David's diary: April 2005
After pretty much exactly a month of being unemployed, and of course a week or so of paid leave before that, today I return to work. For the moment, our new company has no proper office space, so I'll be working pretty much exclusively from home, which will take quite a bit of self-discipline, but it's a job - and a good one at that - and it really couldn't have come at a better time.
Hello to all my readers, by the way. I know there's a few of you out there...
Tuesday, and second day at work. Not that I've done a huge amount yet today, having arranged that I would take most of the morning off while our cleaner did her rounds, and now it's lunchtime anyway. Things seem to be progressing as well as could be hoped on the administrative side of the house front, having now arranged conveyancing and a decent mortgage - nice to have the run of the options rather than have to beg. We've just this very moment taken delivery of a consignment of sturdy packing boxes, bubble wrap and so on, that we ordered over the net, so we can get going in practical ways any time now as well.
Our washing machine broke down at the end of last week, though we suspect it had been getting intermittently faulty for some time, given that our washing's been coming out rather damp lately. Thankfully the repair man we persuaded to come and have a look at it yesterday was no-nonsense and charged a reasonable rate, and managed to fix it pretty easily. A dry joint had worked itself loose over its six years of service, a common fault, apparently. We'd been prepared that it might not be economical to repair, and that we would make do with hand washing and so on until we moved, but thankfully that wasn't the case.
Today's house-moving fun and games is with our hoped-for mortgage lenders. We spent about three hours with an independent adviser over the last couple of weeks, before discovering that one of the very few lenders whose products she could not offer turned out to save us about a quarter of a percent - not to be sniffed at over a five-year tie-in. So on her recommendation, we applied for that instead, and today got full details through in the post - with about half the information we provided recorded incorrectly... You know, we really are trying to get a quick move here, but both our solicitors and mortgage lenders seem to be conspiring to make it anything but. Or is this depressingly typical?
Our local bank branch insists the mortgage problems are unusual. Unfortunately however, they apologise that there is nothing they can do to help now without destroying our credit rating in the process, which wouldn't be very clever. So back to the hard-of-hearing jokers at their call centre we'll have to go, alas.
We got that sorted out in the end, we believe. Well, in any case the lady we eventually spoke to told us to sign and return the declaration anyway, because we'd at least given them accurate information even if it took them a couple of attempts to record it correctly... Today's form to fill in was much shorter and simpler, just an authorisation for our mortgage lenders to carry out a survey on our new house - which we gather is happening tomorrow, so the form was just a formality, we guess. We're hoping there's not too much more to do now; there should be something from our solicitors about the new house, but there won't be much for us to declare in that regard we wouldn't have thought.
Had quite an interesting business meeting yesterday evening, joining my boss and a key investor for a drink in Weybridge. It was mainly supposed to be a "get to know you" kind of thing, especially with regard to the investor and me, but there were some interesting developments to report on, which ended up taking up most of the evening, and might change the course of things slightly. Will be going out again this evening - second evening on the trot without Katy - to go up to an art exhibition in London that our friend Sam is contributing to. Hopefully Phil's managed to persuade a few others to go too, but it will be good to support Sam and her friends in what they're doing. And fun too!
So, more paperwork through from our mortgage lenders. The errors pointed out had been corrected, but like lumps in the carpet, a there's whole slew of new ones to contend with. I tried again to see if anyone in the bank would help, but it seems that the online stuff is administered separately, so although the lady could pull up the details there was nothing she could fix. Having finally managed to speak to someone at the call-centre, we have again been assured it is now all correct, and not to worry about little details like that the latest paperwork had us down for standard variable rate rather than fixed rate, etc... Needless to say we remain sceptical about it all, but if they can pull their finger out and actually get it all right, the savings should be well worth it.
On the brighter side, at least our deposit is now safely in the right place, and should be accessible in about a week's time if things have moved on enough for that. All very complicated though, and made doubly annoying by the banks' insistence on sitting on cheques for as long as possible to earn them money.
They say moving house is one of the most stressful things the average person does in their lifetime. I'd quite agree. But I'll be blunt and to the point, and argue it's not because any of the individual steps involved are unduly complicated, but simply because almost everyone we're dealing with is useless. That is to say, there is no reason for moving house to be stressful, other than the incompetence of the supposed professionals one deals with in the process.
More fun just now with our solicitors, clearly quite unable to cope with the vast workload they have brought upon themselves - enjoying the money rolling in, but not investing it in better services. We were wondering why nothing seemed to be happening, including not even an acknowledgement of the property we're buying, and it turns out that there's a huge backlog between their admin and legal departments. This means that although their online status indicator says they are waiting for our deeds, in fact the legal team don't even yet know they are supposed to be getting them, and details of our purchase are probably sitting in some random admin in-tray. The only silver lining is that the estate agents we are buying via are affiliated to them, and are aware of the problems they are currently facing - goodness knows what it would be like if the market was buoyant! - so would be very unlikely to kick up any kind of fuss with us. All just very annoying and - once again - completely unnecessarily stressful.
Now starting my second week "back at work" - I struggled with the rush hour traffic on the landing - currently testing some software I wasn't expecting to be very good and that is fulfilling all expectations. The weekend was OK if unexceptional, but at least provided us both with a much needed enforced break from trying to get good service out of our solicitors and mortgage arrangers.
There's been a little progress this morning on the house-moving front, happily to say. The surveyors got back to us very quickly with their findings from Friday, and there was nothing of great note there. We're popping round to the new house in an hour's time to do some measuring up for furniture, so will be able to put our sellers' minds at rest about the survey, given that they were a little anxious last time we spoke! No news as such from the solicitors, though we seem to have a manager on the case now, so hopefully that will get sorted out a bit more efficiently now. Oh, and we had a call from the sellers' estate agents to confirm that the chain is definitely now complete, so things should be able to be taken up a gear now. As I may have said before, we'd love to be moved and settled by our wedding anniversary in mid-June, so there's a target!
The measuring-up went fine, though when we went to the garden centre afterwards we hit a problem with the patio furniture we wanted, in that the parasol is too big - both for the set it's part of, in the opinion even of the salesman, and certainly for our new house's patio! So our friendly salesman is going to speak to his supervisor and hopefully we can cut a deal to "downgrade" economically!
No word on the patio furniture deal as yet, but we have finally got paperwork through from our solicitors regarding the house purchase - even if they forgot that we'd given them authorisation to debit their search fees directly rather than have to wait for a cheque from us to clear. So, competence permitting, as far as we can tell, we've done everything we can for now in every regard with the bureaucratic side of the move, so can just relax. Well, that's the theory anyway; the reality could prove to be a little different... We shall see.
Being a quiet enough Thursday so far... We got full details of the survey on our new house through this morning, largely confirming what we had been advised the other day. Nothing else of any excitement to report, I don't think. Just pressing on with whatever I can with relation to my new job, generally writing specifications and determining who should be responsible for programming what.
Today's "action" so far is that the copy of our marriage certificate we sent to our solicitors is unacceptable. This despite it being certified by an agent of said solicitors and being assured at the time that would be adequate. So we've had to send off the real thing, for only the second time ever - Katy's passport application being the first - and just hope the solicitors don't lose it...
Today's "what a star" award goes to the garden furniture salesman at the nicer of our closest garden centres. OK, so we didn't get the promised phone call about substituting the parasol for a smaller one, but we thought we'd go and try again today anyway. He let us swap at no charge at all, despite it being part of a set and on special offer. And he didn't complain once at the Chinese block puzzle effort required to load it all into the boot of Katy's 306!
Oh, and a "what a star" honourable mention for Katy, of course, for doing the driving there and back, and her fair share of the loading and unloading!
Another reasonably quiet weekend just gone, with - unsurprisingly enough - no real developments on the house move front, and the highlight being helping celebrate Katy's parents' ruby wedding anniversary. At church on Sunday we showed a short surprise PowerPoint presentation we'd put together including some of their wedding photographs, which went down very well with everyone, and afterwards we had a modest family gathering at their house, with a generally red-themed lunch! Now back to the grind again, this time trying to brainstorm the best way to deal with geographical regions in this software I'm currently working on the specifications for. All good fun; I just hope it's worth it...
Another small tropical rain forest's worth of legal paperwork landed on the doormat this morning, so that'll be another small tropical rain forest's worth of legal paperwork to check for accuracy and hope they don't have to issue another small tropical rain forest or two's worth of paperwork to correct. In fairness, our solicitors have been mainly accurate so far, with their problem more being acute disorganisation and the usual Ent-like slowness, but there's plenty here they could have got wrong, so we'll be going over it carefully...
The good news today is that we've had our preferred CORGI engineer in to check over the heating system at our new house, and he's not come back with anything too urgent, or expensive to remedy. The full survey we got in the post a few days ago was a little more doom-laden than the summary survey we had received a couple of days previously, and we were a bit worried having told our sellers that the house had got a pretty much clean bill of health. But our engineer's had a good look at it all and although there's remedial work we'll need to get done once we're in, it's not expected to be at all expensive and we don't intend to try and negotiate on the purchase price as a result. Easy lives, we like.
Top service award of the day though goes to WHSmith. Having failed to find a book we wanted in town at a fair price, we ordered it on-line. WHSmith Direct had it for the same price as Amazon, but with free delivery to any of their stores. An email arrived yesterday to say it had been despatched from the warehouse, with an estimated four-day delivery time. Picked up a message on "1571" this morning from a nice lady at the Farnham store to say it was there already. Really can't complain, especially saving a third on the store price!
So I'm now well into my third week of this new job, and although I am making some progress, it all seems pretty slow - and a little vague - at the moment. No word yet on office premises, which is an added complication, but I'm sure all will become clear soon, one way or the other! A bit of progress on the house moving, with our solicitors having crossed off a couple more things on their to-do list, us having persuaded Simon and Becki to witness our pawprints for some legal documents, and Katy having sorted the latest wodge of paperwork into what we need to keep and what we need to complete, sign and send back.
I love my wife. She brings me cups of tea and pieces of chocolate cheesecake. These facts stand in their own right, but gain something extra in combination!
Oh, we got fairly enterprising last night with our cooking, preparing a really quite tasty stir-fry pretty much from scratch. We'd done one the other day using a recipe in the Sainsburys magazine, and decided we'd use our initiative and do one all of our own using a few of the remaining ingredients and a few extras. So we fried up king prawns, tamarind, chilli peppers, mushrooms, baby corn, asparagus tips and Chinese leaves, and served it all up with noodles. And we have to say, it was much nicer than the Sainsburys recipe, though that may have been at least partly thanks to using the tamarind properly this time. Not to say we'll never lower ourselves to using stir-in sauces again, but we now know we can cook tasty enough oriental food without recourse to such things!
We just might have done more or less everything necessary to move, as of today. OK, we've still to have the survey done on this place, and deal with any issues that might arise then, but as far as we can tell, that's about our lot. Loads of very official paperwork went back to our solicitors today, accompanied by the biggest cheque we've ever handled. I'm sure there will be small things to be done still, on the administrative side, but we can relax a little bit now.
"Pat on the back" of the day goes to Dan at Novatech, for not quibbling about shipping us a new modem for our computer - the one supplied not connecting at more than about half speed, and unreliably even then. OK, so it took a little while for their technical support guys to get on the case properly, but once they were, they were understanding and efficient. The new modem was "ordered" and shipped - contrary to Dan's expectations - last night, and a man from DHL delivered it a few minutes ago. And, of course, it works just beautifully!
Last night we went along to an election hustings organised by Catherine on behalf of the Churches Together group in Farnham. There were the candidates from the Conservatives and Liberals - who are the only parties with a realistic chance here - plus Labour's whippersnapper, and the UKIP and Veritas guys. Good to get them all together on one platform, and I have to say that although I don't agree with many of them, they all came across as decent enough people, and although I have my preference of the two, I'm sure both the Conservative and Liberal candidates would do a good job as a constituency MP, with Virginia Bottomley now stepping down after not being too bad a one herself I gather. It is important that our MP will be a good constituency fighter, because although the seat is marginal, it cannot directly affect Labour's hold on power.
Prize for the most tedious soap-box "question asking" must go to the sizeable and excessively vocal UKIP contingent, playing just about every xenophobic card they could. Shame they were so obnoxious, when their actual candidate seemed quite a pleasant and well-reasoning guy. Thankfully the chairman was able to steer questioning away from Europe and immigration after about half an hour, and we were able to move on to issues more relevant to our local communities and - given who organised it in the first place - our beliefs. It would have been nice to have heard a few more of their views on ethical and local issues, but I guess that's the "risk" with a public meeting, whoever organises it, and we have to respect the right of others to hold very different issues precious. Still, at least the "right" issues were raised too, sending out a clear message that Farnham's large Christian population does care, and will act accordingly.
We were planning to go broadband with PlusNet as soon as we'd moved, liking the sound of their "Broadband Premier" package, with sensible soft bandwidth limits at a fair price. Except now a vocal lobby of copyright thieves appears to have forced them into a U-turn and they plan to make it a free-for-all again, with doubtful mechanisms to try and maintain a positive user experience for the law abiding majority. It was looking like the ideal package for us in every way; now I'm really not at all sure what we should do. A sad day for common sense.
OK, OK, we probably will still go with PlusNet, because they seem to be one of the few ISPs remotely geared up to our (even quite modest) needs, and still have a very good reputation. But this kind of thing doesn't inspire confidence.
I think that was a fairly quiet weekend just gone. I can't remember much about it, anyway. Highlights were cooking absolutely wonderful Vietnamese chicken on Saturday, having a rare curry out for Sunday lunch and going for a healthy walk in Farnham park Sunday evening. Needless to say, there's been no progress with the house buying or selling over the weekend, but we remain hopeful that we are just about done and that the main thing remaining will be for the solicitors in the chain to get their collective heads together and agree some dates...
I'm realising I'm getting old. When leafing through a new Argos catalogue, I no longer head straight for the digital watches and stereo systems, but instead to the furniture and to the gardening equipment. Indeed yesterday we even went one step further - and I'd like to claim full responsibility for this, within the context of this entry - and bought a lawnmower. And not just the cheapest and cheeriest we could get away with, but a fancy grass-collecting one. Though that means I will be deprived of the justification to browse lawn rakes now. Still worse, we even bought a circuit-breaker thingy for it to plug in via; we clearly no longer wish to live life on the edge. But rather "on the hedge"... Is another sign of getting old having an excessively bad line in poor puns?
Last week - as readers may recall - we got a huge load of stuff through from our solicitors, marked urgent. Accordingly, we got it all completed, signed and counter-signed, urgently. And posted it back to them, urgently. Guess how much they would appear to have done since? Hey ho. The only modest comfort is that we're still waiting for our buyers' survey to be arranged for this place, so at least if anyone's holding things up at the moment, it's not just us...
Bah, this shiny new modem dropped connection unrequested for the first time ever. Installing a more up-to-date driver whilst on-line - no other way with Windows Update, really! - may have had something to do with it I guess...
Not a good day today. My head feels strange and I'm restless too, so fidgeting is making my head feel even stranger. Good news though is that I've just had a call from our buyers' lenders, arranging a valuation for early Friday morning, so hopefully that's one of the last pieces of the puzzle to slot into place...
Nothing much to report today. I don't feel much better than I did yesterday, but getting out for a brisk walk at lunchtime probably did some good - at least in a "kill or cure" manner if nothing else. We'd like to go to Mike's gig this evening - it being our house-group social - but doubt either of us will be up to going to Bracknell, so a quiet evening in with nice food and a DVD awaits.
We didn't get out last night, as we'd expected would be the case, but we had a nice enough evening in, watching The Fabulous Baker Boys which came free on DVD with the Times a couple of Saturdays ago - a really good find, we agreed!
We popped into town over lunchtime today, bought food for tonight - going round to Simon and Becki's, at least that's the plan - and a couple more charity-shop books to keep us going, and did a couple of other bits and pieces. Katy's out again at the moment, having a coffee in town with a friend while I plug away with doing a bit of software prototyping since I've got bored with writing pure specifications. My head's started swimming a bit again; perhaps I'll have a lie down for a little while and see if I can't finish off my latest Ian Rankin.