Friday 29 January 2010

A wife's place is in the wrong

I have been a bit dilatory about visiting this week, as I have had some big decisons to make. Nothing is certain at the moment but I shall post about the changes nearer the time that they take effect, if indeed they do happen. This post has been in my draft folder, for some time, waiting for what I considered to be the right time to post it. The Hope Courage Faith award was given to me some time ago by Reasons and I have decided to post the two together. I am sure that Reasons will identify with this post and I thank her for the award.

Six and a half years ago, when we moved from Surrey to Cheshire I was not totally happy with what we were doing. I had my misgivings about the situation and my worst fears turned out to come true. At the time husband was very positive about the move but has since admitted that it was a mistake. However, it is all too late now. We are here and we aren't moving back south.

My husband's self employed status had been shaky for the best part of 15 months when a permanent post, came up in Chester, that exactly matched his skill set. In some ways it seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss. The downside was that it would mean moving 200 miles. I had some reservations. Which would be better? Chester with a job or Surrey without a job. We still had to live, eat and pay the mortgage. I also worked part time, but our financial commitments had been taken on, based on husband's salary. Husband was offered the job which he took. We sold our house in Surrey. Moved to a rented house in Chester before buying the cottage, which as it has turned out needed a lot more work doing to it than we originally thought. Houses always do, we ought to have realised that.

The job lasted two years! His employer a large American bank, expanded too quickly then had to shed staff. Husband was offered voluntary early retirement. In other words redundancy dressed up as enforced voluntary early retirement with a payment of one year's net salary, which was never going to last until he was able to draw his pension.

This American bank had no scruples, what so ever, about the fact that they had moved a couple in their fifties, 200 miles from their families, friends and the roots that they had put down, in my husband's case over his entire life. It did not matter to them that we had uprooted ourselves, moved house, rented a house then bought the cottage, with the help of a mortgage and were just being to find our feet in Chester when they swept the ground from under us. It had all cost us thousands of pounds.

I had suspected that something like this would happen. I clearly remember a conversation that I had with husband, before he accepted the job in Chester. We were in the kitchen of our previous house and I asked what would happen if once we had moved to Chester, he was made redundant. Husband assured me that it would not happen! And again I remember more conversations or rather heated discussions that the pair of us had in the kitchen of the cottage, which was the first room that we tackled when we started the renovation work on the cottage. Moving, back south, at this point was not an option. It would have been impossible to sell the cottage because we had started our programme of renovation work and the general appearance of the cottage was now worse then it had been before we started.

The timing of this early retirement could not have been worse. We had a builder booked to start work on the cottage and no salary on which to support the extension to the mortgage, needed to fund the building work. Luckily the early retirement payment came in handy to pay the builder. Fortunately for us, whilst we were wondering how we would pay the builder or manage some how to put him off, he had disappeared off the face of the earth. Eventually he resurfaced, four months later and announced that he was ready to start. His previous job had over run. After three months of twiddling his thumbs, husband went back to being self employed. Perhaps we should have stuck it out in Surrey? That is something that we shall never know.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Charity begins at home

Last week when I was confined to barracks by the weather I got round to unpacking a cardboard box that had been languishing in our utility room since the end of August. The two other boxes that had accompanied it were unpacked some time ago. Their contents washed and given a home. After four and a half months I was no longer sure what this box contained. As it happened it contained my parents' crystal glasses which my Father had promised to me some time before he died. Now everything was unpacked and my mind went back to the end of last Summer.

Late August of last year husband and I found ourselves on the road to West Sussex, yet again. This time we were going to my Mother's bungalow, in East Grinstead, to do some sorting out and tidying up. My brother had already started the ball rolling on getting the bungalow ready to sell, by sorting through all of my Mother's papers and SIL had done some cleaning. On previous visits I had sorted out my Mother's clothes. Before we got down to the business of cleaning, we had a good look at the contents of the bungalow and decided what we would like to have. It was like being a kid in a sweet shop. All these things that I had had my eyes on for years were suddenly there for the taking. I suppose because Mum is till alive, it was a strange experience. Would she approve? What would she think about me taking things? We placed our booty on the dining table then panicked that it would not fit into the bags and boxes that we had brought with us. Miraculously we just managed to pack up all of our haul. Then it was down to the job of cleaning. It was a chore, but I dislike intensely dusty, dirty and untidy houses and I have done it twice before when Mum had been in hospital. This was to be the third and last time. Once we had removed a couple of pieces of furniture that we were going to give a home to and I had rearranged the ornaments the whole place looked cleaner and tidier. Ever since my mother moved there, fifteen years ago, it had looked cluttered, with more furniture that she needed and too many ornaments, as she refused to part with anything.

There is still quite a lot of stuff in the bungalow and I could be tempted to give a home to some more of it but my brother has already complained that I have taken more than him. I have taken the view that our parents would rather we gave a home to their possessions than allowing them to end up in a charity shop. Otherwise it will be the tip, or for a few items an auction sale room.

The bungalow is now for sale. The Greenwich Meridian Line runs through East Grinstead and the bungalow is just to the east of it. There is a stone, photographed right, between my Mother's bungalow and the neighbouring bungalow marking the exact position of the Greenwich Meridian Line. Both the garden of my Mother and here next door neighbour are overgrown, but the Greenwich Meridian Line stone can still be clearly seen. I am not sure if there is any significance attached to the fact that the Greenwich Meridian Line runs through East Grinstead and I am pretty sure that the stone was not there when my Mother bought the bungalow.

Saturday 16 January 2010

A Hard Day's Night

At last, relief in the shape of warmer weather, for our hard working central heating boiler, which has been on day and night non stop, give or take a few hours, for a month now, because of the unusually cold weather. Let me explain. Our central heating boiler is situated in the garage and protected by a frost stat which has been a hard task master recently. However, the boiler has not always been in the garage.

When we first moved to the cottage the central heating boiler, which is oil fired, was in the utility room, under our bedroom. This meant that the second in the morning that it shuddered into life, we were wide awake. It sounded like a steam engine starting up. We thought about moving it into the garage, but were put off by the four figure estimates that we received for the work involved to move it. For a time we just had to learn to live with it. But undeterred, when the builder started on our alterations, I chanced my arm or my luck and asked him about moving the boiler into the garage. All the floor boards, that he was going to need to take up, were going to be up anyway for the installation of the new shower room and bathroom. He came back with a three figure estimate so we decided to go ahead and have it moved. Apart from the noise that the the wretched thing was making, it had a habit of going out what seemed like every time the wind blew across the farmer's field and up our garden. We hoped that by moving it into the garage it would be in a more sheltered position and be less likely to go out.

So the boiler was moved, solving the noise problem but leaving us with other problems. At our first house the boiler had been situated in the garage and had, had a frost stat wired up to it, so that it came on when the temperature dropped close to zero, to protect the boiler from freezing. Now the newly moved boiler needed a frost stat. The builder attempted to install one for us but unfortunately wiring it up was beyond his electrical skills. Twice in a period of 20 minutes he managed to fuse our electrics and he went off with his tail between his legs. We hoped that we would have more joy with our electrician but he could not come for a few weeks. When he did come there were no instructions with the frost stat, that he had bought, and he had to guess at how to connect it up, and having switched the boiler on, it would not go off. Luckily the plumber came, I think to sort out a leak through the shower room floor into the dining room, and he showed me the switch in the airing cupboard that switches the whole central heating system off. It is a last resort to use this switch as it switches off the time clock, which means that the cottage is cold when we get up, but after a week of unnecessary non stop heating we were getting desparate.

To cut a long story short, after several visits by the electrician and a change of frost stat, we now have a system which works reasonably well, although we do sometimes have to resort to switching off the whole system.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Sun, snow and salt

Cheshire is now famous for more than just Cheshire cheese. This week it has become famous or perhaps infamous for rock salt as the UK continues in the grip of of the freeze, that has taken hold of the country. Lorries from all over the country are queueing up, at two salt mines in the Cheshire towns of Middlewich and Winsford, for supplies of rock salt to grit the country's road. Despite the fact that the Cheshire salt mines are working at maximum capacity the country is rapidly running out of salt and the government has had to order stocks from abroad. Councils have been asked to reduce gritting levels in order to conserve supplies and we have been advised not to go out unless necessary.

As staying in has become the new going out I have decided to bore you with some photographs of where I live. In the past I have turned a blind eye to requests for photos as I wanted my blog to be read for want I wrote, also when I started my blog I did not have a digital camera. In addition, where we live does not look very pretty for most of the year but snow does a wonderful job of transforming an ugly duckling into a winter wonderland.

Let's start by turning right out of our drive and walking down the lane. I have used this view of the lane before but this is the first time since we moved here that we have had snow.

At the end of the lane if we turn left we can see the crossroads.

Turn right and we get this view in the other direction.

Then if we turn ourselves right again we can go back up the lane.

There are three houses in the lane and our cottage is the second house. It was originally built as two farm workers cottages for the farm that our garden backs onto. Previous owners of the cottage(s) have knocked the two cottages into one. It has also been extended and the inside rearranged it. It is not the prettiest of cottages. If you were expecting a thatched roof and wooden windows I am sorry to disappoint you. We live within walking distance of the Welsh border, so we have a slate roof and we have made the mistake of putting in UPVC windows, which we have to live with until the next time that the windows need replacing.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Christmas past

It's over now! The Christmas tree and decorations have been taken down and packed away for another 50 weeks and we are into a new year which for us, and myself in particular, will be different. Also, we have resolved that next Christmas will be different and it will.

This year, or rather last year, I worked at one of the local supermarkets in the run up to Christmas. When I was offered the work I decided to take it as supermarkets don't allow their staff holiday during December which means that it is unusual to be offered it and the atmosphere is usually good. There will not be the opportunity again, from their point of view, or mine. It was bitterly cold, even though we had additional heaters, because there was some problem with the supermarket heating. Years of working in these conditions have taught me to wear thermals to keep warm but I find it hard to concentrate when they insist on playing music to get shoppers in the Christmas mood. If they stuck to Christmas music it would not be so bad but at times it felt like a disco. However, I shall remember this work stint for two things. Firstly, the fact that by lunch time on Christmas Eve we had sold out of packets of Paracetamol tablets. The afternoon delivery included 200 packets! What do the British public do with them? And secondly, at 7pm on December 30 the printer stopped working and I had to hand write the labels. Something that I used to have to do when I first qualified but have rarely done since the requirement for labels to be printed was introduced. That's enough about work.

Husband and I had a pleasant and relaxing Christmas Day. Then we had my Mother for the afternoon on Boxing Day which went well apart from when it was time to take her back to the home and she wouldn't or couldn't walk. We ended up putting her on an old wooden chair and Husband carried her out to the car. If anybody had seen us we looked like a clip from You've been framed! The next day we both had pulled muscles from struggling with her. The following morning we left about 11 am for what should have been at two hour drive to Husband's family in Northampton. The southbound traffic on the M6 motorway was dreadful for no apparent reason. There had been an accident on the northbound carriage way and there was the mother and father of all traffic jams on that side of the motorway. After three hours we were no more than half way there, so we turned round and came home via the A41, stopping at a garden centre near Telford for a rather expensive sandwich and arriving home, from our circular tour, about 4.30 pm.

New Year's Eve was spent at home keeping warm and watching neighbouring fireworks. Then on January 2 we set off again for Northampton. This time we left earlier and made it to our destination in reasonable time but as we drove through a sleet storm just south of Warrington we both thought that we might have to turn back. It was black as night and visibility was only about ten feet. Husband has told his family we shall not be attempting to do that trip again next Christmas/New Year.

Now it is back to normal and I just need to wish you all

A Happy New Year!