Blog!ARU: Archive

Entries For July 2005

Frome, Frome, Froooooome

Sat 30th Jul 2005 22:08 BST by Andrew from Frome, U.K.

Jenson Button was born in Frome apparently. I found this out whilst trying to find out where the nearest analogue TV transmitter to Frome is (Pen Hill) because my TV reception is crap. However, I could have deduced this from watching listening to the traffic at the cross-roads opposite my flat [ shocked smiley ]

The flat is OK, or at least it will be when the bathroom is fixed (shower is broken, water from the sink comes up in the bath and the loo seat is broken) and if I could get the carpets professionally cleaned (they're very dirty and there's one in the bathroom of all places). So, I'm currently getting washed and shaved in the kitchen and put my shoes on to go to the loo. The letting agent has though promised to fix the shower, plumbing and the loo even if they've not said when. The flat is also meant to be being painted, a sash window cord needs repairing, I've asked for the bathroom carpet to be removed and I want them to fit security locks on the sash windows. We'll see what happens about those other things in due course.

It's noisy in the main room because of accelerating and braking cars and lorries but thankfully I have a separate bedroom in this flat (it's not a studio flat like Bath was) which is further back from the road so I don't hear it as much, though the bedroom is next to a communal stairwell and the main front door which slams loudly! Having a separate bedroom though does mean that when you've burnt your kippers (odd, that sounds like a metaphor!) that you don't have to go to sleep surrounded by fishy smoke!

The flat has mostly been scrubbed clean since I moved in (care of my parents who were down here in Frome for a couple of days) but there's still some more to do. I know I'm a bit too fussy but the amount of dirt in here was surprising as the letting agent had already paid a cleaner to come in before I moved in. The letting agent did warn me though when I went to collect my keys on the day I moved in that the previous tenants had been ?very dirty?.

After a week of commuting by bus I've finally managed to work out how to make a return trip. Turns out that there are two separate bus companies that advertise identical route numbers. I've been catching one company's bus in the morning and buying a return ticket, but haven't been able to use it on the return service at night because I've been catching the other company's identically numbered bus. So, I've been having to buy a single ticket to get home and spending ?4.70 a day to travel just 3 miles and back. The two companies operate buses at near identical times, but at night I've worked out that I just have to let one bus go past and catch the second identically numbered service 5 minutes later. Crazy.

Think I'll probably have to get the bus to do my shopping too as it's too far to walk with a rucksack of tins & bottles plus 2 or 3 bags of shopping. I need to get driving! A car would also help me pick up new batches of contact lenses and solutions as there isn't a Vision Express in Frome and it's a 40 minute train trip to get to Bath to collect them. A car would also allow me to sleep in half an hour earlier in the morning and get home sooner. Hmmn, I'll have to see how the finances are once I get my first pay packet (end of August) to see if I can restart driving lessons.

Cross-roads with cars and houses in background
The view of the crossroad from the front of the flat
[ modified 30th July 2005 23:01 BST ]

Driving Home For Christmas

Tue 19th Jul 2005 23:04 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.

Today the weather was decidedly autumnal ? more September chill than July bake. Now, combined with the final stages of packing for my move to Frome, this chill weather has made me recall the feelings I'd have each September between 1995 and 1999 when I'd be returning to St. Andrews for another academic year.

Then, as now, a good chunk of my stuff would be packed up, loaded into a rented vehicle, driven between 200 and 300 miles, dropped off at a strange house in different surroundings and then I'd be left to get on with it. It's all happening again and those memories, and particularly the memory of what it felt like then, are coming back to me ? something I realise I'd forgotten about until now.

Somehow moving to Bath in 2002 didn't feel like this, but then that was more manic and rushed than the move to Frome has turned out to be, and OK the Bath move was in March and not Summer like the return University trips were.

Of course the direction this time is south-west and not north but the distance is about the same ? if not the view (going north looks nicer). When I moved to Bath I took most of my stuff, but not all of it as I left my old junk with the parents. This time, although my flat is much smaller in Frome to that of the one I had in Bath, I'm taking all of my junk: written and typed notes from 2 University courses, 6th form college folders, secondary school workbooks and the odd primary school jotter with drawings in them from age 7 or so ? yes, I'm hysterically sentimental.

Quite where it's all going to go I don't know but since the new flat is unfurnished there's a chance I'll be able to assemble them into a table ? as the only furniture I have for my main room is a desk and an office chair!

Getting back to the point: Nope, this time there's is no going back. Since age 18 I've been ping-ponging between living at my parents home and somewhere else be it St. Andrews, Newcastle or most recently Bath.

The cost of living to income ratio in Bath was too even for me get a car and become fully independent, but this time it will be different because my flat is ?125 less a month than Bath and I won't have certain monthly bills to pay either. More money in my pocket means that by the start of September I will be taking driving lessons. I'm not sure I'll be driving myself around before Christmas but it's a goal ? I want to drive to visit the parents for Christmas.

Right, see you on the other side ? Somerset that is.

Update
Bugger, now I'll have even less furniture than planned ? I ordered and paid for a 3-piece bedroom furniture set from Durham Pine on Monday so I could simply collect it today. Turns out they've gone and sold my reserved set to someone else and it was the only one in stock, so now apart from a bed, bedside cabinet, desk and office chair I have no other solid furniture for my unfurnished flat. Durham Pine are a set of c-nuts ? they weren't particularly apologetic about it either, rather they were more concerned at the hassle of having to give me a refund. My advice: Don't buy from Durham Pine.

[ modified 20th July 2005 18:44 BST ]

Without Reference

Wed 13th Jul 2005 00:29 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.

I don't believe in omens, which is a good job when it comes to my move to Frome and how it's gone so far. There was the abysmal train trip, the bad interview, the divey B&B, the lack of flats to choose from, the tenancy papers that got lost in the post and now the credit reference agency is having a temper tantrum.

Despite (anticipated) good references from a past landlord and confirmation from my new employer that I do work for them for ?xyz income, they aren't happy with the contracting I've been doing because it's not technically continuous employment and they require 18 months of solid employment history. So the only way I can now finance the flat is to either pay all of the rent up front or get a guarantor to countersign the tenancy agreement that is willing to agree to their own personal credit check and a round of form filling. The former involves paying 6 months worth of rent in advance, the latter is not an option as the only guarantors that can go to Frome with me to sign the agreement in the presence of the agent are my parents and they are retired and don't qualify.

When I got my last flat in Bath I had ?100 to my name, had just graduated (second time) a few months before and had no permanent employment record, but this didn't phase the letting agent because I had verifiable proof of future income. Exactly the same applies again (bank balance is healthier this time though) but that aint good enough for the current agents so payment in advance is the only option remaining to me. That equates to all my savings plus loans from relatives. Sheesh, I must have walked under a ladder recently?

I'm currently listening to Sheryl Crow : The Globe Sessions : Maybe That's Something

Geraniums & Potatoes

Tue 12th Jul 2005 00:03 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.
Two-dozen soil-covered, home-grown new potatoes in a 12-inch bowl
Two-dozen home-grown new potatoes in a 12-inch bowl. Grown organically in a patio container for 3 months, eaten on Sunday.

In Memoriam

Mon 11th Jul 2005 16:43 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.

Excerpts from the Northern Echo newspaper on Saturday July 9th:

Private Albert Edward Layton. The Royal Army Medical Corps. Killed 1944 Aged 24 Years
Private Albert Edward Layton (Great Uncle)
Private George Cecil Layton. The Green Howards. Killed 1941 Aged 25 Years
Private George Cecil Layton (Great Uncle)

Update
Turns out someone got one of the dates wrong, here's a correction: Private George Cecil Layton; The Green Howards; Killed 1943; Aged 27 years

[ modified 19th July 2005 23:05 BST ]

Jock-ular

Sun 10th Jul 2005 14:00 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.

?Naked Scot jogged out in front of 100,000 Formula One fans on Sunday? [Reuters]

Even on the way round, marshals were coming up and giving money.

I was hoping that they would arrest me but they kept saying ?Go on, go on.?

Knee Jerks

10:36 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.

The primitive reactionism to the bombings in London is starting to build:

  • Email spying ?could have stopped killers? [Guardian] ? wow, what a no-brainer that statement is. Email spying would have next to no effect on competent extremists ? simply from the wealth of simple to use encryption software out there to using ?coded? cover stories in plain text emails (9/11 was apparently organised using the simple cover story of a wedding with email/IM/phone conversations about who could attend etc.)
  • Did soft touch Britain make it easy for the al-Qaeda killers? [The Scotsman] ? having the state restrict political and religious freedom would seem to be an obvious desired outcome on the part of the people behind the attacks ? it's the best recruiting aid they could hope for.

From the (surprising but honourable and proud) way that Londoners and politicians appeared to act on Thursday with steely resolve not to have the attacks change their way of life, I was hopeful that freedom would not be the scapegoat.

Update
Body scan machines to be used on Tube passengers [Times Online] via Slashdot

The scanners can spot the waistcoat bombs usually worn by suicide bombers

It would seem to me presumptuous to install such a system when it is not (apparently) known that suicide bombers were present and that if they were that they were wearing waistcoat bombs or using other devices that would be so recognisable. Sounds more like an expensive icon to reassure the public rather than an effective barrier to bomb attacks. On the other hand sniffer dogs, or electronic devices that detect explosives, would seem to be a more effective and measured response.

Update
I also see that Michael Howard is using the bombings to push his immigration agenda [The Guardian]:

The Conservative leader, Michael Howard, who has so far restricted his remarks to those of condolences to relatives of the bombs' victims and condemnation of the attacks, today renewed his demand for extra security measures at British borders.

The best answer to Michael Howard's rhetoric is this news article based on comments from Former Metropolitan Police chief Sir John Stevens [Yahoo]:

the London bombers were "almost certainly" British and that there were many more born and bred here willing to attack.

Update
Government wants email and phone data kept for intelligence [Reuters]. I don't object too strongly to a simple log of my calls (number dialled and when) being stored as there's little private information involved, although I'm still uncomfortable with that level of government snooping, but I do object very strongly to the blanket storage of content. At this point it's not clear whether email content would be stored as the reference to storage is phrased in terms of phone calls.

[ modified 10th July 2005 15:44 BST ]

To And Frome

Thu 7th Jul 2005 00:45 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.

Went down to Frome, Somerset on Monday to look for flats. Hmmn, Frome is a bit run down in places. Viewed three flats on Tuesday morning (one okish, one already under offer and no ?white goods? and one that stank of damp and had a lawn largely composed of a car-park and dog mess). Viewed another this morning (a mini-house for 1 person) but had no shower (nor means to fit a temporary one over the bath taps), a divey kitchen and the ?central? heating comprised one wall heater downstairs.

The plan was to come back to Darlington on Thursday or Friday after having signed-off on a flat. As I write this it's Wednesday night and I'm already back in Darlington and haven't found anywhere to live yet in Frome. I've come back as there are no more flats to see and I didn't want to stay any longer in the £30 a night (yet divey) B&B / inn I was staying at (grubby, room above the noisy bar, cigarette burns in the sink, broken toilet, ?).

Tomorrow (Thursday) is decision day ? a decision so complicated I've had to draw up a flow chart to keep track of all of the IF and WHENs.

The scales are currently balanced with lots of pros holding up lots of cons. Decisions I make in the morning could tip the scales to mean I move to Frome or I don't.

Update
I took a train trip to Bath on Tuesday and sat in the park over the road from my old flat, opposite Royal Crescent, in the rain and wind. Poignant. Can't upload any photos as the CF card reader is packed up in a box somewhere.

Update
OK, I've put forward an offer on the ?okish? flat. I'll not be able to move down there now until at least the 20th July (a week and a half later than previously planned) and possibly not until a day or so after that. I've had to get my work start-date shifted by nearly 2 weeks (there's no way I can afford the additional fees of living in a B&B until the flat is available ? since I'm paying all relocation costs myself).

[ modified 8th July 2005 2:06 BST ]

Carefully Planned Moves

Sat 2nd Jul 2005 00:19 BST by Andrew from Darlington, U.K.

So, here's the plan.

Monday 4th July I catch the train down to Frome at 6:55am with the basics in a rucksack. I aim to spend the afternoon browsing various letting agencies and hopefully arrange some (additional) ?apartment? viewings.

Late afternoon I book into my B&B, it's in a pub ? I should sample the local brewing ability.

Tuesday morning I've got two pre-booked viewings around 10am. The only apartment I liked the sound of has already been taken and these other 2 are all that's realistically left, but one is not available until 20th July and I start work on the 13th. Frome is a small place ? the rental market is worse than I thought. I've got to try and find somewhere to live by Wednesday to be in with a hope of being set-up by the time I start work one week later.

On this schedule I should be back in Darlington for Friday and then make the 300-mile journey back down to Frome in a van with all of my stuff on Saturday. My parents then take the van back on Tuesday.

As unfeasible as this sounds, I've done it before but with a bigger rental market to take my pick of. The cost of all of this, ugh ? don't even go there (all my savings and more).

I do have a couple of contingency plans should it not work out smoothly. One of which is to put up with somewhere for 6 months, by which time I should be driving myself around and then I can take my pick of where to live and possibly commute in daily from somewhere nearer to Bath.

The things you do?

I'm currently feeling disorganised, chaotic, unsure, curious, edgy
I'm currently listening to Trash80 : Regret To Inform

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