekend – Friday, 29 April 2016. The Friday started fairly inauspiciously with me having to go to the hospital for two eye appointments, the first a visual field test (awful – me having to transfer from my stable wheelchair to a very unstable/freely rotating ordinarily chair with no arms – it was terrifying!). This was followed up by the usual orthoptic appointment where the findings were much the same as before, but this time were repeated with my new distance and reading glasses. Conclusion: Do nothing, but repeat appointment in 3 months time. I’m really beginning to wonder if there is any point in these regular appointments as nothing seems to result and I really find them quite stressful. Fortunately, on this occasion after an awful start of the day I knew we were going to see our first jazz concert at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival that evening. We saw Penguin Cafe (lead = son of the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra), which everyone had told me was great, including my father and they were quite right!

Penguin Cafe

Penguin Cafe

Saturday, 30 April 2016 we knew was going to be tough as we had booked to see five concerts starting at 12.00 hrs with the Trondheim Jazz exchange (group 2 were excellent and really different – it made you feel a bit sorry for groups 1 and 3) and ending with ‘the Printmakers’ at the Parabola Arts Centre (Cheltenham Ladies College), my favourite venue, at 9.00 p.m. It was a really enjoyable, but very tiring day, not helped by a mix-up in booking to eat at Pizza Express, which left us very little time to change venues and eat at Ask Italian. In fact, we had to slip out early from every one of the last 3 concerts, just to give us time to scurry between venues.

Zoe Rahmen Courtney Pine

Zoe Rahmen & Courtney Pine

Courtney Pine

Courtney Pine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately, Sunday, 01 May 2016 was a much more relaxed affair, with us managing to have a lie in as our concerts (only 2 of them this time) didn’t start until the afternoon / early evening. As the weather wasn’t too good and I didn’t really want to eat outside as I was cold, we went to Ask Italian again for an evening meal which was much lighter, more relaxed and altogether more enjoyable than the previous evening. And that’s where it ends … Our Cheltenham Jazz Festival was over for 2016 and now we just had to wait until early June, when we had lots and lots of tickets for the Cheltenham Science Festival. Hopefully, our rather over heavy schedule on the Saturday will allow us to plan things a little more successfully – although looking at the calendar, every day seems to be a ‘heavy schedule’ at the Science Festival, so much so that on occasion I have no idea when we are going to make time to eat!

Tim Berne

Tim Berne

“Nimble Kickstarter Competition” – Combined personal, technical & professional interest

Now, there’s a first – I never thought I’d compose a blog post which combined both my personal and professional interests in one!

I have to introduce you to a neat concept called a “Nimble”, which was first introduced to me via another blog written by stumbling in flats. I was interested enough follow the link included in that post and I’m really glad I did – see https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/version22design/nimble-the-1-finger-wonder-tool. The design looked interesting and particularly useful for me, because of my inability to consistently manage to open almost any package including presents and letters etc. due to occasional tremor in my hands, which can be most frustrating! Furthermore, the site piqued my professional interest in new designs/gadgets etc. and the potential benefits of Intellectual Property protection. So there you have it, the relevance of the title to this post. Look at the website, it’s fascinating!

To anyone that has seen my recent posts, this has also given me the ideal opportunity to demonstrate my innate desire to procrastinate and not write the “to be continued” element of our recent house hunting escapades. There is also another reason for this, because it’s looking very likely that we will soon be able to move house and we have been very busy organising lots of things, but I don’t want to ‘jump the gun’ and write said post until things are a little more sorted/finalised.

12 March 2016 – Disabled Access Day

OK, so despite my last post you are still going to have to wait for the ‘continued’ saga of our house hunting – there’s lots going on regarding the house move at the moment, but nothing conclusive to report as yet.

I have something much more interesting/fun to write a post about tho’ and this one will have photos attached – so something colourful to break up all the text.

We took part in the ‘Disabled Access Day’ (again) just over a month ago and believe me going out and about in March is vastly superior to a freezing cold day in February (see my post for the same event last year, which also includes photos but in them I look absolutely frozen – I was!) … Whoops, just looked back through my earlier posts and realised that I hadn’t started this blog in February last year. So, just for comparison, here are a couple of photos from ‘Disabled Access Day’ in February 2015 – me ‘freezing’ and needed coffee & cake in the warm & dry.

This year, I managed to obtain special, pre-opening tickets for ‘the Magic Garden’ at Hampton Court Palace in London. I was so pleased because I really had no ideas or inspiration for somewhere different to visit. True, we were visiting West London (which I have avoided like the plague for many years now – after working & living there when I was in my 20’s), but the weather was sunny and warm, we managed to leave the house about 10-10.30 a.m. and the traffic on the M4 was surprisingly good. What I had failed to take into account was that this was also the day that England were playing Wales in the rugby six Nations cup at Twickenham. Now this shouldn’t have been a problem except that we were travelling from Swindon to Hampton Court Palace (not too far from Twickenham) along the M4, which is the route that most Welsh supporters would also be following!

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‘The Magic Garden’

Anyway, as luck would have it we didn’t meet too much traffic on the M4 and the weather was lovely. We had a great day out in the sunshine watching all the children playing in ‘the Magic Garden’, including some impressive tumbling routines from a couple of girls in the Astroturf bowl at the centre of the gardens. I had to admit that I was slightly disappointed by the ‘fire-breathing dragon’, who didn’t really breath any fire at all and just puffed out the occasional whiff of water vapour – still, as Kevin pointed out with all the children climbing on the Dragon they could hardly have it breathing real fire!

To conclude, here are some colourful photos!

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On top of the world?

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No, I won’t fit down the tube, with or without wheelchair!

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A ‘dead’ (no fire!) dragon in the distance

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The wobbly bridge + dragon (background)

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Pensive – watching ‘tumbling’ preparation

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Resigned  – could never do gymnastics anyway

FEBRUARY 2016 – 29 DAYS OF NOTHING SPECIAL?

… or so my recollection went. (Unless you’re a leap year baby I suppose, when it probably is – quite rightly – quite a momentous occasion.)

However, apart from the on-line tutorials (me) and dentist (Kevin) already mentioned previously, upon reviewing my calendar for this period I realised that this month also represented the start of our really determined search for a new house, partly driven by the fact that there seemed to be a sudden surge of new properties coming onto the market. So I guess my summation of February as when “nothing special” happened is probably a little unfair. In fact, it marked the start of a flurry of activity on the house front and it really seemed as if we might manage to move well before Christmas 2016 and hence could resume our alternate location (France / England) for Christmas each year. On a positive note: we might even be able to have bought a new house in time for our birthday at the end of May!

Our first viewing was a Victorian house just around the corner from us, which was at the top of our price bracket, was not perfect (yet), but had planning permission for a basement extension which meant that it could have worked for us in the long term – as long as we could find the money from somewhere (difficult, as we neither do the lottery, other gambling or have a distant relative with lots of money stashed away somewhere).

Our second viewing (29 February) was another house just around the corner, which lay well within our price bracket, but again would require substantial work. It was a more modern house than I would usually consider, but did have the potential for some interesting modifications. Note: after 5+ years of looking I am at least starting to try and have a broader outlook of the various possibilities! We are getting a bit desperate now.

Our third viewing had real potential and took us back to the area in Old Town, Swindon where we had looked at houses when we first came to Swindon some 20+ years ago. However the more observant probably have guessed that this third viewing could not have taken place in February and you’re right – it took place on 01 March and on that note I will leave the details until my next post.

As they say on the TV, … to be continued.