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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Tales of a van

My apologies for the delay in updating this.  We have no broadband, and at least 1,000,000 things to do, so I've decided to have a cup of coffee and do this!  I was trying to check the details with Kenny, but we've both had bigger fish to fry, so this is just pieced together from what I've heard.  Not sure it's fair to ask him to go over it again :-/

...When we left you last time Kenny, his Dad, and his mate, Iain (Kenny and co), were heading off down the road to rainy town to get the second load of stuff from the house.

I neglected to tell you about the dodgy rental van.  Other than that it was dodgy.  When they went to pick it up it was a mess, and looked to be in poor condition, but they were told the other ones were worse than that, so they took it anyway.  They needed help to get into it, because the door was bent and needed a good kick to get in...  They went to fill it up with diesel, and after that it juddered along very poorly.  They stopped to see what the problem was and at that point the registration plate fell off.  Slightly daunted, but carrying on anyway, they fixed it on with tape.

It took them ages to get to rainy town, and when they got there it was very snowy.  The neighbours conservatory had collapsed, and she had broken glass everywhere, and water running over electric lights, so they took some time sorting all that out, before they got a chance to get the house sorted out!

When they got to the house, they got everything loaded up in good time, and drove back up, with the van finally going fine.  We unloaded it up here in seaside town, and, with the van in fine fettle, Kenny and co decided to head back down to rainy town for a second load.  They refuelled the van, and once again it started juddering along slowly.  But they figured that it had got better before, and it would get better again, so they struggled on.  Filled it up with stuff a second time, and brought it back up the motorway.  This time, it didn't perk up.  They had trouble getting it to go above 20mph!  By the time they got to seaside town it was midnight, and all of team seaside were in their beds.  Still, they emptied the van, and then decided to take it back to Kenny's parent's house, where we were staying the night, intending on returning it, with a few choice words in the morning.  The van limped along the road, but conked out when they were nearly there.  It had to be towed along.

The next morning, Kenny's Dad, the master of complaints, called to say the van would need collecting, and they weren't going to be paying for it...

There's still at least one more load of stuff in rainy town, but we'll just have to get it next week.  This week we've had enough trauma!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Hello seaside town

Having survived our arctic trek across Glasgow on Friday, we arrived at seaside town and went to see the new house.  It was empty, but the kids played hide and seek anyway, rampaging around the place while Kenny and his Dad did important DIY.  Right then, there wasn't much else we could do, so we went to get a good night's sleep, or at least attempt it, at Kenny's parents house (thank goodness for them).

Kenny got up bright and early on Saturday, and headed down to rainy town with his Dad and a mate (let's call this team Kenny & co) to empty out the house into a big van. Meanwhile me and the kids hung out, waiting for Kenny's Mum to get home (from babysitting her other grandchildren, poor woman!), and for Ken's brother and more friends (team seaside) to turn up to move more stuff. It was quite a chilled morning for us. Not so for Kenny and co who had nightmares with the incredibly dodgy rental van, and then arrived in rainy town to discover our neighbour's conservatory had collapsed! Poor love, she was really shaken up, so Kenny and co helped her make things safe, which took ages. Then they set to work on our house.

The way they packed that van was a wonder of modern engineering.

They brought the first load of stuff up to seaside town – well behind schedule and rather stressed, and arrived just as I was boiling a kettle and opening a packet of onion bhajis (who says sympathetic magic doesn't work?). Team seaside had been moving stuff over that was already up at Kenny's parent's house, and now they all joined forces, unloading the van, stacking things, and drinking tea. Kenny and co headed back down the road for another load, and team seaside put together all our furniture which had had to go into bits. We have the best friends and family people could wish for, and we're really grateful.

Next time, I'll tell you about the fun Kenny and co had with the dodgy rented van!

Driving in the snow

Reader, when I left you last time I was about to set off on an intrepid adventure through the snow... I'd fed the tired and grouchy children and was hoping they would all go to sleep...

One out of three wasn't bad.  The other two bickered happily as I set off up the motorway toward Glasgow.  It was really very snowy, and the motorway was down to two lanes, but I found a speed I found safe at, which seemed popular with other sane people too, and all was well.

Kenny had advised me to go a different way to normal, and I had set up the satnav on my 'phone accordingly, but then, in Glasgow, my phone happily chirped 'GPS lost', and started drawing circles on grids. The traffic was awful, and the children were properly fighting, and the littlest one had woken up to tell them to shut up, and I was joining in too, and we still had the Tall Ships CD on track 1 because the little one likes it, and then, I saw a familiar sign, and I followed it.  Oops.

The trees looked like this!  Although the sky didn't.  This pic is from here

It wasn't too bad.  It was incredibly beautiful.  I could just about see where I was going. The trees weren't like Christmas card snowy trees; they looked to have been blanketed in cotton wool.  Some numpty overtook me, and then was stuck in front of me for a long time, probably unaware that the children were hurling abuse at him (which seemed fair).  We briefly got up to 15 miles per hour.  The numpty turned off to go to a golf course (can you even play golf in the snow?), and the children started hurling abuse at each other instead, so I threw chocolate at them, and got a bit shouty.  Anyway, the road got better and we got up to 30, and the children were very fed up that it was taking so long to get anywhere. And then, down we came, closer to the sea, and we drove out of the snow, and into the green.  It was like walking through a door.

Next time I'll tell you about getting into the new house... Promise.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Leaving rainy town

Just a partial update I'm afraid - more will follow.

The children and I spent Friday morning finishing off packing up the house (me), cleaning (me), and watching inordinate amounts of TV (the children).  We were all tired, emotionally wrung out, and wishing that the whole thing was just done and dusted... which may have made for a little more ahem, grumpiness than usual in our household... but packing is very very boring, and saying goodbye to friends does totally suck, and I completely agree with the children on that.  

One little problem.  Snow has come to rainy town!  I mean, obviously we have had snow before, in fact, there was snow on the ground the day before, and to  give it its due I have never known snow to hold rainy town back.  They know the value of grit (as do its residents, which is why it's always running out), so I wasn't particularly worried about getting out of rainy town.  I was worried about getting past Glasgow!  Kenny had called to say I shouldn't bother coming over because it was snowing too hard, and I could come the next day, but at that point I'd virtually finished packing all their belongings, so they had nothing to do but stare at the television (even their sledges were packed).  I'd also cleaned everything so they were getting their heads bitten off if they so much as looked at something with sticky fingers.  We had to get out.  

Goodbye no1, we'll miss you
I checked the roads.  It looked bad, but not too bad.  Was my journey strictly necessary?  Yes.  Yes it was.  But first we went out for farewell lunch at Arietes, where we saw some friends, unexpectedly, and shared brown sauce satchets.  It was gorgeous.  I hoped that food in their tummies, and a poor night's sleep would send my little darlings straight off to the land of nod.  I'll tell you all about the journey next time.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

We gone got a house!

Just a quick update to let you know that while I have spent the entire day (apart from a delicious tea and chat at a friends house - thank you Lisa and David) hobbling about, packing, and cleaning, in a desperate rush to get all this done so we can get out of here tomorrow (that's just me and the weans, so the men can get on with the fetching and carrying)... The very lovely Kenny McKee has been in seaside town buying school uniform (I hate school uniform, don't you?), and picking up this little beauty!

He's also been for a look around the house, before our stuff arrives to mess it up.

Here's the kitchen... you'll have to wait for other rooms!

Meanwhile, to give you an update on my ankle.  It's still sore, but a lot better than yesterday and I finally have some bruising (in lots of wierd places).  It's still swollen too, but I can move all my toes now.  Thanks everyone for your concern and your help.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Down to earth with an ouch!

I have been packing like a packing demon, and we are all incredibly excited about the impending move.  Today our money left our bank and went to our solicitor (who wanted more, naturally, so we gave her more).  I have more empty cupboards, I've had a lovely goodbye coffee with lots of friends, and even got hugs off the owner of the cafe (the little girl is REALLY going to miss going there to see all the animals), I've taken down the curtains and lampshades, rolled up (some) rugs, and it is all coming together.  Feeling good about things, and then this little chap popped by to join us for lunch.

We often see him (I'm guessing it's a him, I might be wrong) at lunchtime, and the little girl loves to watch the bird while she's avoiding eating any vegetables.  I have been trying to get a photo of him for AGES, so was very pleased he consented today!  

After lunch we went to the tip where the nice man (such a nice man, with an awesome amount of statistical data about the sheer quantities of rain in rainy town) helped me put stuff we're not taking with us, that's of no use to anyone else, into skips, and then the little girl had her nap, and I got lots of admin and packing done, and was all in a rush to go get the big kids from school, carrying a waking little girl to the car, when she arched backwards, which she does often when she's waking up, but this time, I lost my footing on the steps in front of the house and I fell.  

I don't know what happened in the intervening period but I did ensure I put her down as slowly as possible, but face first, on the snow, and I ended up lying on my back on the snow.  I couldn't quite reach her, but she was lying on the snow, which, as I was doing it too, seemed a bad plan.  It was cold, and it was melting.  So I barked at her to sit up, which she did.  I don't know what I did to my ankle, but it was hurting A LOT, so I was trying to figure out how best to move, and how to help the little girl, and if I was going to be able to drive, and what would happen about all the rest of the packing, so it seemed the best idea to continue lying in the snow, and get the little girl over for a cuddle.  She came.  She was worried about me.  She tried to hoik me up.  I sat up.  It hurt my ankle.  I had to stand up, and there was going to be nothing dignified about it.  She wanted to help me, but I was in too much pain to do that.  So I stood up.  It hurt a lot.  I hobbled over and locked up, and then got the little girl in the car.  I didn't seem to be able to move my toes properly, but the best thing to do was go to school.  A friend went by in her car and gave a cheery wave.  I waved back.  So I went to school.  It hurt.  A lot.

At school the little girl was worried about me, so she wanted to get carried.  I carried her and went to wait for the other kids.  I was in lots of pain, and I was so worried about how I was going to get everything done.  I cried outside of school.  That's not the worst bit, though (although that was excrutiating).  People saw, and people were nice to me.  So I cried more.  I didn't want to.  Urgh.  

Anyway, one of the other Mums, who is a nurse in A&E, was called over to inspect me.  She had to help me get my sock on and off, which was embarrasing, and painful (although not as painful as it was when I was trying to do it).  She prescribed frozen peas and sofa time and regular standing up.  Thank goodness.  So, I sat on a sofa, while my kids sat on a different one (to make sure they DON'T TOUCH THE FOOT), and we watched a terrible film, while they ate biscuits (easier to reach than the fruit below apparently).  I did make them a proper tea as well, but they were all magnificent.  The boy changed rubbish bags, and did lots of carrying, the big girl got everything organised so everyone had their own space and all homework would be dealt with (mainly by me 'saying, no, we won't bother doing that, we'll be gone before its due'), and the little girl drove everyone potty.

I'm hoping that taking to my bed will give me a near-full recovery come morning, and I can finish getting everything packed tomorrow.  Anticipate radio silence.

Thank you to all my friends for coming out this morning, and looking after me this afternoon.  I'm really going to miss you.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

I think we're making progress!

Hello all, apologies for sporadic postings but I'm sure you understand how busy I am, what with packing, and lots of annoying admin!  Yesterday I had to drive into our local big town to sort out lots of bits and bobs, and didn't have much time for massive quantities of laundry (washing machine is now unplugged), packing, and generally stressing.  I was very lucky to have a friend who offered to feed the children (and me - delicious cauliflower cheese soup), which gave us all a much needed break, and one less job to do.  Thanks Gillian!  Hopefully we can return the favour when she and her son come and visit us in seaside town.  I know my boy will miss hers horribly, they are both funny, bouncy, smart, gaming, longish haired little stars.

The great news is, it feels like all this work is finally paying off.  We have lots of cupboards that are mostly empty, but as of yesterday we have our first emptied cupboard!  And we have a lot of packed boxes!

Today I'm starting off with a load of change of address letters, while watching Julia Donaldson cartoons with the little girl, and then we're going to pack up the kids rooms.  Bring it on!

I'm also putting together a cleaning kit which will be the last thing to leave the old house, and an essentials kit which will be the first thing into the new house.  So far, in the essentials kit I've got: 

        • Toilet roll
        • Towels
        • Soap
        • Washing up liquid, and 
        • Coffee
What else should I put in there?  Any handy hints?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Yet more admin

Yesterday was spent in a hungover blur of packing, and today I have been busy on the computer, trying to change address, redirect mail, and generally have a technological nightmare.

This is my world at the moment, and I'm not over keen, although I must focus on the good stuff that's around the corner.

I've discovered that one of the reasons I'm having trouble is that my new address is not on the Royal Mail's PAF (the who's who of addresses) as yet.  This means I can't set up a redirect, or get lots of companies to believe that the house exists.  Sigh.

So I have taken up the baton and emailed Royal Mail to let them know the address needs adding.  They wanted to know which houses it was next to, and I haven't a clue if it's sequential or evens/odds, and which way it goes anyway.  Normally I'd try to work it out from Google Street View (another one of my favourite things on t'internet), but we're not on it yet (I've told them we're there too).  Our street isn't even on Google Maps yet.  This is an incredibly new house!  I'm feeling a bit nervous about it.

Apart from the house I'm in (which is about five years old, and is what converted us to modern houses) I've only ever lived in older houses, so I've never had all that 'settling' and whatever else goes on in brand new houses. I'm more used to old house problems, like terrible insulation, crumbling plaster, and holes in the roof!  So, what have I got to look forward to?  What should I look out for?  Is the NHBC 10 year thing a bit like a warranty on a washing machine - i.e. you can expect the thing to break the day after it runs out?  Tell me your tales of new houses... and I'll get some packing done.

Friday, 18 January 2013


Kenny got a call this morning and we will be moving next Friday!  So we've been going mad, packing stuff, arranging things, and being VERY EXCITED!  I can't believe we've only got a week left with our friends in rainy town (which isn't rainy at all at the moment, but has been sunny since lots of snow settled on Saturday, more snow forecast tonight!).  I wish we could take them with us.

I also can't believe it's only going to be a week until we live in seaside town!  It looks rather small in the picture above, which I've taken from Ayrshire Bed and Breakfast Association's website, but it's the biggest town I will have lived in for a long long time!  It's got a train station!  And a swimming pool!  And shops!  And ice cream!

I've run out of parcel tape, and while Kenny's out getting more (and getting the children) I thought I'd give you a quick update.  A week is a bit mad, but I'm sure we'll do fine!  EXCITED!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

thinking about the boy's room

The boy got the short straw when it came to bedroom selection, and is going to be moving from his big room here, to a smaller room in the new house.  He is a very style-oriented boy, and I want to ensure his room is a safe space for him, which feels like his.  These are his colour selections for his room (blue carpet and zigzag curtains).  The walls will be white, at least, to start off with, and I've got him some colourful spots to decorate his room (pictured).

The problem is that the boy's got a bed, which he loves, and he's not willing to swap, but I'm not sure how it's going to work in the bedroom.  The only place I can see it fitting is against the wall that the radiator's on, and it's going to block the radiator.  Here's the room (below).  To the right of the door are built in wardrobes.  The room is 9'11" by 8'8", so the bed could fit in along the shorter wall, but it would be blocking half of the wardrobe...

Part of me is thinking, he's a boy, he likes scruffy clothes, is wardrobe access really necessary?  But, maybe it'll look rubbish.  Hmmm

Here's the bed, below (replete with boys - mine and some of his best mates).  It's got high walls around one side and the foot, and a shelf unit on the head.  What do you think we should use it to block?  The radiator?  The wardrobe?  I guess we'll have a better idea when we're actually in there, but it's nice to have a plan... I think.  What about you?  Do you like to work things out before you go, or wait until you're in the house?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Ready... steady...

The boy running in the park beside the house -
we're all going to need to start running!

Sorry for radio silence yesterday – nothing was happening, and I couldn't bring myself to say anything about it. However, *whisper it* there's a rumour that we've got an entry date. It's not been officially agreed yet, but the solicitor has been talking to the mortgage company, and they've talked to us! I guess, seeing as it hasn't been agreed yet, formally, it can change. The solicitor can re-arrange things, and we should probably not book removals vans yet, but, it's still exciting!

The thing is, and I haven't worked out if this is good or bad yet, the entry date they're talking about is next week. NEXT WEEK! This would indicate that I should get off the computer and do more packing! This is good, because we don't have much time to procrastinate, and faff about, we can get packed up and go, and get busy settling in. This is bad, because we haven't got time to faff about and procrastinate, and because I haven't organised a leaving night out yet!

My two little witches eating their booty
after going out 'guising.
Tomorrow the builders are doing an important check which has an important incomprehensible name, and I guess, after they've done that, they might let us know an official moving date. Fingers crossed.

Today I have packed up a load of stuff in the study and am about to move on to the lounge. I'm kind of hoping it will be next week. What do you think? Do you like time to work out what you're doing, or just to get right on with it?

I'm trying to do what I can to get a confirmed date of entry, although to be honest, I think my best bet would be to do a magic spell and sing an incantation – it might not work, but it would give me something to think about (and if it involved eating chocolate I'd have plenty of helpers)!

Monday, 14 January 2013

we are on hold...

You know that feeling when you hear on the 'phone that 'your call is important to us, we are experiencing a higher than usual call volume, you are held in a queue, and your call will be answered shortly'.  What's better?  Adverts?  Musak? Some sort of beeping sound to let you know you can still hear?  Being on hold is never pleasant.  They say we Brits are famous for queuing, and I guess being on hold is like a 'phone version of a queue.  Maybe they should let us talk to each other to relieve the monotony?

Well, the missives are concluded, and we will be buying the house in seaside town, but we don't yet have a date of entry.  We can't arrange removals, change of address, insurance, or, it seems, anything else, until we have a date of entry.  When will we have a date of entry?  When the sellers give us one... Meanwhile here's a nice picture.

It's not unrelated (the picture), it's a view from Kenny's parents' garden, which is just down the road from seaside town.  I can't wait to have seaside views like this.  I can't wait to get the move done and dusted, and start getting to know the area...

Still, wait I must, so, while I've been waiting I've been continuing to pack (it's a slow process), and trying to work out where to put things in the new house. And I'm stuck. I have two cupboards that I love, which are currently in my bathroom. We won't have enough room for them in the bathroom in the new house, so where do we put them? They might fit in the utility room/toilet, but should they go there? Or maybe the dining area? What do you think?  Are they definitely bathroom cabinets or could I get away with them elsewhere?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Hoping we'll still see old friends

Today my best childhood friend was supposed to be coming to visit for the afternoon with her family. It's always great to see her. We eat, laugh, and set the world to rights.  She couldn't come today because of the snow, so we've had lots of fun playing on sledges and building snowmen instead.

When we moved to rainy town from sunny Suffolk, we were looking forward to being nearer to both our families, and to our friends. We hoped we would see more of our families and friends than we had done, and we have. My Mum's been to visit several times, and we've seen some friends too. Now we're moving further North, and we'll be a lot closer to Kenny's family, but two hours further away from most of mine. I'm concerned that we won't see as much of friends and my family. My brother (pictured here) never visited us in Suffolk. He's hoping to visit us in seaside town. I hope he will.

We've all made lots of good friends here too (some of them are pictured below), and will miss seeing as much of them.

However, we are moving to a lovely seaside town with lots to do and good train and air connections, and we'll have spare beds to sleep on, so I'm hoping lots of friends and family will come and visit (we've offered to take them out for ice cream to sweeten the deal).

Some of my lovely friends in rainy town - part 1

Part 2
I'm sure my Mum will still come up, and will probably enjoy not having to drive any more, and it will be really good to see much more of Kenny's family. Also, no doubt we'll make new friends. We'll get involved with the school and toddler groups, and try not to look too scary! But I do hope our existing friends will come up and visit us, to help us all have someone to share our adventure with. They'll all be most welcome.

Do you manage to keep in contact with old friends who are far away?  Do you see them sometimes, or just chat on Facebook and the like?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Getting rid of stuff

Good morning! I'm feeling better this morning. A day off really helped.

So this morning I am going to talk about one of the joys of packing – getting rid of stuff.

My parents live in houses that are so cluttered up with stuff that they have less and less room to live in. I like stuff too, but I don't want to live like that. Kenny is great at getting rid of stuff, but I have a genetic tendency to hoard, so I find it really hard.

The boy contemplates the sheer weight of stuff.
I had a look online at what other people had done and found a really inspirational post from Positively Sorted, which reminded me to only keep things we need or love, and also reminded me that things I don't want can be useful elsewhere. Personally I'd rather give things away than sell them, mainly because I can't be bothered with ebay, but either way, I think you win.

I am really enjoying getting rid of stuff! I've offered some stuff free on rainy town's local website (you can do the same on Freecycle, or some local Facebook pages), and although there hasn't been any uptake on that yet, when I asked for boxes on the same site I was deluged with offers (thanks everyone).

I'm passing some of the kids stuff on to friends we know will get good use of it, and I love that other children will get enjoyment out of things my children have loved, but grown out of, and that our cot, used by my children, and my god-daughters before them, will carry on being used by another lovely family.

I'm also enjoying passing stuff to our local Barnardos shop. I think Barnardos is a fantastic charity, and I don't have any spare money at the moment to pass to them, but I've got lots of spare stuff, so hopefully they can turn that into money. It's all good!

Are you good at getting rid of stuff?  What do you do with it?

I feel like a day off

Everything to do with the move has been a little bit full on, especially since Kenny's started his new job.  I feel like all I've done this week is arrange things to do with the move, talk about the move, and write about the move... and if I wasn't doing that I was packing boxes.

Last night Kenny and I sat with a glass of wine and Go Compare (he was here for the night again - but too tired to be very cheery), and other frustrating websites.

We were trying to find the insurance we need for when we move.  However, we still haven't got confirmation about when that will be (although we have officially concluded the missives now), so we can't set it up yet.  

It was frustrating because all the comparison websites come up with a list of great prices, and then we'd have to fill in more details specific to each quote, and the prices would start going up, so you can't really compare at all.  There's a stream at the bottom of the hill we're going to live on, which would require a miracle to break its banks and get all the way up the hill to flood our house but because it's within 200 metres it raises the insurance cost.  Bleurgh.

It's all so incredibly boring.  I wonder if anyone managed to find one that does what it says on the tin?  

I have been packing lots as well, which has depleted my supply of boxes (I've still got enough to be going on with though - thanks everyone), but doesn't seem to have reduced the amount of stuff in the house.  What's that about?  All I seem to have achieved is making a mess.  So, this afternoon I am avoiding doing anything useful at all, for a while at least.  I need a day off!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Coming right slap bang up to date!

So far everything's been back story, but this time we're finally coming up to what's happening right now!  We've caught up.

I've had a conversation with our solicitor this morning (it's a beautiful pastel shaded morning here in rainy town), asking her to conclude the missives.  It's terribly exciting.  The sellers have got back and the solicitors have been talking the kind of talk that keeps them employed, and the end result is we're agreeing to buy the house!

There is bad news too though... the house isn't quite finished yet, and we can't agree a date of entry until it's finished.  I'm trying to find out when that's likely to be, but I don't know yet.  Hopefully not too long after when we were hoping to move in.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Kenny has already started his new job, and so is staying up near seaside town in the week.  We really miss him, but we're glad he's enjoying his work.  He made a special effort last night to get home to see the children, and to let me go to my writing class, for which I was truly grateful.  The children were delighted to see him, and so was I.  He's managed to arrange meetings at his old workplace, so we'll see him tonight too, before he heads back up the road tomorrow.  We are kind of used to him being away, but it's so much better when he's here.  He's a great Dad - great at doing all the fun stuff, and encouraging fascination in the kids.  Recent scientific experiments have included learning about freezing points by making icecream (winner), and learning about energy and engineering with water rockets (they go VERY high).  Here he is with the little girl (not sure he'll thank me for this picture!).

One of the great things about this move is that Kenny will be working nearby pretty much all the time, so we'll get to see him lots.  Also, this is the first time we're moving and actually expecting to stay in one place - until the kids finish school, hopefully.  So it's a really big deal.  We've got to get it right, and if we do, it's going to be great for our little family.  So no pressure there then!

What are you especially good at doing with your children?  Do you manage to do it?  Or does boring stuff get in the way?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Moving adventures for kids

It's a beautiful morning today, and we have just got back from walking/scooting/ biking to school.  The birds are enjoying the break from the rain as much as we are, and are flying about all over the place, and we got to enjoy a colourful sunrise on our way to school.  I am having trouble with formatting today, so it's taking me a while to make this look OK.  I hope it works!  Do you have these problems with blogger sometimes?  It's the first time it's happened to me!  Walking to school is such a great thing to do, even though I feel like I can't be bothered, it leaves us all feeling happier for the rest of the day!  The children were fantastic this morning, helping each other get ready, and get to school on time.  We are very lucky to have three clever, funny, and kind children (there's the big girl, to the right).  They are being fantastic about moving house, but they are worried about it.  It's costing us all sleep!

The last time we moved was two years ago, when they were 5, 3, and a few months, and for the girls it was no problem, but it was hard for the boy.  He had built up strong friendships down in Suffolk (with boys he still counts as friends), and had a hard time making new friends here.  They were a great bunch of boys at his school, but they already had friends, and it took a while for him to feel happy.  

This time we are moving to a place we all know, a bit at least.  Kenny's parents live nearby, and the children are really looking forward to seeing more of them.  I am too!  We have never close enough to relatives to have occasional babysitters, and I haven't been able to do much by myself since becoming a Mum.  I wouldn't expect them to do very much, but just having a possible backup will be marvellous!  We'll also be living in a town with lots of things to do - like a swimming pool, a beach, parks, and great sports facilities, plus a train, so we can easily escape for the day to the big smoke!

On top of all that, we'll only be a couple of hours away from where we live now, so the kids will be able to visit their friends, and have them come to visit too.

I'm hoping all of those good things will make it easier this time.  But it's still going to be hard, of course.  The boy has built up friendships here now, and he is doing very well at school.  He's going to make new friends at the new school, and do well there too, but it will take time.  I'm not worried about the little girl (pictured with her favourite brother below - she's the one with eyes like a pod person).  She can't even remember her friends' names half the time.  The person I'm really worried about is the big girl.

The big girl has made some marvellous friends in rainy town (she's pictured with some of them below), and she's settled in well to Primary 1, after a fantastic transition process from nursery.  She's a great wet lettuce on the inside, but here she seems so confident.  I'm really proud of how well she's doing, and I know it's going to be incredibly hard for her to start again.  We're trying to sweeten the deal for her a bit.  She shares a room with the little girl at the moment, and is driven mad by her chattering away while she's trying to get to sleep, and her constantly messing the place up.  No one can share with the boy because he gets up at an ungodly hour, and then starts bouncing, so she's had to put up with her, but when we move, she's going to get the second bedroom.  It is much bigger than the other kids' bedrooms.  She is rather pleased about this, but mainly she's worried.

The boy, the big girl, and I are all worried - we're having nightmares, and other sleep problems, and we're all being particularly tetchy. The sooner we get the job done the better.

On Monday we went to visit the school the kids will be going to in seaside town.  I was incredibly nervous about it and the kids were pretty out of sorts so I guess they were too.  It took me ages to decide where to park, so we had to hurry in to the school, and oh my goodness, it was lovely.

It was colourful, it had stuff the kids had made all over the place.  There were lots of cushions on the settle in the reception, in the bizarre school colours (blue, orange and grey!), and then the headie and deputy came out to meet us, and spoke to the children first.  They were wearing nice, comfortable, smart-casual clothes, as were the teachers for the most part.  The headie showed us 'round and the children were respectful, interested, and encouraged to have their say.  There is a school uniform (in the school colours!), but it looked to be pretty loose.  I hate school uniform, but it seems to be inevitable in Scotland, so I was glad to see a school that seemed pretty relaxed about it.  Generally I loved the school.  The boy and the big girl were taken to their respective classes-to-be, and the boy's teacher had a chat with him (she's about 12, so hopefully will have lots of fun ideas).  The boys in his future class were very interested in him, and he said he'd seen someone he thought he'd like to be friends with (longer hair, so no surprises there rock fans), so I'm excited about how he's going to do.  But the girl noticed that the kids in her class were ahead of her in their reading books, and there's a lot of people in the class (it's too big for a single class, but they've decided to keep it as one class, but have two teachers in it, which looks like a great plan to me, but is a bit daunting to her).  I'm worried about her, but I do think she's a wonderful girl, and she'll make friends if she'll let people in, it's just that when she's worried she shuts down.  I hope she can get all the support she'll need.

So, do you have any ideas?  How can we make moving easier for the big girl?  For everybody? How can we get a better night's sleep?

Next time I should hopefully have an update on how things are going with the missives, and if not, I might just get over-excited about decorating again!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

I hope this is all going to work out because I want this house!

This is it.  The house we are trying to buy.  I don't know what the black and white poles are, they've gone now.  But this is the house, with our cars parked outside.  It's taken on a mucky day, so you can't see much of the hills in the background, but you can see the grass of the park next door (that's now fenced in), and you can see the front of the house.

Upstairs there will be a bedroom for each child, a bathroom, and a bedroom for Kenny and I, with an ensuite.  The downstairs has an open plan layout.  We have got used to living in a bigger house, so the garage is going to have a lot of stuff in it!

We've been very lucky.  Because we're buying one of the last houses in the development we are getting curtains and carpets thrown in (well, put in carefully).  On Saturday we went and made the final decisions on carpets and curtains.  I am getting over-excited about colour schemes!  The rented house we have been staying in for the last two years is mainly beige, so this house will not have any beige.  Well, it will, because there's already some in there, but I'm going for lots of colour because I have been drowning in a sea of beige blah, and I'm coming right out of it now!

So here are the swatches for the downstairs rooms.  I've tried to tie all the colours in.  I hope it makes my red Expedit bookcase and my big green sofa feel right at home.  What do you think?  I'm worried there'll be too much beige in that first curtain, but I'm hoping the colour-pops will sort it out.

That brown carpet will go on up the stairs and into the master bedroom, which will have brown and green colours and mainly wooden furniture.

The children's bedrooms will all have quite light and bright curtains, and a pale blue carpet (it works really nicely with the girls' pinks and lilacs, as well as the boy's blues and greens).  

All the walls are white, throughout.  For now.  I'm thinking of putting some decals or wall stickers up, but nothing more committed than that until we've lived there for a while.  Probably.

Gosh it seems awfully grown up to be making decorating decisions for a whole house in one go!  Have you ever had to do that?  How did it go?

We took Kenny's parents up to the house with us on Saturday too.  We were all feeling excited about the move.  Ever since we decided to start a family we have been hoping to live in this area, and we are all feeling really good about moving into this street.  Kenny's Dad bumped into someone he knew, who's going to be one of our neighbours.  He came 'round and was telling Kenny and his Dad all about who lives where.  Sounds like we're going to have some interesting neighbours.  I hope they like us!

We went to visit the school the kids will be going to yesterday, but I'll tell you all about that next time, as it's time I went and picked up said kids from school.  It has been raining all day (we're back in rainy town), but we have a wee window of not-rain (I can't put it better than that I'm afraid) at the moment!


Please note, the above text has been amended, to note that it was not raining at the end of school.  I had previously said it was.  My apologies to the dry citizens of rainy town. ;-)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Getting a mortgage - part 3 (slaying the system)

Good grief!  I'm up before the children!  Can't stop thinking about stuff to do with the move, and it won't be long until they're up, so I'll put these few minutes to good use, and finish the saga of the mortgage...

'Twas New Year's Eve, and even though the Nationwide had promised to call us the day before to give us our final offer of a mortgage, they strangely hadn't... 

We had asked for a mortgage, and told them we needed to get a move on on the 9th of December.  We had been given a lot of pie crust promises that it would be arranged soon...

So Kenny donned his protective mantel (also known as a dresssing gown), took up his sword (phone), and sat himself down in his throne of power (kitchen chair), to do battle with the system.  Here's a picture of him when he grew silly moustaches for Movember.  He's a bit of a hero in this house.

He called the Nationwide.  They claimed we hadn't sent them the right paperwork.  Hmm.  They claimed they needed more information, but he argued that they had had plenty of time to ask for that.  They told him that something was wrong with the system and they would get it sorted out and call back.  He said 'no'.

He refused to get off the 'phone until they sorted it out.

They spluttered, they promised to call back, they claimed they would need a manager and there weren't any available.  He remained polite, if somewhat incredulous.  He refused to get off the 'phone.  Somehow they managed to sort out the IT system, somehow they managed to find a manager, somehow they managed to get our application on the sytem.  They managed to put all our financial details in wrong, and told him they couldn't offer us the mortgage we needed because his earnings had gone down.

He didn't swear, and he didn't shout.  He talked them through what the right details were and refused to get off the 'phone.  They managed to get our details on the system right, and they told him they were sending him a formal offer letter for the whole amount.  He asked for an emailed copy to be sent to him and a copy to be faxed to the solicitor.  They complied, which was just about when the batteries ran out on the 'phone!


We put the 'phone on to charge and checked the email.  They'd only sent us a loan offer for the wrong amount!  Luckily we had another phone, and once more, Kenny took up his sword and sat upon his throne of power.  Once more he corrected the financial details they had on the system wrong.  Once more he refused to get off the 'phone.  Once more, the Nationwide apologised.  They sent out an offer for the right amount, and copied it as needed.  Kenny had slain the system!  Here's another guy slaying the Jaberwocky.  He's got good hair, huh?

Victory (part 2)!

We did talk a little bit about the complaint we had submitted, and the appalling admin at Nationwide.  We questioned why we should have to pay an admin fee to set up this mortgage, considering the trouble we'd been through.  They explained that if we looked we would see it wasn't an admin fee - the admin is free (for some reason).  It's a booking fee.  So that's completely different then!

Anyway, we have a proper mortgage offer, so we can get on with buying the house!  The solicitor was back at work in the new year, and she swung straight into action.  First thing on the 3rd we had an email from her with the draft letter to the sellers.  We gave the go ahead, and popped in to see her with the ID and everything, and we are go!

We're hoping to get the keys on the 24th.  Fingers crossed!

How have you got on with getting a mortgage?  Are all the companies like the Nationwide was with us?  Something tells me we are not alone!

Next time I'll tell you about our latest visit to the house.  We have some very excited people here!

Getting a mortgage - part 2

It was Christmas Eve babe... OK, so the photo's actually from Christingle the previous week, but it was Christmassy, and it had babes in it...

Well, we hadn't heard anything from Nationwide, so I gave them a call.  First of all they told me they hadn't got the supporting documents.  Hmm.  Then they said they had got them after all, but that we had given them the wrong information.  Hmm.  Then they said we hadn't given them the wrong information, but it had been put on the system wrong.  Everything would be fine, they assured me, and we would get the mortgage we wanted, but they couldn't do it yet because they couldn't get the details onto the system properly.  It would be done by the close of business they said... and then they went back to eating mince pies.

That last bit is purely speculative, of course.  I would not wish to cast any aspertions in that direction.

So I called back before end of business, and guess what? The system was down and they couldn't process our application.  They assured me it would all be sorted out on the 27th, and not to worry.

Kenny called on the 27th, and guess what?  There was something wrong on the system and the application had been sent up to IT, and would definitely be sorted out within 3 hours.  They would call us when it was sorted out.

We were heading down to Yorkshire to visit my family and had stopped off at Tebay for lunch.  Have you been?  I think Tebay is fabulous - the cafe's are great, the scenery is wonderful, and they have a super farm shop northbound, and a nice wee play area southbound.  We were queuing for lunch when my phone rang.  Nationwide calling to tell us the mortgage was sorted? No, of course not.  They were calling to say they were very sorry, but guess what?  Something was wrong with the system and they could not progress our application.  They would send it to IT, and also they would start a complaint on our behalf.  They were very sorry.  They would definitely have this all sorted out within 48 hours... We worked out that that was a Sunday, and the office was closed, so it seemed unlikely, but we'd see.  Do you think it'll be sorted out for next time?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Getting a mortgage - part 1

You don't know how out of touch you are until it is thrust in your face.  We knew lots of friends who had trouble getting mortgages, because of one of the myriad new rules that have been erected since the financial crash.  We knew it was more difficult than it had been when we last bought a house (this one, pictured right), but we thought that because Kenny had a permanent contract, and we'd always been good previously, and because the day had a 'y' in it, we'd be OK.

Kenny had gone online and checked what mortgage we'd be able to get with his salary before we had started looking for a house, so we felt sure we weren't being silly, and everything would be fine.  So when we put the reservation deposit on the house we're hoping to buy, and agreed to get straight on with arranging a mortgage, we thought that it would take a few days at most.  Surely?

Like I say, you don't know how out of touch you are until it is thrust in your face.  

We thought about going to a financial advisor, but didn't want to take more time over it than was necessary.  Last time we bought a house (it was in Suffolk - can you tell?  It was actually sunny there), our financial advisor recommended a mortgage with Nationwide, and they had been fine, so we thought we might just go back to them, so long as they could give us a mortgage we liked the sound of.  Better the devil you know and all that.  So, Kenny picked up the phone and called them.  He had a lovely conversation with a woman with a ridiculous name that made her sound like either a fairy or a lapdancer.  She sent us an agreement in principle for the mortgage we needed.  All we needed to do to get the proper mortgage offer would be to send in copies of a P60, and some wage slips.  She said she would send us an envelope and checklist so we could get it all sorted.  She also arranged for someone to go and look at the house for a valuation.  That happened just a few days later.  Fabulous.  All ticking along nicely.

So we waited for the package.

And waited.  

Christmas cards, and packages were arriving, but nothing from Nationwide.  

After a week we called them up.  What has happened?  We were assured the pack had gone out to us straight away.  We should see it any moment, no doubt it had got held up in the Christmas post.

We were coming up to the end of term now, with Christmas just around the corner, and our solicitor was advising us that if we didn't get the mortgage arranged soon we would not be able to get things into motion before the end of our reservation period on the property.  This was Christmas Eve, which is a ridiculous date to expect anything which doesn't involve fat men in red suits happening.

When it still hadn't turned up a couple of days later Kenny got on the 'phone again, to find out how we could speed things up.  Nationwide agreed that I could take the documents in to a reasonably local branch (only a 44 mile 'round trip), where they would fax it over to the department that needed them.  I couldn't drive over for a couple of days, but then I went, with the little girl, and we spent a diverting hour or so in the branch, looking at pictures on leaflets, while a flustered but lovely woman called Pauline made sure everything was in order, and faxed it across... and checked they'd got it.  They had.  I took the little girl out for a walk (and took a picture, above) and decided to call them that afternoon, to see how things were progressing.  

So, after the drive home, while the little girl was sleeping, I called up Nationwide.  Yes, they said, they had received the documents, and they would need to process them.  That would take up to three days, and then they would give us a formal offer of mortgage, unless it turned out we needed to give them more information.  Either way they would call and let us know on Christmas Eve...  Looked like it would be quite the busy day!

This meant, of course that we certainly would not be any further ahead with the process on Christmas Eve, so while the little girl still slept I called the sellers to see if we could extend the reservation period.  I was feeling pretty frazzled by this point, but the sellers said not to worry, and she would send out the paperwork.  We extended our reservation to mid-January.  No doubt Christmas Eve would see everything come together perfectly and we would have peace on earth and goodwill to all mortgage brokers.

Finding a solicitor

We have moved house before.  We have used solicitors before.  However, the conveyancing process in Scotland is different to that in England, so you need different solicitors for the different countries.  We have been playing ping pong around the country while Kenny's been working on his career, which he's been doing since we decided I'd give up mine and focus on family in 2005.  We have been living in this little rainy town (pictured, right, with big girl walking up an alley - check out all that moss!) in Scotland for two years, and before that we were in sunny Suffolk for four years.  Before that we were in Livingston (Scotland).  

The house in Livingston was the first one we owned.  We both moved lots of times, but didn't own our homes.  That was before marriage, and before children.  The past is indeed a different country and I've not updated my passport to go there.

When we moved up here from Suffolk our house was on the market, and we had buyers in place, so we rented the only house we could find to rent in this nice little town, thinking we'd buy later.  This was two years ago, and bad things were happening to the housing market.  Our buyers demanded ridiculous things and we let them go, and then we couldn't get any interest as our house was perfect for first time buyers, and there weren't any because it was 2010/11 and they couldn't get mortgages.  Our estate agents (Flick and son) were great.  Our solicitors were great.  Nothing was happening.  For ages.  Our house didn't sell for over a year, and by that time Kenny was thinking of applying for a new job, so we kept on renting.  

When it came to starting the conveyancing process to buy the house we like in big seaside town we couldn't find the last solicitor we used in Scotland (Unwins in Livingston - they were excellent), so we asked for recommendations.  I posted on Facebook asking any of my friends if they could recommend a fairly local solicitor?  I was hoping for a local one so that paperwork would be easier.  Nothing.  Some people knew of solicitors, but hadn't used them.  Some people could recommend we didn't use certain solicitors, but no-one felt they could actually recommend someone.  A friend advised me that a good conveyancing solicitor was an oxymoron...  To be honest, we've only so far had good experiences with our solicitors when selling houses, so perhaps he's right.

So Kenny's parents recommended their solicitor, near where we're going to live.  It made sense, they'll know the area, and Kenny will be able to go in while he's up there with work.  So he went to see them, and easy-peasy, we have a solicitor.  She has been wonderful, so far.  She even gave me a call one time when everything was going a bit Pete Tong with the mortgage company (of which more, next time), just to let me know it happens a lot, and I shouldn't worry about it.  She was probably billing me for the time, but it still made me feel much better... and next time I will start to tell you the saga of  getting a mortgage.

Today is the fourth day of January.  I know I said it wasn't raining yesterday, and it wasn't, then... but it managed to rain before the day was out.  

Kenny and I had a look at the Met Office website, where you can see weather stats on a map (see left),  just to make sure that I wasn't a rain obsessed daft bat.  The website is marvellous.  Lots of lovely statistics, beautifully illustrated, to look at, and it proved that it's not just my opinion, our little rainy town is under a dark blue (rainy) blot on the map, whereas new big town is in a brown (maybe not arid, but working on it) patch.  Obviously, it's not going to hold a candle to Suffolk, but it's better than living in a puddle.

We are away from home visiting relatives at the moment, and I don't know for sure what the weather is doing in rainy town, but I have a sneaking suspicion it isn't as good as it is here.  It is a beautiful day.  The sun is shining, and it's pretty warm.  I was outside not half an hour ago, taking photos with the little girl.  All is well with the world.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Finding a house

So, my husband, Kenny, has a new job, and we're moving house.  I started looking at the housing market in the area as soon as he applied for the job.  Just because I love looking at houses!  I'm the kind of person you'll find peeping in your window if you've not closed your curtains yet.  I sometimes regret it (sorry, fat naked guy), but I just can't help it... so having a nosey at houses that are for sale is much more socially acceptable.

I used some local searches to find houses, but found that the most useful one was my favourite - Rightmove.  It's fab, so easy to use, and it keeps you updated, although the android app is rubbish, but that's OK, you can just get it on the internet.  Rightmove has got even better since last time I used it - now you can draw a search area, and make all kinds of specifications about the kind of property you are looking for, which is fantastic.  Then you just sit back and get emailed when new properties which match your criteria come up.  Which is troublesome if you've got a smartphone because you're constantly looking at pictures of houses!

I wanted to find a house which was big enough, and affordable for us.  I also wanted to make sure it was within cycling distance for Kenny's work, and walking/scooting/buggy pushing/cycling distance for the kids' school.  This narrowed down the options considerably, which is always a blessing.  It was important to me that we could all get to work/school without petrol because everyone feels happier if they get to use up a bit of energy before having to sit down for ages.  It's good for the environment too, but I can't wave that flag as I will happily jump in the car if it's raining!  

Here's a picture of the boy on his bike.  At the moment we usually scoot to school so the little girl can scoot or cycle to school, and then get pushed in the buggy home.  I can't keep up with the big kids on bikes!  I'm always at the back with the bags as it is.  Poor Kenny has had to drive to work for the last two years, and that means he's had to find other ways of doing exercise (like running lots), which means he's away from home more.  We do not like that :-(

Also narrowing down the choices were the schools in the area.  My background is in sociological research, and I'm a big fan of reports and statistics.  In Scotland schools are not ranked by the Government, so there's a newspaper that does it instead.  It's not perfect.  Nothing is perfect, but it's a pretty good indicator, especially if you are academically inclined, which we are, so I went for a secondary school that was high up on that table.  Then there were primaries to choose from, and so I had a look at their most recent inspection reports on the Education Scotland (formerly HMIE) website.  In the case of the big town we're moving to, of the two potential primaries in the same town as the good secondary, one had a great report, and the other needed to improve quite a bit.  Again, our choices were narrowed.  Hoorah!

So, when we got the confirmation that Kenny was getting the job, I had a look on Rightmove to see what was available.  There was a house I liked the look of - a good size, close to the school, great views, and Kenny went to look at it.  He liked it too.  It was nearly great.  But only nearly, and we couldn't afford the work it would need to make it great.  We agreed we could make a compromise, and as nothing else was coming up on my search, I had a look at things that weren't quite right, and that's when I came across the new estate that was just being finished.  The postcode for it on Rightmove didn't work properly on Google maps - because it isn't on Google maps yet, and the location was coming up as outside my drawn boundary, but it wasn't!  Another contender!  I had a lot of looks at pictures of the property, and the layout of the estate.  I tried not to get excited...

The only time we could go to look at the house was when we were all going up to the area to visit the grandparents.  So we all went.  We went for a sneaky look the night before, and the kids were running about in the park next door to the house (that's right, there's a park next door to the house, and it's got safety gates!).  The next door neighbours were having a party, and people smiled at us as they went past.  The next day we went to have another look, this time with the saleswoman.  The children were bickering about which would be their room, and I was wondering if we'd need to buy a dryer.

This is a new build, pretty standard house.  It's not the kind of house you fall in love with.  But, it will be pretty easy to look after, it's in a great location, and it looks like we could make some friends there.  We took the kids out for lunch to decide if we'd go ahead with buying it.

Reader, we decided to go for it!  Over lunch, bedrooms were chosen.  Big girl is going to get the biggest of the kids rooms.  The boy has no idea why he shouldn't get the bedroom with the ensuite.  As we are paying for the house, we have an idea ;-)

So we went back to the saleswoman, and did lots of paperwork, and put the deposit on it.  Seeing as we were all there we chose the curtains and carpets we wanted too.  It took ages.  It felt great.  The kids got bored silly.  We could reserve the house until Christmas Eve, and would need to get busy sorting out mortgage and solicitor, with the aim of moving at the end of January.

Today is the third day of January, and I took the bin out this morning.  It's not raining!  Yet.  It's still totally grey, but it's not raining.  It's not just me that obsesses about the rain, the boy had a good old moan about it just yesterday.  I'm pretty sure it doesn't rain as much in the new big town!  Fingers crossed.  We are still aiming to move at the end of the month.

Next time I will tell you about getting the solicitor.