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Monday, 24 August 2009

Builders

A breed I am destined to become very familiar with over the coming months.

Today our house renovation started, with one older Polish guy supervising, and two younger guys doing the sweaty stuff. I'm at home supervising, ready to make decisions on things as they occur, and helping with the sweaty stuff occasionally. It was about 27 C today, so it has been warm for London in late August.

Our house is very old, positively antediluvian by US standards. While stripping off the 4th layer of wallpaper in one bedroom the builders discovered a date of 1878 penned on the wall by a Victorian paper hanger. Of course the house may be older, but can't be any younger. Unfortunately that wall is probably going to have to be stripped down as it's lath and plaster, and over the 138 years since it was last plastered the plaster had lifted from the lath in places. Shoddy Victorian workmanship, and we though they built things to last. The lath and plaster causes a lot of dust, and also the walls are not as straight and even as plasterboard would be.

We now have two completely empty bedrooms at the top of the house, leaving our remaining stuff crammed into one bedroom and the main living room. My PC is offline for a few days because the broadband cable connection comes into one of the empty bedrooms, so I'm typing this on my wife's laptop which is wireless. The room emptying helps highlight what we're still keeping, and what we're still trying to get rid of for cash. If we just binned the cash crop we'd have quite a bit more space, but as we're here for a few more months at least, we're prepared to live like pigs if it nets a few extra bucks.

When we get to the US, we will hopefully refresh our acquaintance with builders, during the process of building our new home, assuming everything pans out as per plan A. I'm looking forward to it, as I suspect things are done rather differently.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Visa Stage 1

Yesterday we received confirmation of the approval of my wife's Sponsorship Application for me, so we're now waiting for the next packet of information from the US Embassy.

We've already completed the next form, so when this arrives we should be able to send it back in about 48 hours.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Keep/Sell/Give/Throw

We're now well on our way through the packing and clearing stages. The house isn't empty by any means, but it's a lot emptier than it was, and there's room move about and see things, stack things, sort things, and make the K/S/G/T decisions.

After 16 years in this house, and five for my wife, we've accumulated a lot of...things. I'm not entirely sure where they all came from to be honest, or why I thought we needed eight Pyrex mixing bowls, five metal Thermos flasks (assorted sizes), six sets of Chinese Baoding Balls, four guitars, three mandolins, an uncounted number of tin whistles (not all made of tin), shelves of books I will never read again, more shelves of computer games I will never play again, clothes I will never wear again, or all the other accumulated brick-a-brack that collected in the dust-bunny infested corners and drawers.

The good news is that some of this stuff is actually worth money, and through the careful application of eBay and Gumtree we have managed to salvage several hundred pounds for otherwise unused and useless possessions.

The stuff we can't sell we try to give away, the smaller items to the local charity shops, larger or more awkward items via Freecycle to anyone who will come to the house and collect. The beneficiaries may be secretly running their own garage sale, but we're happy to just have space where once we had stuff. Excess books are too heavy and nearly worthless to post, so the local Oxfam Bookshop is receiving a few dozens of volumes.

The last option is to throw stuff away. We have a good local Council recycling service, so anything glass, metal, plastic, cardboard or paper gets collected every Tuesday, and we have filled sack after black plastic sack with the things we couldn't recycle, silently praying that the dustmen will collect all the bags regardless of how many we put out.

The keep option has probably been exercised a bit too often, but we have our limits. My wife told me yesterday of the daughter of a colleague who has just moved house and had a number of boxes marked "loft". They came out of the loft of her old house and went straight into the loft of the new house, unopened.

This life laundry has hopefully taught me to be a more selective shopper in future, and if I seem miserly with my money, it's more that I'm miserly with my space and want to enjoy the newfound acres that beckon.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Automatic

I've recently spent two days driving around in a Ford Transit van, putting boxes and bags into storage, and delivering some furniture to my godmother's house. The van was a stick shift, i.e. manual transmission, and my left arm feels like I've been stirring paint for hours.

The biggest problem with driving in London is the traffic, and the biggest problem with the traffic is having to creep forward two feet at a time, every time you're in a gridlock. Coming back from Walthamstow, about an hour's drive from my house, I hit the jam above on the M4 motorway, and was stuck in it for the next 30 minutes. Shift into 1st, creep forward two feet, back into neutral, repeat.
Every car I've every driven in the US was automatic, though I know manual does exist, because sneaky car manufacturers often quote their starting model prices with Manual, with automatic being an upgrade costing $1000-1500.
Needless to say our US cars will be automatic transmission.

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