Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pictures of the new house



Garden - the only bit of the property that the previous owner seemed to have any time for. We have neglected it since we moved in. The tree on the left keeps producing enormous apples, as if trying to get our attention. This is the first garden I've had in 11 years. I don't really know what to do with it.



Bathroom sink. I have a thing about big sinks (probably because my fella cleans his teeth at the same time as me and he juts his elbow out at right angles.)



Living room. There is literally my blood, sweat and tears mixed in with the paint.



Kitchen work surface and drawers. My mother pronounced this to be an "interesting" work top, which means she wouldn't have chosen it for herself.



Front view. It's a castle. Unfortunately, you can only get to see inside if you do some shop-lifting.



Drinks trolley. I don't know how that got in there.
Poor Rupert



I don't like Rupert Murchoch. He looks, talks and behaves like a villain in a James Bond film - (his head resembles a withered hard boiled egg preserved in vinegar). I'm sure he has plans for the world, and they don't involve sending free chickens to Africa or solving global warming. He is one of the people most responsible for the tabloisisation and partiality of news (summed up most succinctly by two vile words: Fox News). He's one of about 1000 people, who, when I hear about his death, I will punch the air and shout "yes!"

So I've been quite pleased that the 132st richest person in the world seems to be having a bit of a bad time at the moment. First, after making a loss, he's announced that he'll be charging for his news websites from next year. People will have to pay to read The Times (right-wing), The Sun (right wing and aimed at people with learning difficulties) and The News of The World (which is written by and for people with learning difficulties). I expect that this might backfire - if you're surfing the web, you might stop off at The Sun's website during your lunch break if it's free, but would you really pay to read the insane ramblings of Mystic "care in the community" Meg...




...a titillating cartoon strip masqueradin as advice (Dear Deirdre)



or the latest gossip about Britain's premier intellectual and feminist role model, Katie Price. I may be wrong, but I suspect that a lot of the people who read The Sun's website weren't paying a lot of attention at school and as a result don't have the best-paid jobs in the country, so if they have to pay for their dose of fluff, then they'll just move on to something free.

And now at the Edinburgh Television Festival he's denounced the BBC, because ""The news operation is causing immense problems, huge problems for the independent news business, and I think it has to be dealt with." He described the growth of the BBC as "chilling".

The whining hypocrisy of his complaint is the most wonderful thing I have heard all year. I almost feel sorry for him and am contemplating sending him a few cans of soup in the post.

However, I suspect that Rupert will find a way round his woes. He's managed to peddle his nasty rubbish for decades - proving that on the whole, people are stupid enough to buy into it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

House 7

We moved house last week. This is the 7th house I've moved to in 17 years, which means I move house on average every 2 and a half years. My fella hurt his shoulder last month, so wasn't able to participate in moving day at all. It was probably just as well. I tend to go into Typhoon Lubin mode anyway, so it's best just to leave me to it. All the boxes were unpacked and disposed of within hours. The only thing I couldn't locate was the power cable for my electronic piano. I lay awake in bed, visualising where it could be - until I deduced that the only place I hadn't looked was under the lid of the keyboard. I checked in the morning and it had been placed there by the removal men.

Moving in day is relatively easy. The hard bit (for me) comes in the month afterwards. I tend to over-focus on everything that's new. If there's a slightly odd smell in the bedroom, I get a sore throat. If there are unfamiliar noises outside the window, it freaks me out. Tiny things, which most people wouldn't notice, become enormous obstacles in that first month and I convince myself that I've made a huge mistake in moving. My fella finds all of this annoying - in comparison to me, he is like a robot - with barely any sense of smell or hearing, while I'm like a wild animal, with all my senses far too highly tuned.

For the first time since I was a student, we are living in a house which is directly onto a pavement, so people pass by almost constantly. The woman who lived here before had put net curtains up, but I don't like them (they make me feel like I'm living in an Alan Bennet monologue). So I've bought some sticky mirrored film which I've stuck over the two front windows. I can see out, but people who look in just get their own reflection. I feel almost like a ghost, watching people walk past, oblivious of the fact that they are being scrutinised (and judged on their hair and fashion choices) by me. I can get really up close to them. It's also had the effect of making the living room like one of those rooms in Psychology experiments - with the whole of the outside world as the experiment.

I have a lovely view of the castle from the front rooms of the house. Which is nice if you discount the fact that the castle is also a working prison. My sister lived next to a prison in Leeds for a couple of years (her furniture was stolen the day she moved in by locals). My parents also live next door to a prison in Durham (and have never reported any trouble). The houses round here are all quite posh, so there is an unusual social mix - with people dressed in full tweed popping out of their huge, film-set like Georgian homes with their whicker baskets, bumping into upset-looking young women in tracksuits and push-chairs, off to visit their boyfriends who are doing 18 months.

We got home internet yesterday - you don't realise how much you miss it until it's gone.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Man with a tan plan

My tan was worn away thankfully, but my vapid alter ego Jamie4U is on a mission to turn the world orange...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hurrah for the National Trust Dragons

My fella is a big fan of the National Trust (you know you are middle-class when you have a National Trust card) and gives out cards to my entire family every year as presents. The children's play areas are always of superior quality, and the children who play in them are usually called Abigail or Tristram - there is no bullying (although your kids may suffer feelings of inadequacy when they realise that their new playmates are expert oboe players and can speak 4 languages).

So while we were in Torquay we went to a few NT places. They tend to be old country mansions or smallish castles, kitted out with heirlooms so you can go round and feel Class Envy (well you do if you're me anyway). The other thing about them is that they are run by an army of volunteers - usually pensioners, mostly women, who are stategically positioned - 1 to a room - around the mansion. They're there to answer any questions "Are those real William Morris curtains?" and also (I suspect) to ensure that nobody makes off with those curtains. Whereever you go in the UK, they are made of the same sort of steel. The accents may change slightly, but the personalities are immutable. They're the sort of women who you only see in black and white British movies made before 1959. They take no nonsense, they don't suffer fools, they are absolutely terrifying but can be quite sweet if they take to you. The key is to show no fear. My Great Aunt Ethel was one. I'm trying to think of ones in the media. Barbara Woodhouse came close.



As did many of the characters played by the actress Stephanie Cole.



There was a great one at a castle we saw near Torquay. She forced everyone who came into her room to read a laminated page of information about the room, whether they wanted to or not. She actually tried to whack my brother-in-law about the head with a laminate. Everyone was terrified of her. Women connected to the Tory party could be National Trust Dragons, but generally they aren't. Anne Widdicombe is too sour while Christine Hamilton is too drunk and flirty. But if the National Trust Dragons all stop being interested in old houses and start caring about politics - then we'd all better watch out! We wouldn't stand a chance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All day in bed

I have succumbed to the dreaded Swine Flu and am spending the day in bed. Being ill is a lot more fun than it used to be. I have internet, a 32 inch screen tv and my Iphone. Apart from the headache, joint pains and fever, it could just be a Sunday morning. I am watching a 3 hour long inspirational matinee on More 4 about a WW2 fighter pilot who lost both his legs. He's staying remarkably chipper about it. I love British 50s films - because I normally only ever get to see them in the middle of the day if I'm not at work. I don't know how I caught swine flu. I suspect it might have been at motorway services in Birmingham on Saturday. The place was teeming with people. I've been feeling a bit overworked and stressed lately (we were supposed to be moving house on Saturday but I've put it back to Wednesday). My fella is staying out of my way (he doesn't want to catch it), but pops in occasionally with lemsip. Last night I phoned the Swine Flu hotline and they authorised me some Tamiflu. It's given me a stomach upset and diarrohea, just to make things a bit more fun.

We finally sacked our plumber yesterday. He should have finished the job 2 weeks ago but seems to have a drink problem, and on the occasional day when he did show up (after much phoning and begging), wouldn't get much done. I feel sorry for him - he was quite friendly, and is clearly having a bad time - his girlfriend's left him and he's just coming back to work after a car accident. I guess that's why we tried to keep him on as long as we could. I hope he'll get his life sorted out, but I'm not sure he will.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Snarling at myself in the mirror



The weather in Torquay was pleasant but not especially blazing hot. Yet somehow I've come back with a tan. I look like Peter Andre. In the past five years or so I've grown to hate tans. They represent everything bad about this shallow, irresponsible, tacky first decade of the 21st century. I hate people who want tans, who go on holiday just to get tans, who come home and go on about how great their tan is, who lie on sunbeds (I call them cancer pods) so they can go gravy coloured, or failing that, rub smelly orange muck on themselves. I glare (and sometimes snarl) at people on the street if they have a deep tan. Now I'm having to snarl at myself.

The majority of people born in this country have fair complexions - we've evolved to be like that because this little damp and overcrowded island doesn't get much sun. I suspect that's why we invented so much in the 18th and 19th centuries. Heat (not the magazine) is so tiring, and as there was no point in sitting outdoors with a copy of Heat (the magazine), we stayed in and created patents.

My hatred is also probably a social class snobby thing. I'd never noticed it until I read Kate Fox's "Watching the English", but fashion for the lower classes increasingly seems to be about looking as artificial as possible - changing the colour of your skin or hair so that you look fake. This clip from the BBC3 "make-under" show, Snog, Marry, Avoid? makes me laugh.



Those two are from the same part of the world that I grew up in. I'm exactly like that boy.

I agree with the bossy computer voice "What's wrong with natural skin?" I guess I'll just have to go on holiday to the Artic Circle next year.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

My pussy is leaking

Now that Mrs Slocambe is dead, someone has to take up the "pussy joke" mantle. I just hope I'm up to it. My cat is 13 and has recently developed a new trick. He'll climb on your knee, start purring, get a blissful look in his eyes, and then... wee all over you. Cat wee is almost impossible to remove. And he seems to be making some sort of special version which is especially noxious. The vet says he is in early stages of kidney failure. We've put him on tablets and special food and put plastic covers on the furniture (John Lewis - only 2 years old). We're hoping that he'll get better, but the prognosis isn't good.

I don't want to complain about it too much - otherwise I'll sound like the people at White Whine - a site which reveals the true malady of the 21st century - not having anything much to actually complain about. The pronunciation of vente, poor tasting strawberries, having nothing to wear for a holiday, jeans that have that "straight-from-the-factory smell", The Jonas Brothers, iPhones... we all sound like the character Luna in Woody Allan's Sleeper.

I've been on holiday in Torquay - we rented a large house with a hot-tub and a sea-view. I got the impression that the people who owned it were a bit insecure and "nouveau riche" because in the first minute of meeting them they announced that their son captained a yatch for a Russian oligarch, and the table in their garden cost £5000. They also had plastic flower arrangements everywhere and those scented things in the bathrooms which have always struck me as a bit lower-middle class. Still, it was a nice house. I spent some of it playing the brain training game on my nephew's Nintento DS. The best I could get was a C+. To put that into perspective, hmy nephew got a D- and he is only 6.

I like Torquay a lot. Most seaside towns in Britain have gone horrible in the last 30 years. They have either died altogether or become havens for binge drinkers and documentary makers making shocking exposure shows about binge drinkers. Torquay is just about hanging on to its genteelness - they make a big deal of the Agatha Christie connection and call it the English Riveria. If you squint hard enough and cover your ears, you could be back in the 1930s.

The journey there and back was hideous. Thanks to the recession and over-enthusiastic predictions of a Good British Summer, it seems that everyone has decided to holiday at home this year. The motorways were scarily full, especially round Bristol and Birmingham. I kept sane by listening to Margaret Cho stand-up routines. Thank you Margaret. Several times you averted incidents of road rage on the M5.

Now that we're back, we move house in a week. I kind of wish that we had allowed Channel 4 to film the entire thing as part of one of their "Property Mess" type shows
- it would have made good tv. It is a house built in the 1840s which has had all of the original features removed, and many 1970s features put in (nasty fireplaces, a dining hatch, folding kitchen door, MDF fitted wardrobes, flock wallpaper, tabby cat pattern carpets). We have ripped all of these disasters out and have replaced them with sanded floorboards, picture rails, new coving etc. but just like in all those shows we have gone horribly over budget. I suspect that the previous owners have installed their own tv cameras everywhere and are laughing as we discover all of the traps that they have left us to find. Due to some bizarre DIY plumbing, it appears that the waste pipe in the bathroom has not functioned properly for many months. As a result, there's been a build up of "waste product" which finally exploded all over the bathroom floor late one Saturday night and dripped through the kitchen ceiling below. It all needs replacing. The previous owners also seem to have had fun with layer on layer of wallpaper. After we removed the hideous woodchip stuff in the living room we found a layer of silver foil, then under that a layer of brown paper, then under that a layer of black paper. All which had been stuck down with wood glue. It took hours to remove. All of the windows had been painted shut and haven't been opened for decades - I guess they thought it would save on heating bills or something. But if you couple that with the fact that they allowed their two little dogs to wee on all of the carpets - then you have a sodden stinking mess. I don't know how people can live like that.

Our plumber was supposed to finish putting in the radiators while we were on holiday but has gone missing, and as a result, the carpet fitters refused to fit the carpets while we were away as they didn't want to move the plumber's tools. The kitchen has been postponed so we will have half a bathroom and no kitchen when we finally do move in. I know I have neglected this blog. I haven't even had time to go to the gym since May. They actually phoned me up toda and asked me why. If I ever talk about buying a house again, and it isn't a show-home, please email me and tell me to stop!