Tuesday, 28 June 2011

...and to add insult to injury....

Small dog has done her other cruciate ligament in, and will be on painkillers for months. Big dog has an ear infection and has special ear drops.

Another £80-odd gone this morning to keep my very nice vet in the luxury to which he has no doubt become accustomed since he got me and my expensive team on his clientele list.


From Lady Buyer (me), this morning, to Lady Vendor (alleged), after striking lack of communication for some days: 

Hello X  -

I wonder if you can get in touch with me? I am beginning to get seriously worried now, as it's almost July, and I still have no confirmation of where I'll be moving very soon. Please let me know urgently if (property) is going to be available or not, because if it isn't, I must come down next week to make alternative arrangements. Time is running out for me. Hope to hear from you by return.



Wasn't I being polite about the deathly silence and my feeling that I was being strung along? 

In no time at all, this came back: 

Hi, Im sorry but the viewing at the weekend was no good.  The house
needed so much work and there wasn’t any view at all.  We are booked into
see two others this week which have only just come on so we are hoping they
may be suitable.  I do appreciate that we can't keep you hanging on and I do
understand that you may have to come back down and see some other houses.
Of course I would prefer not to loose you as a buyer but we have not found
anything suitable yet and have decided against just moving out as there is
not too many houses available for what we want and can afford.   If only we
had another £100k   I have tried the lottery but to no avail!  All I can say
is we are trying and spend all day looking at the options but its got to be
right as im sure you can appreciate.  I am waiting to hear back from an
agent this morning about two viewings so will let you know as soon as we
have seen them. Likely to be tomorrow eve now after work.   We totally
understand if you find something else we will have to accept it and either
take ours off the market or again continue to look and put ours back on.

Sorry it is not the news you were after.

X (lady vendor {alleged})

I couldn't bring myself to respond today, being rather busy with looking online at yet more properties, booking air tickets, sorting out dog and cat care during my absence, and imposing beyond all reason on friend Lizzie

(Lizzie meantime has viewed - on my behalf - a property to rent, has offered me her home, her hospitality, her support, her company, use of her car, and a taxi service to and from the airport. I think that in return I am expected to agree to coffee and a piece of cake somewhere during my visit. No more than she deserves, bless her. Maybe two pieces, even.)

And later today this arrived from Lady Vendor: 

Hiya,  we have booked one viewing tomorrow at 630 and the other one
unfortunately they can't do until Friday at 630.  but will let you know how
things stand after seeing them.

You will, of course, have often noticed that I like to keep this blog unnaturally refined, genteel, ladylike and as near-saintly as is humanly possible, so I won't tell you what I thought, or what my somewhat forthright friends in Canada and Australia said. You may think whatever you please, though, as frankly as you like; just be assured that Lady Vendor may eventually realise that I haven't just stepped off the boat, or have strings that can be pulled indefinitely.

Flying down to Bristol Sunday, house hunting in Somerset Monday, viewing the just-in-case rental on Tuesday. (Renting is the least favoured option, as I would be committed to 6 months' rent and can't have all the animals with me - well, not openly, anyway.) 

Fingers crossed. Again.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Flowers in the house

...or rather, flowers about to be removed from the house. Getting a bit sad now.

But the pelargoniums are doing their bit to brighten the dishwashing, tumbling into the suds.

Sorry you asked, Jane?

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Neighbour's newly-painted back door.

Labrador's newly-painted whiskers.

It's a dead giveaway, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

I didn't develop a black eye, I didn't have concussion (or a scalp wound, or fainting, or hallucinations, or memory loss, or a need for emergency admission to hospital). I just needed to stop the haphazard, reluctant, slightly resentful, somewhat frazzled, utterly disorganised activity that was getting me nowhere, and to have a cup of tea, sit down for a while, stop being so dramatic, and have an early night.

So today, have I had a productive and well-organised bout of packing? No.

Have I packed anything at all today? No.

Do I care? No.

Well, packing up a life after 30 years in this house is quite a taxing job on every level, and it's all too easy to find excuses to put it off.

PS A Somerset estate agent (not my vendor) sent me details of 21 properties today. 21! And they were all, every one of them, most definitely not for me. No, no, no. Many of them were painted peppermint green or Germolene pink. All had weirdly-elongated doors due to abuse of the wide-angled lens; I'm not fooled. Count a row of the the kitchen floor tiles and you can work out that they extend to 5 feet across, not 15. The word 'super' featured frequently; estate agents have their own peculiar take on the common adjective. Super house; super garden; super kitchen; super material to crumple into a ball and hurl at the wall.....

Friday, 24 June 2011

Dangerous occupation

Flossie and I are packing, albeit in a desultory fashion with lots of self-distraction (cups of tea, phone calls, emails, 'net surfing) and have tackled my generously-stuffed baking cupboard. But I've stopped now, for another cup of tea and a little sulk.

A rack of heavy baking trays fell out onto my nose and cheek, and I cracked my head on the corner of the cupboard door while picking them up. I'm nursing a lump on my head and watching to see if a black eye develops. And now I notice that the brown sticky tape that holds the packing boxes together slowly unsticks itself after a few days and waves about in the most insolent manner.

I've decided that I hate packing. And there is still so much to do!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Getting on with it

Spent hours last night compiling a list of Possible Alternative properties to view later in the month. Some were sent by helpful friends; many I had seen before. I looked at them on Google street view, and knocked some off the list. I emailed them to people for their views. Everyone liked one house in particular, and I almost persuaded myself that it could be a home for us.

Then I went to bed.

At 5 a.m. I got up, and looked properly at the list again, and decided that I most certainly could not live in most, if not all, of these houses, lovely though many were. Reasons varied, but I remembered that I do tend to know very quickly what I like (last year's chosen house; this year's chosen house) and don't need to dither around wondering if maybe I might like something else better. It would be foolish to make myself like something else simply because I had to pick an alternative in a hurry.

So while I'm still hoping, still looking, and still trying to remain upbeat and positive, I'm also exploring rentals both in Somerset and - only as a failsafe - in Northumberland. The intention was always to move to Somerset, so why abandon that dream now, because of a setback? Either the vendor's house difficulty will be resolved, or if it isn't, then I may find something that I will know quickly that I like, and that will be that.

My house is waiting for me somewhere, when we're ready for each other.

"All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well."

Lots of you knew all that already; thank you.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

But then.....


Despite all your lovely vigour and enthusiasm, the jumping for joy was in vain. The vendor's builder delivered bad news on the property they were about to buy, and she has decided against it. She rang, sounding quite despondent, unable to believe how little choice there was for her. Renting isn't an option - too costly, and they'd be tied in for 6 months.

We have agreed to keep on as before, she and partner continuing to search for the house and land they need, me continuing to hope that they find something soon, but meanwhile, time passes, and I (and ever-helpful Lizzie!) have to look elsewhere too.

I could sit down and have a little blub, but I won't; instead, propped up with cushions, I am going to busy myself contacting estate agents for alternative properties that might meet my needs as the hoped-for house did*.

Newly added to the top of the list will be 'No Chain'.....

* in today's order:

No onward chain
Light and airy
Quiet safe road for animals
Private but not isolated
Not oil-fired heating - I'm no millionaire

Doesn't seem like much to ask, does it? But it is.....

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

On the first day of summer...

...my vendor emailed to say that they had found a house to buy. Even better, as it is currently a second home, it could be cleared by the end of July.

If I wasn't spending the day sitting propped up or lying down and stuffed woozily with painkillers because of my painful back, I would jump for joy.

Jumping volunteers welcome!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Treasure trove?

This is this year's competition potato, growing in a bag of organic compost in my back yard. Once again, we have no idea what type it is, or when it should be dug up, but that's not the point.

Just like last year, Elspeth-down-the-road and her neighbours Nonnie and Jill have organised us all to plant a single potato, grow it in the bag generously provided, and wait for the day when we must dig up the result and take it to the grand outdoor picnic, where after weighing and counting each plant's offspring, a winner will be declared.

Last year, people met neighbours with whom they had never spoken previously. The neighbouring street has been included this year. Who knows, the competition may grow exponentially, and in time the entire estate may join in, thus founding a great Love Your Potato-Neighbour movement that may sweep the country.

Neighbourliness and shared picnicking aside, competition is ferocious, despite many people having no idea of what they are doing. The enjoyable side of this rivalry is that we have no idea either of what is going on underneath the compost; jungly foliage does not necessarily mean prizes.

Note: The picnic date has not been set, but I am certain that I will still be here for it. My buyer had promised to enter my potato if I had moved by then, but unless and until my poor vendor succeeds in her quest to find a house (and she has been desperately unlucky with the alleged vendors whose houses she has tried to buy) I'm here. I'm still a Potato Contest Contender.

Grow, little taters, grow!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Mothers can be wrong too

Nope, he didn't enjoy it.

A rather scathing review by text made me laugh this morning.

Still, now he knows, and can refuse future invitations without incurring the accusation of "How do you know, if you've never tried it?"

Friday, 17 June 2011


The Lovely Son is attending his first ever ballet tonight at the O2 Arena. Somehow, despite my best efforts to instil some kulcher into his early years, we never managed to get to such an event* when he was growing up. Well, we were poor, and we lived in a backwater and read and re-read books instead.

(*...although once, when he was a very small boy, he watched male ballet dancers on our black and white tv, and, quite scandalised, insisted that "those men have got bare bottoms!")

He is being taken to see this most splendid of ballets by his girlfriend C. He texted me to ask "What is happening to me?". Lurve, dear boy; the civilising influence of a woman, although the signs were already there some time ago as he shopped willingly with me for nicer bedding and crockery for his flat.

C texted me too, to say that he seemed "rather resistant, ha ha". Personally, I think he will be drawn into the magic of it all, the powerful interpretation of the familiar story, the sheer physicality that eludes you if you watch ballet on film or television, the absence of tutus, feathers and fairytale characters, and the impressive fight scenes. It's a splendid introduction to ballet, and I think he is going to love it.

And anyway, She will be with him. Resistance is futile.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Are those fingers still tightly crossed? I hope so.

My vendor has made what she thinks will be an acceptable offer on a property, and is awaiting a response. Meantime she has instructed her solicitor to proceed with the sale of her house to me.

My buyer is proposing completion dates, which helps to concentrate everyone's minds wonderfully; I know he will wait if he has to, but perhaps I won't tell that to the chain above us.

I feel like Scooter on the staircase; part of me is sitting tight, while another part is proceeding with caution.

Let's hope we get all the way there this time.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Back to waiting

The Somerset vendor still hasn't found anywhere to buy.

She says they are looking desperately.

I hope that's true; time is not on my side. My buyer is patient, but I know he wants to be in before September.

Meantime, I'm doing this again:

Thank goodness for Helpers.

Even if they don't quite understand what 'helping to pack a bag' really means.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


They've gone. Such a short visit, but so productive! The Lovely Son did some jobs around the house, his girlfriend worked on her dissertation, and I cooked. And we spent a lot of time eating and chatting; they also fitted in walks, a visit to the Baltic and a look round a cold wet Newcastle, and a morning at the seaside with a deliriously-happy labrador.

The dead dishwasher, sold with the house, was replaced, plumbed and wired in by the Lovely Son, by the bargain machine bought via the Council's intranet website for the princely sum of £15. It is just humming quietly through its fourth load.

The damaged skirting board in the shower room, so far well-hidden from viewers by a linen cupboard, was fixed beautifully by aforementioned Lovely Saintly Son; no need for replacement.

Door handles, their screws long-lost, were secured throughout the house, the little stained glass panel in the bathroom window was carefully removed (it was a gift from Tricia and is moving house with me), the wildly-swaying ash sapling in the front of the house, that threatened to break windows in breezy weather, was removed (again: it will grow back in time, as it always does).

And duct tape was judiciously applied to the freezer fascia, enthusiastically pulled from its moorings by me during a stop-cock search when the top of the shower-room basin's hot tap came off.

The To Do list shrank noticeably.

The groaning fridge was lightened considerably, and anything surplus to requirements was packed up today to leave with the Lovely Son and girlfriend.

The dogs were kept in a constant state of extreme joy.

And, most delightful of all, I got to know the Lovely Son's girlfriend, C, and to like her very much indeed.

Which was just as well, as she is clearly someone who a) can produce that permanent happy smile on the LS's usually-serious countenance, and b) is important enough to be brought home to meet The Mother.....

"Look at my stupid face!" he exclaimed when he saw this photo.

We did, and my heart was glad. Long may his face remain like that.

No pressure there then, C.

Come back soon, both of you.

Arriving 2

The Lovely Son and girlfriend, Central Station, Newcastle.

Start of weekend in which meals featured - a lot. No one would be allowed to leave until a dent was made in that overflowing fridge.

Thankfully, these two were to prove hearty and appreciative breakfast/lunch/dinner guests.

Friday, 10 June 2011


I'm up early, scuttling about, trying to look purposeful rather than in a tizzy.

Today the Lovely Son arrives on a noontime train, bringing with him the Lovely Girlfriend. I haven't met her yet, and I'm beside myself with excitement.

Also, I need another person to help eat up the army-feeding quantity of groceries I bought yesterday for their visit. I don't know what possessed me.

And another thing..... my Somerset vendor says that the Memorandum of Sale (i.e. of her house to me) will be sent out to me today.

We're on the move.

But only after the fridge has been emptied.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Pleasure in small things

Flossie is a typically ball-obsessed labrador. She finds so many when she's out that I can't remember the last time I had to buy one. 

When we left the house early this morning, Flossie was carrying her old ball. Not much bounce left in it, but just right for the river: not so light that it floats away, and not so heavy that it sinks.

Flossie isn't so particular. She knows that balls are often to be found on the riverbank or caught up in shallower stretches of water.

This was her first find of the morning. The old ball was discarded in favour of this glossy new football.

It just needed a little tooth-piercing to make it easier to carry.

It made a great swimming toy.

And drew the attention of others until they realised it was not to be shared. Flossie never shares balls!

Tosca doesn't care for a ball. She plods along, avoiding balls, bouncing dogs, and any risk of getting wet.

But then another, smaller ball was discovered....

And another. Which to choose?

The bright blue one, of course. But it made a surprising POP! when pierced.

Rather disappointing, really. Flossie decided to go on without a ball at all. The undergrowth held too many exciting scents, and carrying a large ball interfered with following them.

Until we reached the place where the first ball had been discarded.

Hurrah! Filthy, battered, but still Flossie's own.

Then home to be met by Millie.

And the ball added to the collection parked on the shed roof, waiting for the next walk.

It's a simple life, but a joyous one.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Dealing with it

I am dealing with the busy little wasps building a nest under my house via the tiny air holes in my front step.

I am dealing with poor Scooter's bladder crystals and cystitis.

I am dealing with the symptoms thereof, on furniture and floors.

I am dealing with the dead dishwasher and replacing it with a second-hand one.


I am dealing with today's wait while my vendors also wait to hear if/which of their offers on two properties is accepted.

I am also dealing with my urge to eat cake.

Not that there is any cake, you understand; that helps. Please feel free to have cake on my behalf. It would be a kindness.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Half time?

A game of two halves.... Not just a cliche often heard in football commentary, it seems apt for my nerve-shredding house situation too.

The sale of my house seems to be moving along nicely; the survey findings were accepted in full, no quibbling, and the buyer's solicitor has been instructed to proceed. I feel less anxious now about the selling bit.

Buying is another matter. The vendors have found only one property that they like (odd, isn't it, how we all call houses, even our beloved family homes, a 'property' nowadays?), and that's the one with the water supply problems - and the little matter of their offer being refused.

They don't want to move and rent, and neither do I.

I worry that they may change their minds, and decide to wait till their perfect property comes along. Worry is my default position.

Maybe it's just half time, and we need to retire to the sidelines and eat quartered oranges.....

Friday, 3 June 2011

Playing with sharp weapons

Roger suggests that I tell you about our archery course for beginners. From this, I infer* that it will be fine to show you a photo of him with a Mars bar in his mouth.

(*A lovely snippet from the Simpsons: Homer asks Lisa just what is she inferring? To which she replies in that fabulously-smug voice "You're inferring; I'm implying!")

Anyway. Roger pretending to shoot an arrow (which had been put away by then) while holding his prize, a Mars bar, in his mouth:

We had four weekly classes in all, on a lovely birdsong-filled field in Ponteland, that in reality was the Coldest Place in Britain on Tuesday Evenings.

We were a select group: just Roger, Annie and me. Three friends who encouraged each other, even when we couldn't hit the target from three feet away. The tutors, seasoned archers both, were immensely patient, coping well with our wilder shots, my inability to locate my own chin when looking sideways, our lack of hardiness when it came to bitter Easterly winds sweeping down on us despite our thermal vests, winter coats and warm socks.

Real archers from the club, wielding the most covetable high-tech shiny bows, their targets mere specks on the horizon, would pass, giving cheerful encouragement; beginners' courses are a good way of recruiting new club members. They seemed to be having fun, although much time was spent with metal detectors, searching the field for lost arrows.

Peter and Jean were our coaches; when the course ended, with the June intake ready to replace us next week, they said that it wouldn't be the same with the new group. You may infer or imply what you like from this....

We loved it all, however, despite the weekly hypothermia.

Peter showed us how a longbow worked. We were allowed to hold this bow, but no more; we touched it reverentially, marvelling at its lightness. I loved that connection with the past, although I doubt if the English archers at Agincourt used bamboo bows. (Incidentally, the English victory is seen very differently by the French.)

At the end of our final session, we aimed for a sheet of A4 paper pinned to the target, through which a thread hung, with a Mars bar dangling below. We were supposed to slice through the thread (which is well-nigh impossible). Hitting the paper at all seemed miraculous.

In the event the person whose arrow came closest to the thread won the prize.

Amazing how a nice, gentle, kindly soul turns into a ferociously-competitive rival when chocolate is involved.....

And did he share it? He didn't. I think he blamed drool on the wrapper.

Drool. As if Annie and I, inured to dogs, cared about a bit of drool.... We remain bitter.

So, would I do it again? Possibly; it depends on what Somerset has to offer a duffer novice. I didn't seem to improve much over the weeks, but maybe in warmer weather, with a bit of motivational chocolate....
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