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David's diary: July 2005

Nor today, and today was about the last day it could have happened without causing significant problems... On the bright side of life, I just had an interesting phone call about a local job opportunity, and we went to see Kung Fu Hustle last night which was absolutely brilliant in an off-the-wall way.

OK, we've still not exchanged, but we've agreed to a slightly deferred target completion date, which should relieve the immediate pressure - though needless to say we don't want that to be an excuse for anyone to become complacent... It's only a day later than the date we had been working to, which makes no real difference to speak of with any time booked off work and so on, but means that our sellers will have time to make arrangements after they return from the holiday that they were perfectly reasonably expecting to have exchanged before.

With still no definite house move news, it was important that we could switch off from such things for the weekend, and I think we largely managed.

Saturday evening we took plenty of ice-cream and a nice bottle of wine round to Simon and Becki's, they provided scrummy nachos and tacos, and we had a jolly good feast while watching some of the Live 8 proceedings. Other friends of ours had gone up to Edinburgh for the Make Poverty History rally, but while we would have loved to have been part of something like that, an overnight coach trip at both ends of the day really would have been just too much for us right now.

Sunday's highlight was celebrating our friend Sarah's birthday - along with Nick, the children and a few others from the church - at the local Pizza Hut. Hardly the most luxury dining, but good value and ideal for those of us with unpredictable appetites, and we knew from experience that they are next to empty on Sundays so there would be no problem getting a table without having booked. Oh, and unlike a certain other nearby pizza restaurant we sometimes frequent, their ovens haven't been broken every other time we've been lately...

Other than that, quite a bit of television watching, unusually - thanks mainly to Live 8 and the closing matches of Wimbledon - and our usual weekend "chill" pastime of tackling the Saturday Times cryptic crosswords. We had a go at the Samurai Sudoku again, but after a couple of hours found a wayward "8", with no easy way of finding where it had come from... Still, as some small consolation, it turns out we were amongst the ten winners from the previous weekend's prize puzzle, so look forward to receiving our goodies - whatever we end up doing with them, not being as hooked on Sudokus as some people! - in due course.

Working hours finish today, with us really not having a clue whether we've taken a step forwards, backwards, upwards, downwards, sideways or through a higher and previously unknown dimension. Mind you if the latter, we might at least discover the planet on which mortgage lenders and solicitors live. The chap I spoke to last was upbeat about exchanging tomorrow, but I don't think he knew anything about our case beyond the status on his computer screen...

No sign of our Sudoku books yet, but Röyksopp's shiny new album was lodged in the letterbox when I got out of the bath, so that's something. We're quietly hopeful also that today might be the day we exchange at last, but we're not in the habit of counting unhatched chickens, no matter how well incubated.

And just as well. Though can I just say something else, briefly?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

With today's bad news from London - after yesterday's happier announcements! - perhaps our not being able to exchange contracts and move house quite yet really isn't such a terrible disaster. Perspective, friends, perspective...

Good news: Katy's hopefully getting away from work early...

Bad news: ...because road routes out of London are gridlocked, unsurprisingly.

To cut a very long story short, today we have exchanged contracts, and I am sure you'll appreciate we're too cream crackered to comment further right now!

The last couple of days have - needless to say - been spent packing boxes, phoning around utilities, insurers etc, and generally not appreciating just how roasting hot it is. Thankfully the weather forecast for Friday is that although it will still be very sunny, it's looking like being the coolest day this week, and we'd rather be moving in blazing sunshine than pouring rain! We've also had the opportunity to do a little shopping, for things like a new fridge-freezer and a gas barbecue, which should cover many of our staple needs for the rest of the summer at this rate. And we've pretty much chosen a nice new dining table and six chairs, so there's absolutely no excuse for people not to visit us now.

It was quite a fight getting this far, moving-wise, as I've certainly more than hinted, and the last couple of days leading up to exchanging contracts were no exception. We'd obviously been hoping to have exchanged more or less every day over the last month or longer, but Friday really did look like the day. Indeed our solicitors made the "last rites" phone call, conventionally done as soon as possible before exchange. Then it all went bang - this time a hold-up at the very top of the chain, some confusion over maintenance charges on a flat being bought, and despite a mad rush to get it sorted out by close of business, it wasn't to be. Thankfully though, it was considered a minor enough technicality that all the solicitors saw no harm in instructing the various mortgage lenders on Friday anyway, so they got their necessary week's notice to release funds. We finally exchanged contracts Monday lunchtime, so were able to take a very well-chilled bottle of bubbly to house group in the evening and celebrate with our friends there. And now it's only the day after tomorrow that we're moving!

And now in under 24 hours we should be well and truly moved, though I daresay we might not have unpacked any but the most essential boxes by then! We're just about ready to roll now - the computer being one of the remaining bits to pack, needless to say - and we have confirmed the availability of our volunteers. I just hope we can get a good night's sleep, that the weather is kind to us, and of course that everything goes smoothly. Over and out for now, probably!

And, lo and behold, a couple of days later not only are we moved, but we've even got the computer set up again - and might even order broadband soon! Everything went pretty much exactly to plan, with no problems to speak of. After the slight vagueness at time of exchange, we couldn't feel entirely confident everything would happen as hoped and at the appointed times, but everything did. And now, here we are, in our lovely new house, and having sorted out most of the furniture it's already feeling very much our own.

And now our first weekend in the new house is over, and back to reality with a bump. Katy's back at work after a much needed week off - even before we knew for sure we were moving house! - and I'm back on the trail for a new job. The interview I had a few weeks back with a local company was unfruitful in the end, but on the bright side the fact that they have filled the position should at least stop the flow of opportunistic recruiters trying to poach. But I had another interview this morning, with another local company, that I would say went no less successfully, and I think my name's been put forward for a couple of other positions, so I'm certainly keeping the ball rolling healthily.

My goodness, it's school chucking-out time and we haven't got a flow of brats finding it highly amusing to ring our doorbell as they walk past, just the odd people-carrier bringing the darlings back to their suburban middle-class homes.

Oh, and it's started raining! Not much, admittedly, but it's H2O nonetheless!

Up bright and early today for the delivery of our new fridge-freezer, and my enthusiasm was rewarded because the lorry arrived only half an hour into the typically vague morning time-slot. So all plugged in and ready to go, though they advise leaving it five hours to settle before turning it on, which is mildly irritating especially when the user guide says only fifteen minutes... Our trusty cool-bag and ice-pack are coming to the rescue, needless to say!

Give me a home we plan to stay in for many years and a power tool in my hand, and I am a truly changed beast. Aside from rebuilding items of furniture moved on Friday, I've replaced the lock on the shed and the plugs to the bath and basin, fitted hooks to various upstairs doors, plumbed in the washing machine, connected the new fridge-freezer, oiled and assembled our patio furniture, and assembled and "burnt off" our gas barbecue. Is there no stopping this man? Hmm, there's a lawnmower still sitting tantalisingly in its packaging, even if the grass isn't really yet long enough to make it worth trying out yet...

One of the items that was fairly high on our list of things to do once we had moved was to get broadband. So last night we cancelled our "budget" dial-up access, which has just about held together for the last three years, and have today ordered a shiny new PlusNet connection. For only two quid a month more!

Oh, and having gone to the effort of assembling it yesterday - taking an hour and a half rather than the forty five minutes suggested by the salesman who probably assembles them as part of his job - we thought we'd better make use of our barbecue last night. So having done a bit of shopping, we did just that. Only sausages and burgers, to get used to it, but very nicely they came out, and were perfectly delicious served in pitta bread with salad and brown sauce!

That was a fun long weekend, generally spent pushing ourselves to be at least a little sociable. Thursday evening we spent round at Jo and Ian's, fed wonderful home-made vegetable lasagne and chocolate cherry cake - and watered with Pimms, setting the scene slightly for the rest of the weekend. Friday we mostly spent furniture shopping, with a nice new dining table and chairs and some storage for the office on order. We'd intended to go to Mike's birthday barbecue in the evening, but there was a slight problem with doing so, in that it was actually the night before when we were out having a good time anyway - my mistake, oops. Saturday daytime was mainly spent with the older generation, shall we say, joining our new neighbours for morning coffee, and then bringing Katy's grandma round for lunch. With just about enough energy remaining, in the evening we forcibly dragged ourselves out to Simon's birthday bash, and were really glad we did. We just caught the "cabaret" part of the proceedings, the highlight undoubtedly being the surprise comeback appearance of the Spice Girls - even Live 8 couldn't persuade them, if I recall, let alone to include an extra-scary Scary Spice in the shape of our very own Chris. Then finally Sunday afternoon and evening we had what seemed like about half the church, plus our neighbours, round for a modestly laid-back house-warming. The weather had looked ominous but turned out downright glorious, so the barbecue came out and did exemplary service, and much Pimms and other beverages consumed. Fear not if you were not included in that number; this one really was for local people - we got a couple of dozen people through, most of them there at the same time - and we certainly intend to run more similar events over the summer for the rest of our friends!

Today's not working out exactly as intended, but I guess that's life to some extent! Our plumber was supposed to visit this morning to service the central heating and do a couple of other repairs flagged up when he did a mini-survey, but he had to change that to this afternoon for unexpected family reasons, and he just phoned a little while ago to apologise that things are looking rather worse than previous realised, so he's unlikely to make it today at all now. I walked into town to do a little shopping ahead of this evening's house group barbecue, but found pretty much all the good food and drink offers weren't available at the town Sainsburys, so ended up with only a bottle of milk and a packet of Pringles. I think we've got enough Pimms, meat and nibbles for tonight, but there will be more such events to come over the next few weeks...

On a better note, I had a visit from Rachel and Daniel, en route to lunch with Grandma - I think the general idea was that Daniel could shed a bit of his pent-up energy after the journey from London, though with the grotty weather he enjoyed ten minutes of not very energy-sapping playing with building blocks. Oh, and I tracked down the worst culprit of the fan noise our new PC makes. I'd been assuming all along it was the case fan, but a little bit of judicious very temporary stopping of the three fans proved it's the CPU cooler. Admittedly that is the fan that's most often noisy in any system, but I somehow couldn't believe it until I stopped it and silence descended upon the office. Just need to decide on the most practical replacement, being clueless in these matters!

Woo, the broadband kit arrived in the post this morning, two days ahead of the scheduled activation date. The question is, do we wait until Thursday and/or official notification from PlusNet before connecting it all together. Or not?

This morning though we spent shopping for a few bits and pieces for the house, including bedding for our spare room and loft insulation and boarding - and we've spent the last couple of hours installing the latter. We really have been getting horribly practical lately, and no real sign of that coming to and end. It must be owning a house we certainly intend to stay in for a very long time!

I succumbed to curiosity in the end, having heard many times of broadband being activated before formal notification, and unpacked and connected the router. No green light for "DSL" though, so perhaps the estimate will still turn out to be reasonably accurate. There's only so much excitement to be had from surfing the built-in website on the router though, so anything more fun will have to wait.

Other things to look forward to include... a holiday! I must admit I am not the world's number one forward planner, with most of the holidays I have taken as an adult having been pretty much last-minute arrangements. But Katy and I had agreed that once we were moved and settled in, we would book something for the autumn, so that is exactly what we did yesterday evening! Not saying where yet!

Broadband is almost working now, but I think PlusNet still need to activate our account from their end before it'll work properly, which might take a while.

Timing of our line being enabled really couldn't have been worse: I had just that precise second finished a firmware update, a process I find disconcerting at the best of times, when the dial-up connection dropped and the phone rang. I answered the phone and heard only myself and feedback howl. So I put the phone down smartish, and the line was dead - as was the case from downstairs too, and even if I disconnected the router. So I hoped it was pure coincidence, while the engineer physically fitted the ADSL hardware - as I believe they still do - and waited. And waited. Finally I thought I'd try phoning myself from my mobile to see whether it came up engaged or what, and of course the phone rang. And was then perfectly fine, with that elusive "DSL" LED cheerfully illuminated.

So I guess BT have done their bit and now need to let PlusNet know they have done so, so that our account can be properly enabled. Until then although I can log in to the BT speed-testing service - which returned a healthy 949kbps - I'm still going to have to plod on with dial-up, and at a slightly more pedestrian speed than usual, as the FAQ duly warned would be the case. Patience, David...

Whatever it was that PlusNet still needed to do, they did at midnight.

Wheeeeeee!

And it's utterly lovely, needless to say.

As is my wife, who just phoned from damp and murky Dublin.

Hopefully my lovely wife will phone or text me in the next short while to say she's about to hit the road home from Heathrow. Then it shall be time for me to decide whether tonight shall be a pizza night or perhaps Chinese takeaway.

And about an hour after that, she did, and should be home in about an hour all being well. We have decided that it shall indeed be a pizza night, with garlic bread and as much salad as we can stomach. Today's really been a pretty naff day apart from getting the broadband up and running. I was supposed to have been going up to Reading this afternoon for an interview with a recruiter, but after a promising start the other day she turned out to be all mouth and never confirmed our appointment, so stuff her. "Recruitment matters!", the business card I am currently using to bookmark my Ian Rankin proclaims; I just wish the recruiters themselves would take that sentiment to heart slightly more often.

I fired off a couple of job applications yesterday evening. Well, I call them "applications" but they were actually requests for more information - it's just that Jobsite only allows you to "apply" as far as I can see. Oooh, what's this in my email this morning, it's a reply from one of them. Wrong. Just a consent form to be added to their spamming database. Why can't you - just for once - actually do your job and answer a simple wretched question? It's just this kind of thing that really makes me sick of recruiter scum - and I don't care how many of you lowlife might stumble on this, consider it a challenge to sort your incompetent act out and actually do what you say on your overpaid tins.

And yes, I am indeed getting bitter and vitriolic. That's what comes of being out of work for five months through no fault of my own - just being royally shafted by a whole string of employers and would-be employers. And far too many of them with far too close ties to the recruitment industry to be healthy.

I am very tempted just to remove all my information from all the job websites and cancel all my emailed job digests, because 99% of those leads that don't cause excess stress instead just fizzle out without trace. I just need to decide whether it's worth that for the sake of the 1%. Answers on a postcard...

Ultimately I suspect the only way is going to be direct contact with companies. After all - for better or worse - the last two proper jobs I've had, I was recruited directly, and that does seem to work, since employers actually get to see me for who I am, rather than tainted by a recruiter as a middleman. Maybe recruitment agencies do work for some people, but I'm not "some people", am I? After all that, I do believe I may have just answered my own question above.

It's like that old party game played by children in a circle, naming ever more unlikely items. In our case, it was a mattress and an ultra-quiet heat-sink fan. The mattress so that both my parents will have somewhere to sleep when they visit next weekend, and the fan so that they won't be kept awake by any out-of-hours computer usage! We also bought vegetables, chocolate, Pringles and so on, but they aren't anywhere near as notable, are they. Ah, restful silence!

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