Saturday, December 19, 2009

Goodbye Kensal Rise

After an emotional roller coaster ride lasting five months, on Wednesday we exchanged contracts on our flat and house. The UK property market has certainly tested our will and patience, and sapped our emotional and financial resources, since we accepted an offer on our flat back in July. In August we spent many days researching a completely different part of London, being priced out of where we are now, before offering on a house in West Norwood ("West Dulwich borders" according to the estate agent...sounds posher!). There weren't that many options, and we thought it was the best option all things considering ("all things considering" namely being that I was newly pregnant, not to mention that we've been desperate for some outside space for Blake for months now). On holiday in Scotland, we stressed because our mortgage was taking forever to be processed and we worried that we would lose our offer. That was back in September and pretty much seems another lifetime ago. In the end, the mortgage was approved and we then just had to wait the 2.5 months for the tenants of the house to move out. Fortunately the buyer on our flat was willing to stick around during that wait. [nb: American readers may be confused by the way buying and selling works here; I found this article which offer some nice comparisons to the US market:; The section The general stages of purchasing a specific property is the interesting part, suffice to say that in the UK the process seems infinitely more stressful compared to the US!]

In November, we received survey results back that showed that the house was directly above a trunk sewer - I panicked wondering had I not noticed that it smelled? Evidently this sewer is many many feet below the ground, but the main problem with its existence underneath our property is that doing any work or extensions, which we hope to do, will require extra permission - and potentially extra cost. We debated whether it was worth the hassle, and in the end decided that our options at that point were not great: call off the whole thing or go ahead with it were the two, and going ahead won out.

In the last couple of weeks, we've dealt with our scatty legal advisor, stubborness by our buyer about an extension to a lease, the threat by our house owner to put the house back on the market if we couldn't wrap it all up by the end of the year (effectively meaning that we would be back at square one), and general stress and complications that have made me want to never ever have to buy another property again.

This past Wednesday, with Christmas looming, we exchanged contracts, which meant it should all be going ahead - and on Tuesday we move. I booked movers who will come on Monday to pack us up, and on Monday we'll say goodbye to the people at Blake's nursery who have looked after him so well since January.

Whether it was pregnancy hormones or relief at the fact that everything had reached a conclusion, or fear at what lies ahead, I cried myself to sleep on Wednesday as I thought about the wonderful 4 years we have spent in this flat. When we spent our first night here on New Year's Eve 2005, I don't think we could have imagined all the happy times which lay ahead. Of course there were hard times here, and I am going to very soon be reminded of why I don't like DIY or "home improvement", but when I think about this being the home that we returned to as newlyweds in September 2006, or the home we brought our beautiful baby Blake to from the hospital on Mothers' Day 2008, I can't help but well up at such happy memories.

I am going to miss so many things about our flat: being walking distance to Chris and Anna who have been our wonderful neighbours for so long now (not to mention Will and Raina's flat, which although not occupied by them right now, could one day be again), Becks over on Tubbs Road (although she has become a part-time Londoner and we don't see her as often as we'd like to), the Italian deli 3 minutes away, the arthouse cinema at the end of the road, Queen's Park where I made so many truly wonderful friends through the Pushy Mothers class, being a stone's throw - near enough - from trendy Notting Hill, and the brightness of our living room on a sunny afternoon are the things that come to mind. I am sure that we'll grow to love the new place and the new area; a reassuring email from my Mom included this: Blake is used to staying in different rooms and spaces; as long as you are there, he'll be happy!

And so, in the end, we will be in by Christmas. We'll be surrounded by boxes and the daunting reminders of the work we need to do to make the house our home, but it will be exciting. Matt has been such an amazing partner in this process, and he has constantly reminded us both that as long as the three of us are together, that is what matters most. As Emily Dickinson put it, Where thou art - that - is Home. At the very least it is the start of a new chapter for us, and hopefully the place of many more happy memories which are still to be created. Wish us luck, and come visit!

Blake's friends celebrate Christmas

Rachel threw a fantastic little Christmas get-together on Thursday for all the tykes, who hardly seem like tykes anymore!
We managed to get them somewhat assembled for a photo on the couch.

Strange little fellow

On Thursday I was performing some move-related task on the phone, and Blake headed off to our bedroom where he very quietly went about some sort of business. After a few minutes, I went into the room to discover him with about 10 pairs of my underwear (clean, fortunately, from my drawer) around his head and shoulders. He also topped the look off by wearing one of his mittens. I couldn't on earth think what had made him do this, but it was pretty funny...

Counting to 10

I am still pretty impressed by this!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A return to the gym!

About this time last year, my good ship Self-Awareness lost its way. I know this because it was 12 months ago that I signed up for a year-long subscription to my local gym. At the time, the plans were clear in my head; yes, I would be returning to work soon enough, but they had an offer on that I felt I couldn't refuse. When would I go? Well, that was easy: I would be working from home on Mondays, so I would go for a quick swim during my lunch hour; I would arrange with Matt to let me go one evening a week, and I would also go once on the weekend. I might also try to get in a swim with Blake on Thursday, my day off, so I kept his child membership going as well.
In reality, what happened was this: I haven't taken an hour-long lunch break in as long as I can remember, and if I do take any breaks while I am working from home it is to go hang up the load of laundry that I put on every Monday just before 9:00 a.m.; after returning exhausted from a day's work, picking up Blake and trudging home from nursery, the last thing I have wanted to do was venture out to go exercise; and on the weekends the same holds true. No Afternoon Plans=NAP! Finally, today I managed to take myself up to the gym to break it off.
I had to laugh at the form I had to fill out to end this farcical relationship - it asked for my reasons for cancellation, and fortunately I didn't have to pick just one: Lost Motivation, No Time, Pregnancy, Moving House/Job. Several questions later I was asked why I had joined in the first place, so I chose: Fitness and Well-being and Improve Appearance. Did you achieve these goals? Surely their computer will be able to see how often I've been, so there was no reason to reply with anything but an emphatic NO!
I know I'm hardly a SuperMom, but what I am definitely not is a Supermodel Mom. Leaving the gym, I felt a real sense of accomplishment, like I had just completed an exercise class, but this lesson was one about letting reality have a say. With life so busy, there are just more important things for me to worry about than looking slim and beautiful for my husband; hopefully he thinks that anyway, the beautiful part at least (I'll never be as fit as I was on my wedding day, but probably nor will he). I also decided that after a few minutes of calculations at how much money I'd wasted throughout the year, there was no reason to torture myself - at least it was over now.
I contemplated taking the bus, but decided that the least I could do was walk the 10 minutes home...especially because it was downhill! And when Matt went out to the shop later in the evening and asked if I wanted anything, I thought for a moment and then ordered some ice cream. After all, I'd been to the gym today...