Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Year in Reading 2019

It's that time of year again; time to reminisce over what has been, over the trials and tribulations, over the successes and achievements, and most importantly, to review my year in books. I realise I disappeared this year after house buying stuff took over, and it's been a tough few months to end the year, with too many changes happening all at the same time, and really ganging up on me, but through it all there's been some bloody good books and whilst my total number is lower this year, there has been some quality, literary experiences that have helped see me through to the end of the decade with a smile, a grimace, an adventure and an escape route. So without further ado, here goes my list:

Books I Read in January

  1. Convenience Store Woman - Suyaka Murata (Kindle)
  2. Nightbird - Alice Hoffman (Kindle)
  3. Girl Missing - Sophia Mckensie (Kindle)
  4. Heroes and Villains - Angela Carter
  5. Venivamo tutte per mare (Italian translation) - Julie Otsuka
  6. Circe - Madeline Miller
I started off the year in a flurry of kindle books, and I just realised that all 6 books I read were written by women. Woo hoo! Now I feel a lot of people would have expected Circe to be my favourite book, and whilst I did like it a lot, I preferred her previous book, Song of Achilles. Just my humble opinion. But taking the coveted best book of the month was my first Italian novel of the year, which was translated from Japanese, and was a beautiful yet devastating account of Japanese women that were essentially sold into marriage and shipped off to America, to be married to Japanese men over there, after the war. It was brutal and savage and written in such a poetic and dreamy way, that I couldn't stop reading. Also, my partner's 89 year old (now 90 year old) Great Auntie lent it to me from her vast collection of books. She likes that I can read in Italian now. 

Books I Read in February
  1. Those who Leave and Those who Stay Behind (Neopolitan Novels #3) - Elena Ferrante
  2. The Unremembered Girl: A Novel - Eliza Maxwell (Kindle)
  3. After the Fire - Will Hill (Kindle)
  4. Inferior: How Science got Women Wrong - Angela Saini
A mixture of books here; the continuation of a saga, a mystery novel, a YA based upon real events and a non fiction book researching the science behind the genders and whether women really are hard wired to cook and nurture the young, spoiler alert, no we're not. It was tough to pick a top choice, but in the end it went to Elena, whoever she may be, because to keep up the level and quality of the writing across so many books and to make you care so much about the characters is simply mind blowing. 

Books I Read in March
  1. The Yellow Room - Jess Vallance
  2. Unbecoming - Jenny Downham
  3. The Secret Life of Bletchley Park - Sinclair McKay
As you can probably tell, house hunting was taking over my life and diminishing my time for books, but I still managed a couple of quality YA offerings that I had found in my local bookshop: the Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town, and a non fiction book all about Bletchley Park, which we actually managed to visit later in the year. This book wins best book because of the true tales and the research that went into it, and also because they didn't sweep under foot the true nature and impact of the work done by women there, they celebrated it! 

Books I Read in April
  1. NOS4R2 - Joe Hill (Kindle)
  2. Becoming - Michelle Obama
  3. Desperation - Stephen King
I just realised poor Michelle ended up in a horror sandwich, this month, the month that we went to see her at the O2. Wow! What a woman. But also, what a horror sandwich. Joe Hill's epic novel really hit all the right buttons for me. There were scares, but there was also a lot of heart and emotion. You became so attached to the characters and whilst it felt in a similar style to some of his dad's earlier horror work, it was still a stand alone novel, spanning years, and it was so intense and wildly epic. I loved it! Mr King himself didn't do a bad job of Desperation, but I'm afraid there were a few too many spider descriptions for my liking. 

Books I Read in May
  1. Spontaneous - Aaron Starmer
  2. Have you Eaten Grandma? - Giles Brandreth
  3. The Great Passage - Shion Miura (Kindle)
  4. Roar - Celia Ahern
  5. Emma (Italian Translation) - Jan Austen (Kindle) Started but carried over to June...
A YA novel about spontaneous combustion, a grammar book, another book translated from Japanese - this one about creating the perfect dictionary - and a book of short stories all about women and their internal and external struggles, and how they overcome them. It was a strange month for reading, but interesting all the same. I also started reading an English classic, translated into Italian, which was a slight mistake as it was too dialogue driven and half the time I couldn't figure out who was talking and it was all very confusing and slightly irritating, but Roar gets the top dog award for its thirty stories all about women. You might not identify with all thirty, but I found a lot of them that were so relevant to me, and it is a great book. Thanks Celia. 

Books I Read in June
  1. Emma (Italian Translation) - Jane Austen (Kindle) Finally finished. It took a while!
  2. Slay on Tour - Kim Curran
No contest here for top book of the month - sorry Jane but it doesn't translate well, and I'm also no where near fluent, so there was a lot of looking up words and general confusion - Kim Curran's second installment of Slay is just as good as the first and left me wanting more. So come on Kim, when are we having Slay 3?

Books I Read in July
  1. Qualcuno sta uccidendo i piu grandi cuochi di Torino - Luca Iaccarina
  2. Indigo Donut - Patrice Lawrence
  3. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain - Oliver Sacks
  4. You - Caroline Kepnes (Kindle)
My friend lent me another book in Italian, which translates as, Someone is killing all the cooks in Turin. It was fairly easy to read and like a lot of Italian books had various murders in it, and was a little bit bonkers at the end, but still, good practise, and way easier than Jane Austen. After watching the Netflix series, You, I really wanted to read the book, but also needed to leave a few months between the viewing and the reading. I had wanted to read Indigo Donut for a while after hearing Patrice talk about it at YALC a couple of years ago, and I was not disappointed. A great YA book, and I'm not going to give anything away, just read it, you won't regret it. But my top book of the month goes to Oliver Sacks and his wonderfully witty and intelligent book about music and the human condition. How music can move us, haunt us and heal us. Highly recommended. 

Book I Read in August
  1. The Last: Hanna Jameson
  2. Le Assaggiatrici - Rosella Postorino
Again, slim pickings this month, but we did move house in July and went on holiday in August, which is where I bought the second book. I enjoyed both books: Hanna Jameson's murder mystery with an apocalyptic spin was well paced and captivating, though I found the ending lacking, and Rosella Postorino's chilling tale of the women who tasted Hitler's food at the end of the war when he was holed up in a bunker, was all kinds of uncomfortable, but in a good way. It wasn't an easy read but it was something I never really knew about and whilst, fiction, it was obviously based on true events and research. I learned a lot of new words, especially body parts in some of the steamy sections. Ha ha. 

Books I Read in September 
  1. Paper Aeroplanes - Dawn O' Porter
  2. Poor Unfortunate Souls - Serena Valentino
  3. The Science of Storytelling - Will Storr
  4. Leopard - Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  5. My Sister the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite (Kindle)
  6. SAGA Vol 8 (Re-read) - Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan
  7. SAGA Vol 9 - Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan
Wow, I actually shifted some material this month. Look at that, 7 titles. I find this month the hardest to choose my favourite for, but after some deliberation, it goes to Oyinkan Braithwaite's tale of the bonds of sister hood. Blood is most definitely thicker than the truth in this fantastic novel. Check it out. 

Books I Read in October
  1. The Story of the Lost Child (Neopolitan Novels #4) - Elena Ferrante
  2. Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz (Kindle)
  3. Still Waters (Sandham Murders #1) - Viveca Sten (Kindle)
To be honest, I didn't love the Viveca Sten's crime novel. I found it quite boring and kept plodding on simply to know who did it. After seeing the film, Stories to Tell in the Dark, I wanted to read the book, but it's actually a collection of very short stories to tell each other in the dark and is aimed at younger children, but there were some interesting ideas and it was quite witty. I did love the film though and would love a second one. So Ms Ferrante wins again. It was so fulfilling to reach the end of such an epic set of books. If you haven't started them yet, give it a go, it is not all hype, it is phenomenal writing. 

Books I Read in November
  1. The Cuckoo's Calling (The Strike Novels #1) - Robert Galbraith
  2. Music and Singing in the Early Years - Zoe Greenhalgh
  3. The Silkworm (The Strike Novels #2) - Robert Galbraith
  4. Music with the Under Fours - Susan Young
As you might tell here, my very good friend lent me the Strike novels and I also started a new course, so had to intersperse my pleasure reading, with research for my course. Not surprisingly the text books don't make the top book cut, but oh my god, I am now completely obsessed with Robert Galbraith AKA J.K's new creation. I love the Strike novels, and as someone who has never been a massive fan of crime as a genre, I could not stop with these. Love, love, love, and I can't thank my friend enough. I love a good lending library. 

Books I Read in December
  1. Career of Evil (Strike Novels #3) - Robert Galbraith
  2. Lethal White (Strike Novels #4) - Robert Galbraith
  3. The Princess Bride - William Goldman (Kindle)
  4. The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley (Kindle - currently at 87%)
I tried to put another text book between the remaining Strike novels, but I got bored and abandoned it. The lure was too big. I needed to know whether Robin actually went through with it, no spoilers,  and now I need book 5, so get on with it, please. Pretty please. I am nice, really. I am hoping to finish the Hunting Party before the end of the day, which is seeming less and less likely, but I am loving it. Also, it was fun to finally read the Princess Bride. And because it's the end of the year and I'm too lazy to choose between the two Strike novels, they both achieve best book, because they are brilliant! I feel in safe hands, as I always did when reading Harry Potter. More please! 

And so that's it, a shorter list than usual but around 48 books, 4 of which were read in Italian, so not too shabby considering more than half of the year was taken up with house stuff. The plan for 2020 is as always, more books, in a whole host of genres, and definitely to get a shift on with my own books. No more excuses, no more procrastination - okay, a little less procrastination is more realistic - and write, write, write and read, read, read. 

I hope you've had a good reading year. If you have any books that have rocked your year, then let me know, especially if they are not on my list. I am always looking for recommendations. 

And so it's the end of another year, and not only that but another decade. Eek. I hope you all have a great night whatever you do and all the best for the New Year. 

Rants out. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

House Hunting 4: This Shit Just Got Real

We exchanged last week and we have a moving date. The movers are booked. This shit just got real. I've been quiet since my last rant, because we made an offer and it was accepted and then things started to happen and it was the furthest we'd ever been along the process, and then everything after that was just me waiting for the catch, waiting for the moment when we were gazumped or screwed over, and when that didn't happen, I somehow became even more worried. It's ridiculous and it's taken over our lives but it's finally happening.

So now, we have to start packing things away and begin the lengthy process of saying goodbye to Flat 19: our home, our sanctuary for the last decade. And while it will be hard and there will be tears, I have to say there are certain things I am not going to miss about sharing a building with others and also having your building surrounded in scaffolding for the last 18 months.

  • Builders. I will not miss the builders. Their dirty footprints in every communal area. Their high vis jackets whizzing past the fifth floor window from 8am. The drilling. The mess. The fact that they can't clear up after themselves. The fact that the balcony is covered in half an inch of dust and debris from all the drilling. The fact that they start something and then leave it half done for four days. Mmm pink walls. 
  • Scaffolding. I will not miss the bars and grids and mesh and general lack of natural light diminished by the scaffolding. And the endless lies: oh we'll take down the scaffolding in April, in May, oh look it's still up and it's the 21st June. Lies! They have just less than three weeks to make me happy and give me my view back. If only for a day. That would really give us the best farewell. Fingers crossed. 
I have to say, as much as the scaffolding annoyed me, this was one of my favourite moments.
  • The bin store. I will not miss the bin store. Having to pick up other people's rubbish bags because they can't be bothered to actually open the bins and put it in themselves, is one thing I am happy to leave behind. The people who can't squash down a cardboard box to recycle rather than just chuck away, is another thing I will definitely not miss. And then there's the people who forget their keys and just leave the rubbish bags outside the door, so someone else can deal with it - usually me. Because I don't want to live in some gross, rubbish strewn, rat infested hole. I did actually see a couple of rats the other week, so I have been reducing my trips to the bin store and collecting up a few bags worth of rubbish and recycling before I venture in. Just have some respect for the other people that share your building! It's not a difficult concept. 

So, I am actually looking forward to it being just us and if things are dirty and gross it's our fault. There's no speculation on who left the rubbish there and who broke the front door or the lift and why we've had about seven different doors since we lived there and subsequently seven different keys. I have a box full of now defunct keys, which I think I am going to do something with, as a shrine to Flat 19. Watch this space. I will also be happy with my own wheelie bin, recycling bin, and what I'm most excited about: food waste caddy, because we don't have a food waste bin in our building but we will at the house. Yay! I will be in control of the rubbish and recycling and they will be the best kept bins in Newham. :-)

What I will miss is Camden. It is such an amazing borough and the only borough of London that I have ever lived in. But change is good right? :-) And I'm sure Newham will help us to discover more of the City we love and call home.

To anyone else out there trying to buy or sell, good luck and breathe and persevere. You'll get there. And by the way, removal companies are more expensive than you think, even when you're only moving from a one bed flat, so factor that in your budget, because, wow, things are expensive. And beds and mattresses! Don't get me started on those. That's a whole other rant. Enjoy the sunshine.

Rants out.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Eurovision 2019

Yes! It's that time of year again. It's mid May and you've just sat through 25 songs from European countries and one from Australia. And now it's time for the blog. Oh yes. And today I was joined by not only my partner in life and crime, but also my parents, visiting from up North. It's a Eurovision party.

Let's get straight to it. I really liked the opening. I liked the aeroplane and all the action movie sequences, with jeeps in the desert and drones flying and all the bumpf. Although, when they started to depart the plane and there were so many solo people, I was worried it would be a little too serious and there would be too many ballads. I was mostly right on that front, and yet, it wasn't a bad evening, all in all.

1. Malta: A pretty good voice to open with. Fun and young, but she is not a dancer. She was scared to move. Not much scathing to write about this one, but it will be easily forgotten. The curse of going first.

2.Albania: Far too serious. There are no words - no, literally, there were no words. Just lots of weird vocalising and yodelling. I'm convinced she was actually performing some sort of witchcraft, with all those hand movements and the fire. She was seriously pitchy at points too.

3. Czech Republic: So. Many. Teeth. So very, very, 'youthful'. They are the young Wiggles. The drummer is all over the place and I'm convinced none of them are actually playing those instruments. Plus what's with the weird London accents. It sounded like the Kooks. I appreciate the knee slide, but you really need to sing better.

Image result for the wiggles

4.Germany: Moody. Pitchy. But what a 90's throw back. I half expected the rest of All Saints to walk out. I was also having Buffy flashbacks with that black top. Nice sentiment but it was bad.

5. Russia: It's his Broadway audition. So intense and boring. I like looking at myself in mirrors. 'I see rain from your fingerprints.' Just an interesting lyric I managed to note down. My dad liked this one.

6. Denmark: Cute. Not a confident mover. It went all stereotypical French at one point, with all the black and white, stripes and an almost mime feel. Cheesy. Sickly. Vomity.

7. San Marino: Dentist. This is hands down the worst song in the competition. He is a creepy old man who should never sing ever, because he can't sing. He kept using the Batman voice and quite frankly he should stick to his day job, though I wouldn't let him anywhere near my mouth. I'm shocked this song took him 5 mins to write. I wish I could unsee this.

Image result for ya basic

8. North Macedonia: Too low for you (intro). She was totally channelling her inner Maria/Celine. Good dress. Good voice, but a bit too intense.

9. Sweden: Great voice. Good song. What I like the most is that he put on his best tracky pants and tucked in his t-shirt. He really made an effort to be smart. Now the backing vocalists were amazing and it was all about the wide leg pants and the earrings. Yes! Shame he messed up one of the final notes.

10. Slovenia: BORING! Awkward and creepy and weird. Too much eye contact. Very antisocial.

Image result for boring

11. Cyprus: She went for the thigh high, latex leggings and chain mail knickers option, to make up for her overly sharp voice. I did appreciate the gangsta cowboy backing dancers. That was very Eurovision.

12. Netherlands: Bookies favourite. Er, really? I think he has a stalker level Chris Martin obsession, because that song was essentially a B side that never made it on to the last Coldplay album. Intense look at the camera. Bit pitchy. Did not like.

13, Greece: Female musketeers. Finally! A bit Florence-y. What an interesting voice. I'm just walking around with a massive inflatable ball. But then I lost the big ball. Where did it go? The backing vocals were amazing and completely off the chain. Yes! We like this!

14. Israel: Too much. It's supposed to be fun, why are you dragging me down? He looked a lot like Sacha Baron-Cohen auditioning for a Broadway show. It was pretty terrible though.

Image result for sacha baron cohen

15. Norway: I love this! Sci-fi pop. It's Aqua all over again. I didn't write much for this but I bloody loved it.

16. UK: He's a pitchy bugger at the beginning. Why didn't he transpose it up a semi-tone? Anyhoo, the rest of it was great. The song is good, the staging is simple and the backing vocals were great. Well done! Just work on the intro. Fingers crossed someone takes pity on us, for a few points. 

17. Iceland: Oh yes! This is what we've all been waiting for. This is Eurovision. This is 6 guys in latex and a guy in a gimp mask with a hammer. This is terrifying and amazing. Who needs a ballad when you can literally live your Berlin S and M club dreams, with some sort of Rammstein/Slipknot/Marilyn Manson hybrid. Wonderful nonsense. LOVE IT!

Image result for iceland eurovision 2019

18: Estonia: This seems so vanilla after Iceland. Ya Basic! It's like skipping through a meadow of cheese. He's ever so slightly in love with himself and very pitchy. Ya boring.

Image result for ya boring

19. Belarus: So young. Bendy guys. Her voice is all over the place, but she's 16. I have to admit I switched off part way through. Bad.

20: Azerbaijan: 3D printing his heart 'cause he hasn't got one. What octave are you singing? Where are you in the mix? You are not captivating my attention.

21: France: Diversity is our message. And man that ballerina could spin. I liked it. Not a spectacular song but a great message and very much in the Eurovision spirit. Well done France.

22: Italian: A polished performance. A good song. I could understand a few words here and there. We quite liked it. Clap along everyone.

23: Serbia: One leg out. It went all intense and ballad-y again. The girl can sing though. I'm surprised she's not constricted by that choker. My mum said she was very Elsa and I agree. it was a bit gothic Elsa, or Frozen does Eurovision. I was slightly concerned for her as she seemed to be superglued to the floor.
Image result for gothic elsa

24: Switzerland: Oh God, the strut. I dislike him but the song is catchy.

25: Australia: The Ice Queen of Narnia? It's all very disconcerting. Are they on stilts? Wait a minute, where is that pole stuck? I think that's how she gets the high notes. Weird AF! It was very Wizard of Oz.

26: Spain: Ikea advert. Energetic, happy and cheesy AF. Look at all these bright colours and lights. We're so fun. We clearly work on children's TV.

Well that's it. We survived another night of Euro mayhem. Despite my initial worry at the amount of ballads, there was actually a great, weird, to ballad, to off the chain, ratio.

My top three were:


Andrea also liked Italy and France. My dad liked the Russian entry and my Mum liked Greece and Sweden. As always, I'm sure none of my choices will even get close to a win, but thanks to them for the entertainment. Well Done to the UK entry who did a great job, and thanks to Madonna for once again proving what I've been saying for years: she can't sing for shit.

Enjoy the results and let me know your favourites.

Rants out.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

House Hunting 3: This Time It's Personal

When I last left you, with our offer and the happiness, it lasted a total of 6 days before they pulled out because someone was slightly further along in their sale than we were. Wankers. Unfortunately, that meant we were back to square one, with nothing we liked and everyone else stealing our houses out from under us.

Solace came in the form of the open house for our flat, which attracted big numbers, a few of which pulled out on the day and some whom never turned up, but of the nine that did, we had vibes from at least eight, the ninth guy being so tall I'm not sure he could have coped with our new build, tiny ceilings. It was actually really nice, showing people around yourself and hearing all the enthusiasm, despite the scaffolding. I know it's an amazing flat, but to hear strangers realising that after a few minutes, was just lovely. We knew we were likely to get a few offers from them. And we did.

Then A was on qualification leave, so was out of the country for most of the next month. I did a couple of viewings by myself, but they were mainly wasted trips, though I guess good to alleviate my curiosity. And the subject then turned to "projects". I have made my thoughts on this very clear, from the start. I did not want a "project", as I did not want to spend months with builders in the house and more scaffolding and mess and crap. I wanted a house we could pretty much move into, without much to do. But there was very little making its way to the market - probably Brexit's fault, most things are - and we were now in a mini panic, due to having a buyer for the flat.

Now there are projects and then there are horror shows, and we saw a couple of both. We saw massive homes, that looked liked squatter dens, and a house I am tempted to write a horror novel about. I mean, talk about your discarded dentists chairs...Eek! But this weekend we actually saw a couple of projects, that were nice and big and actual places you could walk in without grimacing, and I thought, maybe I could do this. Maybe I could deal with knocking half the walls down and....Wait, no, I still don't really want to do it. But if we were desperate, I guess we'd have to do it.

One thing you don't want to do, is rush what is probably the biggest purchase you'll ever make in your life. And rushing, I feel like we were. But then, after the Brexit delay, a few properties seem to make their way onto the market and we were starting to get excited again. In the mean time we had also been contacted about the second house we had put an offer on in February, the one with the island in the kitchen. The estate agent said the sale was likely falling through and would we still be interested. And I have to say, my initial response was: no, fuck off, you chose to shaft us last time, why should we jump at the chance to buy your house now?

We saw two properties on Saturday that were three bed, bonny houses and each had their own quirks and interesting bits. One of them I really fell in love with, though A quickly decided that it needed loads of work that would have to be done immediately. I think he thinks we are way more fancy than we are. But still, I preferred the quirky one, with pipes instead of a banister and extra windows to let in light, much more than the prettier, well kept one. I think perhaps, this says a lot about me. We came away, excited, exhausted, and completely confused. How do you make this decision?

Cut to yesterday, and we start to make an offer on the one I like. I know, shock horror. And we negotiate and come out at what we think is reasonable. Today, the seller agrees to our terms and we to his, and woo hoo, we've got a house - subject to survey. Are you waiting for the other shoe to fall because it's coming...

Literally half an hour after A sent the email, we get word that the house we had previously bid on, and lost, is available. I mean, have they hacked our feckin' emails? Half an hour! So now, A is in turmoil, because he wants that one, the fancy one that is four bed - not that we need it. And I now hate everything and can't concentrate on anything and just wish I could disappear for a bit. And I forgot to mention, that the smaller house that I want, is chain free, but the other one is in a chain. So basically, it could all come crashing down around us and then we'll have lost both.

Yay! Woo hoo! Isn't being a grown up, swell.

Rants out.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

House Hunting 2: The Offers

When last I ranted, we had made on offer on a house with a mahoosive and truly magnificent kitchen, and we were in for the wait. And wait we did, but the owners were arseholes and after their property being on the market for three months already and ours being the only asking price offer submitted, they eventually decided they wanted more money and then went, nah, we'll remortgage thanks. Buggers.

Unfortunately, that kitchen has ruined me and now all other kitchens will be compared to that one, and inevitably be inferior, and that will always be our 'one that got away.' Sob. And so we returned to the drawing board, or in this case, the map on rightmove and found our next few viewings. We had some good ones and some not so great ones and some, oh, that looked way better on the photographs but quite shit in person. And some, oh dear, they have way over priced that - because I am now an expert and can give these carefully assessed observations. And some, oh that has a big basement, that could be interesting - and also full of spiders, and it would need to be dug out and probably cost us 6 months and 60 grand to do it. And we had viewings on weekends and weekdays and even on Valentine's Day and unfortunately that was one of the shite ones and I'd had a massively long day at work and just wanted to eat something.

But there were some lights ahead in the tunnel and we found a few beauties tucked away, again in the form of the massive terraced house. We're talking four bedrooms, attic conversion already done, at least two bathrooms and a garden and a short walk to a beautiful park etc etc. Not too shabby. However, these 'guide' prices on properties are starting to become annoying. You are giving just under asking price and then being told that actually they expect to get asking price or higher, and it's like, in this market? Are you serious? And also, WTF?! People always make offers lower than the price listed and then go higher if they need to, but what is all this demanding the price or higher malarkey? I don't get it!

Meanwhile, we had to prepare the flat for going on the market, which involved being screwed over by the valuer and eventually reasoning with them to make them see they were wrong. Obviously A dealt with that, though I did have to spend an hour with the extremely posh back up valuer we hired to get a second opinion on, which was scary. He immediately called out my accent and then explained he had family in Bolton. But I have literally never been in a room with someone so posh. Luckily he was also lovely and we ended up having a good chinwag.

Then came the de-cluttering which involved hiring a storage unit and getting rid of about fifteen boxes of stuff, plus other random crap and two of the three extra keyboard stands we own - who knows - and the guitar stand. Now that was a stressful morning. I moved so many boxes that day, it may have been the most upper body strength I've ever displayed in one go. We hired a van and were at the storage place at 8am, as they opened. Once off loaded, van returned and Andrea off to work, I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon cleaning the bathroom. But when I say cleaning, I mean deep cleaning. I spent hours getting rid of expired products, cleaning out bottles to be put in recycling, and breathed in far too much bleach for one day.

The next day we had the photographer coming at 1pm and so I spent all morning cleaning and moving things and generally making the place look spectacular, and when he called to say that he was running a bit late, I rejoiced because it meant I could finish off and quickly wash my face before he arrived. And when he walked in and said: 'Wow, this looks great for photographs.' I knew that despite the fact that I hated everything and never wanted to clean anything again in my life, that it had been worth it. The photos were great and now it's a case of keeping it tidy. Most of the spices now live in a small suitcase so it gives the illusion that we have a tidy spice shelf, and most of the tupperware things are stuffed in a large suitcase. We have to keep going to find things as we need them.

We have an openhouse planned for this weekend where we hope to wow everyone with our beautiful flat, despite the building still being covered in scaffolding and the communal areas being a mess and the balcony works not finished and... I could go on. Maybe I'll bake some treats to distract them. It's worth a shot.

And so, back to the houses. We found one. We liked it a lot. We had two viewings within the space of 3 days, and we were fairly certain we would put in an offer. It was very nicely done and even had a kitchen island - the dream - a wine fridge and beautiful views from the annex bedroom. But on the same day we also found another new property and were the first to view it, and the downstairs was amazing! Two massive reception rooms, a kitchen with so much space I could have a dance lesson in there. A window seat, a conservatory, a massive garden with grass plus decking and a brick barbecue. But this only had 3 bedrooms as the attic and basements had not been converted. So whilst it was beautiful, we opted first to put an offer on the bigger one, mainly due to less hassle not having to do the extension ourselves.

And we entered a bidding war and we lost. Yay! The joys.

But alas, yesterday we made an offer on the other house, and they have accepted. Eek. Argh. And other noises. And so A has already looked into architects and loft conversion specialists. Of course. And so we have to do that thing where you don't get your hopes up, but they are clearly up, because it could still be taken away or fall through, or no one may want our flat, but at the moment, we may have a house and it may or may not have a red door. Fate?!

I didn't know what to do with myself, as I only found out about it an hour and a half ago. And after freaking out a bit, I decided to tick another item off my to do list, and write a blog.

If anyone else is going through this house buying process at the moment, or selling, then I feel your pain and I too am not sleeping or able to think about much else. It's slightly consuming.

Thank you for reading as always. And fingers crossed. Eek.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

House Hunting London Styles

Over the last few weeks, I have been doing something uncharacteristically grown up: house hunting. And so it seems only fair that I rant about it. It's scary and exciting and jaw dropping and eye opening. And you find yourself thinking houses at half a million are cheap (half a freakin' million!) and saying things like: 'This is well priced for the area.' I mean what the fuck do I know about anything, but I feel qualified to comment. You also throw out things like, 'that's at the top of our budget'; 'do we really need five bedrooms?' and 'this has potential.' Potential? What?!

I have actually been enjoying the looking. The looking is great. It's like snooping in people's houses, but you're actually allowed to and the people aren't there, so they can't catch you being a nosy bitch watching through the windows. Oh come on, we all do that right? And of course, most of the ones we were looking at were very nicely done up, or nicely staged, and it becomes very exciting and overwhelming, because you're thinking, where will our stuff go, and can I see myself living here, and if I see another four bed terrace that I like, my head may explode.

There's a certain bubble of giddiness, when you're snooping in, I mean, looking in houses, and you get carried away, which can lead you to become overly excited at interesting storage ideas and scream when you see the kitchen of your dreams. This never happened to me. Honestly. I didn't make the Estate Agent laugh. Not me. No. But when you get home this sort of quiet contemplation takes over, and you find yourselves unable to concentrate on anything, because you're brain is going three million miles a second, just trying to figure stuff out and you start talking yourself out of something. Until you go for a second viewing, and then you talk yourself right back into it. It's complicated. It's a set of emotions most people don't go through very often, unless you're one of those weirdo freaks who change their houses as often as I change my vans (roughly every 18 months to two years because I wear them out). I mean, who does that?

Location, location, location. We are likely moving from an area we know and love, to an area we have no idea about. That is tough. But within that there are still areas that you think, no, I don't want to walk around here at night by myself. And if you're going to be spending ridiculous amounts of money on a house, you want to at least be able to walk home and like your area. It doesn't matter that inside the house is an absolute dream, and so pretty it made me want to cry. (I told you, a lot of emotions.) If you don't really want to walk through the streets to get home, there's a problem.

'It's just at the end of the road.' Just some of the bullshit sprouted by the Estate Agents, though to be fair, I thought there would be more. We went to visit one house and were told the Olympic Park was at the end of the road, so on the way back we decided to walk there. It was about twenty minutes walk away and very much not at the end of the road. You also get a lot of, it's very close to the station, which to be clarified by google maps, usually means twenty minutes walk away. Not so very close.

Size both does and doesn't matter. What I mean by this is that it's not always about the biggest house. The biggest one we've seen we hated. It was not us at all. It was massive but only had one bathroom for it's four bedrooms. We would have had to change so much to get it how we liked it, that it would have been pointless. And it had an extremely creepy, horror film cellar, and I've seen way too many horror films. It was also at the top of our budget and perhaps a little high on price for the area. There I go again with all my knowledge.

The photographs that you see online can really make a difference and we've had cases of being disappointed, relieved and also pleasantly surprised. It seems like it's impossible to get photos right. If you use the fish eye too much, then you often walk in and think it is way smaller than you imagined. But then sometimes things look too narrow or too cluttered, but then you walk in and think, there's so much more space. And when they don't show you a picture of something, but they mention it - for instance, a cellar or basement - that basically means that it's a shit heap that they've done nothing to, but are willing to use as a selling point with the word 'potential' hastily pinned on. Also when they only show the house from the back, that usually means the house looks shitty from the front.

And so we have made an offer on a place and now we have the wait. Why wouldn't they take our offer, we're nice people and we offered the asking price? But then you start doubting everything and the hopes that you weren't getting up, that you did of course get up, are now deflating. I mean, I would literally kill for that kitchen, but if they don't want our offer then it's obviously not meant to be my kitchen, and I'll have to go and snoop in more houses and find the one for us.

This is Rants signing off on the 10th Anniversary of Flat 19, with so much guilt at the possibility of buying a new place and leaving Flat 19, that it's silly. I'm pretty sure Flat 19 won't hold it against me as we've given it ten years of wonder and enchantment, but then, who knows?

To anyone else house hunting,  I feel your pain, excitement, confusion and general WTF?

Rants out.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Dear Rants readers, there is a epidemic sweeping through all the big film studios and it needs to be stopped. It's pretty much Disney's fault as they've started with the 'real life' remakes of all the classic animated films - though I hasten to point out that the Jungle Book had one person in it and the rest was CGI (just a different type of animation), and the upcoming Lion King will have zero 'real life' elements as it will all be CGI. Plus it looks exactly the same as the animated one, so what is the effing point? Oh yeah, money. I got it. Money. And whilst I will say I quite enjoyed the Cinderella, mainly because the cast was brilliant and I love Lily James, they are pretty much unnecessary, except for the massive money making. And they don't even have the songs in. Or not all of them anyway. And if they do have the songs in, they're not sung as well as they were because the actors are then chosen for how they look and not what they sound like. Urgh! Not that you can't be extremely attractive and have an amazing voice. You can. But that doesn't mean you'll be cast in the new Disney remake.

But then I read that they are redoing Roald Dahl's The Witches film, and I'm like, no. This cannot happen. This is so unnecessary. This is so wrong. The Witches is brilliantly creepy, capturing the essence of the book perfectly, and we don't need a new one. Besides, Anne Hathaway - no offense intended - She's great but she is no Angelica Houston. Just leave things alone and write some new stuff. Why does everything have to be a remake, a prequel or a sequel?

And then the final straw. They are remaking the best musical ever written! The film that won the most Academy Awards for a Musical, ever! And is fourth on the list of most Academy Award wins, behind Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Titanic and Ben-Hur. It won 10 Oscars! I mean, really, you want to remake that? Are you stupid? This film does not need a remake. It needs to be treasured for all time as the greatest musical masterpiece and it needs to be left alone. I don't give a flying feckle if Steven Spielberg is directing it, he directed Ready Player One which was shockingly shit considering the wonder of a novel it was crafted from. It makes me angry. Why aren't people creating new shit, instead of trying to recreate or update the classic shit? Just leave it alone.

Needless to say I will not be watching it and I will continue to wear out my West Side Story DVD, and the two or three different versions of the OST that I own. And if it comes back to the stage I will buy a ticket. But I won't subscribe to this remake.

What remakes make you angry? Is there anything you feel was done badly the first time that you would like a remake of? Or do you think it should all be left alone? Comments on a postcard to this address...

Rants out.