abendgules: (fierce)
This weekend Robert is away and I'm entertaining myself grocery shopping and assembling shelves. Doesn't sound like much, but it feels very different when Robert isn't here because he typically takes the lead on these things, and I don't rush to discourage him.

The nearest Sainsbury is a bit of a trial because it's uphill both ways, so to speak - a long slow hill between me and the shop, on a busy street. There's no real alternative route; no bike paths, no park routes. It's Kingsbury Avenue or nuthin'.

This part of London is definitely not as used to cyclists as Hackney is; the Sainsbury's has regular parking, handicap parking, parents of young kids parking and motorcycle parking...but no bicycle parking. With a HUGE parking lot. Stupid.

The last time I got plain bare wood shelves at IKEA the shelves were already assembled - it was just a matter of grabbing the least knotty ones and using big hex bolts to attach them to the uprights. Here, my Argos bare wood shelves arrived as two long skinny heavy packages of wood slats and a whole lotta screws - even the shelves needed assembly, waaaaay more work than I banked on. Whoops.

So late in the afternoon I decided to test the local Screwfix shop and see if I could get more Philips head screwdriver heads for the power drill, which might speed up assembly. The shop turned out to be a bit like Argos, or Lee Valley Tools, where you write down your order number and the staff go find it for you.

I'd braced myself to be nice to male staff, who would smile indulgently about a woman wanting tool advice. I swear they breed retired hardware store men just for Lee Valley.

I was delighted to find the middleaged staffer advising builders in the shop was an Indian woman with a broad London accent. The staff behind the counter were 20-something black women; there were no men staff in sight. Noone batted an eye, I didn't hear even a hint of doubt in their abilities. It was awesome.

The hell was cycling back from the shop. Apparently holiday traffic on suburban streets is even worse than regular traffic; there's less of it so drivers feel entitled to go faster.

In the course of the trip there and back, 10 mins each way, I was
- passed as I was approaching a narrowed roadway (concrete island for pedestrians) 3 times
- passed on the roundabout once
- honked at twice, while riding in primary position (close to the middle of the lane)

This is after riding in Hackney for years, and never being honked at once.

The thing is - the road is evenly surfaced, *except* for the bits directly in my wheel's path where the sewer covers, patches and divots are. It's genuinely safer to stay in the middle.

But the risks people were taking just to get ahead of me were breathtaking. I was shocked, because the traffic is much more sedate on weekdays.

I'm seriously considering keeping my fistful of keys in my right hand, so every bonehead who passes me gets a scratch in their paint. Jeez man, you were way too close!

The longer I cycle the more militant about better road design I get; well designed roads keep drivers and cyclists from conflicting over space. Increasingly I think the real solution is the Dutch and Danish one, where you consciously put the cyclists first because you can get so many more people on the road with bikes compared to cars - and cut the emissions in half, or more. Copenhagen shows you can do it successfully, by choice, and not sacrifice the life of the city.

(The Dutch chose to too, but it's long enough ago that most people don't realise it was a choice, and assume it's always been that way.)

I'm intending to write the local counsellor and tell them I'm voting strictly on the cycling space issue in this ward. This borough is shockingly far behind other parts of the city on cycle space, with acres of room on roads for bike lanes and separate facilities.

It would be easy to improve the cycle options here - I can see some easy wins north and south of my flat. The really ugly obstacle is Staples Corner, where Edgeware Road crosses the north circular and there's precious little provision for either cyclists or foot traffic. But north of that, you could make a huge difference.
abendgules: (abbey_cats)
Yesterday I came home to the Haggis Welcome Home Dance, which used to be 'loves loves loves, gimme loves', but now consists of following you around the house yelling at you til you open the patio door.

Haggis is feeling the lack of her private door, and is making the most of opportunities.

So while the sun was up, she sat on the patio taking the air, looking wholly uninterested in the Out. I think it's the free will option of out that she misses.

However, as I came home from a shop at dusk, Out was suddenly a lot more appealing, and as it grew darker, I found she'd abandoned the patio and was On Patrol.

I wandered out a few times to call for her and she'd come racing out of the shadows, chatting the whole way, sometimes racing back via a tree. Just mad.

I finally think it's time for bed, but nooooo, Haggis doesn't agree. I follow her round the front of the building (not nearly as attractive, lots of cars, lots of paving, stairs, gloomy places) but can't catch up with her. I return to the patio in the hopes she'll sort it herself.

RRRRRRING. My new neighbour Maggie, who shows all signs of incipient Crazeee Kat Lady, has rung at the door, asking if Haggis is in or not - she's spotted a tabby in the front yard wandering and chatting to herself, and is concerned that she's 'disoriented'.

To me this sounds perfectly normal happy Haggis behaviour, but I follow her out and find Haggis under a car and between us I manage to grab her to take her back.

DO NOT WANT. The Front Out is a new discovery, needs exploring! Can't be cut off now! Grump.

We return via the front door...thus confirming to the cat that the Front Door Goes Somewhere Interesting.

This morning, guess who escapes through the front door? I was my usual careful self, but now knowing that some splendid Out was waiting on the other side, Haggis laid on some extra speed and agility and deked out the door way faster than I expected a cobby cat to dodge.

I spent a few minutes following her round the entrances to the flats - all concrete, all dull, not nearly as attractive on the outside as the insides and back yard of the flats. But you have to find these things out yourself don't you?

I nab her as she pauses to survey the view from a parapet, and she hisses, which is a first of strong language from her - usually reserved for novice vets. DO NOT WANT, which part of DO NOT WANT do you not understand??

SO: getting the damn glazier in to cut a catflap is now high priority. I don't mind her having in/out privileges, not even late-night ones, but I can't play porter for her all hours.
abendgules: (ohnoes_omg)
Amen, amen and again amen. Service was on when I got home yesterday.

Let the great reshelving plan begin!
abendgules: (monsters)
because that's my life right now!

Highlights:

Move went fairly smoothly. All our stuff is now at our new place, we've checked out of the old one and handed over the keys, and are sorting the last of the services.

It went as well as it did because we had awesome help: RA, part of the Kiwi network, and her highness Eleanor went gangbusters on packing and clearing the kitchen, and shlepping stuff down to the ground floor. This was building on the great goodwill from last week when we had more packers than boxes available: we're still pushing their good work around the lounge.

This heap of boxes outside the flat, ready to go, was a huge boon because the men-and-van were late; we were the second job of their day, and they were keen to minimise their work.

Robert had warned them about the routes into the flat (round the garden path, literally, or up and down some serious stairs) and we all opted for the garden path. They'd underestimated the time required to both load and unload, and Robert's guess was much closer, and they and we weren't finished til 8.30 at night.

I'd gone ahead to the new place, to meet [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove, who'd offered to help unpack, and we filled the wait for the moving van with dinner on the Kingsbury high street.

Thank all the appropriate sources it wasn't raining on Saturday. The skies opened on Sunday morning and we thanked the sources again.

On Sunday we were joined by Earl Paul and Lady Anne, who were wonderfully refreshing and cheery and went to work scrubbing, scooping up bits and sweeping through.

Ozbeg arrived midafternoon, and we were able to use the ancient and honourable traditional vehicle of the SCA (station wagons predate SUVs) to move the last 2% of stuff, which grew to about 4% when we remembered the huge wall decoration (lovely reproduction of a brass plaque of a 14th c lord and lady) which would not fit into an eco-vehicle.

By end of Sunday we were like zombies: having trouble focusing on more than one thing at once. It took me 20 minutes to make coffee on Monday morning, something that usually takes 5 mins.

If someone asked me a question I lost the thread of what I was doing and struggled to pick it up - this ability is only slowly returning. Having dozens of things to put away is not helping.

SO: we're moved, all our stuff (so far) survived the trip, there were no tears, Robert and I still like each other, and (as far as we know) our friends still like us.

Haggis has coped admirably. She commented on the trip occasionally on the 45 min car ride in her carrier, and set to exploring as soon as we let her out of the bathroom. She's hopping up and down to Explore the New Out, but we're keeping her indoors for a few days yet, to get used to the space.

She's used the litter under sufferance, after checking the new space very thoroughly for other options and exits; clearly civilised kittehs use the great outdoors for preference.

She's found that the coarse doormat is excellent for clawing, which is fine with us, and the windows are a good height for CatTV.

Downsides

The fridge and freezer don't work, as we discovered the day after Robert had stocked the freezer.

They're 'integrated' units (read: more expensive ones, built to hide behind the cupboards) and someone defrosted the freezer with a sharp tool, possibly damaging it. The visible damage was obvious, but It wasn't obvious the cool-making no longer worked, b/c neither were turned on high.

Fortunately this was patently Not Our Fault, and the engineer confirmed on Monday that replacement was the only way to go. Will be sorted ASAP, mainly by someone else doing the hard work. Halellujah.

The recycling scheme in this borough is shameful: 'apartments' and other shared buildings don't yet have food waste recycling (which is available in our last borough, has been for years), and the rest of the recycling seems rudimentary.

There are 3 lonely bins that would normally serve one house, available for the whole complex of 37 flats, which seems mad. Someone is slacking on providing this service.

And: the recycling service doesn't take cardboard. Hello? what century is this?

Guess what we have lots of right now??

Today I investigated the housing association which owns our complex, and left a message for the housing manager. Now waiting for a reply.

The most alarming part of this move: no intawebs.

Phone and broadband transfer was supposed to happen on Monday. We have phone, but no intawebs.

I feel like a smoker trying to quit, who is cadging smokes off strangers (hey buddy, can I read my email on your tablet? can you spare me some surf minutes?).

I keep going in mental circles with my to-do list, because almost every task involves checking something online: when the garbage is collected, how to register to vote, sorting council tax, even just browsing for new shelves.

There's no longer handy Argos or IKEA catalogues left lying around, not even a phone book, the way there were when we last moved. It was a near-invisible change (no longer getting catalogues) but man, I feel helpless without a connection!

Next steps

Sorting intawebs, and the dreaded Trip to IKEA for shelving...
abendgules: (home sweet canvas home)
...to new digs. The estate agency has accepted both our deposit and our references.

We're pitching to buy our own sofa to replace the Nauga-hide specials that apparently 'haven't met fire code'.

This may be a polite way of saying, 'The landlord won't leave a vinyl sofa in a house with a cat', but frankly I don't mind. Leather sofas belong in mens' clubs; vinyl ones belong in the airport...

While searching for actual real wood furniture, vs the laminate chipboard variety a la IKEA, I came across this site: like Gumtree or Craigslist, but only for people who want to outfit a pub. There's even one for secondhand pub equipment.

Makes me wonder if someone was trying to furnish their new pub and said, 'jeez there's gotta be a better way to do this.'

Of course you have to fight your way past the eBay, Gumtree and Amazon listings first.
abendgules: (scribing)
Scriptorium on saturday in Oxford: very fine,  small but perfectly formed attendance. Mixed results on teaching quill cutting, splendid class by [livejournal.com profile] nusbacher on writing in textura quadrata - enough so that I want to try it again.

[livejournal.com profile] badgersandjam was her usual thorough self and ensured it ran smoothly. With the small crowd we wrapped up early-ish, though still managed to miss a train by about 3 minutes and had to wait 25 mins for the next one.

Travelled back w/ her highness and HE Siobhan her lady in waiting, and it was very convivial.

Sunday we were visited and visiting: first by a NZ mate R who dropped off some packing cases; second by Nicholas who is preparing a fine Yule ball and happily walked off with about 12m of lovely linen for banners; third we threw ourselves out the door to meet [livejournal.com profile] aryanhwy and J and Gwennie at Paddington station for a pint and dinner, which worked very well.

G has grown, of course, and her 3 and 4 word sentences are perfectly understandable even to non-parents, which is pretty awesome. The whole process of watching someone learn a new language must be absorbing.

Robert and Joel spent the better part of an hour chewing over stone moulds for pewter-casting, and their foibles, and we rounded out the meal by fondling Ary's glorious new coronet and admiring the beautiful work by Baroness Estrid. Gwen explained it goes on Mommy's head (or was possibly asking if she was going to wear it), but Ary declined to model it in the pub.

We left them at Baker St on the Bakerloo line, where they both remarked on how helpful Londoners are with buggies...at least on weekdays. Less so on weekends.

Robert suggested that regular commuters both sympathised with people trying to negotiate the tube with a buggy, AND would also be well motivated to keep people moving, to reach their own trains. So they are self-interestedly helpful.

We've both stepped in to lift one end of a buggy up and down stairs and escalators, to save some perplexed parent the awkward decision of whether to take the kid or the luggage first up a flight of stairs.

On the weekend, you're just stuck with tourists who are trying to manage a trip themselves; they don't have the same urgent priority to keep moving to get to/from work.

Today Robert hauled many of our broken down cardboard boxes from the attic, and assembled them. He even filled two with one shelf-full of paperbacks.

The move is really happening - though I'm not committing the address to memory til I have a contract in hand.

Even with the move, however, Monday the Gaming Night continues at least this week, and it looks like will continue at our new digs - at least once we have chairs and a table to sit around.

Haggis has been a determined lap hunter today; seeking a lap and gazing up at me expectantly for loves. Either she really missed me on Sat or she can feel the change in the air.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
On the weekend we explored yet another corner of London I'd not seen before. It would be more engaging if there weren't a deadline to find a new place to live.

Nevertheless, it reminded me of how so many communities are in this city - that in a suburb built in the 1930s in NW London could have several waves of migrant generations of Londoners in it: the 'original' locals, the Asian (read: Indian) migrants, the Greek cypriots of the 1970s, the Romanians now moving in.

We toured Queensbury, which has a definite 1930s feel to it in the housing and layout, and then walked south to Kingsbury. Funny how the latter is described as being in the Domesday book, whereas the former is built on a disused airfield, and its history appears to start in 1930s.

The area has connections to early aviation - on the Queensbury highstreet there's a little 'history trail' of sites associated with early pilots, inventors and other folks connected to de Havilland or to the old RAF airbase. The RAF museum is nearby, about 1km walk from the Tube station I use right now.

We ate lunch at a 'Rose restaurant' on the Kingsbury highstreet, which boasted the best of Indian and Chinese vegetarian cuisine, featuring 4 levels of strictness of vegetarianism, up to Jainist (the folks who avoid stepping on insects).

We could do worse than have this as a local; the food is fresh, brilliantly flavoured and reasonably priced - like my favourite kind of Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant, where they waste nothing on decor and table settings, and spend all the money on the food.

It reminded me that there was a Rose cafe in Ottawa (2 branches, in fact), which I loved dearly, that also served dosas and lassis.

While well served by the Tube, this part of London is emphatically not bike friendly the way Hackney is: it's heavily car-dominated. The houses in these 'burbs used to have little front yards, but the majority are now paved to add more parking space, which is what happens when 1 car families become 2 car families. Lots of car traffic.

There are still sidewalks, but I saw only 3 bikes on the whole visit. No green bike lanes, no blue bike superhighways: they're a fiction (nothing to keep the cars out of them), but at least they're an accepted fiction in the city and our current location.

There's a honking great hill between this area and my workplace: it's brisk-walking distance or an easy cycle, except for the damn hill. Will have to invest in maps to find the best way round.

The nearest Sainsbury's are not walking distance but are cyclable, and are both big; we get to test out the more local Morrisons, and will probably at least look in the Aldi, and as usual look past the Iceland, which are both closer still.

We have a line on a 'flat' - in quotes because it's not really a flat, but not quite a conventional house either. We viewed it on a whim on Saturday, and were pleasantly encouraged by the price and the condition of it, after the disappointments in S. London. So far, mention of Haggis has only raised the deposit cost, not the rent, which is also encouraging. Hoping hoping to sort this week.
abendgules: (ohnoes_omg)
Trotted down to S. London this weekend to look at a place. Wasn't a fraction the size suggested by the external photo, and interior was cramped and dingy.

Robert poked his head into the loft and *could see daylight through the slates*.   This gives you an idea of the calibre of rental house available to two professionals in London.

It's like living in the 19th century. Might as well burn money to heat the house. You'd think it was Grade II listed or something but no. It's just lazy.

Agent was desperate to get a deal, though, and offered to negotiate changes like insulating the roof, installing shelves, buying an outdoor shed. This would be thousands of pounds of work, and if the landlady can't be bothered to insulate it on principle, because that's what civilised people do, catch up FFS, why the heck would she agree to do it for us?

We thought about it, briefly, because we're feeling pressed too, but said no.

Walked to another house which looks very promising, but is just about as far from work as I dare consider commuting. If we take this, I either have to work from a different office, or really and truly find another job. Unfortunately even though it's on several agencies' listings we couldn't find anyone to show it to us. We retreated to a pub to regroup; the nearest one was very hospitable.

Because we've been in one place for several years, through several other peoples' moves, we've inherited A Lot of Stuff(tm) and frankly don't want to move it if we don't have to.  On Sunday we opened the house to guests to paw through our collection of fabric, leather, armour bits, scribal supplies, books, and yarn, in an effort to downsize. The actual haul leaving the house was small but I felt better for having tried to share our resources with the shire.

I'm really, *really* hoping Robert can redistribute his spare armour collection before moving day. We haven't seen the floor of one closet full of armour, shields and weapons, in a year.

Today I'm working from home. I woke up with my shins on fire, like I'd run a marathon uphill - I blame South London, which is clearly risky to my physical health. The length of Tooting high street is on a slope, and we went up and down it 4 times before walking to the second place, then trotting up and down Brixton Hill (clue is in the name) to the Tube.

Now scoping the options on today's search, and further confirming my view the estate agents are minions of evil...misleading descriptions, fisheye lens photos, no floorplans...and they charge you for the privilege of dealing with them. Unbelieveable.
abendgules: (15thc_worker)
Knackered.
Worried about housing.
Don't know what will happen after end of March. See 'housing'.
Our favourite neighbours are moving - catsitting services lost. This neighbourhood is going to the dogs. Gotta move. See 'housing'.

Otherwise, some nice stuff happened in the past couple of weeks:

- 2 weekends ago: Dance workshop w/ Mary Collins: 16th c Italian. Hard work, totally awesome. Loved spending the weekend with HE Paul and Lady Anne.
- Last Friday: Afternoon lectures at MoL with curators about Cheapside Hoard. Very useful, very informative. Changed the way I saw the exhibit, literally. Have loads of notes and will try to post.
- Last Saturday: Taught calligraphy 'from scratch' for the first time, didn't fail completely, noone ran away. Still need to refine the teaching, but everyone successfully made letters. Very satisfying.

Sorely bummed I'm not attending Crown to see Margaret de May on vigil, at start of April. See 'housing'...
abendgules: (self-portrait)
I spent a few days with [livejournal.com profile] badgersandjam this week. Her flat is very conveniently located close to a train station, so it's easy to reach. While there's a bit of road noise, it's beautifully naturally lit, and there's no screaming-neighbours noise that we put up with regularly.

We watched the news of flooding carefully - some streets in the Oxford area were closed, and Oxfordshire was expecting snow this week, though I don't know if it actually appeared.

I'm still watching because I'm headed into Berkshire for a dance workshop, and staying in Wokingham, and hoping it doesn't flood.

Looking at the maps of the flooding, I think our former house in Caversham would need sandbags, if not actually be flooded this year.

Ari and I puttered on quills (with me *still* getting the cutting sequence wrong, but will sort for Scriptorium3 next month, I hope), books - her library even impressed Giano, the most dedicated bibliophile I've ever met - and making wire rings.

Her neighbourhood is home to the better sort of charity shop - in fact in Summertown (posh part of Oxford) there was the ordinary Blue Cross shop, and then the 'vintage' shop further down the street. I've never seen original art in a charity shop before, but you can buy it in the Oxfam in Summertown. I'd be very happy shopping on this strip, and fought off the temptation of buying yarn in one.

I enjoy visiting; I also enjoy getting home to my cat-fur-covered comforts, and getting kneaded and purred into cat furniture again. Haggis has stayed close while I've been home. At Ari's flat, I swear I kept seeing movement out of the corner of my eye, and expected it to be a cat.

On the new-place-to-live front, not a lot of progress. I'd hoped to spend the rest of this week viewing, but I'm not getting a lot of response from agents. I'm beginning to get a bit nervous.

Robert commented that some of the agents he phoned were surprised he was calling about places when we don't have to move til end of March - implication being it's way too early to look at what's available.

This helps a little, though I'd still much prefer the matter settled, and honestly can't remember how far in advance we booked in past househunting efforts. I don't really want to spend the coming month gambling on finding somewhere in the nick of time.
abendgules: (attention)
We recently discovered that Haggis is a box cat.

It shows our shameful neglect of her comfort, that it took us a year to bring a good-sized box into the living room for her to colonise. We hang our heads as shabby cat 'owners'.

Boxcat
abendgules: (Default)
Apparently the fan is busted.
But this being England, there's no hope of getting it fixed today.
Nooo, course not.
Engineer has to go away, find the part, come back the next day.
Thankfully we have a friend who can house-sit for the day, saving either Robert or me the task of staying home waiting on an engineer, every householder's favourite pastime.
The only consolation is that it's not something we could have fixed ourselves; it was beyond our small reservoir of Knowledge About How Things Work, and did require a specialist.
Nothing feels stupider than watching someone flick a switch you should have tried, to instantly restart a car/boiler/stove/power tool, and then charging you for the privilege.
The only way it could improve would be to be busted beyond repair, at which time we could get a more power-efficient replacement...
abendgules: (hunh?)
 This working for a living lark has serious drawbacks. Going back to work after hols is one of the biggest. I feel like a slug on downers. 

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