Tuesday, November 29, 2005

AWOL apologies

Have yet again committed that ultimate sin in blogging, of going awol: and on a cat cliffhanger too.

It has been a tricky few days once more, but my cat is now installed in a temporary home at a friend of my boyfriend’s – we gave her moggy valium, which made her shuffle around the room like a drunken sailor, but it did seem to reduce the stress involved for all concerned.

Next day I get a call from boyf as I am driving home, saying that the cat has disappeared. This is a Houdini-like act, because her temporary foster uncle has kept the door closed to the basement room at all time, and thinks she’s nibbled at her food.

After a panic, I did realise that people who have never owned cats don’t realise what TINY spaces they can wedge themselves into, especially when they’re scared. So I headed over there and sure enough, as soon as I stepped into the room and called her name, her little grey head appeared from under a mammoth oak desk. Well, the pedestal bit that is, at most, six inches from the ground. It took her about 60 seconds to limbo her way out, and foster uncle was astonished at her dexterity. She’s a little happier now, has a huge window to look out of, but we daren’t let her out because she might try to walk the 12 miles to Shepherds Bush, her last home, and that wouldn’t really work…

I am sure this isn’t the end of the saga but things are brighter on that front.

I have continued house-hunting, seeing amongst other sights, the rankest bachelor fridge ever witnessed (in a gorgeous, designer house – so bizarre). I also saw a house with a fab loft conversion but, on investigation, the guy totally neglected to get council approval. At least I found out before spending any money but WHY are people so stupid? Oh and the only other house I liked that I saw may have the dreaded S: subsidence.

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to The Hopeless Househunter.

Lovely link of the day:
I realise that posting about cats is of limited appeal to moggy-haters, but this blog chronicles the life of a ginger cat called Fred and I think it’s funny.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The cat strikes back

Word count: don't want to look!

It’s soooo cold. Proper, January-style, freezing fog cold. Not much fun when scraping ice off car windscreen, but then again I am glad to have a car to scrape ice off!

The moggy is causing havoc with my boyfriend’s allergies. It’s been made worse because we were in most of the weekend, making random bits of flat pack furniture (or attempting to: B&Q sold us a package with no fixings so we had an hour’s round trip to get a new one, yawn. No wonder an agent once called my stories ‘suburban’). Though we did get out, driving round looking at prospective homes, trying to spot the railway line/pub/nuclear power station next door. It’s a standing joke now: ‘aha, a railway line, that must mean we’re near the house for sale.’

His symptoms are getting worse and despite me buying an air purifier (no effect whatsoever), allergy-fighting wet wipes for pets, a spray to reduce allergens etc AND banishing the cat to the bathroom most of the time, boyf is coughing and spluttering and generally having a bad time.
So I feel rather lost, and most of my friends either have terrible cat allergies themselves OR have cats already. My one last hope said no so I feel rather lost: maybe I might have to give the cat away after having her since she was eight weeks old. But I don’t think I can bear that.
I am trying to stay positive and optimistic but it’s hard – the last few weeks have been such a rollercoaster, and I really thought I was getting back to some kind of temporary normality, only for this to kick in.

As for writing, have managed about 100 words in the last week (though I did write six scenes for the script for a deadline of yesterday). Need to get back on track with the novel too…

Lovely link of the day:
Apparently mice could hold the answer to eliminating cat allergy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Commuting capers

Word Count: 4,855

I haven't been a commuter for years now. Last time was when I lived in Birmingham, and even that was only a couple of miles, with guaranteed parking at the other end.

Now I have to drive 12 miles each way, in the same direction as thousands of other lemming-like motorists, from the suburbs into wicked Zone 2 of London. It takes between 50 and 70 minutes if I avoid the worst of the rush hours - though I suspect it could be two hours plus when the winter gets bad.

I don't really enjoy driving, but there's something soothing about this journey: I cross the Thames twice, once on Kingston Bridge, and later over Chiswick Bridge, and first thing in the morning it's a magical view, all silver and pink shimmery reflections. There's a short stretch of the drive that's like an enchanted forest, and soon I hope to work out the route that takes me through Richmond Park. It's harder to see the merit once the landscape turns urban, but I am nice and warm in my little car, with Radio 4 voices telling me about environmental damage, and the Thought for the Day. I am also using the journey to think about the motivations of my new characters, maybe I could invest in a little voice recorder as I have a terrible memory and some insight gained on the Hammersmith flyover could be lost to posterity by the time I reach White City.

It IS really tiring, to begin with. I get back to boyf's flat wanting to go straight to bed, but I am sure I will get used to it before long. The next step is beginning my house-hunt again, something I am almost excited about, because the right place MUST be out there somewhere. And in the meantime, the cat is settling down to riverside life.

Lovely Link of the Day:
Here's a gorgeous photo of swans on the Thames.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

All change

Friday was AWFUL. I was up packing till midnight on Thursday and then I got up at 6am. The two guys who were doing the removal were both New Zealanders and very strong, which I guess goes with the territory (of being removers, rather than being Kiwis). One of them had his iPod nicked out of the van while they were loading it – maybe I don’t really mind leaving my bit of London after all…

I watched as they loaded my life into three containers, and then, once they’d gone, I cleaned all the gunk from under the fridge and elsewhere, discovered a damp patch I’d never seen before, and finally went to load half of my essentials – including my diaries since the age of 13 – into my Ka (boyf was taking other half in his TT). It took 110 mins for the man to come from ‘First Call’ (huh! Am going back to AA next time) with jump leads and when I explained that before driving to the garage I needed to lock my door on my flat for the last time, do a final check etc and it’d take 10 mins, he said he couldn’t wait that long! Talked him round (well, refused to sign his annoying form which meant he couldn’t go) and he followed me to my garage where lovely Keith recharged the battery.

Meanwhile boyf – despite cat allergy – had to take my cat off in his car (I didn’t think she’d be very happy among the ramps and grease of the garage). Once my batteryas back on form, I sat in traffic for an hour on my way to my boyfriend's and got a phone message that the cat had gone beserk through stress, weed everywhere over new white carpets, and was in a corner, howling…

So when I finally fought my way to boyf’s place, I had to spend an hour on my knees trying to mop up said cat pee and coax soaking wet moggie to safety. Luckily my friend is South West London’s prime stains expert – she’s even written a book about it – and she advised me on the answer (biological washing powder and cold water) to feline urine problems.

Collapsed after that.

In the midst of this, the idiot vendors of the house I was buying demanded I tell them how much I wanted off the property for the major structural flaws they’d already fibbed about. I couldn’t exactly drop everything to go to a fax machine to retrieve the quote from my builder who'd only been that same afternoon, so asked them to wait till Monday (yesterday). They grudgingly said yes…

And then yesterday, we got the contracts back in the post with a letter from their solicitor saying they’d changed their mind about selling – ie, they must have instructed their lawyer on Friday to pull out. They couldn’t even tell the truth about that!

To be honest, it’s a relief. I didn’t want to be in a house needing urgent repairs and felt better about not having to agonise further. And I am now a chain-free, deposit-heavy buyer.
I do believe there’s a better house out there for me… and in the meantime, it’s time to comfort shop.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

About to enter a broadband free zone

Amazingly, boyf lives without broadband. I know. Weird.

I will try to blog but things like deciding whether to move to dodgy house/trying to find non-dodgy house/um, writing fourth book, are likely to take priority over the next week or two.

Thanks for reading and I promise normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Lovely Link of the Day:
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps... Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.

The rest of the lyrics to the superlative Always Look on the Bright Side of Life can be found here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Now, officially, I despair

It's not looking good.

The certificate that was 'on its way' was, in fact, not. Because basically there is no support for the chimney breast. Apparently the sellers are shocked and mortified. Well, maybe they are. Or maybe they were trying to call my bluff last week because they knew all was not as it seemed. Who knows?

I feel almost calm and wonder if I should take this as a sign from fate. Maybe property prices are about to crash and I will do better to hang on in there, rent for a bit and then buy out of London. I must say that it's certainly made me feel incredibly wary of buying anywhere. There may be negotiations to be had about putting in RSJs or other support but I deliberately looked for a house that didn't need major structural work so to have to do work to make up for other people's omissions is not exactly a tempting prospect...

Haven't got the energy for lovely link of the day. Will be up to my neck in boxes tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Kate x

Saturday, November 05, 2005

And then it got worse still...

Script word count: (just to prove I am doing SOME writing) 12,496

Yesterday was, without a doubt, one of the top three most stressful days of my life to date. In fact I can't think what the other two would have been but for the sake of journalistic accuracy, I am hedging slightly...

I worked on the TV script all morning then drove to my solicitor in Buckinghamshire (it's one of those fixed price ones and Bucks is cheaper than London). There was some doubt about one issue to do with a lean-to, but I was prepared to take that on trust... however, at the eleventh hour, something we'd been told would be there - basically, a document to prove that some structural work done years ago is safe - wasn't there. Yet the sellers were insisting that if we didn't exchange by 5pm last night, they were pulling out.

It was an impossible situation, and one of those where the indisputable benefits of buying on your own - being able to choose the house YOU want, and the decor and location and so on - disappeared. I felt so alone. Boyfriend and his dad, who is a builder, were both very supportive and even the estate agent tried to sort it, but ultimately it was my decision, over the largest amount of money I have ever spent.

So at 2pm everything seemed fine, at 3pm it wasn't but there might have been a solution, and by 4pm, time was running out. At 4.50pm there was a glimmer of hope in the form of an offer from the other side of a 'conditional exchange' - basically that I would be committed to buy UNLESS the sellers didn't produce this certificate before completion, in which case I was allowed to pull out. Phew. It seemed perfect, my solicitor was just picking up the phone to say yes when....

... at 4.54pm, their solicitor said they'd withdrawn that offer. It was unconditional exchange or deal's off.


I tell you, this was the low point of a very difficult few weeks. But this was now looking fishy: if they were confident they were getting this certificate, why withdraw? Their solicitor said it was because they were fed up. So fed up (I guess this means, spitting blood) that the solicitor wasn't prepared to ring them back. Hmmm.

I thought about it for five minutes (must admit there was a moment or two of tears in the loo) and decided I couldn't be held to ransom like this. If this certificate never arrived - or, worse still, the council issuing it condemned the work - I would be wholly liable and face enormous problems when I came to sell. The surveyor had warned against it, my boyfriend (who works in construction) and his dad warned against it. So did Jo, the conveyancer. So, regretfully, I had to get her to call them and say 'either conditional exchange today, or maybe we can wait till we get the certificate.' But that would have meant further delays to the moving-in date - and anyway they had said it was today or never.

I felt heavy-hearted but resolute. Dick Whittington-esque visions of me and cat on street loomeed again, but you know what, it felt the only decision I could have taken.

Three minutes later, Jo reappeared. They'd agreed! Hoorah!!!!!!!!!! I could have kissed the conveyancer but I didn't. She didn't look like that kinda gal.

Of course, I won't believe it's over till I have the keys but hopefully we now all just want to move forward.

Came home, had a few drinks with boyf, and then got back to script. The move is still not 100 per cent until they produce the certificate, assuming they intend to, but so long as it's what we all want, it should be OK. Apparently problems like this are becoming increasingly common as the regulations have been tightened up so much.

Moral of the story? I don't know. If I had known how difficult this was going to be, I wouldn't have offered on the property. I've tried to see it from their point-of-view, but it's hard because I feel I 'gave' on quite a few issues where they seemed unwilling to budge. But hey, I am sure they have a different opinion. I hope we'll both be happy with our new homes and it'll be forgotten soon.

I also think the legal process doesn't help things, but on the day, Jo and her colleague were stellar and clear and if it all happens, I think there'll be chocolates heading their way. Oh, one definite lesson - if you get major work done in your house PLEASE keep all the paperwork. It would have saved so much hassle if the people THEY bought from had provided original documentation...

Finally, thanks for the comments on my last post - it was great to know people were thinking of me...

Lovely Link of the Day:
Maybe at last it's time to go home shopping! Not that I have any cash...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Just when I thought it couldn't get worse...

...it did...

So, you know, as far as I was concerned we were chugging along nicely towards the moving day we'd agreed on, ie a week on Friday.

Then yesterday, out of the blue, I discover that in fact the vendors wanted two clear weeks notice between exchange and completion - not quite sure why, as they're moving into rented accommodation. And it's non-negotiatable.

I was a mass of seething righteous indignation. They were basically presenting me with this fait accompli: agree to their terms, which means me and cat being out on the streets of London, Dick Whittington style (oh, OK, staying at boyf's riverside apartment, so not far off), with all my stuff in rat-infested storage. OR give up the money I've spent so far, and try to find a new place, at the quietest time of the year in terms of property deals.

I was very much veering towards doing the latter. Silly me, I have always played fair with property, and I hated the idea of being messed about like this. I couldn't even bring myself to blog yesterday, plus I am up against a very acute work deadline which has meant working 8-10 hours a day on a writing project - more than most people can manage. It all felt utterly out of control.

But this morning, the mist cleared. The asking price has been lowered by enough to placate me, in return for 7 days of inconvenience. But next time I talk about moving, PLEASE, please, someone remind me of this. I am already prematurely grey.

Lovely link of the day:
At least judging from this forum, I am not alone.