Life in bullet points

Just to keep Matt The Bakiwop happy, here is a genuine update:

  • I’m working like a mad thing at the moment. I haven’t even had time to update my work weblog, which is bad. Work is generally busy in a good way, though, so things are quite good. Just don’t mention the Germans.
  • We’ve been travelling a bit lately and I owe readers some photos from recent trips. So far this year we have been to Angers/Nantes, Utrecht/Maastricht/Aachen/Namur, Hamburg/Rostock and I made a solo trip to Vlaardingen/Aalsmeer. There have also been a few UK-based days out and there are some photos from those too. When time permits, I’ll upload some.
  • On the domestic front, I’ve been working on developing the front garden (although progress has been in fits and starts and has stalled again lately – I need to get the footings out for the retaining wall, but time constraints and the weather both conspire against me) as well as getting the side and back gardens looking good – I’ll try and sort out photos of that too.
  • I bought Hels a bike for her birthday and this has spurred me to sort out getting my bike restored after having left it in a shed for six years following the spectacular failure of the derailleur whilst bombing along the Avenue de Chartres in Chichester in 2000. Following a suggestion from Kate, I’ve taken it to Baker Street Bikes in Brighton for restoration and should get it back on Wednesday. All I’ll need then is to add a child seat for Tom and we’ll then be able to go out on family cycle trips (although bike mounts for the roof bars on the car would be good and I think I’d like to have the chance to dump the child seat so that I can get a few miles in on my own terms too).
  • We’ve started doing a bit more work to the house – currently, we’re remodelling the bathroom. Not a major change, just new paint, new taps and a new shower screen. We’re also eyeing the conservatory combine harvester (shhh, don’t tell Dave), which needs some major work – we’ve spied a couple of rotten timbers, which isn’t good. Repainting of the kitchen is also scheduled in for “somewhen”.
  • Tom has taken to refusing to go to sleep in the evening. We’ve just had him up for a 9.30pm snack, which he took whilst lounging in front of the telly in the living room – he has the makings of a good couch potato.
  • Finally, it’s the Garden and Art Event at West Dean, near Chichester, this coming weekend. I organise it. I’m seriously hoping that the weather improves considerably between now and then.

More updates. Soon. I promise.

April 23

Happy birthday to Mrs Graybo, who is [knows better than that!] years old today. Cake has been consumed (by me, at least).

Tom was most excited by the presence of paper, cards and gifts this morning, but less impressed that there was nothing in the way of gifts for him. It looks like he’ll be more aware of presents by the time Christmas and his birthday come around than he was for the last time.

Ce n’est pas un fait accompli

I understand that following some of the links that I’ve posted recently on this site, people are wondering what is going on in our lives. So I’d like to clear up a few things.

  • yes, we’re thinking about moving.
  • no, we will not be moving for some time, at least two years.
  • yes, we are looking at the Netherlands. Why? Because houses are considerably cheaper there and we want to reduce the amount of our income that we spend on our mortgage each month. In addition, a lot of my work is in the Netherlands (at least as much as is in the UK), we like it there and it was recently ranked the best industrialized nation in which to bring up a child by the UN (compared to the UK which was ranked the worst nation).
  • BUT, it is not a certainty that we will move there. At the moment, we are deeply involved in research which includes:
  1. working out where to live
  2. deciding what we can afford
  3. looking at what mortgage we could get
  4. investigating employment options for Hels
  5. sussing out education and childcare facilities
  6. language, running a business, mortgage system, property law, tax system – everything! There are lots of hidden factors to consider.
  • IF we go there, then we would rent for at least one year to test the water – and if it didn’t work out, we could move back to England or to another place.
  • we are also investigating other alternatives – in every town we visit, in the UK and abroad, we always look through estate agent windows, partly out of unbridled noseyness and curiosity and partly out of serious research to see what property we could afford if we moved to that area. So far our research has shown that moving within the south east of England would not improve our lot – either we’d still have a vast mortgage or we’d be in Ramsgate.
  • in any case, whatever we decide, we have a whole bunch of factors to consider. These include but are not limited to (and in no particular order):
  1. Tom – particularly the environment and education/childcare
  2. us – we want a nice house in a relatively green neighbourhood (i.e. not a concrete neighbourhood) with a little garden and enough room for us to not be under each other’s feet
  3. work – both for me and for Hels as, without work that we enjoy and which pays reasonably, our life would be poorer in terms of quality or money or both
  4. family – we are close to both sides of the family and we want to be somewhere that is relatively easy for them to access, including by public transport
  5. cats – they’re important too! So no main road homes for us and always at least a little garden, even if/when we rent.

So you see that nothing is certain. Well, almost nothing. The only thing that is certain is that the current fixed rate period on our mortgage expires on 31 December 2008, which is why there is a window of opportunity for moving around that time and into early 2009 (if we move before then, we have to pay a heavy penalty to our lender when we redeem the mortgage) – and we don’t want to leave it much later than that as we want to get Tom settled in a new home before he starts school. The reason for moving is also fairly certain – we want to move in order to achieve either a reduction in our mortgage liability and/or an increase in our living space.

Even the “when” is not guaranteed. As we all know, events have a habit of overtaking one’s plans, so we have no idea what might happen over the next two years. I think the only thing that is likely to remain constant is the “why”. The “what”, “where” and even the “how” are all still to be decided.

At the moment, the mission is research. And with a life-change of this magnitude, I think anyone would agree that we need to be thorough and use all the time available to our advantage.

Things and stuff

  • Tom was one yesterday – it’s been both the longest and fastest year of my life (and Hels’s too, I think it is fair to say – and, by definition, Tom’s). We celebrated with cake, balloons and a trip to a farm. There shall be further celebrations at the weekend.
  • We had snow last night. Up to six inches of the stuff is forecast to fall tonight. That should make for an interesting commute for Hels in the morning. Tom was non-plussed when I introduced him to the stuff this morning. His face simply said: "cold. wet. yuk."
  • I’m in Germany at the moment for an enormous trade event. I’ve just had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was eye-wateringly expensive. At the next table was Michael Heseltine. He was not wearing a loin cloth.
  • I really need to update this site more often. Sorry.
  • This site and my email (including work email) have been down for most of the day due to problems at 34SP. Apparently, the aircon failed causing the servers to overheat. I couldn’t help thinking that, on the coldest day of the winter so far, opening the window would soon solve the problem.

Annual Review Of The Year

It’s that time of year again. Last year, I made five resolutions. I have made a good start on the first one, although it is a massive project and has taken much longer than anticipated, not least due to distractions of the Tom kind. The second I failed on miserably. The third hasn’t gone too badly, although it has improved of late. The fourth, well let’s not go there, shall we? – only 186 posts this year, including this one – not good enough. And the fifth one I’ve done reasonably well on – I’m certainly a lot happier on that score than I was this time last year.

So, for 2007, I’ll continue the good work where the good work has started. Beyond that, I haven’t really got that much that I feel I particularly want to resolve to do – there is plenty to keep me occupied.

2006 has been a year like none before it, entirely due to the arrival of Tom. He has, as I expected, changed life totally and for the better. In addition, we’ve had a lot of travel (I’ve been to Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Hungary this year) and there is more planned for 2007, with trips to Germany, France, Netherlands (naturally), Portugal, Poland, Ireland and Italy on the cards. 2006 has also seen us starting to make new long term plans. We’re not yet sure if they will come to fruition, but the notion of emigrating doesn’t look beyond the realms of plausibility. We’re also much closer to finally sorting out our finances, which has to be a good thing and has implications for all areas of life.

New Year’s Eve this year will be spent with friends, eating and drinking too much whilst (hopefully) Tom sleeps. Then I’ve got to wind myself back up in to work mode after an extended Christmas break – which, when I wasn’t being ill, I’ve enjoyed and was much needed, particularly as I’ve spent nearly the whole break at home with Hels and Tom, undoubtedly a good thing.

Happy New Year to all grayblog readers. Keep coming back if you like this sort of thing.

Not quite normal

This is going to be a not-quite-normal Christmas. Firstly, it’s our first Christmas as a threesome, although Tom doesn’t really have an inkling as to what it is all about. I’m sure that he will be more excited by the wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes than by the gifts themselves, although I suspect that the maracas, tambourine and glockenspiel will all be hits as they all make a good noise. Shopping for Tom is remarkably easy (the problem is knowing when to stop) and we’ve worked particularly hard to buy only a moderate number of presents and to aim for quality over cheap tat.

However, this Christmas will also be not-quite-normal as we all fight illness. Tom has a stomach bug which has resulted in vomiting and diarrhoea, although he has remained remarkably cheerful in spite of it all. I took him to the out-of-hours clinic last night for a little medical reassurance (“plenty fluids, a little Calpol, lay off rich food – call back if anything changes”) and he sat on my knee smiling broadly at the doctor (but then he is a bit of a flirt, so I shouldn’t be surprised). Hels has sinusitis, which is causing her to be nauseous and dizzy as well as taking all the flavour and fun out of food. She spent much of today in bed and seems a little better this evening. As for me, I’m pretty tired out by caring for them both and tonight I feel a little flaky – I’m hoping that is a symptom of fatigue and not a harbinger of Tom’s tummy bug (having been around unpleasant nappies for the last two days, nothing would surprise me).

But the presents are wrapped (I’m just tying ribbon on the last few), the cards are delivered (save for three to be dropped through neighbours’ doors in a moment) and the fire is burning (although we can’t get near it for cats). I’m just about to break open the Bristol Cream and Hels is browsing the TV guide. Tomorrow we begin the round of parental visits with my parents, followed by my in-laws on Boxing Day.

All we need now is a holiday. Merry Christmas.

UPDATE: I was struck down on the evening of Christmas Day by Norwalk virus – look it up if you want to know the symptoms, but I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say that I’m a few pounds lighter now. Tom is better but Hels is still not well.
And, as if anticipating my holiday sentiment, my brother and his fiancée gave us a bunch of hotel vouchers so that we can take a break.

Two years

Today is our wedding anniversary. We have celebrated by taking Tom to  a children’s farm, having tea and cake in a tearoom and collecting some sweet chestnuts (something that we did on the slopes of Mount Etna during our honeymoon). Tonight we’re going out for dinner.

Low key, but just right.

1096 days

Three years ago today, I saw a very beautiful, tall, blonde woman for the first time. She was wearing black leather boots with killer heels, which she’d bought just for the occasion. The fact that she could barely walk in them was neither here nor there.

We’d celebrate this anniversary, if only we both didn’t have filthy colds. Bah! Still, we have our wedding anniversary next week, so hopefully we will recover by then.

Why we are not exactly leaping around at the moment

This week has included:

  • learning that a friend and client is very unwell
  • literally dozens of phone conversations with two different sets of lawyers and two different sets of surveyors
  • realising that I’ve cocked up my plan to go to a trade show in Poland (note to self: VIII means August, not September – d’oh!)
  • dropping a client because he is really not on my wavelength and I can’t be bothered to struggle for what would be a potentially small reward
  • getting a very long document from the Borough Council
  • not getting a whole bunch of things sorted out that I planned to do this week
  • cleaning up purple projectile vomit after Tom had blackberries for tea (he’s fine now, but I’ve got to redecorate a wall)
  • having to clean the cat litter tray every day after one or other of them decided that the garden was too cold and wet to use now that the weather has turned.

And that is just what I’ve had to do – Hels has had just as much. 

But there are positive things too:

  • Sussex beat Durham in the cricket
  • it rained (very good news in this part of the world)
  • we caught up with some people in the pub
  • it’s Friday
  • we’re going on holiday soon
  • Tom “pulled” a waitress in the place we went to today for lunch (very funny – you had to be there)

So it’s not all bad. It just feels that way.

Quiet around here

For once, this isn’t a post making lame excuses for the lack of new content on this site. Instead, I’m remarking on the fact that it’s a bit quiet at home today, even though Tom is here, my mum is here and the two cats are around somewhere (although trying desperately to find somewhere shady and cool, much like the rest of us).

The reason it is quiet is that Hels has gone back to work today for the first time in seven months. To say that she was not looking forward to it is an understatement – the thought of having to deal with daily stresses, irritating people and a stifling office environment are not the things that encourage someone to be enthusiastic. Added to that, H feels guilty at leaving Tom. Tom, of course, is going to be ably cared for by a combination of grandparents, childminder and me, so he’ll be fine. Furthermore, H is caring for him in a way by going out and earning the money we need to keep home and family together. So I’ve suggested that she shouldn’t feel guilty or even worried, but I guess it’s a natural reaction.

Meanwhile, I’ve had my mum for company today and she and Tom have taken a nap this afternoon on the lawn in some shade. She’s ably dealt with trying to get Tom to eat food he doesn’t really like, drink water that he doesn’t really want (I’m concerned about fluid intake in this heat) and is currently poaching some chicken for his tea this evening.

But it’s not the same as having Hels here every day. Anyone want to make a cash donation so we don’t have to work and can just enjoy Tom together?