Rightmove is my bitch

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Top floor : my humble abode

I love my flat.

It’s a good size: I can do jumping jacks and lunges in the lounge if I want to without breaking something (that is without breaking something in the lounge, there’s every possibility I will break something in my body with these kinds of athletic shenanigans).

It’s in a great location: pretentious yummy mummies and down from London-ers as far as the eye can see, excellent transport links for going to other places, plus the best park in England is around the corner and so is a very handy Sainsbury’s Local in case you run out of cake milk.

It has a parking space: It costs approximately 2 million pounds per hour to park in Brighton so a parking space is a precious commodity.

My mortgage will be paid off in ELEVEN years. Eleven years ago was 2006 which feels like yesterday so I’m pretty sure 2028 will arrive before I know it.

However, as is my feminine prerogative, I am not satisfied with a nice property in a good location and the opportunity not to have to give the bank half my wages every month. No, this is not enough for me. I want a garden.

Yes, the best park in England might be just around the corner, but on the glorious and endless summer days that we experience in this country, I can’t sit in the park on a deckchair whilst enjoying a nice glass of wine at the end of the day…

… Well, technically I can but then when the wine inevitably makes its way to my bladder I’ll have to walk all the way back up the road to my flat to use the toilet. I’ll have to cart the deckchair and the wine up the road with me and then put the deckchair down as I fumble for my keys and try not to drop the wine, all the while doing the ‘I really need a wee’ dance.  It just doesn’t work.

Plus, the flat is mine and not jointly owned so I want to share the joy* of home ownership with my lovely new husband.

*Blatant lie. I actually want him to be accountable for mortgage repayments, DIY and phoning the council when they haven’t collected the damn bins again.

Unfortunately the lovely location that we live in at present is only affordable if you live in a flat and as we want a garden, we will need to travel. Leave the best park in England and move next door to a murderer/the local tip/a busy A road.

So we’re now house hunting. Well, when I say ‘we’ are house hunting, what I actually mean is that I am house hunting and Brad is supervising by approving or rejecting properties that I have vetted. I check for properties with minimal risk of murdering neighbours and consider proximity to the tip and then highjack Brad when he is least expecting me, bombard him with photographs and wait for him to say: ‘Yes, that looks good. Let’s see it’ at which point I generally respond ‘Brilliant because I’ve arranged for us to see it on Saturday’.

I am so addicted to Rightmove that I fear an injunction for harassment is imminent. I check to see if new properties have been added. I check to see if any of the properties that I like have been sold or reduced in price. Then I might refresh to check for new properties again. Then I widen the search criteria to make sure all properties are showing. Then I reduce the search criteria because actually I really don’t want to live further away after all. Then after 30 minutes have passed, I do the same again. Just in case something new has been uploaded.

Running alongside the Rightmove obsession is the compulsion to spruce up the flat that we want to sell. Don’t get me wrong, the flat is not student dormitory standard, but we want to sell it for as much money as possible make it inviting for the new purchaser.

We’re busy painting, cleaning, fixing and hiding those ‘will probably come in useful at some point but we’re not exactly sure what to do with them now so they’ve been sitting on the dining table for 5 months’ things.

Now, I’m not for one moment suggesting that we’re doing a half arsed job, we’ve been out and bought proper paint and everything – pigeon grey for the kitchen and custard cream for the hallway (suspect those are not the actual paint names) but we have had conversations a little like this:

“Dammit, there’s a cobweb that I didn’t spot”

“How big?”

“Not very”

“Can you just paint over the top?”

“Good shout. I’m all over it”

and:

“What is that mark on the carpet?”

“No idea. It’s been there for years”

“We could hire a carpet cleaner?”

“Or we could just move the rug slightly to the left?”

“That is why I love you”

So, we’re nearly there. Cobweb infused paint aside, the flat is looking pretty sharp and we have some promising looking properties to view next week.

In the meantime though, I’m just going to head on over to Rightmove to check that nothing else has been recently listed…

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No muse is good news

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I haven’t had time to write for a while because the irritating realities of life have been getting in the way; employment, household chores, battles with my ex-husband, the usual. I mean figurative battles through polite conversations and emails with my solicitor, not actual combat. I’m not She-Ra, princess of power.

For anyone who was not a seven year old girl in 1985, She-Ra is He-Man’s twin sister. She had her very own television series aimed at girls which was fabulous and entertaining and *whispers* cancelled after one season.

Every day I intend to write and every day something dull gets in the way and stops me, but today I am determined to put pen to paper, well, fingers to keyboard at least.

I went to a party last weekend, which I should point out was absolutely not “something dull getting in the way” of my writing. It was great fun with lovely people, even taking into account the fact that I drove and had to drive home with a tipsy Brad passed out snoring on the back seat. As he’s nearly 6ft and my car is 5ft 3in wide, he did have to contort him himself ‘man origami’ style into a folded up version of himself in order to fall asleep, but annoyingly he managed it.

At the party I was telling my friends about my new lodger, having given washer woman Wanda the boot a few weeks ago. Someone made a comment about the fact that giving my previous lodger the heave-ho, seemed to have coincided with my blog writing dry spell and that perhaps she had been my muse. This has played on my mind all week and I desperately need to write something in order to prove that my ex-lodger was not Samson’s hair in tenant form.

Because I’m feeling under considerable pressure to come up with the goods, admittedly it’s pressure that I’ve put on myself but nevertheless, it’s still pressure, I have looked again to the daily prompt for inspiration. Today’s topic is “Community Service: Your entire community — however you define that; your hometown, your neighbourhood, your family, your colleagues — is guaranteed to read your blog tomorrow. Write the post you’d like them all to see.”

The post I should write is about helping your neighbours, forgiving people and being kind to each other and other fluffy and unrealistic goals. I’m not going to write about this because everyone knows what they should be doing. It’s not achievable. It would be like telling my cat not to catch an insect aperitif before her dinner, crunching loudly as she devours it. She’s a cat, that’s what they do.

I think it’s better to highlight something positive instead, if only to get the image of my cat chomping on a cricket out of your head.

I feel slightly uncomfortable with the term “community”. When you live in a City with 273,399 other people, it’s hard to feel like you are part of a traditional community. However, many of the other 273,399 people living in Brighton who aren’t me, are quirky and vibrant and ever so slightly odd and that’s what makes me smile about them.

After work this evening, I popped to the supermarket around the corner from where I live and there was a man walking along the road towards me eating one of those individual tiramisu pots with a plastic spoon. He had the cardboard container and the second tiramisu pot clasped tightly in one hand and a look of profound concentration on his face, possibly because of the challenge of walking and eating with a spoon at the same time. Surely it’s got to be a bit like patting your head and rubbing your belly? I struggle to eat anything out of a pot without spilling it down me, eating as well as walking is quite literally a step too far. The first thing that struck me was to think ‘wow, he must really need pudding’. The second thing that occurred to me was the fact that it was peculiar that I didn’t find it strange that tiramisu man was walking along the road in the middle of the evening eating a tasty, sponge fingery, Italian desert and no one else seemed to notice or care either.

In my community, pretty much anything goes. I once went to a fancy dress party dressed as Cleopatra with flowing robes, over the top make up, a wig and a decorative hair piece. I was driving to the party which was in Horsham and I picked up a couple of fancy dressed friends en route when suddenly my petrol light flashed on. I knew I couldn’t make it all the way to Horsham, so had to stop at the garage and fill up, in full pharaoh finery, at 7pm on a Saturday night. What I remember most about this is that no-one said a word to me, no one laughed, no-one raised an eyebrow, no-one questioned me. On another occasion a group of us dressed as Mother Christmas, Hawaiian Barbie and Pocahontas stopped at Sainsbury’s to buy alcohol and again, not an eyelid was batted. In Brighton we have a naked bike ride, a museum filled with more than half a million stuffed dead animals and an annual chocolate festival just as a starter for ten; Cleopatra filling her fiesta up at a Shell Garage and Pocahontas buying vodka is decidedly unremarkable.(For the record, I was unaware of the existence of this chocolate festival until today when I researched it and now I’m bloody furious. How do I not know about this marvellous event? Do they also have a beautiful shoe festival and a great big cake festival that they have been hiding from me?)

*****

City Chicker

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“For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.” Simon Van Booy

My ex-husband was always desperately trying to get me to move to the countryside, which, tellingly, indicates that he really didn’t know me at all. I am most definitely a city girl. In fact, the only positive thing about moving to the country with him would have been the vast open spaces, miles from civilisation in which I could have inconspicuously buried his body. Anyway, I digress.

I like being surrounded by hustle and bustle and colour and sounds and things going on. I like seeing my neighbours to say hello to in the morning. I don’t want to have to walk for ten minutes to ask Mr Number 14 to lend me a corkscrew or a hammer (two things I have genuinely borrowed from neighbours in the past). I’m actually more alarmed about the time that I didn’t have a corkscrew in the house then the day that I needed a hammer.

I like having things to hand. If I’m facing some sort of vodka or cake related emergency (likely to be ‘lack thereof’) in the early hours of the morning, it’s reassuring to know that Tesco Express, Sainsbury’s Local or that scary looking shop covered in Polish writing which offers to ‘unlock your phone’, ‘fix your laptop’ and ‘clone your credit card’* will come to the rescue.

*I don’t think they actively advertise this third service

Another good thing about living in a city is that things generally work. I don’t have to go to the next village and stand half way up a tree in order to get mobile phone reception and I can’t remember the last time there was a power cut. That’s quite a relief because I do not want to spend an evening playing monopoly by candlelight, trying not to set fire to Old Kent Road, the banker’s stash of money or the cat’s tail, whiskers or any other part of her furry, and therefore highly flammable, body that she’s likely to attempt to rub against the candle whist I desperately try to demolish three tubs of Ben and Jerrys before the freezer defrosts.

I love the 24 hour a day-ness of a city. I once had to travel to Selby in North Yorkshire for work. I arrived at Selby train station at about 2.30pm and started looking around for a taxi rank. I found a little taxi office and asked the lady behind the counter if I could get a cab. “Sorry love, about five” she said to me kindly. I thought, ‘Ooh, what they say about people from the North really is right, they are so much more polite than those from the South. She’s apologising for a taxi even though it’s only going to be five minutes.’ and I said “Oh five minutes is fine, thanks”. She gave me a pitying ‘she’s not from round here’ look and said “No love, about five o’clock”. Apparently there isn’t much call for taxis in Selby on a Monday afternoon.

Now, what I have failed to mention is the fact that the city in which I live is Brighton. Well technically, it’s Brighton and Hove, but I am old school and consider these to be two different places. Brighton being the sexier but sluttier, older and wiser sister of Hove. Hove is more of a librarian. A librarian in stockings and suspenders, but a librarian nevertheless.

This means that although I’ve described myself as a city girl, I do live in a city with rather luxurious amenities: the sea and beach on one side and the downs (pretty much countryside; there’s rabbits and buttercups and all that shit) on the other so I’m hardly living in a concrete jungle having never laid eyes on a horse.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-countryside. I appreciate the peace, the fresh air, the beautiful surroundings and the quiet. I love being able to look at the stars rather than a Shell garage sign or a railway line, but personally I just prefer being in my city, the one that feels like home.

Wham, Bam, Thank You Am-Dram

Between the ages of 14 and 17, in the mid late 1990s, I belonged to an amateur dramatics theatre group. Not just any theatre group. This was a small and, if I’m completely honest, rather dysfunctional theatre group. The runt of the theatre group litter.

Other groups in the Brighton area were large, virtually professional groups filled with beautiful and talented individuals who would put on grand, west-end style productions at the Theatre Royal and the Dome. We were a funny looking bunch of very slightly talented individuals (if you half closed your eyes and kept one ear plug in at all times) who, during one unfortunate year of under-financing, performed a pantomime at the beginning of November at a Church Hall in Moulsecoomb.

The other theatre groups had singers who could harmonise. We had singers who could harm eardrums. They had dancers who could tap dance, jive and do the splits. We had dancers who could sway from side to side, not always at the same time and not always in the same direction.

We relied on artistic licence to dress our grandmothers up as teenage characters, our white actors up as black characters (yes, really!) and hoped that no one would notice the occasional performer with missing front teeth or a pierced face.

Rehearsals mainly consisted of 5% singing, 5% dancing, 5% acting, 20% forgetting lines, forgetting dance moves, forgetting stage directions and forgetting song lyrics, 15% drinking tea and eating biscuits, 30% gossiping and/or bitching and, in my case, 20% flirting.

Despite this, and no doubt, much to the relief of everyone who had to endure our performances, what we lacked in talent, we certainly made up for in enthusiasm. When a live band was added, some none too shabby costumes and a bit of theatre atmosphere, we usually managed not to have to issue any refunds in the interval.

It was nearly 20 years ago (March 1993 according to the theatre group scrapbook that I’ve just discovered which has prompted this entry), my memories are a little fuzzy now, although, not too fuzzy to remember that we really did have some performers lacking front teeth, with all the rhythm of a stick of celery and all the musical ability of a rabbit.

But, I also remember that it was tremendous fun, I made friends that I still see now, I gained confidence, courage and belief in myself and, most importantly, I was in the only best damn pantomime that Moulsecoomb Church Hall ever saw.

Some scrap book photos:

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