Thursday 26 March 2009

Safe as houses

I am currently having one of my working spells and was reminded about this incident, which happened last year while I was having a working spell, when I read this post by Helen P about her recent Friday 13. I am desperately trying not to have a repeat of this incident.

At 8.30 one Friday morning I found myself standing on our front door step feeling a bit stupid and as if I was missing something. Yes, I was missing my keys and I had just locked myself out of the house. Both my car keys and my house keys are on the same ring and were in the key hole on the inside of the door. Initially, I panicked as I thought that I was going to have to spend the day sitting on the door step, waiting for my husband to come home. We have made the house so secure. The side gate is padlocked. We have a burglar alarm and locked double glazed windows. But it was not always this way.

When we first moved in the windows did not lock. They were quite new so we tried to get them repaired, but the company that supplied the windows had gone out of business. So we should have been able to make a claim against the insurance company under the warranty, but when we bought the cottage the vendors had not supplied us with all the information that we need to transfer the policy to ourselves, which all meant that we had to pay to repair the windows. It should have all been so simple but it was going to cost nearly as much to repair the windows as it would to have new windows. Repaired windows would still not be covered by any sort of warranty whereas for not much more we got new windows which locked and are covered by a ten year warranty. Why am I worried about windows locking? Because if your windows do not lock and you are burgled, regardless of how the burglars get in and out, the insurance company will not pay out for your losses. That is why a few years ago when Cilla Black was burgled her insurance company would not pay out. Her windows did not lock!

There was no chance of climbing through a half open window. One of the neighbours had had a spare set of keys until a few weeks before when my husband lost his keys and we had to get the spare set back. But they were out anyway. I was supposed to be on my way to work. I literally had everything that I needed for the day, except my keys. So I used my mobile phone to ring for a taxi to take me to work and phoned my husband to ask him to collect me from work, in the evening. Arriving at work in a taxi prompted a few questions but to my surprise I did arrive on time. And the day which I had thought I was going to spend sitting on the doorstep became a pretty normal day. Now the 'purse' key for my car is in my purse, instead of languishing in my bedside cupboard and there is a spare set of keys to the cottage, hidden in my car.

Friday 20 March 2009

Meet the neighbours

This is the lane down which I live. The last paragraph of this post explains why I have included the photograph. This post was planned but the events of Wednesday have spiced it up.

So you have moved house and are getting settled in. What sort of neighbours do you have? Are they your cup of tea? Your sort of people or are they the neighbours from hell? Since I first hung a mortgage round my neck I have had problems with the neighbours at four of the five properties that I have lived in. I am not sure if I/we are attracted to them or if they are attracted to me/us.

My first purchase was a conversion flat. It was the first floor of a Victorian terraced house. The ground floor flat had the same lay out which meant that my bedroom was directly above that of the ground floor flat, in which lived a couple in late middle age. He was overweight and snored loudly enough to wake the whole street. After a few too many sleepless night I decided that I had had enough and moved to a small modern semi-detached house. Initially it was fine, then the neighbour married and let the house to a girl friend who had the television on full volume until 1 am. I could hear every word through the cardboard walls.

By the time that we got married I had had enough of noisy neighbours and insisted that we bought a detached house and we had no problems with the neighbours at our first marital home. Our second house was also fine initially but after two or three years the neighbours' trees grew to the point where they put the whole of our garden in the shade. We politely asked for the trees to be pruned. They were rude and unreasonable about the whole issue. Eventually we managed to get a sympathetic tree surgeon to prune the trees at our cost! The whole fiasco left a nasty taste in my mouth and I was glad to move.

Now we move on to our cottage. The neighbours on one side are no problem but we have the neighbours from hell living on the other side. When we first moved here the people that lived next door spent most of their time away so we got used to it being quiet. Then they moved away. For nearly two years the house was empty and for sale until Del Boy and his WAG moved in with their two children and two dogs. The first thing that they did was to build a big extension which blocks our view of the surrounding fields. We objected to their application for planning application, but it still got approval. I have previously written about them going away and leaving the dog alone. But probably the incident which alone marks then out as the neighbours from hell happened in April last year when he had a fight with the local farmer. The farmer's leg was badly cut and he had to go to hospital to have it stitched up, which resulted in Del Boy being charged with assault. My husband had the misfortune to see part of the fight. He had to give a statement to the police and agree to go to court as a witness if necessary. As it happened out my husband did not need to appear as a witness when the case went to court. Del Boy now has a criminal record and a two year suspended sentence hanging over his head.

On Wednesday afternoon I managed to take the above photograph which I had been intending to take for some time to put on the side bar of my blog. Del Boy saw me taking the photo. About an hour later the neighbour who lives in the house on the left in the photo came round to see me. He was clearly very upset. Del Boy had phoned him to say that I had being taking photos of his garden and I was going to write to the council to complain about his untidy garden. I assured him that I was only taking photos of daffodils in the lane and offered to show them to him. We have had enough problems with Del Boy without him stirring up and inventing any more. Incidentally can you see the garden of the house on the left of the photo? I can't.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Changing home

No, we are not about to move house again. Certainly not after all the blood, sweat and tears that have now gone into this cottage, not to mention the oodles of money. Although moving back south was another of my brother's crackpot ideas. Because of the difference in property prices, a move from south to north is usually a one way ticket and we have now decided that we do not want to move back south. We are going to stay here and enjoy the fruits of our labours.

I think that we have moved more times than has been good for us and I have noticed that there are several in blogland who are about to move house or who are trying to move house. So I thought that I would write a post about my/our moving experiences. My move into the one bedroom flat that was my first purchase doesn't really count as all I possessed, apart from clothes, records and books etc., was a cooker, a bed and a stool. Three years later I had outgrown the flat and moved on to a small house. My parents helped me move - well my father really, as my mother sat around fanning herself and complaining about the heat. On the advice of the removal man we tried to drive from the flat to the new house via a route that I was not familiar with and we got lost. The vendors had had the telephone disconnected in the days before mobile phones and it took several days of phone calls from phone boxes to get it reconnected and it was actually my father who eventually managed to get things sorted out. What would a girl do without her father?

I moved out of that house after I got married. The move itself was straight forward but I had the buyer from hell so we removed everything that we could. All my belongings went into storage for two weeks whilst we lived in my husband's house. We moved from my husband's house on St Valentine's Day to our first home. There were no problems with the move itself but we ended up spending a lot of time sitting around waiting for the money to go through in a cold damp multi-storey car park then waiting around outside the house in the rain for the vendors to get out of the house. By the time we were able to get into the house my husband had forgotten all about carrying me over the threshold. That evening we ventured out to find ourselves a take-away but in the dark and wet couldn't find one and ended up going to a restaurant for something to eat. By now we had forgotten that it was February 14. So there we were in our scruffy clothes amongst smartly dressed couples out for a romantic evening.

Another four and a half years later and we were on the move again. The removal company's estimator allowed for a removal van plus a small van but on the day the foreman decided that we didn't need the small van. And guess what - it didn't all fit into the removal van. The job had to be done in two trips and it was 8.30 pm before they finished unloading.

Seven years later we moved from Surrey to Chester at the end of the hot summer of 2003. The move started on a Monday with the B team. They were grumpy, disinterested and hungover. They managed to load unpacked suit cases on to the van and I had to asked for them to be unloaded. The local telephone directories also found their way on to the van and also had to be unloaded as the buyer had specifically asked for them to be left. In any case what use would Surrey phone directories be to us in Chester? About 2.30 in the afternoon they dumped a collection of travelling wardrobes in our living room and left. We were both so fed up with them that if it had not been for the fact that they had about three quarters of our belongings on the removal van, we would have happily told them not to come back. The following day the removal van was back this time with the A team who were everything that the B team had not been. Monday had been their day off after a removal trip to Europe. They managed to move us up to Chester and get us installed in the rented house without any problems.

After eight months of living in someone else's house we were desperate to move into a home of our own. By now we had mastered the art of moving. The only hitch was that one of our beds would not go round the bend at the top of the stairs in the cottage. It seems as if practise makes perfect but we are not planning on moving again any time soon.

Now read the sequel.

Friday 6 March 2009

Happy Families

Regrettably every word of this story is true. Charles Dickens could not have come up with a better story line.

My parents met after World War II and married two years later. Another two years on and I was born. Then two years and eight months later my brother made his entrance into the world. His arrival is my earliest memory. I can remember my father giving me breakfast then taking me over to my grandma's. I also remember sitting in the car outside the nursing home where he had been born at 3 am in the morning on 29 June. Young children were not allowed in hospitals then as they are today. After about two weeks my mother was allowed home with the new arrival. A few days later I arrived back home from grandma's. It was a fine sunny day. My old Silver Cross pram was parked in the back garden. I was lifted up by my father to have a look at what was in the pram. I remember looking at the bald sleeping head- it wasn't small, he weighed nine pounds - and thinking 'so that is what all the fuss is about'. He turned into a cherub with white blond curls and blue eyes with the sun shining out of his backside. By contrast I was an olive skinned gypsy with green eyes and brown hair. My pale and freckly mother couldn't quite identify with me. I was my father's daughter. I had inherited my dark skin and my looks from him.

Life was good. The little family was now complete. The children grew, went to school, had childhood ailments - chicken pox and measles (no MMR jab in those days), they broke arms and legs, wore braces on their teeth, passed exams, went to university, graduated then got jobs. My brother was the first to marry. A girl that my mother did not approve of and still does not after 27 years of marriage and two bright and attractive children. So determined was my mother that I was not going to marry an unsuitable husband, that I nearly did not get married. And we were not able to marry on the day of our choice because it did not suit my brother.

A few weeks after my husband and I married, in June 1991, my father was in hospital with what was to be the beginning of his final illness. Shortly after he was discharged from hospital my brother announced that he was going to the US to work. Three years earlier my brother's mother-in-law had had similar symptoms to my father and had subsequently died from lung cancer. My brother admitted to me that he recognised the symptoms but still went off to the US suspecting that our father was dying. My mother and I were not to know how ill my father was until the day after the 1992 election when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died 29 days later.

My grieving mother desparately missed her blue eyed boy. The gypsy girl was a poor substitute but tried her best to comfort her mother. After all I had lost my father, who was the first love of my life. After a minor operation life became so stressful that I had to stop work. My husband was made redundant and I thought that we were destined to live on benefits. Around this time my mother moved from the house that she had shared with my father, to a bungalow near my brother, who was now back from the US but, conveniently at the time of the actual move, was abroad on business. Never mind, my husband and I were on hand to help.

In May 2006 Mum had a mini stroke which resulted in her very mild dementia becoming more severe. She came out of hospital on a cocktail of drugs and my brother was pointed in the direction of carers, which he did not do anything about. In November 2007 his son became ill. Still, despite numerous suggestions from me, he continued to do nothing about carers. February 21 was Mum's birthday and my brother spoke to me briefly on my mobile phone, when my husband and I were on our way to see her. On February 22 we drove the 200 odd miles back to Chester. Late on February 24 my brother sent an email to me, telling me that on February 20 that Mum's GP hold told him that it was time that she went into a home and demanding that I drop everything to go back down to Sussex to find a home for my mother. How I wish that my father was here to talk to.

Happy Families. Oh what a game!