Tag Archives: house

Renovations and the Great Worm Ouroboros…

The Great Worm Ouroboros, a symbol of infinity, since it's eating its own tail. Although Renos seem to go on forever, I actually had a different metaphor in mind. But it was harder to Google.

The Great Worm Ouroboros, a symbol of infinity, since it’s eating its own tail. Although Renos seem to go on forever, I actually had a different metaphor in mind. But it was harder to Google.

This is not a post about the library renos, they’re done. Also, way too late, I realised that I wasn’t thinking of the Great Worm Ouroboros, but of the infinitely recursive nature of Critical Path Analysis, but I thought the first title was better, semantically speaking. Votes in the comments section please.

We got lucky, finding this house. It needed work, it was old, and they showed it while work was still in progress on the basement, putting a lot of people off. We didn’t exactly pick it up cheap, but we got a bargain. We’ve sunk a fair amount of work into it, but now we’ve been living here five years, we’ve really thought about the changes we want to effect. Things we’ve been putting up with for a while have reached the point where we’re going to DO something.

That’s where we encounter the infinitely recursive nature of Critical Path Analysis. Our bedroom faces the street. In the summer, when the nights are warm and the windows are open, we’re occasionally woken by people chatting as they walk past the house late at night. So we decided to swap the bedroom and the room behind it, which is currently used as the study. Before we can do that, I have to take down the closet in the corner, because it’s not a useful one.

How hard can it be, right? Oh...It's lath and plaster, not wall board...

How hard can it be, right? Oh…It’s lath and plaster, not wall board…

Two weeks later, and there's still loads to get rid of. Plus, we're still using the study, so every destructo session has to be followed by cleanup.

Two weeks later, and there’s still loads to get rid of. Plus, we’re still using the study, so every destructo session has to be followed by cleanup.

Another two weeks... But progress, right?

Another two weeks… But progress, right?

So far, so traditionally linear. But removing the closet is simply the first thing I have latched on to because it’s something I can DO. It doesn’t need measuring, or wiring diagrams, or forward planning (except vaguely wondering if that’s a supporting wall I’m whacking on with my lump hammer…). Because if we’re moving the bedroom, it only makes sense to sort out the shocking bathroom on the main floor too. So we found a new toilet  on sale, which is just as well because our old cistern is on the way out, but before we can put in the new toilet, we need to redo the flooring, and we can’t do that because we haven’t got the new tub, which we can’t install anyway because we have to shift the shower plumbing to the other side and we can’t do that without a builder to advise us. And we can’t get the builder in until we’re ready to move ahead with the next phase of changing the windows in the new bedroom, because it makes sense to get the guy to quote for several jobs at once so we can prioritise our expenses, right?

Recursive critical path. Before this, there’s that… And at the same time, I’m wondering how much it’ll cost to move the Internet Access point from the current study to the old bedroom, and if we can use this opportunity to split off a cable running direct to the Living room so I don’t have to run my TV internet off the wireless, which is still on a party line with next door, and while we’re at it why don’t we go for a new dedicated fibre optic line into the house to triple the internet speeds? But to do that we have to go to another supplier, which means changing our email addresses, and they are linked to about sixty  per cent of the web services we use, aren’t they? So, can I change them BEFORE we move to a new supplier, or can we get them changed automatically? And what happens to the inevitable one or two things that get missed in the changeover and send sad and lost emails to the old address for five years while we remain in blissful ignorance? And we can’t be the only people doing this, can we?

Ok, maybe the idea of a worm who eats his own tail forever was the right one. And thinking about this, I have a strong urge to just pick up the hammer again, and take a few cathartic swings at this wall right…here…

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The house I grew up in…..

One of the places I've called home.

The weasels were a major reason for our emigration. We wanted them to have a home, and life with the RAF meant a lot of moving around. I worried about their childhood being little more than a series of half-forgotten friends and a collection of school photos where the uniforms changed year after year.

I moved around a little myself as a child. I was born ‘Oop North and managed seven years in Sunderland before we came south. That’s long enough to have an accent you could bend steel on, by the way, which is a tough thing to carry in a village school of only fifty kids, all of whom have grown up in the depths of Hampshire. We were only there a handful of years before we moved again, and then in my college years we moved within that town.

All this strolling down Sentiment Lane was prompted by listening to the excellent Amanda Palmer on Kevin Smith’s Smodcast . In the session (which contains the odd rude word, please don’t be offended) she prefaced a song called “House that I grew up in” with the story of her parents telling her the house that had been her childhood home was going to be sold. She said that travelling the world and having no real base had been fine because she’d always had this home in her mind, and now that was going. That made me wonder how the Weasels might feel about their nomadic life to date – have we deprived them of an important piece of childhood’s landscape : The Family home?

So that’s why I was examining my past. I’ve been ok with the many moves since marrying Mrs Dim, and part of that was the preparation of my own roaming past. I see how Middle Weasel struggled to cope with change during her first two moves and realised that allowing her to stay and put down roots at an early age might have exacerbated that problem – someday, for some reason, we would have had to move, and then the explosion might have been nuclear, instead of only…well, conventional doesn’t seem the right word.

Mrs Dim’s folks lived in the same house for thirty years. Almost until the time we moved to Canada we could go visit and she could show the kids the room that used to be her bedroom. She could describe the many changes to the house, including the extra rooms that were built on while they were living there. I envied her that history, but then I never suffered that feeling of loss when the house was sold.

As we have travelled around the UK, home has been the place where we keep our stuff, the place where the five of us are together. The apartment we stayed in on landing was as much home to us as the first rental house, as much as the RAF house in St Athan. For now, the New Wonkey House is shaping up to be a pretty good home, and I hope we’ll stay here for a long time. For one thing, it’s going to be years before I get round to sorting out my garage room.

Cleaning up the homestead

We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, in mine the whole day through...

It's ok, that's where we wanted the veg patch anyway...

Imagine you’re in the market for a car. You see an advert for a nice looking machine and you go to check it out. The body work has seen better days, but it’s whole and intact. Maybe it needs a new coat of paint, but there’s no rust. The inside is immaculate, with the seats reupholstered in luxurious material, a new stereo system and sat nav in the dash and it runs ok. When you take a look under the hood, you can see there’s still some work to be done, and maybe some big jobs a few years down the line, but nothing that can’t be sorted out in time. More to the point, it’s the kind of car you can use right away AND stil have the final bits of the restoration as your hobby for a few years to come. It’s all good. You hand over the cash and drive away in your new car.

Two weeks later, an inspector arrives. He’s concerned about your new car. He tests the emissions, listens to the engine, has a close look at the sub-frame. He’s not happy about what he sees and he shows you a few things he’s found. The exhaust system isn’t right for this type of car, and it’s leaking badly. In fact, it could even be venting into the car and damaging you and your family as you drive around. Look here at these weld marks – this isn’t even one car, it’s two or three cobbled together. Here, he’s got a report that proves the previous owner used this car in some illegal street races, probably making a pile of money, getting the car pretty smashed up in the process. He patched up the machine and sold it on to you, you chump. Now here’s the tough break. You have to get this car up to spec within a week, or the inspector will impound it, and you’ll get a fine. Yes, he knows you’re not the one who did all the illegal stuff, but you’re the owner of this car now, it’s down to you to fix it.

That sounds like a hard luck story, but it’s pretty much what happened to us a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a car though. It was our house. Yep, the lovely new Wonkey house, our brilliant purchase and project has proved to be too good to be true after all. Despite being cautious, using a Property Inspector and dealing with reputable Realtors, we got stuck with a house that used to be a Grow Op (a marijuana farm, for you non-North Americans) What’s so bad about that? Well, the amount of power used to run the lights that grow the weed has burned out the main power cable to the house and left it a dangerous fire hazard. The heat and damp conditions promote the growth of mould and the plants themselves leave spores in the heating system and can contaminate the drywall itself. The Inspection Team said we were very lucky to be allowed to stay in the house at all, and gave us a week to have the work completed and the house brought up to code.

Naturally we asked a few pointed questions of our Realtor, and consulted solicitors. Their opinion was that we had a cast-iron case and could expect to recover any costs through the courts in as little as three years. Provided we could find the previous owners. And they didn’t hide their assets. So we shouldn’t attempt to contact them or in any way alert them to the fact that we were aware they defrauded us by selling a house they knew to have been used for a Marijuana Farm.*

All this had me furious and raving for a week or so. The electrical folks came in and dug up the garden to get at the cable and rewired pretty much the whole house. Every inch of ceiling is now covered with smoke detectors and we have Carbon Monoxide detectors in every room. I evacuated Moose and Maxi the Hamster for a whole day while the house was filled with Ozone to kill the mould and spores, and then I tore out the contaminated drywall and ripped up the old lino and bleached the floor underneath. After a fortnight’s work and around four thousand dollars, we’ve nearly got the house we paid for, and that figure doesn’t include money lost through working days destroyed by work on the house/electricity/mould.

But with the completion of the work, we’ve achieved a bit of serenity. The house is better than it was now, and though the stigma of Grow Op will remain for years, we’re not planning to move out and sell anytime soon, so the lost value doesn’t count yet. We’ve kept careful records and kept copies of all the reports and certificates and photographs. We’re using the work as a springboard for our own renovations, starting with carpeting the basement and moving on to the deck. We have more visitors arriving soon, and we want the place to look like a home, not a stoner’s dream. There are still days when I could cheerfully throttle the previous owners, but I mostly just want to ask them why. Why sell the house and lie? For more money, obviously, I guess, but how can you tell that barefaced lie? What if we’d met them face-to-face and asked them if it had been a Grow Op? Would they have admitted it then, or continued to lie? One day I may get to ask them, but for now I’m turning the page and claiming my home back.

*Ok, legal folks, I know that’s supposition on my part, but the evidence that lead the Inspection Team to come to the house in the first place indicated that the farm was still running in the basement of the house up until the week before we visited the house for the first time, well within  the time that the house was under the ownership of the previous owners. Also, in redecorating the basement they covered over many of the signs of the Grow Op, including the place where they had bypassed the electricity meter to get free electricity. I can’t believe they could have missed all the signs. Even if they weren’t running it, they knew it was there, and they signed a contract that said the house had not been used to grow weed.

Sandy Sun Diego…no, wait…er…

Mrs Dim and I have a differing view of holidays. There are all kinds of examples of this, but the one I’m thinking of right now has to do with the journey versus the destination. For me, the holiday doesn’t begin until you get there. For her, the holiday begins as soon as you leave your house. That’s not to say that as we step out the door, Mrs Dim becomes some serene, floating goddess of benign goodwill. No, she can be tense and stressed, just like the rest of us. But she’s tense and stressed because there are things to be done. She’s also able to occasionally raise her head above the noise and nonsense of travelling weasels and see the beauty around her. I’m not.

I mentioned in an earlier post how the emigration went by in a blur of things to worry about next. This journey, though less epic in many ways, was still a challenge. We had to get out of our house with all our kit and dog, then drive to Sister-in-law’s where we would drop the dog. She would then drive us on to the local airport where we would catch a small plane for the hop down to Seattle, and then transfer to a proper plane for the ride to San Diego. Once we got there (assuming all went well up to that point) we’d pick up our hire car and try to navigate our way through an unfamilliar city to find the holiday home. THEN I could relax.

And with the benefit of hindsight, I can honestly say the journey was not that bad. We chose the Linden US Border crossing because it’s quieter, and the guards were in a jolly mood, actually smiling and giving us directions to the nearest coffee shop. Mrs Dim’s Sister and her husband live in a beautiful house that they built in a rural area near Bellingham, and their house has been a welcome refuge on several holidays and smells of peace and relaxation, even when you add three weasels and a dog. They produced a brilliant lunch and then we hopped back in the car for the trip to the airport.

Compact and bijou is an overstatement for this little airfield, but it’s an International Airport now, I think, and we waited patiently in line at one of the three check in desks while the lady in front bemoaned the regulations that would not allow her to bring her ukelele on as carry-on luggage. The plane was a decent-sized turbo-prop effort, not the bi-plane with seats strapped to the wings that I had been fearing, and we’d barely reached cruising height before we were heading back down into Seattle.

There was time to eat there before hustling to the next flight – we had to ride the train system to reach the right gate, which meant we could claim this was a planes, trains and automobiles holiday – and the next plane was a jet, but there was no tv. The weasels were a little disappointed, but the views were good through the windows, and the fizzy drinks were free and plentiful.

By the time we landed at San Diego airport, I was pretty much done. I’d not found the book I was looking for at Seattle, so I’d spent the flight twiddling my thumbs and doing far too much thinking. But the queues were loooong for the rental cars, and it was dark night by the time we got strapped in and launched off onto unknown roads. Luckily the directions were good, and we reached the house with only one stop for milk and sandwiches as breakfast offerings.

The house is incredible. When I have the resources at my fingertips again I’ll include the link, because you should come and stay here. It’s palatial, so close to the sea it’s obscene, and the local cafe’s do amazing breakfasts. The place is clean, the beds are comfortable and there are all the conveniences of home (including wireless, hence the holiday post….)

I’m writing this on Wednesday, by which time we’ve had our acclimatisation day (cafe, beach, big tea) and Middle Weasel’s Birthday (late breakfast, LEGOLAND, big tea) and now they’ve left me to write while they head for the beach again. I have plays to work on, of course, and reviews I could be doing, but as soon as I’m done with this post, I shall be striding off to the beach after them – this is a family holiday after all, and whatever the differences in expectations Mrs Dim and I have about holidays, we both want them to be full-family affairs.

Pre-tea appetizers

What we ate on the balcony before we had tea on the balcony....

Almost an anniversary

The Tiny Weasels on Arrival Day

The Tiny Weasels Pose, reluctantly, in Vancouver airport

There are still four more days until we reach the one year point, but I’m aware that time is flying at the moment and we’ve already booked a restaurant for that evening – the first place we ate in, as it happens, a lovely place called Milestones on English Bay. It’s part of a chain of eateries, but each one is quite distinct, and this one was our favourite.

I’ve been thinking, on and off, about what I feel about living in Canada. There are still moments of amazement, when the fact that we live so far from family come home to us. There are still days when I worry about driving on the wrong side of the road. Come to think of it, there are still days when I get in the car and wonder where the steering wheel is…

Were there any things I thought I would never get used to? Seeing mountains. When I arrive for work, if the day is clear, I can see mountains on almost every part of the horizon. The reason I can’t see mountains behind me where I park is because the skytrain track loops around the store there, and that’s an amazing view in it’s own right. When I was a kid I used to read “2000ad” and the futuristic city of Mega City One had raised roads that curled and swooped through the cityscape. That’s what I think of when I see the Skytrain.

I still convert currency in my head. Most of the times it’s to reassure myself. I look at new books on sale and think “$30! My God!” and then think, “No, wait, that’s about eighteen quid…Fair enough.” I was surprised when I converted the price of our new house though. Surprised, then ashamed. I will not speak of it.

Some things still strike me as odd though. In the UK I made lasagne, using mince, pasta sheets and two sauces. The red sauce I made from scratch, the white I got out of a jar. Over here they don’t seem to have those jars. I can get pretty much any type of pasta sauce I want, except that white sauce. Last week I made the white sauce from scratch too, and it was brilliant, but it does mean more washing up.

Laundry is great here. In the UK, we didn’t have a tumble drier. Well, we had one once,but we were too eco-conscious to use it much. And it broke down. Over here there was already a huge washer and drier lurking down in the laundry area of the basement. No guilt attached, they’re already here, use ’em! Did you know that when you wash socks and dry them in a tumble drier, they come out soft? Actually soft! My socks used to retain the shape of the radiator….

Hmm. That’s something I haven’t got the hang of. There are vents in the floor of this house that should produce heat when it’s cold. They’re supposed to be controlled by the tiny LCD screen on the wall over there *Dim points*. Mostly I don’t touch it, because I don’t understand it, but on occasion I stare at it in frustration. It can get quite cold here. Then I have another cup of coffee, because I CAN work the coffee machine, which is something else I love about here. The instant coffee is dreadful, but I’ve got the hang of setting the machine before I walk the weasels to school and when I get home, there’s a jug of fresh coffee waiting for me. And it stays hot for two hours! Coffee is a big deal over here. I used to see people carrying take out coffee cups on their way to school and wonder where they had picked them up. Later I realised they might have gone out for coffee and come back to do the school run. I still get surprised to see people walking into the store where I work carrying Starbucks cups. Mind you, I only learned the other day that pets are allowed. Who takes their dog to go shopping for home improvement materials? Well, quite a few people, as it turns out.

I’ve nearly got used to hearing Eldest Weasel’s Canadian accent when she talks to her friends, because it upsets her if we wince. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing Tiniest Weasel gliding around on ice skates. She’s only just turned six! All three weasels have proved themselves adept at the winter sports, taking to ice skating, skiing and sledging like they were born to it.

It’s funny, reaching March and starting to recognise some of the things we saw fresh when we arrived. There’s a regular promotion in Tim Horton’s (a coffee shop chain), where you roll up the rim of your coffee cup to see if you’ve won a prize. That’s just come round again. It’s tax time here too, with many reminders going out for folks to get advice, download free software and so on. I’m in negotiation with the Inland Revenue, since in the midst of the excitement of moving I missed my last self-assessment. Yes, I owe the Inland Revenue a fine (if I’ve made a profit on writing in 08/09) but it’s now in the hands of the accountant we’ve finally sorted. He has a lot to cope with, what with royalties going into the UK bank account, Mrs Dim’s Military Pension, and both sets of Canadian wages being paid over here….

But one whole year. That’s pretty immense, any way you slice it. We arrived here in the middle of the night, relieved to get through Immigration – and it seems stupid now, but we had no “plan B”. If Immigration had turned us around (as they could have) we had no idea what we would have done next. No house, no jobs, no school for the weasels… When I think about it like that, it all seems much more of a gamble than we ever thought. I don’t know how Mrs Dim was looking at it, but I was focussing on one thing at a time. If you asked me five hours before we left for the flght what my biggest worry was, and I would have told you it was packing everything we needed into the nine suitcases we had. At the airport it was whether we’d catch the flight, and then whether the weasels would behave on the flight. Then it was getting through Immigration, finding a taxi, getting into the accommodation we had booked. Even when we were all in The Rosellen Suites and had our cases, I was worried about what we would eat for breakfast.

And now? Well, the house was really the last thing on our list. We came to Canada to improve our lives, to give the weasels more opportunities. We came to find some space, somewhere with some wilderness left. We have jobs, the weasels have a school, we have a dog, we have a house that we couldn’t have afforded in the UK. We are, I would say, settled. Now we’re looking forward to the holiday, to the move, to the visitors that will begin to arrive days fter we move into the New Wonkey House and will continue to stream in all through the long (hopefully hot) summer. Though the first year is coming to a close , I’ll continue to blog because the adventure isn’t over.

 The adventure doesn’t end.

Getting a job is such hard work!

I’ve thought a lot about this post, especially since it’s about something that only happened in the last forty eight hours. I often remember the phrase “A thought is never fully formed until it has been expressed.” and for me the best form of expression is writing. I need to have things written down so I can see what I think about them. It makes me useless in an argument because I can’t marshal my responses. I look at both sides of what’s being said, and often cave without arguing back. With Mrs Dim, I’ll quite often take her opening speech and run through how I think the argument (oops, meant “discussion” there…Sorry!) will go. Odds are, I’ll find I’ve run out of responses before we really get into it. This isn’t because she overwhelms me or is authoritarian or anything spooky or depressing like that : The fact is, if we’re having a difference of opinion, it’s usually because I am being resistant to change or reluctant to take on responsibility for something (see my previous post).

It may seem daft that I say I’m resistant to change after spending sixteen years moving from house to house, having three kids and numerous minor jobs. Here I am, thousands of miles from the country I was born in, saying I don’t deal well with change. Well, it’s true. I like routine, I like things to sort themselves out and then I can cope with them being the same every day. Having got Tiny Weasel into full-time schooling, I could relax into running my own day between 9 and 3, fitting odd things into that schedule when necessary.

A while ago, when we were living in Bournemouth and not sure if we’d ever get to Canada, I wrote a  magazine article called “Giving up the dream” which talked about the fact that I would have to stop being a full-time writer and go back to regular employment if we were going to stay in the UK. There was no other way we’d cope with the financial reality of life outside the RAF. And besides, with the kids in school and the writing business only growing slowly, there was no reason not to. I had hoped that coming out here, where the house prices are lower and the exchange rate was so good, that we could carry on as we were, and I could survive by increasing the number of published plays. Of course, I also had my grand plays to be visiting Rock-Star-Playwright at the local school and colleges, feted by all and showered with money for deigning to appear and discuss my process.

Well, the plays are still being written. We add new titles every month and our business plan for the next year is healthy enough, but the projected earnings don’t match up to the projected shortfall if we go ahead with the house purchase we’re both considering. Me getting a regular job is the only sensible solution, and this is what Mrs Dim said to me, in a very reasonable tone of voice on Saturday afternoon. I’d like to say that I nodded sagely and instantly suggested several courses of action that we could work on.

I didn’t. I sulked like a teenager. I whined and bitched. I muttered about having wasted the previous ten years building up a business only to throw it away. I said I would only be able to get a stupid shift job at Starbucks, since I’m qualified for nothing, and what good would that do? When this didn’t get me anywhere, I brought the dog into it. How was she going to get her morning walk if I go out to work? Pathetic, isn’t it?

Mrs Dim was more than a little disappointed. From her point if view, I was being very slow and unsupportive. She had shown me the accounts spreadsheet the week before and indicated how the incoming and outgoings wouldn’t match up if we take on a mortgage, or even if we just carry on the way we’re going now. I looked blankly at the lines of figures and nodded hopefully. I did not leap up and suggest I get a job and, bless her, right then she didn’t ask me. She gave me more time to figure it out myself, and when she felt it couldn’t wait any longer, she pushed the issue and I reacted like a spoilt brat.

Why? Well, have I mentioned that I don’t cope well with change? (Please understand, I am aware that everything said in this paragraph is an EXCUSE and not a REASON. I’m explaining my point of view, not asking you to agree.) I have exactly the life I have always dreamed of: I have time to write my looniest ideas down and send them away to my publisher, I get to tidy and clean at my own pace, I get to walk the dog in the fresh air at least twice a day and I don’t have an in-tray. I’ve worked in many different types of jobs in my time, and never really found one that I enjoyed. I worked behind a bar, behind a desk, behind a shop counter, in a factory and it’s only since I’ve been working for myself from home that I’ve been happy with the working hours and conditions. If the kids are ill or there’s a crisis at school, I don’t need anyone’s permission to shut down the computer and go get ’em.

But the point here is not how comfortable I feel in a new work situation. The point is that Mrs Dim has said there is a family crisis on the horizon, and I’m the one who can do something about it right now. If I step up and find work, I can stop that crisis ever arriving, and what kind of husband or father would I be if I just curl up under the desk and hope it goes away? It’s not like she’s asking me to stop being a playwright, and there’s plenty of examples of people out there who acheived more than I do on a daily basis while holding down a nine to five job. If I can’t carry on writing, reviewing and appraising while I turn in eight hours a day somewhere, then I don’t deserve to have all this time at home playing at being a famous writer.

On the other hand, if you know anyone who wants to hire a writer for a couple of thousand dollars a month, I can send you the number to call….

The Great Canadian Adventure – the Mad Week (originally posted Mar 6/09)

 

The whole family, just before we left the country

Still life with weasels....

The GREAT CANADIAN ADVENTURE is a true-life story that follows Dim and his family (Mrs Dim and the Tiny Weasels) as they embark on their epic move from the UK to Canada. After three and a half years, the Visas have come through, the flights are booked, and now it’s the week when they move out of their Bournemouth house.

I used to have a theory that if your life was really interesting enough to blog about, you wouldn’t have enough time to blog about it…. After this week, I’m even more inclined to agree. They say a week’s a long time in politics, but God knows what it’s like for a politician who’s emigrating to Canada….

The Tiny Weasels went off to school as usual on Thursday (the 26th Feb) and removals guys really got stuck in. There were four of them, and the most amazing thing about them was that all four of them were actually working at the same time. Some on our previous moves have featured guys who took it in turns to do the work while the others smoked. Our problem was that we weren’t just able to stand back and let them pack everything – we have this week and a bit travelling around the country catching up with friends and family. So we needed some bags packed for the coming week and bigger bags packed for the first month in Canada before the container catches up with us. Mrs Dim worked her socks off grabbing clothes and entertainment articles from around the house. I made coffee, loaded up the car for several runs to the tip, took bagloads to the charity shops in the village.

It was like some weird kind of optical illusion. These four busy guys, wrapping, shifting and carrying all day, and yet each time I returned to the house, there didn’t seem to be any less stuff in it. The master bedroom was a bombsite, with clothes strewn around and the guy who had packed the kitchen kept shuffling in, asking if he could start packing it up yet.

Mrs Dim and I shared the onerous task of collecting the kids from school for the last time. There were tears all round (except from me – I’m carved from granite and have a heart of teak. I also have a liver of pvc and a foot that turns green in hot weather, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s on the end of my leg.) We headed back to the Wonkey House for the kids to use the loo before the long trek to the Aged Parent’s new house, but Oldest Weasel, still sniffling, didn’t want to go in. I couldn’t blame her. Goodbyes are miserable things.

We made good time on the road and reached the Aged Parents abode. I hadn’t seen it before, since they only moved in the previous week. It’s a smaller place than their last one, and they hadn’t had much luck with the downsizing either. I offloaded the weasels, had the tour and got back in the car to go back to Bournemouth. Mrs Dim had stayed to oversee the removal guys and get more packing done, so she was asleep on her feet when I got back. Luckily we’d booked a room in a nearby hotel (since we now had no bed, and no bedding) and we were taking a friend out to dinner so there was no cooking to do in the kitchen we hadn’t got anymore. It was a good way to round off the day, chatting over good food and good drink, hearing about daring plans that weren’t our own for a change. We were tired but happy when we stumbled into the lovely hotel room later that night.

Friday: We had a hearty breakfast, since we didn’t have to cook it or wash up afterwards. The plan for the day was another round of packing, a clean down and run away to join the weasels at the AP’s. Sadly one of the removers had tipped off Mrs Dim that the Canadians don’t let you import mud, and the bikes and roller blades had to be cleaned. First time I’ve done that job, and I’ve had my bike four years. Anyway, the removers were fewer on the ground than the day before, but they worked twice as hard and were finished on time. We weren’t though. We’d packed clothes into every suitcase we had, we’d thrown away clothes we didn’t even know we owned and still there wasn’t enough room to take them all to Mum and Dad’s. The only sensible answer was to come back on Saturday and collect the other suitcases and bags. It was particularly galling because we’d previously booked Saturday morning for staying in bed and refusing to get up in the vain hope we could regain some sleep. But no.

Heh. Mum and Dad’s place is lovely, but it is, to coin a phrase, compact and bijou. To use the beds in the spare room, Mrs Dim and I put the youngest weasels to sleep in there early on, then when we were all done in the living room, we brought down the sleeping weasels and tucked them under duvets on the sofas, then took their beds for the rest of the night. It was a tough system, but it worked. The pair of us cleaned the Wonkey house until the grime gleamed and packed the last of the suitcases and rubbish into the long-suffering car. We hauled it back to Andover and threw ourselves into helping the AP’s make the most of their place. We Feng Shui’d the place, helped with putting up shelves and cupboards and introduced Dad to his new laptop (he has facial recognition software on it, and it cracked me up that the third time he started it up, it still didn’t recognise him…Is he going to have to get a chaperone to introduce him every day?)

We didn’t get any rest on Sunday either. We went visiting old friends in THEIR new house. This one is not compact and bijou, mostly because they’re bumping their conservatory into a dining room. We forced ourselves to go down to another pub and suffer more great company and wonderful food before returning to our sheltered nook.

So far we had been keeping busy enough to avoid too much thought about the fact that we were homeless and unemployed, but Mrs Dim admitted she has dreamed about her old job every night since she left. I was getting remarkably twitchy about the fact that I hadn’t had an internet connection for days. To combat this, we went travelling again, launching off to Cheltenham to catch up with my brother and his family. Easier said than done, since we arrived mid afternoon to be met by my Sister-in-law and her youngest, because the elder nephew was still at school and my brother was at work. Still, we had coffee and walked to collect Nephew from school, and the Squadron Leader himself pitched up in the early evening. We were only staying overnight, so we made the most of a convivial atmosphere and more good food, staying up late to talk our way through a bottle of wine and several beers. They’re a lovely couple who have battled enormous difficulties in the last two years, but now there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and a fair chance they’ll be out to see us in the Great Beyond.

Since everyone had late nights, when we hit the road the next day everyone but me took the chance to nap. Because I was relying on the Sat Nav, we took a different route to the one nominated by Mrs Dim. I had just remarked that I was hungry and we were going to stop at the next pub we saw, when one came in to view. The Green Dragon inn, it was, somewhere between the A345 and the A417. The food was fantastic and the pub itself everything an old pub should be without the smokey atmosphere and locals made of whisky and compost. We were supposed to have a light Bar Snack, but the plates were enormous. Oh dear. Shame I won’t see the inside of a gym for at least another month…(Or longer, if I can manage it…)

So that gets us back to the AP’s house and ready for Wednesday. What the hell happened on Wednesday? (I’m writing this on Friday morning, having written most of the previous account on Thursday, hence the title – it’d been a week since we left the Wonkey House. My memory is not top-notch at the best of times, and these, as has been mentioned, are not the best of times.) Ah yes. Mrs Dim has just reminded me that we hosted my Aunt Kathleen at the AP’s for lunch on Weds. She’s an amazing person who, at Eighty-odd (it’s not polite to give a lady’s age, you know) has got a hard-drive recorder, mobile phone, laptop and broadband connection, and has just bought a DVDR/Hard-drive combi as a backup recording system. I used to drop round to help sort out cables and fix the odd glitch. She’s a little apprehensive about us being so far away, even now she’s on e-mail. Anyway, she arrived in style, just an hour late, but moving fast, and we had a fun-filled lunch together… I think that was the third official “Final Goodbye” to Kathleen.

Before we knew it we were back in the car (with my Dad following along with more suitcases in his boot – still haven’t got those sorted!) and heading for Mrs Dim’s Parents. I wanted to call them the Other Aged Parents, but that makes the acronym OAPs…Oh well, if the cap fits…. The OAPs made us welcome, despite the fact that we filled their living room with suitcases. The weasels relaxed and we rejoiced in the fact that we would be sleeping in a bed that would still be our bed no matter what time of day it was. I got to grips with the computer we’d given the OAPs, trying to connect it up to the BT Home Hub they’d ordered. Now, I won’t say a word against BT. They’re a fine company, with many highly trained employees who work very hard. I’m just saying they wouldn’t come first in a backside finding competition if you gave them a map and a flashlight. On the plus side, the computer is connected to the internet. Most of the time. On the downside, despite every ADSL filter known to man, the phones don’t work anymore, and my laptop can’t pick up the wireless signal if it’s not in the same room as the Hub. Luckily for me, the guy down the road from the OAP’s house doesn’t believe in password protecting his wireless broadband. Bless him.

On Thursday we strode into the village and achieved many things, but the main point of the day was unwinding. The weasels played outside and took naps, and we drank more tea than was good for us and went to visit Great Gran. We’re starting to get that Holiday Feeling, the one we hoped we’d get as soon as the removers left.

Next Blog: The run up to the FLIGHT!