With a handsome 81 days to go before Christmas, I ordered the Christmas tree. I won’t say that threat of potential shortages was no part of my consideration at all, but it was more the fact that we got an email from the local Christmas tree supplier we’ve used previously to say that they had started taking orders, and I thought that I might as well sort it out now while there’s a good choice of delivery days.
I met a few university friends in Soho on Thursday evening. That was a delight. Soho seemed busy; I don’t know if Fridays are busier or if Thursday is the new Friday because so many people are working from home on Friday even if they have to be in an office the rest of the week.
I’ve had what felt like a frustratingly unproductive week. I didn’t really get anywhere with work, and ended up writing off a couple of days entirely.
I bought a new (used) laptop, a ThinkPad T470s, and realised that a) it had a slot and antennas for a WLAN module, b) I could pick up one of those modules for £30 on eBay, and c) if I took advantage of Three’s free Data Reward SIM I’d have a convenient if limited connection when I can’t find WiFi, without having to tether my phone.
L– was away for most of the week, so I was at home on my own. I took advantage of the space and the warm weather to finish painting the banisters. (The paint goes on much more easily and dries better when it’s warm.) When we moved in, the banisters were a hideous shade of matte brown paint. I painted the bottom part before we moved in, but didn’t get round to the top half before it was rendered inaccessible by boxes of stuff.
I did the bank holiday week backwards: I worked on Monday and Tuesday and took the rest of the week off instead. L— also had the week off, so we took a trip to the seaside for a few days, to Margate. I’d never been before, and it’s one of those places that has a reputation as being a bit arty, so it seemed interesting.
I started a new part-time contract on Monday. It’s going well so far, and it’s reassuring to have some money coming in for the first time in a while. It’s all remote, although this time it’s not because of the rona, but because the client is in the US. The work I’m doing is mostly on my own, so the time difference doesn’t seem to be a problem.
This post is a day late because I decided to have an early night last night. I regret nothing.
I have picked a lot of blackberries.
I finished fitting all the skirting board in the living room. All that remains is some painting. It’s a relief to have done it, but the biggest improvement comes from not having 3m lengths of the stuff sitting on the floor any more.
It was so hot for most of the week that I spent a lot of time in a state of horizontal lassitude. The house is better than the flat was, thanks to not having floor-to-ceiling glass on one side. It would be better if we had something other than just curtains, that could block the direct light and still allow air through. We have a plan to fit shutters (and even know who is going to do it) but that will take a few weeks to get sorted.
I spent three days this week on a beginners’ Scottish Gaelic course for speakers of Irish. It’s a good idea for a course: the languages are very similar, so you don’t really start from the same point as an English speaker would, and it’s more a case of learning what’s different than of learning from the ground up.
I gave blood again, for the 34th time. Each donation is a US pint (it’s one of the rare occasions when the UK is on the receiving end of cultural imperialism), so that makes about 16L over my lifetime, approximately three adult humans’ worth. It’s also enough to run a shower for two minutes, or fill one fifth of a bath. I don’t know which would be more horrifying. Probably the shower. It was my first donation under the new, significantly less homophobic blood donor rules, which is a good change to see in operation.
Our sofa was delivered on Monday morning. I managed to clear enough space to be able to wrangle it out of the box and screw on the legs. The box the sofa came in was the size of a double coffin. Written on the side was the message, “please keep the packaging in case you return the product for any reason”. As if. Where? Not having a spare house to dedicate to the packaging, I folded it up and, once we’d established that we were happy enough with the seat, took it to the reuse and recycling centre. Well, it would hardly fit in a wheelie bin.
We moved house today.
It’s the eve of Midsummer. All the daylight is helping me get plenty of work done on the house, but once again it’s pretty much all I’ve done.
It feels like all I’ve done this week is painting and decorating our new house, but there’s been a bit more than that. We’re still living in the flat for another couple of weeks, so at least it doesn’t matter that it’s still a mess.
- Two headboards for a small child’s bed
- A wooden table in two parts, both too large to fit through the access hatch
- A bag of cat litter, opened but mostly full
- A pet crate suitable for air travel, large enough for a medium dog or an ocelot or a lynx
- Several old curtains, never in style at any point since the house was built
- A bolt of heavy brown cotton cloth
- A single plastic place mat
- A box containing a hoarded collection of plastic bags
- A 1 Real coin from Brazil, worth about 14p
- The cardboard box in which an MFI kitchen unit was shipped
- An IKEA desk top
- Three legs for the desk top
- A square wooden frame of unknown purpose, also too large for the access hatch
- A double futon mattress
- A canvas-covered shelving unit
- A roll of carpet, with no dead body inside
As of Friday, we are now homeowners. We still owe the greater part of it to the bank, of course, and taking everything into account I personally actually own about one fifth of a house at the moment, but it’s still a greater level of control over my life and living conditions than I’ve ever had before.
I think the past week has been more eventful than the whole of 2021 up to now.
Our house purchase is moving rapidly ahead. After weeks when it seemed like it was stuck on some inscrutable detail of negotiation, everything has finally been unblocked. The last sticking point was, it seems, something about indemnity in case the land is found to be contaminated. As it turns out, this can be sorted by the simple expedient of paying £265 for an indemnity policy. Would we like to do that? Yes we would, especially as getting this sorted will save us five figures of stamp duty if we complete the purchase by the end of June.
I took out my shamisen from its case to find that the skin had torn. It’s the inevitable fate of any shamisen: the body is a wooden box with a skin stretched very taut and glued on. Eventually, the stresses, exacerbated by climatic variation, get too much and one day you open up the case to see this:
On Monday, I had my hair cut by a professional for the first time in months. It’s definitely an improvement. I’ve been getting my hair cut by the same person for a decade or so, so we know each other pretty well by now. It’s one of those little things that feels like putting down roots, and something that I’ve missed.
We went to Stratford-upon-Avon with our support bubble friend for the weekend, taking advantage of her brother’s vacant house there. By coincidence, Friday was Will’s birthday, but there wasn’t much sign of it. Unsurprising, really, in the circumstances. It made a pleasant change to have some different surroundings to walk around, and that was all we really wanted. The mission objectives were achieved.
The big news this week is that we have been approved for a mortgage at last. After five weeks in which it felt like I was being asked one pointless question per week, I sent a sternly worded email asking why it was taking so long, and whether the fact that I kept being asked so many questions that were irrelevant to our situation indicated some deeper misunderstanding.
Tragedy struck this week. On Monday, I bit my cheek so badly that it’s been miserably painful and I’ve found it hard to eat all week. It’s only today, Sunday, that it has perceptibly begun to heal. Usually – and I do mean usually, because I do it very often – it heals in a few days, so it must have been especially bad this time.
As predicted, Monday was an absolutely glorious day. I cycled over to St James’s Park to meet up with some friends to chat over some beers in the sunshine. It was so good to see them in person after such a long time. I never thought of myself as particularly gregarious, but I’m really not a hermit. I definitely need a lot more in-person social activity than I’ve had over the past year.
It’s not even been a week, but already I can’t even remember a time before the Ever Given was stuck across the Suez Canal. It’s probably not much fun if you’re involved in global shipping or the running of the canal, but from here it’s been a welcome diversion.
We’ve been watching Lupin this week. It’s excellent and compelling. It’s a bit like the recent BBC Sherlock Holmes adaptations in the way that it updates the old Arsène Lupin stories to a modern setting – and in the way that it’s probably more entertaining than the original books.
It’s been quite a week politically. Monday was International Women’s Day; by Wednesay, a serving Metropolitan Police office had been arrested for Sarah Everard’s kidnapping and murder; on Saturday the same Metropolitan Police were filmed manhandling women who had turned up to a vigil for her on Clapham Common.
It feels like it’s colder than it usually is in March. Is this what the future is going to be like now that the North Atlantic Current has been disrupted by climate change? Or is it just that I haven’t actually been in England at this time of year since 2019 and can’t actually remember what it’s like? At least it’s been sunny, and I have a hat and a warm coat.
The weather has gone from snow to spring in the space of a week. It’s been very pleasant over the last few days. I haven’t even needed a heavy coat!
I killed an old Yamaha toy keyboard. I was trying to retrofit a MIDI input to a PSS-100 by emulating the keyboard matrix. I had mapped everything out, it was all going well, then I decided to look for a place to pull 5V off the board. My probe slipped, I accidentally bridged two contacts on the power transistor, heard a click, and now nothing works. It’ll either be easily fixable by replacing some passive components, or I’ll have managed to kill the ICs. As the power supply is now putting out 0.5 V instead of 5 V, I have some hope that it’s a power supply issue.
I’ve had a quiet week. I explored some of the streets in the area that I’d never visited before. Most of them turned out to be rather dull cul-de-sacs full of identical little 90s houses that nonetheless all cost way more than I’ll ever be able to afford. I didn’t find anything interesting, really. I ended up in one council estate that’s almost completely fenced off from the surrounding streets: every time you think you can see a way out, it’s barricaded off. I don’t really understand why that’s the case. Maybe it’s a relic of a bygone fad in town planning.
My right elbow was a bit uncomfortable at the start of the week. I’ve been using a finger trackball (currently this massive trackball) instead of a mouse for a decade and a half specifically to avoid this, but sometimes the only solution is some actual rest. I spent Monday and Tuesday consciously taking a break and doing things that didn’t require much of my arms, and especially that weren’t in front of the computer.
I finished assembling my DIY NeoPixel Monome grid – someone else called them “neomonome”, which I like. The solution that actually worked for soldering them together was to print a task-specific jig onto which I could screw the boards before soldering short wires between the edge pads. This worked perfectly: all the boards ended up soldered exactly lined up, and the whole thing lies perfectly flat.
I feel as if I’ve spent the past week doing nothing but modelling enclosures and 3D printing them.
The tree is gone, the decorations are down, and Christmas is over.