Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The best and worst of times

We're very nearly packed up and ready to move, but not before going through every single one of our belongings and deciding which ones are worth taking with us. A process that is both comforting and unsettling.

Sifting through children's books, games and toys that my daughters used and enjoyed has been bittersweet. We found their once favourite dolphin swing-seat at the back of the shed and a discarded bag of bath toys in the airing cupboard. Looking through their favourite story books and remembering how they would play for hours with certain toys has evoked so many happy memories, but has also emphasised the fact that they are growing up and there is little room in their lives for toys these days.

Yesterday we took a car load of toys, books and games to our local charity shop and said goodbye to part of their childhood.

It's been comforting to look at, and handle, things that evoke happy memories - reminders of my parents, my late brother's harmonica, well-read books with inscriptions from friends and mementos of holidays and special occasions.

Then there is the emotional charge attached to bits and pieces that were collected with my ex-husband. Some remind me of a happier time when we first moved into this house and we were full of plans for a future together. We visited a reclamation yard one weekend, it was a warm, sunny day and my husband was carrying our then toddler daughter around the yard on his shoulders. We went into a covered area and found and old church pew and knew we wanted it for our kitchen where it still resides. We still love the pew and it'll come with us to the new house.

Then there's the bulging file of paperwork relating to our divorce and the nasty aftermath, most of which will be shredded before we move.

We're all excited about moving house and for my two girls it's the start of a new adventure. This is the only house they've ever known, we moved here when the Teenager was just 6 months old and her sister was born 3 years later.

For me, it's that fresh start I've been longing for. I've been feeling for a while that change was on the horizon and this feels like it. I'm excited.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Tesco Mobile phone giveaway

We've had a few hiccups with mobile phone bills. Like the time The Teenager phoned her best friend on her mobile for a long, long, long chat and ran up a big bill. She used up all her minutes and so everything after that was an extra charge and I didn't find out until the bill arrived at the end of the month.

Or what about my friend whose son ran up a bill of over £800 with his first mobile phone by using it to surf the net. He didn't realise he would be charged for it on his tariff. Ouch!

With exactly this sort of thing in mind, Tesco has just launched their capped mobile phone tariffs, which allows the bill payer (otherwise known as The Parent) to keep phone bills of the user (otherwise known as the teenager) under control.  This would be really useful for an older teenager who is surgically attached to their phone or, as in my case with my younger daughter, a child who's just started at secondary school and is getting their first mobile phone.

The tariffs allow full control of spending and so take away any worries about unexpected bill surprises. The main features of the Tesco Mobile Capped contracts are:
  • ensuring your monthly bill is never more than the cost of your tariff;
  • this is done by fixing your tariff so you can only use your inclusive minutes, texts and data;
  • the ability to top-up your account with a pay-as-you-go top up if you run out during the month;
  • the choice of capping any contract on any phone across their whole range, a unique offer in the mobile phone market.

To celebrate the launch of their new contracts, Tesco is offering a fantastic new LG Optimus 3D phone to one lucky person. To be in with a chance of winning just leave a comment telling me what money saving tip you would hand down to your kids. Please also leave an email address or twitter name to make it easier for me to contact you. Simples!

Closing date is Thursday 27th October 2011, and the winner will be notified the next day.

Terms and conditions: Open to UK residents only. There is no cash alternative. Only one entry per person. The prize will be sent directly from Tesco.

Disclosure: I have received a shopping voucher from Tesco in return for this post. 

UPDATE: the winner of the LG Optimus 3D is Alison M (@ali991). Congratulations Alison! Please email me with your details.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Five things I won't be getting annoyed with anytime soon

It's been a long time since I've shared a house with another adult, and with the prospect of sharing a house with my younger brother not far away I wanted to note some of my *cough* observations.
  1. My brother feels the cold very easily and keeps putting the heating on when it's not even winter yet! He says I could survive in sub-zero temperatures if the temperature of my house is anything to go by, but basically it's much simpler than that - he's nesh* and I'm not. 
  2. He never answers the house phone. Ever. 
  3. He watches back to back episodes of Top Gear, Wheeler Dealers and Motorway Cops. Fortunately, when we move into the new house he'll have his own room to watch this sort of stuff.
  4. He doesn't appreciate the finer qualities of the greyhound. He doesn't understand how a dog renowned for its chasing instinct and speed spends most of the day asleep, and says he "doesn't see the point". 
  5. As he gets older he's starting to morph into our Dad. Same expressions, same strong opinions, same fog-horn voice.
But this is all good and I'm not complaining, honest.  Considering what I put up with the last time I shared a house with a man, this'll be easy.

And just in case you're wondering, I have no bad habits and don't do anything that could be called annoying. No, really.

*nesh is a good northern word, it means he gets cold easily.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Becoming a technosaur

Image credit
Years ago I remember trying to explain to my dear old Nan how a fax machine worked. She found it really hard to understand how a machine could transfer a copy of a document via the telephone line, and I struggled to explain it in all honesty, but considering she was born in 1912, the year telephones first started to become available in the UK, it must have been hard to get her head around it.

It was that sort of thing that made me promise myself that I would never become one of those people who didn't understand the newest gadgets and how to use them.  When I started work aged 17 I had to use a typewriter and a duplicating machine (no photocopiers then!) a huge, noisy contraption that would print duplicates from a specially prepared carbon sheet.

Then years later I saw my first facsimile machine which was basically a huge metal cylinder that the document would need to be wrapped around, the machine would be turned on and a needle that would move along the cylinder as it spun around. If you were lucky it would work first time and the fax would be sent, but more often than not I'd have to do it 2 or 3 times. From that point on, things have changed rapidly and it's been a challenge to try and keep up with it all but flipping 'eck that fear I had of falling behind has already started to happen while I wasn't looking.

I recently heard a group of friends talking about their iPhones, iPads and iPods. I don't have an i-Anything so I had nothing to contribute to the conversation and I felt slightly out on a limb. There's also been a couple (okay, a few) occasions when I've been late for an appointment or social event because I couldn't find the address. Yesterday I spent 40 minutes driving to Bolton for a meeting, then spent a further 40 minutes driving around Bolton before I found the right place. The fact that my written directions had fallen onto the floor of the car didn't help, but I couldn't help thinking that this year I should ask Santa for a satnav.

And yes, I know it's not the end of the world or anything - I'm not saying that - but that promise I made to myself not to become out of touch with technology is becoming more and more difficult to keep.  The thing is,  I don't know how to stop the gap increasing even further. Much of the new technology is financially out of my reach and that's what going to be my downfall.

It's difficult to imagine how far technology will have advanced by the time I'm a grandparent (which I hope won't be for quite a long time, just in case my daughters are reading this *cough*) but I'm looking forward to my grandchildren trying the latest gadget to me.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My blackberry's not working....

...and I'm not alone it seems. But strangley enough, despite everything, the world keeps turning.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The house move saga continues...

Image from bbc.co.uk
After that terrible surveyors report I was worried that my house sale had fallen through, but luckily my buyers' were so keen on my house that they sent their builder 'round to check out the issues outlined in the report.  Thankfully, the builder was able to reassure them that they were buying a good, solid house and there were only a couple of minor issues that were easily resolved, so the house move is back on!

With a bit of luck and the wind in the right direction we're hoping to move during October half-term and the whole process is easier because there's no chain.

And the reason there's no chain? It's because the people who live in the house I'm buying are buying my house, so it's an exchange! How good is that?

We're really excited about the move, and the house we're moving to is perfect for the four of us. Yes, that's four of us: me, my two daughters and.....my younger brother.

It all came about after I'd been wanting to downsize and my brother (who is a merchant navy officer) had wanted to invest in property. After several attempts to find suitable properties we realised it made sense to invest in something together, particularly as we've all got on so well since he moved in with us last year. Well, I say 'moved in' but he's away at sea more often than he's home so it's more of a base for him.    The new house will accommodate us comfortably and will have plenty of storage space for his things. After all, his size 12 shoes need a room all of their own and his collection of Top Gear magazines are threatening to take over the living room.

I think it'll also be good for us to have some male company after so many years of an all-girl household, and the girls love having their Uncle around.

So in preparation for the move in 2 weeks time I'm currently busy decluttering, packing, poring over paint colour charts and reading interior design magazines. My brother, on the other hand, is busy watching re-runs of Top Gear.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Dear So-and-So: the house move edition

Dear So and So...
Dear Mr Surveyor,
You came to my house recently and did a survey for my buyers. The damning report you produced does not resemble my house in any way shape or form. You clearly had a checklist called Things That Might Go Wrong in a 1930s House, and included everything on that list. Not only that but you've made my buyers wary of continuing with the purchase.  Thanks for that, you moron. Oh, and I'm going to send you an invoice for the coffee I made for you.
one very pissed off house-seller.

Dear Mr Builder,
Following your visit to my house out today to check over the surveyors concerns, I want to thank you for being so reasonable and straightforward and for pointing out two moderate issues that are easily remedied. Your comment that "I thought your house was going to be a wreck when I read this report" confirms my thoughts about the idiotic surveyor. Please make sure you also tell my buyers what you said as you were leaving: "This is a really solid house this, I'd live here".
a slightly relieved house-seller

Dear Mr and Mrs Buyer,
Please still buy my house. Pretty please. Thank you.
a hopeful house-seller.


Monday, 3 October 2011

House moving nightmare

The house move was going so well until last week when the buyers' surveyor came to look around my house. The report he sent to my buyers has got them (and me) worried as he has highlighted serious defects with damp, wall ties and the drains.

I was really shocked when I heard some of the details of the report as I'm not aware of any of these issues, although now I've noticed that the upper bay window has a slight gap between the wall and the window which I hadn't noticed before.  I'm worried about how much that will cost to remedy, as it will mean extra expense for me or, at worst, the buyers pulling out of the sale.

As far as the damp goes I don't know where he found it as I've not noticed any damp, and the drains have always been fine although the one next to the back door is full of leaves and needs clearing. The problem with the drains - according to the surveyor - is causing the driveway to sink, but personally I think the driveway is uneven because it's old and needs redoing.

The thing is, this is an older house and if you're buying an older house there will always be some wear and tear. It was built in the 1930s and has always been a very solid house, so to suddenly be told there are 'serious and progressive problems' with it is a bit upsetting.

So this week the buyers are sending their builder to check out the issues.

We're all so exciting about moving house, the new place is perfect for us but now I can feel things going slightly awry. We're so close to moving to our dream house, but now I can feel it slipping out of my grasp. I'm officially worried.