You have 134 Unread Emails

Yes we do still own a website – I think we almost forgot for a while there

So what have we done since August? Well to put it simply we have been setting up a life, in a bit more detail

In July Robbie started working at Barclays for his second foray into retail banking (he realised the first foray was all the way back in 1999 and is now sulking a little, he also wonders why he didn’t stay in wholesale banking when HSBC and Goldmans announced the average bonus from their wholesale bankers was £400,000) and now is starting to get used to the Barclays way of doing things. He thinks he can legitimately claim that he is now an ‘expert’ on all things savings and the interesting sounding (but not in doing) subject of behavioural profiling. If asked he will tell you the highlight of his job is that he has a window seat on the 24th floor on the eastern side of the east most building in Canary Wharf, so has an unobstructed view of pretty much all of East London and the comings and goings on the Thames.

In August we made an offer on a house in Greenwich and experienced the fascinating and frustrating experience that is conveyancing – basically this involves your solicitor getting around 11 reports (around 500 pages of material about everything to do with the area, the house, the water, the local amenities, the soil sub-strata and so on, these reports are all available from the council and other public agencies so is theoretically pretty easy) and then once everything is cleared on these agreeing terms with the seller. The problem is that you have to deal with lawyers, they seem to bumble aimlessly from issue to issue, they get the wrong report, mail it to you three times but forget to mail the other 4 reports, deny they sent the report at all (yet still bill you for it), claim they sent you other reports, find phantom/obscure problems (i.e, they highlighted the potential radon in our water supply above and beyond the report about radon in the water supply – this issue is flagged on every property with a limestone base in the UK, we are talking in the millions here), they made changes to the agreement with the counterparty without consulting us (apparently our solicitor had a heated exchange with the vendor about us wanting to make a 5% deposit rather then the usual 10% deposit a few weeks after we had already made the 10% deposit, at no stage had we even talked to him about wanting to change the deposit size). Anyway after about 6 weeks we got the ok to make our deposit.

Nicola, as the unemployed person caged up with the two cats, had the joy of dealing with / sorting out the lawyers while attending the occasional interview. As the house buying process drew closer to the end it became clear she was in imminent danger of getting a job and not long before moving day she received a job offer from Barclays Capital in the regulatory relations area which she decided to accept. The timing, of course, was terrible, they wanted here to start the Monday after we moved in and a week before my parents arrived. This led to a very busy two weeks in September as

  • We moved in to our house on the 10th
  • Nicola started work on the 13th
  • Robbie’s parents arrived on the 17th for a week’s visit

After moving our stuff in and having a little bit of breathing space to settle in we decided to do the renovations we had been planning when we initially viewed the house – so in late October the builders moved in, theoretically to do one room at a time to minimise the disruption, but it wasn’t long until all our possessions were either in storage in the kitchen if we didn’t need them urgently or if we did need it right away it was in the guest bedroom – this included us, our clothes, the cats, their food and litter and anything else we might need – that got old fast let me tell you. The builders worked really long hours, which was good, but it also meant that we never had the house to ourselves, so we could never really relax. At least we had a bathroom…..

In mid November we headed off to Malaysia (it felt strange walking out the front door to catch the train to the airport and waving goodbye to the builders, hoping that they didn’t clean us out while we were away) to join Ka Wai and Claudia’s wedding celebrations, it was great to have a break and have some time exploring and catching up with old friends – unfortunately over the last few years Robbie has been becoming increasingly more allergic to garlic and he had quite a bad run with the food in Malaysia and so we had to spend a few days cooped up while he recovered from the effects of the various garlic laden meals – that aside it was a highly enjoyable trip. During our absence the builders were meant to start and finish our bathroom but we returned to find that progress on the bathroom was a lot slower then expected and so we continued to be cooped up in our guest bedroom but now we no longer had a bathroom – fear not, we do have an outside toilet at our place, it just involves a tramp outside and having to bucket flush it which is never fun in the winter evenings.

November and December were very cold and dark and life was a bit like groundhog day, get up in the morning and get ready for work, talk to the builders at 7.30 when they turn up, agree what they are up to for the day, then leave to work, work the day away, then home to talk to the builders who would still be working, we would then eat dinner and head off to the hardware stores to buy whatever the builders were in desperate need for to do the next part of the building, then to bed with us – for most of this we had no tv or internet and remained cooped up with the increasingly agitated cats (including Nicola). On the more entertaining side somewhere in this period the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie started filming on our route to work so we had a couple of weeks watching them convert the Naval College from 4 old majestic buildings into a street and then around a month of seeing horses, caravans, tents and people in period costumes wandering around, but no sign of Johnny Depp (or the sun through the whole of the filming period – we saw them elevating blue screens on cranes so I guess is how they will get the sun into these scenes)

As December crept on our dining room wall came down, the plaster dried and progressively more paint started to appear on the walls each day, the floors got sanded and re-varnished and we realised that soon we would be reclaiming our sitting and dining room, all of this was quite exciting. We also had the fun of a 3 week cold snap where the official average temperature for London was -0.8 degrees (around 9 degrees lower then normal – why do I know this? The very interesting guy who sits opposite me at work is full of these kinds of exciting facts) and we had the fun of three days of proper snow that didn’t melt. The highlight here was the Saturday before Christmas when we went to Greenwich Market (which is a covered market) to finish our Christmas shopping, it was a bitterly cold day, so much so that we dropped into one of the pubs in the market for a warm drink, after about 5 minutes people started walking into the pub absolutely covered (like 3-4cms on their head) in snow. Being hyper enthusiastic about snow Robbie dragged Nicola off to the cheese shop in a different part of Greenwich to finish the Christmas shop and we watched about 4 inches of big fluffy snowflakes fall in about an hour, the snow was so heavy it settled everywhere, it was impossible to tell where the road started and the kerb ended, all the road markings disappeared and even the bumper to bumper traffic wasn’t making tire tracks in the snow. We then walked back through the posh part of Greenwich throwing snowballs at each other but when we hit Greenwich Park we were no longer sheltered by the wind and any exposed skin started to hurt from the cold. The next few days were characterised by snowball fights on the way to work and looking at a white city out the office window.

On Christmas Eve the builders finished* and we headed off to Nicola’s parents place for a winter Christmas, with the cats in tow as we couldn’t get them into a cattery (damned entrance exams), Robbie had the first of the three colds that he would get in the next 4 weeks but we had a pleasant 4 days in the remarkably cold (it was -15 on Christmas night) Norfolk but no fresh snow, we did have good food, loot and family fun, what more could you ask for?

So now we are in 2011, we have pretty much finished our renovations, we both have jobs and are starting to feel settled in our house, now that the builders have gone and the house is pretty much sorted out, all we need to do is buy some furniture. We don’t have any weddings (our two weddings pretty much took up our 2009), or plans to move (that was 2010 taken care of) so we are hoping that this year will be a chance for us to see friends and go out and do things. We have a friend from New Zealand arriving for a month holiday next week which should be a good start

* except from the utility room, installing the oven and extractor fan, relaying tiles in the bathroom, repainting the kitchen cupboards and the 32 items on the snag list. Still they were um er close?