Winter Reading Challenge Book 5 – in the nick of time!

In the nick of time, I finished book 5!

Winter Reading Challenge Book 5

The Aspern Papers and The Turn of the Screw

I chose these two stories because I’d picked the book up from the library at work as I haven’t read a lot of Henry James since I was at school.

The Aspern Papers is the story of a writer who wants to get hold of some letters that were written by the poet Jeffrey Aspern to an old love. The writer inveigles himself into the now elderly woman’s Venetian home as a lodger and tries to win the woman and her daughter over so that he can extract the papers. It is a clever story as the old woman overcharges him for his rent and he is persuaded to improve the palazzo’s little garden.

The Turn of the Screw is a very clever ghost story. A governess starts work for a family whose previous governess has died in mysterious circumstances. The children although they seem angelic seem to be communing with the ghost of their old governess and a manservant. The current governess has decided to make sure that the children are protected.

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Half of my Indie Swag arrived yesterday!
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Scout’s very enthusiastic husband mailed off my package before she’d put my yarn in so I’ve got a little longer to wait for that part but isn’t that sock blocker fantastic!

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Ariel certainly seems to think so.

Nesting in a strange place

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We saw this thrush on our way over to the local shopping centre for lunch this afternoon. She was making quite a racket and dive bombing anyone who came near the crossing. It is probably the strangest nesting place I have ever seen!

The mild weather seems to have set off the nesting instinct of lots of birds. There is a blackbird’s nest in a tree near my office as well. The little mummy bird in the picture sums up how I feel at the moment. The place isn’t completely right but it is the best place she could find for her little family at the time.

Quickie

Just a quickie tonight as we forgot until the last minute we were supposed to be helping out at the Marriage Course at church and I’ve only just got back and I’m working out of the office tomorrow so earlier start.

This yarn diet business is really hard going because of yummies like this and people who write about 100% angora. Kerrie has also announced the Project Spectrum Club. Dribble…. I. Must. Resist.

But if I’m going to have my one permitted wagon falling-off episode it will have to be in March when we are hoping to go on our trip but we’ll see! Everything is still very topsy turvy at the moment and I’m not sure when we’ll be able to be still enough to breathe again!!

The Village People

Yes, that’s pao and me.

We went back to see our new house again yesterday (seems like a long time ago now but I’ve been very very tired – zapping all my energy so I’m back to taking iron tablets again!) It was pretty strange as the lady of the house said we could take our shoes off if we wanted to because it was our carpet! Despite being there for another good couple of hours, I really can’t remember that much about it.

I did notice that our lovely new bedroom set which we’d bought ourselves as an anniversary present wouldn’t all fit in our new bedroom which made me extremely sad. Even though pao said we could try and move some wardrobes to another room, I still feel that the bedroom set won’t look right. I know it is the strangest thing to not want a house for but I did feel like that was the most important reason for not moving there.

I spoke to a few friends since then and after we had lunch with pao’s goddaughter and her parents today, I realised some really important things. Firstly, we are lucky to be moving at all as many people just simply can’t afford to do so. They also reminded me about the Home Information Packs which are coming in in June which will rate houses according to their energy efficiency. If we continue with the house in Littlebourne, we will end up with a house with a good rating which will be easier to sell in the future as some of the
papers are suggesting that the more energy efficient homes will turn out to be more sought after
. That conversation got me thinking about another conversation which we had with one of the older wiser people from church who helped us to realise that if we’d proceeded with the other house we would not have been good stewards of our money. Also I think it is important to have a home based on solid foundations.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the other house which I notice is back on the market. I’m quite glad to be away from the unreasonable man and the sleepless nights.

Even though the solicitors and estate agents tend to not like for us to do it, the owner and I have swopped phone numbers so we can speak to each other directly. We did spend quite a long time talking fixtures yesterday and I’m glad I’ve convinced her to leave the curtain poles in the house. I had hoped that we’d get the curtains but she is adamant about taking them with her which is fine except I’m not keen on having to buy them since we have already agreed to leave our curtains here as part of the sale. The other house was leaving their curtains which is why we are agreed to leave ours. It is a little frustrating as some of the curtains here would have fitted the new place and one set were only six months old 🙁

The other house does mean that we can have a get-on-a-plane holiday – hooray! Especially since we didn’t have to find 600 pounds for a hole. So the current plan is to go back to Boston in mid-March and possibly visit Minneapolis and New York… Any suggestions about good places to stay, cheap flights, must not misses, etc are really appreciated. I found some cheap flight sites to do all the flights for about 400 pounds each which is pretty good but it keeps crashing on me! This is all very fluid at the moment as we need to move first and then we can book some firm dates in the diaries.

I’m also going to try and get my driving licence. In July, it would have been 16 years since I could have legally gotten my licence so I’ve been procrastinating for a pretty long time. Village life will force me to get it as I’ll be pretty stuck if I go anywhere late in the evening so maybe that is a good thing. I might even have to fire my chauffeur. I’m keeping the chef/dishwasher though!

Winter Reading Challenge Book 4

Oh wow! It’s been so long since I wrote my book review last that I have erroneously thought I’d only read two and a half books when I’d actually read three and a half! I have a good chance of actually meeting my challenge before next Wednesday! Hooooray!

Winter Reading Challenge Book 4

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

Laurie Lee set out from his home taking with him a handful of possession including his fiddle. He spends about a year in London before he sets out on quite an epic journey on foot around Spain. He encounters some unusual people and plays his fiddle for his meals and board. He enjoys his freedom and does not remain in any part of the country for very long so there is an interesting narrative about the different parts of Spain as the reader travels with him. On the verge of the Spanish Civil War, he is rescued by the British Navy and is returned home but he remains restless.

I found this book in an old church in Elham in the summer so it was nice to finally get to read it. I really enjoyed Lee’s descriptions of his adventures in Spain. It is an interesting book as it evokes a very different and quite an innocent time before the horrors of war.

I’ve now read half of Book 5 : The Aspern Papers and The Turn of the Screw. I read The Aspern Papers a little while ago but haven’t managed The Turn of the Screw yet because it is a ghost story and I didn’t want to read it at bedtime so I’ll have to make time to read it over the weekend. I tried to listen to the audio book at work this week but I found I couldn’t concentrate on the story properly. Almost there though!!

Our buyers are coming round tomorrow for their fifth look round – I hope we’ve exchanged contracts now as I’m tired of tidying!!

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They’ve covered the house in boxes and bags. Where’s a girl to sleep first?

Belated Swag Flashing

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The last couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind so I forgot to post some photos of the wonderful swag I received from Scout.

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This lovely lot came in December just after Christmas. She has sent a fantastic sock pattern by Glampyre Knits which I’m going to enjoy knitting. Those stitch markers are very cute snowmen!

I think I have packed November’s swag away somewhere safe so I may well have to show you that another day.

I’m a bit happier about the move now I’ve started to find out a bit more about the village (yes, well, I have always done things in a peculiar order – just look at my knitting if you don’t believe me :)). Apparently, there is a village club which you have to be nominated for and a village orchard. The orchard was bequeathed to the village by someone so that any of the villagers can pick fruit and spend time sitting by the stream. There is a fish and chip van that pulls up by the village shop from time to time too so it is starting to sound good.

We did try and go out there for a drive past tonight but there was a serious traffic jam from both ends of the village so we got as far as Howletts and turned back. We’ve been told that you can hear the monkeys and lions from our back garden.

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She’s forgotten to feed us again so we’re having to queue up for the one bowl of food. Poor beleagured us.

No! Scratch scratch scratch!

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Merlin had a huge gash in his leg about two weeks ago and had to be knocked out just so the vet could look at it. Thankfully, he didn’t have to have it bandaged but we went back tonight to have the stitches out. The poor animal must have been terrified as (to put it politely) he disgraced himself both in his basket and on the vet’s examining table. pao had to hold him very tightly whilst the vet tried to take his stitches out but he struggled and howled so after gingerly cutting a few out it was decreed that it would be better to knock him out again. The vet said he could also give Merlin’s teeth a clean at the same time – good luck Merlin! So it is very unusual not to have him in the house shaking his lampshade at us (Jeanne, you will have your lampshade photos soon :)).

He usually drives pao mad by scratching on our bedroom door at night and I normally sleep right through that. However, due to the recent events; I’ve been sleeping more lightly and I can hear the racket Merlin makes in the middle of the night and it has woken me up. I woke up last night to his scratching and head butting to find a moment later he’d bust through the door and was in the room with us! So when the vet said he’d keep him overnight, I was delighted.

I know he knows there is something going on with us and I think it is Merlin’s way of trying to comfort us. When I got home the other day and tried to take my shoes off, he insisted on pushing his head against my hand all the time.

I am feeling a bit apprehensive about the move but I think it is because we were extremely disappointed about the first place. I’m glad we stuck to what we believed was right because we would have ended up with a potential 20-30k bill soon after moving in. The new house is really lovely and I’m sure I’ll get used to village life. I remembered today that I used to live in a place which didn’t really have a centre when I first came back to Kent. When we move to the village, we are opposite the village green which traditionally is the heart of the village. I’m even thinking about joining the Women’s Institute to try and make some friends locally. I’m sure they are more than jam and Jerusalem nowadays!!

Right, off to bed now. I’m looking forward to it as the scratching monster isn’t here 🙂

So many choices

pao has a synopsis of all the houses we viewed on Saturday and Sunday on his blog and we can safely say that we have widened the field significantly. I can’t say that I’m not disappointed about the house which we have now withdrawn our interest in but I’m looking at it as a growing experience. We had really believed that that house was the one and prayed etc but it was clearer by the day that it may have been the house for us but the vendor wasn’t the vendor for us. So we are now going to move to a village three miles outside of Canterbury. I can’t say I’m really big on living in the country as I love the convenience of walking out the door and being in the town centre in a few minutes but it is probably the best compromise out of all the places we’ve seen over the weekend.

Some of the places we saw were incredible. If it would have just been my choice, I would have chosen the Grade II listed cottage on the roadside in Bramling because it was interesting and had loads of character but we’ve decided on a really stunning two year old property instead. The place with the swimming pool was pretty amazing too but we just don’t have the money it would have needed to do it up.

It’s bittersweet. We had our offer accepted and we’re now going through all the legal and survey stuff again. For some reason, I just don’t feel as enthusiastic as I did about the first one and it feels a little like it is somewhere we’ve settled for. Don’t get me wrong; it is an absolutely amazing house but deep down I had had a small hope that the other vendor would have changed their mind and become more reasonable. There are things which I’m not completely happy with as the house opens up directly onto the High Street with a main road running through and there is no grass in the garden (people have said I could lay a bit of turf but the garden is so small it would be futile and I’m not sure but the block paving may be there for a reason since the house is built on the location of a former petrol station). I know there are allotments in the village so I might have to investigate a half plot next October. My faith isn’t shaken that that was the right house and may yet be one day but I am disappointed. Maybe this other house was God opening that window.

It will be interesting because I know that I will be out of my comfort zone. I’m slightly worried that living in a village with just pao and no one else will bring the DM out in spades. I also lose my independence a bit because I can’t walk into town and back quickly if I’ve forgotten something and we’re going to have to organise ourselves differently to make the trip home if I want to visit friends in the evening. I am have also mentally forced myself into learning how to drive which will be out of necessity rather than choice. There is a bus which runs into Canterbury and towards Sandwich so I’ll have to become really organised if I want to go somewhere on my own.

Once we’ve signed on the line and we know we are definitely going to move there I think I’ll feel a lot happier. At the moment, I just feel a little deflated. Even when we were told this morning that our offer was accepted, I didn’t feel the same happiness I felt originally.

Four down eight to go

We visited four houses yesterday – two of those were possibilities: a barn conversion in the village of Wingham and a six bedroom bed and breakfast in Canterbury which is probably by far the cleanest house I have ever seen.

The owner of the B&B was decidedly odd but when we got home, it actually started to look like a decent prospect as it is quite close to work and not far from town. It had some interesting features like the four showers/en suites and so many bedrooms. They even had a water softening treatment machine in the kitchen. I’m starting to look beyond the “No Smoking” and “Insurance Regulations” signs posted around the place and beginning to imagine it as somewhere we could live in. I originally dismissed it off the list of possibles as it did seem incredibly cheap for the price and I wondered (and still do) if there was something amiss as the owner was keen to start negotiations there and then.

We have eight more houses to look at today with some good prospects so I’m feeling very positive about the whole experience. Thankfully, we have a rental to go to and I’ve managed to organise storage so things are looking up. Today’s highlights include two Grade II listed buildings one has a barn, swimming pool and a garage (no we are not rich – it is in the middle of nowhere) and an almost new house in a village just outside of Canterbury. We’ve decided to widen our field of searching and have found some very interesting places so we’ll see how well we get on.

The baby is going to have to wrestle for her blanket

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… because Ariel and Ophelia have tried to stake their claim already!

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This is my first completed object for the UFO Resurrection Challenge. Baby Bethany was born in November but I could never muster the enthusiasm to finish it on time. Bethany was a week or so overdue so I probably could have done it but I was a bit occupied trying to make pao some socks then…

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I’m rather pleased with the fact that it is all finished bar the blocking.

The second challenge for this year is the Stashalong which I fear I will regret joining as I may spectacularly fall off the stash wagon if we go on one of the trips to Boston that I’ve been looking at on the internet very wistfully today 😉

The house stuff trundles on and we’re pretty much at the stage of pulling out altogether. We’ve got the weekend to work out what we’re going to do and if any of the 8 or 9 houses we see is any good then our minds will be made up. If we don’t go for the original house then we are definitely going on that trip to Boston!