Appearances can be deceptive, and other moving tales

Having blogged back in February about jumping head first and putting an offer on a local property that we were not really ready to buy, we finally exchanged and completed on the 22nd.

Excitement and trepidation had been building for some time, and with the help of friends and family we prepped and packed virtually everything that could be prepped and packed. Every room was thoroughly cleaned as it was emptied and once the keys were in our hands, we were away!

messy living room with upturned furniture
Moving day chaos with upturned sofa

My expectations were high for the new house, having been showcased as something that we could just move in to. With recent improvements to the bathrooms, a relatively modern conversion in the garage, new-ish windows, a decent kitchen etc it ticked all the boxes. I wasn’t keen on some of the paint colour choices, but smother everything in magnolia and you can’t go wrong (at least in the short term).

Unfortunately, life is never that simple. The move itself was fine, I’m never particularly bothered about packing and moving, but every day since has thrown up challenges.

The whole house was dirty with dog hair and debris like false nails left in drawers and in the carpet in my son’s room. There’s windows that jam, the extractor hood over the hob blew on the first use (and not just a fuse, it’s actually fucked). None of the internal doors fit properly in their frames which means they don’t shut properly, there’s no hot water and we’re not sure why, the back door drops in the frame when you open it and it won’t shut again, and there’s a mystery leak causing water to seep through the garage which seemed minor at first but we’ve just discovered is also affecting the cupboard under the stairs so suddenly becomes a big deal.

Walls had been painted between our initial viewings and the sale for some utterly bizarre reason, and every paint job was terrible with the various previous colours showing through brush marks on the walls. There’s screws half-in door handles, we removed a pinboard that was attached to a wall with an entire packet of blu tack, and we found a mystery Christmas present under the stairs. It wasn’t even a good one.

The smell of dog, probably not helped by the water leak, is overwhelming despite vacuuming the carpet again and again and suddenly explains why she had a lot of air fresheners running during the viewings. There’s scratch marks in doors and the conservatory windows where they were obviously shut away during the day.

Every house has its quirks, and it’ll take time to find and fix (or come to terms with) those in this one, but the huge disconnect between my expectations and the reality is crushing.

Update 2018-06-05: having ripped back some of the vinyl in the converted garage bathroom this morning, the leak appears to be coming from the shower, which is a lot easier to fix than if it were e.g. coming from upstairs. Still a twat, but less of a twat than I thought.

Lead photo by Stephanie Watters Flores. Not my new house, obviously, I’m just being dramatic.

One month since…

I jumped back into freelance
I had this rough plan in my head: I was going to ease myself into freelance, taking the first two weeks gently to try and get rid of some of the symptoms of burnout that I’d been experiencing previously, and then finish off some jobs that had been hanging around for a while and THEN go out and get new work in.

What actually happened was that I’d won a ton of new work before I’d even left my full-time job, existing clients suddenly dumped a load of ongoing stuff on me, and a long term client indefinitely reserved 8 hours of my time a week split over two 4-hour ‘days’ which I do onsite. This gives me some guaranteed income which just about covers my childcare, so that I can chuck everything else at my mortgage and bills.

Although I have had some days where I have sat staring at a blank screen for hours, my mojo is occasionally putting in an appearance and I’m getting shit done.

Gaz moved in
And everything is great. I wake up in the morning wrapped in duvet and limbs and feel utterly content. I hear the door open and close as he gets home from work and it doesn’t matter how shit my day was, it makes me smile from ear to ear. It’s the small things like coffee in bed on a Saturday morning or a quick phone call after work to see if I need anything picking up from the shops, and it’s the big things, like stepping up and helping out with the kids so that I don’t have to be in two places at once.

I was regularly working out
I touched upon this in my muddy in London post, but I’ve barely done anything physical in July: running and lifting both out of the window thanks to moving and work and holidays. I have been feeling squishy round the middle (although the number on the scale remains patiently the same, give or take 1lb or 2) and so chucked myself head first into a basic squat workout on Friday.

I still don’t have a squat rack, so it was basically overhead press into back squat, 27kg, 5 sets with the following reps: 6-8-10-8-6. I was dead on my feet by the end and was feeling pathetic and lazy, but then realised that (given my normal workouts are 5×5) I’d done 19 more reps than usual. Although I’m not lifting at my heaviest (32.5kg) this helped me feel a little more badass and reassured me that taking the month off had not too badly affected my strength.

Of course, I woke the next morning numb from the waist down and couldn’t get up and down the stairs, but that’s beside the point…

I need to clear out the utility, which is currently full of kitchen appliances shifted out there post-Gaz-move, so that I can re-convert it into my “home gym” and get my arse back on the wagon.

In completely unrelated news, one of the items on my 30 before thirty list is blogging every day for a month, a challenge I haven’t successfully completed in many years. I’d like to try and tackle that one sooner rather than later (to give me time to try again if I go wrong) so if there’s anything you want to hear from me about (updates on old posts, specific questions, etc) PLEASE speak up, I’m going to need all the help I can get :)

The House, The Move, The DIY

I’ll break this down a bit for those not interested in the minutiae of the past few days; you can skip to which bits interest you the most…

Friday: Exchange and Complete

The contracts were officially exchanged on the house Friday morning, we completed at the same time and had the keys for 11am. A thorough check of the house uncovered:

  • The previous owners had an unhealthy obsession with a nail gun
  • Someone had been in the garden and nicked the rotary line left by the owners!
  • Part of the central heating had died, which means every time you turn it on it blows a fuse
  • A broken window lock, a useless dimmer switch and a crack in the loo

But otherwise, no dramas.

Saturday: Moving Day

We had planned to drop Isabel off at my mum’s, getting back to the cottage (old place) in plenty of time for the men from Simply Removals to arrive with the van between 12 and 3pm. In reality, we ended up stacking task after task and we ended up dashing to the new place for 10am so that A.S.T. Floorcoverings could come measure up, on to my mum’s for 10:40 to drop Isabel off, a dash to Homebase (DIY/furniture store) to pick up a few bits (and ended up spending over £100!!!) and then a speedy drive back to the cottage to wait for my mates from work who were helping.

With the help of my work colleagues, we moved everything downstairs ready for 12, and waited. And waited. And waited. 2:45pm comes around and I phone Simply Removals to make sure they were definitely coming: “Oh, the guys were held up a little at a previous job, they’ll be there in half an hour“. So I wait 30 minutes, and nothing. At 3:30pm I rang again, and enquired as to the whereabouts of the men; “oh, they’re stuck in traffic, give it 15-30 minutes“. We waited some more. 4pm rolls around, by which point the removal company are an hour late, and so I rang again. I asked where they were, and was told they were stuck in traffic (again?) and they were 6-8 minutes away. I also asked as to how customers are compensated for lateness, and was told we get nothing until the guys are 2 hours late and then we’d get a 10% refund. The guys finally arrived at 4:10.

What pissed me off the most about the whole thing was not the fact that the Simply Removals guys were late; shit happens, people get held up. It’s the fact that I was lied to on all 3 occasions. It wasn’t until the new guys got here and said that they weren’t the ones supposed to be doing it that I realised what had happened. From what I made out, the original guys were held up for a lot longer than expected and instead of the company letting us know, we were fobbed off with bullshit about traffic while they got 2 other guys out to us. It’s a shame, because the men moved bloody fast and had the whole move complete in less than 2 hours in the end.

Unfortunately their delay had a knock on effect for the rest of the day, though. Food shopping that was to be delivered between 4 and 5 had to be fielded by Karl while I dealt with the move, and Isabel ended up spending more time at my mum’s. Boxes could not be sorted into rooms until later, we didn’t have time to put the bed up properly and we all ended up with a very late bedtime (and a very cranky toddler).

After That…

It’s all been a bit of a blur since then. A combination of crazy unpacking, getting the various rooms set up, and then on Monday we had to take everything out of the living room again ready for the flooring on Tuesday (which is done, and looks fab; see below).

We’re waiting for the gas people to get back to us re: heating, but the house is holding a nice steady 18+ degrees C, which makes a nice change (to put that into perspective … the cottage temperature dropped to 15 degrees within 24 hours of us moving out and it’s only held there now because that’s what we’ve left the heating on!) I am looking forward to lower bills :)

We’ve already started demolishing things. We removed a tall cupboard frame from the kitchen which had been used previously to hold the fridgefreezer. It had no door on and looked a mess so Karl and I ripped it out. We just have to touch up the paint behind where it was sat but it already looks loads better. We (well, my brother) also ripped out a mock hearth thing in the front room which had been constructed out of timber blocks and tongue n groove stuff. Yuk. Now to decide on paint colours…


Original estate agent pics:

Front room before we ripped the carpet out (they were taken in the dark, hence the shit quality):

Front room with the new flooring in:

So there you go.

Resorting to Child Labour

I’m so freakin’ knackered from all the moving malarkey that I’m resorting to child labour:

But hey, at least she’s earning her keep ;D

Move is progressing well, touch wood. We exchange contracts on Tuesday, and assuming the mortgage company get their arses in to gear and release the funds straight away we complete on Friday. Woop woop! It’s not allowed to go wrong at this point; we’ve already booked and paid for a moving van for 2 hours on Saturday.

In other news, I’ve had a date for my organ harvesting gallbladder surgery… they want me in for a pre-op assessment on the 31st October and then the op is on the 21st November. I guess the pre-op is just a general take the blood pressure, make sure you’re not 40 stone and going to need 3 beds type thing. Sigh. I don’t know if I’m even doing the right thing you know. I’m not scared of the surgery, but I am petrified of having some of the side effects like NEVER BEING ABLE TO EAT BACON AGAIN. Apparently some people find that post-removal fat just goes through them undigested. I.e. to consume anything remotely tasty, I’d need to do it on the toilet.

I’m sooo not going to miss the pattern on this carpet when we’re gone.

No News is Good News?

I hope. We are no closer to getting the keys, or so it seems. Both Karl and I spoke to the solicitor last week and everything appears to be done on their side, they’re waiting on the seller’s solicitors. We’ve both emphasised the fact that we have handed in our notice which probably won’t achieve anything will hopefully push them along a bit faster.

Have started to pack up crap in anticipation of a moving date, but at the same time eager to ditch as much extra stuff as possible. This is for three reasons:

  1. The very obvious fact that the less you have to move, the easier and quicker it will be to do so
  2. Of all the previously mobile moving helpers (Karl, my mum, me, etc) only one of us is still mobile. Although we’ll likely get around this by using a moving firm. It seems a little silly to get a firm in when we’re literally moving around the corner (seriously) but I can’t do it on my own.
  3. The new house is smaller than our rental. Plenty of opportunity for expansion but this isn’t going to happen overnight.

Now just to convince Karl that a new house requires a trip to IKEA…

This Could All Go Horribly Wrong

Karl had a call from the estate agents/solicitors last week re: the house and they informed him that things are moving along swiftly and they expect us to be in by the end of the month. This month. May. Holy shit.

But also, they said we need to give notice for our rental asap. This meant having to give it by yesterday, so that the last payment goes out and we’re not stuck with an empty cottage over June while we’re living the high life (ha) in our new house.

So we did. We handed in our official notice termination thingymabob, said thanks a lot, Bob’s your uncle, bye bye. Which means we have to be out of here by June 9th at the very latest.

Of course, it does occur to me/us that we don’t actually have an official completion date yet, despite the reassurances from the solicitor. So, call me pessimistic but … This Could All Go Horribly Wrong. (Caps absolutely necessary.)

The long post that I didn’t write last week

I feel I should start this post with a series of finger exercises as I may be here a while. Anyway…

Let’s start with the move. We picked up the keys on Friday 9th October. Although there’d been some discussion in the days previous about the place not being ready (it was being used as a holiday let and still contained the original furniture) we expected to see some progress having been made to get it habitable. Uh, no, t’was still full of the owner’s stuff.

Arrangements had been made to begin the move with smaller bits on the Friday, with a friend of my mum’s helping on the Saturday. This was a fine theory but didn’t go to plan and we ended up with 95% of our furniture in the new place (alongside the owner’s furniture) by the end of Friday. All that was left at the old place was our bed and the pets… which obviously couldn’t be moved until the landlady/whomever had come to collect the old furniture as we didn’t want to run the risk of the cats getting out. We spent the weekend living between two places, and I ended up having to take an extra day off work (Monday 12th) to try and get things sorted.

The furniture was finally moved out on that Monday, allowing us to start arranging our stuff and getting the bed/pets over. We didn’t finish until near midnight Monday, with me due at work the next morning (36 weeks pregnant, very tired).

I finished work a week earlier than originally planned (due to exhaustion and a very engaged baby’s head making it difficult to sit for long periods of time) on Thursday 15th October.

On Saturday 17th October, as we were leaving my mum’s, the car died. We had basically driven a few yards up the road when suddenly the engine cut out and we coasted to a stop. Karl checked a few things, poked a couple of relays under the bonnet and the car started again so we proceeded home — followed by my mum just in case. The car made it, parked up outside, we saw my mum off home and then Karl went to start it again and it refused to start. Seemed to be an intermittent relay issue, but Karl did some jiggerypokery and diagnosing with his laptop software and, IIRC, we had no more problems that week.

Saturday just gone, the 24th, we were on our way to my mum’s when the car died again. Except this time it wasn’t on a little town back road that is rarely used, but coming off a busy roundabout connected to the M54 (busy motorway) approaching a supermarket retail park at around 5ish. Nothing like the sound of rushing motorway traffic/Saturday shoppers to inspire feelings of despair and frustration. This time the car refused to start and we spent a couple of hours at the roadside with collective family members trying to a) diagnose and b) fix the issue long enough to get us somewhere safe. I’d just like to offer my “fuck you”s to the guy at the Vauxhall dealership in Trench, Telford who was of no use whatsoever, but a big thank you to Churchill’s breakdown cover who had a man out to us within about 30 minutes.

The car was started and recovered to my mum’s down the road where it has been sat most of the week. Final diagnosis is a fucked ECU, which is apparently the computer thingymabob which makes things work. Something to do with that and relays and earthing and switches… or something. If you’re interested in that sort of thing you’ll have to wait for Karl to blog about it because it means sod all to me.

What really fucked me off about that second breakdown was the fact that I was stood at the side of the road, very visibly pregnant at near-38 weeks, and not one person stopped to ask if we were OK or whether we needed a phone to call for help/etc. Hundreds of cars went past in the time we were there. It’s only lucky that a) I had my phone and have been keeping it topped up because I’m not far due, and b) my mum lives so local because otherwise I’d have had to walk half a mile or more to get help, and in my state that’s all but impossible.

Anyway, breathe.. breathe… because of the proximity to my due date, we decided pretty much straight away that we’d need to get another car to act as a temporary run around while our main car is off the road (ECU has been sent away for repair today to a fantastic company called Blue Streak Europe, should hear back tomorrow). Karl is restricted to automatic gearboxes due to his license, and we didn’t want to spend an absolute fortune with sprog so close and this being a temporary measure. After some primitive searching, we settled on an M-reg auto Astra similar to Karl’s old car from a local second hand dealership called Dream Car Sales for £500 plus £60 MOT inc. parts/labour if necessary. (Loving that DW template website based on an AutoTrader special.)

Straight away the guy (whom I assume is the owner) from Dream Car Sales rubbed me up the wrong way (metaphorically speaking) but we were desperate and cheap local autos are few and far between. We gave him £200 deposit on the condition he’d get the car MOTed next day — which he did — while we organised temporary insurance. Got a call back the next day (Tuesday 27th) that it was ready for pick up. It had failed the MOT on exhaust and brake pipes but these had been replaced and a pass cert was issued.

I, even in my absolute ignorance of cars and all things mechanical, have no idea how that car managed to pass an MOT test. For starters, it only goes above 20mph if Karl applies very gentle pressure to the throttle (putting your foot down to pull out of a junction is … well, it’s impossible and suicidal). If you try and go up a hill without a significant run up to build speed the speedometer bottoms out at 10mph. Karl was worried about one of the tyres and, although this is only a temporary solution our safety is paramount, so he took it to a local mechanic and they took the tyre off… it fell apart in the guys hands. There’s a massive hole in some rubber tube-y thingy that shouldn’t be there, no air filter, and one of the battery terminals is VERY badly corroded. Karl came in 30 minutes ago to tell me that the bloody thing won’t even start this afternoon, although I think he’s fixed that now.

Simply put, Dream Car Sales of Oakengates, Telford are useless cowboys and sold us what they called “an excellent runner”, a car one of them said “he wanted for his daughter but we beat them to it”. If we hadn’t already been expecting a bit of a banger, I’d be seeking professional advice and making life difficult for Dream Car Sales right about now. As it is I’ll have to settle for blogging about them.

So… “tl/dr” summary: I’m now 38w2d pregnant, no imminent signs of labour. We are moved, even though there’s plenty of junk still in boxes. We are back on the ‘net, thank you BT and PlusNet for your prompt service. My mum has been an absolute marvel with the move and providing transport post-breakdown. The main car is currently off the road although this is, touch wood, very temporary.. oh, and I’ll be having an Astra bonfire at some point to get rid of the heap of shit banger we’re running around in at the minute. Marshmallows anyone?

Not Long to Go Now

An appropriate title in more than one way…

Firstly, we had confirmation this week that our applications for a different local property had gone through. We get the keys Friday 9th, and I’m hoping to be fully moved over that weekend. We’ll then have until November to get the flat shiny ‘n new, but given that we had to sacrifice our deposit to leave this tenancy early I’m not entirely bothered to waste too much time on it. This does mean that I’m likely to lose Internet connection at some point and have no idea when we’ll be back on; I will update my twitter by phone if anything exciting happens (hah).

Secondly, there is of course the small fact that I’m just over a month away from my due date. Still, even these last few weeks don’t seem to want to go by peacefully. After a routine antenatal check-up on Thursday I found myself booked in for a scan on Friday because the midwife was worried about baby being small for dates. Turns out that baby is fine, smack bang on the line for growth and the reason for the inaccurate fundal height measurement is because baby is very low in the pelvis. Although I did find out that apparently baby has long legs; just like his/her mum then!

By Friday afternoon I was in quite a lot of pain around my back, inner thigh and hip. This meant I got little sleep so by Saturday morning I was back in for another check, only to be told I have an irritable uterus. From what I’ve read, this simply means that my uterus is almost constantly contracting, but without causing any change to the cervix (although there is a slightly increased risk of pre-term labour). I’d assumed that this almost constant tightness was all fairly normal what with it being my first, but obviously not. Anyway, I’m sure I’m the only one who finds any of this actually interesting!

Have a nice week, everyone :)