2013 – New Year’s Resolutions

Here are my resolutions from the coming year. There may be some repetition from last year, but I suppose that just means that either I didn’t keep them and I’m giving myself a second chance, or I think I can make greater progress…

  • Lose weight – I feel like I’ve eaten too much rubbish this year, particularly in the last couple of months. Therefore, this resolution can be broken down into smaller parts:
  1. Eat better food (e.g. more fruit and veg, less sugary stuff)
  2. Eat less (Emma and I often struggle to judge portion sizes for two people while cooking and then eat it all, so this can definitely improve)
  3. Exercise more (I can’t motivate myself, which needs to improve)
  • Swear less – it’s becoming a habit, and one I don’t want.
  • Learn something/improve myself – I want to do a course and/or take more flying lessons so that whatever happens at work, I can finish the year feeling as though I have achieved something.
  • Keep the house tidy – I have a boom or bust relationship with cleaning and tidying. I let things slip until I can’t bear them any more and then spend several hours blitzing the place when ten minutes every day would solve the problem.
  • Be more patient – this is in particular reference to my free time and hobbies. When building my models or the rare occasions when I get to paint (for instance) I get to within sight of the end and then rush things, leaving me with something with which I’m not totally happy.
  • Do one thing at a time – this is kind of a follow on from the point above. I rush partly because I’ve reached an interesting stage with something else and I want to clear the decks and concentrate on the more interesting thing. If I’m not in that situation, I might not hurry so much.
  • Spend less on things I don’t need or can’t use for a while – I have something like twenty unmade models sitting in the loft. I finish approximately five a year. Clearly I don’t need to buy more (unless they’re at an unbeatable price perhaps) for quite some time.
  • Throw things away – this will help keep the house tidy! I need to be more ruthless with rubbish. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is transfer it from shelf/surface/drawer/box/loft/wherever to the bin.
  • Do more washing – I don’t pull my weight in this department and I should.

2012 – New Year’s Resolutions

  • Manage my money better
  • Manage my time better
  • Be more organised
  • Be more proactive (this could be linked to ‘manage my time better’)
  • Stand up for myself more
  • Progress at work or get a better/better paid job
  • Do a charity run of decent length (10k+)
  • … and therefore get fit(ter)
  • Do a better job of keeping in contact with my friends from Kent (sorry guys!)
  • Keep a ‘book diary’ (idea shamelessly stolen from Emma)
  • Blog more!

Moving Out

This weekend just gone was my last at Pound Cottage. From now on, any time I spend there will be as a guest (though I dearly hope that my mum won’t treat me that way) and not as a resident.

You will already know that Emma and I are moving in together, and in fact I am already ‘living’ with her at the moment (I’m staying with her family while our house purchase goes through).

While I have, therefore, already ‘moved out’, I have really only ever seen it as a temporary move. Pound Cottage was still my home, and 17, Tythe Close is merely somewhere I am staying, like a prolonged sleepover, or a holiday cottage.

The process of moving, of starting out on our own, and the preparations involved in that have taken up much of my time and mental energy recently, and have meant that I have done all of my thinking from a forward-looking point of view. It wasn’t until I started to relax on Saturday night that I realised that I had done almost no looking back on what I was leaving behind. It was a sad moment when it finally hit home that this was to be my last night of living there.

I was struck by how much I had come to see my home as an anchor. My feelings may well be magnified by the fact that this is the only home I have ever known (my room/house at university was a temporary measure, as Emma’s family home is now). This is the house I was in when I learned to walk, read, write, speak. This is the garden in which I played football endlessly, or so it must have seemed to my parents, whose lawn and flower beds bore the brunt of my relentless running and wayward shots. This is the field in which I had the majority of the few riding ‘lessons’ I have ever had. This is the quiet country lane up which I learnt to drive. That’s the garden wall which gave me the scar above my right eyebrow, and somewhere over there, behind the fruit bushes are the final resting places of Brandy, Peg, Robbie, Poppy, Nina, Smokey the rabbit, a couple of my sister’s guinea pigs, a budgie, and whichever chickens escaped the clutches of the fox long enough to die of natural causes. We probably even buried the goldfish somewhere in that garden.

This house has always been the centre of my life, and I think I will always consider it to be my home, probably even after my family no longer live there. It has always been a refuge from the outside world when I have had enough of school, work, people or travelling, and a base of operations when I am in a more outgoing frame of mind, eager to go to new places, see new sights and meet new people. I had personalised my room (many times over), and soon it will be bare, stripped of everything I want to take with me, and only containing a couple of redundant pieces of furniture and some clutter I have either forgotten or rejected as unnecessary.

The hardest thing though, is leaving behind my family.

Bits and bobs

Firstly, you may have noticed that my header image has changed. Like it? I took it myself, dontcha know! It’s a place called Orlestone Woods at the back of Hamstreet near where I (used to) live. It’s a fantastic place to go walking, particularly if you have a dog you need to exercise. It’s probably too late now, but during spring, around April time, there is a carpet of bluebells and on a sunny day it looks magical. I know that sounds very hippy-ish, and I would hate for you to think I’m going soft in my old age, but it manages to delight even a miserable sod like me.

Secondly, as hinted by both the paragraph above, and the recent posts on house buying, I have moved to Essex! This is a temporary step in the whole relocation process: I am now living with Emma and her family while the purchase of our house goes through. Thankfully, I have a job up here; I transferred within the wide-ranging Waitrose network a month ago, and though there are many things about Waitrose that cause me to sigh, curse and/or roll my eyes, there are also quite a number of advantages to working for them, not least the fact that they can accommodate me in giving me a transfer. It gives me one less thing to worry about while going through the process of moving house, something which regularly tops lists of “most stressful things you’ll ever do”. I’m pretty sure I saw one list somewhere that had placed it ABOVE divorce and the death of a close friend or relative (though I guess if it’s topping the list, it has got to be above those things…)

Finally, things seem to be improving at Forest too. A month ago I was giving up hope of us even making the play-offs, so alarming was our slump in form since February (there was a point, just before we faced QPR, when we could have gone something like four points clear at the top had we managed to win our games in hand etc.), and yet four wins on the trot, with fourteen goals scored and five conceded has secured us another crack at the play-offs. Emma and I went to the last two games of the season, at home to Scunthorpe (a 5-1 win) and away to Crystal Palace (a 3-0 win) and both commented that the games were actually rather dull, despite the fact that the Reds scored eight goals, had a player sent off and secured their play-off place, mainly due to the fact that Forest were in total control of both games, from start to finish. Obviously, Swansea present a much greater challenge than two sides from the bottom of the table with nothing to play for, but there are some encouraging signs to be seen.

House buying (part 3)

Having viewed a number of properties, and found one we liked, we decided to make an offer.

We started off with a figure below the asking price of the house we liked, on the basis that this gave us room to manoeuver during negotiations. The vendors then rejected this offer quite rapidly. Then we made our first mistake. We went back with a significantly improved offer almost immediately, and thereby revealed that we had greater funds than our initial approach had suggested (or so hindsight would imply).

The vendors rejected this offer too, and told us that they didn’t want to accept anything less than the asking price. We had already informed them that we wouldn’t be meeting their asking price as we felt that there was a small amount of work to be done on the house and so we would be deducting the estimated cost of the work from the asking price to create a new ‘ceiling’ on our offers. Their response was to give us a fourteen day deadline, after which they would be putting the house on the rental market.

We came to the conclusion that this was a ploy to rush us into raising our offer to something much closer to their asking price, and so we stayed quiet for those two weeks, and on the last day made them a slightly improved offer. As it turned out, they weren’t bluffing, and without even so much as explicitly rejecting our offer simply informed us that the house was being withdrawn from sale and let out.

Following this, we went back to the viewings.

Ten days ago, things took a turn for the better. We had already arranged a viewing for one house in Braintree, and Emma suggested that while we were in the area, we might as well view a couple of other houses. We arranged another viewing on the off-chance, and fell in love with the house. The following day, we made an offer, and this time, even though it was rejected fairly quickly, the vendors suggested that we were very close to an amount they would accept. We raised our offer, and within half an hour it had been accepted.

This was a complete contrast to the original property – rather than taking nearly three weeks to get nowhere, we had gone from initial offer to agreed price within the space of about four hours. Things were looking up.

House buying (part 2)

Having found a few properties that we liked, Emma and I arranged a few viewings. Due to the fact that I live a hundred miles from the area to which we are looking to move, we arranged four viewings in one weekend.

Before I go into great detail, I will say that house viewing is one of the most dispiriting things I have ever done. You view a house that someone is desperate to sell and you find a number of things wrong with it. Some of these are out of the current owner’s control, others aren’t. Then it strikes you that if a buyer as inexperienced as you can see them, then so can everyone else.

Anyway, the first day we viewed two properties, and in each case they were very nice houses in areas that were less attractive. Rather dispirited, we returned to Emma’s house and rescanned Rightmove for inspiration. On there we found another house we liked the look of, and at short notice we arranged a fifth viewing of the weekend and the first we had found in Braintree.

The next day, the Sunday, we viewed the other three properties. We started with the house in Braintree and liked what we saw very much. We then went on to the next two, in Colchester, and really didn’t like them. Both were owned by single men, and with the greatest respect to them, you could tell. Until then, I wasn’t really a believer in such a thing as a ‘woman’s touch’, but these houses were definitely lacking it.

Charity

As sometimes happens, motive and opportunity collided last night. As I’ve mentioned before, I want to travel around Northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia. I also like to do things for charity, so when Cystic Fibrosis wrote to my mum with details of their fundraising ideas, and included was a trek around Iceland, I thought things were coming together brilliantly.

However, things are never that simple, or so it seems. In order to do this charity trek, I would have to pay an entry fee of £299, and pledge to raise at least £2,800 for the charity.

I understand that they don’t want people going along for a cheap holiday. I also understand that obviously they need a reasonable amount of money for administrative costs (I guess they arrange campsites etc for you), but it seems a little extreme to charge £299 just to enter, and then expect you to raise nearly ten times that amount as a minimum. I have requested more information from them just in case I have missed something important.

The thing that I want to know is what happens if I pay my entrance fee, and then fail to meet the fundraising pledge? Suppose I only raise £1,500 – would they refund my fee and then open my space to someone else, who now has less time to raise the much-needed money? By doing so, they would lose out on the £1,800 I had secured them, and risk my replacement similarly being unable to meet the target. Or do they only want people who can guarantee to raise that sort of money?

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I could get that sort of money raised. I know this isn’t an accurate measure, but I only have about 170 Facebook friends. Add about a dozen relatives into the mix, and then a couple of dozen more co-workers who aren’t on Facebook, and even the most optimistic estimates would suggest that these 200-ish people would each need to sponsor me £14. Clearly, that’s if everyone sponsors me. I think when I did my 10k run last autumn, I had somewhere in the region of 40-50 people (at a generous estimate) sponsoring me. Given that I’m fishing in pretty much the same pool, that’s 1 in 4 people, meaning that in order to hit my target, I would need each of them to sponsor me about £60.

There are ways in which I could try to increase the proportion of people I know who will sponsor me. However, I am reluctant to pester people until they give in. I think charity should (quite literally) be something you do voluntarily, and because you want to, not because someone you know is twisting your arm and you don’t want to offend them by saying no. Too many charities try to bully you into giving through persistent requests either by post or clipboard-wielding people on your local high street. I don’t want to become like that, and I don’t want people to feel guilty for not giving – there are plenty of charities that I recognise as worthy causes that I don’t give to for one reason or another, be it a lack of ready cash, or the fact that I have charities I rank higher on my own list.

In the end, I think charities shoot themselves in the foot by demanding so much. It reduces the number of people who are able, and – more importantly – willing to give their time and money to the cause.