Thoughts and other Miscellany

A new house? Eventually? Maybe?

We’re trying to buy a house.

Earlier in 2017 we had this brilliant/stupid (depending on one’s perspective) plan to convince our landlord to extensive renovate his house, in a way that suited us, and that we would contribute financially to this. We thought this was a win-win – we got the house that we really loved living in, in a brilliant location, re-designed around us and our needs, so that we could then stay in it for another 5-6 years at a guaranteed rate. He got to revamp a slightly tired house at effectively half price and lock in tenants for the next x years at a decent rate.

But, he didn’t get anything arranged, and I got more and more pregnant* and our childcare arrangements changed radically when Supernanny quit to work in an office, and eventually we got fed up of sending him emails and texts asking if there was any progress and gave up. The timetable had got far too tight in terms of getting planning permission and architects and everything fitted around a birth and a 4 month maternity leave. I wanted everything done before I went back to work (because we would have had to move out for 2 months while the work was done). When the landlord FINALLY responded, he was quite understanding and I suspect he will do renovations after we move out.

So… having decided that we weren’t going to renovate, we looked around the London property market and decided (equally brilliantly/foolishly) to buy a 6-bedroom house in the suburbs.

For those of you not familiar with the English-and-some-other-parts-of-the-UK** property market, there is an evil thing here called a chain (I assume it exists in a bunch of other countries too). Basically, a long chain of people arrange themselves to buy and sell houses to one another, and this process can take as long as a year (it can probably take longer, it’s just a year is the longest I’ve heard). You don’t exchange contracts (or pay deposits) until everyone in the chain is ready to do so.

We are not in a chain. We are first time buyers (i.e. we aren’t trying to sell our house to anyone) and our seller is selling their buy-to-let property (so they’re not trying to buy a house to move into). Should all be pretty straight-forward then, right?


We viewed eight houses for the first time at the end of August and shortlisted two. Then we downed tools for 2 1/2 weeks until Spud showed up. (There’s nothing like the fear in an estate agent’s eyes when you clamber out of the car 38 1/2 weeks pregnant). We viewed again in mid September, with 10-day-old Spud. We made an offer that night on a beautiful (well, the inside is beautiful) house that has just had extensive work done, effectively doubling it in size. We haggled for 24 hours and had the offer accepted the next day, and thought we’d be in by Christmas.

Writing this in late November, that looks increasingly impossible. So far we have encountered:

  • mortgage lender not accepting our solicitor (this is crazy, right?), so having to change solicitors at the last minute
  • solicitor taking nearly 2 weeks to accept that we are who we say we are and actually set up our file before they would think about actually doing any work for us
  • our solicitor and the seller’s solicitor taking a month to start talking to each other because the estate agent left the dot out of our solicitor’s email address on their sale memorandum. Apparently the seller’s solicitor only uses email, never phone or post, and our solicitor didn’t think to ring them up or write to them to figure out what was going on. And the agent just rang me twice a week to complain.
  • a brilliant surveyor whom I will recommend to anyone and everyone. Hugely comprehensive report and lots of follow-up advice by phone and email. However – a somewhat unhelpful report because it identified a ton of missing paperwork and also several small but non-trivial discrepancies between the planning permission and the actual house. So…
  • The seller (thankfully off his own back, not after a big fight with us) went to the council to get retrospective permission for the discrepancies. That was submitted in late October, and the council has set a target decision date of… wait for it… Christmas.

Hopefully this is a totally trivial decision for the council inspector and it will get signed off without any problems, and then we can full steam ahead. But it’s so frustrating. A little part of me is saying that the council probably has a KPI about meeting their target decision dates and therefore they would always be conservative and the target date may be beaten, but looking at everything that needs to happen in the next month, I’m not so sure.

I’m hopeful that once the Lawful Development Certificate is received, we can power on to exchange and complete asap, but again – the only hitch of the items above that we expected was that comments on the surveyor’s report that would require some action. So – no chickens are being counted here.

Wish us luck!

*yes I know pregnancy is a binary state. But I put on 30kg with Bookmark and 25kg with Spud (I did lose most of the 30kg in between) and got so massive that no fewer than 5 complete strangers asked me if I was having twins (RUDE), so I’m going to reserve the right to identify as increasingly pregnant.

**In Scotland somehow it’s different, so it’s all much faster, though occasionally people find themselves having sold a house and not yet bought so they’re in a hotel for a bit. I don’t really understand but I wish it were faster in London!

Thoughts and other Miscellany

Recent news – the arrival of a Spud

Other news – Bookmark is not the only baby around here (and she’s a running, jumping, counting toddler dynamo now!); Spud joined us in early September 2017.

These babies could not have been more different. We used to say that Bookmark only cried when there was something wrong, but now looking back, it seems like there was often something wrong! Spud applies the same principle – except nothing ever seems to be wrong. It’s delightful. And has made the transition from slave-of-toddler to slave-of-toddler-with-newborn-difficulty-adjustment actually pretty smooth. Except bedtime. I basically expect to be screamed at by two small children continuously from 6.30-7.30 most nights. Sigh.

What secret parenting hack have I missed to avoid this tandem screamfest?


Thoughts and other Miscellany

Google freaks me out

Today I celebrated hiring a new permanent nanny by leaving Spud with her and going out to run errands without a baby in a pram/car seat/sling etc. Realising it was 11:54 and I’d never had breakfast, I stopped at my favourite neighbour deli/cafe/purveyor of yummy things Sally White’s and bought a delicious frittata.

Hmmmm, this is yummy. I should eat more of them.

I google “frittata” to find some recipes, but none of the recipes indicated how long it was safe to keep them in the fridge and I’m not committing to that kind of cooking every day.

I then google “how long does” and the autocomplete “frittata last in the fridge” came up.


I really hope Google was making a suggestion based on my recent history because if not, that is a coincidence that is just too much.


(PS any recommendations for frittata-ing?)

Thoughts and other Miscellany

Blog re-brand

I’ve tried on and off for the last year to get this blog up and running again and keep failing. Partly because I don’t really read books any more. And if I do, I have a million things I need to do that are more pressing than actually reviewing the books!

But I miss blogging. I miss sitting down and writing something that isn’t related to finance, house-buying or general life administration (emails to the landlord about the broken microwave, for example). I miss thinking “that would make a good blog post” and actually fleshing out the idea into 400 words.

So, we try again. What’s that Thomas Edison quote? Hmmm, I can’t find the one I’m looking for, something about failing 999 times and trying again, but here’s a Winston Churchill quote along the same lines:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Mind you, that sounds a bit like the current UK government’s attitude to Brexit. So maybe that’s not quite what I’m aiming for…

I digress. (and reveal my political leanings. I am vehemently anti-Brexit, in case you couldn’t guess).

I think it’s time for a bit of a re-brand around here. I only ever drink decaf tea these days, and I don’t do a lot of reading. What there is a lot of in my life is chocolate, and to-do lists. So – Chocolate and Checklists is born. (I’m changing my twitter handle too).

I’m intending to keep writing about books when I get around to reading them, but also generally about things that interest me. Housekeeping mysteries (how many times do you have to wash a pair of jeans, and on what temperature, before you can be sure the colour won’t run?), cycling, language thoughts (why does Amazon video make it so impossible to watch videos in any other language?), occasional “my toddler said this hilarious thing”, responses to things I find online… let’s see how it develops.

Also my West Wing obsession shows no sign of abating so there are probably going to be more West Wing gifs. And I’ve just discovered gifs. Expect too many of them for the next little while.

Thoughts and other Miscellany

A new blogging strategy, with Siri

I have so many thoughts bubbling around in my head each day where I think “this would make a good blog post” and then they’re gone because I don’t have anywhere to write them down.

The other night, I had the bright idea of just talking at Siri on my phone for 5 minutes – I knew I wouldn’t need to correct too many of the dictation errors if I was just taking blog notes, I’m usually pretty good at figuring out what Siri misheard.

I’ve just spent a half hour turning 5 minutes of notes into 6 blog posts, which I think is pretty good going!

Actually – I was pleasantly surprised by Siri’s accuracy in taking dictation into notes, except when I said that sentence there – ironically Siri didn’t recognise his own name! (My Siri is set up to have a male voice with a mild Australian accent. Much less irritating than the default!)

Thoughts and other Miscellany

Quick thoughts: Joys of parenting

1. Checking on Bookmark before I go to bed – I never used to do it, but now that we leave her to go to sleep by herself, I have to take away any leftover milk in the bottle that she will have put down beside the bed when she’s finished drinking it, otherwise she’ll drink the leftover overnight milk in the morning and I don’t want those stomach bugs. So I go in to her room at about 10pm, take away the bottle, find the spare dummies she’s strewn around the bed, and pull the covers up for her. Those 30 seconds bring me so much joy, and I go to bed in a much better mood as a result.

2. Potty training – an adventure, and we’re not done with it yet, but based on what I’ve seen so far, the 3 day potty training method by Lora Jensen is pretty good. We adapted it (and I didn’t buy Lora’s eBook, naughty me), and it was good for us.

3. Discovering a new nap strategy – going for a walk, followed by a bus ride. Bookmark has never been easy to get to go to sleep (I hear this is an oldest child phenomenon?), and naps won’t happen unless they’re in the pram. THFS and I and Bookmark have walked miles and miles along every street* in Lambeth and Westminster on weekends trying to make naps happen. Turns out, a short walk followed by a bus ride (she stays in the pram) works pretty well. Maybe we won’t cover quite so many streets in the next few months.

*I exaggerate slightly. But only slightly.

4. Pride in themselves when they get something right – when Bookmark does a puzzle by herself (the alphabet puzzle from this Argos set is our favourite at the moment), she’s so delighted with herself. It’s gorgeous.

5. Finding dummies everywhere, even in your overcoat pockets. At least half of all days, particularly on Mondays or after a day when I’ve been at home with Bookmark, I reach into my overcoat pockets and find a dummy (“pacifier” for our friends over the pond) hiding in there. I’ve found dummies under my bed, in the washing machine, in the washing basket, in drawers in the kitchen, and on every bookshelf in the house. I’m developing superpowers at remembering where I last saw one.

6. “pease” and “dank you”. So cute. Also “sorry Mama”.

Thoughts and other Miscellany

Bullet journal update

I seem to have a spasmodic relationship with my bullet journal. I love the idea, I’ve got quite enthusiastic about it a few times, but I can’t keep up the consistent habit. I’ve realised a few problems with what I was trying to do:
– wanting to have it be pretty and coloured with my favourite Pilot v5 pens meant that I was carrying around not only the BuJo but also a pencilcase full of pens
– wanting it to be pretty meant that I never just got it out for 2 minutes to scribble something quickly
– using a grid-ruled Moleskine didn’t work for me – the lines were just too small, and I was forcing myself into handwriting that isn’t natural for me.

I just need it to be a notebook. I need to just write stuff in it and not worry about what it looks like. I’m not someone who likes colouring (I bought Bookmark a dinosaur colouring book and while it’s fun to do with her, it’s not something i would sit down to do myself), so I’m not someone who is going to fill pages with pretty doodles all coloured in.

When I bought the Moleskine, I also bought a cheap non-brand journal, lined, from the same store just because it was a nice colour; it has a pen loop on the outside. I have a set of nice biros from my previous job which fit the pen loop well.

So now I’m doing biro, all one colour, in this lined journal and it’s going much more consistently. It’s only been a few days so I guess I’ll have to report back in due course, but hopefully this is the start of a better relationship with my BuJo!