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David's diary: June 2005

Yesterday I tried my hand at a new potential vocation, that of art exhibition invigilation, having agreed to do a stint for the festival week. I don't think it has the hallmark of a future career, and doubt it pays many people's bills, but it was quite fun for a few hours and it certainly kept me out of mischief. We had a few people through, but more than anything it was a chance to catch up with my reading, and I ploughed through about fifty pages of my latest book. Had a good chat with Sam afterwards, who took over from me at lunchtime, and she offered more words of helpful encouragement with my current work situation.

This morning I've been busy doing house-move related things, hopefully putting to rest for good a slight hiccup with our proposed buildings insurance. As far as we know, there is only one hopefully minor thing needing doing now - and that may indeed have already been done in a roundabout way - and we should all be ready to exchange our contracts. But of course, to drop a slight spanner in the works, one of the people involved dropped the bombshell that he's going on holiday in just over a week's time, so we really don't know whether it will happen before or after that. Certainly we can't expect to complete until after.

Three applications fired off this afternoon. Within minutes, I had one flat-out rejection, and another that was a pretty thinly-veiled apology that the client probably wouldn't be able to afford to pay me remotely what I'm after, given my rather bizarre skill-set. I try very hard to remind myself that my cause is not hopeless, that there really is the right job for me out there - and paying a realistic wage for 35-year-old - but frankly I just find all this crushing. If I ever had any doubt, I can see how miners and car-manufacturers feel when they are made redundant, having genuine but specialist skills, and with no-one left to take them on. I don't want to be a charity case, but it's heading that way.

Monday lunchtime, and hitting my low point for the day - or I sincerely hope so because I'm not sure what it's like any further down... Today I've been failing to elicit any useful information out of our solicitors, but thankfully Katy is on the case and is able to give them much more of an earful than mild-mannered me. I'm also trying to prepare a bible study for our house group meeting this evening, and not doing very well with that either; it was never easy, but it wasn't anywhere near as difficult when Katy and I were going through it at the dining room table the other day. And to cap it all I've had to switch my mobile phone off because Huxley decided to start harassing me again, though at least their fellow idiots out in India seem to have finally got the message that the job they are trying to push on to me is hopelessly inappropriate in every way.

Still, the weekend was good, in a generally sociable kind of way. We treated my parents to lunch out on Friday, meeting them at the Shire Horse, just outside Littlewick Green west of Maidenhead. On Saturday it was our turn to be treated, to lunch, thanks to Rachel, Mark and Daniel, at the Harvester at Fleet, and we adjourned to Katy's parents house where we made death-slides and parachutes for Action Man and Spiderman figures. Sunday's dining was more back-to-basics but no less sociable, picnicking with a couple of dozen others from the church at Frensham Great Pond - though the weather wasn't terrific so we only stayed for a couple of hours before being invited back to Nick and Sarah's for a cuppa and to make the acquaintance of their new and ever-so-slightly adorable kitten...

More kitten time last night. Bethan unceremoniously dumped Milly on my lap and there she stayed for the next hour, being exceptionally cute and adorable while she contorted into positions I never knew were physically possible but looked decidedly blissful. I was also supposed to be leading a bible study, which I think happened more or less according to plan in the end, but funnily enough my abiding memory of the evening is black and white, fluffy and simply gorgeous.

Did I mention that our new house has a cat-flap?

(Yes, Katy did have to carefully check our backpack before we walked home!)

Talking of the new house, pretty minimal progress really. It's now pretty much definite we won't be in by the time of our anniversary, which had been our perfectly reasonable hope. Hassles with our building insurance, amongst other little but still crucial issues, just stopping the final touches being put to the transaction. Everyone involved is getting pretty frustrated by the sounds of it, except of course for the mortgage lenders and solicitors causing the hassles who happily sit on their pots of money and clearly don't give a damn.

Well our buyers have finally got a survey booked for Monday morning. Not that it's their fault it's taken this long, more mortgage lenders seeming somewhat unconcerned about getting business. Bit confused, because the phone call to arrange it wasn't from who we were expecting, but I am sure all will become clear. Katy's been following up with our solicitors regarding the buildings insurance for the new house, and needless to say nothing had come through from Lloyds as yet. So, at least one small step forward out of the two possible, though I'm not sure exactly how many backwards steps preceded it, and to be quite honest I'm not sure I want to know. All this to move under half a mile!

I'm not having a good day. I'm feeling helpless, hopeless and useless. Katy's suggested hitting the coast again tomorrow, which is a great idea, but I know it's only going to provide a few hours of escape. I know I'm not actually any of the above adjectives, but I'm struggling hard to find viable alternatives.

Amongst today's limited achievements has been finding an author I won't be bothering reading any more of. We picked up Colin Forbes' The Sisterhood at a charity shop, and I gather it's one of his best. If that is the case, then the others must be dreadful, because this one was the worst-written book I have ever read. Endless repeating of details, dialogue that's wooden in the extreme, and to cap it all, a blurb which gives away pretty much the whole preposterous plot - and all the evidence suggesting this is highly characteristic of his writing. I just about kept sane by imagining it dramatised in the form of a cross between a silent movie with one of those frenzied piano soundtracks, and a Dick Dastardly cartoon, with Voice-over Man popping up every five minutes to remind us of the story so far and to point out that the big round black thing with a fizzing fuse on top is a bomb. A thriller for the brain-dead, basically.

What a day - and it's not even lunchtime yet! Everything's in a bit of a spin at the moment, but we are genuinely hopeful that the final touches may be being put to our house move by the end of the day. The two outstanding issues seem to have been taking an unnecessarily inordinate time to resolve, but they really should only be storms in teacups, and in fairness all our other main stresses so far have been caused only by the ponderous pace of legal procedure. We are in the very fortunate position of being on good terms with both our buyers and sellers, and they quite sympathise with the frustrations we're experiencing. Many people in our positions would be having to deal solely via solicitors and estate agents, and convey only filtered reports, but we are able to be pretty much completely open with each other, and the only other guy in the chain seems reasonably relaxed about it all. That doesn't mean it's not frustrating and we don't worry, but we have to remember that it could be an awful lot worse.

The weekend's been good, with our main highlight being going down to the sea on Friday. No very long walks involved for a change - apart from anything it was way too hot! - though neither we did spend the whole day lounging on the beach. But enough to pick up distinct sunburn around our necks... We also got out for a nice stroll in the forest at Alice Holt on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday went out for pizza with a couple of recent arrivals to the church. Thankfully we'd managed to leave move-related things as best we could before all this, so we weren't too preoccupied, but it was still very necessary to get away from it all for those few days - and strangely enough our sellers did much the same!

And the news is... there's no news. The lady at the insurance company who was supposed to have been contacting our solicitors appears not to have done so, and has now gone home for the night. Well, at least her colleagues admit that she exists, which is rather better than they managed for a previous contact we urgently needed to get in touch with. Hopefully we'll have some news tomorrow?

A bit more progress this morning. It turned out that the lady at the insurance company had yesterday sent our solicitors a fax rather than phoned them, and typically that had got stuck in our solicitors' admin department or something. But whatever the story, they've got it now, and assuming everything is in order - and if it isn't, I'm sure it will be soon enough - there will be nothing more for us to do but sit and wait for the last hopefully straightforward thing we know needs to be sorted out elsewhere in the chain. It's been a long old slog for a transaction everyone agreed at the outset was pretty simple, and we're obviously not quite out of the woods yet, but the end finally feels tangible.

Everything is indeed in order now, it seems - as far as we are concerned, in any case. It took a bit more doing than expected, but then we really should have expected that, so to speak... Does moving house really have to be this complicated, or is it all part of a scam by the "partners in crime" involved? You'd have thought in this age of fixed-rate conveyancing it would be in the interests of solicitors to keep everything as simple as possible and not waste time going down blind alleys. I mean, yes, there are some things we need to be sure about and are glad for them to spend some extra time confirming, but so much is downright petty, and only causes stress - even to them, sometimes!

We've put the bubbly in the fridge, and expect to justify its consumption soon.

No more house-move news today, but we weren't really expecting any. A bit of job news is that a good recruiter (a rare thing) who had put my CV forward to a local company phoned to say that someone else had already done so, without my knowledge, so she asked me to send a disclaimer to confirm that initial contact was made via her. All about as complex as estate agency introduction lore, and at least as many rogues out there prepared to bend ethical practice. In fact, I am surprised this is the first time I've come up against this as a candidate, given the number of recruiters I know darn well put me forward for another job recently. But what am I supposed to do when recruiters tend to be so coy about the companies they are dealing with and sending CVs to, so I have no proof? Recruitment is a vicious and by all accounts badly regulated "industry", but one that the IT sector in particular seems foolishly to have warmly embraced, so there's no way of getting away from it. There are a few good recruiters out there, and believe you me I will remember who's worth doing business with.

We went on a pub crawl last night! Can't remember the last time I did that... Though it was only because the first pub we went to was a bit naff, really just a rather wannabe restaurant with a bar attached nowadays. Still, good to get out, and good to catch up with Cate properly. And the second pub was very nice, having atmosphere, a barman with personality, and working smoke extraction!

I walked into town today, needing to get a few bits and pieces ahead of the weekend, and didn't quite get rained on. No car available today, because Katy's got mine while hers is in having a bit of work. We thought the head gasket was going, and that was what the workshop diagnosed it as the other day, but after they inspected it again this morning and tightened things up it's no longer leaking oil or doing anything else untoward, so hopefully that's the end of it.

House move news of the day is that as far as we know, everything is now ready to roll and we are just waiting for the various solicitors to get their heads together and come up with a plan for exchange and completion. We gather that one involved party is currently on holiday, but have been assured he has done all the necessary paperwork already, so there's no reason why we can't exchange pretty much immediately. We can't complete until he's back though, obviously!

Another good weekend, but spoilt by lousy sleep last night simply thanks to the extreme humidity. Promised thunderstorms never remotely materialised, and after a fresher start, today seems at least as bad. Highlights of the weekend were many, notably going for a picnic at Alice Holt on Saturday with Rachel, Mark and Daniel - test driving the picnic set and sandals we'd bought on Friday - having pizza with Mike, Sarah, Bethan and (a mainly sleeping) Jake for Sunday lunch, and the small matter of celebrating one year of marriage with a lovely meal at the Bon East - with celebratory port on the house! Yes, it was one year to the day, yesterday; time's generally flown, to think that we've now been married for longer than we were engaged! Meanwhile, got to stop now; all this typing's brought me out in a mad sweat again. Come on, you thunderstorms...

No thunderstorms, and today's only really bearable because Katy reminded me we had a desk fan somewhere, which I eventually found in a cupboard. Today I have talked to a couple of recruiters, brushed up on my Javascript and DOM, chased our solicitors for any news on exchanging, and walked into town to get a new smoke alarm since ours went haywire the other day and it's on our fixtures and fittings declaration so really ought to work as described. That's quite enough for a day as hot and humid as it is, and Katy will be home soon enough anyway!

No house move news, though there was a slight scare this afternoon thanks to solicitors not talking to each other in sufficiently monosyllabic terms as to avoid confusion or complete misinformation getting fed back through the chain. Someone, somewhere, somehow, had got it into their heads that we'd not yet got our mortgage confirmed. Thankfully it was all clarified quickly enough, but not before half the chain had been told... We're still waiting for confirmation from our buyers' solicitors that they are OK with the proposed completion date, but our solicitors aren't too concerned about the delay given that there's plenty of time yet. I'd like to be more upbeat and positive about it myself, though. There's just been one needless and individually trivial issue after another, spinning out what everyone agreed at the outset should have been one of the simplest transactions ever, to take well over three months. We said right at the beginning that we intend never to move again if at all possible, and I have to say our experience over the last weeks has only reinforced that.

It's too hot by far. Indeed I just walked out to the post box, and it was in fact just plain stupidly hot. If they're lying about tomorrow's thunderstorms like they were about Monday's, I shall be very put out.

Only one particularly daft job email today, courtesy of those consistently clueless twonks at JAM Jobs, who want someone to work in Bucks, requiring three years experience of embedded Ada and 80x86 assembly language, plus even more inappropriate desirable skills. Still, I guess at least it raises a laugh, which is better than most aspects of looking for work right now. I've sort of applied for another position, but it's dependent on it being somewhere sane; perhaps one day the job websites will realise that listing jobs just by county isn't actually very helpful to candidates. Perhaps my old employers had a point, choosing to define areas by postcodes - though in practice it was worse than counties, because the postcodes still had to be cross-referenced against counties, which then gained "fuzzy" borders so became even less helpful.

No house move news, by the way, thank you most kindly for asking, etc.

The promised thunderstorms came and went, but at least they have left things somewhat fresher. Yes, I know it's not thunderstorms that make the weather fresher, rather the changing conditions that lead to them, but they're the icing on the cake. Though we were sat in a café in town at Friday lunchtime when they arrived, literally with a bang, about a hundred yards away at the most. We cheered, though the lady sat at the table next to ours said she would be hiding in a cupboard given the opportunity. I don't know why it is, but thunderstorms have never - well not in my living memory, anyway - bothered me, or not in any negative way. I'm more likely to be miffed at missing a good one. I suspect I would change my opinion should I ever get struck by lightning, but the odds are very much stacked against that happening, let's face it...

Saturday we went down almost but not quite to the coast for a walk, out of one of our guide books. It was really quite interesting, with most of the route taking us through 2000-year-old yew woods, that really did have the feel of something out of a ghost story. Or as if Treebeard might (slowly) make himself known to us. The view from the top of the bill should have been splendid, but for some reason despite the previous day's storms it was about as hazy a day as I can remember, and Chichester Harbour was but a vague glimmer of lightness. Slightly disappointed at not having seen the sea properly, we decided we'd stop off for a drink at The Ship, though very nearly found nowhere to park having chosen the same day as the local rowing club's "regatta" - the word used with a little caution given that for many of the events we were surprised they didn't just go round in (wonky) circles. Good fun though, and a nice way to wrap up a day out to get away from the hassles of jobs, house moving and everything.

Sunday's highlight was taking Katy's parents out for a picnic to celebrate her mum's birthday the other day. As has become a bit of a trend recently, we went to the Alice Holt forest, going in the late afternoon for an early tea. Lots of scrummy food - on top of lots of scrummy food from the breakfast we'd had at church in the morning - and a nice bottle of wine went down very happily with everyone, and we took a stroll in the shade of the woods afterwards. Then back to Katy's parents' house to peruse their Canada holiday photos, as taken on our old digital camera we're loaning them, which had all come out pretty well. Oh, and we completed the competition Samurai Su Doku in the Times, so made sure our solution to that got emailed off before the 10pm deadline - though we should point out that we are insufficiently hooked on them to particularly want to keep the prize in the remote possibility that we might be amongst the winners!

Still no house news really, though we have been told pretty straight that we should be exchanging either today or tomorrow - so more when we find out, OK?

Some job news though - I have an interview, Wednesday morning. It's going to take above-average preparation and thought on my part, because according to the recruiter in question previous candidates have fallen on their lack of J2EE experience, which might also be a problem for me, though I have other qualities in my favour. It'll be no "shoe-in", but I'm hoping it'll be worth more to me than mere "interview experience", so I'll be giving it the best shot I can. "J2EE" may not be much more than a buzzword in many ways, but I worked with elements of it during my year at Ninedots, so just need to play that up, whilst emphasising my adaptability, versatility and eagerness to learn new skills.

Still no house move news. I phoned our solicitors a short while ago and spoke to some grunt who fairly clearly had no knowledge of the case whatsoever beyond what was on the screen in front of him. Anyway, as far as he knew there had been no contact from our buyers' solicitors since Friday, and he would "chase it" - though whether "chasing" includes actually putting one foot in front of the other repetitively in the approximate direction of the fax machine will of course remain to be seen. It wouldn't be the first time if that's beyond them.

And these people seem to think they represent the future of conveyancing...

Congratulations to Emily and James, on the birth yesterday of Joshua Michael!

We've still not exchanged, but backsides are getting kicked, so it might yet happen today I guess. All this uncertainty really isn't doing a great deal for my confidence for tomorrow's job interview, so some real news by the end of today would be very welcome. With regard to the interview, I got a load of stuff in the post this morning from the company in question, though I'm too hot and bothered at the moment to do the research I really should. Later, maybe...

No house move news - hey, even saying there's no news isn't news any more, is it? - but hopefully today might be the day we exchange contracts, in the same way as we were hopeful it might've been yesterday, or Monday, or several weeks ago come to that... It's pretty clear where the immediate hold-up now lies, and it thankfully appears not to be us or our own solicitors this time, though from past experience communications haven't always been what they could have, so goodness only knows. Our sellers' estate agent is on the case though, and he's been a star right from the word go, and I'm hopeful he'll deliver once again.

The interview this morning went as well as I could have hoped - and that's not bad. My interviewer realised from the outset that J2EE wasn't (yet) my greatest strength, but was fairly clearly trying to gauge other aspects of my experience and character, and I think I came across quite favourably. The projects I would be involved in sound interesting and would certainly challenge and develop me, and unlike some of my past jobs the organisation sounds above-averagely secure and stable. Anyway, I gave it my best shot, and the recruitment agent phoned a few minutes ago to ask how it went, so all I can now do is wait - and hope!

And the latest house move news is that we've taken a couple of steps backwards today, at least one of them looking symptomatic of a feud between solicitors. You see, ours is a big company, with a fairly clear intention of taking over the world, or as much of it as people buy and sell houses on. The solicitors they have to deal with are traditional small partnerships, and it's well known that they are bitter about the monopolistic intentions of our solicitors. So it would seem that they have decided to give our solicitors as hard a time as possible, making last-minute requests for potentially quite complex things they should have asked for weeks ago, knowing full well that the big company is too bloated and overworked to deal with said requests efficiently. Why? I guess to make solicitors like ours look extra-specially bad, but frankly it tars the whole industry very badly. Of course, all this could be no more than conspiracy theorising, and they're all just rubbish and don't read anything anyone sends them until it's too late to do anything about it, happily letting the interest accrue on the funds we buyers diligently pass to them as soon as they ask... Either way, and whether deliberately or not, they are useless and unhelpful, and share the same approximate level of my affection as recruiters and celery.

I'm not even going to bother saying the obvious today.

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