Those of you who’ve met my family will probably already have an understanding of… what they’re like. Those of you who haven’t are probably about to gain one.
It started on a weekend in April, when my mother and I went to a Pink concert. The support act were a really fun band called
Walk the Moon, who finished their energetic set with I Can Lift A Car, with its’ catchy chorus hook “Did you did you… did you know know: I can lift a car up, all by
myself?” Over the weeks that followed, perhaps because of its earworm qualities,
this song became sort-of an inside Rickroll between my mum and I.
At one point, she sent me a link to this video (also visible below), in which she is seen to lift
a (toy) car. My sister Becky (also known as “Godzilla”) was behind the camera (and, according to the credits,
everything else), and wrote in the doobly doo: “I think I’m gonna start doing family vlogs.”
She’d experimented with vlogging before, with a short series of make-up tutorials and a “test video post” on her blog, but this represented something new: an effort to show off her family (and guest
appearances from her friends) as they really are; perhaps this was an effort to answer the inevitable question asked by people who’ve visited them – “are they always like
that?” Perhaps that’s why she chose the name she did for the Family Vlog – “IRL”.
At the time of writing, Becky (on her YouTube channel) has produced eight such videos
(one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight), reliably rolling out one a week for the last two months. I thought they
were pretty good – I thought that was just because they were my family, but I was surprised to find that it’s slowly finding a wider reach, as I end up speaking to friends who mention
to me that they “saw the latest family vlog” (sometimes before I’ve had a chance to see it!).
Naturally, then, the only logical thing to do was to start producing my own YouTube series, on my channel,
providing reviews of each episode of my sister’s vlog. I’ve managed to get seven out so far (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven), and I’d like to think that they’re actually better than the
originals. They’re certainly more-concise, which counts for a lot, because they trim the original vlog down to just the highlights (interrupted only occasionally by my wittering
The widget above (or this playlist) will let
you navigate your way through the entire body of vlogs, and their reviews (or lets you play them all back to back, if you’ve got two and a quarter hours to spare and a pile of brain
cells you want killing). But if you’re just looking for a taster, to see if it’s for you, then here are some starting-out points:
The best episode? My favourite is six, but number two has the most views, probably the keywords “lesbian foursome”
are popular search terms. Or possibly “girls peeing”. I’m not sure which scares me the most.
A series of days flew by in a cardboard-box-filled blur, and suddenly it was the last Friday in July – the day upon which our sale was completed. I’d run out of spare days of annual
leave, so I was only able to justify taking the afternoon off to pick up a van, scoop up Ruth and Matt, get the keys to the new house, and meet JTA
The estate agents were conveniently just two doors down from a locksmith, so we got some keys cut to what we believed
to be the new front door, while we were there. It’s also sandwiched between a funeral home and a florist, which makes it sort of a one-stop street when somebody dies and you want to put
their house on the market.
We soon discovered that the “fix” that had ultimately been applied to the broken front door was simply to swap it for a different exterior door, from the inner porch. A little cheeky,
and a little frustrating after all the fighting we’d done, but not the end of the world: we still had a perfectly good front door and – as we planned to use the annex as part of the
main house, anyway, we were happy to take the door down and leave an open doorway, anyway.
A vacant house feels big and empty. Our new – large! – living room felt enormous. Meanwhile, packing up our old house – with its painted walls and wooden floors – was beginning to sound
echoey as it became emptier.
We spent a long time working out which of the many keys we had fit which of the locks, as there were quite so many: there’s the front door, the inner front door, the other
inner front door, the back door, the outer conservatory door, the inner conservatory door, the gate lock, the shed lock, the window locks, and a good handful of keys besides that we
still haven’t identified the purpose of. It’s was like the previous owners just bought a pile of additional keys, just as a prank.
We’d rented a van over a long weekend in which to do the majority of the move, and we’d hired some burly men with a bigger van to move some of the heaviest furniture, and to collect a
piano that we’d bought (yes, we have a piano now; booyah).
Very helpfully, Alec came and joined us, and helped run an enormous amount of boxes and furniture down and out of the three-stories of our old house, and in and up the three-stories of
our new house. Why do we keep torturing ourselves with these tall buildings? At least our new staircases are a better shape for carrying mattresses up.
The weather stayed good, with only occasional showers (and thankfully, never when we were carrying soft furnishings between a van and a building) and one brief but wild thunderstorm
(that we managed to avoid only with a quick re-arrangement of the van contents, slamming the doors, and sprinting for cover), and we worked hard, and we ended up a day ahead of schedule
before we were finished.
In order to minimise the amount of the deposit that we might otherwise lose, from our old place, and because we rightly anticipated being too exhausted from the move to do all of the
requisite cleaning ourselves, we’d hired some professionals. By this point, we weren’t even able to think in terms of money like normal people – by the time you’re spending five figures
on tax and lawyers, you find it pretty easy to shrug off the cost of a team of cleaners!
This did mean that Ruth and I had to each work from home, from the old house, for one last day while we let the cleaners, gardener etc. in. We left in the old house an absolute minimum
of furniture: a single desk, chair, laptop computer, cup (for water), router, and cables.
As I left the house for the last time, as empty and quiet as it was the day we
first moved in, I felt a sense of serenity; a calm that came from a number of simultaneous realisations… that this was probably the last house move I’d have to do in a long while…
that I finally lived somewhere that I didn’t (theoretically, at least) have to ask for somebody’s permission before I put a picture hook up or painted a wall… and that at long last I
was paying off my own mortgage, rather than somebody else’s. It was the beginning of a new era.
Changing tack from the theme by which our houses have been named since 2010, our new home is called Greendale.
And yes, there’s a website (albeit a little sparse, for now). There’s always a
There’ll be a housewarming party on 22nd September: if you’re a friend of one or more of us, you’ve probably received an invitation already. But if you haven’t – and
it’s not impossible, because we weren’t sure of everybody’s best email addresses these days – and you expect you should have, let me know. It’s not that we don’t love you: we just don’t
love you enough to remember to invite you to stuff, that’s all.
Imagine one house, with four people, but five couples. How does it work, asks Jo Fidgen.
Charlie is talking excitedly about a first date she went on the night before.
Next to her on the sofa is her husband of six years, Tom. And on the other side of him is Sarah, who’s been in a relationship with Tom for the last five years. Sarah’s fiance, Chris,
is in the kitchen making a cup of tea.
This morning, I was cycling to work along my usual route, National Cycle Network Route 51, on its final leg down Banbury Road to Parks Road. Here, the cycle route shares its path with
a bus lane, and – on a warm, bright morning like this one, having a broad, flat lane is a great opportunity for a strong cyclist to make great time in a safe environment.
As I approached the bus stop, a spotted a car in the lane to my right, just ahead, slow down and turn on it’s indicator to turn left: it was heading for one of the driveways. But when
the car began its maneuver, a split second later, I realised that the driver had not seen me. Perhaps she’d not checked her mirrors before turning? Or perhaps she’d only glanced (and
seen no buses in the bus lane – just me and the second cyclist behind me)? Or perhaps she’d underestimated my speed, or dramatically overestimated her ability to get into the driveway
before I reached her? In any case, she turned out to be wrong. I hit my brakes as sharply as I safely could, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from ploughing right into the side of her
I’m not entirely sure what happened next. At the time, it felt like everything went into slow motion: a gentle flight through the air followed by a gradual landing on the other side,
and that I’d be able to recall every single moment. But, probably as a result of the blow to my head (which as I’ve discovered before can have
profound and confusing effects on memory), my memory of everything from a few seconds before the collision onwards is fuzzy and fragmented. But I spoke to the driver (a woman with dark
hair), to the cyclist behind me (who was wearing a white t-shirt), and to a man who came out of a nearby building (who spoke with an accent – these details are the only things I can
reliably remember about any of them), and based upon their descriptions – any my injuries – I’ve managed to piece together broadly what happened.
I hit the side of the car and flipped forward, throwing myself, some of the contents of my pannier bag, and my D-lock into the air. My handlebars knocked a dent into the bonnet of the
car, and the lock landed elsewhere on it, but I flew clear over the car and flipped around in the air. I’m not sure how I landed, but it was probably on my back, because I struck the
backs of my head, right shoulder, and elbow… but I must have rolled, because I also managed to scrape and graze the front of my legs.
I initially thought that I was fine (though I was clearly in shock), but I discovered about a quarter of an hour (or thereabouts: I’ve only been able to piece together a timeline in
hindsight) that I was in more pain than I’d first thought, was feeling intermittently dizzy, and was unable to remember the details of the accident or even what day of the week it was.
I asked for a taxi to be called for me and rode to the hospital, where they cleared me of anything seriously wrong (spinal injuries, serious concussion, broken bones, etc.) and sent me
home for a day of lying down and mainlining NSAIDs.
Now it’s the early evening. I’m still far from entirely “with it”: I feel like my brain’s been rebooted into safe mode – I seem to be incapable of decent multi-tasking (for example: I can have a conversation with you, or can
listen for my name being called by the doctor, but not both). I’ve got aching shoulders and arms and a bit of a limp. And I’ve been pretty much exhausted the whole day.
But here’s something: if I’m right about the angle I landed at, based on where I hurt the most, then it’s possible that my cycle helmet saved my life, today.
This review went a little bit meta, on account of the fact that I feature both as the reviewer and also as a subject of Godzilla’s sixth weekly Family Vlog itself. So ultimately, I end
up reviewing an episode with me in. Clearly the bits with me in were the best.
In Godzilla’s fourth Family Vlog, a lost cat is recovered from under the floorboards and the secret history of Godzilla and Zara is uncovered. Here’s my review, hastily and belatedly
put together during my recent house move.
This blog post is the fifth in a series about buying our first house.
In the third post in the series, we’d contracted some lawyers and applied for a mortgage, and in the fourth post we asked for help with the upcoming move. If you feel like we weren’t telling you the whole story, that’s because
we weren’t: some of the bits we can now reveal were things that we needed to keep close to our chest while we were negotiating over the sale…
Things were continuing apace with our new house purchase, and that was the way that we wanted it. We’d had an offer accepted, applied for a mortgage (of which we’d been provisionally
accepted already; this was just a paperwork affair), and our solicitors had gotten started with the searches and drafting the contracts. So long as the surveyor’s visit didn’t turn up
any problems, we were on a roll.
Unfortunately, a few things did seem to be conspiring against us. The first was that the two sellers – a married couple who were in the middle of what appeared to be
a… messy… separation – didn’t seem to be very communicative either with one another nor with their solicitor: or else, their solicitor was incredibly slow at relaying information back to our solicitor.
This posed a problem, because Ruth, JTA, Matt and I had already arranged with our letting agents
that we’d be vacating our current house by the 5th of August. We’d left two clear weekends of possible “moving” time, but they were rushing up fast. Before the exchange of contracts, we
couldn’t really let the sellers know how important it was that we complete the sale in a hurry, or else we’d be in a very weak negotiating position (and they’d be free to move the
goalposts, knowing that we were running out of options). On the other hand, we really wanted to push to get the last couple of issues sorted out as soon as possible.
This ties in to the second thing that conspired against us: there were two particular issues with the house that we didn’t want to go ahead without resolving. The first was that the
boiler hadn’t been serviced in a long time, so we insisted upon a gas safety inspection being carried out before we would exchange contracts. The second was that the front door was more
“hole” than “door”, believed to have occurred during some kind of fracas between the owners (did I mention that their divorce was a little unpleasant?).
The gas safety inspection got sorted out after a while, but we went back and forth over the front door for what felt like an age. Who should repair it? Who should pay? We were told that
the sellers were having cashflow problems and weren’t sure that they could pay for the repair of the door prior to the sale, but we weren’t happy to agree to the sale without a
commitment that the door would be repaired by the completion (our insurer, answerable to our mortgage lender, wasn’t keen on us moving in to a house will a hole in it): we were at an
impasse. So when the sellers produced for us a list of furniture they’d like to offer to sell to us, we noted with some suspicion that the total value of the furniture was remarkably
close to the value of the quote for the repair of the door: clearly, they planned to offer to give us the furniture for “free” in exchange for not repairing the door.
Which might have been fine, except for the fact that we didn’t want about half (by value) of the things they were offering. Having been living in unfurnished
accomodation for several years, we’ve already got a sufficiency of wardrobes. We were keen to take their appliances off their hands (including a gas cooker and a very large
fridge/freezer), but we weren’t willing to buy something that we didn’t need just so that they could find it easier to repair something that they broke! We made a number of other
offers, such as lending them the money to repair the door (which they’d be able to pay us back following the sale), but they weren’t keen.
We put into place our emergency plan, and made arrangements to go and start viewing rental properties, in case we ran out of time and needed somewhere to live. JTA and I played “good
cop, bad cop” with them in a spectacular tag team, leveraging this situation as a threat to pull out of the purchase entirely… and just like that, they caved. Within a day or so, their
solicitor had agreed to the terms of our contract, and the sellers agreed to sort out the front door prior to completion of the sale, and we made sure to get it in writing. Our
solicitor had already requested the money from our mortgage lender, so we agreed upon a completion date later in the week.
We popped open a bottle of prosecco and celebrated the successful exchange, and redoubled our efforts to fill our house with boxes, prior to the move.