Monday, April 26, 2010

I ♥ The Barbican



I'm not the only one moving. My friend RD just moved into a flat at the Barbican.

He hosted a little celebratory drink for friends there on Saturday night.

These are his views, front (St Paul's)



and back (the Barbican towers).



I've said it before, and I'll say it again....



I ♥ the Barbican.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Packing



Without mon C. Not so easy!

Non-Stop

3.10am. Sleepless, again. My body is aching from the strain of lifting, pushing, stretching...

There's been a slight change of plan; I'm moving out of the N1 flat on Friday.

I asked Foxton's to organise the letting for me. They were round on Thursday night with their terms of engagement for me to sign. The letting manager told me she had someone she thought would love the flat. A City trader who had seen another property, and offered for it, even though he was only about 90% happy with it. It was a tad on the small side for him; she had already arranged for him to come see my flat, certain he would love it.

We're lucky - our 1-bedroom flat is 33% larger than the typical 2-bedroom flat currently being built; at the time I bought it I decided it was better to have a larger 1-bedroom rather than a smaller 2-bedroom, even though it would have been perfect to have a second bedroom. I was right.

By 11.15am on Friday, he'd seen the flat and offered the full asking rent - and he's taking it for 2 years.

The rent he is paying is only £350pcm less than the combined mortgages on the flat and our new house. That helps!

The downside is he needs in on the 1st May. So much for leaving all the packing to Xfe!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Owning The House I Never Saw



Well, it's not as strange as it sounds. Although I never saw the house until we had completed the purchase, Xfe had.

When we decided to go for it, there were 2 houses in Stoke Newington we had our eye on. I asked Xfe to make an appointment to view. He told me they were already under offer, but he had found a very interesting one (he uses interesting for a word where we say something else - I can't remember which though) albeit not in Stokie.

It looked good. So I phoned to make an appointment to view it. This was Wednesday. I thought we could view it Thursday night, but the first available was Friday afternoon, when I would be at work. Because we were going to Paris for the weekend (for A Little Night Music), I wouldn't then be able to see it until Tuesday evening.

By which time I knew someone else would have seen it and offered on it. Such is the rush and the speed with which these things move here in London. As it happened, on Monday someone who had seen it before us offered the full asking price, but the seller felt we were a better bet, and declined them. My very point - had they done it more quickly it could have been them.

Little housing stock, too many prospective purchasers. That's the irony - people are holding off from selling because of the credit crunch, thinking they will get a lower price. The reality however is that with fewer houses on the market, there is more demand and it is pushing prices up...

So I told Xfe to go view it, and he needed to work out if we would like to live there. I told him I needed a critical eye for that purpose and he had to be decisive.

Needless to say he couldn't be. He was worried that I might not like it. But, I know how things work, and 30 mins after he had viewed it I offered. £35k below asking price.

My not viewing it was questioned, but I explained mon C was my husband and that we were buying together, so his viewing was sufficient. The seller was still a little unconvinced (that if I saw it I would change my mind or offer). Which is why I never went to see it, to prove my point.

By the next morning our best offer (still £15k less than asking and on condition that all the furniture as viewed was included, including blinds and curtains) was on the table made from the Eurostar at 8am, this side of the Channel.

At about 1.30pm Paris time we were phoned and told our offer was accepted!

Then the stress really started...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Now It's Time To Say Goodbye

On Friday I blogged about loving the space I'm in, here in N1. (That's our new garden BTW, taken on Sunday).

When I collected the keys for the house on Friday I called my brother. He told me to phone him when I was in the house. Did I mention that I bought the house without ever having seen it?

That's another story...

So, the first time I saw it, which was once we had bought it, I knew I'd find it an anti-climax. I knew I was not in the right frame of mind. I'd had 8 weeks of stress, the last 2 weeks in particular being hugely stressful, full of uncertainty and with me latterly having to push, PUSH, PUSH. My lawyer wasn't inclined to keep to the timetable we had fixed. But I insisted. In-fcukingbloody-sisted, and didn't let him work to his schedule. Each and every time he suggested otherwise I reminded him - exchange Thursday, completion Friday.

But that's another story...

There's our first letter, to both of us, in our new home. A bill from the solicitor!

I didn't sleep Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights. I was utterly exhausted and worn down. I had a painful knot in my stomach caused by stress, lasting 2 full days. After 2 weeks of major stress and 6 weeks before that of stress, tension, worry making it all happen.

You see, I dreamed a dream, and so too did Xfe.

When we had our offer accepted he said to me that he couldn't believe it, That he never thought that he might ever live in a house like that. That it was his dream.

Delivering his dream became my main driver.

To deliver something so special for my someone so special. There's nothing like it...

And I did it.

Now the fun is buying stuff to make it our own. Ok, that's mainly Xfe's department. I'll be buying the TV and entertainment system, I'll sneak in an iMac for the office part of the guest bedroom.

But for his homecoming, I bought some stuff just to make it look special, just for him.



OMG - I'm a natural born consumer.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

All Is Revealed

The third thing; no more clues

I know, it was easy to work out. And of course, some of you had already seen the post from about 2 months ago all about it, before deciding I was tempting fate and me pulling it...

This is what's been distracting me for the last 2 months. Buying our new house.

We exchanged on Thursday and got the keys on Friday.




There are 2 more bedrooms, than seen here (4 in total) the main bathroom (in addition to the ensuite shown here) with a wet area as well as bath and 2 more toilets (and a cellar), and we bought it with all the furniture you see - it was furnished by an interior designer for the sale - which works out perfectly. I'll be leaving the furniture behind in the N1 flat for renting it out.

We won't move in for another 4/5 weeks. I've done my part while Xfe's been away. His job, when he is back, is to pack and relocate us.

Friday, April 16, 2010

2 Home Homo

The truth is, I love living where I am and in the space I am, and even though it has always, always, been my dream to live in a house, I need back up.

Keeping the flat isn't to be rich. It's to have a space I love to live in, in case I need to come back (don't misunderstand-this has nothing to do with relationship with mon C). Here, where we are, is the best. And it doesn't even need to be let.

Though prudence dictates I should, and that way I can pay my brother's mortgage to help make his life easier... See, it's not all about me.

Bear in mind my Aberdeen/London dichotomy recurring dream, part of which is driven by the regret of not keeping the last flat, and you'll appreciate why I need to keep here.

Another Clue



................ 81

.....20
.............138

84
................50 ..............81




New Clue



Follow The Clues...

http://zacharymemory.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/keys.jpg

Make Mine A SkinnyThick Shake, Please

To quench a recent thirst, the skinnythick shake looked fairly tasty.

Never one to miss out on experience, I sampled it. I chose vanilla (my favourite flavour but not my favourite taste).

It more than measured up. Think everything that has gone before is amateur; this is the meal deal.

Normally I'm a Pepsi Max guy. In fact, I sometimes worry I drink too much of it.

For a long time I refused shakes. There was a rumour that they were made from sawdust. Let me Google that. Yaha.

I wonder how the skinnythick will go down in Quick eff-err. If they expect restauration rapide, that wasn't my experience.

Though the taste lingers for a while, and is often evoked, I found a complete contrast (some chorizo from the De Beauvoir Deli Co.) was in order, if only to refresh the taste buds. After all, it wouldn't do to dwell on past feasts, no matter how tasty.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Well Hung Parliament

Tonight we have the first ever UK Prime Ministerial TV debate. All the chat is about having a hung Parliament in the forthcoming election. But considering all three party leader's minds, who is ahead in the well hung stakes?

Nick Clegg? By definition he's likely to be most flexible. The most accommodating. The most likely to please all, and yet the one to be most courted. Versatlile.

Most likely to describe his manhood as "average", so as not to alienate and keep all options open.

Gordon Brown - the clunking fist - he's probably pretty formidable and likely is well hung. But who wants to know? Know, no way. He may get tough with bankers, but in bed and board, he probably gets even rougher.

David Cameron. Probably not. Likely small endowment despite his big words.

So, until tonight's live TV debate (our first British Prime Ministerial debate ever), keep guessing.

Or go figure for yourself.

Hung or well hung? You decide.

(Despite the forecasts I myself doubt there will be a hung Parliament).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Left Behind

All things you never did are left behind

The talks you never had, the Saturdays you never spent
All the grown-up places you never went

All things he ever wished are left behind

- Steven Sater, from Spring Awakening


It's during quiet moments that we think about what we never had. What regrets there are. What has been left behind.

Are the choices we make worth the sacrifices given up, the compromises settled on?



Imagine someone you think has it all. There's a guy I know...

There's another guy I know...

Well, it's all irrelevant really. People come and go, and they touch us in different ways. But home is where the heart is.

Imagine this: I woke up about 10 minutes before I started this post, thinking thoughts. Stuff I need to do and have others do whirring through my mind. Mon C, thousands of miles away and 8 hours ahead in China, needed to action somethings by email.

I woke up thinking about that. I thought to check my BlackBerry to see if it had been done. As I did so I saw his first email. It had just come through as I looked. I called him briefly. He was, in that very instant I called, doing the second email.

Imagine that. All that time and distance apart and yet I feel we're linked. The very moment I woke and thought of him doing something, he was doing it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Utterly Butterly

(aka I can't believe he's not gay)

I saw this guy on the tube the other day. His tan looked faux. His well groomed hair had one of those cropped fringes.



He looked like he was wearing make-up, or had had botox. And even though his tastes looked like they were more buttocks than botox - his eyebrows were plucked and just look at that tatoo, that watch - they were holding hands with each other.

There's metrosexuality, then there's just plain wrong. Still I forgive them.

They were Welsh.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

3 x 3 x 3: How Things Come

It is sometimes said that things come in threes.

When I came home on Friday one of the letters in my letter box wasn't one I could instantly place. It wasn't a credit card bill, it wasn't from a friend. It wasn't from National Savings, nor was it from any utility company - though there was a British Gas bill in the same post (which was super-quick given that I let the meter man in to read the meters only that morning).

Sometimes I don't open mail if I don't recognise it. Just like I don't answer calls if I don't recognise the number of the caller (at home I always screen my calls). Just like I never answer the door if I'm not expecting someone (I do have an advantage; there's a video answer phone so I can see who it is and decide whether to answer).

Inside, I put the mail on the table and did some other stuff, but came back to look at this letter. There was something I was expecting, and it could have been that. But peering through envelope window I could just make out a couple of words, upside down.

- Adelphi Theatre.

Although I am a frequent recipient of theatre flyers, the Adelphi wasn't one I'd expect to receive information about.

The Adelphi. What's on there? In a second I realised - and then I knew what the letter was. I cringed slightly. I decided to open it to see whether I was right. I cringed again. My suspicion proved well founded when out came a letter from The Really Useful Group.

Oops. Cringe. I'd leave it unread, knowing what it said. But then I realised that there were two letters inside - which didn't make sense for what I expected it to be. So I looked at the second letter.

# One

"CONGRATULATIONS!!" Andrew Lloyd Webber has the great pleasure extending an invitation for my Mother and I to be his guests at any performance of our choosing of Love Never Dies at any time during its run.

I'll explain why in another post...

# Two

Then, when I checked my BlackBerry, I had an email headed "Congratulations" from the Royal Mint.

After a heads-up from Combom I entered the competition. I've won one of the coins...

# Three

As for the one piece of good news I hoped for today, it never came.... :(

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Graveyard Shift

For those of you who enjoyed the pictures (thank you, flattery will get you everywhere; a good eye indeed Mike!), here are some of the almost-rans, not quite making my 5 on the fifth...



In case you didn't recognise it, these are taken in Bunhill Fields cemetery, between City Road (the Moorgate side) and Bunhill Row.





The cemetery has some celebrated inhabitants:



Next time I'll do the rest of the snow pics.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

5 On The Fifth - April 2010

After woefully neglecting to take part in the last 2 months' postings, I thought I'd get ahead of myself this month and be organised.

I have two topics to choose from, so I'll mix and match Spring and Bank Holiday Weekend.

1. April showers



What would spring be without an April shower? Except this shower was snow; and right here you can see where it snowed and where it didn't. Taken at about 24,000 feet, south of Edinburgh this Good Friday.

2. Rebirth



Each spring these things under the ground push up into the sunlight, and are reborn. Though some celebrate a resurrection every Easter, there are equally other things planted in the ground that never surface again, except as a memory, a happy recollection or anecdote.

3. Yum! Easter



Apart from the extra time off work, it's all about the eggs these days. Here our nephew enjoys his first Easter egg from Uncles MiS and Mon C. Yeah, it may be small, but so is he.

4. Roast be



I love cooking when I'm in the mood. Not being English, I'm not really into roasts. But I can just about get by with a chicken. It seems a lot for only one, but I prefer to bulk cook and freeze for later. Besides, kitchen time means there's a little cook's reward, helping the lonely time slip away.

5. Bank holiday



means unshaved...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Underground

It's almost 5pm, and I'm impatient, looking for a way of killing time.

I've been reading a book that mon C gave me for my birthday; as soon as I picked it up and started reading it knew I was going to find it a pleasure and see it to the end.

It was gray every day that year, no sun for so long it became a thing of memory, all London a perpetual sneeze and nose-blow. Mediterraneans would have gone mad, Americans would have called lawyers and threatened to sue, but we English accept bad weather with the same glum equanimity with which we accept semidetached houses and Wall's sausages. In their vaguely depressed way, people got on with things, which meant waiting in endless rainy queues. Queues everywhere: if you put a sign on a wall that said, "Queue here," they would have lined up in front of it.

I haven't finished a book since last summer when I read 4 or 5 on holiday.

Today I received an urgent and extremely intimate email from someone I haven't really considered for over 25 years at least. Not since before this 1980's pop-star studded song to bring back Doctor Who after it's Michael Grade enforced rest was announced.



Forget Band Aid, that's real quality!

Thanks to Project76 for bringing it to my attention.

Thankfully, because they have, and they're doing it again tonight, I'll be opening the champagne in 1h10m from now...

For Jan Abigail Hamilton

Jan - you were in touch after you uncovered my post here. We emailed back and forward. I have a new computer and although I archived the old stuff, it's gone.

Ian Hamilton/Jan Abigail Hamilton.

I have some information I've been asked to pass on. Hopefully I can find your details elsewhere, but if you find this - can you email me at the address for this blog (on my profile details)? Right now I'm in Laurencekirk, away from London, and I'm hoping I can find contacts for you when I get back.

In the meantime...

Sorry to repeat all this again, but I'm hoping it will flag itself on the search engines and you'll find it: please do contact me again so I can pass it on. (ps don't panic it's not bad news, or a matter of life and death).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

At School With Jan Abigail Hamilton

Last Thursday night mon C and I watched Ch4's Sex Change Soldier, about British paratrooper, Captain Ian Hamilton's journey to becoming Jan Hamilton.

It wasn't until the morning after that I realised who she was, and that I had gone to school with Ian...

"A year ago I was Ian, 16 stone with 14-inch biceps, a Captain in the Paras. Today I'm Jan, 11 stone and size 12"

"He was an elite soldier in the Paras and had served in every major conflict for the last 20 years - but Capt Ian Hamilton could not go on living as a man. Twelve months on and after painful surgery, the new Capt Hamilton tells HER extraordinary story..."


Ian was a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and highly decorated for his service to his country...

Then: "You've gone from hero to zero in one day," - his Commanding Officer.

And: "Our son is dead – never contact us again." - his parents (Jan tells how parents turned their backs on him – they sent a box with his possessions by courier, and a letter signed by them and my two brothers).

I was saddened by how incredibly lonely she was. Her parents decided that their son was dead when he revealed to them he was a woman in a man's body.

Rather than continue to hide his secret from his wife of ten years, Morag, he walked out and left her, without explanation.

Subsequently Ian found a new girlfriend. But as Ian became Jan, his girlfriend started seeing other men. And when he returned from his gender reassignment surgery part 1 (face and breasts), she had moved out.

This February she completed the transformation. Alone.

The journey to a woman cost her dearly. £20,000, and the loss of the unconditional love of her parents and partners. Even former colleagues and friends had turned their back on her.

During the show I recognised the town Jan grew up in (Stonehaven). I recognised the park where, as a 12-year old boy, Jan (dressed as a girl) had consensual sexual relations with an older man (Hazelhead Park in Aberdeen). In some of the home videos of Ian as a boy I recognised the rugby shirt as that of my own school.

The next morning I woke up and realised I knew Jan. She was a couple of years above me at school. Then, as Ian, he was a school prefect, and head of the CCF (Combined Cadet Force). His brother was in my class.

They used to live in Aberdeen (I remember visiting their house once), but then his parents moved just outside town to Stonehaven. They bought a hotel there.

It's strange to think of him from school. Outwardly, he was rugged, good looking, and popular. Yet, at the time he had all these huge issues to deal with.

Listening to her story, it's not difficult to see that he was driven to proving he was as machismo as he could get, his own way of trying to banish how he truly felt.

If you're there Jan, leave a message, say hello.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Airport & Almost There

I'm at London City Airport for AirFrance flight AF5173 to...Dundee.

One of the joys of City Airport is that it is much quieter; a hidden gem. I left just before 8am this morning. It's 9.05am and already I'm checked in, through security and sitting in the lounge logged on (despite the extra time caused by having to change DLR at Shadwell - there was no Woolwich Arsenal service from Bank today) and using the free wi-fi.


On the way home 50 minutes after stepping off the plane I'm usually stepping through my front door.

Not only is it easier to get to, it's also significantly cheaper. While it cost Howard and J-tron £30 to get to their airport, it cost me less than £4 to get here.

However, this Good Friday morning it's very much busier with Easter traffic.

I don't like being around so many people.

Goodbye is never easy

I said goodbye to mon C this morning. He leaves tomorrow for 6 weeks in China. With any luck I will never see him again in our flat, though it wasn't a tearful goodbye. More on that later...

Doctor Who memorabilia

It's been a while and I don't think I ever got round to blogging the last of my Who memorabilia. These may have appeared before, but just in case not it's the Tegan and Turlough double act...



I hear that the last 5 mins of series 6 episode 1 - The Eleventh Hour - is going to be rather sentimental.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

There Are Such Things

It's just after 4am and true to form I'm up and about worrying.

A couple of weeks ago I was worrying about not having enough work - my chargeable hours were extremely low. Right now I'm overloaded and, on top of that, I've still not cracked this other thing. I almost have, but I'm told today should bring a resolution of sorts and get us on the final stretch. But how this is stressing and distracting...

In the meantime, with the light of the full moon streaming in, I was amused by this little feature the other night, about the Gorbals Vampire.

Because there are such things...

Glasgow's Southern Necropolis is an eerie place at the best of times but when two local policemen answered a call there in September 1954 they encountered a bizarre sight. Hundreds of local children, ranging in ages from 4 to 14, were crammed inside, roaming between the crypts. They were armed with sharpened sticks, knives stolen from home and stakes. They said they were hunting down "A Vampire with Iron Teeth" that had kidnapped and eaten two local boys.
The policemen dispersed the crowd, but they came back at sundown the next night and the next. The local press got hold of the story and it soon went national. There were no missing boys in Glasgow at that time, and press and politicians cast around for an explanation. They soon found one in the wave of American Horror comics with names like "Astounding Stories" and "Tales from the Crypt" which had recently flooded into the West of Scotland. Academics pointed out that none of the comics featured a vampire with iron teeth, though there was a monster with iron teeth in the bible (Daniel 7.7) and in a poem taught in local schools. Their voices were drowned out in a full-blown moral panic about the effect that terrifying comics were having on children. Soon the case of the "Gorbals Vampire" was international news.
The British Press raged against the "terrifying, corrupt," comics and after a heated debate in the House of Commons where the case of Gorbals Vampire was cited, Britain passed the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 which, for the first time, specifically banned the sale of magazines and comics portraying "incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature" to minors.
Writer Louise Welsh explores how the Gorbals Vampire helped bring the censorship of comic books onto the statute books.

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