Tuesday 31 May 2011

Wheel(s) of Freedom

This weekend, I took the car to North London to spend time with old friends and family. It was wonderful seeing them. However, I was nearly undone by the amount of traffic / roadworks on the North Circular and around Finchley/Muswell Hill. Everywhere I turned there was some guy in a dayglow jacket posturing around a hole in the road. It also struck me how claustrophobic the North of London is. The river and Commons/parks in Greenwich, and the closeness to Kent convey a sense of space that is lacking in my old neighbourhood (despite the nearness of Hampstead Heath).
I was happy to be back here after the weekend to be able to stretch out my arms without hitting a norf london resident.
We took the car as I couldn't face taking a stroller on the Underground with luggage for a long weekend - as anyone with sprogs knows, you take as much luggage for 3 days as you would for a week.
Which reminds me, I have never seen a person in a wheelchair on public transport. It's horrendous getting a stroller about, so it must be hellish if you are in a wheelchair. In fact, maybe the management of said public transport should all be forced to be in wheelchairs (or pushing a stroller) for a week just to experience how utterly shite the network is.
If the wheelchair users aren't using public transport, how are they getting out and about?

Hidden treasures of Greenwich Park

We have been to Greenwich Park a couple of times in May. It's very hard to believe that it will all be restored once the Olympics have gone but lets keep our fingers crossed.
One part that I hope isn't affected is something a friend showed me today - a peaceful enclosed garden at the foot of the Observatory. So bizarre that despite the many times I've been to the park, I've never discovered this area. Then again, strangely there aren't that many maps in the Park - I spotted one in front of the Queen's House. There isn't one to view on the Parks website either (unless you want to pay a rather large sum to have a printed version - which I don't. All I wanted to know was where the loos are located!).
Another item spotted hidden in some flowers was this commemorative plaque to the Titanic.
Makes me wonder what other gems are hidden out there.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

School daze

Before child, I would move to another area with very little thought - moves were driven by work opportunities and I just assumed that where I ended up, I'd fit in or find somewhere I did.
Bit different when you have a sprog to consider - now moves are driven by both where work is found, and where the good schools are. And of course, our wallets since we can only live within our means (livng beyond would be rather reckless methinks).
So I was a bit surprised when I was asked yesterday about schools in Greenwich borough that I could rattle off an impressive list of primary schools but the only secondary one I'm aware of is the Plumstead Manor Girls school. If we stayed in this area, I guess that's where our daughter would go. What the heck do you do if you have a son or prefer your daughter to be in a mixed school or even, gasp, want to encourage her in sciences rather than performing arts (not sure why but the feminist in me really baulks at the only school for girls being one that promotes performing arts, no matter how good it is)
Having said all that, last week's report in the Newshopper about lack of primary places has left me somewhat puzzled - surely with the army moving in the council would have had to do an exercise in predicting how many extra places would be needed in primary level, both now and for the next few years. We parents get it shoved down our throats how important the primary years are, that if we don't spend loads of time reading to our kids, feeding them nutritious food and generally pandering to their every need, they will wither away and be sub-educated future non employed and ergo non-citizens (rant rant rant) and then the reality is that our kids will be taught in sheds because someone wasn't able to plan adequately. That someone is having a laugh but it's at the expense of youngsters who won't have playgrounds to play in.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Estate agents

As part of our move we inevitably have to deal with estate agents. We met with a couple of firms today and are scheduled to meet another tomorrow. It's not fun. It's a matter of trust and having the ability to see past the flattering sales patter to gauge how good they will be at handling something you love (our little house).
Have any of you had to deal with the local firms? If so, what did you think. Any recommendations would be gratefully received.

A pox upon your house

A bunch of the kids in my little one's nursery have come out with chicken pox. Luckily so far, our kid hasn't caught it which is a good thing as Mr Plummy Mummy has never had it - wouldn't do to catch it a few days before starting a new job.
I remember having it as a kid and once the weeping sores stopped we went to the seaside. As soon as the salt water hit my skin, I screamed in agony (mind you, as a treat I was given some frozen watermelon which was delicious. Food really does comfort).
Chicken pox is not fun and is particular bad for kids with skin conditions like eczema. I tell you what else isn't fun - the NHS slide show on childhood conditions. Grim. Don't look if you have just eaten.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Quick someone call a Doctor

Have you ever seen that show House Doctor where a rather stern American woman "helps" people sell their houses by turning them neutral? Occasionally the house makeover was so good the owners decided to stay put.
I feel like that right now. Mr Plummy Mummy is busy repairing our house so it is fit to rent it. He is steadfastly crossing off items on a list we have had for a few years. So now that we are moving, I'm getting the house I wanted! Not everything we would like will be done. No new kitchen and the carpets will have to stay. But the rest is great.
I've even been out in the garden taking up plants that I want to take with me. Whilst this may seem rather extreme, some of the plants were expensive and some are ones I just love to watch grow. Also, I'm aware of the need to turn the garden into a low maintenance one.
This relocation business is no joke. It's expensive. A catch22 as we are moving as hubby couldn't get work in London and we can no longer afford to live here. But now I'm starting to wonder if we can afford to move. Our mortgage company has sent us a form to apply for consent to let (CTL) - without which we would break our mortgage terms but will again incur costs for us -
  • We have to have a certain loan to value ratio. If we don't meet it, they could ask us to pay a bulk amount to pay it off
  • Getting CTL involves fees
  • The form is confusing. To get CTL, we need to ensure rental income is 125% of the mortgage payment but in another box are asked what we will do if there is a rental shortfall.
There is another cost - emotional. As a SAHM I spend a lot of time in the area we live. This move will involve going somewhere we know nothing about - leaving me feeling both excited and trepidatious. I will have the joy of making new friends, taking up new adventures but it will involve leaving friends and fave haunts down here.
This morning in a moment of irritation (I was watching Great British Menu when the form arrived), I suggested that perhaps hubby should work in Scotland, commute on a daily basis from his hometown (about 2 hours each way) and just visit us every now and again. We would not be the first family to make this "sacrifice" especially in this recession - people stuck in houses with negative equity who can't afford to move so the family has to split, even if it's only temporary.
Of course, if that's what we did, then I would no longer have the fun of looking for a new (BIGGER) house with a large garden (I want to grow veg!) and being able to go walking around lochs and such like. And whilst the Sarf Lahdahn accent has it's charms, I am rather looking forward to the little one developing a cute Scots one.

Friday 13 May 2011

The number of the beast

I spotted these ominously signed bins whilst out and about in Plumstead this week. Makes me giggle.

P.S. Apparently there was a bit of a mistranslation and the number of beast was actually 616. Not as funny though

Friday 6 May 2011

Foraging in Greenwich

This past year I've been trying to grow herbs in my garden. I also wanted to plant garlic and onion - not to eat but to keep the cats off. However, I never got round to it.
The bayleaf is growing fantastically in a pot. It suffered some major snow damage but with some pruning, it's bounced back brilliantly.
The thyme less so - it's gone very dry looking and we miss being able to run our fingers through the soft leaves and getting that gorgeous smell on our hands.
On the kitchen window sill, I’ve done well with basil though it went rather yellow when we were away and it was water-starved. But for a supermarket buy, it’s not bad.
In addition, my MIL gave me a weird looking indoor herb pot which didn’t produce anything for ages, then all of a sudden young coriander sprouted. Of all herbs, this one would be most useful as I love to add it as a garnish to my food. I’ve also managed to grow chives indoors but may ditch those as they seem to attract little insects.
Another success seems to be nigella seeds which have sprouted well. I’ll have to learn how to harvest the actual seeds though.
Thing is, I’ve not gotten around to eaten any of the stuff – a bit to do with my aversion to dirt (OCD, me????)
I’m growing some Sambucus in my garden and hope in years to come it will produce some great Elderberries (alas, I won’t enjoy them but maybe our tenants will).
And of course, in Plumstead there are PLUM trees. I received a great batch of fruit from my friend last year as well as some lovely apples (made great apple pickle).
However, as my family and I wandered around Oxleas Wood yesterday afternoon, I got to thinking about foraging. I’ve been reading about wild garlic recipes and was annoyed that I wouldn’t know how to recognise it if it hit me in the face.
I like going into the Secret Garden in the woods which often has things edible looking in autumn. Some guidance is needed to ensure I don't pick poisonous food. I wonder if the park rangers point out edibles on their tours.
Luckily, there is foraging advice on the London Forager site. It seems a work in progress as some of the recipes aren’t finished off but hey – it’s a place to start. Or you could try Fergus the Forager who does foraging courses (love the name, wonder which came first name or profession).Mind you, all this foraging stuff is fine but rest assured, as a determined OCD-ish vegie, I'll be staying away from roadkill though or freeganning (looking for food in dumpsters).
P.S. if you don't want the fruit for free, you can always try going to a pick-your-own farm

Monday 2 May 2011

Event: 5th May Referendum

I still have not decided how to vote. Theoritically, I appreciate the benefits of AV but unfortunately, the Liberals have shown themselves to be less than faithful to their pre-election promises so that's putting me off.
Having the option to say who you would like if your first choice didn't get in is a powerful incentive however, if we all end up with our second choice then in reality no-one wins.
Anway, must decide soon. Not really asking for any opinions, just speaking aloud. Funny how our minds have not been on this vote what with a Wedding and so on.

Do wonder how they didn't phrase the question in an AV way:

Mark your choices in order of preference:

Keep the FPTP system:
Bring in AV:
Bring back the rule of Monarchy: (of course I jest here but some would mark that wouldn't they???)

EVENT: 8th May Falconwood Mini Railway

OK OK ,its strictly the Welling and District Model Engineering Society but they set up the mini railway in the Electricity building at the back of Falconwood station.
The railway and clubhouse will be open from 2.30 to 5pm. Last train ride tickets issued at 4.30pm

Dates in May: 8th and 22nd

We shall be toodling along as tot likes trains and I like little things and maybe afterwards I can persuade the family to try out Shampan - an indian restaurant recommended by StuMayhew

Life in the old dog yet

A year ago, I remember asking Mr Plummy what this recession lark was all about - neither we or anyone we knew had been affected.
Last November, Mr Plummy rang to tell me he had been made redundant. He would be able to work until Feb. Feb came and he went. This wasn't really to do with the recession but more to do with the dangers of working for a global organisation that can easily move work to another country (in this case China)(see note below). This sent me into a bit of a panic as most people who know, know it's very hard to get a job in IT after the age of 40. Quite a few friends who were made redundant from Sony Ericcsson took ages to find work.
There is also the adage that it's easier to find a job when you had a job.
Luckily, hubby had a lot of interviews while still in work but after he left that slowed down.
There was an interview in East Kilbride - let me tell you in no uncertain terms, I will not live there. Horrid town (sorry if you are from there, didn't see much didn't want to).
I crossed all my fingers for work down here. I also faced the rather unpleasant realisation that I am not going to get a UI job anytime soon. 4 years out of the mobile world is a looooong time even if the skills I possess are strong and IMHO transferable - if you don't know the ins/outs of Apple OS, Android and Windows Mobile UI, you might as well be dead.
Interviews that he thought went well ended up in nothing.
I panicked some more a la a headless chicken but he remained calm.
His calm has eventually paid off as he had now got a job. Yippee I hear you cheer (at least I hope you are cheering).
The only thing, dear readers, is that this is a bit out of the commuter zone as it's in Central Scotland. So for the next few months, I'll be running around getting our house ready for rental whilst trying to find somewhere to live up there, and then we will be gone. The plan had always been to move to Scotland, but I just didn't think it would be so soon and I'm really sad to be going just as so much is happening in this Royal Borough. I'm also going to be very sad to leave the lovely virtual people I have met and hope that I will be able to keep up with all their posts from afar.
Anyway, lets put the hankies away. I'm here for some time yet and I will try to be less lazy about posting.

This morning I read the Chinese government are encouraging their citizens to be more creative. This sends shivers down my spine as in IT, most of the design jobs stayed in Europe whilst the day to day dev went to China. If design goes out there, what work if any will be left here :(

Catch - up

Blimey it seems like ages since I posted. Also seems we have had most of April off and I must say, I'm quite ready to go back to normality now.

Lots has been happening:
1. The smear did not work and I have to go back. Perhaps if the woman had spent less time having a go about my fattyness and more time on the down-belows, it would have worked. Talking about fat, wish the experts would make their mind up about the apple shape being bad or not (for now, I shall eat cake and be done with it)
2. THE wedding. In my family of Scots, it's not an event to be watched. But like most girlies, I wanted to see the dress, the shoes, the hair. Gosh wasn't that bridesmaid pretty. Anyway, it's done. For the most part lovely if a tad boring which probably means they will be together forever. The most funny part for me was seeing the outfits of the ugly sisters...you all know who I mean.
3. The weather. Gosh hot yes. Lucky for me I spent most of it in Dundee so not so hot. Have been sneezing and generally feeling unwell since our return cos of them pesky spores/pollen. Most of the plants on our patio took a bit of a bashing and some were gone past the saving point. But my goodness, the front of our house now has a rather large contingent of curry plants and there is NO cat poo. By golly I may have cracked it. Only thing is that I can't see any other plants so as soon as the wind dies down, I'll be out with my shears. I've never had a garden and get ridiculous amounts of pleasure from all the growth.
4. What is it with pebble beaches? I've got a bucket load of really beautiful stones but seriously, it's an addiction - I go to a beach and bring some back.
5. I'm really excited to see the progress on the Slade Centre (formerly known as Slade Library). Can't wait for that to open - hope they manage to get some books in there.
6. Just went to Belvedere splash park for the first time - very nice if somewhat freezing and windy. Will have to return but glad that one thing on the list is crossed off.
7. Does the amount of blogging and general levels of visitors have a direct correlation to the amount of sunshine - mine have gone down quite a bit.
8. More news in the next post.