Monday, 18 November 2013

On coming full circle

Some of the die hard readers out there may remember that I started this blog way back in November 2010, and my very first post was about saving a flat deposit.  You may also recall that I swiftly learnt that I wasn't actually very good at saving money and abandoned that plan. I was young (er) and foolish and liked shopping in Zara.

But somehow, in a turn of events that is still quite incomprehensible to me, I have managed to amass just enough money to reasonably pass as a deposit.

I no longer live in the capital city, but I do still live in an expensive part of the UK where it’s not unheard of to pay 50k for a parking spot.

So, upon abandoning all hope of a parking space, a garden, or a kitchen island (the moment I will truly know I am an adult) I have begun the flat hunt.

I have learnt the following about flat hunting.

1. Estate agents are doing you the favour. Now I know you’re thinking ‘but they make their money by selling houses.’ You are wrong. Showing you around property is very inconvenient for them. It cannot happen at short notice. It definitely cannot happen outside of office hours. Learn this early on, lest be continually annoyed and frustrated.

2. The estate agent will constantly state the blooming obvious. You will be standing in a room with a sink, oven and fridge. You will be discussing the dinners you will make in said room. They will still insist on stating (for the record) that you are currently in the kitchen.

3. Windows are no longer called windows, they are called ‘aspects.'

4. Apparently it’s not good etiquette to look too closely at people’s family photographs or through their cupboards.

5. If you want a sea view you’ll have to be prepared to knock down walls, throw away half of your possessions, de-mould a bathroom and have serious doubts on whether your bed will fit in the bedroom.

Problem is I want the sea view. Seems I'm just as foolish three years on.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The magic of Christmas

On watching the John Lewis christmas advert 

Me: so, what do you think? Were you moved?

The boyfriend: yeah, I suppose I was.

I'm really pissed off with the rabbit. I mean clearly the bear needs to sleep.

Me: But he'd never seen Christmas.

Oh, never mind.

If you haven't seen it yet you can shed a tear, or be annoyed at the hare, here

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The lost art of travel

I don’t remember the heyday of travel. Way before my time. But you see it don’t you - in films or on Downton Abbey. The days when travellers wore their Sunday best, and strolled onto steam trains or stepped elegantly into propeller planes.

Flying was a luxury for those people who wore fur and knew not of ‘the weekend.’ You and I would have been on a coach trip to the seaside with a scotch egg in our back pocket.

But now, thanks to the wonder of budget airlines, we can all take to the skies. But there’s no Sunday best or elegance in the matter, as I discovered on a recent trip with our lovely friends at Ryanair.

Queuing for her onboard scratch-cards
First there’s the stampede. The flight is called and we run. Bags and limbs flailing as we sprint across the airport. Picture the scene of the Pamplona Bull Run and you’re half way there. Next it’s time to be manhandled into a waiting area where I learn how battery chickens reside. And that’s before we’ve even made it onto the plane, where cramped quarters bring out the ‘best’ in my comrades, especially when it’s announced we’ve missed the take off slot. But don’t worry, there are plenty of cheese and ham paninis on sale to keep our spirits up; cheap at half the 8 euro price tag.

And as you haven’t paid for an allocated seat, priority boarding, or simply been mugged on your way onboard, you’ll have to sit on a stranger’s lap the whole way. They’ll give you an infant’s seat belt if you’re lucky. Ah well, chocks-away.

But Ryanair, what you don’t realise is that the triumph is mine. Even with your detailed baggage dimensions and weight limit and strict policy enforcement there was no way I was paying £70 for the privilege of luggage. And now, sweet smugness. No check-in queue for me. No waiting at the carousel. No chance of you sending my bag to the wrong side of the world. Oh no.

Of course I haven’t really got enough clothes for a week, and there’s no glamour in washing your smalls in the hotel sink or running out of shampoo, but we’ll just gloss over that.

Travel’s not glamorous anyway.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Solving one of life's mysteries: Conversations with the Boyfriend

On the contents of the washing machine

Me: Oh, I've been meaning to ask you. Do you know why there was pasta in the washing machine?

The Boyfriend: No. Well, I mean I did cook some pasta, and maybe some has got into the washing machine.

Me: Right. But I mean, any idea how it got in there?

The Boyfriend: Was it cooked?

Me: The pasta? Yes it was cooked.

The Boyfriend: But I mean, maybe it went in raw and cooked in the machine.

Me: I'm not sure a washing machine boils for 13 minutes.

The Boyfriend: Oh well, it's solved then. We know it was cooked before it went in.

Me: Yes, but why was it in the washer?

The Boyfriend: Oh that? Yeah I've got no idea.


For more conversations with the boyfriend, you should click here

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Being Patient

The computer in my office is from, at best, 1998. It's slow. It can't open images. A PDF takes around 17 minutes to open. As you might imagine, this drives me up the bloody wall. In 2013 patience is hard to come by.

Everything goes at super speed. Remember the days of dial up internet? Heaven forbid we mention LBTI (life before the internet.) But even broadband wasn't quick enough, now we need it to be 'super-fast.' We run for the bus, rush to the next meeting, think the world has ended when we lose 3G and hurry through life, barely stopping to take breath.

But on a recent break to rural Devon I was forced into thinking about patience. Staying a hut, in a field, it can't help but come to mind.

Want a cup of tea? No problem. That'll just be an hour to get the fire going and boil some water. Dinner? Give it two. Need the loo? Just give yourself enough time to wind up the torch and get down the track.

The Boyfriend tending the kettle

It's a shock at first. Time may not wait for any man, but modern man certainly doesn't wait around either. Every minute not going at super-fast speed is a minute wasted.

And then you begin to get used to a slower pace of doing things. The sound of the owls outside as you wait for the kettle to boil. The warmth of the fire. The chorus of the thousand crickets in the grass outside.

And the waiting becomes part of the task itself. An enjoyable part too.

But now we're home, and the hut and her fire is behind us. The kettle boils in under 30 seconds and light is but a switch away.

But luckily for me the PDFs still won't load, and so I'm going to use that time to daydream, doodle, or simply write this blog post. I'm going to slow down and give being patient a bash.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A family portrait

Everyone's parents do things that annoy them. My father constantly tries to take my photograph.

To set the scene: I am visiting the parents, relaxing in a sunny spot in their garden.

"Oh no, dad please don't take my picture."

"Now just sit up a bit straighter."

"Dad I'm relaxing."

"Ok so just relax."

"I was relaxed."

"And smile."

"Dad stop squatting. Do you know how many chins you give me when you take pictures from underneath?"

"I know you're protective of your image."

"I am not protective of my image. STAND UP. You're giving me chins."

"Cover them with your wine glass."

"You're meant to say I don't have a chin."

"Oh sorry."

"Are we finished?"

"Enjoy yourself"

"I was enjoying myself."

He pauses and looks through pictures.

"Sit up straighter.That's it. Now look straight ahead."

"I think I'm better from the side."

"You can delete any you don't like."

"I'd really rather not look at them, thanks."

"I know how it feels to be unphotogenic."

And with that I stand, leave my sunny spot, and go inside. I need to make a run for it before he suggests that on my next visit home I wear block colours. 

They're more flattering you see.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Double standards

This weekend I painted some chairs. This was not a well considered spot of diy-ing. No, rather the case that I awoke on Saturday with the notion that our wooden chairs would look better if a different colour.

So I got up, went to the diy-shop, purchased paint, returned home and set about the task.

I understand that this is not the done thing with diy-ing. There is apparently planning that needs to take place. Dust sheets to buy and sensible painting clothes to adorn.

And so it is that I now have four newly painted chairs. And very nice they look too. I also have paint in my hair, all over my arms and a few spots on my clothes.

Oh, and there is a fair amount of paint on the patio too.

The Boyfriend comes outside and notices the large smears of paint on our slate patio.

“It’s fine” I say confidently. “Going to get some wire wool on it tomorrow.”

“Would it be fine if I’d done that?” he asks with a smirk.

I am silent. We both know the answer to that one.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What did I tell you about banks?

Remember my irritation at the bank? Well this is what another financial institution thought fit to send me today.

Note to bank: if you are going to send my new credit card in a plain white envelope, perhaps just leave it at that.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The best of the advice: How to make friends and influence people

So I asked for advice, and advice I got. No postcards yet, but I live in hope.

Here’s the best of the advice I've received.

Several friends thought fit to warn me off alcohol in my quest for companionship:

“How about an AA meeting?” one quipped. “Stop drinking beer in the greengrocers – it’s probably giving off the wrong image.”

Gee, thanks.

Of course someone else suggested finding a home on the other side of the bar, I've always found that working part-time in a bar is a good way to meet a heap of people. Especially if it is a place you like to drink yourself, it's a perfect excuse to chat to pretty much everybody else in the room.”

From elsewhere came advice to seek holier help, “Go to church!” was followed by “very odd and unusual folks attend church. If evangelical – take your towel and cossie.”  

Many folks ‘felt my pain.’ “I hear you” one said. Late 20s IS a tough time to relocate,” replied another, “ I moved to Edinburgh at 28 and damn, it was tough. Made lots of friends by having a baby.”

Woah – that’s a bit drastic love.

Moving on.

“In the quest for love, my lovely former neighbour trialed numerous different lady-seeking methodologies, I think including a billboard.

So, I need to wander around this very small place wearing a billboard ‘MATES REQUIRED?’

Never mind drinking in the greengrocer, a billy-no-mates-billboard really would give off a certain impression.

“Join a uke group.” Yes I’d love to – but there’s not one. Could take uke to pub alone and hope to have influence of pied piper. Worry this will have outcome of billboard wearing.

“Get a dog” came a chorus of responses. “Not for friendship with the dog ( although that would be good) but for friendship with other dog walkers. Whilst I would like a hound, at the present time gaining a hound might mean losing The Boyfriend. When I pointed this out to one such dog-advocate, she replied “There are pros and cons to most decisions.”

And finally, in your hour of need, you know you can depend on the support and encouragement of those far flung friends you already have “Bloody hell Rach – how hard can it be? I read earlier in the week that even Justin Bieber has 4 friends.”

And with that I am off to the pub.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Personal ad: Friends Required. Do I even have a GSOH?

How do you make friends? No really. It’s a serious inquiry.  As a child the sole criteria of friendship is liking the same toy. Boom – you’re pals.

Seems it doesn’t quite work the same way at 29.

Now I have school friends, who knew me through the bad hairstyles, the teenage angst, the smirnoff ice. University friends, with whom I laughed, lived and drank jack daniels. And friends whom I have been lucky enough to pick up on my travels since then. Housemates, former work colleagues, friends of friends.

But having once again upped sticks and relocated to the actual arse end of nowhere, I’m at a bit of a loss. Sympathy is not what I’m looking for. I chose to move 600 miles to a place where I knew nobody. I am by the sea. I do have friends. But they’re not exactly here to pop out for a beer with are they? No they’re bloody not.

Obviously I have The Boyfriend, which is making the whole thing infinitely more enjoyable; but it would be nice to have a token friend whom I could meet for gin, or tea, or a non-drink based activity. And I know from previous experience that this friend-making-as-an-adult malarkey takes time. So I’m starting immediately.

Efforts to date:

1.    Went to book swap in local pub. Saw sign in the window, was brave and went alone. Beers and books – surely I’m going to like these people. And like them I did. But I also brought the average age down by at least 40 years. Beers drank 1. Friends made 0.

2.    Being lovely at new job. Naturally it’s a challenge to be smiley. Lots of friendly people who comment on my nice coat. Attended all work drinks in spirit of being social, but must accept these things are organic and take time. Did find lovely lady with whom could discuss The Big Reunion. Beers drank 6. Friends made 0.

3.  Yoga classes. Very enjoyable to align self with sea and all that, and bendyness coming along nicely. However, little opportunity for conversation, and definitely no beer. (Was brief titter when lovely prim lady farted, mind.) Beers drank 0. Friends made 0.

I suppose I did have a beer in the greengrocers when I popped in for groceries one evening, so there's another beer on the tally. 

But readers  where the heck you find like (ish) minded nice people who are looking to welcome you (or rather me) into their social life?

Answers on a postcard. Or in a tweet. Whichever.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Read your mail. (and why you should leave your bank before your husband)

Letters from the bank. What an annoyance. Now we're all online and paperless, all they're ever doing is updating terms. Leaflets destined for the recycling.

NO. Let me stop you there.

Changes in terms more than likely means that the change is bad news for the customer - for you.

Businesses rarely make changes that benefit the lowly consumer.

So this week, the change of terms from Natwest was telling me, in barely readable point size 7 font, that the interest rates on my savings account was going down. Now of course it didn't state that explicitly - it provided a table of figures for me to decipher under the heading, 'Our rates are changing.' Sneaky.
Magnifying glass may be required

Now, I'm sure you'll have noticed that savings rates aren't too hot at the minute, so my rate can't really cope with taking a hit. And the hit is a whole percentage. So now they'll pay me just over a percentage to loan out my money. Charmed I am not.

But Natwest, unluckily for you, I read your change of terms. And do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to move my savings account to a different bank who'll pay me more.

But of course most of us just can't be arsed.

The internet confirms how loyal we are to our banks. 26 years is the average length of time we'll stick with our bank. Now considering the average marriage is 11 years this is a very worrying statistic indeed.

So if your bank has changed your terms for the worse, for goodness sake, leave. Move your money. Every percentage makes a difference.

Don't stay with a bank longer than you'd stay with your spouse. That really is just silly.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A beginners Guide to Life by the Sea

One month into seaside living and I'm really getting a taste for the sea-air. In fact today, I saw dolphins playing off the coast. As they say in Scotland, "cannae complain lass." And complain I will not.

In summary, the last month has gone something like the following:

Bloody tourists.
Colleague: "Can you believe at the weekend I saw someone with their top off on the beach? In February? Bloody Tourists."

Me: ( internally.) Best not mention that I was there in my shorts. 

Don't anger the sea.
When it's windy by the coast, you really do notice.

Don't be deceived.
Sunshine on a February day will not a warm sea make*

*Surfing attempt no1 was called off after 15 minutes, when, upon submersion in the icy water of the Atlantic, neither the Boyfriend nor I could remember our own name.

Room with a view
Who knew offices could have views? Naturally, it's impossible to concentrate on any work at all.

A back-end issue
There are downsides to sea-side living.

Looking back
When you miss the city you left and your friends, you will feel momentarily better when you hear it's snowing up there.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Council tax and bra burning

The council have annoyed, nay - riled, me. Yes, the tax is extortionate and okay, sometimes they leave the bins un-emptied, but that’s not it. They've reminded me that it’s 2013 and women are not equal to men.

In my home, I deal with the bills. I set up the accounts, organise the direct debits and pay the blasted things. So why, dear reader, will the council only write to The Boyfriend?

I call them up.

“Hi, I’d like to update the details you have on my account.”


“I think you just have my partner’s details.”


“Oh no, you’re down too.”

“Oh right, well could you possibly use my name on the correspondence, just because I sort the bills?"

“Oh I’m sorry it’ll just go to him by default.”

“Okay. Well could you override the default and send the bills to me please?”

“We have you on record.”

“Yes, but the letters are going to him, and it would be helpful if they were addressed to me.”

“Sorry, I can’t change that.”

I asked if he thought this wasn’t utterly ridiculous. He thought I was a raving lunatic.

“Your bills are going to the right address though aren’t they?” he added, as if this was the point.

And so it is that everyday sexism continues.

Now, don’t get me wrong,  thanks to the efforts of those who have gone before us, women and men in Britain have equal voting rights, freedom of speech, property rights, access to education and health care equality. Super news indeed. But are men and women equal? Are they heck.

Men outnumber women four to one in parliament. How many women lead powerful countries? It’s a lonely and exclusive group. Just 13% of FTSE 100 corporate board members are female. And British women are paid 83p for every pound our male counterparts earn.

And so it is that I am a feminist in 2013. Feminism is not about hating men or bra-burning, it’s about equality. 

Which given that I can’t even get the council to send me (helpless woman am I) the bill, is clearly something that we all still need.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Lessons from a house move

Moving, as people will cheerfully tell you, is only slightly less stressful than divorce or death. I have come out the other side. Here is my survival guide.

1. Do not develop a horrendous chest infection the day before relocating 600 miles. It will make the whole thing rather more challenging.

2. Before arriving at the Van Hire company, do check that your license photocard is in date. Turns out, they expire.

3. Accept from the beginning that you will not leave sufficient time to pack and will, at the final hour, be forced to throw any old crap in boxes at speed.

4. Cleaning your house will take much longer than expected. You will find dirt that you didn't know existed. Use the clothes you just cannot face packing to clean it up.

5. Do not forget that you have to clean the fridge. You will be repulsed by the horrors within.

6.  Do not try and reverse a long wheel base van. It's amazing how one relies on the view out of that back window.

7. Enlist the help of family members, but do not inform them of how long their train journey back home will take. There is a chance they will retract the offer of assistance.

8. There is a reason why you are advised to label your boxes. 

9. If your bedbase snaps en route, duct tape will prove surprisingly effective at holding it together.

10. When all you own is finally boxed and packed precariously in the back of van, you will have an uncharacteristic moment of melancholy. And then you will be excited about what is next to come.

 Goodbye Edinburgh, it's been a blast.

Friday, 15 February 2013

On relocation

Me: You know how we like going on holiday to Cornwall?

The Boyfriend: Yeah.

Me: And you know how we always say that we should live there one day, what with the sun and beaches?

The Boyfriend: Yeah.

Me: Well how about one day being now?

Short pause.

The Boyfriend: Alright then.


And so it came to pass that we moved to St Ives. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

What's a bit of mould between friends?

As the move south is just one month away, it was about time I found somewhere to live. This was not, I might add, like flat hunting in Edinburgh, which is jam-packed full of the blasted things.  No, St Ives, it transpires, is a baron wasteland of habitable rental properties.

There were times when living in a caravan was looking like an extremely appealing option.

Choosing a house – sorry, flat, sorry, box – to rent is not fun, not at all.

I do not care if the bathroom suite is avocado, but I do care if damp covers an entire wall. 'I’ve never seen it like this before' insisted the estate agent. And I will not be seeing it again – period.

It is genuinely not considered good etiquette to comment on the cleanliness in front of the people who live there. 'I don’t think this house has ever been cleaned,' I muttered under my breath at the sight of a number of dead insects on the kitchen lino.

‘Don’t mind the wife - she’s just in bed with the norovirus – go on in,’  said an enthusiastic tenant. I breathed in and popped my head round the door. Then made a mad dash to the exit and bathed in antibacterial hand-wash.

The final straw was viewing a flat in a converted attic. The owners couldn't find the keys to the door, so I had to go up through the entrance in their home. As I entered the flat the owner laughed, 'Don’t worry, once you live here that door will be always be locked.'

I was about to move into a Bronte novel.

So one thing is certain, when you finally find somewhere that is mould free, does not have a carpeted bathroom or things growing on the lino, you will not remember anything about it – like how big the lounge is, or whether you can fit a table in the kitchen.  You will simply be glad that you will not be living in Mr Rochester’s attic.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Out with the old: A quick round up of 2012

So, another year has bitten the dust. Farewell 2012. 2012, jees. I know that I am getting on because I’ve started using phrases such as ‘ hasn't this year gone fast?’ and, ‘there is no way that they are old enough to be in a pub.’

So what have I achieved in 2012, exactly? Have my achievements outpaced my failures? 

Achievements. Well, this might be tenuous but I bought my first lip pencil. The woman at the Mac counter didn’t seem to comprehend how I had made it through 29 years without one. Unfortunately, despite her insistence, my life has not been transformed with the addition.

Progress on the uke has been slow and steady. A maestro I am not, but I do at least know more than four chords. And in a surprising twist of fate, saving has come on in leaps and bounds. Who knew frugal living could be so enjoyable?

And failures? Well, my running efforts took a big fat nose dive when I injured my foot on the first outing. And I didn’t re-read the works of Austen after all. Neither did I truly learn how to knit (drop how many?) nor finish the bestseller.  

But I’ve got a feeling 2013 is going to be a good ‘un. I’m moving to a new part of the UK –  so far away from Edinburgh that it might as well be abroad. There are beaches there -  so perhaps this means I can now pursue my Olympic inspired dream to become a beach volley-ball superstar? Yes, that seems entirely feasible.

And hey, maybe I’ll even have some outdoor space to get the laundry dry in.

Oh, we can but dream. 

Happy New Year to y'all.