Tag Archives: London

Upping Sticks

My blog has returned! No longer is it pushed to the depths of my endless to-do list, but back for your (hopeful) enjoyment for the foreseeable future.

See, the reason for my complete lack of blogging of late is because we have moved house. Yes, we have upped sticks, packed up the house, the kids and the dog to move away from the hustle and bustle of living in London, for a quieter life in the countryside. It has been about five years in the planning, three of which were fraught with ‘shall we, shan’t we’ conversations and in the last year it has been the head mash that comes with selling and buying your home.

We lived in our last house for eleven years, our three children have been born there (not literally) and our family of five has acquired ten tonnes of clutter along the way. With our eldest boy about to embark on Year 6 and our twins heading into Year 3 of juniors, we felt that the time was right to make this move.  However, it is no mean feat trying to relocate five lives (plus a dog, although to be fair he really only needed his blanket packed).  Not only did we have to find someone to buy our house, we had to find a house we liked enough to buy, find three school places and work out hubby’s new commute.

Selling our house was an experience I wouldn’t wish to repeat anytime soon.  As a serial renter before me and hubby bought our now former family home, the whole selling house business was something I viewed on TV with the likes of Kirstie and Phil seemingly completing the process in a day. It didn’t look that hard, I just needed to adopt a loud assertive voice and a confident sales patter. Or so I thought. When the droves of buyers (seriously there were a lot) decided to invade our home I found myself acting more Gollam than Kirstie, gathering up my ‘precious things’ and muttering under my breath when prospective purchasers turned their noses up at our choice of décor.  The first few buyers through our door I practically hugged, offered homemade cookies and a spreadsheet of the pros and cons of living in our street. As the numbers went up and no offers were on the table, my sales approach become a little lacklustre.  I no longer felt impelled to gush about my happy home but instead allowed them to show themselves around and have free reign in looking through my cupboards.

I think my lack of enthusiasm came after the many frustrating questions such as ‘its quite small for a box room isn’t it?’ or ‘your stairs are a bit steep aren’t they?’ or ‘why isn’t there a downstairs toilet?’ (which was asked whilst rooting through my understairs cupboard, presumably looking for Harry Potter).  One delightful purchaser asked hubby ‘where the stink pipe was?’ whilst examining our decked patio, not really sure what her intentions were but each to their own! One couple who seemed very interested and who I actually mouthed “its in the bag” to hubby about, said they would have bought it but were put off by the view of houses across the street.  Erm..this is a London Borough and not the rolling hills of Wales!

No turning back now!

No turning back now!

However, our saving grace came one Sunday afternoon whilst I was sitting at the dining table with the children doing homework, a roast dinner emitting delectable smells around the house and I was channelling my inner Mary Poppins, with much less singing involved.  Our Estate Agent had done their usual Crystal Maze style challenge of a 10 minute warning of an impending viewing, meaning we had to ready the house in record time and hide the dog in the neighbour’s garden.  The prospective purchasers arrived whilst I bribed the kids not to talk under any circumstances as they have a tendency to point out flaws. Example, buyer will compliment wallpaper, child will explain Daddy had to cover something up. Buyer will point out fence panels, child will own up to the ‘quick job’ they overheard from their parents. Thankfully, the buyers this day were a very keen young couple embarking on their first home and hubby and I were both on a mission to get our house sold! While hubby bombarded them with information on loft insulation and ‘reliable boiler systems’, I was retelling all the happy memories that had occurred in this home and what a good vibe it has! And despite our dog actually breaking through the fence to say hello, the couple made an offer the following morning!

Many people informed me over the weeks following our sale that moving house was ‘the most stressful thing you can do in life’.  Now, as a mother to twins I reckon I can turn my hand to most pressured situations so I smiled my reply and promised to ‘prepare myself’ all the while feeling smug that I had it in the bag! Yeah right. For anyone who has moved, they will know that it is not a stress free experience. Firstly, even after we had majorly decluttered, had a boot sale and carried out numerous trips to the charity shops with unwanted goods, it dawns on you how much stuff you actually own. I became so intimidated about packing it all up that I literally hid the moving boxes and found a million reasons not to embark on the process. Finally, a good friend of mine couldn’t stand it any longer and came round to get me started.  After a full day of wrapping, boxing and ridiculing my possessions, we had only actually packed up half of my kitchen! It’s then that I realised the enormity of the task in hand.  And if it was going to take me that long to pack up our house, how long would it take to unpack at the new house!

Moving day came around far too quickly and after shipping the kids off to my parents, hubby and I spent our last night in what was now someone else’s home.  I expected to feel sad and a sense of attachment, but without the children at home and our belongings all packed up, plus sleeping on a mattress in a bare room looking much like a squat, it didn’t feel like home anymore. I was ready and excited for our next step. And apart from leaving our family, friends and the best neighbours ever behind, I couldn’t wait to embark on our next chapter.

We have been in our new home for almost three months now which is hard to believe.  The time has flown by. The children have settled into school and made friends. Hubby has become a long haul commuter and is actually reading real books again (so proud) and me and Chester are settling in with the thoroughbred country dogs over our local park as he tries to repress his hooligan side. Lets just say you can take the dog out of the City but you can’t take the City out of the dog!

 

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Facing My Fears

With my 40th birthday hurtling towards me next December (sob) I thought I might look into the concept of *bucket lists. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning on expiring next year (hopefully) but more that I’m moving into a new era of my life and giving my 30s a bloody good send off.

Top of my list is overcoming a few of my fears as it seems that they are starting to grow in number and become more irrational in their strength. Having said that, I’m not rushing into it and definitely not planning on boarding a plane (hate flying) with a jar of spiders (arachnophobic) en route to a circus full of people on stilts (honestly, the whole unnatural height of stilt wearers freaks me out). I decided instead to start simply and address my growing fear of heights.

My new-found feelings of vertigo have come out of nowhere. I cannot recall being bothered about heights as a child, was happy to climb to the top of mountains/buildings in my youth, but over the last few years I am unable to descend beyond four storeys without having wobbly legs. I first noticed it when I took my parents on the London Eye.  I had been looking forward to it, took the afternoon off work and even booked the tickets in advance. We walked into our pod cheerfully chatting and started our ride to the top, at which point I felt a sudden panic, sat on the bench in the middle and stared at my feet. My Dad was trying to point out London sites along the Thames but all I could do was resist the urge to lay on the floor and adopt a foetal position. The last thing I wanted to do was to move to the window and I wasn’t confident my legs would work anyway. As we reached the top, I studied my shoes, feeling waves of nausea, ignoring the odd looks from fellow passengers and assuring my parents that ‘I was fine and they should enjoy the view’. After what felt like an hour, we came to the bottom and I literally burst out of the pod wanting to kiss the pavement outside for being land borne again!

I tried to dismiss this behaviour with the theory that it was because I’ve become a bit of wimp with fairground rides and after all it is essentially a giant ferris wheel. This is another thing with ageing, the fact that I now worry about safety on theme park rides. One of my fondest teenage memories is ‘The Eggs’ ride over my local park when the fair came to town in the summer. A rickety old ride where you could spin your own pod while zooming high up in the air. You couldn’t pay me to go on this ride now unless I could have a look at recent safety test certificates. Even with regard to the slickest rollercoaster at a popular theme park, hubby has to reassure me that it is very unlikely that the seatbelt won’t work and that g-force would also keep me seated. I think I would rather hold the coats and watch then risk it though.

So I decided that my first bucket list objective would be to cure my vertigo before it gets out of hand and I end up not being able to drive up my local multi-storey car park.  To make this happen I booked for me and hubby to climb the O2 in London. If I could climb over the top of a big building, looking out of the window of it in the future would be a breeze in comparison surely?

The ascent!

The ascent!

We arrived at the O2 on quite a grim day and were led through our ‘training’ which left me thinking that I had underestimated this whole climb thing. I thought it would be a set of stairs that we could walk up quite easily.  Not so.  It transpired that we would have to put on their special climbing suits, special climbing shoes and learn to negotiate ropes with metal clip thing’s, as if embarking on a rock climbing expedition. Ignoring the height I would be reaching, I felt quite excited at the prospect as I have always wanted to climb and feel that my last little bit of bravery is dwindling, so needed to do it soon. After we were kitted out, we stood at the bottom of the ascent (as pictured) and were instructed to clip ourselves onto the wire as this would stop us ‘falling off’. I considered that this would be unlikely but there wasn’t anything else to grab onto and it was a bit windy so thought it was wise that I was shackled to something.

The actual climb over the O2 is a lot trickier than it looks, mainly because you have to thread your metal clip through metal compartments all the way up the wire. You get the hang of it after a bit and to be honest its a good distraction from seeing how high you actually are! It doesn’t take long to reach the top and although I wasn’t keen on the shoes we were given initially, I was thankful of their grip as the surface is quite slippery.  I braced myself for the summit as we neared the top of the climb and I actually didn’t feel too bad. I think maybe this is because you are literally climbing over a big tent so it sort of feels safe. At the top you are able to unclip and there is a viewing circle so you can mooch about and look at the sites whilst swinging your metal clips between your legs like a weird sort of Morris Dancer. The view was pretty spectacular and I didn’t once feel the need to cling onto hubby’s leg or the least bit like vomiting so felt like I had really grown as a person/climber/non-vertigo worrier.

A birds eye view of the River Thames.

A birds eye view of the River Thames.

However, the climb down was not as straightforward. The path down seemed a lot steeper and I had to resist the urge to rebel against clipping myself back onto to the wire and to use it as a giant slide instead. But then a gust of wind caught us off guard and I was more than happy to reattach. My family had come along for support, so as we descended the O2, I could see my children, parents and mother-in-law at the bottom cheering us on. My eldest shouted out ‘Are you scared Mum?’ at which I just rolled my eyes to the other climbers in a ‘Kids eh?’ kind of a way as obviously I was now feeling like I had completed my own Everest and not in the least bit scared of heights anymore.  My next challenge? The Shard! Now I just need to Google their safety certificates…..

* Bucket List
noun

informal
noun: bucket list; plural noun: bucket lists
  1. 1.
    a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.