Still, maybe I'll enjoy the set more, now I've agonised over it?
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Wednesday, January 31
I finally broke down and bought the Bill Bailey Box Set. It cost £9.99. It was a hell of a lot less stressful than the bidding on eBay that I've been doing for more than the last year (sporadically). Today, at around 1pm, I lost an eBay auction at a price about £2 less than this box set. I can sell my copies of the two items in the set that I already have and probably end up with more money than I spent on it.
Still, maybe I'll enjoy the set more, now I've agonised over it?
But It Seemed So Genuine
I often scoff at people who are such suckers that they fall for online scams. However, here is a perfectly reasonable looking security email from email@example.com:
Halifax Online banking Security Department has been receiving complaints from our customers for unauthorised uses of the Halifax Online accounts. As a result we are temporarily shutting down some selected Halifax Online Accounts perceived vulnerable to this, pending till the time we carry out proper verification by the account owner. Halifax Online banking is committed to ensure the safeguard of each customer personal information, making sure only authorised individuals have access to their accounts.
As a first step to have Your Halifax Online Access reactivated please reconfirm your identity by using the link provided below.
It was going so well, until the bit where it tries to get you to sign on. Have a look at the email in situ below. Notice the actual place that the "sign on" button takes you:
Click to enlarge
Some random place in France. Yes. This is French spam scammers trying to get your banking details. It was very convincing.
Always check where a link is going before giving them your details. Don't be fooled.
Not everything in life has a snooze button like my alarm clock. In some ways, it would be pretty cool if things did. Maybe you're driving on the motorway, the traffic's getting stressful and you're worried about getting to your destination on time. It would be great if there were a massive snooze button on your dashboard, that you could use to pause everything for 10 minutes (well, 9 minutes) just to get a break from it, before getting back to the rush. No? Just me on that one? Fair enough.
So, there's no stopping the inevitability of the costs and the urgency of the completion of the house work. That's the work on the house, rather than generic "housework". In fairness to me, I did do some vacuuming last night, but it was a bit like someone mopping the deck on the sinking Titanic. I also did some sweeping.
My aim for last night was to put the house in general order and then get on with some tile removal in the bathroom. I think I know how the bathroom is going to be done and I think that I'll have quite a few tasks to achieve myself in order to get it to completion. So, no time to hang around. I didn't really achieve that much last night, but the tidy round will prove its usefulness. I included my car and the putting out of the rubbish, which was collected this morning, which is handy. I even did some recycling - I'm so green!
As a result of last night's activities, my car now feels like a passenger vehicle again, and is less of the rubbish bin. I also have ease of movement round the second room I sort of live in. One of the walls - the smallest (about the width of a door and a half) - in the bathroom is now devoid of tiles (and I have the slight cut in the finger to prove that I was handling tiles). My nose and lungs are also filled with disgusting plaster dust, which will be a real problem to come, since I am, apparently, taking the walls back down to the brickwork in readiness for the man who comes and sorts out the big hole where the bathroom used to be.
Surprisingly, although I managed to take a backup of my old computer, I didn't get around to even unboxing my new computer last night. I was too tired. I went to sleep, perchance to dream.
I dreamt, apparently, that it was the weekend. Thus I was extremely surprised when the alarm went off. I snoozed it immediately, and wondered why I would have set it to go off when I had a weekend morning in which to lie in. Then my mobile phone alarm went off. I was cross with this too, since it's programmed to go off on weekday mornings only. Why would it malfunction in this way and go off on a weekend morning? Slowly, the question filtered through to my sleep-addled brain. "Which exact morning is this?". I didn't remember. Then I did. It was a weekday morning. D'oh. I tried to get up, but couldn't bring myself to move. I lay there in mourning for the lost innocence. Once it was a morning of snoozing and freedom, but now it's been interrupted by the fact that I'd only wished for it to be a morning of snoozing and freedom. Work calls. Workmen call. In this case, the workman has a key to the house and is shouting a morning hello.
I got up (there's nothing like a stranger in your house to make you feel like not being found in bed). I shouted down a hello to the workman. Nice guy. I then unpacked my new computer while getting dressed. It seems nice. The sound's a bit tinny - the speakers on my soon-to-be-ex-laptop were delightfully throaty, I'll miss them. I got my new machine working on the internet and then stopped doing any more. It seems like it's probably fast enough for my purposes. It's hard to tell. I've not used it for anything yet. I don't even know what sockets it's got. I didn't bother looking. It fits into the new bag nicely enough. And that's that.
Tonight there's a visit from the heating engineer. We'll have a good look round and work out exactly what work he's going to unleash on my home. It will be about two and half weeks before he unleashes the workmen, which, all things being equal, isn't too bad. I'll have been a whole month without heating, which hasn't proved to be so bad. The irony of the situation is that I won't be able to take a shower when he's done, because I'll probably have just finished stripping the bathroom out when the heating system "goes live". D'oh!
Still, every day I'm in the house and it's not getting closer to being ready costs me about a tank's worth of petrol (rather than use money to quantify it, I'll use goods). There's no snooze button on the house, sadly. So, let the work continue!
Tuesday, January 30
Some Great News
In my concerted effort to take control of my diary, I have managed to get myself booked to go and see Bill Bailey perform live with the BBC Concert Orchestra. On my birthday. A good combination! Also today, I've been booked in to go and see Chicago in London a couple of days before. Not bad at all.
I'm excited about seeing Bill Bailey live. I've seen him live once before and it was good. With a full orchestra, it should be totally mental! I still can't manage to bring myself to buy his early live DVD. I'm getting ever closer. I keep bidding for it cheaply on eBay and losing. Eventually, I'll crack and pay a squillion pounds for a full retail price version! Alternatively, someone might tell me that the version of "Bewilderness" in the box set is the same as the "Cosmic Jam" extended version and I might buy the box set for quite cheap and sell my "Bewilderness" and "Part Troll" on eBay to pay for it.
This is interesting to whom?
There are lots of dates entering my diary at the moment, which is nice. Not all of them involve me paying workmen many squajillions of moolah. This is good, too.
Now, if someone could just bring Edinburgh a bit closer...
Everything is widescreen these days. In the last month I've bought a widescreen Tv. My new laptop is widescreen. Even I am a bit on the widescreen end of the spectrum. What next, though? Once we all have our widescreen kit will they make extra widescreen so they can sell us everything again? Or will they move to making other things widescreen? I hope it's the latter. I would love a widescreen car, fridge, washing machine, microwave. . . Basically It's about white goods. How about a widescreen toaster for baguettes? The possibilities are endless. Well, they're wide.
Last time I started a post with the name of some music in the title, it was described by one reader as wistful. Given that the words "Carmina Burana" evoke no such feelings of wist, let's see how this post goes. It's lunchtime and I've stuck Carl Orff's one-hit-wonder onto the headphones before I get myself back down to the important stuff-I'm-paid-for of the day. For those desperately trying to place the Carmina Burana, that's the Old Spice advert, or the music from The Omen. The main lyric "O Fortuna" always makes me laugh as I hear it "Oh, for tuna...". What would the writer of the lyric do for tuna? I would imagine that he/she would buy some light mayo and make a sandwich, but maybe they haven't got any tuna. They're saying "I'd love to make a sandwich, but I have no filling, just bread and this light mayo... Oh, for tuna!".
Last night I scooted from work and hurried me along to a small fringe theatre on Camden where I've performed in some shows, some successful, others less so. I've also watched performances there. I've also had amusement with the people who run the theatre, who presently write a blog and podcast that I read. It's been a long relationship. Anyway, on this occasion, I was due to spend a night up in the lighting box running the sound and lights for their show. With only a couple of hours to learn the cues, run it all through and get ready for the audience, my stress levels were higher than normal. However, the good preparation of the cast and the guy who "booked" me was more than enough to get things right pretty quickly. In fact, the technical run through, where we just ran the cues, rather than the whole scenes (we never did a run through of the whole thing until the performance) was more stressful than the performance, all the cues coming artificially in rapid succession.
There were a couple of foul-ups, one of which was me missing the end-cue of a sketch, and the other was when the lights were brought up before the stage was set - neither were that major, nor was there much I could have done about either. The end-cue didn't quite seem to happen, though I was watching and listening for it, and the lights came up too early, but when I was meant to bring them up from the cues sheet... sometimes things don't work perfectly first time... they nearly did.
Nobody complained. They were all really appreciative, in fact. I should have tried messing it up harder!
Following the show, I decided not to stay around in the packed pub (they'd brought a full-house with them) for the back slapping, so I, along with my friend, headed out to catch trains and go home.
It was a late night. Very late, once food had been bought, eaten and talked over. We even did a magic-eye picture, which feels like some sort of mind-altering substance once you get it.
This morning, I woke later than planned, but early enough. I was expecting to meet a builder at 8.30. I'd totally forgotten about the aerial people I'd also booked for a quote. Luckily they arrived before the builder and will be contacting me with quotes for installing aerials around the house - I think that's important enough to do. The builder came later than planned and then we took longer than planned talking about how to break my house. I felt like things were becoming increasingly less solid with him as we discussed it all. I'm not sure what he'll quote me. I know there's big money to be spent. Gulp.
The other builder's estimate came through. It didn't scare me.
Today my new laptop should arrive. I feel like I haven't time to play with it. I have gigs on Thursday and Friday, so feel like I should devote some time to the house tonight and Wednesday. With a late arrival to work, I'll have to work later to make the time up. As always it's infuriating when my early wake up doesn't yield a benefit in terms of work arrival time. I suppose I should expect that long chats with workmen will not get me to work any quicker.
Monday, January 29
Why Am I Nervous
Why should I be nervous? It's not me that's performing tonight. I'm just the techie. Why should I feel all pre gig? It might have something to do with not wanting to mess it all up, or it may be because I've been booking gigs today. So I'll be back on stage very soon!
No, this isn't some bitter-sweet post about how all my troubles seemed so far away, but in the cold light of today, I realise that they're insurmountable, and how I wish I could be back to the day before it happened and enjoy the feeling of it not yet having-gone wrong. In fact, if only Paul McCartney had written his song using the above language, maybe the world of popular music would have been different. Maybe the Beatles would still all be together, and alive. Who knows? Tomorrow never knows apparently, but then your mother should know, but where would she have found it out? There's a place. But what place is it? Under the sea? No, that's a song from The Little Mermaid. Okay, then, in the Octopus's garden. Fine, that's under the sea, but how do you get to the garden of an Octopus? Do they even have gardens? What tool could we use to find out? A yellow Submarine? Now you're just being ridiculous. Let's get back to the point in question: a day in the life, which in this case is yesterday and in my life.
Yesterday I listened to no Beatles albums. This means I have no excuse for the above paragraph. However, I did wake up at ridiculous-o'clock-for-a-sunday-morning. Also known at 7.30am. I walked to the railway station, listening to The Carnival of Animals by Camille Saint-saens, and then took a train to London, listening to a Rodrigo Guitar Concerto. Very Sunday morning - more so than the early wake up.
In London I went to a length post-christmas meeting in the voluntary sector, which basically meant a lot of people having their say (I guess I was one of them) and a combination of back-slapping, chest-beating and other bashing of sorts, as the full extent of the successes, failures and points for improvement were discussed in detail. The speed of the day increased as it progressed as people realised that time wasn't on our side and that we couldn't really expect to talk in such ludicrous detail and still meet our intended end time. So, the yattering stopped and we wrapped it up. Overall, I think the event went very well this year and people got together for the right reasons to do some excellent work in a worthy cause. People, of course, in the course of the week, developed some genuine problems and some pet problems, and these needed to be exorcised (or, in the case of the pet problems, exercised, because you should always exercise your pets). I guess sparing two thirds of a day for everyone to get their chests clear is worthwhile. We provide TB screening as part of the event, so chest-clearing is an ongoing priority.
After the meeting, I trotted back across London to Notting Hill where I went to meet two of the cast members of tonight's performance. I'm providing technical assistance at a show in Camden this evening. This will entail me running sound and light. The cast were keen to ensure that I understood their requirements, so I went to see them. What transpired was an entertaining session where two performers did their material for me and amused me, while I asked pertinent questions. It's always nice to meet new people, and it's always nice to be involved with comedy, even from the sidelines.
Sidelines aside (is that even possible?) I'm putting myself back into comedy. I'm going to do it a little sooner than planned. I think I have to be more positive about everything, and that means running myself at a higher pace. The result of running at a higher pace is that I should do more, burn more energy, and be generally more positive about things. There's nothing like a busy diary to keep you from getting bored, or slowing down. So I'm filling my diary. Not full. Just not as empty as perhaps it would have looked. I must be careful of losing momentum on the house, but I think the next couple of months will involve more waiting around for workmen than it will involve more running round on my part. So, I can afford a few nights for comedy.
As a result of this, I have been pursuing people for gigs and a few gigs have entered my diary, which is nice.
Last night, back at home around 9pm, I sat with my laptop for a couple of hours sorting out gigs and writing an article for Micro Mart. I only really live in one room, the one with the heater, and the bed. The laptop, though nowhere near working properly, can be made (after much wangling) to show its picture with the screen at a vaguely usable angle, and so I was able to prop myself up in bed, write my Micro Mart article, listen to the Lee Mack show on Radio 2's listen again (though I barely listened, so hard was I concentrating), email friends and generally be me.
Being single and living alone isn't so bad. It's not as I would have planned it, but it could be the making of this year. Assuming I don't piss about with any more live cables!
Saturday, January 27
My life is a series of electrical impulses. This is not so much profound as factual. While my personality and behaviour is undoubtedly a product of the various electrons running through my brain, even my day-to-day life is governed by electrical things. For instance, I'm presently bothered about my phone, which has an annoying habit of turning its screen light on every minute or so, and thus wearing out its battery. To try to fix the problem requires me first to backup my contacts, which is another problem in itself. I'm nearly there. I've turned the phone off for now to ensure I have power tomorrow when I need it. The charger is at work and the phone, unlike EVERY Nokia I've had in the last FIVE or so years (probably more), has a new charging socket. Sad.
The other electrical thing governing my life involves screens. The new TV is a joy to watch, and watch it I do. I still haven't sorted out its aerial, but I have plenty of DVDs to watch - Scrubs won't watch itself, and I've been buying Vic Reeves DVDs recently too. I really must hook up my freeview box too. The other screens, of course, are computer screens. If it were not for computer screens, I probably wouldn't have gainful employment the way that I do, though I guess I could still use a whiteboard for something. Of particular note, when it comes to screens, is the broken screen on my laptop. This has caused me to buy a replacement laptop. It has also caused me to use the existing laptop at a really uncomfortable angle... until a few seconds ago, when I discovered a clever trick for geting the screen to work absolutely perfectly at the angle I want to use it at.
So, have I just wasted the price of a new laptop?
No. This one was begging to be replaced. I finally found an excuse. I couldn't make an excuse with the inconvenience of its CD drive not writing discs - I bought an external writer. I couldn't make the excuse for replacement from the fact that the CD drive stopped working as I had an external one by then, and the drive works from time to time. I couldn't make an issue of the big crack in the case - it's just a crack - or the small hard drive - I just archived off some data. What about screen size? Get a life! Battery life - I rarely use it off the lead (well, that's probably why the battery's screwed!).
So, I was just going to live with all the problems and antiquities of the machine. Hell, I'd even upgraded it to the more recent version of Windows XP. Then the screen problem came and I decided, in seconds, to get a new machine. Quite right too. I should have a fancy machine with a widescreen display and a fast dual-core CPU. So, I have one on its way by the end of next week - that's the end of next week when I have my first gig in, like, ages, and so will not be wanting to mess about with a new computer. I will.
Anyway, I've just worked out a way of fixing this screen. It's not permanent and it will probably go wrong, the moment it's closed again. However, it means that this laptop will be useful to me for the next week, and I know someone who will make use of it beyond then. So, no harm done.
Other electrical things (following on the electrical theme). I learned an important lesson today. Don't work on live electrical cables. Don't. If you do, then don't. If you must, then it's probably best not to do it on an old fuse box without an RCD. If you do work on live cables on a fuse box without an RCD, then it's best not to hold an earthed casing in one hand while working on the live cable with the other. If you've come this far and still ignored my advice (well, it's my advice now), then at the very least don't use a metal screwdriver. Apparently, the result of this foolishness is some sort of current running across your body from live to earth.
Still, some lessons come basically for free. Nothing was broken, or burned, or damaged, or fused or anything. Just a very shamefaced me, taking myself aside for some man-to-himself time to explain "See what you did there". I got a coffee break out of it, though.
Very foolish indeed. What a knob!
However, despite my attempts to kill myself with foolishness, a lot of work has been completed today between 10am and 6pm. Not all of that time was spent working. Some 90 minutes of that was a "chat" with the roofer. A further hour or so was the time it took to get lunch and eat it. However, the price of lunch also bought me an accomplice for the afternoon, so more was achieved.
I also can't drain radiators in a way which causes no mess. Luckily, the mess was limited to some bare old floorboards.
Oh, and I recommend spending extra on a good mop bucket. A bucket whose squeezer-outer shatters on any downward force is probably a false economy.
So much to learn.
Friday, January 26
Nobody is more surprised than I am that I'm actually feeling motivated to do things around this new house. Especially after the last two nights, where I was rather useless, opting for the quick win over anything that was genuinely difficult-looking, I was quite stunned to become a flurry of activity between arriving home this evening at about 8.30, and calling it a night at about 11.30.
"What can be done in 3 hours?" I pretend to hear you cry. Well, I'd had a brief sojourn to the house before going out for dinner and I had chipped off the fake-tile-made-of-polyfilla from the ceiling in the hall. Deciding that the house would be a better place to work if I kept it tidy, I set about dealing with random bits of debris. I started by vacuuming some of the upstairs. Then the stairs. Then I swept up the bits of my chiseling. Then I decided to do another quick win with the ceiling tiles in the bathroom. This extended itself to removing an old heater from the wall and a number of random screws. Then I tidied that up.
To be honest, though working hardish, I was procrastinating. I had been dreading some particularly evil wallpaper stripping in the downstairs front room. However, the time came. I'd have to say that wallpaper stripping is a little like surprise breasts. "What are surprise breasts?" I hallucinate an audience annunciating. Well, surprise breasts are breasts of a pleasant magnitude and shape on a woman - this is not unusual. However, the surprise is that no matter how hard you try to remember exactly how fullsome and shapely these bosoms are, the moment you next see them, you are impressed anew with their assets. I apologise for the laddish nature of this description. So, as with surprise breasts, so wallpaper stripping is a surprisingly unpleasant job, no matter how unpleasant you expect it to be.
I worked at this room for long enough to get it all off and draw a little blood. Then I tidied up the kitchen (I'm leaving the tidying up of the wallpaper stripping for the morning). I even washed up, which was an excuse to wash my hands in warm water - the gift of two kettles' worth of boiling. It's amazing what a new sink plug can do to keep liquid in a sink for once!
Then upstairs to bed, perchance to go online.
So, a bit of blogging, the discovery that I have a gig in a few days (woo) and then to sleep, perchance to remember to wake up in the morning and do more slaving. I have a roofer coming at midday, and I'd like my hallway's paper-removal to be over by then.
If I were to go all dark and miserable right now, I would probably bemoan the fact that I'm living in a house without a working kitchen or bathroom, or heating. I would probably complain that my laptop is inconveniently broken, my girlfriend left me, my car is rusting, I've spent a fortune and the skin on my hands is a bit dry. I would probably moan about my relationship with my gigging feeling a bit awkward and how I fear returning to the stage, yet fear never returning. I might even complain that I'm tired and cold.
These things are all facts. I blog about them, it's true. I blog about what it occurs to me to write about. That's what I've been using this blog for since its inception... but...
I'm not actually feeling miserable. Perhaps it's shell-shock at the huge changes in my life. Perhaps it's blind optimism that everything will probably be ok. I don't know. There have been a lot of things to deal with this year, and I seem to be handling them by simply doing what I need to do. A carpet needs taking up, I take it up. My hands have dry skin, I buy some hand cream. My house is cold, so I live in one room with a 3Kw heater. My house is a bit of a wreck, so I organise a queue of builders etc to come in and de-wreckificate it. I don't know how to arrange the house, so I ask people until an obvious answer forms. We go with the obvious answer, because that's what you should do.
So, whence comes the resolve to do all of this? How do I avoid curling up in a ball and wishing for it all to go away? I suppose that necessity is the mother of invention. I suppose that I like to have a cavalcade of nonsense happening around me, for me to be the one that sorts it out. It's not getting me down because maybe I enjoy this sort of silliness. The practicalities aren't getting me down because the people around me, so far, are making it easy. I can go over to my ex-girlfriend's house for food and showers still, and we're all cool about it. In fact, we're getting on famously, which is nice.
Perhaps the other trick I employ to keep on the sane side of hassled is music. Music is one of those things which can recall times past quite easily. My recent trip to Newcastle allowed me to rescue a number of CDs from my loft, and I've spent the week downloading them into my computer (and mp3 player). So, I'm now listening to songs I've not heard in a while. This resets my mental state somewhat. I'm not nearly 33, living in an increasingly wrecked house. I'm 19, at university, living in an overheated house and not paying the bills from my own money. Mmmm.
Who would have thought that the Twin Peaks Soundtrack album would be so useful!?
Thursday, January 25
I should probably have gone back to the house and started intensive work on the house. There's plastering to do next week (not me) and if there's wallpaper to be stripped, it should be done before. However, after I was fed, I decided to get my broadband to work. This was something of a challenge. The cable modem is not ready to go the moment it's installed. No, you have to do some sort of registration. Dull. I called support. They don't speak to me on my terms, but on the two occasions that I've called NTL support, they've had a very straightforward approach which even I can follow and they've solved my problem.
I'm probably a nightmare to give computer support to, since I can see more about the problem than the average user. As a result, I'm blinded to the help that a support team can offer me. I'm too busy formulating my own theory for what the problem is and how to solve it. In fact, there were two problems (by the time I decided to call for help - only one when I started), and both were quickly solved. The NTL installation engineers had followed my instructions virtually to the letter, except for a variation that they invented themselves, which I approved of.
Anyway, I messed around getting the broadband to work, which was complicated by the combination of a few short network leads and the fact that my laptop is knackered. The knackeredness takes the form of the screen not working when it is fully, or even slightly open. At the moment, I'm in bed using it, but the screen is at about 60 degrees to my legs, and the laptop is inclined such that my hands are straining at the upper rows of the keyboard. It's not easy to use like this. In other respects it works, but the emails from Dell and Dabs tell me that the cavalry will be with me (by cavalry, I mean new laptop, new carry bag and some blank CDs for backups) in the next few weeks. I guess I'll have to say goodbye to this machine someday. Sad occasion that will be too.
Given that I wasted some of the night on the broadband, I still wanted to achieve something, so I set about a "quick win". A quick win is an easy or quick task that you can do, preferably with an obvious effect. In this case, I set about removing the ceiling tiles in the downstairs hall. These are large pieces of polystyrene glued to the ceiling. They're easily removed with a wallpaper removal tool... with the exception of those which seemed heavily bonded to the ceiling, and the ceiling tile which proved, on closer inspection, to be a huge cludge of polyfilla with lines drawn into it to make it appear to match the rest of the ceiling. How poor is that!
I tidied up after my quick win, which was, at least fairly thorough. I missed a couple of bits behind the emergency lighting, which needed properly taking off, and I didn't have my ladder available to do it at that moment. I also didn't chip off the polyfilla tile, but I can now see what I'm dealing with on the ceiling, and it looks fine. I may yet be able to paint it. It might need a reskim, but that's not the end of the world.
Quotes for the central heating came too, which was nice.
After much nagging, I got a fairly scary quote for some work in Newcastle, so I rang an alternative workman. He rang me back promptly and seemed to be much more realistic with his attitude and pricing. I'll see once he gives me the second quote. Being a landlord is a sort of fun if you don't mind spending large sums of money. Thing is, I do. I'm feeling a bit like money is draining out of me like air from a burst balloon. Still, it's all in a good cause.
If anyone knows the cause, please get in touch.
Why can't I buy Bill Bailey's "Cosmic Jam" for like £10 when I'm apparently happy to spend nearly £500 on computery things in one afternoon. Major weirdness!
I suppose that I expected today to cost money. The damp proofing is costing about a grand a day, the mortgage costs more per day than a refill of my car's petrol tank, I'm even increasing my costs by getting my broadband activated. So today was bound to be expensive. However, some events have upped things from my expectations.
Firstly, the cost of some routine repairs in Newcastle have been about triple my estimate. Then I discovered that a payment I thought I hadn't received has in fact both arrived and bed swallowed by my money consumption system. That'll be me, then. So I'm 700 quid poorer since I'm not owed as much as I hoped. However the big news of the day is my poor laptop. Just in time to come to the new house, its screen has gone the way of many laptop screens and stopped working properly. It's usable at great inconvenience, but I need something better than that. So I bought a new Dell. It's the best laptop at the price range by a mile. Expensive day.
A Night Off
So tired was I last night that I completely failed to get to sleep until 2am. I did however, manage to take a night off doing anything of importance in the house - this was justified by the fact that the damp-proofing/timber treating people had sprayed all of the floors in the downstairs with a treatment that I didn't want to compromise by stripping wallpaper onto it. This sort of justification is, if anything, retrospective. As a small pennance, I fixed the broken fence this morning while I was waiting for the workmen to return. I'm nothing if not something.
Arriving back in Reading last night, I had time to visit the house to discover what manner of destruction (and they were intentionally destroying things) had befallen it. Quite impressive! Lots of plaster off the walls. Lots of brickwork on display. Some of the stuff I wrenched with has been so further destroyed, I wonder whether I shouldn't have just left it for them to destroy without me. However, I'm happy that they're doing the necessary.
The night wasn't totally spent in idleness. I got fed at my previous residence (I later took a shower there - it's almost like I live in a special few-streets-away-annex, where I get the services of the main house, heating excepted, but my own privacy). After food, there was a trip to pick up a Freecycle item - a bread maker. This was followed by a trip to Morrisons to buy ingredients for (can you guess?) a stew. Only kidding. Bread. The trip to Morrisons brought me a new DVD - The Producers, priced cheaply. The trip also furnished my accomplice with some sweets. Somehow the purchase of sweets and DVD opened the floodgates, as when I returned to her house, I was in snacking mode, and DVD buying mode. While the bread machine was doing its thing, which takes about 3 hours, I pittled about on the internet, buying some Vic Reeves DVDs and still agonising over the Bill Bailey DVD that I want, but can't quite bring myself to pay full price for. What is wrong with me!?
I couldn't get to sleep in the end, probably something to do with eating fresh-baked bread at nearly 1am!
I also had the worries of a cold empty house to deal with, so while my room was heating up, I drew a diagram for the NTL man and stuck it on the door of my room. I know what I want him to do. Whether he does it is another matter. Whether he rings before so I can send someone round to meet him is also another matter. I've left instructions for the workmen in the house to let him in. I guess I'll find out this afternoon. Hopefully, I'll return home to reasonably priced working broadband.
Hopefully the fence I fixed this morning will still be fixed. I did an ok job, though I do wonder if my screws were long enough. Still, it shouldn't be about length, right?
And finally, the phrase which has been running through my head much more than this weekend's "Pro Bono" catchphrase is "Flymo To The Moon" - there's got to be a parody song in that! I hate parody songs. I also love them (how glad was I to regain the Weird Al Yankovic CD from Newcastle). So I'm suffering the parody-song-paradox.
Wednesday, January 24
Some Random Thoughts
Where once I was certain that there wasn't an accent for Reading, I've decided that there is. To me, at least, quite a few too many people round here speak a lot like Ricky Gervais for it to be a coincidence. This is not a bad thing. It's quite funny, in fact. It's also slightly unsettling. I wonder whether this is the Reading accent, or maybe people round here like Reading's famous son Ricky so much that they've decided to take on his speech patterns. Possibly.
I get my broadband tomorrow. Woohoo! Finally! This, of course, assumes that NTL are going to get their arses over and do it, though they did text me to remind me that they were going to. This is good. Probably. Well, it's also a bit weird since they've now expanded their 5 hour window into a 6 hour window. I have to arrange for someone to be on call to let them in for 6 hours tomorrow. However, I shall also be giving instructions to the builders working on the house and I'll be leaving instructions on the notice board for the NTL man. Hopefully, it will all be magically done when I return.
If you don't want to pay for any office application and you want to be able to share your documents between computers of any sort, provided you have online access everywhere, then I seriously recommend ThinkFree. Their version of a word processor is a hell of a lot like Microsoft Word and was compatible enough with it to read one of my scripts. With the facility to store your documents in an online folder - for free - this could be the new way to do word processing. They also do spreadsheets.
My whole body aches from last night and this morning's exertions. This morning's were probably the worst because I was rushing. I was also sweating so much that I had to ditch my jumper and change into a shirt. Yuck. Someone will be showering tonight (not at home - it's too much hassle).
I've still got work left to do today (I arrived a little late owing to the late arrival of the damp proofing people and the delay that caused to me with my lightning carpet stripping). Then I'm back to Reading to do more wallpaper stripping. It will be a bit easier with skirting boards and carpets off... at least the cleaning up will be.
I'm looking forward to the weekend where I shall be doing some sort of DIY on Saturday (after a long sleep) and then going to London for the day on Sunday, where I shall be doing some sort of meeting in the daytime and then be off to preparations for my technical geekery at a sketch show on Monday. Quite what I'll be called on to do is anyone's guess. From the script it looks straightforward, but a couple of the members of the cast have requested my personal appearance at their rehearsal so I can meet their requirements. I'm nothing if not eager to please.
Well well well. It's been a week of fun with carpets, it would appear. The destruction by radiator juices of the carpet in the room where wallpaper has been stripped has been matched with the need to remove that carpet from the room altogether. If I'd done that right from the start, life would probably have been simpler. Damn!
This morning was a rude awakening. The actual getting out of bed was fine, but the arrival of my damp proofing guys revealed the need to totally empty the rooms they will be working in, including the carpets. Before leaving for work today, I did a dozen or so trips up the stairs and removed and stored 4 carpets. I'm absolutely knackered.
All I could think of as I sweated my way around the house was Vic Reeves's lucky carpet song.
Tuesday, January 23
As well as destroying a carpet last night, I also achieved the surprising feat of losing about 6 pounds in weight. I'm not quite sure how that happened. Some might suggest that the combination of reasonably healthy eating (excepting the weekend's gorging) and the exercise of running around a three storey house may have something to do with it. I wouldn't like to comment. Either way, I'm the right side of a stone boundary that I temporarily dropped below back in October and then lost my grip on. This is great. Maybe my goal of being the same weight that I was when I was 20 might be in sight after all. Were I to get into a weightloss groove and lose weight consistently for the next ten weeks or so - say to the end of March - I would most probably be at least one trouser size down and a hell of a lot more fit/healthy.
Like that's actually going to happen. Still, it's nice to dream.
May You Live In Interesting Times
It's certainly quite interesting at the moment, and I'm not sure whether it's a blessing or a curse to be living in interesting times. I suspect that things would seem more settling if they were more dull, but I would probably be going slowly insane with the dullness. I like to have lots of things to do, provided that those things are actually being done and are at least rewarding if not totally enjoyable. I think that my yardstick for the sort of thing I'd like to do is that it has to be something that I'd enjoy telling someone that I'd done. Given the exasperation involved explaining what I do for a living to my parents, who understand everything I say on the subject, but can't quite get excited about it, it's no surprise that I'm glad that I'm paid for what I do as a living. Though if I didn't do this job, I'd probably still write computer software, I probably wouldn't write THIS computer software THIS way.
As it happens, the work stuff is going as well as it's done in a long time, if not better. I have deliberately set out to do things in an order where the hard stuff didn't bog me down right away, and I may have many frustrations to deal with in the next few days, but so far things have come together well. I've had a plan, which I've nearly adhered to, and when I've not been adhering to it, I've been remembering to stop myself, have a review of where I've gotten to, where the nearest point of delivering something planned is, and then change direction to get there efficiently. It's been good. I've been my own project manager. I'm even slightly ahead of my plan (in preparation for things getting ugly AND hairy in a day or so when I stop the fun stuff).
Outside of work there's more to do. I've been told that long talk of DIY isn't as interesting to read as it is for me to write, so I'll be brief on the subject. With more of my tools now available to me, following this weekend's reclamation of them, I feel more equipped to DIY my guts out. Last night I behaved in a simultaneously hardworking and bloody stupid fashion. I was doing really well, stripping the wallpaper out of a room that is due to have some of its plasterwork redone. I was doing brilliantly. Until I decided to remove the radiator to get behind it. While I did a perfectly reasonable job of undoing the fittings and even getting most of the water out of the radiator, so little into the carpet itself... my inappropriate use of dust sheets and radiator lifting meant that I now have two sets of black stains where the radiator dribbled black goo onto the carpet. This is... well annoying. However, it's not the end of the world. It's the same carpet throughout the house. In one of the rooms, I was expecting to have to replace the carpet anyway, as the floor area will change. So, I'll get the carpet fitter to cut a section of this damaged carpet out to "fix" the upstairs room, and I'll replace the carpet in this one. Not the end of the world. I'm an idiot, though.
So, there's goodish progress on the house front. I even managed to remove a magic shelf too last night - that's a shelf with no visible means of support... until, that is, you start smashing at it with a chisel. Progress in life in general has been a bit weird. I've been reading the blog of someone I know in Newcastle for the last few months. For some reason, and I can only guess it involves infidelity, his wife left him, and he's been going through much the same sort of thing that I went through when my long-term girlfriend left me a half year or so before I started doing stand-up comedy. It's a long road to recover from a long-term relationship and I've been reading it with my "I'm an attached man" mindset. Thing is, I was, I'm not now.
I never know how to explain this, and I've explained it a few times in the last few days. It would appear, empirically speaking, that I'm no longer attached. My girlfriend gained the prefix "ex" and I gained full control over my destiny. The good thing is that neither of us gained any sense of animosity, acrimony or anything else, and I think we're both dealing with the getting on with things in our own way. I suppose that the house-move was the best moment to make a clean break and I can't say that I would ever have thought of it.
So, I'm single. I'm not "dangerously single", though I wouldn't know what that meant. I'm just on my own. Except I'm not. My "girlfriend" with the prefixed "ex" has also lost the prefix "girl" to become "friend" and seems quite happy to help me do DIY jobs. That's almost as good as full sex, probably.
There's a whole load of planning to do to get everything sorted out, and that's just getting my new mobile phone to bloody work! 2007 is not going to be exactly the year I first thought, but it is going to be a big year. I'm sure of it.
Interesting times ahead.
No time for self-pity.
Sunday, January 21
There's No Cure Like Travel
Trust me to title an entry to this blog with a musicals reference. In this case I'm trying to make an allusion to a Cole Porter song from the musical Anything Goes. Anyway, I'd have to say that, while this weekend's trip up north has given me some restoration, both spiritually, and in terms of reuniting me with possessions previously left behind, the similarity with Anything Goes runs skin deep, about as far as the title of this entry. It turns out that I do have my own sense of judgment about what is right and wrong, and what I would be prepared to do. I was deeply unhappy, for instance, to be a passenger of a drunk driver after this evening's meal, so I spoke up. As a result, four of up chose to take a taxi, rather than be passengers and tacitly condone this sort of thing. Some things just don't go. My entire life has not come this far to be risked in a drunk driving incident. Having said that, I was prepared to drive from Newcastle to Leeds in high winds at high speeds, despite the fact that this is sub optimal behaviour. I suppose that I was, at least, sober.
I'm writing this on my soon to be redundant mobile phone. The new one is waiting in the wings to take over. Actually, it's in the car, but there's nothing wrong with using a metaphor. As this message comes via the gift of predictive text, I was amused to find that 'sober' and 'roads' are keyed with the same keys in predictive text. This is definitely the same thing as the fact that 'pint' leads to 'riot' via 'shot'.
The house visit in Newcastle was, overall, pretty positive. Though I've identified various things that need sorting, some of which I drove to B&Q then and there to buy materials for, the overall condition was much better than I expected, or indeed kept the house in. The new vacuum cleaner was fine, and my car is now packed with a lot of crap that I think will prove very useful. So it's not crap or, as my phone likes to suggest, 'bras'.
Drunken drivers aside (or 'cried'), the opportunity to catch up with some old Leeds friends has been a good one. Some good food has been consumed, and a small amount of ale, though only tonight when I wasn't designated as driver, my bras-filled car inappropriately lacking seat space.
The weekend is nearly done. Shame.
Friday, January 19
All the Fun
Well, it's the end of the first week in ownership of the house, and the initial momentum has subsided a bit. That's not to say that last night was a dead loss by any means, but it clearly didn't result in any rubble sacks. I think one can measure one's success in terms of rubble sacks, provided that it's a success in wrecking/stripping out. Obviously, if you're fitting a kitchen and you generate many rubble sacks, then you've misunderstood "fitting" and gone for "wrecking". Likewise, if you were meant to be removing some tiles and you simply tiled over them with more, then that would be somewhat erroneous.
Although there's a rich history in the house of papering over, tiling over, or otherwise covering or working around problems, I have no intetion of following suit.
Last night there was a little wrecking. I also managed to construct something. It was the first positive bit of construction in the house unless you count the installation of the bed in the bedroom and the connection of the TV to the DVD player for the watching of Scrubs (mmm, Scrubs). Here's pretty much how last night happened.
I rushed away from work, following a day that was interesting in that I managed to do a bit of this and that with the project and yet still emerge ahead of my estimates (perhaps the estimation process is going more pessimistic than is usual for me), and following some time spent in a job interview situation (on the interviewing side of the desk) where I was amazed at the combination of salary expectations and the candidate's inability to draw any sort of coherent diagram. The reason I rushed away from work is much like the reason I constructed such a long and unintelligible sentence just now. I expected the result to be different. I had expected an electrician to be racing to meet me at the house at 5pm. As it happened, I arrived at the house sooner than I expected, sometime around 4.45pm. During the journey, in hands-free mode, I managed to speak to a friend whom I'm meeting this weekend when I go up North. In fact, we're probably going to travel up north together. It will depend on how easily he can get trains etc. While waiting for the electrician, I decided to have a go at a random shelf attached to the chimney breast in the lounge.
This shelf had no visible means of support. I surmised that it might be one of those magic shelves. By that I mean a shelf that is attached to a metal strut that plugs into the back of it, so the bracket is integral to the back of the shelf. Working on this theory, I starting trying to pry it away from the wall. I was having no luck. I hacked and banged and pried and poked and eventually took to dissecting the shelving wood with a chisel to see if there were any secrets. It's a two-tier shelf with side supports, making it look like a trapezium from the front. Now it looks like a trapezoid hole in the wall with a shelf at the bottom of it; I'd managed to remove the top and sides before I lost energy and drive. The electrician hadn't come and it was coming up to six.
The electrician rang to say that his personal organiser had gone flat and so he'd gone home, ostensibly to charge it, but also to get it working so he could let me know that he was now at home and, thus, unable to come back out to do my estimate. Whatever. He's coming next week instead. Nevermind the waste of my time, then.
Still, there were things to do. I went out and got food. Then I ate the food at the house I recently stopped living in - it is warmer and has a cat in it. Then I went out again, and bought a vacuum cleaner at Comet. I was going to buy one from Tesco, but it turns out that Comet was cheaper. Perhaps I should have bought this vacuum online. In fact, no. I just checked. It is the same online as in store. Phew. I also checked in Tesco, and they were selling a 1600w one for about the same as I bought this 1800w Electrolux Bagless upright. So, I think I did well. The purpose of this vacuum cleaner is to provide a machine for my tenants in Newcastle to use. This is because I'm reclaiming my Dyson. Although I don't want to wreck it by using it to pick up rubble, I do want to use it on the carpets in the new house and I do want it in general. I liked my Dyson. I also have a Hoover in Newcastle, which I don't mind using on rubble. So it should be a win-win situation. They get a new machine, and I get my old machines back. Woo.
The visit to Comet was a little odd. I did the man-in-a-shoe-shop thing and went into the shop and immediately selected what I wanted. I wanted a cheap bagless upright cleaner made by someone I'd heard of (so, not a Bindilaxahom or whatever). The machine that fit my profile jumped out at me. Reduced from £100 to £70 (let's not pretend that prices usually end in a 9 to confuse you). Simple. I spoke to the assistant, a youngish woman - maybe around 20 years old. She took a couple of attempts at finding the machine on the system (the first "serial number" she took down, turned out to be the date of the promotion) and then started arranging to get the vacuum cleaner located in the warehouse and "booked" for bringing into the main bit of the shop. While she was doing that, I told her I'd go and look at ovens, since I had a "whole house to fill with electrical items".
Off I went, perusing the cookers. "Perusing the cookers" you won't see that phrase often. When I'd finished looking at the cooking, I went and paid for the vacuum. She tried to sell me an extended warranty, I decided not to buy it (it's her job to sell it and the job of any reasonable person to decline). Then she wrapped the receipt in the standard warranty slip and handed it to me. Maybe it was a misjudgment of timing on her part or mine, but she didn't actually release the card when I tried to take it out of the mid-air space between us. It sort of stuck in her fingers for a bit. Lingered, as it were. Slightly embarrassed, she released the card, in the demure manner of Lady eating spaghetti in Lady and the Tramp. Since the vacuum cleaner wasn't yet out of the back room, I said I'd go and look at some more electrical items, since I had "a whole house to fill".
Off I went, again, perusing some washing machines and dryers this time. It was "white-good" heaven, though some of them were metallic or grey. Eventually I was called over. My box of vacuum cleaner had arrived and was being hovered over by the assistant. I thanked her and, realising I didn't have to sign for it or anything, I just picked it up and attempted to leave the shop. The assistant said something that I didn't quite hear. I asked her to repeat. She did and it was something about not getting smashed over the head by any trees on the way home. It had been a very windy day in Reading and a few trees had come down. Fair enough, but why send someone off with such well-intentioned, but pointless advice. Was this like Basil Fawlty to Sybil in Fawlty Towers "Drive carefully dear, don't drive over any MINES"? Sarcastic and vicious. Was this woman, making some point that I'd been a skittish and mawkish customer, making too many references to my big empty house and its need for white goods? Had she found me showy? Was I telling her, by my actions, that I could "easily buy a whole Comet's-worth of goods right now, but I'm just condescending to buy a cheap vacuum cleaner"? I don't know. Then I wondered if she wasn't doing something else. After all, there'd been the lingering over the warranty card, her kooky behaviour and then the awkwardness of saying a goodbye that was more than just a goodbye. Was it a "goodbye, drive safe, be careful, I'll miss you"?
I don't know. It was odd and slightly silly. I made some remark about not worrying about being hit by a tree unless it happens and then I got the hell out of the shop and went to Tesco.
While buying the evening meal's worth of Subway, I'd visited a small Tesco Express with the intention of buying some coffee. The coffee was to be instant coffee, since the best I can manage is a kettle at the moment. Yes, I could make a caffetiere's worth, but I won't as I don't have a caffetiere, and it's not my preferred technique for brewing from ground coffee. So, instant coffee. I like my instant coffee like I like my men: fair trade, organic Arabica. Looking back at that remark, I'll admit it makes no sense. I'll rephrase. I like coffee to be fair trade, so I don't feel like I'm killing some Kenyans or crushing some columbians, I like it to be organic, since I'm easily swayed into thinking that it makes it somehow taste better and more natural, and I like the flavour of an Arabica bean, because I do. I would compromise on many of these requirements in a push, but I don't want to compromise on the fair trade bit. I earn enough to feel occasionally guilty that many hardworking people do more and get less than I do. At least when I buy a luxury item like coffee, I can pay an extra 30p of my earnings to stop some of those hardworking people getting blisters on their donkeys through overwork. Or something like that.
Tesco extra categorically failed to have any fair trade coffee. It was Nescafe - Nestle oooh - or Kenco. I have nothing specifically bad to say about Kenco, but it's not what I wanted. So I didn't buy it. Nor did I get any more luck from the, almost next-door, Sainsbury's local (inside a garage). The big Tesco was where I eventually managed to buy my tick-all-the-boxes fair trade organic arabica. Good work me.
See, although I feel like I've lost momentum, my blow-by-blow account of last night is rich in detail and accounts of doing things, so even though I ended up watching Scrubs at 10.30pm and trying to get an early night, I still didn't quite hang around.
Following Tesco, it was back to the old house to spend a bit of time on the computer. I needed to catch up on some emails. My broadband isn't installed until next week, so I need the old house for computering. I also need the old house for showering, if I'm honest; my own shower isn't really up to much. I will probably end up braving it some more, though, since going to someone's house for a shower seems a bit weird.
Computer time over, I returned to my own house. I took the mail that had accumulated between the house becoming empty and my ownership of it, and I readdressed it all to "return to sender" or "return to [insert the return address from the letter inside]". The idea of returning it to the sender is to show the sender not to send it to me again. In one case I returned a letter marked for "recipient or occupant of the house". This letter was the council tax letter and I've now informed the council tax about me. So they should start to extort money soon. A card, sent in September, was for a completely different address. It may get to that address now, but it will be too late. I think the Doctor's appointment it describes has pretty much been and gone by now.
A stash of mail redirected, I turned my attention to the new toilet-roll holder. £3 from Asda. I fitted it to the bathroom wall. I made a good job of that. It was the first thing I'd attached in the house. It felt good. Well, good with a hint of futility. The holder should be back off in the next few weeks when I have that room re-done. It's all go, and it's all gotta go!
So, I went to bed last night and watched four episodes of Scrubs. I had wanted to read, but I couldn't be bothered. Then I tried in vain to get to sleep. There was a rhythmic knocking coming from somewhere nearby. Knock knock knock knock, like an poorly written joke. Occasionally it was punctuated by a bought of creaking. I started to believe that I was listening to an energetic couple, really going for it. For well over an hour I heard this until dropping off to sleep around 2am, I suppose. When I woke up this morning, it was still going on. So, I suspect that it's not an energetic couple. While I'm sure that I have, in my day, managed occasional bouts of bedroom vitality, I don't imagine anyone would be that, er, vital, for over 7 hours. It's probably a lamppost in the wind. My advice, if you've read this far, is to pat yourself on the back, and then amuse yourself for a moment with the phrase "lamppost in the wind", the idea of it being a simile for a couple doing the dance-of-love and how this might have rewritten a famous Elton John song.
So, I tackled a few tasks yesterday and now I'm off for the weekend. My energy is low owing to the sleepless night I had. Still, all the thinking about things house-like, coupled with the fact that I'm planning my return to stand-up, and have been doing some script reading for people, led me to write a new joke. This joke follows the standard "Premise, exposition, punchline" three-stage joke format. It's taken me a while to refine it to this level of conciseness, and I hope you find it funny.
My plumber is a menopausal woman. She messed up my bathroom. Now my toilet has hot flushes.
Thursday, January 18
A Series of Minor Challenges
There are two women in the cafe at work. Actually, there may be three, but for the last few days there have only been two, so let's discount the third one, of whom I was never that fond anyway. Let's not name and shame these women either. Both of them try to do the best job, and both seem very pleasant. This is a boon. However, they differ in a particular respect. The younger of the two seems to believe that my cappuccino with an extra shot should cost 70p. The older of the two seems to think it should cost 75p. The older of the two will turn the cup as the last drops of espresso dribble in, in order to make sure the cup has its full quota of milk and espresso. The younger waits until the cup looks a little full and then delivers it to me. Since I order the extra shot in order to get much strength in the drink, it always pains me to see a good half or third of a shot of espresso dribble into the drip tray after I get my cup. I reason that I've paid for this shot, so should be given it. Then I reason that the younger girl is the one who does this and she also consistently undercharges me for the drink, so maybe I'm better off financially as part of the deal. Let's assume that she doesn't consistently waste even a third of a shot. Maybe it averages out to a seventh of a shot, which is about the amount she undercharges me on the extra shot.
So, I feel like the whole coffee thing has an equilibrium. It still pains me. I can't actually say something about it without causing a lot of offence, so I keep quiet. It usually works. On one occasion, the older women took my drink order and charged me the higher price, and even started making the drink, but then the younger one took over and I saw my higher-priced drink wasted. This rankled. So, I hit on a plan. I reckoned that if I could distract the younger woman while the last bit of espresso is still entering the cup, then I might be able to subtly get a full cup without her realising. I tried this first on Friday, and she "boyfriended" me.
A quick aside. To be "boyfriended" is quite simple. A man speaks to a woman and asks her a question which could be innocent, or could be flirtatious/leading to flirtation/in any way crossing her personal boundary. The woman will then, in answer to the question, do a quick mention of the boyfriend. For example, I might ask something like "Do they make you work long hours?", and the woman may think that this is leading to a "Or are you free after work to come back to my place for the sex?". In response the woman could say something like "It's not too bad. It's a hell of a lot better than the hours my boyfriend has to work". In this way, I'm aware she has a boyfriend and she doesn't have to say something like "I'm terribly sorry, but if you're about to ask me back for the sex, I'd have to decline and embarrass us both". It's always a shock to be boyfriended, as it means that I may be coming across as a bit predatory... or maybe I just talk to insecure women too much. Over the last couple of years I've felt significantly non-predatory, but it doesn't always matter. Some men are, so many women are careful. In Edinburgh, in August, I demanded a couple of young girls (I mean 19 years old, which is now, for some reason, young) move forward a row for a better view and "Come and sit here, next to me". They baulked. My follow up line was "I'll rephrase. I love my girlfriend very much. Now come over here and sit on the front row for a better view". Apparently the "girlfriending" doesn't always seem as believable as boyfriending.
Anyway, back from the aside, we're at my technique of distracting the young woman with words to avoid my coffee going into the drip tray. On Friday it sort of worked. This morning it failed miserably. She took a moment out of our follow up to Friday's chat, where I asked after the darts match that she was taking her boyfriend to, to deliver me my as-yet-unfilled cup. Grrr.
I know that this is really a minor irritation. It's probably even better for me not to have as much coffee in my system. Still, minor irritations add up. But they're also a series of minor challenges, so perhaps they can be overcome in some way. After another night in the house, here are a series of new minor challenges:
A final story. I used the phrase "christen" to refer to making use of a toilet. It brings to mind a story which I don't remember very much first hand, but which was told to me about me, so I'll assume it was true. My school had a sponsored walk when I was in my final year there. I decided not to walk (or maybe my obesity decided it for me, I forget my size at this point - I think it was a size that I'd be thrilled to get back to, whatever it was). So, instead, I opted to help with "marshalling". This basically involved setting up a checkpoint along the route where people could stop for a comfort break. It was my job to help erect the toilet tent - a chemical toilet in a tent. This I did, with much help, I presume, since I'm not a big tentsman (I think I've slept under canvas maybe twice in my life). When the tent was complete, the teacher supervising asked me "So, are you going to christen it?", to which I replied "No sir, but I'm going to do something that rhymes with that". If that happened, and I think it probably did, then I showed a wit and presence of mind that I would do well to improve on when I return to stand-up in a few weeks.
Lots to do.
Wednesday, January 17
Home Sweet Huh?
You don't notice the various things that become sub-standard in your own home. The small stain on the wall, the badly fixed thing here, the broken thing there, the shortcut that you took in the other place. You don't notice the odd behaviour around your property either - the parking, the noise the neighbours make, the position of the street lights... well, you do notice all of these things, but you become used to them and they fade into the background.
The thing about moving into a new house is that all of these details become incredibly vivid and apparent. When it's a house that needs a lot of work doing to it, all of the repairs that you have to undo to get down to the bare walls are very obvious and, where silly, very silly. So, the last day and half has been a wealth of irreverent detail. It's been quite an experience. Here are some details I've noticed:
With a head full of dust and a few scrapes of the hands, I returned to work today. I would have had a shower, but the only working one is downstairs and I was too cold to use it. The upstairs shower works off the hot water, which doesn't work. There is running water in the house, which is something I was afraid wouldn't be there, the supply having been turned off (allegedly in the street, though this didn't prove to be the case). The water won't heat because the heating header tank won't fill. This may be a blessing as it, apparently, leaks when it does fill. The heating, therefore, doesn't work either. So, the "heating must be replaced soon" has now become "replace the heating now".
I bought a small convection heater, which will keep my bedroom warm. The bedroom is very nice, with the bed being a surprisingly easy thing to move between houses, despite being a bit of a bugger to assemble in the first place in the first house. I've already slept in the house a couple of nights and it's a lot better sleeping there when there are curtains up. I put the curtains up yesterday, following a rather fun and hurried trip to a curtain shop where I basically showed the woman a picture of the windows with measurements on and then did what she told me I needed to do in order to get enough curtain to fill the space. Colour matching and style is not the deal here... but it looks pretty good... though I need to gather the curtains. I also need to work out what that means.
A whiteboard and a pin board have also been bought and they will be put up soon. Home's not home without a whiteboard!
So, there has been a lot of action both in and out of a van. There have been Subways eaten. The plumber's trip proved to be useful in terms of getting together the data for a full central heating system quote. The trip didn't even cost anything, which was nice, given that the chap did, at least, appear to be doing things around the house, even though the central heating header tank was too knackered to work and too inaccessible (through the gift the micro-crawl-hatch) to be fixed.
There are more questions about how the house will end up than there are answers. I need to get more data. I know that I need a roofer on the roof quite urgently, and I know that my damp-proofing people are coming in a week's time.
So what if I have no hot water (except through downstairs' electric shower), no heating (except through the one-room convection heater) and no fridge (unless you count the majority of the house)? I do have a small amount of remaining kitchen in which not to cook, a kettle with which to make hot water, a cooker, washing machine (though nothing will dry in the house, so that's useless) microwave and (assuming my delivery came today) new TV to play with. And a new mobile phone that I haven't even powered on yet... It's all... well, in a state of flux.
Roll on the weekend when I can get the hell out of Reading and away from it :)
Monday, January 15
The House Is Bought
Quite a major life decision, buying a house. It's one of the most stressful things you can do. Other stressful things include the breakdown of a relationship or getting married or going on holiday. So if you managed to do them all at once, say buying a house to move into with your new bride whom you break up with on your honeymoon... well, that would be exceedingly bad luck.
Anyway, the news came through today. I have the right to demand the keys from the estate agent. Right away. This is... momentous. There's no backing out now. I really need to pick up a van and mobilise the stuff.
Of course, the people at Orange weren't letting me get away with having one major event to deal with. After a phone call on Friday, in which I asked them to reduce my phone bill, they talked me into having a new phone. This phone duly appeared on my desk at around the same time as I was trying to get the news on the house. So, do I get the house sorted? or do I piss around with my new phone?
Actually, I'm leaving the phone on my desk. It can wait until I get back to work on Wednesday having learned again what it's like to be a homeowner. This is going to be a big couple of days and I'm already feeling knackered and not up to it. Such is life.
On the weekend, there were preludes to the above pair of details, that I'm getting a new phone and that I'm unnecessarily lacking in energy. On the train to London, to go to a party, I was bored and so sent around a text, much like the text I usually receive when one of my myriad contacts decides to get a new phone. Usually their text reads something like:
Hi all. I've just got a lovely new phone. Please update your address book with this number +447xxxyyyyyyy. Luv Someone.
So, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of annoying everyone in my phone book, despite the fact that this free upgrade comes with no change of number, I sent around the following:
Hi all. I've just got a new phone. Don't worry, I'm keeping the same number, so please don't update your address books. Lots of love. Ashley.
Given that a certain percentage of my phone address book is comedians, it's amazing how many people this actually perplexed, rather than amused. Still, a few people got what I meant.
Once at the party, I had a great time. I chatted to lots of people and was glad that I'd chosen to go along. It was, in some ways, a way of seeing people whose help was invaluable to make a good event happen. Without them, things wouldn't have worked so well. I wanted to go along in person and celebrate a job well done. However, exhaustion caught up with me by about 9 o'clock. Rather than go along to the big party, after the first couple of pubs, my heart was set on escape. So I said my goodbyes and headed back. I needed sleep.
Maybe I'm getting old. Or maybe all this is too much for me to do in a short period of time. Too many conflicting issues.
Still, I think things will look a bit more Ashley-shaped when I've done some driving around the country next weekend, in this case to pick up some stuff. I like having stuff... which is probably why I spent much money on the weekend buying more!
Anyway, the house purchase overshadows any new items like phones, TVs, CDs and DVDs. It's way more expensive... and it's calling now. I must away to pick it up.
Well well well
I'm saying that to myself a lot at the moment. I think it's to mark the gulf between my expectations and reality. For example, I know that moving house is stressful, but I'm still occasionally impressed by how stressful it's feeling and how unprepared I feel. Then something which seems to be a major major heartache with it turns out to be very straightforward and I'm equally amazed. Well well well.
I don't think I've prepared myself for the realities of 2007 at all. I have been adjusting my view a lot, but I still expect to be playing catch up from this point forward. I will, however, try to keep plotting my way forward. If some things are easier than I thought, then it follows that others might also be. Think positive. And I'll try not to be too frightened to spend money. I'll need to spend guite a lot. Indeed.
After my foray into giving away stuff on freecycle, a Tv in fact, I discovered a discrepancy in my inventory. A Tv. It turns out that I do require one after all. So I went and bought a rather nice one online. Amazon. It was about 80 pounds more in the shop where I saw it. This reduction in price pretty much forced me into buying the unit. Thing is, had I had my old Tv, I would have just stuck with it. So either I've done myself a favour by giving it away, thus talking myself into a lovely new one, or I've managed to spend a ton of money owing to over generosity and bad planning. Either way, I'll look forward to the delivery on Wednesday.
It's strange how I am with money. I will easily spend 45 pounds on petrol and not bat an eyelid. Similarly, I might spend 20 pounds on a night out, or more on an electrical item. But, given the chance to buy a Dvd I really want for 10 quid, and I'm reluctant. I think it's down to expectations. I expect that I should be able to get it cheaper.
If I've learned anything this week, it's that my expectations are wrong.
Friday, January 12
Words Fail Me Again
Again, I've nothing of note to report. I'll have a go at reporting something, since I'm sure there are some people out there who would rather read a whole bunch of verbose nothing than not read a thing.
Last night a planning session was conducted late into the night about the future. This set me into a more clear frame of mind about where the whole moving house thing is headed. That's good in itself, but there's really a lot of change to handle and a lot of things to organise. We'll be visiting the house tomorrow to clarify how much more than we expect to cope with really needs coping with.
Today I organised a van and broadband for the house. This is good.
It's all been a bit haphazard so far, and I think I may use tonight as an opportunity to bring some of the fragments together. I probably ought to finish a DIY job I started too.
Other news is that I've volunteered my services to help out at someone's show in the Etcetera theatre in Camden. It's nice to be involved in the world of performance, even from the sidelines.
Thursday, January 11
I'm finding it hard to think of stuff to write about at the moment. Both on the blog and off, things are a bit stagnant. At least they sort of look that way to me today. I'm able to put tons of details into words, and I'm able to come up with silly thoughts, but I neither want to be bogged down with uninteresting details nor awash with unbelievable two dimensional silliness. It's a problem.
I think it's THE problem, though. Characters in plays or books are often more shallow as the writers would seldom bother to describe their hero going to the toilet or dragging round Ikea. Conversely, in my life at the moment, though things are nominally exciting with a house move imminent, the hard truth is that I did drag around Ikea last night, and I was even thrilled to buy a mop this lunchtime. Hell I even gave a lot of thought to whether to buy a 39p can opener, or whether to splash out on a more expensive one.
That's the difference between real life and fiction. Perhaps the problem I'm having is that I can't see either of my real life or my written word as being particularly three dimensional at the moment. It will probably change after the weekend when the full reality of house ownership hits me, like a jellyfish.
The email has been awash with leaving parties as people resign left right and centre, or finally meet with their redunancy. As I don't know any of these people, I don't see a good reason to go to their leaving do's. Either I'd feel out of place, or really get on with them only never to see them again. It's a lose lose situation. On top of that, some of the people emailing round their ideas for a night out appear to have some sort of loose screw in their text-engines:
Go to above web site and see the Al a Carte Menu - the link below doesnt work.
Aploogise those who have mailed no thanks and have got this again.
Who is this "Al a Carte"? I've never heard of him?
I'm pleased with the word "aploogise" - it's a simple typo in itself. In this context, it's a double typo, with as the writer means to write "apologies to", but couldn't be bothered... or didn't have the attention to detail. I suppose they've left the company now, so they won't be emailing no more.
Wednesday, January 10
I'm very much against stupid and nannying warning signs. I'm pleased, therefore, to note that the Michigan Anti Lawsuits group have had a competition for the most stupid sign.
Tuesday, January 9
Another Year Older
Just a minor thing. Today marked a year in my job here in Farnborough. It's been quite an experience so far and I am confident that I'm working among talented people who have a lot to teach me and who can face adversity with enough optimism and level-headedness.
The actual job I'm doing is different to the one I expected I'd be doing, and I've had to learn and forget quite a lot of things along the way. I'm probably better off for these experiences, but it has kept me on my toes quite a lot and stopped me from feeling altogether too established in what I'm doing. As a result, I'm opinionated, but less concerned when my opinion isn't determined to be the right way for the matter in hand. I also have less of myself in the office than perhaps I did one year into my previous job.
This is not a bad thing.
More Freecycling Fun
Again, I'd like to express that I think that Freecycle is a good idea. It's a means by which you acknowledge that you have stuff you don't want and that it might have value to someone else. Rather than attempt to extract that value in terms of cash, you simply give your stuff away. Simple as that. Maybe if you want something, you choose something from what's on offer on the mailing list. But there's no quid pro quo. It's recycling, it's free and it's about sharing with strangers. I like the idea.
However, it amuses me to see what people write on their Freecycle adverts. What does it say about the person? What are people Freecycling?
Here's one which caught my eye today:
3.Boxes and boxes of journals / periodicals.
Off the top of my head - vegetarian magazine, various environmental / green magazines eg Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace. Good for research, schools etc. Various cookkery magazines, may have some recipes torn out. Health and Fitness Magazines. PLease ask for the ones you want. Available Weekend.
Any requests for 'everything' will be assumed to be from people who are not using Freecycle in the spirit is was designed and are probably carbooters. They will be deleted accordingly without reply.
A bit of tough love here. If you ask for everything that this person has to offer - I'll not include the items in 1 and 2, so as not to make you greedy, then they will immediately assume the worst - you're an evil capitalist carbooter (I assume that's someone who sells random shit at car boot sales, and not someone who puts people into the boots of cars, or makes boots for cars, or kicks cars...). Bad evil person: your email will be deleted.
However, on top of the tough love, there's also an easy glimpse into the sort of hippy recyclingy friend of nature type of person who is using Freecycle. A bunch of vegetarian interest magazines and a green magazines - you can almost smell the hummous and lentils from here. I've no idea what "cookkery" is, but I bet it's not something they teach at schools during "spelllingg".
Ah, looking at people's lives and making arbitrary and superficial judgements. It's what Tuesdays are all about.
Monday, January 8
What's with all the pressure to make something out of the weekend? People ask you, when you're back at work - "What did you do this weekend?". The expectation is that you've had a great time and a break from the drudgery of work.
I suppose that there was a time when I had remarkable weekends. Maybe I'd be gigging or having expensive fun in London's West End. And there was a time when that sort of thing wasn't limited to weekends. People would ask me what I'd done the previous night between work days, and my tales would be fancy and rich. Now I do pretty much sod all. I'm not exceedingly proud of that, and I don't know that I like it. However, there are things that need doing, and some things have priorities. If I'm to redo a house this year, then my diary must be clear of distraction and my purse (wallet) should be fuller than once it was.
I digress. But I always do. I think I'm still in mourning for the ease of self entertainment I enjoyed in 2004. That's the past. A temporary pause in my stand up career is, so far as I can tell, giving me regular performance anxiety nightmares. Pretty much nightly. Nothing I can't handle. I'm assuming it's the stand up to blame and not my day job. It suits me to believe that. As a way of keeping my hand in, I've advertised myself as a script reader for comedy, and this may enable me to help some new comedians out, and give me a fresh look at the art of being funny. That would be nice.
This weekend doesn't have much about it that needs to be told. We went shopping in Bicester and bought a few things. Not for me. I'm not feeling too motivated to buy stuff at the moment since it will both require paying for AND also storing or moving to the new house. We went for a walk too. That was nice. I finished my book and started another. The book was called "The Face" and was ok. Not one of Dean Koontz's best. The new book is about the Beatles and is interesting and yet quite high brow. More high brow than this reader!
The big news of the end of last week was the exchange of contracts for the house. This sale must end soon as they say. With contracts exchanged, there are only a few days to finish the deal. I've done all I need to do, so it's now up to the lawyers and lender to finish the job.
Until the completion, there's really not much to do except hang around. As a result we're in limbo. There is some ditching of surplus items, hence some ebay and amazon listings, and some charity shop donating, and even the visit of a spanish couple to the house last night to pick up my old battered Tv - the magic of Freecycle!
Maybe the house move will be soon and a new life will begin. Maybe it will be a cold dusty life devoid of furniture. Maybe that will be character forming!
Friday, January 5
Is It Worth It?
Here's a question. Is it really worth going to the cinema (or movie theater if you are in the increasing blob that is my american readership)? The reason I ask is this. Last night two of us went to see the latest Ben Stiller movie: Night At The Museum. This cost just short of 14 pounds. It's rare that a Dvd release costs much more than that, and you get to watch it when you want, as often as you want, and even pause it. Plus, you don't get the experience of watching it marred by the imbeciles around you crunching their popcorn, talking, or otherwise drawing attention away from the screen. The argument about seeing things on the big screen is a good one, but I could buy a fairly big ass high definition screen for a few hundred guid and sit closer to it. The other argument that it's good to enjoy the movie as part of a crowd is one that I'm uncertain of. There's no doubt in my mind that I enjoyed Borat more because of the live audience. However, last night's movie left me wondering if this isn't a bit of a gamble. I suppose that going to the movies is a night out, where staying in and watching a Dvd clearly isn't!
As for last night's movie. It was distracting enough with some good comedy performances and a cast clearly geared towards pleasing the whole family. Given that we were watching in Reading, it should have come as no surprise to find that local boy Ricky Gervais was particularly enjoyed while on screen. It seemed like some people present were determined to find every nuance of his behaviour to be hilarious. He was okay. He looked a bit awkward in places, but he managed to bumble through in his role as official bumbler.
So, I'll probably keep going to the cinema, especially if being in the house feels like something worth taking a break from now and then.
Thursday, January 4
Note to self: the diy hasn't started yet. Now is not the time to get obsessive about skirting boards.
Following the stresses with the housebuying, someone has pointed out to me that I have higher expectations of the world than perhaps are reasonable. At the end of the day, I'm negotiating a business deal with another person, and if they think that acting in a certain way can make them wealthier - whether it's pressuring me into closing sooner, or whether it's finding an excuse to boot me out of the way so they can accept a higher amount of money from someone else for the property - then why shouldn't I expect them to behave the way they do. While I accept that people act selfishly and exclusively so, and while I don't claim to be some sort of paragon of virtue myself, I still have more positive expectations of the world. I choose to try to act even-handedly in business, because I believe that this works best overall. If we're all honest, then I think we can get more.
I used a bad example to explain this, ripped directly out of some animal behaviour revision that I recall from my girlfriend's degree. The Thomson's Gazelle is an African animal which, when being pursued by a predator may spring from its back legs a few times. This is called stotting. If the animal stotts, it's a sign of the fact that it is a healthy beast and, thus, more likely to escape the pursuit. The lion, or whatever, therefore, can quickly avoid chasing after the stotting beasts, and go for the less healthy stottless wonders. Why don't all the animals stott? Well, if they did, then the lion would learn not to discriminate, and so the stotting behaviour would serve no purpose, indeed, it might be have a negative effect on the healthy ones, as they'd waste time and energy stotting. If they all stopped stotting, then the lion may waste some of its time chasing after the healthy ones, but the healthy ones may also, occasionally get caught and killed, ahead of the less healthy. So, by introducing stotting into their behaviour and being "honest" about it, both the lion and the gazelle seem to benefit.
So, by being even handed and reasonable in business, overall, I reckon that people benefit.
This is, of course, a tenuous association. In fact, in human behaviour, above the ability to pay for things and trade successfully, there are personality traits - chutzpah if you will - which can somehow outshine the competition. It is these traits which allow people to rise above their apparent humble beginnings and do well in business by somehow promising more than their competition. Some small market trader may appear to offer a better service than a bigger and more cash-rich company, and, in so doing, may trade his way to equivalent status. In reality, he may be promising more than he can deliver, but a combination of luck and determination may see him through.
This is probably another case of human nature outwitting evolution and survival of the fittest.
However, I'm drifting from what I want to say. I think that being fair is still the thing to do and the think to hope for (if not expect) from people you deal with. In some ways, you should walk away from doing business with someone who isn't being reasonable. In other ways, I think that our decisions are based on what we're trying to achieve, rather than the exact means by which we have to reach those ends. I'm not quite saying that the end will always justify the means, more that sometimes a bigger concession is instinctively made, because the cost of walking away with high principles can be too great.
If possible, I think we should do what we can to help each other out. How wimpish does that sound?
I have recently joined up with Freecycle, which is an online service for giving things away. It's like ebay, but for free. Though I have every intention of making money from my surplus items where possible, I also see no reason to attempt to drag every last pence out of everything I own. Some things are inherently worthless in terms of money, but have a worth to someone. This is where Freecycle comes in. I want rid of an old TV set. If someone wants to have it, they can have it. Otherwise it will end up in the bin. Some things can naturally end their life in a charity shop, some things are too much for a charity shop to take on. So Freecycle it is.
Wishful thinking is the title of this post, because I wish that people were good to each other, and I think that groups like Freecycle aspire to the same. With this group, you can give stuff away, which is great to see, given that some people are giving away things that I would personally be too selfish to give away, and would hoard. You can also request stuff that you want, which is a marvellous case of wishful thinking. The service is arranged regionally, and so there are not a huge number of members in each area. This doesn't stop people requesting the most specialised of items - hoping against all hope, that out of the few hundred or so people in the list, that one of them will both have and also be prepared to give away the thing that is wanted.
Here's the mail which made me chuckle:
Does anyone have a peice of worktop about 4foot long, i need to
replace part of mine, its an old colour, light beige marbled
Forget the terrible spelling and layout, and the inaappropriate use of capitalisation and punctuation. There's someone on here hoping to get a 4 foot length of worktop that will match their existing one. If they get it, I'll be very pleased for the power of the internet.
And finally, I've just switched my gas/electric supply to Scottish Power. They're offering a 100% renewable source of electricity which is environmentally friendly. It's also cheap. So, I'll be contributing to the environment AND saving money. Thank Scotland!
Wednesday, January 3
The house saga continues. Yesterday evening, the estate agent called to ask me to change the plan (which I'd explained to them on 22nd December). The plan had been to exchange contracts and complete as quickly as possible in the new year. This, I felt, would get the quickest conclusion to the deal, which is best for everyone. Yesterday evening, the estate agent asked me to rush through the exchange of contracts for today.
Given that exchanging contracts requires an agreed completion date and pretty much all of the money that I'm going to dole out over this house-purchase, it's quite a tall order to ask someone to do this at 6pm on one day when their solicitor only returns after the Christmas break the following morning. I've spoken to my solicitor and they'll be onto it right away, however, the realistic target for doing this is tomorrow.
Now the estate agent is telling me that they fear that the vendor will react badly to this news and maybe even pull out to offer it to someone else. As far as I'm concerned, this is a ridiculous situation and I'm not certain that I want to get drawn into it. I've spent a fair amount of money on this house. I've invested time and effort and even have contractors booked to do the work that the existing owners so long neglected to do. To have them back out for want of a couple of business hours' extra time is just ludicrous.
So, either I'll hear that we have until tomorrow, or I'll hear that they've decided to go with a cash offer from someone foolhardy enough to either buy a house immediately with none of the usual searches/legal mumbo-jumbo, or foolhardy enough to get all the conveyancing done "just in case" lest they can beat me in a war of time.
I'm not going to play nice about this. I've been as proactive as I can be in getting this deal completed and if some numbskull is unclear about how long it takes to buy a house, perhaps they shouldn't be selling one.
I zonked out completely last night. I've got the seasonal lurghi and I really had no energy at all from the moment I arrived back at home at around 5pm. Before I eventually collapsed, though, there was time to go into town to post some CVs around for my girlfriend - hoping to grab a job sometime soon. There was time for a wee Starbucks coffee - there's always time for that. There was time for food and a trip to Tesco. There was even time to deal with the blockage in the bath which is now running more freely than free love at Glastonbury.
On top of that, there was even time made for putting things in boxes to the background accompaniment of the movie Working Girl - surely the movie with the largest amount of hair ever seen outside of a rock concert.
I made my way though the various piles of paper which have beseiged my life over the last few months and put them into manageable folders. This doesn't solve the paper issue, but it puts it out of mind and out of sight. Some of the paper will come with to the next house and some will remain in state, stored at the current place until a paper heaven can be found for it in the house after next. It's all very complicated really.
Basically, we're planning to move and there should be a massive amount of effort put into packing and sorting, or we'll constantly be reshuffling things or searching for things when we arrive. I failed to help with this mission properly, as I was too exhausted, and, thus, sleeping by 11. Clattering around me meant that the efforts were continuing during my slumber, which served to give me bad dreams and occasionally wake me up. However, I can't complain, as it was in my interests for this stuff to get done.
As a consequence of the relatively (for me, at least) early night, I awoke before the alarm clock this morning. That's the second out of two working days that I've been able to get to the office before 9. People are already suspecting that I've made some sort of New Year's Resolution to come in early, which I haven't!
I think I'm feeling the stress at the moment. The people who are selling the house I'm buying want to exchange contracts today. Given that the solicitor involved only returns to work today, this is pretty serious and tricky to organise. My plan was to do the exchange and completion of the sale in two or three days' time - i.e. as early as possible. This would give the seller the most time with all of the mone and would simplify things (at least in my head it would). Apparently, they want some sign of faith that they're not being messed about. If they pull out, I will have wasted a lot of money, so I suppose I'd better appease them, though to be honest, they're not being especially amenable to anything - it's probably their lack of amenability which has resulted in the house being poorly maintained for the last 10 years or so! I shall do a better job than they did.
I shall probably watch a lot of money go through my fingers in the next few months as well. D'oh! I was just getting used to having a bank balance that I couldn't quite read properly... with magic extra money appearing each month.
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