Journal – July 2016 (London Visit)

Welcome back to my journal. This month I stayed with a friend in London for a few days, at my Nan’s house that my mother and I are soon hoping to move into, and there are some updates on our relocation plans as well. So I hope you enjoy!

Saturday July 2, 2016

Things have progressed very quickly this past week. After meeting us the previous Thursday, we got an email from the Bettesworths estate agents on Monday with the Energy Performance Certificate, which we paid the agreed £65 for. The paper copy then arrived in the post on Tuesday.

And then, at the end of Monday afternoon, Bettesworths sent us their sales agreement and the particulars of the house they had put together, including measurements of all the rooms, the photos their guy had taken while he was here, and a rough floor plan. As agreed, the house was going on the market for £159,950, and was being put up for an early sale. All we had to do was sign the paperwork and send it back, including a copy of Mum’s passport and electricity bill to comply with money laundering identity requirements. So we had to ask EDF to send us a copy bill, as we hadn’t kept our last one, and that cane this morning. So we can send it all off on Monday, the day before I go away to stay with my best mate in London, which is handy.

So we assumed that nothing would happen until we had sent that agreement back. But on Thursday, we got a call from Bettesworths to say that a lady wanted to come and view the house as soon as possible, either on Friday or Saturday! So we agreed they could come round today at 12:30pm. That meant this morning, which would give us a chance to go out shopping, and for me to get my hair cut.

So it was apparent that we were already being advertised, which was great news for us. I looked us up on Zoopla, and we were one of their new properties. Whether the lady had seen us there, or if they were already on Bettesworths’ books as buyers looking for a particular property, I don’t know. But she came today with a male friend/partner, and a gentleman from Bettesworths’ showed them round the house. It is an uncomfortable, strange feeling having someone poking around in your private space, because it feels like it isn’t quite your house any more. So Mum was glad I was here for the first viewing because of that, and we just stayed on the sofa and chatted while they got on with it.

They stayed for about 20 minutes, spending quite a bit of time on each floor and chatting together. And the guy from Bettesworths spent a few minutes with us in the front room at the end of the visit, leaving the couple to look around upstairs on their own. So even though it was uncomfortable, we’re pleased that they took their time and didn’t just dip in and out quickly. It’s a positive sign. It doesn’t mean they’ll buy it of course, and we’d be lucky to get a buyer on the very first attempt, we know that. If nothing else, it bodes well for future viewings that other people may show similar interest. But we’ll see what happens. It’s very uncertain, early days right now. We’re just pleased that the process is underway.

That’s it really, just wanted to note that we’ve already had a viewing. I’ll have plenty more to write about with my trip to London soon.

Tuesday July 5, 2016

The first thing to mention today is that the lady who viewed our house at the weekend put in an offer yesterday. It was only £150,000 though, which was rather low, but Bettesworths managed to negotiate a price of £154,000, which we’ve accepted. Bettesworths were then going to inform our solicitor AS so that he can deal with the legal side. So now all we can do is wait and keep our fingers crossed that it all goes through ok. The normal legal process takes 6-8 weeks. If she does pull out, which can easily still happen, then the house would go back on the market again.

And now I’m in London for a few days. Nan’s house… or our house as we really need to call it now… needs modernising and clearing up a bit, but it’s habitable and comfortable, so it’s enough to get us started. The garden is very overgrown, but my Aunt has offered to get some garden clearance people in to sort it out before we get up there, as they will have to take stuff through the house to get it out. That way, she can clean up any mess they leave before we get there. Likewise, we’re still hoping she clears all the junk out of the front room. One of the neighbours is also replacing the fence panels on their side of the garden as part of building work they’re doing, so that’s useful.

Anyway, I travelled up this morning, and found my way from Paddington to London Bridge (changing via Baker Street to use the Jubilee line) pretty easily). London Bridge station is huge, though a huge chunk of it is closed off because of redevelopment work to allow more Thameslink trains to use the station. I was able to find SM’s platform and meet him there when he came in, so that was fine.

We then made our way to my house, but the journey had a couple of little hitches. Firstly, I now know that some Jubilee line trains terminate early, at North Greenwich, rather than going all the way to Stratford. So we had to find our way from the terminating platform we’d come in on, to a platform that would let us continue northbound. And secondly, including there, finding and using lifts isn’t always easy. Trying to find signs pointing to the lift seems very difficult – it was easier just to ask people a few times. And in the lift, the buttons are the same colour as the walls, so they’re hard to see. In one case, I pressed the only button I could find, which seemed the logical one to get the lift moving, only to discover it was the alarm instead! I think they must have seen that we weren’t really in any trouble though, because we were saying that we’d pressed the wrong button, and if they have any CCTV cameras in there or just outside it, they would have seen SM with his cane, so it was fine. But it would be good if the lifts were easier to find and the buttons easier to see.

Once we got home and dropped our stuff off, I had a little look around. It quickly became apparent that we had no electricity in the kitchen or living room, but the front room downstairs was fine, and everything upstairs was working. It meant that we couldn’t use the fridge, microwave or TV, which would have been a problem. I did look in the tall cupboard in the kitchen and found one button that had popped out among others that weren’t, but pushing it back in didn’t change anything. So I rang my Aunt and left her a message, as there was nothing else I could do. I knew she would be out all day, so I wasn’t expecting her to get back to us soon.

In the meantime, SM and I went up to the local Tesco Express store. It’s a small store with narrow aisles, so for general groceries it’ll be much easier to shop in the big Sainsbury’s that we like. But we managed to get a few bits and pieces to keep us going, including some milk and chilled food, in the hope that the fridge might be working. Then, on the way home, we got in some fish and chips, which tasted very nice as always when we got back and sat down to eat them.

After that, while still waiting for my Aunt, we went for a walk the other way up my road, to look at a few streets further away from the shops, as a result of which we found our nearest post box, which is handy. I’d seen it on Street View, having checked out the area prior to coming up, and was glad to see it was still there. We also found a newsagents, so SM and I got ourselves a couple of EuroMillions lines (on which we won £3.10 later) and a couple of scratchcards (on which we won nothing). We then went to our local park and had a walk around there for about half an hour, and it looks very nice, it must be said.

While we were out in the park, my Aunt rang me on my mobile to say she would come round in a little while. So we made sure we got back in good time before she turned up. She was able to show me a few more buttons at the back of the cupboard that I hadn’t seen, and one of those had popped out. Pressing it in did restore the power, although it shortly went off again. At the same time, the fridge, which had tried to come on, started getting a bit of a burning smell at the back. Whether it was a build-up of dust or a burnt-out component, we don’t know, but we all agreed it was best to leave it turned off. After that the power didn’t go off again, so we reckon it must have been the fridge tripping it.

So we’re going to be without a fridge for the few days we’re here. Not ideal, but not the end of the world either. I didn’t use the milk that my Aunt had bought though – we got rid of that as it was already getting creamy and lumpy. We have got some semi-skimmed milk for SM though, so he’s using that for coffee before it goes off. Other than that we’ve bought a bottle of regular Coke and another of Diet Coke, and a 4-pack of Strongbow, so we’ve got plenty to drink. And for tea this evening we had a chicken and bacon pasta bake microwave meal each. My Aunt’s also got us a loaf of bread, and I got some margarine and some cheese slices.

I also told my Aunt that she could clean out the garden as she had offered, updated her on the fact we’d had an offer, let her know that work were offering to put the new BT line in over the next few weeks if they gave her sufficient notice (as she’s out most days, so we need to fit it in) and gave her my Uncle’s cards, as it was his birthday recently.

After my Aunt had gone, SM and I knew we’d be staying in tomorrow night to watch the football, so we went out to have a couple of pints of Strongbow on tap at the local pub, which I’ve never been into before. It seemed nice enough, with a few Essex girls behind the bar (we’re not far from Essex) and decent music playing over the speakers. There weren’t many people there, unlike how it would be on a special night. As well as showing football on the TV, they do things like quiz nights and karaoke nights, so once we’ve moved I might try popping down to one or two of those to soak up the atmosphere and maybe start getting to know people.

After we got back home from there, SM and I watched a couple of old episodes of Mock The Week on Dave before going upstairs to bed. SM’s in Nan’s old room at the back, which will be my office room, while I’ve got the big front room. And it’s comfortable enough, it’ll be sufficient for Mum and I to start off with. Leo, the cuddly toy lion I used to have as a kid, is still in there too. I’ll probably keep him around for a little while just for sentimental value, but I expect I’ll get rid of him in the end if we need room for other things.

Wednesday July 6, 2016

Today I took SM to Stratford, and we had a random stroll around the Olympic Park, passing the Aquatic Centre, Orbit Tower, the dancing fountains (a path of randomly jumping fountains that the kids like to run around in) and the Stadium, and walking along by the Waterworks River that runs through the park. We didn’t stay out there too long – just as well, because I got a little sunburnt from the time we did spend – but it was a very nice walk, and I’ll have to go back to see more of it, that’s for sure. There’s lots of greenery and flowers and quiet areas, even while there are lots of places where there is construction going on – either around the stadium, which will be where West Ham play, or the new office blocks taking shape on the edge of the park.

After walking around the park for a couple of hours, we then went into Westfield Stratford City, the big shopping centre, and had a walk around to see where things were, before finding a place for lunch. Having checked out a few possibilities online beforehand, and having used my phone in the centre itself to look up the map, we went to TGI Fridays, a place specialising in steak, ribs and other meaty goodies, often incorporating their special Jack Daniels glaze. SM and I went for a burger followed by an ice-cream sundae, all of which was very nice.

We were going to go bowling at All Star Lanes after that, but it was obvious from looking at the lanes that it would be too dark for him, so we gave up on that idea. Instead, SM got a box of chocolates from Thorntons as a birthday present for the friend he’s going to stay with next, and then we made our way home. We had a lazy couple of hours for the rest of the afternoon, before I got on my phone and placed an online order with Domino’s in time for the football. They were doing a ‘Big Game’ deal, where you get 2 large pizzas and 3 sides for £24.99 – far cheaper than ordering those things on their own. We didn’t order any drinks, as we had bottles of Coke and cans of Strongbow already. The online site also has a tracker, so we could see when the order was being prepared and was out for delivery, and it actually arrived about 10 minutes before the time we asked for (they were probably getting things out quick as it was a busy night for them).

So we had the sides first (garlic bread and nachos) while waiting for the football to start, then had the pizzas (one Ham and Pineapple, and another meaty one called the Meatilicious) while the game was going on. This was Wales’ first ever semi-final in a major international tournament I think, and they were playing Portugal. They lost 2-0, putting Portugal through to the Euro 2016 final (which will be against France). But Wales have every right to be very proud of themselves – unlike England, who lost disastrously against Iceland the week before, followed by an instant resignation by Roy Hodgson afterwards. Definitely a low point for England football, but at least we had Wales to make up for it. SM and I didn’t finish all the pizza in the end, but we watched another couple of old Mock The Week episodes on Dave before heading for bed.

Thursday July 7, 2016

Today SM was going to see another friend, as it’s her birthday today. Incidentally, it was his wife TM’s birthday recently, and she had a nice day, with a nice meal out. This is the last time SM will see her before she comes over at the end of August. SM had actually brought a few cookies that he and TM had made together at her place, so I got to have a couple this week, and they were very nice.

Anyway, there wasn’t much for SM and I to do this morning, but we did go to KFC for lunch, to keep that tradition alive, as there’s one nearby. We had a Boneless Banquet each, which was nice. They’re using a numbering system there now – i.e. they give you a number on your receipt and you wait until you’re called – which confused me a bit as I hadn’t expected it. But SM said he had been aware of such a system in another KFC elsewhere too, so it must be a relatively new thing they’re doing.

After that, we went home so that SM could pick up his things, then we headed off to Liverpool Street station. The only downside with that station is that there’s no lift from the Central Line platform to the exit, as we found out when pressing the information button on the help point. So I had to carry SM’s case up the escalator. Not the easiest thing to do, but we managed. Clearly one has to be careful which stations have lifts and which don’t – though, to be fair, the Station Master app I have for my phone does tell you things like that, it’s really useful. It gives loads of info, and even little 3D maps, for each station.

Citymapper app screenshot with route suggestions. Shows time and calories for walking and cycling, time for a taxi, and best routes on the tube and buses, which you click on for more detail.
© Citymapper

The other app I made extensive use of was Citymapper, which helps you plan routes using the Tube and buses and walking (and even teleporters and jetpacks when you look at the humourous alternatives!). It seems to be very accurate, and has a underground map included that you can zoom right in on. So I can see myself using that app a great deal in the future.

We had been buying tickets for SM on the Tube using the station ticket machines, which are actually quite easy to use, thankfully. Not for SM, granted, but when you can see they’re pretty self explanatory. I used my Oyster Card of course, which still works nicely – hopefully it can become a Freedom Pass after I move, but for now it will automatically top-up whenever it needs to.

Update: You can find out more about how I got around the city in my blog post Underground, Overground, Rambling Free, which I wrote a couple of days after this journal post was published.

Anyway, on the National Rail part of Liverpool Street station, we had to ask someone where the ticket office was, and thankfully someone there was able to take SM to the platform, which is great. I know Transport for London have flagged up the point during the last year that disabled people can just approach staff for assistance without pre-booking now, so it’s good to see that the same approach seems to be taken for mainline services too. I haven’t had the chance to speak to him since, but I assume SM he got to his destination without any problems. He’s flying home to Guernsey on Sunday.

Once I’d seen SM off, I made my way home. I popped into Sainsbury’s along the way, picking up a lasagne microwave meal, some Pringles and chocolate biscuits, a fresh bottle of Coke, and some black bags to put rubbish in, as we didn’t seem to have any that I could find. Then I just had a lazy afternoon, having my lasagne for tea, putting stuff into black bags for the next morning and then finishing off the cans of Strongbow and the Pringles and biscuits, while watching old episodes of ‘Allo ‘Allo! and One Foot In The Grave on the Yesterday channel. It was a strange but nice feeling having the house all to myself. The cat outside (owned by someone else nearby) did approach the door again hoping to be fed, as it had done a couple of times already, but I wasn’t obliging it. He won’t get fed when we’re there, so he may as well get used to it!

Friday July 8, 2016

This morning I got up and made myself cheese on toast under the grill (I’ve had regular toast the last two mornings, but wanted to try out the cheese slices at least once), and it came out very nicely. I also drank some of the Coke I had left, and ate a few of the chocolate biscuits I hadn’t finished. I also made myself a couple of cheese sandwiches to make a bit more use of the bread and cheese slices, in case I wanted lunch on the train, and I also had a packet of crisps I’d bought for the same reason. Then I cleaned up and made sure I was fully packed – thankfully I was able to squeeze my coat into my rucksack, which is just as well, as it would have been too warm wearing it the entire journey, like it was on the way up. Then I put all the bags of rubbish in the wheelie bin, before locking up and leaving at 10:30am.

I got to Paddington pretty quickly, in the time Citymapper had accurately said I would, so I was there in plenty of time for my 12:05pm train (though I didn’t have to wait that long, as we started boarding around 11:45am). I did have a little glance around the station while I waited though, finding Sainsbury’s, Boots and WHSmith. Not that I’d be likely to do much shopping on the station, but it’s handy to know those things are there just in case. The train journey itself was nice and quick too, so I was back home in Devon by just before 3:30pm, only 5 hours after leaving our house in London. So that was very good.

There haven’t been any developments on the house sale since Tuesday, as it’s just a case of waiting on all the legal stuff from the buyer’s side now. And all the mail we had was junk mail. I assume work’s been pretty quiet as well – I did have to answer one text from my manager on Wednesday, as they’d had payslips come through for the election staff who helped with the referendum, and they have to be processed manually. So I had to remind a colleague how to do that. But otherwise nobody’s tried to contact me. If all goes well, I should only have to keep going into the office for a few more weeks potentially, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’m not taking anything for granted. The signs are positive, but it could still all fall through. I won’t relax if and until everything’s signed off! All we can do now is cross our fingers and see how things go.

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

3 thoughts on “Journal – July 2016 (London Visit)”

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