Buying A House, Part 6

This blog post is the sixth and final part in a series about buying our first house. In the fifth post, we finally exchanged contracts with the sellers after a long-running disagreement about who was going to repair the front door…

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 there.

Ruth and Matt at the Europcar office.
The first mission was to collect a van from Europcar, so that we’d be able to spend the entire weekend going up and down the A34.

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.

Dan is handed keys and a bottle of sparkling wine by Mark, the estate agent.
The great thing about getting champagne as a housewarming gift, from your estate agent, is that – unlike non-sparkling wine – you don’t need to unpack the corkscrew to open it.

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.

JTA opens the door of Greendale.
We gave JTA the honour of being the first to open the door to our new home. After some fiddling with what turned out to be the wrong key, the door turned out to be already unlocked.

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.

Ruth lies in the empty living room of Greendale.
Lounging in the living room. (or is she living in the lounge?)

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.

Stacks of boxes in the living room of New Earth.
Our old house – New Earth – became emptier and yet more-chaotic as the stacks of boxes were gradually loaded into the van.

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).

JTA in the back of the van, in which a small mock living room has been assembled.
“Pack the living room into the van,” I said. “Okay,” said JTA, putting the kettle on.

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 matresses up.

Removals men carry our sideboard out from the back door of New Earth.
Now that I’ve discovered that I can hire muscular men on-demand, I’m not sure that I’ll ever do anything else.

The weather stayed good, with only ocassional 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.

Alec tests the piano at Greendale.
Alec helped out with lots of heavy lifting, but also with ‘testing’ the piano. Which, before it had been tuned, wasn’t the best of experiences for anybody involved.

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!

Matt filling his face with ice cream.
I’m pretty sure that the local ice cream van driver was following us around, because on each day of the move, he’d arrive on the scene right after we’d finished unloading a van and could really do with an ice cream break.

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.

Dan works from home on the final day of the occupation of New Earth.
One desk, one chair, one laptop, one router… in a five bedroom house. It’s a lonely life.

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.

Alec among furniture and boxes.
The first box that we unpacked was the one containing Alec, of course.

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 website.

Matt and Susan on a bean bag as we rest at the end of the first day's moving.
Susan didn’t help much with the packing and moving, but I’m not sure I’ve put a photo of her and Matt online yet. So now I have.

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.

Buying a House, Part 4 – Call To Arms!

This blog post is the third in a series about buying our first house. In the third post, Ruth, JTA and I had acquired some lawyers and started the conveyancing process…

We’re moving house! And we want your help!

There’ve been… a few hitches with the house move. A few little hurdles. And then a few big hurdles. It’s been a little challenging, is what I’m trying to say. I’ll write about that in Part 5, but for now: we need your help!

Here’s what we’ve got:

  • A weekend in which we want to move (27th – 28th July).
  • A van (probably).
  • A lot of furniture, piles of boxes, and all the board games in the known universe. – a lot of stuff!
  • Three people: one of whom has really dodgy knees, one of whom is pregnant, and one of whom managed to concuss himself last time he tried to move house – not the best crew in the world, perhaps.
  • Lots of alcohol that needs drinking.

Here’s what we need:

  • A couple of extra pairs of hands who are willing to load and unload vans in exchange for:
    • Pizza
    • All the booze you can eat
    • Being among the first to see our new home!

(cynical folks might notice that pizza, booze, rental vans and friends are a lot cheaper than professional removals companies, especially for short hops across to the other side of a city)

Simply put: we need you!

Can you help? Can you be free for some or all of the weekend of 27th & 28th of July, to come and shift boxes in exchange for good times, booze and snacks? If you are, we’d love to have you over. Ruth has written more about the wonderful perks that you’ll enjoy if you can help us, so – if you’re free and can get to Oxford – please come! And it’ll be lovely to see you, too!

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?”

11 years, 11 days.

The escape is imminent. I am leaving Aberystwyth (with Jim soon to join me) for Gloucestershire. I am greatly looking forward to several things: Access to proper shopping More live music More comedy Multiscreen cinemas! Having disposable income Being nearer to some of my closest friends There are, of course, things that I’ll miss: The…

Claire and I broke up in 2009, and I left Aberystwyth shortly afterwards. It look her a little while to complete her PhD and be ready to leave, herself, when she made this blog post.

Content Freeze

Isn’t memory strange?

Last week, we updated to the latest version of the CMS that powers the Bodleian‘s web site. During the process of installing and testing the new version, we initiated a “content freeze”, disallowing the 100+ regular content editors access to the administration sections: any changes they’d have made wouldn’t have been replicated in the new version, and we didn’t want a discrepancy in content while we were testing that the change had taken! We still had back-end access, of course, and a few minor “emergency” changes were made (on both the old and the new version), but in general, the site was in a read-only mode for several days.

A similar thing happened to my head during this weekend’s house move.

While running  a van-load of stuff from Old Earth to New Earth, Ruth, JTA and I stopped off at Argos to buy a few bits and pieces for our new home. We parked in one of the few remaining parking spaces capable of accommodating our extended wheel-base van. Unfortunately this brushed us up very close to an unfortunately-placed tree, whose branches reached in through the door as I clambered out. I spent a while trying to reposition them so as not to slam them in the door while Ruth and JTA walked ahead, towards Argos, and so when I was done they were quite a way ahead. I turned and ran to catch up with them…

BAM! Something struck me on the top of my head. We’re still not all in agreement as to whether it was a branch or the wing mirror of the van, but it hurt like hell. My knees buckled up and I collapsed into a heap.

Before long I was on my feet, but as I began to feel dizzy and nauseous, we started to worry that I might be concussed, and Ruth took me to the hospital. By then, I was unable to keep my eyes open without feeling like the world was spinning and I was going to throw up, and I kept feeling like I was moments away from falling asleep.

By the time I’d seen a doctor, about three hours later, I was starting to feel a little better. We took a leaflet of “things to watch out for after a concussion”, which advised that I shouldn’t lift any heavy things (“But I’m moving house today!”) nor use a computer or drink alcohol (“This is my life you’re talking about!”), all of which I ignored to some degree or another.

I napped on and off for a lot of Sunday and some of Monday, but it was on Monday that the amount of damage I’d done became most apparent. I got out of bed and staggered downstairs to find that Ruth and JTA had at some point bought a shoe rack. They weren’t around, but neither was the van, and I reasoned that they must have been out collecting more boxes, but I thought I might as well make myself useful by assembling this shoe rack they’d gotten. It was of the variety that hangs on the back of a door, so I spent some time deciphering the instructions and putting it together… only to find that it wouldn’t actually fit onto any of the (quite thick) doors in our new house.

That’s when Ruth & JTA arrived. “I saw you’d bought a shoe rack,” I said.

“Yes,” they replied, “We bought it yesterday. We told you about it.”

“Oh. I don’t remember that. Anyway, I built it, but it turns out that it won’t fit any of our doors.”

“Yes, we know: we told you that too. We were about to take it back to the shop.”

I have no recollection whatsoever of that conversation. Or several other conversations, it seems. In the hospital, I remember that Ruth talked to me for an hour or more (I wasn’t capable of conversation myself, some of the time, but it was nice to hear a familiar voice), and I still can’t remember any of it except for snippets (something about her father’s new house?).

For much of Sunday, my brain went into “content freeze”, too. A read-only mode where my memories worked fine, except that I couldn’t construct any new ones: everything just went in one ear and out the other. Maybe this is to be expected: a quick look at some maps of brains and an examination of the bump on my head indicates that the blow came to a point squarely in the centre of the middle frontal gyrus (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex)  of the right hemisphere of my brain: an area associated with emotional self-control, social judgement, lateral thinking, and the transfer of working memory.

Still: it was certainly a strange experience to be told about events from only a day earlier that I simply can’t remember. It also made Tuesday interesting: long weekends are confusing at the best of times, but parts of my memory made it feel like I’d had only a two-day weekend (as parts of Sunday are simply missing from my memory), and so it was even harder than usual to shake the feeling that it was Monday when I arrived at work on Tuesday. That’ll be a pleasant surprise on Friday, anyway, when the weekend “comes early”: maybe I should bang my head every time there’s a long weekend.

Earth Sunset

As regular readers will no-doubt know, the other Earthlings and I are currently in the process of moving house. Last weekend, as well as watching the Eurovision Song Contest, of course, we packed a lot of boxes (mostly stuffed with board games) and moved a handful of them over to New Earth, our new home, by car (this weekend, we’re using a van, which – in accordance with our BSG theming – is dubbed the “Raptor”).

Isis, Ruth and JTA's car, laden with boxes.

Part of this pack-and-move process has been to cut down on all of the things that we no longer want or need. Of particular concern was all of the booze we’ve collected. I’m not just talking about the jam-jar of moonshine that Matt R left here after our last Murder Mystery, although it is one of the more-terrifying examples. No; I’m talking about things like the Tesco Value Vodka, the blackcurrant schnapps, and the heaps of absinth we’ve got littering the place up.

Paul outside New Earth.

The more we drink, the less we have to box up and move, you see! So we’ve spent a lot of the last fortnight inventing new (sometimes quite-experimental) cocktails that make use of the ingredients that we’d rather not have to take with us to the new place. We’ve refrained from buying alcohol, promising ourselves that we won’t buy any more until we’ve gotten rid of the stuff we’ve got and don’t want by one means or another. And it’s just about working.

JTA, Paul and Ruth eat pizza and drink Earth Sunset.

Earth Sunset – a mixture of cheap vodka, grenadine, and lemonade, with stacks of ice – caused some debate when Paul compared the drink to a Tequila Sunrise, claiming that “it isn’t a sunrise without orange juice”. He’s certainly right that you don’t get that cool “gradient” effect without something lighter (both in colour and specific density) to float on top of the grenadine. But on the other hand – as JTA pointed out – this is an Earth Sunset: it’s name has little to do with what it looks like and a lot to do with what it represents – the end of our life on (what we’re now calling) Old Earth.

Earth's "Battlestar Galactica" poster, hanging in New Earth. JTA, under Ruth's direction, adjusts Earth's "Red Kite" photo (which we eventually decided to move elsewhere).

For those who are following our progression and comparing it to Battlestar Galactica canon, you’ll be glad to see that this works. We arrived on Earth, but now we’re leaving because it was irradiated and inhospitable (okay, perhaps it’s a slight exaggeration, but the house was a little run-down and under-maintained). And so we find ourselves making our home on New Earth.

There’ll be a housewarming thingy for local people (and distant people who are that-way inclined, but we’re likely to have something later on for you guys) sometime soon: watch this space.

Who’s Your Daddy?

This morning I took a cycle out to the post office to put in the mail redirection forms (which they wouldn’t let us fill in online, and – in fact – they rejected once I got to the post office because I’d used blue ink in one place on the form, rather than black… but that’s another story) in anticipation of the Earthlings‘ upcoming house move, and on my way out of the garage our neighbour came over.

“We’ll be sorry to see you go,” she said, gesturing at the “TO LET” sign at the end of the driveway.

“Hmm?” I responded. It took a while to sink in that she was talking to me: apart from an occasional “Hi” or “Bye” on the way in to or out of the house, we’ve never spoken to one another before.

To Let sign outside Old Earth.

“Oh yeah,” I said, after a pause, “We’re moving over to the other side of the city: we kind-of wanted a bigger place for the four of us.”

“Oh,” she continued, “I suppose it might be a little small in there for four. It’s a shame, though: you’re the best tenants we’ve ever had.”

Something in my head snapped, and unraveled, and it took a little time before I managed to re-assemble her sentence into something that made sense to me.

“You… own this building?” I asked, pointing back at our house. We’d never met our landlords (at least, I thought we hadn’t): everything had always been arranged through our letting agency.

There was another twang in my head as something else snapped. Then moments later, half way through my next thought, I realised how incredibly racist I was being. You see: our contract had stated that our landlord’s name was Mr. Patel, and that’s a name that in my mind had associated itself with a certain tone of skin colour. And it had, for a moment, seemed inconceivable that the plump white woman in front of me could possibly be part of the family of the imaginary Mr. Patel that had taken up residence in my head. As I worked to reprogram my brain with this new information (and perhaps a little less capacity for runaway assumptions), she continued:

“The previous tenants have all been awful,” she said, “The last lot broke all of the windows. The ones before that tried to burn the place down!”

This actually went some way to explaining the state of the building, with it’s various weakened and damaged parts.

“Well thank you,” I said,  “I hope you get some more great tenants next time.”

“Yeah,” she replied, “I was going to say that to your dad this morning when I saw him leaving.”

“My… dad?”

“Yeah: he left here earlier; just a bit before your girlfriend left. Sorry: is he not your father?”

Every string that still remaining intact in my brain snapped simultaneously. This woman had just blown my poor little mind. I investigated:

“Dark-haired chap, with a beard?” I queries, miming the shape of a beard because for some reason that made sense to me – you know, in case she’d never seen a beard before.

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“Wow. No, that’s JTA. He’s… like four years younger than me.”

“Oh God!” she said, “You can’t tell him I said that…”

But it was too late: the blog post was already half-written in my mind, taking up the void that had been cleared during the earlier series of mental implosions. This one’s for you, pops.

My "father" updates the Earthlings' "Jump Track", a metaphor borrowed from the Battlestar Galactica board game to represent our readiness to "jump" to our new home. It looks like moving now has a 25% chance of us leaving 3 people behind. Also, it looks like the Galactica has put on weight since it's last step.

What I Learned About Democracy, Injury, Packing & Friendship

It’s was a busy weekend; the first of several, I’m sure. Mostly – put briefly – it’s been spent thusly:

Democracy: I’ll be voting “Yes” on Thursday’s referendum, and you should too (unless you’ve already been persuaded or are even helping with the fight). And while I’ve not had as much opportunity to help get this message out as Ruth and JTA have, I’ve tried to do my bit by joining them for a spot of leafleting over the weekend. I’m not entirely in favour of some of the campaign tactics being used (like the separate “Labour Yes” and “Conservative Yes” campaigns which act as if one another don’t exist: to me, whether or not we adopt AV has nothing to do with parties or candidates and everything to do with it just being a better way of representing the opinion of the voters), but I guess that they’re necessary to get the point across to some folks. And this slight spindoctoring quickly pales in the light of some of the lies that the no-to-AV campaigners are telling.

Injury: Not to me, this time, but to my father, who came off his bike while cycling around Scotland this weekend. I’ve not had the chance to talk to him since they pushed back his surgery (he’s broken parts of himself and they want to turn him into a cyborg put a metal plate in him, or something) until later this week. Right now, then, he’s confined to hospital, which I can’t imagine he’s enjoying very much. If they’ve hooked you up with Internet access, dad – get well soon.

Packing: Oh, so much packing. I got started on boxing up all of the board games, the other day, only to find out that there were quite a few more of them than I remembered. I’ve also started on my collection of cables and computer knick-knacks, and discovered that I have no fewer than five male-to-male VGA cables. Why? I’ve no idea. I’ve been gradually cutting down on my spare supplies (do I really need three spare floppy drive cables when I don’t use any floppy disks?), but it’s hard: the very next day after I throw them out, you can guarantee that’ll be the moment I need one of my many AT-to-PS2 keyboard adapters.

Friendship: A couple of weeks ago I met Adrian, an international student from the USA who’s been in Oxford for a year or so for the final year of zer* study. Ze and I ‘clicked’ and formed an immediate connection, instantly getting along remarkably well. We spent a little of this weekend together, and for a moment there, it seemed like there might be the potential for a romantic connection, too. But sadly, by the time we got into gear ze had only two days left in the UK before jetting off back home to the States… and 3,900 miles is a long, long way. We both agreed that we should have met a year ago, but c’est la vie: the world is smaller, these days, thanks to the Internet, so there’s every chance of building an online friendship, punctuated those rare occasions when we happen to be in one another’s country.

I don't have any pictures to-hand from this weekend at all, shockingly. So here's a picture of a strange-looking insect, having just shed its skin (left), on Adrian's hat.

* It’s a gender-neutral pronoun, if you haven’t come across one before (and as I usually only find myself using them in the context of BiCon, you’d be forgiven). Aside from their linguistic benefits in politically-correct society,  they’re often favoured by those whose gender identity is neither male nor female.

The title of this blog post is, of course, a reference to What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce, a fantastic 2001 Goo Goo Dolls compilation album.

The Board Games Are Breeding

A a means to take a break from the code I was working on for half an hour (I’m doing some freelance work for SmartData in my spare time, since I left them to go and work for the Bodleian Library, in order to help wrap up a project that I was responsible for at the end of my time there), I decided to go downstairs and do some packing in anticipation of our upcoming house move.

The first four boxes full of board games.

I packed about four boxes worth of board games, and then stood back to take a look at the shelves… and damnit, they look just as full as they did before I started.

I swear that my board game collection must be breeding, somehow. “Perhaps that’s where expansion packs come from,” suggests Paul. Perhaps: but that wouldn’t manage to explain the optical illusion that makes it look like I’ve got four boxes full of games when in actual fact they’re all still on the shelves, unless they’re breeding as fast as I can pack them.

This might take a while.

Finding my Geographic Centre

Have you come across GeoMidpoint? This web service will help you find the midpoint between any number of geographical points. They’ve got all kinds of proposed uses for it, like finding a convenient restaurant that’s equidistant from each of you and your friends, but one of the more frivolous activities you can enjoy using it for is to find your home “centre of gravity”. Put in everywhere you’ve lived (and, optionally, how long you lived there for, as a weighting factor), and it’ll show you the centre point.

I gave it a go. Here’s where I’m centred.

Dan's centre point (the green 'M' pin).

Okay, you think – it’s not so surprising that the centre point is near Preston: I spent over a decade living there. But here’s the quirk: my addresses weren’t weighted by how long I’d lived there. All I did is put in everywhere I’d lived for six months or more, and let these places all have equal weight.

Curious, then, that the centre point comes to within a quarter hour’s drive of either of my parents’ houses, in Preston.

I suppose there are some balancing factors, here: places that cancel one another out quite nicely. The Northern bias of Scotland is counteracted by the comparative Southernness of Aberystwyth, Oxford, and Surrey. The strong Western bias of the many different places I lived in Aberystwyth are invalidated by quite how far East Aberdeen and London are. But still, it seems to be a quirky coincidence to me that the centre point would be so close to where I did most of my growing up, despite how much I’ve moved around.

New Earth, where we'll be moving later this year

This observation comes only a little while after the other Earthlings and I have finished signing the paperwork on what is later this year to become our new home, New Earth. It’s still in the Oxford area, but provides us with some nice things that we’re looking forward to, like more space (something we never seem to have enough of!). And any of you who’ve visited by car will probably appreciate how much more accessible the driveway is…

We’ll be moving this Summer, and in doing so we’ll pull my little green triangle over into Chorley. Better that, I think, than out in the Irish sea, which is where it’d be if I weighted where I’d lived by the amount of time I’d spent there!

All Along The Watchtower

Ruth, JTA, and I have found our way to Earth – our new home, in Oxford – after the most exhausting house move I’ve ever done. Particular challenges in getting things to Earth included:

  • My mountainous quantities of stuff, and in particular the things that I own that are of awkward shapes for packing into a van, such as my bike, collection of wheelie-chairs, and the more-challenging bits of furniture I own.
  • All the subsequent cleaning, tidying, repainting etc. that was required at The Cottage, most of which couldn’t be done until the van was loaded up. Huge thanks to everybody who helped out with this monumental task.
  • The fact that we were also moving most of Paul’s stuff. In order to minimise the number of van rentals we collectively need, we rented a large van and tightly packed into it as much as possible of Paul‘s posessions, too. Which, of course, meant more to load, unload, and fit in, as well as the logistical challenges of picking up things from two different locations and still packing things in a logical (big heavy things at the bottom, fragile things in tight spaces, etc.) manner.
A Very Full Van
  • The journey: wow, it’s a long way from Aberystwyth to Oxford (or, in fact, from Aberystwyth to just about anywhere). Conveniently, it can be just a case of getting on the A44 and heading East until you get there, as Earth is only a stone’s throw away from the “other” end of the A44, but it’s still a trip that drags on and on.
  • That I kept standing on sharp things: while loading the van (without shoes: there was my mistake) I managed to tread on a drawing pin which went right into the muscle at the ball of my foot. While unloading at the other end, I managed to stand on an upturned nail which was longer than the drawing pin by just sufficient to counteract the thickness of my sole, puncturing my other foot, too. I’m now limping.

But that’s only the beginning of the problems.

Paul's room here on Earth looks just like his flat in Aberystwyth used to: full of boxes!

My Sister’s Mystery Illness

Arriving in Oxford, we were all exhausted, so Ruth, JTA and I worked on unloading the minimum possible amount from the van (enough that I’d have bedding to sleep on and that the computers could be stored safely indoors) while my dad and Jenny – who’d been driving the van – went to check into their nearby B&B. Having reached our goal, Ruth, JTA and I sat out in the garden of our new house with a beer each and, exhausted, congratulated ourselves on a succesful day. Unloading the rest of the van could wait until the morning.

That’s when my dad reappeared on our doorstep, looking flustered. He’d just received work that my sister, Sarah, had just been rushed into hospital with excrutiating abdominal pains, and he needed the van back to get up to her in Preston ASAP. Quickly we formed a bucket chain and rapidly unloaded the entire van, without regard to where anything belonged, into the garage, freeing up the van.

So, yeah: the garage is a little full, now.

Oh, and JTA stabbed me in the hand with a penknife. In order to remove those things which were roped-in to the van as quickly as possible, he began slicing through them with his swiss army knife, and, in a moment of ill communication about which of the ropes that I was holding needed cutting, he ended up gouging a big hole in my thumb. Which goes nicely with my punctured feet, making me look like the result of the least-effective case of crucifixion ever.

My dad got away, and my sister seems stable and safe, by the way, although the hospital still aren’t sure what’s wrong with her.

Network Issues

An important part of my unpacking plan was to get my study set up so that I’d be able to get back to my day job – which I’m working at remotely – as soon on Monday morning as possible. It was during this set-up that I discovered that I was completely unable to connect any VPN connections. This later turns out to be a fault in the latest firmware of the ISP-supplied router. For those of you not fluent in Geek: the magic Internet-box we were delivered wasn’t very good, and needs downgrading to make it useful.

Not a problem, I think: I’ll just plug in my old router and configure it to work, instead. Great plan, sure, but unfortunately JTA’s desktop PC didn’t want to play nice with my old router, and took some kicking to get working. Meanwhile, I’d started experimenting on getting the new router working, and before you know it, we’ve had half a dozen different (but similarly-named) wireless networks floating about, all with different passwords and settings, and nobody has a clue what’s going on.

Magic Internet-box one, bottom right, hates me. Magic Internet-box two, on top of it, hates JTA. And yes, that phone does look familiar, doesn't it.

Eventually, we got together an Internet connection that not only works for everybody but follows all of the standards we care about, and not just some of them, but it was one more challenge than I’d have liked when I’d hoped to do a house move without taking any time off work. Which is in itself, it turns out, a silly idea. Next time I undergo this mayhem, I’m taking at least a long-weekend to do it.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to say, but I’d better get back to work! The short of it is: I’m on Earth, and it’s mayhem.

Claire Goes To Pisa

So, last weekend Claire moved out of The Cottage and into her new flat, the top floor of a somewhat-slanted building on Queen’s Road which I’ve tken to calling Pisa. I gather she’s planning a flatwarming party in the afternoon – if you’re on the Abnib Events SMS list, you’ll already have heard about this, and I’ll let you know more as soon as I have it.

For those of you for whom this comes as a surprise, I apologise. I’m aware that in some ways it’s become my duty to keep those of you who’ve left Aber for brighter pastures up-to-date about every little bit of gossip about what’s going on back here in the West, but between all of the things that have been keeping me busy of late – not limited to helping Claire gather all 700 pairs of her shoes, or however many there are (it certainly feels like somewhere in the region of 700), into boxes for her to transport to her new home – I’ve simply not had time to put regular effort into keeping you all up-to-date.

Claire stars in a video tour of her new place, if you want to look around.

To provide answers the questions I anticipate, before they’re asked:

No, nothing else changes. We’re still together, and, in fact, our relationships (already too complicated for some of you, I know) are all still just the same as they already were. I’m still right where I was in the middle of a wiggly W-shaped chain of people in a series of more-open-than-not relationships, with all the same people you’re used to. If you’ve been on another planet for the last couple of years, that is:

Sting (no, not really) – ClaireDanRuthJTA

Yes, everything still happens at The Cottage. Well, everything that already happened at The Cottage: that is – Troma Night, Whedon Night, and the ocassional Geek Night at those times when both (a) Rory is elsewhere and (b) I am not. And, as usual, my door is open for guests just about any time.

So, why the change? That’s a question sufficiently-complex to not be answerable with anything as short and catchy as this blog post is planned to be. The short answer is that Claire wanted some space that was “hers”, as in – hers alone, not something shared with me and, for half the week, with somebody else!

And how do I feel about all this: well, a little poorer, for one – it’s obviously more expensive for the pair of us to have a house and a flat than just a house, especially as this change coincides with a (long-overdue, to be fair) rent increase at The Cottage: we’re both going to have to budget significantly more carefully than we did previously. It’s also a significant change – after six and a half years of living together – that’ll take some getting used to, and it’s sometimes hard to remember that this isn’t a step backwards. But that apprehension aside, I’m still supportive of Claire’s wish to have a place to call her own.

Where Are We Moving?

On Wednesday, 14th December 2005, Claire and I are moving house. For those of you who are allowed to know where we’re going, here’s a map and things [update: link killed late 2006]. You’ll need to answer two to six weighted-value questions of your choice to demonstrate that you actually know us and aren’t just scary stalker types before you get the address, but these have been geared such that most of our friends and family are able to come up with sufficient answers to “get in”. And if not, just get in touch with us and we’ll tell you what you need to know.

Paul In Aber

Paul made it to Aber. Woo and indeed hoo. He, Bryn, Kit, Claire, and I went to the beach and drank beer and ate pizza to celebrate. Then Claire and I took turns in an inflatable dingy and I got soaked as a wave leapt over the side. You’ll probably see their reports of this on their journals, soon, too.

The wiki I was coding got finished. Sadly, only a few of you who read this will ever be allowed to see it, but it’s pretty sweet.

Plothole appeared in the story on Andy’s LiveJournal – he has me drinking tea, which, as everybody knows, isn’t going to happen on account of (a) caffiene being a really, really bad thing for me and (b) I don’t particularly like tea. Have reported this to him and await feedback.

This made me laugh: type Weapons of Mass Destruction into Google and you’ll get this page. I laughed lots.

Spooks

Work. Ho-hum.

Watched two episodes of Spooks at Bryn’s new house. He’s just moved to Aber to start his year in industry at the national library. Spooks is a BBC TV drama series about MI5 agents generally kicking arse. Apart from the enormous holes here and there – like the techniques for following somebody (ride a motorbike behind them for thier entire [circular] journey), the unlocked access to a credit rating agency’s database on an open terminal in the middle of a room, and the inaccuracies in the way that certain activities were performed – it’s okay. I’ll certainly have to watch another episode or two sometime.

Later, stood talking with Claire and Kit outside Barclays, a random stranger appears next to us. “Very nice,” he mumbles. Kit turns to him and greets him, perhaps only to find out who the fuck he is. “Hmm… are you three…” he begins, then gestures at the flower pots near the lamp post, “Very nice.” He then turns and disappears.

You know you’ve been in this town too long when you don’t find that kind of thing wierd anymore.