Fake Bob - NOT the real Bob - he sits on the 1st floor.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A new moon rises over Old Street

The frustrating process of property selling has come to an end - it is amazing how quickly the whole thing can move when you tell all of the solicitors and agents involved that you are going to pull out of the deal unless contracts are signed and exchanged by the end of the week. It only took until the Wednesday when the agent, worrying about her 2%, called to say that everything was done and the process was now unlocked and completion was due the following week. The old saying "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" is so true when dealing with these professionals.

So - Bob(fake of course) has a pot of money in the bank and is no longer paying a mortgage - interest rates are on the up, house prices are ready to collapse - if you believe the Evening Standard - and I am ready to pounce. But before I dip my toe into the property market again I think that there is time to take a breath, there is no panic to be on the ladder. Let me see if this time I can make a wise purchase :-)

A positive change has happened in the last few weeks, after suffering at the hands of Chinese builders (don't ask) for a month I decided that working from the cramped spare bedroom was not really productive. A GumTree advert offering a desk space in a creative office between Hoxton and Liverpool Street sounded like the ideal solution - cheap, local, comfortable and surrounded by other people who speak my language. So here I am, exposed brick walls, my own comfortable work space and as much coffee as one can drink. I have already completed one project that has been hanging around for months - now I just have 3 more on the books before I can work on my own portfolio.

So life is on the up.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Part of the grand plan

This week finds me filled with frustration, something that anyone who has ever bought or sold a property in England will understand.

Part of my grand plan to escape from the clutches of the corporate job market was to sell my lovely little garden flat in a quiet mews in Highbury and pocket a nice chunk of equity that the god of the rising property market has deemed fit to bestow. All was going well as after 2 weeks of cleaning and painting the flat was ready for valuation and market. Within 2 weeks I had 20+ viewings and 2 offers at asking price. So far so good.

A condition of both offers was that I increased the lease length to a full 99 years, after a short negotiation with the freeholder all looked good. An estimate of 2-3 weeks for the lease extension, a cash buyer and no onward chain - how easy could it be. In my calculation of a completion date I did not take into account that the freeholders solicitor would do absolutely nothing for a month. Without reason or explanation the evil solicitor has put the whole process in jeopardy, the buyer was attracted to the quick completion and no chain element of the deal and is now I assume less than happy that we have moved no further forward. Exchange of contracts is on hold until the evil solicitor in question manages to pull her finger out, draft a document and communicate as required to the freeholder and to my solicitor.

So - watch this space - I will not hold my breath as turning purple is not a good look for someone of my age. Cross your fingers and toes and use the power of your thoughts to light a fire under Norah Wright Lucas & Co


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jumping without a parachute

At the end of May I walked away from my desk, caught the 17:55 from Waterloo (it was 5 minutes late, leaves on the line) to Brighton. As I strolled across the pebbles to the waters edge I removed most of my clothes ready to pile them neatly near the high water line. OK I exaggerate just a little; I walked away from my desk into the unknown world up unemployment- not the dark cold waters of the English Channel. Now this was not forced unemployment but a calculated attempt to regain some energy and self esteem after a few years of mindless under utilization. It was not that the work I was asked to do was boring or lacked challenge it was more that I was rarely asked to do any work, let alone work that would stimulate me and make me feel a valued member of the team.

I know that I am not alone in wishing that I could jump from a position without having secured the safety net of a new job. People are tied to their desks at the old firm with many good reasons - perhaps mortgages, school fees, debts or fear keep them from following my lead. All I can say to them is that the freedom feels sooooooo good.

For the first 6 weeks the freedom was almost too much, it reminded me of the long school holidays in the 70's when the sun always shone and the days seemed almost endless. I managed to catch up with friends for lunch, meet new people, read all of the newspapers at the local coffee shop and indulge my photographic hobby. I even managed to get my flat on the market and find a buyer at asking price (don't get me started on the lengthy legal process of selling property in England).

Through a chance conversation with one of my old lunch friends I now find myself sitting in the corner of the office's of a small design firm called Crumpled Dog. Not employed by them as such but more squatting in a desk space doing my own thing while hopefully being able to help with the odd technical problem or two. What a difference in this office - everyone has such passion for their work, they smile and sing, they play hard and work hard. So no more faceless corporate - the future is small the future is crumpled (or something similar). Fake"Crumpled"Bob xx

Monday, March 27, 2006

Next time call a Left handed Electrician

This weekend saw me tackle a job that has been staring at me for months - a simple job of boxing in the pipes under the new boiler and moving 1 double socket, 1 boiler switch and a timer so that they are mounted on the box. Now I have a degree in Electrical engineering so moving a few bits was well within my ability - IN THEORY. Just to be on the safe side I called in a friend - with Electrics you can never be too safe :-0 The friend in question is equally qualified on paper and has the added advantage of 10 years of experience working as an engineer with the BBC. So between us we are well qualified to attempt this minor task.

As you can imagine, all started well, cut the boxing to size, mark out the holes for the socket housings use the drill to make a hole for the hack saw to fit through .... all going well so far. Did I mention that the boxing was in the far left corner of the kitchen, underneath some overhead cupboards - important info for later :-)

To cut the holes for the housings I used a tried and trusted method - a cheap electric saw and the wood balanced on top of the tool box with my friends foot used as a clamp. Sadly the blade of the cheap saw was as soft as butter and bent so much that the resulting holes were a little less than perfect - a bit of hacking and bodging with and eventually the boxes fit the holes. (I am still taking the splinters from my hands!)

The wires were ready to slip through the holes and a ten minute job of wiring them up as per the diagram was ahead. Did I mention that the whole job was far under the cupboards on the left - not enough room for 2 and in the most bloody awkward place for a right handed person to work in. I will spare you the whole story of wires not being long enough, not enough room to see what we were doing, wires not wanting to stay attached to the plug, a little swearing, one screwdriver too big, one too small etc etc. We did have a nice coffee and a nata (very sweet custard tart) from the local cafe when we needed a DIY shop break and then a few hot cross buns when our energy was low. The job almost finished we hit the Chinese take away and treated ourselves to a beer.

Without the support and help of my friend the job would still be sitting waiting - now it is finished I can finish the tiles :-) BUT I think that we would have both have been happy to pay for a left handed Electrician to come over and do the whole thing in 30 minutes while we watched the Rugby :-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tough Judge

Four times a year the local camera club that I belong to (The City and Cripplegate Photographic Society) holds a competition evening. Last night was such an evening where club members bring along their beautifully printed and mounted prints to be judged. Usually the judges are informative and generous (after all this is for fun) leaving the participants with a feeling of a job well done. Well last night the judge pulled no punches - a club with a rich history of great photographers managed not one mark of 10 (out of 10) in the prints section. [one bright button who shall remain nameless in case her head inflates so much that she explodes managed a 10 in the slides section!] Most people managed to get 5 or 6 out of 10, the lowest marks given with a few lucky people scraping a grudging 8 from the judge. What do you think about the picture here, "Ethereal Cloister"? Is it really only worth 6 :-( ? This unhappy punter managed 6.6.6. as a set of scores - perhaps it is time to sit in a corner and lick my wounds.

On a happier note a ragged bunch of keen snappers headed to the south coast on Saturday for a chance to photograph the world famous De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. This Art Deco classic building has been recently refurbished and presents even the most ham fisted photographer an opportunity to take some impressive snaps. As usual RugbyMadGirl managed to outshine us all with her photographic skill and well developed eye. On a cold and clear sunny day it was an ideal venue, good food and coffee were never in short supply but there were perhaps a few too many people with SLR's there (not our group of course). At one point I found it difficult to lower the camera from my eye as my elbow struck an enthusiastic fellow who wanted to photograph the exact scene I had just captured. Feck off and find your own picture I screamed inside, "Sorry" was the word that slipped from my lips. How polite are we!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Where did all my friends go?

The trouble (and joy) with having a partner who works so many hours, hits the gym 3 times a week and has family commitments too is that I am left with many hours free to entertain myself. Usually weekends are filled with a steady swing through the social branches of the old friendship tree, coffee with someone here, lunch there, a little shopping or maybe some gossip over yet more coffee. This weekend was one of those weekends where everyone else seemed to be away, Spain, Greece, Cornwall, Cousin's birthday, training course - so what is a man to do.

DIY tasks kept me entertained for about 20 minutes, the Scottish humbling of the English rugby beef distracted me a while. The thought of going to the gym was enough, almost like a full work out in itself. So I thought that I would behave in the usual manner, go to the usual places but do it this time alone! This city of 7 million people must offer distraction to those that seek it. Of course I wasn't alone for long, I met up with a lovely friend (new) at a coffee shop and after an hour or so talking about family, his twin brother, arguing with his mother etc. we parted company with a firm hug and a promise to get together again. The boyf was home and asleep on the sofa before 7:30, the familiar sounds of slightly heavy breathing a comfort rather than an annoyance. Sadly we missed the film we had planned to see - but he needed the rest poor love.

Sunday morning came; the usual gang being away didn't stop me from venturing to Columbia road. An attractive shop boy who is usually very cool and distant greeted me with a wave and a smile from the window. I enjoyed my coffee reading the paper and was heading back to the car when I bumped into an old friend, also passing his time alone. More caffeine consumed, more chat and more warm goodbyes followed. Returning to the car I saw a shop that had until now gone unnoticed, a positive Aladin's cave of fancy goods (must take the gang there). I resisted all but one of their tempting offers, taking home a charming if not a little camp stick stand. A whiz up to Stoke Newington for a walk and a late lunch with Luciano before heading home for snooze. Dinner with the boyf's family rounded off a gentle and comforting weekend.

Bugger - didn't do the DIY tasks on the list - ah well, there is always next weekend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Alex and Barnes bring joy to their new home

There seems to be a new home fashion, one that is as emotionally exhausting as it is financially challenging. Basically remodel your home by knocking all but the front wall down and starting again from scratch. Well I say a new fashion but perhaps it is just a London thing. Three sets of friends have been through this process over the last few years, and each has come out with a stunning new home and all seem more than happy with their efforts. So when the urge to move hits you consider the alternative, take a sledge hammer to your existing walls and employ good quality builders to share in your dream. If possible get a TV company interested to follow you on your journey and make sure that you have enough emotional energy and most of all money to get to the end of the process.

Last night Alex and Barnes made my visit to their new home a joy, the 2 year olds are so full of life and energy that it is infectious. Apart from one particularly smelly nappy an hour in their company made this 40 year old yearn to have children of my own. While pulling a sad face the innocent and loving darlings took it in turns to run over, lay their head on my shoulder and say sorry – Alex was so enthusiastic in her approach that her hug almost became a head butt. Faced with such love (even for the scary man!) I challenge anyone to come away without being uplifted. I wish the family much love and all the best things that family life can bring.