Wednesday, April 30, 2008

And the rain it raineth every day

Gardening still remains something of a black art to us; despite our keenness to get out and explore the wilderness that is our land, the weather has conspired against us. The occasional day of sunshine has been spent indoors unpacking boxes, while the rest of the time it has been very wet, cold, and (on Sunday) spectatularly thundery. I am trying to draw inspiration from the allotment holders I can see from my office window; during one torrential downpour this morning, one hardy chap was outside, dibbing away and planting lettuces in his patch of mud. I remain unconvinced that this is an enjoyable activity.

I can has storage?

The past six weeks has largely consisted of shifting boxes from one place to another, trying not to trip over them or scream too loudly during the process. We have so much stuff -- and this doesn't include the 5,000 LPs and myriad comic boxes that PJ has in storage. Seriously. I thought that moving to a larger house with more rooms than we've ever had before would make life easier, less cluttered, but no; we are still held hostage by our vast amounts of stuff. As a result, we've had to take a two-pronged approach: 1) "recycle" lots of things straight into Winchester's fine "waste recycling centre" (the middle-class term for the dump), and 2) buy more storage solutions. The first tack is somewhat easier for me than for PJ; I'm a chucker, he's a hoarder -- but he's doing extremely well and has even binned some of those 2006 press releases for PC games he's never played. Congratulations! Part 2 arrived in the form of a palette of plastic storage crates, which the poor deliveryman had to wheel up our deconstructed road as his lorry couldn't get round the corner. These lurked ominously in our garage for a couple of days, before starting to be filled with those things from our cardboard packing boxes that we apparently "need" yet won't need to "access" for another 10 years.* Now, if I can just get that vinyl and those comics onto eBay without PJ noticing ...

*I'm not moving for at least a decade. This has been exhausting.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Words to strike fear into any heart

"Darius Danesh is Rhett Butler ..."

He most certainly isn't. Blasphemy!

"I said it was All Creatures Great and Small!"

We return from the pub quiz. Not triumphant and with domestic harmony slightly rattled. We came joint 7th out of 13, sunk by our inability to discern TV theme tunes and an astonishingly bad third general knowledge (GK3, as it's known to the regulars) round. Halfway home, we had to return to the pub, PJ having forgotten to settle up, and it being the sort of trusting place that doesn't require you to leave your card behind the bar. Still, it wasn't all bad. We had a storming entertainment round, proved strong on GK4, had a great plate of complimentary half-time chips, and met several of our friendly neighbours. Result! I think we're going to like it here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I can has napalm?

For the first time in a month, the sun is shining and it's warm enough to do some much-needed work outside. I start on treating our bedraggled garden furniture set: sand it down, then apply noxious chemicals courtesy of Ronseal -- and yes, it does appear to do exactly what it says on the tin. PJ is fixing guttering, filling wood with plasticky stuff, and cleaning out gutters -- a filthy job, but somebody has to do it and he's taller than me. Then it's the fun stuff, hacking away at the tree out back that keeps tapping against our bedroom window. And then chopping up the branches so that they fit into our 'green waste' recycling bag. And the other bags.

It turns out that the former occupants had an even greater collection of bits of wood than PJ. The stuff is everywhere; behind our two garden sheds, along the side of the house, hiding behind trees. We have a wood-burning stove, which we used for the first time last night -- fabulously warm! -- but it will take us years to get through it all, if we can get it dry enough and in small enough pieces to burn. In the meantime, it has to go somewhere ... back down the side of the house?

On the plus side, being outside was lovely, and we wandered through the allotments at the back to check on our fence -- and met a very nice couple. We now need to meet Norman, the allotment guru who will no doubt give us lots of good advice on what to do with our garden other than dousing it in petrol, lighting a match, and then covering the burnt remanins with tarmac (my preferred option). I can't wait.

"So, what does the blue box mean?"

I am stumped. I have just told PJ that, on second viewing, Mulholland Drive makes sense. Apparently, not falling asleep halfway through really helps. And realizing that the first 90 minutes was meant to be a pilot for a TV series, and the final 30 minutes are just David Lynch making up some stuff to pad it out into a feature film and give some sense of "resolution." But the blue box? And the caveman hiding in the garbage behind Winkie's on Sunset Blvd? And the dwarf in the room with the microphone? Not a clue.

Damn you, David Lynch!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A tale of two postcodes

Apparently, our house straddles the Eastleigh/Winchester border -- and both local authorities want us! Or rather, they both want us to pay council tax. We thought we were in Winchester; after all, they collect our rubbish and it's their name on the road signs. But then Eastleigh contacted us -- with a bill. A cheaper bill than Winchester's. Hmm. Calls to the councils ensued and we let them mud-wrestle for the pleasure of receiving our cash. Eastleigh won. It turns out that our house was re-zoned back in 1992, getting a new Eastleigh postcode. However, the Royal Mail and the Land Registry still use the Winchester postcode. So that's what we're going to do: Winchester postcode, Eastleigh council tax bill. Best of both worlds.

And best of all, we got to sort it out in English. Joy!

Friday, April 11, 2008

We're in

Kind of. We've spent two nights under our new roof, have got broadband up and running, and we've even walked over to our local supermarket -- Waitrose! (For non-UK readers, Waitrose is the most upmarket supermarket chain in the UK. Everything is lovely but expensive.) We strolled across the M3, down through the expensive end of Chandler's Ford and into Waitrose, loaded up our rucksacks, and stopped off for a swift pint at the King Rufus on the way back. It's a pleasant 25 minute stroll each way, beer not included. On the bikes, probably 10 minutes, tops. Hurrah!

Today, though, we were white van man incarnate. We picked up our gleaming white Ford Transit, PJ maneouevered it expertly through the streets of Winchester, and we loaded it up with our "big" pieces of furniture. We still have a few carloads of "stuff" left (and most of our clothes), and then the excitement of yet another trip to Homebase and a trip to the dump. Guess which one I'm looking forward to most?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"I think we need a bigger staircase"

We pause for breath, halfway up the stairs. At this point, it strikes me that we may have made a very big mistake in trying to get the lovely G-plan sideboard up into my study. It weighs a ton, is awkardly shaped, and PJ is in imminent danger of being crushed beneath it. I now deeply regret the fact that we haven't written our wills and that I don't have my mobile phone on me; if anything goes wrong, I will have to clamber over his squished remains to call for help.

One panic attack, two bruised ankles, and a destroyed curtain rail later, we get it into my room. It looks lovely, if also somewhat bruised. We will never move it -- ir us -- again.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Not so fussy now, blackbird?

I put some aging pears out on the shed roof on Thursday in an attempt to entice the birds to the "garden" and thus enliven my afternoon hard at work at the editing coal face. The birds pecked disinterestedly at them and then buggered off to find some more appetizing worms. But they're back! Oh yes, the snow has driven the worms underground and now the birds are grateful for my humble offering! Hah!

I think I'm getting just a little too involved with the birds here. Moving away from them will be a good thing.

"It's snowing!"

PJ curses and retreats under the duvet as I draw back the curtain and reveal Winchester in all its snowy glory. He clearly does not share my child-like sense of wonderment at this meteorological condition -- or is still tired after playing Half-Life 2 late into the night. I ignore his grumbling and head outside to take photos and offer up a silent apology to the TV weather services. They have been predicting snow for several days now, but I scoffed at them -- particularly after we strolled round to The Otter for a post-painting pint on a balmy Friday evening. I will never ignore their forecasts again.

Snow! So pretty! So wet! So cold! So NOT April. I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Collective ass-covering

Since when did advertisers start feeling the need to footnote their ads? Every beauty product commercial is accompanied by hundreds* of disclaimers: "Tested on 500 women"; "Compared with a control group not using toothpaste"; "Penelope's eyelashes have been enhanced with false lashes". Best -- and most stupid -- of all? The ad we just watched for Garnier ultra prolife x with irritating Davina Mcall showed her squeezing a rubber ball to demonstrate the plumping of the skin cells -- and was accompanied by "dramatisation" at the bottom of the screen. Really, squeezing a rubber ball is a demonstration? No shit, Sherlock!

Has there been a spate of lawsuits in the UK of which I'm unaware? Are advertisers really interested in promoting the rigor of representing data? And why is it only on beauty products? Do these footnotes make the product more likely to work? Or do advertisers think it will convince us oh-so-cynical women to shell out our hard-earned pounds on their snake oil? Whatever the reason, I still hate 'em.

* Actual number of disclaimers three, based on a sample of one ad watched in the past 5 minutes.

More delivery woes

Actually, just one tale of woe. So far, the bed, washing machine, armchair and sofa have all turned up on time, no problems. But the gym equipment was another matter. Oh, it turned up alright. But the delivery person (I'm making no gender assumptions) simply dumped 3 of the 5 items in our open, without-doors carport in full view of the street, and headed off. No phone call, no delivery note to say that it was there -- or that it was only a partial delivery. Cue phone calls to the company and a weary operative sighing "Not again?" Yesterday, the same thing happened with the remaining two boxes. Admittedly, it would be difficult for someone to make off with two 21kg weights, a stand, and a fairly heavy gym bench, and I guess it shows we live on an extremely safe street, but still. A note would have been nice.

My new favorite paint

I've used brilliant white emulsion, undercoat and primer, duck egg satin finish, whispy cloud matt, fire-engine red gloss, but my all-time favorite paint has to be Dulux's Light & Space Rich Matt in Lunar Falls. Why? It's not that it covers easily or that it really does bounce light around the room, popping against our black and eau de nil tiles. No, it's the fact that it smells of custard. A proper, hand-made, creme brulee-style egg custard. PJ scoffed when I told him, but on having a brushful wafted under his nose, he had to agree. Custard.

Scented paint: Truly we live in the future.