It's nice from time to time to publish - unseasonable - photos of my garden. I say 'my garden'. None of the credit for any of the work should go to me! I'm writing this in the twilight of 28 February (after half five, such joy!) and there are already signs of spring (including green fly, I'm told!).
I must get out over the weekend and take some 'March garden' snaps. These are from late April last year, and include some 'almost duplicates'. I call it photography practice!
Just trawling through my photos I found these taken in my back garden last year. Oddly, I didn't take any in the garden this August. I think I had this idea once that I should take photos at least once a month just to see how the garden changes from season to seaon but also as it gets worked on. Not by me, I hasten to add! I don't think that after the Autumnal Equinox is the best time to revive that semi-resolution, but, nevertheless, it's as good a time as any to record the changing seasons!
One day I was working at home and in need of a break. It had been raining but the sun had come out.
I thought I would document how the garden was looking
But then, I thought, I could take endless dull photos, or I could have a play with the camera. I think actually I went a bit over the top, but I enjoyed the results, I enjoyed editing the photos, and I even enjoyed trying to work out what the actual flowers are! Guess work, in most cases, so do please correct me if I'm wrong.
I hope you enjoy.
I'm afraid all my nervous and writing energy in the past few weeks has gone into my endess pauseless battle with a building firm who are building on a site immediately adjoining my house. They are members of an industry self-regulation scheme called the Considerate Constructors Scheme. My numerous complaints sent to the CCS have shown to me that they are nothing more than a ineffectual, self-congratulatory PR Fluff scheme with less impact as a regulator than the discredited and derided Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
My house has been smashed up; our water was cut off for several hours one Saturday night/Sunday morning/Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. Our electricity was cut off from 11pm on Friday night to 3pm yesterday, Saturday. Everything that has happened is dismissed by The Builders as 'minor issues' as they remind us of their generosity in repairing their burst water pipes and being obliged by law to put right the damage to my house and my neighbour's, which looks to be even worse.
I am assured that this firm are 'Considerate Constructors' and have worked hard to maintain good relations with their neighbours. To me, it feels like bullying and harrassment. But if you try reporting to that to the police, or reporting obstructions that prevent access by emergency vehicles - or electric generators - it's a 'civil matter'. Apparently, if I get my car scratched, that's a criminal matter, but my life and my neighbour's life being endangered - a civil matter.
It's been a struggle to survive from day-to-day, coping with this on top of the usual everyday stresses that come from work, travel, personal admin, health and so on. Bloggings's a great escape. But sometimes, the emotional energy has to be directed elsewhere.
Here's some pictures I took in the garden just about six months ago.
I picked up the 'Fifteen Minute Rule' from someone I know as Lynne, who some people will know as the owner of the Blogging Brits webring, one of my earliest blog 'friends' and inspiration, though we have never met.
The Fifteen Minute Rule applies largely to housework and related chores, although I suppose it can be adapted to other matters. It acknowledges that housework is never done. As soon as you've 'finished' something it will crop up again eg once you've done the washing up, you want to make a cup of tea.
It is particularly useful for Spoonies, but also for people who feel constantly pressed for time or who feel daunted by the seeming overwhelming volume of tasks to do.
So, how does it work?
Divide your household chores into large fairly clearly defined chunks. Mainly room-based, with additions for extra on-going tasks. So I have 15 minutes for each room, plus washing-up, laundry and paper-sort.
Work through them in a pre-determined order.
Using the timer on your phone* and set it to 15 minutes. Get on and do what seems the most pressing things in the first 'room'. Don't sweat the details eg if it's the living room, remove the dirty plates and the detritus of post and magazines, plump the cushions and wipe the coffee table. Don't get anxious about the cobwebs in the corner.
When the timer goes off, stop. And I mean it. If you've gathered all the rubbish into a plastic bag, obviously, you can throw that into the wheelie bin, but don't say - I just need to put those DVDs away or clean the window.
Move on to the next room, say 'laundry'. For me, that's sorting clothes to be washed, and putting them into be washed. Usually only after putting away the last lot that has been drying in the airing cupboard and/or over the bath. Again, stop at 15 minutes, and again apply that with common sense - if you're poised at the machine about to load it, carry on. And at some time, you'll need to take them out, an obvious flaw to this otherwise excellent system!
Do three lots of 15, then reward yourself with a break, also 15 minutes, where you may sit down with a cup of tea, catch up on Twitter etc, before starting again, or not.
You will never keep a house spic-and-span just using the 15 minute rule, but it stops you drowning. I try to do 3x15 on a work night, if I'm in, but don't beat myself up if I don't.
It's important to look at the tasks in manageable chunks, such as rooms, but it's also okay to flex the boundaries a little. So, for me, if the washing up is finished before the 15 minutes, I put things into recycling, even though a pedant would class that as 'kitchen'. Or if I'm vacuuming the dining/computer room, it also makes sense to vacuum the stairs.
Sometimes there are jobs that need more than 15 minutes, or only need doing occasionally. For example, if you feel the need to go through your wardrobe, cupboards and drawers to chuck out what you no longer wear, you can still break this down into 15 minutes chunks.
If you know you don't have a beauty regime and figure that maybe you ought to, add certain tasks to the 15 minute rule: face mask, varnishing toenails, all that girly crap I pretend doesn't matter but sort of does. Sometimes there is something you enjoy doing but can't get back into because of 'writer's block' - for me, editing photos and hand diary writing - so add them, too.
Keep a standing list of what should be done in rotation. If you do it often enough, you will find yourself in a spiral that means that by the third rotation you are able to do more - eg tackle the cobwebs in the corner. Or focus on one specific area eg tidy the computer table, clean the cooker.
The advantage of this is that if you have casual non-judgemental visitors you never need to feel ashamed that your house is a tip. And when you realise that it's time to do a bigger job - sorting out cupboards, spring cleaning, you don't let the smaller mundane tasks become an excuse for not tackling it!
* people with iphones may want to use a mechanical kitchen timer
Months ago - and I mean months ago - we finally got round to getting new sofas. I had a bought a couple of cheap sofas when I first bought the house, with the intention of replacing them within five years. Fourteen-and-a-half years later, they remained.
We realised that in order to get the old 3-seater out of the house it would have to be broken up. I said I would do as much as I could in Jimmy's absence at work; he could finish it off in preparation for its removal on the Monday, when we had the new ones delivered.
Being me, I couldn't resist photographing various stages of the process. I don't think the photos require further explanation:
Quarter past eleven, loud knock on the door. 'Who is it?' I called out, knowing better than opening my door to strangers. A female voice called out 'Police', so I opened up. That's how middle-class I am!
As I opened, I thought, it could be robbers or noisy neighbours bluffing me. Then, when I saw a police uniform, I knew they were police.
So I went through a quick examination of conscience (it's obviously something in my upbringing; I once shared a lift with the now Commissioner of the Met and almost surrendered myself into his custody so wracked with guilt I felt), then I felt a thrill of excitement - there's been a major incident in the neighbourhood and they're doing door-to-door enquiries, before again feeling guilty because 'major incident' may be exciting to me, but devastating to someone else.
They asked me if I knew someone - gave her name. I said I knew the name, because I had received post in her name. Several increasingly severe demands for gym membership renewals. I've asked at the two rented houses but they had no knowledge of her. I assumed she had lived there previously, and moved on, without leaving a trace.
I mentioned to the police that I had received a parking ticket for her and was meaning to ring up TfL to say 'it's not me'! They asked to see the parking ticket - in actual fact it's a penalty charge notice for box junction infringement. They took some details, and said it was very useful, because they're looking for her. I've just taken a look at the PCN and it's for a vehicle with a 2010 registration (YG10), so it seems that either she's decided to use this address as an address of convenience, or else she's lived in one of the neighbouring houses until recently.
As I wrote this, I suddenly remembered that Jimmy said he'd bumped into the owner of the other cottage (not the Noisy Neighbours nor the Religious Nutter Neighbour) the other day, and he (the landlord) had said the previous tenants had done a runner without paying the rent. So I got on the phone to the Met's telephone answering service and passed that snippet on, too. I was even able to come up with a name for the landlord.
I'm intrigued as to why the police are looking for this Vicky woman. I'm not sure that failing to renew a gym membership, and then driving into a box junction on the corner of Brixton Road and Gresham Road (hmm, outside the cop shop) makes her a dangerous criminal. But there's definitely something dodgy about her.
UPDATE: 00:10 Control at Brixton Police ring to say this Vicky 'has been found safe and well'. Now I'm feeling guilty, thinking, assuming, she was a bad 'un all along, and it turns out that she was missing/maybe vulnerable. I like to think that my handing over her car registration details may have proved vital in tracing her, but I rather suspect that most cases of adults reported missing result either from rows or from excess alcohol, and end when the presumed-missing person returns home, embarrassed at having caused such a fuss.
You may be familiar with my Tweets about the Chavs next door. It would be unfair to call them nuisance neighbours. Actually, scrub that, they are nuisance neighbours, but I know very well that compared to the hell that many people have to endure they are moderate and spasmodic.
It started with the party that went on until 5 am, despite the visit from the Noise Squad
There was the incident when their barbecue was blowing smoke into our house on a hot sunny day, and I politely asked them to put it out or at least move it away from the boundary fence - only to be met with sneers from their little friends. They didn't move it, and smoke continued to billow into the house for another hour or so. (I emailed the nuisance squad).
There have been numerous other incidents, too frequent and yet too trivial to mention. Each of them taken alone wouldn't be worth mentioning, indeed, a bit of neighbour noise is welcome; if the alternative is someone who demands absolute quiet all the time, you'd be terrified even to put the TV on.
This evening, I'm watching the Tsarina's Slippers on the Sky+, when there's a knock on the door. I did what I always do: open the door without checking first. I know, me stupid. I thought it was probably my religious nutter neighbour, either wanting to know if it was my car blocking her access, or possibly, seeking help - with her husband over 80, practically blind and having had a couple of strokes, that's always a possibility.
Turns out it was one of the Chavs from next door. Asking me to turn my music down - because 'it's after 11 o'clock'. Splendid, I thought, time for a bit of fun.
I said no.
She asked again, pointing out again that it's after 11 o'clock. A conversation ensued where I suggested she had a cheek, because of the 5 am party. She rudely interrupted me mid-flow, to point out that I had called the noise squad, which is what she was going to do on me. I knew full well that the Tsarina's Slippers had less than half an hour to go; I also know it generally takes the Noise Squad at least an hour to respond.
So, laughing contemptuously, I said "You're asking me a favour; when I asked a favour..."
She explained that she wasn't asking a favour, she was telling...then she said,
"You ought to relax, you look like you're having a heart attack".
Now, remember I have a residual chest infection, that I had dropped what I was doing and stood up suddenly from the sofa, then opened the door to be met with very cold air blasting into my face, so I probably did look a bit taken aback.
But that was very rude. I don't like people who make rude personal comments. She doesn't know me, for all she knew I could have some chronic heart problem, Okay I don't, but she doesn't know that.
What a common little oik. She has this bleach blond expensive trendy haircut - looks a bit like Paula Yates before the drugs did for her - but underneath the thin veneer is one little madame. Accent is Old Kent Road on helium, with added whine and astonishing lack of inflection. Very strange body language, even stranger (lack of) facial expression. Weird. Which is all beside the point.
If you go round to someone's house and insult them on their doorstep, it's harassment. Obviously, not of a magnitude to warrant further action, but, nevertheless, noted in case it's the beginning of a campaign of harassment. Actually, I don't think it is. The three of them have proved over-and-again that they're not exactly the full shilling. She probably thinks that the best way to get people to co-operate with her is to be borderline intimidatory.
What she doesn't realise is that I am bored stupid with people who get their kicks out of putting me (and others) down. I went through a phase of trying to be nice to people, which is absolutely right for the vast majority of people.
But there is a certain type of person I encounter far too often. For whatever reason - and I think it's generally personal insecurity - they can only feel good about themself when they put other people down.
I don't think many of them actually realise they're doing it, it's a habitual defence mechanism, and it manifests itself differently in different people (or depending on the context). The trouble with such people is that it ends up that the only method of communication they really understand is one of competitive put-down.
For example, this Chav, it is completely pointless to try and say calmly "I think you are being unreasonable, given your past history" because she just wants to butt in with the next sneer. And yet, there's nothing to be gained by playing their game of sneer and put-down.
She asked me again to turn the music down, and I said 'No', she asked why not, I explained that 'I can't be bothered'. She actually staggered two steps back at that (she needs to relax, she looked like she was having a heart attack - not). It always pays to be honest. No point saying 'yes' and looking like you've given in; be honest, because many people can't actually cope with honesty. And if you don't want to be honest, behave with total apparent reasonableness (whilst thinking about completely unreasonable behaviour
She told me again I needed to relax, I look like I'm having a heart attack (clearly, she doesn't actually have the slightest clue what having a heart attack looks like, it's certainly different from someone with a chest infection gasping at the cold air).
And again she told me to turn it down, again I said I can't be bothered, I laughed, and I closed the door slowly and quietly but firmly.
I will fully admit that there were points in the Tsarina's Slippers which were really quite loud, and I had the TV volume set for the quieter moments. I will also accept that I have spent most of the past few days at home, I haven't really been out, and I suppose that either the stereo or the TV has been on most of the time between about midday and midnight, and they, too, have been in and out. Indeed, if I had a kind and considerate person living next door, my behaviour ie my sound levels would be different.
Jimmy's working tonight; he phoned me just after I finished watching the Tsarina's Slippers. He says I should never open the door to those awful people, and if they ever come round again, it is because they are intent on harassing me. He says I need to beware of New Year's Eve, and do not hesitate to call the Noise Squad the minute things get out of hand - because they've already been in trouble once, they're looking at much greater consequences than I am.
It's a funny situation. I really don't need or want to get into a conflict with here-today, gone-tomorrow renters. It sounds a bit childish to say "They started it", but they did. After their party, if they had a modicum of intelligence, they would have arranged for a bunch of flowers or at least a card to be delivered saying "Sorry we got off to a bad start." But they didn't, they just hide their heads in shame and embarrassment every time we pass on the drive (except for the occasions when they are in their cups and walking along the road drinking!).
Again, if it had been a one-off, I could easily have said, they misjudged, they didn't realise the implications of inviting 'friends of friends' to a house party. Indeed, if they had STFU and called it a day after the Noise Squad had called round, all would have been forgotten. But the simple fact that as recently as Saturday Night/Sunday morning they had another party, albeit one without audible sound system, that led to me having to insert earplugs at 2 am, seems to me that they are happy to carry on capriciously and thoughtlessly.
If I was living next door to a kind and considerate neighbour, the request to turn down the music would have been reasonable. And indeed, my response would have been "Oops sorry, I didn't realise it was so loud." Acts can't be judged in isolation from context.
I just wish I understood their psychology. It's probably just down to them believing they have a right to party and sod everyone else, which, actually, I can understand. But for them to start retaliating on me, I wish I knew where this was going. Any campaign of harassment will be nipped sharply in the bud. Trouble is, they can bugger off in February, when, I assume, their lease runs out; they start again with new neighbours (and be replaced by people perhaps more repugnant). So, they can spend the next six weeks or so being total and utter bitches with little fear of facing the consequences.
I have just ordered my neighbour out of my house.
It's a long saga. She's a rude selfish stuck-up cow with pretensions of grandeur. She had this stupid stupid idea about two years ago that we should all change our address for her convenience - to Laundry Lane.
She explained her rationale: whenever she orders something for home delivery, it comes up with my address. That isn't true. What actually happens is that she orders something over the telephone or in a shop and gives her postcode. Four houses share a postcode, which isn't actually very many for a postcode. The first one on a drop down list is my address. My address is
1 Gert Cottage
That's all that's needed, as per Royal Mail.
Her address therefore is
If I order something over the phone, the usual behaviour is that they ask my postcode, I give it, they say "Is that 1 Gert Cottage?" I say yes.
Presumably, she gets asked "Is that 1 Gert Cottage" and she replies "Yes" rather than "No, it's Cow Cottage". It's like if you live at 33 Acacia Avenue and you give your postcode, and they say "Is that 1 Acacia Avenue" you don't reply "Yes it is vaguely that area" but you do reply "No, it's 33 Acacia Avenue."
It's not that difficult. I know from the addresses of my family and friends that there are numerous complications in how houses are addressed, so, while ours isn't 'normal' it's not the sole aberration in an otherwise neatly ordered system. The road I back onto is numbered 1, 2, 3 on one side and 48, 47, 46, etc on the other, rather than odds on one size and evens on the other. It's a surprise the first time you encounter it, then you get used to it. I assume there are many other roads similarly numbered.
I know what these drop-down lists look like, I use them regularly online. Yes, her house lacks a house-number. So do lots of houses. So does another house in the foursome, Alaska Cottage. Funny how they don't have the same problems with deliveries as she does.
She's gone and ordered a bed from Argos, to be delivered to my house, on a day I shall be at work. So she's come round to warn me. Or rather, to ask a favour. Jimmy and I have agreed we have done her too many favours and been treated like dirt in return, so, except for the fact that her husband is infirm, we won't do any more favours (in actual fact, if we were at home and one of her delivery people came knocking, of course we would redirect them). She's accused him of trespassing on her land (yeah, she's that grand!); she's had her priest friend sneering at him and our house name.
She then started on the 'something must be done...'. I knew what was coming; she was moving on to discuss Laundry Lane. I've already told her I'm not interested and why; I've already explained how the postcode database works. She chose not to listen then, so I chose not to listen this evening, saying with a somewhat raised voice "Get out..." She told me not to be so rude. I said she was the rude one, with her postcode nonsense, her sneering friends and her f..bloody Laundry Lane.
And I don't actually mean in respect of Manchester United Reserves' inability to take penalties. I mean, how hard can it be? Ball, goalposts/net, hit toward (hard, Mr Berbatov) and get it past the goalie. So, the dream is over. Only the Premiership and the European Champions League (stupid name when the important matches are knockouts - what's wrong with The European Cup?)
No, I refer to the things that make Gert Cottage liveable in. So far this year, I have already replaced my mp3 player and mobile phone, because they were both utterly kaput and defunct, and my laptop because it was as near as damn it.
Several weeks ago I announced on Twitter/Facebook that my grill smells of gas leak and doesn't heat up. The best advice I got was "Do not let Uncle Jimmy near it!" So instead I bought a toaster pro tem.
At about the same time I began to notice two things about the washing machine a) it deposits water on the floor and b) it gets stuck on an eternal rinse cycle. Each time I load it with clothes I go into denial - it will work okay this time, and each time it fails to do so. It still cleans the clothes if clean = caked in limescale deposits.
The sofa has become unbearable. By this I mean the three seater in the front room, not either of the two seaters in the front or back room. It has been tatty for a while, something that is cunningly disguised with throws and cushions. It is really uncomfortable, especially if one sits in the middle bit and uses a laptop on the coffee tables (Oh nos! Ergonomy Fail!).
We have been meaning to get a replacement for a couple of years now, but there is a complication above money, time and round tuit.
When this was originally delivered, back in 1995, it was brought into the house via the front window, the traditional method of introducing large furniture item. I didn't know the delivery person at the time, but got to know him several years later (for those with local knowledge he's the one who leaves his blue vans and lorries parked randomly around the Brixton and Streatham Hill areas, once he's spray painted them - and the road - blue). He did something to the window frame that means it is broken and cannot be taken out again.
So, although I want a three-seater sofa, we fear that we may never get it into the house. Of course, all it actually takes is to measure up various door openings and angles and present a diagram to a reputable shop, and take it from there.
When we do get round tuit we're probably going to go to somewhere ultra safe and somewhat expensive, such as John Lewis Partnership. One hears so much of these dodgy pile 'em high sell 'em cheap places that go bankrupt, leaving people with their deposists un-returned, or sell them furniture which isn't fire retardant.
The latest one is the central heating system. I got the boiler replaced about ten years ago and was given the option of retaining the airing cupboard or getting instant hot water. I opted for the airing cupboard. What has recently started happening is that when the water comes 'on' even though the control for heating is 'off' the heating still comes on and blasts out, hot. Even though the thermostat is at about 16 degrees, the radiators are blasting out hot, and the thermostat is registering the temperature to be about 23 degrees. So that needs sorting. I have an engineer coming in the afternoon. Hopefully, it's just something really minor, like a short-circuit in the on/off box or something. But a year or so back, thinking of doing my bathroom, I asked a service engineer how long the boiler had left. He estimated a couple of years, and suggested that I got a new boiler installed in the loft in due course; in any case he advised me not to get the bathroom done before replacing the boiler.
Don't misunderstand me, I'm not complaining. None of these things are expiring before their time (well, maybe the washing machine but apparently having had it at least five years I shouldn't expect much more out of it). I can cover the expenses with savings, so am not reliant on consumer credit, and buying them isn't going to throw me into poverty.
I am beginning to worry that at some time the nest egg will disappear with no obvious way to replace it. Interest rates will rise, and eventually I might have to go back to working full time. The trouble is, when you downshift in a progressive tax system, you don't really miss the money too much, but you know that if you then upshift the relatively minor increase in money doesn't compensate for the loss of time.
Let's be honest, most of us have had a nuisance in our bedroom from time-to-time, but rarely we do get the opportunity for the powers-that-be - in this case, Lambeth Noise Squad, actually rule that it's a statutory nuisance. The excitement of it!
The noise squad arrived at 3.30, and sod's law declared that this was a time of pause in the loud electronic thud thud music being 'sung' along to in the room next to my dining/computer room (which is underneath the main bedroom). They listened in, and then they asked to go to the bedroom, where the noise from the back garden mingled with the noise from downstairs to be a Statutory Noise Nuisance!
The process is that they serve the abatement notice on them. That can have the effect of quietening things down...the 'music' has stopped (3.55 am) but there are still drugged-up morons shouting and generally having hysterics, although there have been clear signs of significant departures. The Noise Squad warned me that they have no control over what happens after they serve the abatement notice. I guess some people have to sense to call it a day, whereas others think it's the sign of a great party, think it's a laugh and start again, as they next door seem to be doing at 4.10 am.
They then follow up with a letter and I also get a letter. For a first offence they get away with a warning. Repeat offenders can get prosecuted - criminal record, fine, nice stuff like that. And if it persists into the night, I can call up the noise team, who close at 5 am, and log the fact that it has continued.
In theory, the noisy bitches won't know who has complained, but I would imagine it doesn't take genius to work out that it's most likely to be semi-detached neighbour. I did think - I wonder if some drunk or high attender will put a brick through my window.
I started this post at 3.55. I am finishing it at 5.25. The stereo is on relatively low but still very audible next door, and they are shouting, screaming, grunting, breaking out into occasional choruses of out-of-tune singing.
I hope they rot in hell. And they will hope the same as blessed relief after I have finished with them.
The single worst thing about living where I live is the 'buy to let' phenomenon. Because nobody can actually afford to buy round here, or at least, it's been out of most people's price bracket for a decade, what we get are 'house shares' on short term assured tenancies.
I think they are the single most damaging thing to a neighbourhood. If you have a - surprisingly - settled community with a mixture of owner-occupiers and long term leaseholders, you tend to get a bit of give-and-take. People restrain their natural arsehole tendencies on the basis that what goes round comes around, and you don't know when you will need a favour from a neighbour, or at least expect that they act with respect to you. People want to contribute to a community. But short-term leaseholders simply have no sense of community and no understanding of the complex lives of peole who aren't like them.
When the licensing laws changed to allow pubs open at all hours, it was accompanied by guidance that those in residential areas should respect the residents and close at 11pm. But of course there is nothing that prevents loud parties on residential premises. Civilised people recognise that if you live in a semi-detached house with other houses very close, it probably isn't a neighbourly thing to have a party going on at half two in the morning that involves loud thud thud music inside, people screaming and shouting inside and people shouting and singing off key in the back garden. It is actually the height of bad manners to have a loud party at any time and not forewarn your neighbours.
It is also the height of stupidity, especially if your semi-detached neighbour knows the number of the Lambeth noise squad (although has very little hope of 'an officer will contact you within the hour') but is also a vengeful cow who is currently mulling over ways - legally - of making their future lives unbearable.
You see, one of the things about neighbours, they inevitably come asking for favours. Sometimes it's just small things, such as parcels being taken in, or the lending of tools. Sometimes it's bigger things - I've cat-sat/garden-watered; I've allowed the girlfriend of a previous resident, locked out of the house in the rain, to sit in my place with cup of tea while awaiting the boyfriend to return. The thing is, with any of these favours, you tend to do them because it's instinct to do so and churlish not to.
But there comes a point where you just think - why should I do any favours for those wretches. In fact, considering their attitude why shouldn't I just make their lives miserable in numerous small ways. Things like - if their post gets delivered here (and it will, relief postmen seem to think it's legitimate to deliver the post to all four houses here) I will have a choice of dropping it round next door or popping it a post box marked 'not known here, return to sender'. And of course, refusing to accept deliveries on their behalf or direct people to their house. Perhaps knocking on their door and instructing them to tidy and weed their front garden might be an idea.
The difficulty is making it known to them that they have utterly queered their pitch and shot themselves in the foot without actually saying so, and also not to create a situation where they can seek to get revenge for revenge. I shall have to ponder this one.
The trouble is, people who think it is somehow acceptable to have very loud parties in a residential area (not a council estate, not a holiday camp, not a student hall of residence) probably also think it is acceptable to behave in a generally anti-social and selfish way in other respects, too.
2.42 am: Lambeth noise have called me, but they have two visits to make first. Somehow, I don't see myself going to bed before 4 am. These selfish bitches will pay. And when they are least expecting it. not today not tomorrow but one day and for the rest of their hopefully short stay here.
Id it me, or is there something slightly immature about living in a houseshare with two other friends at the age of 30. I know economics and all that, but you do wonder about emotional insecurity and retardation. I mean, who would seriously want to share a bathroom and a kitchen with two other non-related non-lover women beyond the age of student squalor? Weird.
I feel surrounded and trapped by holes in the road. And assorted other things. All of it is for my long-term benefit, and as an experienced maker of omelettes, I know only too well the truism about breaking eggs.
All over London, and, I believe, beyond (yes, even in the wilderness of 'outside the M25') holes are appearing for the repair of the Victorian Water Mains. Over the summer and into the autumn, it was a constant guessing game - where will my bus stop be today, will my bus stop even exist? This was exacerbated by Thames House (spooky!) landscaping works on Millbank. Brixton Town Centre is currently a mess, as a pavement-widening and landscaping scheme progresses - which will be excellent when finished. It holds up north-bound traffic in the morning, so I, like most people get off a stop early and walk.
In the evening, the southbound stops have been moved. Admittedly, not a great distance, but an inconvenience for those with mobility problems, heavy luggage or shopping, or uncomfortable shoes. Two stops combined into one makes it difficult to judge where to stand to catch the right bus.
I like to catch a specific bus that turns right to drop me nearer my house. However, there are gas works from the beginning of last month to the end of this that cause traffic congestion, adding ten or fifteen minutes bus time for the sake of a five minute walk. These gas works also mean that the buses from Clapham Common that usually stop outside my door have been diverted, necessitating an extra walk from that direction. And on weekday evenings, the Victoria Line and thus Brixton tube, closes early; it is often not open at weekends.
Two weeks ago the Victorian Water Main renewal project arrived in Gert Cottage Boulevard. They think we live in Norwood! I thought it was Brixton (Hill), but we seem to have been rebranded as Clapham Park although phone companies think we are Tulse Hill and Royal Mail, Streatham Hill. This was a minor inconvenience - apart from the tarmac we have walked into the house, the plant that has been damaged, the builder who yelled 'you forking count' (or somesuch) right outside my living room window. They did give us three days notice of one of the days we would be without water, although not the other two non-consecutive days. They've gone now and did tidy up well, even meticulously painting back the yellow lines in bright yellow paint on the fresh tarmac, so they look weird beside the years old faded barely visible double yellows!
Oh, and they seem to have damaged the phone line. I noticed my broadband connection was intermittent last Monday. I did nothing about it initially because these things often pass. But it has continued to be intermittent and deteriorating (forget downloading; forget surfing), so I called BT. They said there is a fault on the line and engineers will fix it tomorrow. Jimmy is startled that people in India can find a 'copper fault' outside our front door! It's currently a bit like Pay as You Go Dial-Up but not as quick or convenient.
And because things never go wrong singly, I think my mp3 player is buggered and the washing machine needs nudging on from 'rinse' to 'spin'!
On Sky News, and their website - he's the greengrocer. That's our road, that is. "And her in the Deli" added Jimmy!
Thanks to my sister for ringing up and pointing this out. And to think Jimmy was only over there at about 5pm, getting organic lettuce and organic cherry tomatoes for dinner!
Over the years, regular readers will no doubt have become bored of various tales of how our garden becomes a no-go zone.
We have had near neighbours with paraffin-fuelled barbecues, other idiots with stinking pilchards on their barbecues.
We had the Tesco 'we will work 24-hours a day over the summer's hottest weekend because even though what we are doing is noisy and illegal by the time the authorities catch up with us, it's too late'.
We've the noisy Sloaney Cow with the grating tones who decided to build on our party wall, including at 8 am on a Bank Holiday Monday.
And now we have a completely different problem!
Squirrels have built a nest in our garden.
They're not really squirrels. They are, in fact, sparrows, but they are known as 'squirrels' following the hilarious 'Jimmy gets his words mixed up after consuming several pints of strong Polish beet' (this was when Jimmy...oh, you can guess the rest).
Mummy Squirrel (or Sparrow) is so bossy
I came home early and tired one evening last week to hear a dreadful racket in the garden. It sounded like the 'chuchuchu' leaks from 'thudthud music' played on buses through earphones. "What's that noise?" I asked wearily. Turns out it was the chattering of the baby sparrows. Jimmy moaned about Mummy Squirrel; she keeps nagging him. She flies out to go hunting (I wonder where Daddy Squirrel is, apparently he has been spotted occasionally, he's not always down the pub) and then if she comes back and sees squatters in her garden, rather than flying back to the nest, she stands on the flat-roof and gives a mouthful of abuse. "I'm not letting you lot know where my nest is. As if..." Little does she know that we know!
Last night we decided to eat al fresco. And that nagging bird is back. I had finished, so I lit a cigarette. She stood on the roof and had a right go at me. Jimmy says she's annoyed, I'm exposing her children to passive smoking. Running a guilt trip on me, can't even smoke in one's own garden.
I don't know when it's time for the Baby Sparrows to fly the nest, but until then we will be terrorised by the squatters in our garden.
Next door is up for sale - again. I say again, because he seems to put it up every time the lease runs out with the current tenants. I heard some shouting outside my house today and saw that some sharp-suited halfwit bloke with a Mini Cooper was yelling into his phone right outside my place. I went outside and asked him to stop shouting outside my house. He babbled on about having a 'client'; I said I couldn't care less, he has no business shouting outside my house, he's behaving suspiciously and if he doesn't clear off I'll call the police. Which sent him into a panic...amazing how frequently mention of the word 'police' scares non-EU citizens. He did explain that he was a 'Real Estate Agent'. I suggested that either he ought to make phone calls inside his car or else get a new phone if he has to shout into it. If I had been a bit more quick-thinking I would have pointed out the breach of confidentiality involved in holding client conversations where they can be heard by all-and-sundry.
I mentioned this to Jimmy, who said 'how much?'. So I did a quick google and found out (£330k -as if...'this little period gem which is set in an increasingly popular area of London' pfthhhwa!). I was aghast to find that next door is being advertised with a full-frontal picture of my house, presumably because our garden is pretty and cottage-like and next door's is a barren mess. Jimmy told me to get onto them and complain - otherwise we'll have random strangers knocking on the door or nosying around when we're not in.
It really is a bloody nerve. I've asked them to take it down from the www. Perhaps later in the week I shall call in and inspect their paper publicity, too.
Still, if you have that sort of money to spare (I don't), there's a nice little cottage for sale in Clapham Park (sic), semi-detached to a lovely couple who don't row very often and rarely play Wagner loud past midnight (only when very drunk).
This isn't funny. The Wimbledon Guardian, which presumably is also the Streatham Guardian, says that the police are no longer regarding it as suspicious. So why were there two police officers on the corner this evening, stopping and questioning people, although not me, perhaps because I don't fit a description, anyway I have an alibi, and I quickly put my ear to the ground, as one does in a neighbourhood.
The man killed is a Jamaican alcoholic homeless man who drinks his ten cans of Super. I'm supposed to know him, can't actually properly place him. Stabbed, I'm told. My source, who has had his ear to the ground all day has jumped to the same conclusion as me - the gangs that have been hanging around in an intimidatory manner for months outside the Knights Youth Centre. Place should have been shut down months ago, whoever runs is out of control. Jimmy's just told me he's seen deliveries going on there. And when deliveries happen you get desperate 'youths' who'll do anything for money. Include, it seems, stab a desperate alcoholic homeless man. At quarter to six in the evening. Almost broad bloody daylight. Time of day when people are moving around, coming home from work, bumper to bumper traffic on the South Circular, dropping into Tesco.
Live in an urban area long enough and you don't notice a lot of stuff. Police have been swarming the area recently, some clamp-down on car thefts (frankly, if that's their operational priority I'm appalled). Often you see police parked up outside places. Don't get involved, don't ask questions.
But what can i do, what can I say, someone got murdered outside my house yesterday, and it hasn't actually sunk in yet. I'm feeling quite calm right now, but I'm not sure that's going to last.
Not Streatham, actually...
I was annoyed that the bus carried on instead of turning left to drop me off near my house. I had a long walk (or so it seemed with achy legs etc), to find that the police have sealed off Streatham Place up as far as Carphone Warehouse. It's giving me the creeps reading that. I'm glad I was out. Jimmy's heard a rumour it was a shooting. But you know what rumours are like.
More from the front line of summer insomnia in the wee sma' hours.
It was probably fifteen years ago I saw Spike Lee's seminal film, on a hot sultry night in Streatham. Few films have succeeded so well in evoking the tensions simmering on such a night, as the oppressive heat pushes people to the limit of their frayed nerves, to the extent that whenever such a night occurs, I am reminded of the film.
Last night was unexceptional. I was dozing rather than sleeping, only for my slumbers to be interrupted by a vehicle. The same vehicle that I had heard the previous night and had put down as a street-cleaning vehicle. I assume it to be that because apart from the noisy engine and the irritating beep-beep-beep which seems to be de rigeur for a reversing vehicle, there is also a sound similar to brushes whirring and whirring. But I find it unlikely that my back-street is being swept at any time, let alone at 3.30 am on weekend nights.
I am determined to find out what this vehicle is, so I look out the window, remembering to wrap myself in the curtain for reasons of decorum and modesty. I glance around the neighbourhood, surprised at how many houses have lights still on. I do not see the noisy vehicle but I wonder how many of those lights are for security (for the burglars; to ward off demons), indicative of people being up or just sheer laziness/forgetfulness. I notice more lights come on in neighbouring houses, presumably illumination by those woken by the vehicle, which might be a ghost ship for all I know. I glance again at a window that was already lit when I took up my position. Suddenly a naked lady comes into view. A glance in my direction and she backs away. I know which house she lives in, but I don't think I would recognise her in the street, not with her clothes on, anyway. And, anyway, earlier in the day she might have been able to see me lying in my back garden dressed as if I was on a beach (bloody sun, I have now gone blonde, at least at the ends...)
I find it intriguing and strange that there is so much activity at 3.30 am. My neighbourhood is characterised by small semi-detached cottages - some of them subdivided - with tiny gardens, so there are dozens of people with bedrooms visible from mine. I woke again at about 6.30, because Jimmy's alarm clock was sounding. As I lay in bed listening to the sounds of a neighbourhood waking up, realising the air was fresher (had their been rain?) I felt a sense of tranquillity. Despite the vehicle noise, engines revving and the beep beep beep of reversing, it seemed peaceful. I remembered another hot spell, in Streatham, when a performance sports car had its alarm (high pitched whistle and the horn sounding) malfunctioning so that it went off and carried on going for an over an hour on three consecutive hot sultry nights. In desperation I pulled on some clothes and went down to leave a hastily scribbled note, only to encounter two neighbours with the same idea and a further four previously left notes under the windscreen wipers. The two neighbours, strangers to me, dissuaded me from bending and breaking the windscreen wipers. I remembered the night of a bad-tempered 'Equalities' Forum in the Town Hall when half a dozen people predicted "There's going to be a riot..." (it's a Brixton thing). A couple of hours later the thunder came, postponing the riot to a later occasion (Christmas, actually, hmm...). I later discovered that that night saw a then record number of A&E admissions for breathing and chest-related disorders. No doubt that figure has been exceeded since.
I reflected that there seems to have been a downturn in the frequency of car alarms going off. Half an hour later, yeah, you've guessed it. At least three times.
I was thinking of going back to sleep when there was a knock on the door: a visitor popping in from Australia for a couple of days (Jimmy's religious nutter brother-in-law). I invited him in, served coffee etc. He stayed for an hour, on his absolutely best behaviour. He didn't mention religion, I didn't mention politics! But I think I shall go back to bed. Because I can!
I never used to suffer insomnia and it's something that really annoys me. Particularly because I can sometimes sleep the clock round so it makes no sense that on other occasions I can't sleep at all.
One of my problems is that I get restless leg syndrome all over my body so enter into a prolonged fidget. I had the bright idea at 3 am to have a shower and it worked marvellously on the all-encompassing Restless Leg Syndrome, but didn't put me to sleep. But at least I was able to lie peacefully in bed daydreaming in a restful way.
Summer nights beg the window to be open. As dawn approaches, it is a bit of a toss-up between open window and lying under the lightweight duvet or shutting the window and spurning bedclothes. The latter is stuffy, the former is noisy. It's unbelievable how much noise there is at that time of day. Vehicular traffic never stops. Never ever stops, utterly unrelenting. If it's the gentle hum of performance engine noise I can live with that, but even at three o'clock in the morning there seems to be a need to sound horns, and rev engines in poorly executed acceleration. Then there's always the tosser who thinks it makes him more manly if he removes the silencer from his motorbike. There was a vehicle that sounded like it might be a street cleaner. Aeroplanes were coming into land, I could hear the under-carriages being lowered.
From time to time the generator starts up and tuns for a couple of minutes. This generator is, I think, the only source of electricity for the hideous block of flats built at 30 Streatham Place (the ones that are already falling down...). Its weird because there is actually a new electricity sub-station right outside my door, but still the generator chugs away every hour or so, echoing round the neighbourhood.
At one stage I heard a whistle. It sounded exactly like the police whistles that sound at the junction near work when a VVIP convoy is imminent (Jimmy does not believe me that the police use whistles for the conveying of extremely senior ministers, Royalty and visiting Foreign Heads of State/Government) so for a moment I indulged a thought that someone VVIP was approaching the Brixton Hill/South Circular junction in the dead of night (perhaps after COBRA??).
At half four was the sound of voices. I thought that was a splendid idea. If you are going to have a domestic, why not have it in the street at 4.30 am on a Sunday morning, especially on the first weekend of the year which has necessitated windows being open. All the insomniacs will hear you, and if you're very lucky you might wake up some folks who had previously been sleeping! The sound of Domestic was silenced by sirens rushing along Brixton Hill.
I decided that I was developing a stye; interestingly, the last time I got one was during the last foot-and-mouth crisis. But it seems to have subsided now. Perhaps the foot-and-mouth is a localised problem.
Still, there was no sound of Tescos delivery. That's nice. They generally deliver at about 5.30 am. The vehicles reverse and a loud amplified voice shatters the peace with an announcement "This vehicle is reversing, stand back this vehicle is reversing" and then they start throwing metal things around and shouting to each other. Funny, I thought that one of the reassurances at the Planning Application Stage was that there would be no deliveries out of hours... Lying greedy bastards.
Eventually I got to sleep and slept until 1 pm. Bugger. That'll do marvels for my sleep pattern this week...
We are slowing exorcising the evil spirits from the house by expunging clutter and expiating it in the hope we can inter without fear of exhumation.
Quite why I have come up with such dramatic prose when all I am doing is clearing out the Filing Cabinet in the spare bedroom. The top drawer contains mainly detritus collected over 9 years in the Evil Audit Empire opposite Victoria Coach station. I decided to hang onto my training notes in case they come in handy. they haven't, not in 9 years. In any case teh internets eliminate the need for retention of reference materials. And Government Accounting has changed dramatically in that time.
I retained my entire personnel folder, including drafts of performance reports for staff I have long forgotten. And notification of my performance from as long ago as 1990. I have ditched my Training Log, but definitely kept two pristine copies of my CIPFA P3 Project, the ultimate test of professional competence, shows other accountancy institutes to be also-rans! I found a really nice and glowing reference from the lovely Wendy; I also found bad stuff. Evidence of poor management and victimisation from the early nineties*. What was most interesting was notes of a meeting with personnel from 1996 about sickness absence. It was agreed that 'aching legs' was a poor description on the sick form, and an inaccurate description of the complex symptoms I was suffering, which were remarkably similar to what I have been suffering since 2004...limb ache to the point of immobility and extreme drowsiness. Then I start remembering other things eg my poor attendance at the contracting job I had in late 1999. It's been a revelation, of sorts. But I don't know what to make of it. Except that in 1996 I was diagnosed by my GP as having a potassium deficiency, which frankly, is unlikely in someone who has a dislike of salt verging on intolerance.
Nevertheless, the bulk of junk from the Evil Audit Empire must be put into recycling, the rest has to go through the shredder. A sacrificial bonfire has occurred to me but that would make me an anti-social neighbour.
Perhaps the nightmares will stop...
I am sure somewhere there is paperwork for the defunct Streatham Women's Section and the Governing Body of the long-closed Ashby Mill School
* I was accused of a 'lack of commitment' for failing to go to the client's premises on a day that the IRA laid bombs on the only railway line to Client's Premises. Yes, that petty...As well as my failure to carry out 250 hours of challenging work in two weeks!
Months ago we decided we needed a new Unit in the back room.
We quite fancied a Welsh dresser from John Lewis but was talked out of paying a grand and a half. We looked at IKEA but £60 didn't seem right, and we knew it would almost certainly be crap.
We spotted something on Debenhams and decided that it was mid-priced and seemed to be just the job. I googled to see if it was available direct from the manufacturers; it wasn't but instead, using the Google Product tab sourced from Marshall Ward for about 10% cheaper. I know what you're thinking, Marshall Ward, never-never catalogue for the uncreditable. And I started thinking that even though my original logic was: Debenhams sell it, so it's like we're getting it from Debenhams but cheaper. Jimmy said it would come flat-packed and we'd have to build it. I thought it would be chip board and ugly.
Well, it arrived. In four pieces, well 2x2 pieces, we decided to get two units. "That says glass handle with care this way up" as I said as 'thud' went the package Jimmy had thoughtfully inverted. Fortunately no harm done other than a broken lightbulb.
It didn't take much assembling - so I'm told, I buggered off to the hairdressers - just the top and bottom needed screwing together with 2x2 screws. And door and drawer handles needed reverting, and glass shelves attached. I spent the evening re-filling it with stuff from the old unit. I decided we were short of glasses, so Jimmy produced six crystal wine glasses, five crystal whiskey glasses,four stem cocktail glasses and a partridge ina pear tree. I lied about the pear tree, and the partridge.
It's twice the depth, almost 1.5 the width and about 120% the height of the old unit,and fits perfectly between the doors to the hall and the under-the-stairs cupboard. It holds so much more than before, not least my embarrassingly impressive collection of blank notebooks...
I originally decided that we would ask a charity placeto take it away. Jimmy decided that he would break it up, smash it under the hammer. I did suggest he invited furniture abuse fetishists around for the experience. But in the end, he decided it would go nicely in the shed. In place of the white two tier shelves which started life in my Streatham flat, then spent some time in the bathroom in Gert Cottage, and has subsequently migrated to the shed.
What this exercise has shown us is how much booze we have indoors eg seven bottles of vodka (four of them fancy Polish vodka), six bottles of rum, and, unbelievably, two bottles of cherry brandy. I am slowly drinking my way through sherry and port, but despite having 33 bottles of spirits, liqueurs etc, we have no Sloe Gin nor any Scotch whisky. Nor any Warninks Advocaat...
Send Sloe Gin now!
I may have mentioned before my religious nutter neighbour who thinks she owns the neighbourhood. I don't think I have mentioned every aspect of her increasingly paranoid and unstable behaviour. I suppose I ought to feel sympathy for someone who is showing the early signs of dementia but she is such as smug cow, I lost sympathy a long time ago. I don't think I mentioned the recycling bag war. According to the legend on the recycling bags we are supposed to leave them just outside our property but if we do, she protests, saying we must leave them at the end of Gert Cottage Boulevard. If we do that, the newsagent gets stick from the paint shop. And anyway, Mr Patel will not take any nonsense from the Mad Cow, not after she in her stuck up cow way told him "This isn't Calcutta, you know...".
I'm not sure I told you of the time we left our old carpet out to be collected by Lambeth (a Bulk Collection we had pre-booked a fortnight in advance), and she decided at eight o'clock in the morning she would put it into the skip of the paint shop. (Her telling Jimmy this halfway through the morning was her way of having a dig and accusing us of dumping - no, we did it by the book, ringing Lambeth, and not putting it out until the night before in anticipation of a 6am - 6pm collection slot).
I don't think I mentioned the time she and the Patels were having a raised voice row outside my house. I stuck my head out to see what was going on: Raised Voices could mean Big Trouble. I half expected her to accuse me of nosiness; my comeback would have been Raised Voices May Mean Big Trouble.
Just before ten this evening, I hear a horn honking. And again. So I look out the window. She is sat in her car on her driveway; she's blocked in by another car which shouldn't be there, but as it's driverless, I am unclear what horn honking will do. And it's not as though her visitors have never blocked us in - there was blithering idiot visiting once who parked in such a way that we could not get out on foot, and he seemed oblivious to the fact that if we had been trying to get in we could not have knocked on any doors to ask for the car to be moved. Because that's what you do when blocked in. It's what happened in Streatham and Westcliff, and what I have done on occasion, for example when one of her priests blocked in my friend's car. The horn blew a third time so I went out and asked her to stop blowing her horn outside my living room window.
"Somebody's parked their car!" she whimpered petulantly.
"Well, it's not me," I said. "There's no need to blow your horn outside my living room window...you Selfish Anti-Social Nuisance Neighbour..." note absence of swearwords...
As I retreated indoors I heard her ghastly husband screaming "How dare you talk to my wife that way?" All I can say is that, good thing he's 80+, nearly blind and post-several strokes. Otherwise, he might just have got an even sharper end of my tongue. Or more. (She's younger, quite a lot of younger than my mother and not very much older than Jimmy, but dementia - diagnosed over the phone by my mother from my narrative - is no respector of mere numbers). Or I might easily have retorted "I dare because she has the temerity to honk her horn outside my window, which I interpreted as the sound of someone in danger or distress. (Which of course means if she does try to attract attention when in danger we might be minded to ignore it).
All really trivial and hardly the Neighbours From Hell. But I just resent her supercilious stuck up "We're Opus Dei Catholics so our shit don't stink oh and by the way we own you and you will bow down at our every whim." They used to ask us favours, and, being Good Neighbours, we would try and help - for example, agreeing to look after her husband when she went to some Holy Conference in Rome about Eradicating Safe and Reliable Contraception, Especially Condoms To Women At Risk From AIDS in Africa. She has to ask the neighbours because the weird drug dealer son has moved from leaching off the parents to being a constant absence and the son who never visits anyway is off studying to be a priest at Opus Dei College in Rome and not allowed back to Britain except for their funerals. Did I mention that part of her job in Eradicating Safe and Reliable Contraception is lecturing people on how to be parents? Jimmy has done quite a few odd jobs for her. I watered the garden and fed the cat when they had to go away, and, yes, they did give me the customary appreciation (a bottle of cheap undrinkable plonk), but it's all take take take and no give.
As I say, all terribly middle class and middle England. But I didn't move to Brixton to be part of Middle England, and if she wasn't such a hating and hateful person, I would find the palpable decline in her mental powers to be sad.
But she's always been a bitch. Years ago, my sister and family were staying. I was in bed, B-in-L was in the shower. Neighbour knocked on the door and demanded the car be moved. Sister, holding Nephew #1 in her arms, because he was, at the time, a babe in arms, said the car would be moved "When my husband gets out of the shower." Which wasn't good enough despite the fact that my sister was holding a baby. When B-in-L came out of the shower, he asked her what the problem was, he had deliberately parked the car to allow her plenty of room to get out, but she said that she couldn't, so he suggested that she learned to drive. Of course I was "oh my god, you can't say that, she's my neighbour, I have to live with her," but the paint shop men were applauding him for saying what they had wished to say for years!
And indeed before I had even moved in, and my vendor took me round for introductions, her only question was did I have a car, to which my reply was no, but I would not rule it out in future, and many of my visitors would have cars. She instructed me that they were not to be parked beyond a certain mark. When Jimmy had a car, she kept driving into it and telling him, pointedly, how she had scraped her paintwork on his car, as if it was his fault. To which his unspoken response was "she should learn to drive."
At least since the last row over her building noise, she has stopped dropping around on Sunday evenings and failing to take the hint that a) me in a dressing gown with wet hair b) the TV being paused and c) no offer of a drink meant that she was not over-welcome.
Last year the blackbirds nested in our creepers. This year, they seem to be nesting next door. How much of a snub is that? The previous year we had a pair of wood-pigeons, in a drunken moment I named them Sieglinde and Siegmund. At least next door's blackbirds are using our garden for feeding. They are currently into dates we never got round to at Christmas.
Papa Blackbird is currently foraging; he appeared as soon as we left the table. So I am now under strict orders to stay inside whilst Papa Blackbird does his foraging, because if I went out I'd scare him.
It was so cool last year, they woke me up at about five o'clock in the morning and I watched Papa and Mama perched on chimney pots , one keeping watch on the nest whilst the other went searching for food. Something happened, another bird, one perhaps they see as predator, arrived and their tune changed, and near-panic arose. Mama flew back to the nest, Papa went on the hunt.
They're now singing, relieved that that weird human couple are no longer in their hunting ground.
But it's been a long time since I've seen Siegmund and Sieglinde.
A few weeks ago Thames Water sent me a letter saying that they were going to start digging up all round and about in order to replace the ageing water mains. I had read about this and in principle it seems like a jolly good idea.
They wrote notifying of a public exhibition that would be taking place locally - on the Thursday afternoon from 4pm to 7pm. I received the letter on the Tuesday and expressed my view that it was a joke: two days notice of a weekday afternoon event is box ticking, not proper consultation. They did try to argue that it was evening, not afternoon, but I argued that it presupposed everyone finishes work at 5.30 or earlier, which just isn't the case. It also presupposes an absence of prior engagement, which isn't realistic.
Their contractor rung me back and we had a pleasant and constructive conversation. From that, I got assurances that they would not work outside the hours laid down in statute (and, as far as I know, they haven't). He said they wouldn't be touching Gert Cottage Boulevard, but they were, in fact, due to start on the parallel road the next week. the work would take a few days. I felt smug, I was due in Manchester and would therefore miss it.
Five weeks later they are still there, in Parallel-to-Gert-Cottage-Boulevard Road, which is closed except for access, and is largely dug up. Most of the residents are forced into parking their cars elsewhere. I would feel smug, but...oh hell, I do feel smug. Meanwhile, Next-But-One-Road to GCB is also now dug up, putting even more pressure on vehicular traffic and parking. Like I care.
However, the holes, especially in Parallel Road are covered in planks. Not semi-rotten wooden planks, but state-of-the-art metal planks. Every couple of days either Jimmy or I remarks "Sounds like thunder" then giggles self-consciously, remembering that it's the sound of cars driving over the metal planks. This is particularly noticeable in the late evening, night-time and early morning, generally the time that people, whether they are larks or owls, are sleeping. And there is increasing need to leave windows open, so I do feel sorry for people living on Parallel Road, who have endure that noise at much closer quarters...apparently it's acceptable behaviour to create that racket at half one in the morning? Beats me, too!
The Grapevine informs that the delays have been caused by one of the suppliers going bust. Now I have sympathy with the project manager. Can't be paying workers to sit idle, but can't lay off skilled and experienced workers. Result, lots of dug-up roads, presumably waiting for parts, and, presumably, when the parts arrive there will be a massive backlog of roads that need parts fitting and then filling in.
It did make me wonder though, what sort of firm lands a contract to supply Thames Water in this Major Project and then goes bust? I then scolded myself, and asked, have you learned nothing? Classic case of overstretch, probably lack of cash flow. I've seen it so many times. I once audited a file where the Govt. Dept. concerned was paying a massive grant to a Local Authority for some Civil Engineering works. The surveyors report on progress was very negative, and mentioned that the contractors had under-estimated by a massive amount and heads had rolled. But there again, should Thames Water have contracted a supplier with a disproportionate amount of business. I wonder what the impact is on TW, deadlines, cost etc. Not to mention the protracted loss of amenity to road-users. Not that it bothers me, they haven't - yet - dug up any bus routes I use. And I would have thought that over the years Just sinc eI have been here, there have been so many emergency repairs to Brixton Hill it's probably go the most up-to-date water mains in London
I took advantage recently of my fortuitous position in the housing market to inject something into the slowing retail market. I take my Fiscal Responsibilities very seriously. It's a gesture of solidarity welcoming Golden Brown into power. those of you new to this blog may think this post in an arrogant display of conspicuous consumption; those of you who actually know me in real life may exclaim "About time too...!"
Today was carpet delivery day, and deliciously, everything went to plan. I took the opportunity earlier in the week of ordering an amp, CD player and speakers to replace my well-knackered midi stereo system. I am now without cassette deck - which is easily and cheaply remedied when I get a round tuit.
Just a very small part of my music collection
It's been agony having the new system sitting in their boxes since Tuesday; a DVD recorder (which also plays videos) is still packaged on the floor of the front room. In fact, I feel as though my life is currently piled up on the front room floor. We have ordered two display cabinets (two doors wide, to replace a crappy fally apart Gerry-built three door wide one), but they are not due for another five weeks yet, so the next task is to load the glassware, crockery and booze back into the old one - we can't live another month falling over things on the living room floor.
But for now, I am truly enjoying my new CD player. The instructions say run it in for 36 hours constant use, so I am yet to come to a definite conclusion. Major decision which CD to play first. Despite owning several hundred CDs, the choice of the virginity-breaking one was obvious. So far, I can say that I never realised that Plácido sounded so fabulous singing Wagner, nor did I realise that the Tristan Love Duet was so orgasmic...!
(Oh, and the horrible neighbour who has built a poxy extension on our wall, the bitch, moved into her house to live yesterday. Hopefully, today, she is finding out about her more-of-a-bitch neighbour who plays Wagner loud with the kitchen door open...!)
But the trouble with conspicuous consumerism is the sense of deep dissatisfaction it causes. I have new toys, I love my new toys, I think the mile-deep shag pile on the backroom carpet is gorgeously sensual. But I want more. Okay, I won't analyse that piece of philosophy. But whatever one does, one does feel that there is always more to do. For example, our walls are currently picture-free. We got a lovely papyrus in Luxor, which is rolled up somewhere, in anticipation of a decent frame; that will go at the top of the stairs and will look fabulous from the front-door step.
I think new curtains are needed...