Thursday, 17 February 2011

New Beginnings

I’m sitting here at my desk (at home, not at work) at 10.30 on a Thursday night in February.  I’ve had a properly crappy day today.  If you’ve ever had the kind of day where by 8AM you’re wondering why the hell you got out of bed, that’s been my day today.  I’ll not bore you with the details.  Just take my word for it that today has been shit.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, time to explain tonight’s title.

I decided to start this blog about 8 months ago for a number of reasons.  When I was a teenager I harboured ambitions about becoming a journalist.  There used to be a drama series on television called Lytton’s Diary starring Peter Bowles.  I don’t remember a whole lot about the series other than that Peter Bowles was a Fleet Street-based journalist who seemed to hold himself accountable to a greater moral standard than other journalists of his day.  I’m not saying that this drama series was the reason for wanting to become a journalist but at the age of 14, it seemed like a good idea.  My father was trying to steer me towards a job with the Customs Service which didn’t really appeal to me and I knew from my teachers that I was pretty handy with the English language.  So, I made my subject selections based on advice that I was given and dug in.  By the time I was 16, I had qualifications in English, French, History, Office Studies, Maths and General Science.  I failed Technical Drawing, mainly because I found it terminally dull and boring.  However, by the time I was 16, I had also lost all interest in becoming a journalist having found that I liked computers far more instead.

Before anyone asks me, no it didn’t occur to me to combine computers and journalism.  Hey, I’ve never claimed to be clever!

Anyway, to get back to my reasons for starting this blog, I’ve always felt that I had more to say.  I’m very strongly opinionated (not always an endearing quality) and I have something of a tendency to rant about stuff that pisses me off.  Looking at other people’s blogs made me realise that perhaps everything that I want to say can be said here: people don’t have to listen to me banging on about stuff – they can dip in, read what they want and then leave.  The trouble that I have at the moment is that, in the words of the masterful Pink Floyd, I thought I’d something more to say….

The reason for tonight’s title is very simple: I’m at a time in my life when I’m experiencing a lot of new beginnings.  I want to share some of those with you, but I also want to add a new one to the list.  I DO have more to say, I just need to get my finger out and get it said, right?

Anyway, here are some of the new things that are happening with me right now.  Some you’ll know about, some you won’t.  Before I go into that though, let me give you a little bit of my more recent history.

In July of last year all four tyres on my car were slashed at some point between me parking outside my flat at about 7.30 at night and going back out to the car at 5.30 the following morning.  As per usual, nobody saw anything and I was left with no option but to spend nearly £200 putting four brand new tyres on my not-yet 3-year old Vauxhall Corsa.  I didn’t know who had done the damage to my tyres but I’ve always been of the opinion that if you have a problem with someone, take it up with that person – don’t take the coward’s way out and damage his property.

Time passes and at the end of August we start toying with the idea of trading the car in.  She’s nearly 3 years old and there are some great deals going on brand new cars, mainly because the economy’s in the tank and the dealerships are panicking.  So we settle on a beautiful little Citroen C3 – a slightly bigger engine than we had in the Corsa but still small enough that the road tax isn’t a big expense.  Of course the insurance hurts a bit because I stupidly decided to claim for the Corsa’s tyres on my insurance.  Won’t do that again…

For a week or so we’re decadently running a two-car household.  I had decided not to use the Corsa as a down-payment on the Citroen, believing that I could get a better deal if I sold it myself.  Cat’s driving licence was out of date so I couldn’t insure her to drive the Citroen on the 7 days’ complimentary cover anyway so I drove the Citroen and she drove the Corsa.

On the 19th of September, we heard a hissing noise coming from outside.  Given that we’re 3 storeys up and even allowing for the fact that the living room window was cracked open, it was quite impressive that we heard anything.  Imagine my horror when I look out of the window and a guy with a hoodie on is walking away from my car.  Yes, we’d been done again only this time, I know who he is and where he lives because my living room looks into his, and my girlfriend had the unfortunate pleasure of witnessing him assaulting his girlfriend one Saturday night.  Suddenly, things start to make sense.

I’ve never been physically violent but If I could have got my hands on him that night, I’d probably have killed him.  I’ve never in my life thrown a punch at anything more solid than a training bag – not for any particular reason other than that I tend to try and avoid trouble and also because in my mind’s eye I look vaguely ridiculous when I punch things.  Regardless, if I’d got my hands on him, he’d have gone down.  While I was running down 3 flights of stairs to confront the guy that did my tyres, Cat was on the phone to the police to report the incident as she had done the first time.  When the two officers arrived, they already knew about the first tyre-slashing incident and expressed a high degree of sympathy with us.  However, they were at pains to point out that they couldn’t go and arrest the guy on the basis of my say-so.  They were also keen to request that I not go and try to confront the guy in the street, although they did agree that they’d probably have done much the same in their position.  Anyway that’s another £200 up in smoke and this time it’s out of pocket, not on the insurance.  When the mobile unit turned up the following day to replace my tyres he commented on what a shame it was to be taking away four ruined 3-week old tyres.

By now we’re fed up.  Clearly it’s a bad move leaving the car outside my own (albeit rented) home so we start looking for places within range of the flat that we could safely park the car overnight.  Luckily the area we lived in had quite a lot of security cameras around so we became pretty adept at parking the car where it would be seen on-camera.  The thing was though, it was now the end of summer and after about a week of sneaking around like that, I was starting to get pretty fed up with it, particularly because the girl across the road had provided her boyfriend with an alibi for the night when I watched him walk away from my car.  So we decided it was time to move.

New Home

Cat and I spent quite a bit of time looking at the possibility of renting a place in  Glasgow or even buying something affordable.  The problem is that when the higher salary earner has quite high monthly outgoings (child maintenance etc) and the other salary earner is effectively classed as a student, and you’re living through a recession, you’re options tend to be a bit more limited than they might otherwise be.  To make matters worse our flat in Govan was a Housing Association property.  Such so-called “Social Housing” needs to be affordable because it has to be available to some of the more vulnerable members of society.  Whilst this was great when we were starting out in 2006 because it meant we were paying around £200 in rent, it meant that if we were going to make the jump from Housing Association to private landlord we would see quite a hefty jump in rent.  If we bought a place, it would be even worse.

First things first then: we decided to investigate the property market, which meant a visit to a mortgage advisor.  We had decided that because Cat is classed as a student, we’d be better to get the mortgage amount calculated on my salary and outgoings.  After about a fortnight’s wait, the mortgage advisor came back with the maximum amount that we could expect to borrow from the bank.  In the meantime we’d seen a 3-bedroom property in a former Housing Association block that was going for a very low amount, probably as a result of the mortgage lender having repossessed it.  If you’re not already aware of this, repossessed properties are sold by means of a ballot – all interested parties submit sealed bids, and the property goes to the highest bidder.  The problem there is that you have to do all the legal stuff (and therefore pay the solicitor) without having any guarantee of a set of keys at the end of it.

When we went back for the second viewing of that property, we discovered that the block was scheduled for demolition within a few years, so it would only be a temporary home for us at best.  We ran away screaming!

Slightly dispirited, we started casting the property net a bit wider.  Cat and I both loved living in the city, not least because we could have a night out and be able to get home quite easily.  We both grew up in Helensburgh, where a night in Glasgow either means the last train home or a painful taxi fare.  However, we realised that we could move a bit further out and get more property for our money.

I have to tell you, some of the properties we saw were hilarious, and not in a good way.  We lined up a bunch of viewings in Cumbernauld, which is just outside Glasgow.  It’s a post-war New Town and one which has (deservedly in my opinion) been voted the worst place to live on a number of occasions.  We saw one place that appeared to have been vacated in a hurry and would have seen a second were it not for the fact that it was in the process of being burgled at the time.  Again, away we ran!

Against my better judgement, Cat persuaded me to look at properties in Airdrie.  Airdrie is set in the heart of Lanarkshire and used to be part of a thriving coal mining community which has long since shut down.  Nowadays its a commuter town, being only 30 minutes on the train from Glasgow.  I say “against my better judgement” because deep down, I wanted to stay in Glasgow.  Regardless, Cat set up some viewings.

One of the viewings that we attended in Airdrie was of a top-floor three-bedroom place.  It was owned by an elderly couple who had lived in the block for about 30 years but now needed to move because the husband had some form of illness that meant he couldn’t breathe properly and was therefore largely housebound.  We left, telling the estate agent that we were interested but would need to think it through.  That was a lie: we fell in love with the place.

To try and cut this very long story a bit shorter, Cat and I moved out of the flat in Govan on 26th November and into that 3-bedroom property during the worst snow seen by Airdrie in a long time.  So, we’ve now lived here for nearly three months, we’ve met some of the neighbours and we can park the car outside the house without any fear of damage being done.  Much as I hate the guy that slashed what I now believe was both sets of tyres, I think that the bastard did me a favour by galvanising us into action.

New Relationship Status

As you may be aware, I’ve been married before.  When Cat and I got together I was pretty adamant that I wasn’t doing that again – in a drunken moment at my sister’s wedding I may have made the mistake of telling someone this in front of Cat, which wasn’t really my finest hour.  Anyway, since Cat and I got together we’ve attended four weddings and eventually I’ve come around to the idea.  So much so in fact that when we were in the USA just before New Year, we decided to get engaged.  Not a formal proposal, not down on one knee, no asking her dad for his daughter’s hand in marriage, just a conversation had over a couple of beers at the end of 3 days’ of hectic travelling from Glasgow to New York via London, Chicago and Washington DC.  Last of the romantics me!

New Animals

Cat and I always wanted to get a kitten.  However the problem with the flat in Govan was that it was just too small.  And I’d seen some of the cats living in our street – no way I was having a kitten going outside and becoming a home to as many fleas as that!

Four weeks ago, Cat was in Helensburgh visiting her parents.  Because I was on-call that weekend I opted to stay at home, rather than risk being called.  On the Saturday, Cat called me to say that she’d called into the local SSPCA shelter in Dumbarton and had seen a couple of gorgeous cats.  So, I agreed to take a look at them, on the understanding that nothing was being decided there and then.  Yeah, right!  I fell in love with the two of them, and we collected them two days later.  The house now has two litter trays, scratching posts and umpteen cat toys, as well as two of the cutest cats you’ve never seen.  They’re sisters, and are about 12 months old each.  They were handed in to the SSPCA because their elderly owner was going to into a care home and couldn’t take them with her.  Because of this, they seem to be happier with Cat than they are with me, although they do let me stroke and play with them sometimes.  They even let the kids play with them, although they’ll accept Laura more than they will Tony.



Rosie (at the top) will do absolutely anything if you wave a ball of wool in front of her.  To a certain extent Minnie (below) is the same although she prefers it when I get the laser pointer out – she goes nuts for that little red dot!

The Future

In the next six months or so, Cat and I are going to be completely re-decorating the house.  Don’t get me wrong, the place is in good shape and doesn’t need decorating.  The problem is though: it’s not our taste and style.  It’s decorated after the taste of the elderly couple that we bought it from.  No doubt there’ll be updates on here as the work progresses.

That brings me onto the other thing I wanted to say, which is really more of a promise.  I’ve been pretty hopeless at keeping this blog going: I’m certainly not as devoted to it as other people I know who blog every week.  The thing is though, I want to try and get better at it, so be prepared for the over the coming weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Just a little addendum or two to this post: the flat is STILL being decorated, and we received the sad news that the elderly gentleman from whom we purchased the flat last November has succumbed to his illness, and passed away last week. I can only hope that he was able to regain some quality of life before he passed on.