Buying a House, Part 2

This blog post is the second in a series about buying our first house. If you haven’t already, you might like to read the first part.

When Ruth, JTA and I first set out to look at houses, we didn’t actually plan on buying one. We’d just gotten to the point where buying one felt like an imminent logical step, and so we decided to start looking around Oxford to see what kind of thing we might be able to get (and what it would cost us, if we did). Our thinking was that, by looking around a few places, we’d have some context from which to springboard our own discussions about what property we’d one day like to own.

The living room and stairwell of one of the houses we first ruled-out.
One of the first places we looked at seemed at first to be perfect. But the more we looked at it, the more we became convinced that it really wasn’t for us.

There’s something about “window shopping” for houses that’s liberating and exciting. We don’t need a house – we’ve got somewhere to live – but we’re going to come and look around anyway. Once you’re on their lists, estate agents will bombard you with suggestions of places that you might like, and you feel a little like they’re your servants, running around trying to please you (in actual fact, almost the opposite is true: they’re working on behalf of the seller… although it’s certainly in their interest to get the property sold promptly so that they can take their cut!).

A well-maintaned and lively garden stretches away.
The garden at this place stretched about 35 meters (115 feet), among its other charming features. But sadly, it turned out to be out of our price range.

But as we got into the swing of things, we discovered that we were ready to buy already. Between our savings (and, in particular, boosted by the first parts of my inheritance following my dad’s death last year, as we’re finally getting his estate sorted out), we actually have an acceptable deposit for a mortgage, and our renewal on our current place was looming fast. None of us having bought a house before, we did a bit of reading and decided that our first step probably ought to be to work out how much can we borrow. You know, just to make our window-shopping a little more believable. Maybe.

A house in Kidlington, North of Oxford. It might become a familiar sight...
This place is a lot like where we live now, but laid out in a more-spacious way. Hopefully you’ll be seeing it again in a future blog post…
Picture courtesy Google Maps.

One of the estate agents we dealt with introduced us to a chap called Stefan Cork, a mortgage broker working as part of the Mortgage Advice Bureau network. We were still only window-shopping at this point, but hey: if we were going to be allowed some free, no-commitment mortgage advice, then we might as well work out how much we could potentially borrow, right? After checking his credentials (the three questions you should ask every mortgage broker), I spoke to Stefan on the phone, and talked him through our situation. I described our unusual relationship structure (which he took in his stride) and the way that we means-assess our household contributions, alongside more mundane details like how much we earn and what kind of deposit we could rustle up. He talked us through our options and ballparked some of the kinds of numbers we’d be looking at, if we went ahead and got a mortgage.

Mortgage broker Stefan Cork amidst our mountains of paperwork.
Stefan’s really lovely, and didn’t panic for a moment when I said “By the way, I’m blogging this: can I take your photo?” If you’re looking for mortgage advice, get me to give you his number.

And somehow, somewhere along the line, our perspective switched. Instead of looking at houses just to give us a feel for what we might buy, “maybe next year”, we were genuinely looking to buy a house now. We re-visited some of the places we’d seen already, and increased our search of places we hadn’t yet seen. Over time, and by a process of elimination (slow Internet area; too many hills; too narrow staircases; too expensive; too wonky), we cut down our options to just three potential properties. And then just two. And then we came to an impasse.

So… we put offers on both. Under the law of England and Wales, a property purchase isn’t binding until the contracts have exchanged hands. Sellers benefit (and buyers suffer) from this all of the time, because it permits gazumping: even after the buyers have spent money on lawyers, mortgage applications, surveys and searches, the seller can change their mind and accept a higher offer from a different prospective buyer! But this legal quirk can work for buyers, too: in our case, we were able to put offers in of what we were willing to pay for each of two properties (different values, at that), and let them know that the first one of the two to agree to our price would be the one to get the sale!

A model house being pulled out of a terrace.
Let’s pull the old switch-a-roo! Making competing “lowball” offers on two properties at once and offering to purchase from the one that accepts first turns housebuying into a reverse-Dutch-auction.

Haggling for a house in this way felt incredibly ballsy (I’d been nominated as the negotiator on behalf of the other Earthlings), but it played against the psychology of our sellers. Suddenly, instead of being in a position of power (“no, we won’t accept that offer… go a little higher”), the sellers were made to feel that if they didn’t accept our offers (which were doubtless lower than they had hoped), they’d have a 50% chance of losing the sale entirely. When there are hundreds of thousands of pounds on the line, being able to keep your cool and show that you’re willing to go elsewhere is an incredibly powerful negotiating tactic.

True to our word: when one of them came back and accepted our offer, we withdrew the offer on the other house and began the (lengthy) paperwork to start getting the purchase underway. But that can wait for another blog post.

The living room and stairwell of one of the houses we first ruled-out.× A well-maintaned and lively garden stretches away.× A house in Kidlington, North of Oxford. It might become a familiar sight...× Mortgage broker Stefan Cork amidst our mountains of paperwork.× A model house being pulled out of a terrace.×

TIL that ‘Hellburners’, 16th century fire-ships filled with decks of gunpowder sandwiched between bricks and tombstones, are considered to be an early WMD.

This link was originally posted to /r/todayilearned. See more things from Dan's Reddit account.

The original link was:

Hellburners (Dutch: hellebranders) were specialised fireships used in the Siege of Antwerp (1584-1585) during the Eighty Years’ War between the Dutch rebels and the Habsburgs. They were floating bombs, also called “Antwerp Fire”, and did immense damage to the Spanish besiegers. Hellburners have been described as an early form of weapons of mass destruction.



Which came first, orange or orange?

Let me try that again: which came first, the colour or the fruit?

A variety of shades of orange.

Still not quite right – one more try: which came first, orange, the English name of the colour, or orange, the English name of the fruit? What I really want to know is: is the fruit named after the colour or the colour after the fruit? (I find it hard to believe that the two share a name and colour simply by coincidence)

Orange fruit and blossom hanging from the tree.

It turns out that the fruit came first. Prior to the introduction of oranges to Western Europe in around the 16th or 17th century by Portugese merchants, English-speaking countries referred to the colour by the name ġeolurēad. Say that Old English word out loud and you’ll hear its roots: it’s a combination of the historical versions of the words “yellow” and “red”. Alternatively, people substituted words like “gold” or “amber”:  also both words for naturally-occurring substances whose identity is confirmed by their colouration.

Bitter oranges growing in Prague (they don't naturally occur there; these ones are in a botanical garden).
Green oranges. These oranges are what are now known as ‘bitter oranges’, the only variety to grow naturally: the ‘sweet oranges’ you’re used to eating are entirely a domesticated species.

There wasn’t much need for a dedicated word in English to describe the colour, before the introduction of the fruit, because there wasn’t much around of that colour. The colour orange isn’t common in nature: a few fruits, copper-rich soils and rocks, a small number of tropical fish, a handful of flowers… and of course autumn leaves during that brief period before they go brown and are washed away by Britain’s encroaching winter weather.

A "rainbow" of the visible spectrum, with key colour "areas" marked.
The names for the parts of the visible spectrum are reasonably arbitrary, but primary colours tend to cover a broader “space” than secondary ones; presumably because its easier for humans to distinguish between colours that trigger multiple types of receptors in the eye.

Brent Berlin and Paul Kay theorise that the evolution of a language tends towards the introduction of words for particular colours in a strict order: so words to distinguish between green and blue (famously absent in Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai) are introduced before brown is added, which in term appears before the distinction of pink, orange, and grey. At a basic level, this seems to fit: looking at a variety of languages and their words for different colours, you’ll note that the ‘orange’ column is filled far less-often than the ‘brown’ column, which in turn is filled less-often than the ‘green’ column.

Electromagnetic spectrum with visible light highlighted
Of course, from a non-anthropocentric perspective, the “visible spectrum” is just a tiny part of the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation that we, and other animals, make use of.

This is a rather crude analogy, of course, because some languages go further than others in their refinement of a particular area of the spectrum. Greek, for example, breaks down what we would call “blue” into τυρκουάζ (turquoise) and κυανό (azure), and arguably βιολέ (violet), although a Greek-speaker would probably put the latter down as a shade of purple, rather than of blue. It makes sense, I suppose, that languages are expected to develop a name for the colour “red” no later than they do for other colours (other than to differentiate between darkness and lightness) – a lot of important distinctions in biology, food, and safety depend on our ability to communicate about red things! But it seems to me that we’ve still got a way to go, working on our linguistic models of colour.

The CIE 1931 colour space.
Factor in the ability of the human eye to distinguish between different colours, and you get a far more-complex picture that a simple linear spectrum.

If we’d evolved on Mars (and were still a sighted, communicative, pack creature, but – for some reason – still had a comparable range and resolution of colour vision), our languages would probably contain an enormous variety of words for colours in the 650-750 nanometre wavelengths (the colours that English speakers universally call “red”). Being able to navigate the red planet based on the different ratios of hematites in the rocks, plains, soils and dusts would doubtless mean that the ability to linguistically distinguish between a dark-red feature and a medium-red feature could be of great value!

Photograph of Mars as taken by a rover.
Mars. It’s pretty damn red.

The names we have for colours represent a part of our history, and our environment. From an anthropological and linguistic perspective, that’s incredibly interesting.

A rainbow (middle), compared to its computed calculation (below) and a sample of the EM spectrum (top).
All six colours of the rainbow. No, wait… nine? Three? A hundred? It’s all about how you name them.

If it weren’t for the ubiquity of, say, violets and lavender in the Northern hemisphere, perhaps the English language wouldn’t have been for a word for that particular colour, and the rainbow would have six colours instead of seven. And if I’d say, “Richard Of York Gave Battle In…”, nobody would know how to finish the sentence.

In other news, I recently switched phone network, and I’m now on Orange (after many years on Vodafone). There is no connection between this fact and this blog post; I just thought I’d share.

A variety of shades of orange.× Orange fruit and blossom hanging from the tree.× Bitter oranges growing in Prague (they don't naturally occur there; these ones are in a botanical garden).× A "rainbow" of the visible spectrum, with key colour "areas" marked.× Electromagnetic spectrum with visible light highlighted× The CIE 1931 colour space.× Photograph of Mars as taken by a rover.× A rainbow (middle), compared to its computed calculation (below) and a sample of the EM spectrum (top).×

Review of BioShock Infinite

This review originally appeared on Steam. See more reviews by Dan.

Fun, beautiful first-person-shooter. I disliked Bioshock and I hated Bioshock 2, so I was glad to discover that Bioshock Infinite is not terribly like either of them, but is something else – something more fun – entirely. Playtime was a little shorter than I’d have expected for a game of its price, but it was still worth having.

If you haven’t played it, you should. Or failing that; wait for it to be on sale.

Review of Little Inferno

This review originally appeared on Steam. See more reviews by Dan.

This game was so much better than I anticipated. I was given it as a gift by my sister, who raved about it. “It’s okay,” I thought, as I stuffed things into a fire and watched them burn, “But is this all there is to it?”

No: there’s so much more. This is a game about materialism; about finding the courage to step outside your comfort zone… and, yes, about serial arson.

Go play.

Jury Duty, Part 4

This is the last in a series of four blog posts about my experience of being called for jury duty in 2013.

And just like that, it was over. The courts service kept me “on the hook” for a day or two, but after that: when I called the answerphone from which I receive my instructions, I was told that I’d been cleared. My jury service was over.

Scene from 12 Angry Men. Henry Fonda explains his vote of "not guilty".
12 Angry Men is an awesome film. The behaviour of some of the characters would certainly be illegal in a contemporary UK case, so we certainly can’t consider them to be role models for a real jury, but it’s a great film nevertheless.

I filled in my expenses form. £5.71 for lunch (where do they get these numbers?) each day. 8.9 pence per mile cycled to and from the courthouse. Given that they give a mileage bonus to car shares, I wonder if they’d have given me a top-up if I’d have shared a tandem with another juror?

I heard the outcome of the trial second-hand, a few days later, on a local radio station. It somehow reminded me that the real world was connected to my time on a jury: something I’d sort-of forgotten at the time. Being pulled out from your daily routine and put onto jury duty feels sometimes surreal, and – like the blind spot in your eye that fills-in what you see with the colours around it – it’s hard to remember now that just last week I wasn’t just following my normal pattern. So when I heard about the result of a trial in which my ‘alter ego’ – Dan the juror! – took part, it was strangely jarring. For a moment, I said to myself: “Oh yeah; that happened.”

My jury service was a really interesting experience. I’d have appreciated less sitting around and being shuffled from place to place, and more-certainty about when I would and wouldn’t be needed, but that’s only a small issue. I got to see the wheels of justice turning from within the machine, and to take part in an important process of our society. And that’s great.

Scene from 12 Angry Men. Henry Fonda explains his vote of "not guilty".×

Jury Duty, Part 3

This is the third in a series of four blog posts about my experience of being called for jury duty in 2013.

My second day of jury duty was more-successful than the first, in that I was actually assigned to a case, rather than spending the better part of the day sitting around in a waiting room. I knew that this was likely (though not certain, on account of the nature of the randomisation process used, among other things: more on that later) because I’d called the “jury line” the previous night. I suspect this is common, but the other potential jurors and I were given a phone number to call “after around 3:45pm to 4pm” each day, letting us know whether we’d be needed for the following day.

Juror information sheet, providing details of court sitting times and the juror message system.
After calling a national-rate number, I got to listen to an answerphone reading out a series of juror numbers needed for the following day, listening out for mine.

The jury assembly area now only contained the people who’d been brought in, like me, for the upcoming case: a total of 15 of us. I was surprised at quite how many of the other potential jurors showed such negativity about being here: certainly, it’s inconvenient and the sitting-around is more than a little dull if (unlike me) you haven’t brought something to work on or to read, but is it so hard to see the good parts of serving on a jury, too? Personally, I was already glad of the opportunity: okay, the timing wasn’t great… with work commitments keeping me busy, as well as buying a house (more on that later!), working on my course, (finally) getting somewhere with my dad’s estate, and the tail end of a busy release cycle of Three Rings, I already had quite enough going on! But I’ve always been interested in the process of serving on a jury, and besides: I feel that it’s an important civic duty that one really ought to throw oneself at.

An emptier jury assembly area
Few people in the Jury Assembly Area.

If it were a job that you had to volunteer for, rather than being selected at random (and thankfully it isn’t! – can you imagine how awful our justice system would be if it were!), I’d have probably volunteered for it, at some point. Just not, perhaps, now. Ah well.

The jury officer advised us of the expected duration of the trial (up to two days), and made a note of each of our swearing-in choices: each juror could opt to swear an oath on the Bible, Koran, Japji Sahib, Gita, or to make an affirmation (incredibly the Wikipedia page on Jurors’ oaths lacked an entry for the United Kingdom until I added it, just now). In case they were they were empanelled onto a jury, the officer wanted to have the appropriate holy book and/or oath card ready to-hand: courtrooms, it turns out, are reasonably well-stocked with religious literature!

A court clerk shufles a deck of 15 slips of paper.
I get the impression that the earlier rounds of jury selection – from the electoral roll summons through to the assignment of jurors to cases – is randomised by computer, but the final selection of 12 is done by hand.

Once assembled, we were filed down to the courtroom, where a further randomisation process took place: a clerk for the court shuffled a deck of cards, and drew 12 at random, one at a time. From each, she read a name – having been referred to it so often lately, I had almost expected to continue to be referred to by my juror number, and had made sure that I knew it by heart – and each person thus chosen made their way to a seat in the jury benches. I was chosen sixth – I was on a jury! The people not chosen were sent back up to the assembly area, so that they could be called down to replace any of us (if our service was successfully challenged – for example, if it turned out that we personally knew the defendant), but were presumably dismissed after it became clear that this was not going to happen.

Then, each of our names were read out again, before each of us were sworn in. This, we were told, was the last chance for any challenge to be raised against us. About half of the jurors opted to affirm (including me: none of those scriptures have any special significance for me; and furthermore I’d like to think that I shouldn’t need to swear that I’m going to do the right thing to begin with); the other half had chosen to swear on the New Testament.

A poster in the Jury Assembly Area: "Who's who in the Crown Court?"
Our courtroom was quite a bit larger than the one depicted on this poster, which I found in the jury assembly room.

The trial itself went… pretty much like you’ve probably seen it in television dramas: the more-realistic ones, anyway. The prosecution explained the charges and presented evidence and witnesses, which were then cross-examined by the defence (and, ocassionally, re-examined by the prosecution). The defence produced their own evidence and witnesses – including the defendant, vice-versa. The judge interrupted from time to time to question witnesses himself, or to clarify points of law with the counsel or to explain proceedings to the jury.

The trial spilled well into a second day, and I was personally amazed to see quite how much attention to detail was required of the legal advocates. Even evidence that at first seemed completely one-sided could be turned around: for example, some CCTV footage shown by the prosecution was examined by the defence (with the help of a witness) and demonstrated to potentially show something quite different from what first appeared to be the case. The adage that “the camera never lies” has never felt farther from the truth, to me, as the moment that I realised that what I was seeing in a courtroom could be interpreted in two distinctly different ways.

A courtroom scene, from the video Your Role As A Juror
This courtroom looks a lot like the one I served in, with the jury to the left of the judge and a similar layout to the position of the prosecution and defence teams, public gallery, and dock.

Eventually, we were dismissed to begin our deliberations, under instruction to return a unanimous verdict. I asked if any of the other jurors had done this before, and – when one said that she had – I suggested that she might like to be our chairwoman and forewoman (interestingly, the two don’t have to be the same person – you can have one person chair the deliberations, and another one completely return the verdict to the courtroom – but I imagine that it’s more-common that they are). She responded that no, she wouldn’t, and instead nominated me: I asked if anybody objected, and, when nobody did, accepted the role.

I can’t talk about the trial itself, as you know, but I can say that it took my jury a significant amount of time to come to our decision. A significant part of our trial was hinged upon the subjective interpretation of a key phrase in law. Without giving away the nature of the case, I can find an example elsewhere in law: often, you’ll find legislation that compares illegal acts to what “a reasonable person” would do – you know the kind of things I mean – and its easy to imagine how a carefully-presented case might leave the verdict dependent on the jury’s interpretation of what “reasonable” means. Well: our case didn’t involve the word “reasonable”, but there are plenty of other such words in law that are equally open-to-interpretation, and we had one of these to contend with.

Government guidance: "Even when the trial’s over you mustn’t discuss the case, even with family members."
Like I said, they’re serious about not talking about the specifics of the trial. This screenshot comes from the guidance on jury service.

We spent several hours discussing the case, which is an incredibly exhausting experience, but eventually we came to a unanimous decision, and everybody seemed happy with our conclusion. As we left the court later, one of the other jurors told me that if she “was ever on trial, and she hadn’t done it, she’d want us as her jury”. I considered explaining that really, it doesn’t work like that, but I understood the sentiment: we’d all worked hard to come to an agreement of the truth buried in all of the evidence, and I was pleased to have worked alongside them all.

I stood in the courtroom to deliver our verdict, taking care not to make eye contact with the defendant in the dock nor with the group in the corner of the public gallery (whom I suspected to have been the alleged victim and their family). We waited around for the administration that followed, and then were excused.

The whole thing was a tiring but valuable experience. I can’t say it’s over yet; I’m still technically on-call to serve on a second jury, if I’m needed (but I’ve returned to work in the meantime, until I hear otherwise). But if nothing else of interest comes from my jury service, I feel like it’s been worthwhile: I’ve done my but to help ensure that a just and correct decision was made in a case that will have had great personal importance to several individuals and their families. I could have done with a little bit less of sitting around in waiting rooms, but I’ve still been less-unimpressed by the efficiency of the justice system than I was lead to believe that I would be by friends who’ve done jury duty before.

Juror information sheet, providing details of court sitting times and the juror message system.× An emptier jury assembly area× A court clerk shufles a deck of 15 slips of paper.× A poster in the Jury Assembly Area: "Who's who in the Crown Court?"× A courtroom scene, from the video Your Role As A Juror× Government guidance: "Even when the trial’s over you mustn’t discuss the case, even with family members."×

Jury Duty, Part 2

This is the second in a series of four blog posts about my experience of being called for jury duty in 2013. If you haven’t already, you might like to read the first.

I started my jury service this week, trotting along to the Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday morning, after the long weekend. As I’ve previously described, I can’t tell you anything about any case that I was assigned to (for similar reasons, I’ve got fewer photos than I might have liked), but I can tell you about my experience of being a juror.

Oxford Crown and County Court, on St. Aldates, Oxford.
The courthouse on the only sunny morning of the week. I parked my bike at the Probation Office opposite, on the first day, but got told off for using their racks and later had to park my bike elsewhere.

Getting into the courthouse is a little like getting through airport security: there’s a metal detector, and you have to turn over your bags to be searched. In my case, this took longer than most, becuase I’d brought with me a laptop computer, tablet computer, Kindle, textbooks, coursework, and paperwork relating to our efforts to buy a house (more on that, later), in addition to the usual keys, wallet, mobile phone, change, cycle helmet, gloves, etc. The metal detector seemed to be set to a rather under-enthusiastic sensitivity, though: it didn’t pick up on my metal belt buckle. Beyond this, I checked-in with reception, presenting my juror papers and driver’s license in order to prove my identity, before being ushered into a lift up to the jury assembly area.

Pictographs for: "if you want (to) look at (a) court room before you go (to ) your court hearing ask (a) member of staff please".
In order to improve universal comprehension, an entire board of signs in the crown court simultaneously use simplified English alongside pictographic representations of the words.

The jury assembly area is a comfortable but unexciting lounge, with chairs, tables, a handful of magazines, books, and jigsaws, a television (at a low volume), vending machines, lockers, and nearby toilets. Well-prepared for a wait, I started setting myself up a remote office, tethering myself an Internet connection and monopolising a bank of electrical sockets. After a while, a jury officer appeared and took a register, amid mutters from some of the other potential jurors that it was “like being at school”.

Jurors in a jury room, at Oxford Crown Court.
Jurors in a jury assembly area. They’re not as tightly-packed as they look: there’s space around the corner for more of them – they’re crammed into this area so that they can see the screen to watch an imminent screening of an instructional DVD.

There was some confusion about whether some of the potential jurors were supposed to be here at all (or had finished their service in the previous week), and about whether some others who were supposed to be present had arrived at all (and were perhaps hiding in the toilet or had disappeared down the corridor to the hot drinks dispenser), and the official had to excuse herself for a while to sort everything out. This gave us another extended period of sitting around doing nothing, which I quickly came to discover is an integral part of the experience of being a juror. Eventually, though, she returned and played for us a (slightly patronising) DVD, explaining our duties as jurors, before describing to us the process of selection and panelling, claiming expenses, and so on, and answering questions from the potential jurors present.

Still frame from "Your role as a juror".
Click through to watch “Your role as a juror”, the Ministry of Justice’s explanatory video on the role of a juror (the content is identical to the DVD we were shown).

A random selection done somewhere behind the scenes had apparently resulted in my being assigned to a case that afternoon, which I hung around for. But for some reason, that case never happened – it just got cancelled, and I got sent home. Later – in accordance with my instructions pack – I phoned a special answerphone line I’d been given and listened, in a numbers station-like way, for my juror number to be called for the following day. It came up, with an instruction that I’d been selected for a case starting the following morning. There was still every chance that I might not actually be selected for the jury, owing to the complicated multi-step randomisation process (as well as the usual factors that I could be disqualified by knowing somebody involved with the case, or the case not being heard that day at all), but this was still an exciting step forwards after spending most of a day sat in a waiting room for nothing to happen.

But that can wait for the next blog post in the series.

Oxford Crown and County Court, on St. Aldates, Oxford.× Pictographs for: "if you want (to) look at (a) court room before you go (to ) your court hearing ask (a) member of staff please".× Jurors in a jury room, at Oxford Crown Court.×

Buying a House, Part 1

This blog post is the first in a series about buying our first house.

Today, I called up a man on the telephone and – on behalf of Ruth, JTA, and I – offered him several hundred thousand pounds in exchange for his house. Well, actually I spoke to the agent who represents him, but – crazy alternatives notwithstanding – I gather that’s sort-of the way that things are often done in the world of buying and selling property.

A very pink attic bedroom.
When looking at houses, it’s important to look beyond its current decoration, and see the potential beyond. If you ever get your eyesight back.

With house prices in Oxford averaging about twice the national average, it’s a genuinely scary thing to be doing, to be looking seriously at owning one. On the upside, once we’re done paying for it we could sell it and use the money to buy a yacht. On the downside, by the time we’re done paying for it the sea level may have risen by enough that we’ll need one.

A wood-burning fire.
Sure, it’s got a wood-burning fire, lots of space, and a fair price… but what are the downsides?

House-hunting has been challenging, at times. The place that first caught our interest got quickly pushed down the list after we thought about the implications that the layout of rooms would have for us (as well as its crazy stairwell). The second place that we ‘connected’ with seemed like a clear winner; lots of great features for a very reasonable price. But then we tried cycling to it, and it turns out there’s no way to get there from Oxford without going over what JTA described as “a mountain”! And then, in case we needed more dissuasion, I looked at how far it was from the nearest telephone exchange, and discovered that broadband Internet access there would be only marginally faster than dial-up… until at least 2015. It doesn’t matter how good its countryside views are, it’s not worth trading high-def video for!

Our current home in Oxford.
Will this be the last rented accommodation we ever have? [Google Street View]
I don’t know if there’ll be much to say about the process of buying a house, from here. I don’t know if there’s anything interesting enough to share! But just like my imminent jury duty, I thought I’d share with you all anyway, even if just to say: “How about a housewarming party, sometime?” A very pink attic bedroom.× A wood-burning fire.× Our current home in Oxford.×