Journal – Christmas 2016 (Moving To London)

View along the Thames from London Bridge towards Tower Bridge, including the Tower of London on the left and HMS Belfast on the right, on a sunny day beneath a clear blue sky.

Finally, after nearly 120 journal posts – and thank you so much for reading if you’ve gone through some or all of them – my mother and I have now moved away from Devon into my Nan’s house in London, which we inherited when she passed away.

So in this post you’ll find out how we’ve settled in over the festive period, sorting through various bits and pieces, having problems with BT, going shopping and taking some nice walks. I also got to see my best mate and his wife who were visiting the city, signed up for some social events in January, watched a lot of TV, and was shocked to hear about the deaths of 3 very popular entertainers.

Going forward, I’ll be sharing my (hopefully many) adventures in London in a monthly roundup format, as I’ll explain at the end. But for now, I hope you enjoy this bumper post about my long-awaited arrival in the capital!

Saturday December 24, 2016

We made it. And it’s the first Christmas we’ll be celebrating in London, which is a good feeling. Ok, so we don’t have a turkey, crackers, Christmas tree, etc, but it still feels like a bit of a celebration to finally be here. I’ve only just got my computer set up today – currently in the living room next to the TV – so I haven’t been able to write anything sooner.

We arrived last Saturday – hard to believe it’s been a week already! The barber poked his head out of the door on our way past to wish us well, and he’s given us his address to exchange Christmas cards in future. And then we got on the train, with single tickets instead of returns for a change. It was a slightly longer than expected journey though. There was a fatality somewhere near Slough, which delayed lots of trains and displaced their crews, so they weren’t where they were meant to be. So we got held up at Bristol, especially because they couldn’t find the driver they were meant to have for about 20 minutes! Ultimately, we got to Paddington about half an hour late – which wasn’t too bad, and we were glad we hadn’t been chucked off the train to take an alternative route. And we got the Tube back to our new home easily, so that was fine.

Our week since then has gone well on the whole. The removal firm delivered our stuff, so that all got put in the front room, and we’re gradually sorting it out bit by bit. We’re also gradually getting rid of some of Nan’s old stuff in the cupboards, either in the recycling or the main rubbish collection. Still lots to do, and things are all over the place as a result, but we’re getting there.

We’ve also been shopping most days, getting food from Iceland and Sainsbury’s in particular, and one or two items from Wilkinson’s (or Wilko as it’s called now). And after we arrived last Saturday we got a few bits from the small Tesco just down the road, plus fish and chips from the local takeaway nearby. In all the grocery stores I can use my discount cards from my employer’s staff discounts site, so that’s handy.

We’ve also got a new fridge freezer, after going to John Lewis in Westfield Stratford City, and ordering it for fast delivery. It couldn’t come on the day we asked for, because the couriers were so busy, which is inevitable at this time of year. But they rang us to apologise, refunded the delivery charge, and ensured it was delivered the next day, so that was good. They took away the old fridge freezer too, and this new one is much bigger, so we’re happy with it.

We haven’t got a cooker yet – we can use the grill and hob on the current one, and we have a microwave, so for the moment we’re living on toast for breakfast, ready meals, and cheese on toast, as well as snacks like mince pies and cakes of course. But we will order a cooker soon, once Christmas is out of the way.

Until then, my Aunt’s cooked us a few ready to carve joints from Iceland – gammon, chicken and turkey – and we’ve bought vegetables to cook on the hob to go with them, so we’ve been able to have a Christmas dinner to an extent. I also managed to find a Tunis cake, and Mum found a cake she wanted, in M&S in Oxford Street (we also looked at cookers in John Lewis that day), So, along with things like mince pies, we have got festive food. We started on a chocolate gateau from Iceland this evening, which was very nice.

We also had a nice surprise today when the mother of our neighbour knocked at the door – she used to live there herself, so we know her from previous holiday visits, but she’s since moved out and her son has taken the place over. She didn’t come in or make any physical contact, as her son has chicken pox and she didn’t want us to catch it! But she did give us a card and a box of chocolates to say welcome to our new home, which was very kind.

So things have been going pretty well. The only fly in the ointment have been BT, who completely messed up the transfer of our account to the new house. Although we placed an order with them in early December, nothing happened on the 19th when it was due to be activated.

So I rang them that evening, only to find out that the order had failed. The guy on the phone apologised and said he would ring me back when he found what was happening, because apparently the order had been reinstated. But he never did get back to me that evening.

So I rang again the next morning, spending an hour and a half on the line being passed around 6 people (and spending a while on hold in between each one), none of whom really knew what they were doing from what I could tell. The latter part of the conversation involved someone in the Home Move department placing the order again, then putting me through to a lady in another department, who claimed the order was riddled with errors and cancelled it, then put me back to the Home Move department who tried to raise the order again. The guy who made what was now the third attempt at my order assured me that it would succeed and that I would get a confirmation email.

I didn’t get a confirmation email that day, so rang again the next morning, only to find the order had failed yet again. Three orders had failed, and BT had never told me on any of those occasions! I got put through to another lady, who tried to put me through to someone else to deal with the order, so three of us could speak on the line at the same time. The first time she tried to do this, she got disconnected from the person she was trying to transfer me to. And when she then tried again, I got cut off!

For a major communications company, they are spectacularly awful at communicating – whether it be not telling me the orders had failed, throwing me around from one department to another all the time (keeping me on hold for ages each time), and even being unable to transfer me properly. 

So I gave up, rang the cancellation line and got my account closed – which, ironically, appears to have been the quickest and easiest thing to do, as it was all sorted in about 10 minutes. It wasn’t too expensive either – as I was still on a really old package (much to BT’s surprise), and thus well out of contract, all I had to pay was the Β£31 disconnection fee – in the circumstances, they could have waived even that, but apparently it’s a charge from Openreach, and I couldn’t be bothered to argue at that point anyway.

From what little the BT staff told me, the second line that’s been installed by my employer for homeworking was confusing things – one advisor says they installed a second service socket when they should have used the existing one. Or something like that – they were really vague, as nobody I spoke to was sure what was happening, instead happy to keep retrying an order that was clearly doomed to failure.

In any case, whatever the reason, homeworking is very common, and the people I placed the order with all asked which of the two lines in the house I wanted to use for the account transfer (to which I replied the main line, not the homeworking one). So I can’t understand why they can’t transfer my account to one line and not the other, it must be possible to specify it on the system. But apparently the second line was causing it to fail every time, and nobody had any clue or willingness to fix it.

So I’ve since signed up with Virgin Media, via my employee discounts site, for one of their phone, broadband and TV packages, which a couple of friends on Facebook said was a good idea, as they were very happy with them. So we’ll see what happens there. Installation will hopefully be in early January. In the meantime I’m limited to my iPhone for internet access over 4G, so i’m having to buy extra to make up or it. Virgin might be just as bad – there are horror stories for all the major companies online, be it BT, Virgin, Sky or whoever, but as Virgin use their own network, hopefully it will work with them.

Talking of TV, incidentally, we do have a set with Freeview, so tonight I watched Pointless Celebrities, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Rude Tube and Trigger Happy TV. Mum watched Pointless with me and then, now that I’ve got my computer set up, I was able to put on audio versions of The Good Life for her to listen to, while I watched the TV with headphones on. So that worked pretty well.

As for my job, the Council have sent my computer equipment up, which I haven’t got around to unpacking yet. But I’ve got the desk in the small bedroom that we used to have our CCTV on, and the blue swivel chair that went with it, as that makes an ideal combination for homeworking. My colleagues and I had a nice Christmas dinner on my last night in Devon, where I had steak rather than turkey for a change. We never got a chance to arrange a proper ‘leaving do’ in the end, which a few people had wanted to do, but that doesn’t matter.

In the meantime, I’ll still be popping down to Devon every so often. And plenty of people have been saying they’ll miss me, even while I’m homeworking, which is touching. I’ve got 3 weeks off work to settle in, thankfully, as I had plenty of days owing. I still have a week’s worth of days left beyond that too (or 2 weeks of half days).

So it’ll be interesting to see what the coming weeks hold. I’m meeting SM & TM on Tuesday hopefully, as they’ve come over from Guernsey to see her parents. Emily Davison from Fashioneyesta has also offered to meet up and show me some of the places she likes around Greenwich, as a result of me helping her with captions for her videos. And I’ve been in contact with the social group Thinking Bob on Twitter, who don’t seem to have a problem with my sight impairment, so I want to join them soon. And I just want to go out and explore in general of course.

So there’s plenty of interesting things to look forward to, as well as the general unpacking and rearranging of stuff in the house. We’re hoping our builder will be able to come up in the new year and do things like the electrics and central heating too, depending on how busy he is.

Ultimately, it’s just wonderful to be here at last. I’m sure there will be more hurdles to get over, but for the most part any issues have been small, and things will settle down in the end. It’s just nice to be able to make a fresh start!

Sunday December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas! My Aunt popped round this morning, having cooked the turkey, gammon and chicken joints we got from Iceland. She also bought some pigs in blankets and some sausages without bacon, and a couple of small Christmas puddings for Mum. So we had the chicken for dinner today, along with the vegetables we’d got, which we were able to do on the hob, and the gravy we had brought with us. And it was very good. The chicken was lovely and tender, and the stuffing tasted nice too. Obviously we didn’t have things like potatoes or Yorkshire puddings, but that didn’t matter. We listened to the Just A Minute panto special on Radio 4 at dinner time too, celebrating the upcoming 50th anniversary of the show in 2017, and that was funny as usual.

We unpacked a few more things today as well, including the plates and dessert bowls from our old house. And we put a few bit and pieces from the cupboard under the stairs into black bags. We can’t put everything in the big wheelie bin yet, but it’s good to have stuff ready for when we can fill it up again. We’ve been getting rid of plenty of stuff in the recycling bin as well – they only come every two weeks though, so we have to be a bit more cautious there. That said, we have found some public recycling bins nearby, and managed to put a lot of glass items from the kitchen cupboards in those, so that freed up a lot of room very quickly. So we’re doing quite well at getting rid of Nan’s old stuff, making room for our own bit by bit.

We saw the Queen’s speech this afternoon of course, which wasn’t anything fascinating but had a nice message, which is par for the course really. Then we just relaxed for a couple of hours, with me listening to the radio through the TV, until Doctor Who came on. It was a fun Christmas special, although not one of their best perhaps. I watched Home Alone after that, as there was nothing else on TV, then QI XL. Christmas Day itself always feels a bit poor for TV really, whereas the days around it seem better.

There was a big shock on the news just after Mum went to bed though – the legendary musician George Michael has died, at the age of just 53. And yesterday we lost Rick Parfitt from Status Quo, who was just 68. Both of them are relatively young really. I don’t know what George’s plans were, but I know that Rick had to stop touring with Status Quo recently due to heart trouble. But he was still going to do a solo album and autobiography next year, and he did seem somewhat invincible having survived heart attacks in the past. But he actually died because of complications from an infection after he fell and hurt his shoulder. We don’t know what George died of yet – he has had drugs in the past, and had pneumonia too, but right now it’s unknown. We’ll find out later.

Both of those deaths have capped off a really terrible year for the entertainment industry, starting off with David Bowie’s death and finishing (we hope) like this. With so many stars from the 1960s-80s getting to an age where this is more likely to happen, the coming years are going to keep giving us things like this. One can only hope the Grim Reaper will have a rest now before the New Year at the very least! Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia from Star Wars) had a heart attack on a plane a few days ago and is in intensive care, so everyone is just hoping she hangs on too. Even the Queen had to pull out of going to church today, and went to Sandringham for her Christmas break a day late, because she had a cold. Nothing life-threatening, but she is old, so it could get serious potentially. The Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall and her husband Mike have just lost their baby as well. So the Royals aren’t having a good time either.

Still, to end on a much more positive note, I’ve now finished the day by registering with Thinking Bob at long last. I can’t not do it now, as I’ve kept thinking about it and checking out their site and Twitter posts for so long at this point. The site already had plenty of info on it before you sign up, but when you register and look at the socials more closely, they give you even more details, as well as sending you a nice registration email. So I’ve filled out my profile and signed up for New Member Drinks on Thursday January 5th, which is at Ye Olde Watling pub near Bank station. The route looks easy enough going by Citymapper, Google Maps and Street View, which are a great combination of apps to find places, so that’s good. I’ll be really nervous, I know, but hopefully it’ll be worth doing. It could be the start of an interesting new adventure, one of many in 2017!

Monday December 26, 2016

Not much to report today really. Mum and I went for a walk this morning, all the way down the long High Street to the far end to see what was there. We considered going on to a park that wasn’t too far away, but figured that was enough having walked for an hour by then, especially for Mum. I’ll try walking there myself at some point soon, just to see what the park is like – I’ve since figured out the exact route on Street View, we weren’t far away. So we turned around and came home. It was a nice 2 hour walk in the end – dry and sunny, with a fresh breeze.

We then had the turkey joint from Iceland that my Aunt had cooked for us, with more pigs in blankets, regular cocktail sausages and vegetables, which was again very nice. The rest of the day was then pretty lazy really. I listened to music, and then watched TV in the evening, seeing Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, Still Open All Hours, The Entire Universe (an enjoyable comedy science musical show with Eric Idle, Brian Cox, Warwick Davis, Noel Fielding and others) and The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year.

Tuesday December 27, 2016

I met up with SM & TM at London Bridge station today, and we went for a very random and aimless walk. Initially we tried to find somewhere to have a hot drink, as TM was feeling a bit chilly. But in the end we had a two hour walk trying to find somewhere for lunch. We were happy to walk randomly, so I didn’t use my phone to take us anywhere specific. So we passed lots of office buildings first of all, hardly finding any places – and what few we did find were closed, as it is a bank holiday today. Throughout our walk in general, the most common places we found were Pret A Manger, Eat and Boots, always very close together in whatever street we went to. We ended up joking as to why such drinking and eating establishments would need to be so close to a pharmacy! Another place called Itsu popped up a lot as well, which is apparently for Asian foods like noodles, sushi, etc.

But we did end up coming across a lot of familiar landmarks, including the Walkie-Talkie, the Shard, the Tower Of London, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square. And we ended up eating in an area near Covent Garden. We had been trying to find a KFC, but we never found one all day, and even trying to find one with Citymapper proved impossible. We found a couple of McDonald’s, but we didn’t fancy that. SM & TM had had pizza yesterday, so Pizza Hut wasn’t an option. And we went into Burger King, but that was packed. But we managed to find Garfunkels in the end, which is where we’d eaten after seeing The Lion King before. And it was very nice – I had steak and ale pie with mash and runner beans for the main course, and then a toffee crunch waffle with ice cream for afters, which was very nice. TM, in a nice glittery Christmas jumper with a Santa picture on the front, very generously paid for all 3 of us, as a housewarming present for me, which was really kind of her!

After that, we had another half hour walk back to London Bridge station, which we found without too much difficulty. It entailed a nice walk by the Thames along the way. I waited until their train was nearly due, at which point they went to get a hot drink and I came home.

So it was a nice day out. Apparently I’ve walked 11.5 miles according to the Health app on my phone, which is the most since we got to London. I’ll try and go out a fair amount now I’m here, including the rest of this week. Apart from that, Mum and I had the final easy carve joint for tea tonight – gammon, which was very nice. And Virgin Media have set Wednesday 11th January as their installation date. And Carrie Fisher has now died aged 60, after the heart attack she had recently, so that’s yet another popular star gone. Let’s hope the last few days of 2016 are quieter on that front! Certainly for me they should be relatively uneventful.

Wednesday December 28, 2016

It’s been a pretty quiet day today, and a cold one too. In the morning we went out shopping twice – first to Wilko for a couple of new saucepans, and then to Iceland for some food. We got a couple of big lamb shanks to cook in the microwave for tea (which we had with some vegetables, and they were lovely in their mint gravy). Plus we got a couple of steaks which we can also do in the microwave tomorrow. And we got a strawberry cheesecake for afters, which we started on this evening, and that’s lovely as well. Then, after bringing all that stuff home, we popped out again to Sainsbury’s, to get some rolls and slices of chicken and ham, which we can have for our lunches, along with a Yule Log and Frosted Fancies as extra little festive treats, and some more cider for me (I’ve been having Kopparberg Pear Cider over Christmas and it’s very nice). And we got usual things like butter and milk of course.

In all three of those stores, I can use discount cards from my employee rewards site – a gift card specifically for Sainsbury’s, and the EasySaver card for both Iceland and Wilko (and other places like M&S and Boots if I want to). I didn’t find out I could use it in Wilko until I checked today, so I haven’t tried it there yet, but it works well in Iceland (and I should be getting their own loyalty card in the post soon, to earn points we can use to save money with).

And since then we’ve just had a relaxing day indoors. While Mum listened to her books, I watched Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and Muppets Most Wanted in the afternoon, and then random bits of TV in the evening. Apart from the newest episode of The Big Bang Theory, there’s nothing fascinating on at the moment. It’s that period between Christmas and New Year where it’s always a bit strange and quiet!

Thursday December 29, 2016

Mum and I decided to have a nice walk in Central London today for a few hours. We got off the Tube at Tower Hill station, walked across Tower Bridge, along the street leading to the Shard, through Hay’s Galleria, along the South Bank to London Bridge, which we crossed, and then somehow found our way to Bank station.

At that point, when I noticed we were in the Poultry area (named in relation to the type of produce that used to be sold around there), I realised I could check where the pub is (Ye Olde Watling) for my first Thinking Bob social next Thursday. That was a very useful and unexpected coincidence, we hadn’t been aiming for it! I’d already checked it out on Street View, and thanks to that we were able to walk straight to the pub in just a couple of minutes. So, as long as I get the right exit from Bank station, it should be very easy to get there on the evening itself. Sure, it’ll be in the dark then, but having now checked it out online and in person during the daytime, that will help a lot.

Then, as we walked past the pub and down the rest of Watling Street, we came to St Paul’s Cathedral. And then we found a small M&S Simply Food store next to it, so we gave into temptation and popped in there for a couple of ready meals, and a lemon meringue pie for afters, which neither of us have had for ages, so that’ll be nice. And then we got the train home from St Paul’s station, which again was easy to find.

So it was a nice walkabout. According to my phone I did over 5 miles, which isn’t quite up there with the 11 miles I did with SM and TM the other day, but still quite a few. And I got about 30 nice photos from the day as well – I should be able to build up quite a collection of images over the coming weeks and months. I’d certainly like to.

After getting home and having rolls with ham for lunch, I updated our address details online for HMRC, National Savings & Investments, the online payroll service for my employer, and insurance companies we use. So that’s another few jobs out of the way. I’ve also emailed Social Services to see if we can arrange an assessment, as they did say to contact them again after we’d moved. Then we had the braised steak in gravy we’d got from Iceland and cooked in the microwave, along with vegetables, and that was very nice too. Then we just relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Friday December 30, 2016

Another quiet day today. A lady from Social Services rang up to confirm what I’d written in my email to them, and is passing our details on to their sensory team to get in touch with us. We also got a letter from BT (still addressed to Nan, so probably sent before I changed the name), saying that they’d been contacted by another provider to take over the phone line – proving that Virgin are doing their job correctly so far – and thus the BT line will be terminated on the 11th when Virgin hopefully take over.

I also went out for a walk for about an hour and a half, just walking all the way along the main road near us, as far as I fancied going. There wasn’t anything too interesting, but I did come across a big Tesco superstore. I then walked back again, but took a different route home when I got back to my immediate area, so I could have a little stroll around a nearby park.

After I got home, I watched a couple of episodes of The Crystal Maze, then we had our ready meals of sausages and mash with vegetables, which were nice. After that we watched Celebrity Mastermind together, then later I watched the new year specials of 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Rude Tube to finish the evening off.

I’ve also signed up for more of the Thinking Bob socials. It’s apparent that places can go fairly quickly, and even though I only have access to the Signature Socials for newbies at present, there are still quite a few of them I can sign up for. So I thought I’d reserve my places for some of the ones that sound interesting. I can always cancel them if the New Members social next week doesn’t go well, although I don’t see why that would happen. Once that’s out the way and I have access to all the other socials, I’ll sign up for more then.

Saturday December 31, 2016

After doing some food shopping at Sainsbury’s this morning, we went up to Oxford Street to look at cookers again. We tried Currys, but they didn’t have any on show, just as they hadn’t in Stratford. They may have done in their Tottenham Court Road store, but we couldn’t be bothered to walk that far. So we ended up going to John Lewis, ultimately settling on a stainless steel Hotpoint cooker. The first 2 we saw weren’t in stock, but thankfully the third one was available. We had originally been looking for a 55cm width one, as it’s a smaller kitchen and would be the same width as the existing cooker. But as the only one they had wasn’t available, we went for a 60cm one instead – which will still fit, it’s just that we’ll have to put the big bin we’ve put next to the microwave in another corner. No big deal. We then got fish and chips on the way home, which was nice.

The rest of the day has then been spent relaxing – either listening to music or watching a bit of TV – while we wait to herald in our first new year in London. I’ve also been able to start signing up for the Members Hosted Thinking Bob socials now as well – not sure if I’m supposed to be able to, but the app and website are now allowing me to do so, so I though I’d take advantage to secure some places! There are things like Cards Against Humanity, conversation dinners, a visit to the Tate Modern, a walk in Holland Park, and so on, which all sound very interesting. So I’m now down for 8 socials in January – of course, whether I go to them all or not depends on how well the New Members drinks and other initial socials go, but we’ll see.

In any case, whatever happens, 2017’s going to be fascinating, and I’m hopeful that it’ll be a good new start for us, one that we very much need. Fingers crossed that this all turns out to be worthwhile, after waiting for such a long time!

Conclusion

And that is it, we finally made it to London! Again, thank you so much if you’ve been looking through any or all of these journal posts covering the past 15 years.

Coming up, instead of journal entries, my plan is to write monthly Favourites posts, in which I’ll share the most interesting things I’ve been getting up to in London, along with TV shows, films, music, audiobooks, etc that I’ve been enjoying. And I’ll write separate, longer posts about anything specific that deserves more detail.

So do stick around, as it’s going to be very interesting to see how things pan out. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in this big new chapter in my life!

Author: Glen

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

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