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We have now had the keys to the new house for a fortnight (hurrah!) so I thought it was time for an update. It was left clean and clear and with the garden (which is gorgeous) mowed, trimmed and weeded, for which we were very grateful. Jobs which have been done so far (not all by us, we paid people to do the hard bits, and Dad and Ally helped too):

Water main replaced with a new not-made-from-lead one
Crazy kitchen worktops removed from bedrooms
Textured paper stripped from hallways and dining room
Carpets stripped from top hallway and two bedrooms
Remaining carpets sprayed to kill the pesky moth infestations
Lots of fiddly 1960s coving removed from hallways and dining room
Five crumbling lath-and-plaster ceilings removed and replaced with plasterboard
Four new ceilings given several skim coats of plaster each (one still to be done next week)
Wood panelling removed from loft (will be replaced next week after insulation done)
Inspected timbers, wiring and pipework as they were revealed (all seem fine, thankfully)
Living room ceiling and walls given coat of paint (woodwork still in progress)
Spiky plants in front garden cut back to give less spiky plants a chance

We are putting in insulation everywhere we can, as there wasn't any. It was a bit surprising, when the upstairs ceilings were taken down, to find that in some places (the sloping parts near the edges) there was nothing at all between the plaster and the roof tiles (no, there wasn't any felt either). I guess it wasn't the warmest of houses in winter. The living room (which is the one downstairs area which isn't open plan) has an excellent modern gas fire which must have helped. The boiler is old and will need replacing as soon as we find the time and money.

Both Dad and the plasterer have commented on what a rewarding house it is to work on. Every bit of textured paper, bright 1980s colour or 1960s coving removed helps clean things up visually and the shape of the house is lovely - open plan, beautiful archways, big hardwood framed (and double glazed already, thankfully) windows, bay windows at the front, etc.

We were hoping not to touch the bathroom, which was redone quite recently, but it turned out the DIY work had included completely tiling in the side of the bath so you couldn't access the plumbing. There is now a big hole, although Dad has promised to make a nice access panel to go over it. The kitchen has mostly escaped unscathed, although the cooker needs replacing and we would like to fit an extractor hood.

I'm feeling exhausted, but I suppose that is a lot to get organised for the first fortnight! Thankfully all the tradespeople have been excellent. Will update you again in another week or two.

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Am amused by some of the text on this 404 error:

http://www.boden.co.uk/en-GB/Sale/Womens-Clothing.html


Tea crisis

Jun. 14th, 2010 12:28 pm
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Our fridge is broken; it died of old age. To be fair to the landlord, he ordered one straight away when we called, although it won't be delivered until Friday. Our kettle is also broken, because I dropped it (luckily while it didn't have hot water in). This combination makes regular tea-making more difficult than usual. I know you can boil water on the hob, but that takes ages... Guess I'd better buy a new kettle asap.
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I've been indulging my inner lizard and basking in the sun (in various lovely gardens) for much of the last three days. I'm feeling very warm and contented and have talked to lots of charming people and read most of a good book ( The Earth After Us ). I would like more weekends like that, but as we appear to be about to exchange contracts on the house (eek! that came round quickly!) things are probably about to get rather busier.
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I’m giving up on a book part way through. I very rarely do this, so I’m writing this to explain why, if only to myself. I liked Kate Atkinson’s first novel, “Behind the Scenes at the Museum”, a great deal. I found it engaging, well-plotted, quirky and full of talent and promise. I skipped her second novel because the blurb put me off (not fair, I admit) and recently read the third, “Emotionally Weird”. It contained some good ideas and characters but overall felt fragmented and unpolished and failed to really engage me. I finished it feeling like I wanted the last few hours of my life back, which is never a good result.

My mother just passed on one of Atkinson’s whodunnits, “When Will There Be Good News”, to me and as a friend had also recommended it I’ve given it a try. I almost gave up on page one due to clumsy prose (I *know* you can write better, Kate, and the first page matters) but persevered. The first chapter introduces some young children in lots of detail, before a stranger appears from nowhere and stabs two of them. This does get an emotional reaction from me; the reaction is irritation with the author for using cheap tricks. 20% of the way through the (long) book, this incident and the surviving child have, as far as I can tell, never been mentioned again. Chapter two is an interior monologue from a bloke who comes over as hideously creepy but is then revealed as a clever detective, so apparently he’s a hero instead. Then (in yet another setting) lots of time is spent introducing a 16-year-old girl with whom the author does start to succeed in engaging me. As this process is rather slow, an attempt is made to speed things up by mentioning both her parents dying in separate tragic incidents. That’s not necessary. And as if an editor has said “we need to know more about her family” the mother is described by a page long list: hair colour, age at marriage, job, names of friends and favourite author, catch-phrase, etc. That’s not introducing a character, that’s just copying your notes into the book.

The book seems to have no coherence, no warmth, no dialogue and the pace is turgid. The reviews quoted at the front of “When Will There Be Good News” tell me the author doesn’t bother tying up most of the plot strands at the end. They describe it as “subverting the genre”. I suspect that isn’t what I’d call it, but can’t be bothered to read another 400 pages of this to find out. The really frustrating thing is that I still want to read more from the author who wrote “Behind the Scenes at the Museum”, but she seems to have vanished.

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Better than expected :)

Voting

Apr. 7th, 2010 10:16 am
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Have just had a go at the survey on http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/. I picked six issues and came out Lib Dem with a hint of Green (curiously I picked the Green policies on education). No great surprises, but then it was quite clear from the phrasing of some summaries which party wrote them so you could avoid the ones with which you didn't want to be associated. I think the results might be less biased if the site designers made the prose style more anonymous and removed the more obvious catch phrases.

Board games

Feb. 5th, 2010 12:51 pm
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I have neglected to organise anything this evening and my lovely husband will be on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic (unless he is delayed by snow in Ohio). Anyone fancy meeting up for drinks and/or board games?

In other news, the flat leasehold is all sorted, will write up the saga soon.
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I took an ecology exam this morning and answered three questions as required; two questions I am confident I answered fairly well and one I mangled badly. Thankfully this means I should pass. Now on to revising for the next exam...
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I just pressed the wrong button in ArcGIS while trying to make a map (I'm supposed to be making a very sober map showing the optimum site for an old people's home) and this is what happened...



Will now undo this and go back to what I'm meant to be doing, but I liked it so I thought I'd share it first.
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Everyone who was involved did a fantastic job at the wedding and this is to say thanks again to those who made especially big contributions. We were astonishingly lucky to have so many family and friends offering to help out and we are very touched. I've also recommended a couple of suppliers as I know some of you are planning events of your own :)

[livejournal.com profile] a_llusive made the chocolate truffles, read the poem beautifully and took excellent photographs.
[livejournal.com profile] leathellin made the scones, served champagne to everyone and also took lots of great photographs.
[livejournal.com profile] i_ludicrous and [livejournal.com profile] i_serious dealt with mountains of washing up in the church hall.
[livejournal.com profile] uncle_griff served tea to a whole army of parched wedding guests.
[livejournal.com profile] metame made an extremely amusing best man's speech.

My schoolfriend Louisa gave us the beautiful wedding cake. She also does commissions :)
Caricatures were done by Josie Camus (aunt of our pretty flower girl) and contact details are on her website.

Alison did a fabulous job of setting up the church hall, making and icing all the fairy cakes and instructing the dancers in the evening. She is the regular caller for the band, who are The Tenpenny Bit. The band are very experienced; Dad and Lindsey told me they have now played a thousand wedding receptions together and according to my back-of-the-envelope calculations they are right!

The flowers were from Flowered Earth who are based in Uxbridge and happy to do events in London and Oxford. The rings were made by Robert Gatward in Abingdon.

Hymn

Oct. 25th, 2009 10:31 pm
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Here's a lovely version of "For the beauty of the earth" which will be the opening hymn for our wedding. Even if you think you know the hymn, the tune I've chosen (Dix) may not be the one you are expecting. Do have a listen and (if you are coming to the wedding) maybe even practice a little :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXIPYxEUl-M
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Apologies for not posting for ages, I've been busy with wedding preparations, finding my feet as a new student and also some drinking and socialising :) Proper update will follow eventually...
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I've spent the last few minutes being amused by "United breaks guitars" on YouTube. I assume that when United Airlines assessed their business risks, they didn't include the possibility of a country singer taking the p*ss out of them and this affecting their share price! Their response to the video so far has been to offer the singer a few hundred dollars of flight vouchers, which given that the song says he wouldn't fly with them again unless it was the only way to save the world (the video illustrates this with a toy globe and a Save Me sign), seems to indicate they still aren't really listening.
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A slightly odd question following a phone discussion I had earlier this evening - are there any really good art galleries in the Midlands? We couldn't think of any but maybe we were missing somewhere embarrassingly obvious.

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For those of you in the UK - make sure you vote today! I just did and was surprised to find myself first on our local register of electors, as I hadn't known it was sorted alphabetically by street name (we live in the first house on a street beginning with A). The County elections were sorted alphabetically by candidate rather than party. The European elections were sorted by party, which meant the BNP came first. Surely someone should start a party called "A Better Europe" or possibly, as [livejournal.com profile] zandev suggested, there should be an "Aardvark Party".

Fudge

May. 6th, 2009 01:13 pm
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I made fudge yesterday, for the first time in about twenty years (I used to make sweets quite a lot with my mother when I was younger). It worked pretty well - I should do this more often.
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