home renovation update

edeoven

Have to complete some tasks for the home renovation project before my trip. What we did this week:

Picked up lights. One for my room quite expensive but the rest either display or from a shop that is closing down. For mum’s room she picked one with fan and for Papa’s room we found one that usually goes in kids’ room–an airplane shaped light. Other lights are variations of standard LED lights.

Picked out door lock for front door, accessories for kitchen and bathroom (toilet roll holder, mirror cabinet, shelves), light switches, colour for skirting board.

Ordered oven last week and it was delivered on thursday. They called the day before but I missed their call but they got through to mum. They left a message that they’ll deliver between 12-2pm. I was early, arriving around 11am. But just as I was getting off the bus, our contractor called that the oven had just been delivered, one hour early. Bless him, he dealt with them, even paying the small stair fee.

I remember when I bought my flat 20 years ago, I had a hard time trying to find an oven. Built-in ovens were extremely expensive and in the end the only option was an all-in-one with hob. Nowadays, ovens are much more prevalent. For the new kitchen, I’m getting an Electrolux. Very happy about it.

I’d anticipated having to hang around till 2pm, but I was already done at 11.30am. More time than what I know what to. I had to go to the bank at one point, but I had to find lunch first. Thought about going to the hole-in-the-wall Thai place sis introduced me to, decided on frites instead. I like their salad lunch buffet. I ordered my favourite st bernadus ale before I realised it wasn’t happy hour and the beer cost as much as the lunch! Argh. Ah well, it’s just me.

ikea comedy of errors

ikeaduvetcover

Our new domestic helper arrives tomorrow, so we’ve been getting ready for her. She’ll sleep on my sofabed while I’m on my trip so we won’t need to get her a bed yet. We’ve looked around and have an idea where to get it, the frame from a chain furniture shop and the mattress from ikea.

We got sheets, duvet, pillow and towels from ikea plus a couple of sets of duvet covers from another shop last week. Our problems started this morning when mum went to wash the covers, only to discover they are actually sheets. Argh, we have sheets already, now there are 4 sets. But it means no duvet covers. So I went to ikea after lunch to get them. I made sure they are single duvet covers, these came with pillowcases too. So now there are 5 pillowcases because some of the sheets come with them.

Second problem. When I got home we discovered the duvet we bought last week was the wrong size. Instead of single we must have grabbed a double. Argh again! Back to ikea we trudged. I was pissed off and hot and tired by then.

Initially they wouldn’t accept the return because the package was opened. Mum persisted and got us the refund in the end, phew. We made sure the duvet was the right size. There was some money left over, enough for me to get 2 bottles of cider. Silver lining.

I’m so tired of this.

sleeping

eyemask

When I put in blinds for the study, I picked one that was pale white. It didn’t have any blackout function at all, because I didn’t need it in the study. If anything, I wanted it to be light enough even when I had it closed.

I never anticipated that I’ll need to sleep in the study, but that’s what I’m having to do now. (I never anticipated I needed to share my flat with anyone, tbh.) The sofa bed arrived a few days ago and the first morning afterwards I was woken up by the bright morning light. Ah yes, in addition to pale blinds, the study window also faces east.

The solution, even though I’m not keen on it, is to sleep with an eyemask. There are no side-effects from using a sleep mask, if anything there seems to be tiny benefits. There are also fancy models costing up to £60–this one is made from:

organic, bamboo, silk fabric subtly infused with the scent of natural lavender.

SMH.

I have a few of them, collected from flights. No need for £60 eyemasks, this simple one did the job. The problem is, I don’t really like using eyemasks. Having a cover for my eyes isn’t the issue, it’s the presence of the straps that makes me feel like I constantly want to yank them off. I just have to suck it up, either get woken up in the morning or get enough sleep.

home renovation: electricals

edeint101electrical

The contractor had an electrician over to check our fuse box and he told us that we need to rewire as the wires are frayed, old and dangerous. It’s not a con, or contractors adding on work, because I knew it was the most important thing that needed to be done but mum didn’t want to at first. I’m glad we’re finally doing it.

I drew a plan of the flat and where I think the plugs should go. I got the idea from mm who had me draw a plan with measurements when the project first started.

edeint106wires

Seemed to work, we went through with the electrician and he drew out where he will install plugs and wires. We want a lot of the plugs about 60-70cm above floor level which surprised him. Why do plugs need to be at floor level? If it’s behind the tv with all accessories like cable, dvd player why isn’t it raised to be easier to reach? I’m also getting 2 doubles next to my desk for all the computer stuff.

moving day

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When the movers arrived at 10am, my room was all ready and so was Papa’s room, most of the living and dining rooms, store room, bridge, helper’s room, bathroom and most of the kitchen. Actually what wasn’t ready was anything to do with mum’s stuff. She was still packing as the movers were packing. I didn’t pack the kitchen except for storing anything we’re not taking in boxes so I asked the movers to pack that. Lots of boxes.

They didn’t have room in the van to take our stuff away so we’ll have to ask the contractors. There was room in the van for both mum and I to ride along.

edeint061rob

What did surprise me was how little we actually took with us to rob, because it took them no time at all to unload, for me to unpack essentials, and for the flat to look neat and tidy. The sofa, tv table and coffee table returned to their original positions, we have 2 fridges, and I managed to squeeze about half the kitchen stuff into the kitchen. The rest are in boxes in my room ready to be taken back to ede.

I’m taking the small room which as aforesaid spare kitchen stuff, my plastic boxes, a box of stuff from my desk, my clothes rail and tools. I packed the most important items–passports, documents, money, chequebooks–into one backpack. I’m still sleeping on the sofa until I get the ikea sofabed.

Everything was done by 3pm. Sis came over and she had nothing to do! We all went to the globe for dinner, which was extremely nice.

don’t judge

Today is the semi-annual charity collection. One of the collection points is diagonally opposite us, so it’s really convenient. We had been storing up stuff to give to them, there’s a big pile of clothes, books, kitchen and home stuff. Sis came over to help too, and we carted some bags to the collection point. The building janitor expressed interest in some of the stuff, so we gave some to him. I usually give him old electronics that he can use as parts or sell.

The part-time helper came too so we had 4 pairs of hands packing today. Made some progress. I should be pleased that so much got done, but I’m not. We’re running out of time and there’s still so much stuff not sorted. Why is it so difficult? Takes mum 5 minutes to go through one item of clothing. How can one person have so much clothes?

In terms of distraction and entertainment, how about this 9-year old captioning New Yorker cartoons. It started when her aunt posted her work, which then got noticed by the magazine itself.

dontjudge

I have several favourites. This one is most apt to my current circumstances. I’m trying very hard not to judge, honest.

packing

sleepsofa

Have to start packing in earnest, the movers are coming next Tuesday. They will pack everything that is being moved, but our complication is we’re not moving a substantial amount of stuff, which needs to be boxed and labelled ourselves. Plus so much rubbish to throw away.

Took me more than a day to pack the huge glass cabinets in the living room. An entire set of Hornsea dinner set plus an entire cottage tea set. Wedgewood, decoration, wine glasses. Now I need to sort my room, then I can tackle the rest of the flat. But I soon realised: a) I have a lot of stuff crammed into one room; b) I don’t have any space to manoeuvre. The only solution is to dismantle the bed to clear space. It’s amazing how much footprint a bed takes up.

Winter clothes will be packed away and stored in the wardrobe during renovation. The clothes I’ll need for the next 3 months will go in my suitcases. I’m taking the entire contents of my filing cabinet but not the cabinet itself–4 document boxes. I can leave the files behind but I don’t want confidential and personal stuff around while the builders are in. I put 2 shelves of books to the pile for charity collection, there are some books I never read and will likely never read so may as well give them away. Others, I’ll get the ebooks.

It’s becoming clear that most of our possessions are not needed and we keep them due to some hoarding instinct. Why do I need 100 pens? Three large boxes of shoes when I wear one pair at a time? What’s the point of collecting a whole drawerful of small toiletries?

Anyway, I’ll be sleeping on the sofa for the foreseeable future. We’re taking my bedframe and Mum’s mattress and she will sleep in the larger bedroom. I’ll stay on the sofa until we buy a single bed, which will eventually go into the helper’s room.

bbmm home renovation exploration

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Meeting mm in the afternoon but I had a few errands to run before that. Had to go across the harbour to central post office. I hadn’t realised that the price of postage had gone up so a letter I sent was returned. I had to pay a penalty (the equivalent of 5p lol) and the additional postage (another 5p) to send the letter again. The cost of the penalty and additional postage was less than how much it cost me to travel to the post office and back! But it was a management fee payment and I didn’t want the cheque to get lost forever. Anyway, it was a surprisingly clear day with no visible haze. I still had to take anti-histamine so there’s still a lot of pollution.

Had tea at toastbox with mm then took the bus to the area where there are a number of home decoration shops. Saw more tiles and other stuff. She had made me measure out the dimensions of the rooms in the flat and draw the whole flat out. Used that to ask for price estimate for tiles and the like. I’m so inexperienced with home renovation that I hadn’t given the process much of a thought.

Boarding school this weekend at mm’s.

outside gear

A few outdoors gear spotted at outside recently.

backpack

I’m still looking for a backpack. While I’ll happily get another one of my current samsonite, I’ve been saving reviews when I come across them. Top of the list is wirecutter‘s recommended LL Bean quad. But this group of daypacks is also worth noting, especially since many of them are cheaper. The outlander is only US$20, can’t really beat the price.

sneakers

boatshoes

The post is about boat shoes, but they all look really nice. The adidas is yet another adidas I’d wear, but the one that caught my eye was the nrs vibe. Never heard of the company before, they seem to be quite a specialist company that make watersports shoes for kayakers. This one is made from technical material, is tough and has good grip. It also drains and dries quickly, which is more important to kayakers but will be useful in rainy weather. I like it because, in the words of outside magazine, of:

the skate-shoe aesthetic

whisky tumblers

tumblerklean

I’m not usually the one for single use items, so read this post with sceptism. Sometimes when mm and I go out, we’d take some whisky for picnic. We’d carefully pack two glencairn glasses in tissue paper–i have the small ones I picked up in Scotland, they use them in distilleries for tasting. The small tumblers have lids and are insulated to keep the liquid cold. Useful for cocktails. The testers say that none of the tumblers tested changed the flavour of the whiskey (spelled with an ‘e’ because they were using bulleit, I’m not as fanatical as some people think I am).

The one they liked is by klean kanteen. I’m a bit turned off by names like that, too cartoonish. And at around US$16 each I wonder if it’s worth it. May be I’ll stick with the carefully packed glencairns.

microwavable notebook

rocketbook

My dear friend A sent me a moleskine notebook, which I love love love. She sent me a Washington DC one the year the conference was there too, so thoughtful.

I alternate between being neat and using notebooks and using a stack of scrap paper folded to A5 size. I’ve always been tempted by the moleskine evernote notebook but my attention has turned to rocketbook notebooks. The Wave was originally on indiegogo a couple of years ago, the idea is: write in the notebook, fill the pages, scan using their app and send to services like dropbox, microwave the notebook and start again.

Yes, microwave the notebook.

The trick is the pilot frixion pens. I’ve seen and used erasable pens before, so it’s nothing new. They usually come with a plastic knob at the end that is used like a rubber on mechanical pencils. I haven’t quite noticed that the ink disappears when microwaved. The Wave is $27 and $42 as a bundle with the pens.

There’s a newer notebook, the Everlast. Same principle but the pages can be wiped clean using a damp cloth. Still need to use those pilot frixion pens though. For the fun factor, I may get this for my niece. Sis doesn’t microwave so the Wave won’t be useful.

annual emergency go-bag check

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Time again for the annual emergency go-bag check. Replaced chocolate but left cereal bar. Last year I got miniature Mars bars, this year I saw some Bueno bars so I thought it’d be a change. I have to somehow eat those small Mars bars, hmm. MRE is still okay.

I found two sets of spare glasses so I took one out. The large swiss knife is enough, I don’t need the small foldable knife so took it out. Added a credit card knife though.

Instead of handwriting IDs and passwords into the notebook, I just printed the latest sheet out. Moved the passport photocopies from the wallet to a ziploc bag to keep them waterproof.

Still thinking of shoes, even though there isn’t a lot of space. There are foldable shoes but none of them are immediately appealing.

gifts for writers

treepod

My friend S linked to this wonderful page of best gifts for writers.

On fb she tagged me, saying that the treepod would suit me. OMG, how did she know!?!11!?!! The treepod is a portable treehouse made from either canvas (for indoors) or canvas+mesh (for outdoors) that is secured to any ceiling or tree to give a private sanctuary for writing and other activities like reading or relaxing. It’s one of the gifts on the list that appeal most to me, even though there is zero space in my room right now. If I were back in the flat, I can consider it, it’ll probably fit the bay window space pretty well. Other drool-worthy gifts include a global wifi hotspot, not for writing per se but for travelling; and a bunch of notebooks, some of which are wifi enabled. I’m not big on notebooks, I can do with evernote, instapaper and scrivener plus a plain text editor. Talking about apps, scrivener is on there too. Hmm, I have a nano code again this year that I don’t need.

For some reason, the list has A LOT of coffee products. If I received any of those they will go straight to mm, hahaha. There’s snack box and wine subscription, and of course the obligatory Writers Tears, which I can get at the local m&s. There are some intangible gifts too that will benefit some people. Apps, membership of relevant societies, spotify subscription.

Get to the bottom of the list, and S has one of the best gifts:

helping your beloved author’s career

by buying their book, gifting their book, and helping promote it by reviewing it. Good one.

old golf

keysE114FLB

When it was my niece’s 16th birthday a couple of weeks ago, Sis wanted to find fake car keys for her as a birthday present, because she can theoretically start driving lessons. Couldn’t find them, alas. As per sod’s law, this week I was tidying my drawer and what do I find? Car keys. Actual keys, not fake ones. These are for the golf. Those were the days when you need keys to open doors and start the car.

scan26golf

I loved that car, even though it was an automatic, a rarity in the UK. Those mark II golfs sure look fantastic. I mean, I like the mark III and subsequent models, but this one has a special place in my heart. I took very good care of it, even though poor thing it had to be parked on the street. I was T-cutting it one day and someone stopped and asked if I were selling it.

It’s more than likely scrap metal now, so I don’t need to hide the licence plate. The only available online information about the licence plate is that it was first registered in 1987-1988 (anyone can tell this, it’s an E reg after all) and in NW London. Nothing confidential about that, we bought it at Karmann in Barnet, which doesn’t exist anymore.

home maintenance and evil property developers

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Our building is a low-rise with a total of only 16 flats. It started life as a co-op for civil servants. As time passed, it became privatised and non-civil servants were allowed to purchase units. There is one company that managed to buy a few units as they came on the market. They seem to be a property developer represented by an estate agent and they rent the flats out to private renters. It’s a popular rental even though the building is very old and there are no lifts. One of the most important aspect for these renters is we are in the catchment area of a large number of good schools. The developer has a total of 6 out of 16 units.

Last year, there was a government inspection of the building and as a result, there is some remedial work that has to be done. Patch the cracks on the outside wall, replace some pipes, fix part of sewage system that has collapsed. For a building this age, it’s held up surprisingly well. At an earlier homeowners’ meeting, it was suggested to take the opportunity and add a few maintenance items like re-pave the carpark (which is full of potholes), renew the waterproofing on the roof (the top floor flats report leakage), repaint interior common areas like the staircases. The last time they did maintenance on the building was over 10 years ago so it’s good timing.

The building hired a consultant to manage this project, an RFP went out, responses were received and a shortlist of potential contractors came for an interview a few weeks ago.

The representative of the 6 units told us that their client (the anonymous property developer) wants only to do the absolute necessary mandated by the government inspection. They don’t even want to paint the exterior after it’s been patched. So the homeowners association is now split into two fractions. The “original” owners like us and an outsider property developer whose ultimate motive we suspect is to buy everyone out so they can tear the building down. If they don’t even repaint the outside walls the building looks terrible and people who may want to sell can’t get a good price from other buyers so this property developer can swoop in and get the flat cheap. That unfortunately is the MO of property developers and estate agents, I’ve never come across a more unscrupulous and downright distasteful industry.

Today’s meeting is to vote on what tasks to be done and to decide on the contractor. The original owners made the effort to contact every single owner to get them to come to the meeting or assign a proxy. It was important that we get more than 6 in order for us to have a say.

The consultant conducted the vote and as expected, the property developer voted against every item that was optional. Yes, even repainting the outside walls after patching. Luckily we still have a majority so most of the optional items passed.

Our group agreed that we need to come up with a viable strategy to protect ourselves. As time passes, more families may want to sell and as soon as the developer gets more than half the units, they will have complete control over what happens to the building. Any families still remaining will be in a disadvantageous position. Hard to believe owning a flat can get this political.

where to live in the uk

sisuk012chi

Airfares to London are reasonable right now. Virgin return in november around £600. There are additional expenses too, like accommodation and transport. But it’s tempting.

I want to travel to a few locations around the country to suss out cost of housing and what it would be like to live there. London zone 2 is too expensive, even though it’s my first choice of where to live. Where sis and Rob have bought a house, in Chichester, a 2-bedroom new build flat is half the price of an equivalent 2-bed flat in W9. I want to check out Chichester, Brighton, and the coastal towns all the way up to Kent.

Then there’s further afield, which fills me with trepidation because that’s unfamiliar territory. The West Country and Wales. Up the A11 towards Cambridge. Even further away up the A1/M1 to Yorkshire. All the way to Edinburgh. Where can I live that will make me feel like home. Where indeed.

The guardian has ten autumn weekend breaks to lesser known towns and cities and some look quite interesting. Salisbury, Aberdeen, even…Richmond which made me scratch my head. I like the look of Bakewell, hard to get to Tregaron in Ceredigion (I had to google map it to see it’s halfway between Llanelli and Aberystwyth) and Hexham in Northumberland which they described as:

a criminally under-visited county

Back to London. Buzzfeed has a list of things to do this autumn in London including the Harry Potter 20th anniversay exhibition at the British Library, £31 two-course lunch at Galvin at Windows, £38 bottomless ramen on sunday including drinks and dessert Shoryu (or £5 ramen on sundays and mondays). And I’m missing hawksmoor a great deal again.

flat errands and happy hour

fridgebeer

Had to go back to the flat for a gas appointment. Every time the gas supply is turned on, off or transferred they send a technician to test it, free of charge. It’s a bother, but it’s safe. I turned the supply off after he left since no one will living be there for a while.

I probably need to do a little work to the flat. The main door hinge is broken and the wood pretty chipped so I may as well replace the whole thing. I’d like to redo the bathroom too but it may be costly. I’ll have a think think.

I was meeting sis for happy hour but there was a lot of time, so I stayed around to read. I only had my ex-tenant’s coffee table, but it seemed sturdy enough to sit on. Plus the beer and vitamin water he left behind were refreshment enough. The beer was mostly heineken so honestly not appealing but the vitamin water was good.

I was early getting to the hh place and they hadn’t started so I found myself at another place around the corner. They had a 2-for-1 deal which, in retrospect, wasn’t suitable because I had to finish 2 glasses of wine before going to the original place. Ah well #firstworldproblem. The hh place didn’t have any special deals, but they had canapes which made it a very popular location. They had small sandwiches, prosciutto, fried pumpkin and pasta. Enough to fill me up without needing dinner. Their wine selection was also much, much better than the around the corner place.

t-shirt i want

I’m on book 4 of the Deverry series, so almost finished with the first cycle. It’s been wonderful even though I was tempted to skip the bit that was my least favourite of the serie–Perryn’s abduction of Jill. I really, really, really dislike Perryn, more so than the obvious villains–the Old One, the Hawks, all the scheming lords.

ireadtshirt

One of our chats, mm sent me this and said: “This is you.” Awwww. I have too many t-shirts but this one I’m interested enough to try to track down. She said she saw it on fb, so not much help. Reverse google image search brings me to amazon with various designs and the same wording on sale for between USD12 and 20. Some have books or owls or even one with unicorn. But not snoopy. There are similar t-shirts on a fb page called snoopy lovers but the links to purchase seem too dodgy.

Probably my wyrd that I’m not supposed to own this.

new sneakers i want

vansultrarange

I think I’ve found my next pair of sneakers, these vans ultrarange rapidweld. They look light and sturdy without having the traditional running shoe look that I don’t like in my everyday sneakers. Like the adidas ones I’m currently wearing. The tips are too narrow and it simply looks too much like trainers. The vans are different, they have the classic skater shoe look that simply looks cool. Outside magazine called them the best shoes for travelling.

The issue, as always, is that they only come in men’s sizes. The smallest on the vans website is US 6.5 which converts to US 8 or UK 6. I buy timberland siders at US 7.5 so may be I can use a thick insole. I’ll need to find a shop and try them out.

new look store room

edestoreroom

Mum’s friends introduced her to a part-time helper who can come once a week to help with household chores. We started with tidying the store room, aka the maid’s room that we have been using as store room. There is no ‘before’ pic because: a) I didn’t think of it and b) it was extremely horrible with stuff thrown all over the floor.

We threw away so much stuff! I’m so happy we can see the floor, albeit it’s 1960s style tiled floor. Most stuff we threw away are old or hasn’t been used for years. Organised other stuff that mum bought, put in a bag or box, and promptly forgot about it. That’s why we have so much toiletries, they were hidden in boxes and bags.

Next week, we’ll tackle the bridge and part of the kitchen.

new tv

sonytv49

Our new tv arrived. For some reason the delivery slot was after 6pm, which meant waiting around all day. The crew merely delivered the box, leaving it in the dining room. We had to call to get the Sony technician to come install it. So bureaucratic.

Took him just 15mins to set it all up, including assembly. All the channels plus cable. We have to get used to a new remote control.

But now at least we can watch tv and catch up on masterchef australia and mkr. Added bonus, there are 3 usb slots and I can simply stick the flash drive in one of the slots and hey presto! Masterchef Australia in HD, down to tenplay logo.

make fire with water

24shiny

Sis is a bit obsessed with survival gear, and it’s spread to me. I have an emergency go-bag in my wardrobe, small survival stuff in an altoid tin and a couple of knives in my drawer. My amazon order history includes MRE packs and firestarters.

Life Below Zero has been showing at lunchtime and there’s Glenn showing us how he makes fire without matches.


So I was interested in this video showing how to make fire using a ziploc bag and water. Although the video seems a bit too good to be true, the process looks possible with strong sunshine. The same idea as starting a fire with glasses may be. The most useful tip I learned is to wave the bundle around after the ember is formed.

organised socks

socksorganised

One of the consequences of packing a uber bag is I learned about how to ranger roll clothes. It works with smaller items of clothing like thin t-shirts, underwear and socks. I’m not very proficient at rolling larger t-shirts, sweatshirts or jeans. I think it’s because I’m not rolling the initial parts tight enough so the end bundle is too fat.

I found out a way to fold socks that folds in the ankle then two simple folds. It’s different from ranger roll and results in a flatter end product. Barely takes up any space. I went through my socks drawer and refolded everything. Now it looks very neat. I’m very proud of myself.

emergency uber bag

emergencyuberbag

Met mm for drinks. She had a rollercoaster day of expectations and disappointment. We’re both in need of social support.

I told her I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own room. The atmosphere at home is miserable. I have no patience to listen to pointless talk or answer inane questions. I can’t deal with stupidity and ignorance and laziness from a lifetime of having other people taking care of everything. I don’t know how much longer I can stand this.

Bless her, mm said she’s only an uber away and I should pack an uber bag in case I need it. What got me depressed was I couldn’t think of where I could store my uber bag. There’s crap everywhere. Things that no longer work and we’ve bought replacements for. Empty boxes. The clear plastic bag toilet paper came in.

I then realised I don’t need a full bag, definitely not my emergency go bag or stuff recommended on quora like a knife or documents. So now I’ve packed a plastic bag of basic toiletries, medicine, t-shirt and shorts. Small enough to quickly stuff inside my regular backpack. Everything else mm will have. Unless the situation is very dire it’ll only be for a night or two. If the situation is dire, I’ll be packing a suitcase.

With only so few items, I don’t really need to pre-pack. But it made me feel marginally better. I also learned about ranger rolling and skivvy rolling clothing. The ranger roll is very neat and skivvy roll puts socks and underwear inside a larger item of clothing.

for sale: castle plus house £550k

mollys01

Savills has the smallest castle in the UK listed for £550,000. It’s called Molly’s Lodge, a Grade II listed building in Long Compton in Warwickshire. Lots of pics at Country Living magazine. If it weren’t for the turret, it’d be a pretty stone cottage, not a castle.

mollys02

Inside, it has one bedroom, one bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and a metal spiral staircase. Beautiful gardens that has fruits, vegetables, herbs and a chicken run to be self-sufficient.

What grabbed my attention, aside from the prettiness of the exterior and modern interior, is that there is a second house included on the property. Can see it perpendicular with the castle on the top picture. Called Molly’s Mews it has a one bedroom flat with open kitchen, double garage and an office. Perfectly livable, and the castle can be rented out on airbnb for income. The price tag of £550,000 seems too good to be true, I guess it’s because both houses are just one bedroom. Can’t even get a decent one bedroom flat in London for that price.

sleep on the sofa

nappack

A creepy-crawly flew into my room and even though we sprayed like mad, we can’t reach it. Hopefully the spray did the job.

I slept outside in the living room. I don’t mind, I like sleeping on my sofa; mm too, when she used to come over she’d fall asleep on the sofa as soon as she sat on it. In fact, I think I slept better on the sofa than my bed. It’s also much quieter on that side of the flat.

Lately, I’ve found it hard to fall asleep. Or I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep at all. I guess I’m not alone. It’s likely sleep-onset insomnia, or I may have some negative associations with trying to sleep in bed.

It’s not ideal, to sleep on the couch. Softness of the cushions, the cloth material not suited to dissipate body heat, limited space to move are all factors that may affect the quality of sleep.

I’ll continue for a few more days, until mentally I’m okay with being back in my room. Soon it’ll get hot and I’ll have to go back to my room to turn the air-con on.

writers tears label

writerstearslabel

A friend wanted the label from the bottle of writers tears I opened, um, less than a fortnight ago. I decanted most of it to a flask so the bottle is empty. At first I thought it’d be straightforward, just soak in water. But soaking overnight in a bucket of water didn’t work. Google to the rescue, wikihow gives 4 methods for removing a wine label intact: soak in hot water for 10-15mins, heat the bottle in the oven at 250ºC for 10mins, fill bottle with boiling water or use chemical means like goo gone.

Didn’t want to use chemicals or set the oven that high so tried the simplest method of filling the bottle with hot water. Didn’t work, those labels sure are sticky. What I ended up having to do was to heat the bottle in a large pot for 20mins, I could see the label bubbled as the glue melted. Here’s the trick, let the label dry then remove it carefully using a paper blade while the bottle is still hot. When I tried to take the back label off whilst it was still wet, the paper fell apart. At least the front label is intact. There’s still glue on the reverse sides so I’ve placed them on greaseproof paper to dry and for storage. If I open another bottle I’ll save the labels too, in case someone else wants them.

I felt guilty that I was using a 8l pot. The water couldn’t be reused because it had bits of paper and glue. The only use I could think of was to [tmi]flush the loo[/tmi].

looking at backpacks

I’m looking at backpacks. I usually use fairly standard ones as long as they have what I want: padded laptop pocket, more than one compartment, space for pens, keys and small items, preferably mesh outside pocket for water bottle. My current one is from samsonite I bought at a discount.

The easiest place to get one is a department store, sports shop or the markets. Or wait for one of those sports and discount events that happen once in a while. I was idly looking on kickstarter and indiegogo and there are a few that caught my eye.

nomatic

nomatic $179 — a large weekender that opens up all the way round

what i like: large capacity, zip that goes all the way round, useful laundry bag, hidden pockets, top pocket, laptop compartment inside back flap

what i like less: looks bulky and heavy, probably okay as a weekend bag but too big for day-to-day use, water bottle holder is buried somewhere inside


tgo

tgo tom $159 — another weekender

like: large capacity, opens all the way round, expands, dividers like a camera bag, comes with accessories that go on the straps and around the waist, lots of small hidden pockets

dislike: bulky, doesn’t look elegant, too many additional pockets adds to the weight and shape, shoebag that hangs outside the main bag is unsightly


lifepack

lifepack $269 — backpack that includes solar powered powerbank battery/speaker

like: looks cosmopolitan, small enough for day-to-day use, external battery charges phones etc, clever idea to have it solar powered, hidden pockets, small accessories included (bottle opener, lock and cable)

dislike: expensive, what happens if battery stops working or backpack breaks, i have no use for speakers, only one main compartment


I like the first one, the nomatic, because it’s functional but it doesn’t scream out to me to get it. There seems to be an endless stream of travel bags offered on kickstarter and indiegogo so I’m not in any hurry. LIke a lot of crowdfunding projects they are priced a little too high for my liking. I get it, they’re not mass production prices. The problem is that I can get a not as fancy backpack for 1/3, 1/4 the price.

refugeebag

The one project I’ll do more research on and likely to back is operation refugee child. They distribute backpacks to refugee children and families in Greece. Basic necessities like first aid kit, soap, toothpaste. Underwear, socks, blanket. Toys, crayons and stationery. Protein bar. From their website:

it’s not just a backpack, it’s everything they have

$10 gets a backpack and $45 gets a filled backpack delivered to a child or mother in need.

spring clean time

steelsponge

Spring clean time.

Scrubbed the hob with the brillo pads and the steel sponge I bought at the ¥100 shop. The steel sponge has a regular sponge on one side and the other feels like smooth sandpaper. It worked magic with the stubborn stains that had been ingrained in the steel parts of the hob. I haven’t been able to scrub them perfectly shiny clean, they look pretty good though. Perhaps less surprising, the hob that I use most often is the cleanest and the one I hardly ever use the grimiest. May be the heat and flame get rid of the food deposits. If only the store had more than just one of the steel sponges available; on the shopping list for next time.

Changed bedclothes too, which is a feat of engineering because I have a ginormous and heavy duvet plus 5 pillows. And barely any room to manoeuvre around my bed. Tried out this rolling method for putting the duvet inside the cover and it does work. I have to get better at flipping the corners but it’s quicker, I’m definitely huffing and puffing less, and the top of the duvet fits better.

emergency go bag annual check

emergencygobag201501

Annual check of the emergency go bag. It’s pretty heavy but manageable if need be. Everything in order, added a bit more money. Previously I had USD22, GBP22. Added $10 and £10 respectively. Added € too. Everything has gotten more expensive and more money in an emergency is needed.

Switched out the teabags and chocolate for new ones that expire later. MRE is still okay. Still haven’t added shoes like I thought about last year. I figure, in an emergency I have to make time to grab wallet, phone and put on shoes. Worst case scenario, I’m at home I’m wearing crocs.

home stuff, bbmm with mum

Homeowners’ meeting this morning, to go through the work needed after our mandatory building inspection. External walls need to be patched, cracks on common area walls, broken windows, roof waterproofing, sewage pipes and all that. Quite a lot. The contractor went through the tender items and we will need to invite for tender. There are only 16 units and one company owns 5 so it’s not a big group. Couple of things I learned. First, charge an admin fee for contractors interested in submitting a tender, to filter out riff-raffs. Second, it’s so easy to get everyone’s agreement on common sense stuff. There isn’t enough funds so the management fee goes up. Other places will need a formal quorum, vote etc. We just all said, yeah, we’ll have to increase. It’s all for the building anyway.

wafflechoc

Lunch at home then met mm for tea with mum. Went to the pokka café so mum can try their hot chocolate. Fancy thick chocolate in a jug that she could pour over cream, and a container of marshmallows on the side. Less rich than the iced chocolate I tried at the other café.

With mum’s card, mm was able to get her shredder, coffee grinder, alarm clock and stationery. We bought a basket-full of snacks, toiletries and miscellaneous stuff.

It was already quite late. After looking on the restaurant app and calling a few places, we ended up at another ayce japanese place. This is for shabu shabu. Extremely cramped tables but we liked it because: a) the food was good and b) the service was fast and pro-active. The usual beef, pork, seafood, vegetables. We also had sashimi. Good value, especially for dinner. Apparently the place only opened a couple of weeks ago, so kudos to them for getting it right so quickly.

washing machine, happyhour, pokehunting

No office this week, I finished my project. Still went out early to walk around and explore a supposed seel nest. Only got 2 despite walking around for more than half an hour.

Then it was a long long wait at the flat for the washing machine delivery. First I had to disconnect the old washing machine and pipes because the delivery people only deliver. Took me about 10-15mins, had to figure everything out. After delivery, another 2-3hr wait for the technician to come and install it. He told me I could have arranged for someone to disconnect for a small fee. He was quite chatty, changed the socket and installed a filter between the outlet pipe and outside pipe to get rid of the sewage smell. All done at 4pm. Waste of a day. I hope the tenant appreciates it.

bruschettachianti

Needed something to eat and some wine. Saw an italian restaurant, Al Dente, near the escalator with 2-for-1 happy hour between 3-8. I was the only customer there. Asked for the snack menu and then the waiter said chef isn’t here yet so i said okay, no problem. He was thankful I was understanding. The house chianti was nice. When the chef came back, I ordered the anchovy butter bruschetta. Didn’t realse it’d be 6 pieces! Ordered a second round of wine, which the waiter comped. I gave him a 20% tip on top of the 10% service.

The bruschetta was filling enough to serve as dinner, so I went to a new area by the harbour that saw 4 porygons one day last week. Didn’t get lucky, walked to the end of the path and back. Got some various pokemons, probably should have stayed longer. At that point, I’d walked 10km for the day so I wanted to get home.

washer, library, happyhour

vedettsalami

The tenant emailed to say there is something wrong with the washing machine, a puddle of brown water in the drum. It’s time to replace rather than try to get it fixed. In the long run, it’s better for my wallet and time. I went to the electronics shop and bought one that was fairly cheap with good functionalities and the longest warranty they had. Not a bad price $3600. Siemens.

Had time to wander around. Ran some bank errands, went to the library to look at travel NZ books and to make notes.

Was meeting mm and her brother for happy hour. We said between 5-5.30, I got there quite early at 4.40. But they didn’t show up till around 6, I was pretty annoyed. But nothing I can do. I can’t change her, she’ll always be late. I would have been sitting at another hh place myself anyway.

Dinner with her family. Sat with the nieces and nephew and they told us lots of jokes. Useful day.

flat maintenance, bbmm drive

Had to go to my flat in the morning to meet the handyman to sort out a couple of things. Apparently the aircon switch doesn’t work and there’s sewage smell in the bathroom and kitchen. The aircon didn’t work because the tenant had the unit in the off position!! I wonder if he’s ever seen a window aircon unit before, I bet in LA he has central aircon.

The sewage smell was due to stagnant drain. It’s the floor drain next to the bathroom that I never bother with. I’m supposed to pour water down it occasionally. So when the handyman did that, it solved the problem. I went out to the supermarket and bought a large bottle of disinfectant and now the bathroom smells nicer. The kitchen smell was due to the washing machine drain and the handyman told me to get some electrical tape and seal it off.

Met mm for lunch. Went to the DVD place and got The Fall s1 and 3, have to order s2. I wanted The Librarians but they don’t have it. Mum and I were watching over the weekend and looked interesting.

Grotty weather, drizzle and rain. We collected mm’s car that was at the dealer’s and drove out to the beach. Normally at the weekends it’s bustling. Today we were hard pressed to find a store that was open. Had ice cream and a beer. Walked around the village but retreated to the car when the rain got heavier.

Home for dinner.

utilities change name

Called up the utilities companies to change to my name. All different procedures.

Electricity customer service advised me to not change for another month. When the next bill arrives, call up to cancel the autopay and let the deposit pay for the bill. Then change name. I thought it was great advice.

Gas needed a fax or email with all sorts of certificates, include proof of relationship. Really? But then once I emailed it was done quickly.

Water took my details over the phone and that was it.

getting the flat ready

pano052living

Long, busy, tiring but productive day.

The fridge delivery people called at 12pm asking if I’ll be there in 20mins. Even though the arranged time is 2-4pm. I said no, it’ll take me an hour to get there. The cheek.

Mum and I took a bunch of cleaning materials (I took a big bag already on wed) and today’s aim is to clean the flat until it’s as clean as we can get it. Mum tackled the bathroom and I got started in the kitchen. After I finished the kitchen I washed the windows inside and out and mopped the floor. The fridge people came at around 2pm and I’m liking the fridge I bought.

The dry cleaner rang the bell mid-afternoon too. I expected him to deliver the curtains tomorrow but bless him he got it done today. Perfect, this means I don’t have to come back tomorrow. We spent quite a bit of time getting the curtains back up.

By 5pm we’d been working non-stop for more than 3hrs. Everything was done except we needed to get a drain filter for the bathroom. Tired already but we persevered. Walked to the nearby hardware store. It was dinner time so we had noodles and treated ourselves to dessert at this 100+ year old dessert place. Mum had almond soup and I had sesame soup.

Walked back home, got the filters in and final cleaning. We did really, really well today. Thanks, Mum for helping!!

rent, bbmm hunting chatting

A long, long, long day but productive. Went to the agent’s office first thing to sign the offer letter. Then I was going up to the flat and he kindly offered to drive me since he has to go do the inventory list. I took down the curtains while he was doing that and he offered to drive me to the dry cleaner’s.

I made my way slowly down the escalator and was in M&S when the agent called again. Did I have a spare key so the tenant can drop a few bags there? Sure, I said. They were meeting at Starbucks nearby so I popped over. Met the tenant, an analyst with a fixed income trading house specialising in distressed loans. Young, smart guy. He gave me the security deposit in an envelope of cash. I had to rush to the bank straight after the meeting finished.

globeleatherjacket globecarrotcake

Met Sis for lunch at the Globe. I had grilled leatherjacket, a white fish not unlike sea bass. Carrot cake for dessert and a glass of pinot noir too. Needed the rest and food.
Nice to chat and some things she said made me reflect and think of what I’ve been feeling and what I can do to help myself.

Bus to Ikea to get shower curtain and a towel for the tenant. His serviced apartment finishes on saturday and his shipment doesn’t arrive till October. I’ve been in his shoes. He asked for a towel, and it wasn’t expensive.

Met mm and bought fridge. Spent a while at the shop dealing with the fridge. Also saw this fabulous Bosch food processor that had both of us tempted. We were strong and decided to think about it hahaha.

Late tea / early dinner at toast box. We chatted and chatted and when we turned around it was past 6pm. Thought we’d walk around but ended up looking at the map and going after a kadabra, then a lickitung. Camped out at a gym to sneak in to get the 10 gold. Quick dinner at a food court, more chatting. It was almost 10pm. Went to the gym again to make sure mm gets her 10 gold, that was more involved, I had to fight to weaken the incumbent before she could sneak in.

Got home at 11pm, having been out since 9.30am. Still lots more to do in terms of flat.

someone wants to rent my flat

Conference call this morning was quite long, two hours. Got quite a bit done and discussed, so it’s all good.

Got an email in the afternoon that someone is interested in renting my flat. Yay!! I looked at the offer letter and agreed to it quickly. The rent isn’t as high as I’d like (it never is) but it’s been empty and in the long run it works out.

The tenant is a single guy who recently relocated from LA and he doesn’t have too many requests. Provide fridge, provide shower curtain and do cleaning. So Mum and I went to the electrical shop to look at fridges. I had one in mind but the salesperson suggested another one. Marginally more expensive but much bigger. Seems reasonable. I’ll go get it after the offer letter is signed and I have the deposit. Shower curtain from Ikea is no problem. I called up a cleaning company and their quote is astronomical. Mum and I will probably go ourselves.

sell old furniture

Some people came to look at our sofa set that we have been trying to sell for ages. These have been with the family for something like 40 years. Not exactly antique. We didn’t take them to the UK so they literally have been in the flat since they arrived. Parents took good care of them.

One three seater sofa, two armchairs, two side tables, one coffee table.

The people were buying for their new house, which is very damp so need to use these type of wood. They saw our dining table set and wanted it too. So we said yes. Price isn’t okay, I’m happy we got some money but I think Mum expected more. No one wants this type of furniture to be honest, you can’t pay me to take them.

a day of successful errands

According to our calendar, today’s schedule had mum’s clinic visit, that’s it. It’s just a regular visit for her to replenish her meds. She had some tests done recently, and the results were fine so it was a relief.

We actually did way more than just visit the clinic today. Feeling proud we accomplished so much.

Went to the government office (building next to the clinic) to fill in a form. Then a long bus ride to the pensions office to sort out her pension.

Tram to Ikea to look at a new mattress for her. Unfortunately the ones at Ikea are not to our liking: they’re way, way too soft. Went to Sogo, and lucked out that they are in the middle of a sale. Tried out a few mattresses and she liked the one from Slumberland. Good value but still on the pricey side. Went to a couple of other shops to compare prices.

hmvchocbeer

By then it was 5pm, Mum was pooped and wanted to sit and rest for a bit. Whereas before we’d go to mcdonalds I have a new place to go now, the hmv café. Okay, it’s much more expensive than mcdonalds but there we don’t have to fight for too few seats, it’s much more comfortable and the selection is miles better. I had a tetley’s (ale not tea) and mum went for the chocolate smoothie.

In the end, we went back to Sogo to buy the Slumberland mattress. 60% off, and the saleslady gave us an extra 5% VIP discount even though we’re not members of their VIP club.

trying to sell more stuff

Continuing to sell stuff. Posted a bunch of stuff: small gift items, kit camera lenses, the camcorder that I never use, sellable clothes, small furniture and my tv. Most people were interested in the small items, not a lot of bite for furniture.

Someone whatsapped me about the tv and the convo that followed was bizarre, in full glory below. I don’t know if it’s fat fingers or someone dictating to Siri or using a translation input or simply poor English. I’m still scratching my head. The bad news is, I didn’t sell the tv although someone else came to pick up the free tv stand later.

chat01

chat02

chat03

moving day

The movers showed up at 10am, and started packing the things I hadn’t. Plus wrapping the furniture in a mixure of large cloth and plastic wrap. Seems like for local moves there is no need to wrap furniture in cardboard.

Sis brought me lunch and watched as the last boxes were brought downstairs. The medium sized lorry was just not enough to take all items so they ordered a small van. There was enough space for me to go with the lorry, and I was also able to navigate.

Not a lot of space in parents’ flat. The intended space clearance was not successful. I was able to fit bedroom and study furniture in my room so at least that’s a plus. They piled boxes in any space available. A bit depressing, thinking about trying to fit everything in. Sigh.

running around day 2

I need to get a medical certificate for the marathon, so I booked an appointment for a health checkup. It’s high time I had a checkup anyway. I very rarely go to the doctor’s so I was a bit lost about what to do. Basically the routine is go from one location seeing one nurse or doctor or specialist after another: take BP, take history, physical examination, blood test, EKG, chest x-ray, cashier. Went from LG1 to LG2 to 5th floor to ground floor of a 5 wing hospital. Argh.

Some of the nurses and specialists were nice. The one nurse ‘in charge’ of me was especially great. The doctor who did the physical exam I didn’t like. Not only was he completely without expression, it seemed like he was going through the motions. Plus he wanted to charge me local $500 ($65) for signing a simple medical cert. The checkup nurse pulled me aside and advised me to take the report and go to a family doctor. Well, she actually said my family doctor but she wasn’t to know I almost never go to the doctor. I have been to one near mm a lot of years ago, or I can use my sis’ doctor. Let’s see.

By the end of the tests I was hungry and thirsty–no food or drink (except a little water) allowed for 8hrs prior. So I quickly made my way to the nearest housing estate to have breakfast. Then it was neither here nor there. It was 11am, I was at the other side of town, I had an appointment at 2.30pm. What to do with the time. At the end, I went home. But better to spend 1hr getting home and having a cup of tea and relaxing than wandering around aimlessly for more than 3hrs.

The appointment at 2.30pm was with my FA, to sign some forms and talk about strategy in light of recent market downturns and the pound’s devaluation. I wanted to buy some more GBP since it’s so cheap. So we decided to take some profit in one of the USD funds and keep the GBP either as cash or in money market bonds. Then when GBP goes back up again, sell and repurchase other funds. We met a a coffee shop and since I hadn’t had anything since breakfast, the berry tart was my lunch.

noodleskale201602 barbaresco1996

Went over to sis’, she invited me for dinner. We had another vegetarian meal, this time of rice noodles and baked kale. I could have finished the entire try of kale myself. I brought over a bottle of wine from my collection–time to start drinking up my stash, in the new spirit of downsizing I going to work at reducing the size of my alcohol stash. This was a Barbaresco 1996 I bought in Verona when I was living in Zurich. It means that it’s been shipped 1.5 times around the world. The cork was a bit soaked and soft but I carefully took it out to prevent the wine from being corked. Immediately I could smell the fruit. Peppery, rich, fruity. Good wine.

Finally, the end result of another running around day. No real running, must go tomorrow. My right arm has a big bruise where they took a blood sample. It’s a sign of whether the technican is any good, I’ve had blood taken out with just a pin prick and no bruise. This time, it was quite painful when she was drawing blood (even though I’m not afraid of needles or having blood taken) and now there’s a 10p coin sized bruise. On my left side, I banged my little finger against something on the bus and it’s now swollen, feels bruised and I can’t bend it. Argh.

running around day

A busy running around sort of day. Had to wait in the morning for a buyer for one of the microwaves to come by. The first interested party dropped off the radar ignoring me so I contacted the second person interested. She quickly sent her helper and we got the microwave in the taxi pronto.

Then took the useless printer, the old MSI netbook and a bunch of firewire external hard disks to the recycling centre. Those were the ginormous ext HDs that were 500MB, a big thing in their day. I’m too frugal to take a taxi so the netbook and ext HDs were in my backpack and I was carrying the printer on the bus.

Met mm for a quick lunch at a Japanese place. She had grilled mackerel and I had chirashi set. We caught up and it was good to just spend a little time together.

vegtraybake201602

Hurried back home, collected the dehumidifier, sled and lawn chair. Called a UberVan to take me and the really heavy stuff to sis’ place. I’m teenager sitting tonight while Sis and Rob go to a school parents’ event. In theory my niece is old enough to stay at home on her own, but I guess it gives Sis and Rob peace of mind when I’m there. I really only read, watch tv and cook dinner. Dinner tonight was vegetarian tray bake: potato, sweet potato, cauliflower, red onion, whole garlic, halloumi and olive. It was very nice, if I say so myself. And I got compliments from everyone, Rob even got second helpings when they came back from the meeting. Nice way to end the evening.

packing, getting ready for move

robpacking01

I’m home to sell stuff, and to prep for the move. Throwing away as much as I can, I downsized a bit when I moved to London from Chicago (half the size for double the rent) and now it’s time to downsize even more. There is no reason one person should have so much stuff.

I asked the movers to deliver boxes ahead of time so I can pack; they’re doing that on Thursday. In the meantime I found some existing boxes and managed to start with packing. These boxes represent the contents of my 4 small cabinets and my desk.

In addition I threw away 4 rubbish bag full of useless stuff.

selling stuff

I’m going to move to my parents’ permanently. It’s not worth keeping my flat empty more than 50% of the time when it can be rented out.

Though in theory everything from my flat will fit into parents’ flat, it will be cramped. So I’m selling stuff. There’s not a huge second-hand market here, but Sis suggested posting on the local expat forum’s classified section.

2drawer 3drawer

First to be posted are two sets of small cabinets that were bought almost 20 years ago. After 2 complete trips around the world, they are still in good condition. I posted the 2-drawer set and got responses within a few hours. Sold to the first person who contacted me. To the second person I said I have a 3-drawer set, will she be interested? Yes, so I didn’t even need to post it. The first buyer sent his maid over today and we got the units into a taxi for her to take home (they’re only 5 mins’ walk away). The second buyer will pick the units up next week.

microwave01 candles2016

print03 print02

Thus encouraged, I will post more stuff this weekend. Microwaves (one from Switzerland, one from UK), candles, prints, chairs, two Ikea side tables, wireless router that has never been used. Not expecting a lot of money; every little will go towards the cost of the movers.

I remember an ex-colleague said she’s addicted to selling stuff on ebay. Now I can see why. I’m mentally going through the content of my flat and figuring out what else I can sell.

check go bag, add more whisky

whiskyfor gobag2016

Did the annual inspection of the emergency go bag. Added a t-shirt, because I only had a long-sleeve shirt there initially. Checked the expiry dates on food–MRE is okay, replaced sweets and chocolate even though they were still within expiry date, changed the bottle of water to a newer one too. Checked medicine and toiletries for air-tightness and expiry dates. Updated photocopy of passport.

Am thinking of adding shoes. There’s not a lot of room in the backpack, but I may be able to tie a pair of lightweight sneakers on the outside.

The other change was taking out the small keychain hipflask containing whisky and replacing it with a normal sized hipflask that my sis gave me as Christmas present. The small keychain flask had enough for a few mouthfuls and it’s not enough. I don’t have that many whiskies in the rotation at the moment, so it was filled with The Macallan 12.

pic of my chair may breach copyright

aeronchair2015

I’m home for a few days, and I reminded myself to take a picture of my aeron chair. Why? Because apparently, the UK government will soon require people to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects, even if you own that object. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 says that copyright of artistic objects cover 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. This is something like 100 years after the object was designed and during that 100 or so years, taking a photo will require a licence from the copyright owner. Note, it’s the copyright owner not the legal owner of the object.

The aeron chair was designed in 1994, so there’s plenty of time left for that copyright licence.

Stupid or what.

new york nostalgia

I sometimes humblebrag joke that my career consisted of being sent to various places around the world to play with excel. It had to start someplace, and it was 16 years ago that I went on my first assignment to New York. As a junior intern, it was the epitome of excitement and privilege. I didn’t know what to expect.

New York will forever have a place in my heart as the city where I saw in the millenium. New Year’s Eve I was at a stranger’s roof at a stranger’s party, having gone there with people I just met earlier that day. It was a bit surreal. All I can say about living in New York was, it was an interesting experience, it’s a place where one can very easily disappear and become invisible.

My boss called me as I was leaving so I spent a good many minutes talking to her on the (then swanky) mobile in the lift lobby. My cousin picked me up at JFK and brought me to the serviced apartment I was booked in. I stayed at that serviced apartment for 2 months, then moved to my permanent place at 175 E96th between 2nd and 3rd Ave. It was the first time in my life I rented, but even with the application form filling and not having a credit history it wasn’t as troublesome as it could have been. I was a bit clueless then, and my furniture hadn’t arrived so I moved the suitcases and boxes I had accumulated at the serviced apartment on foot about 3 blocks.

monterey01outside monterey02view

Reason I chose this apartment was I liked the bright airy feel and the beautiful view over the East River. On a clear day if I looked south from my living room I could see the Empire State Building. From the outside the building was imposing and my first thought was of a large drum. There were a lot of apartments per floor however the beauty of the cylindrical design was no one had to look at a neighbour’s apartment. I tried taping a big “X” on the living room window but it was too small to spot from the street. Hee.

It was only a few minutes’ walk from the subway and shops. My weekend routine would be wake up, read the paper and go to the neighbourhood supermarket run by Spanish speaking Koreans. More shops at 86th Street were only a few bus stops away, and since it’s only 10 blocks, on a nice day I sometimes walked down there. Once or twice I even ventured up past 100th Street in the middle of the day, I kept to the busy roads so I wasn’t that scared.

I did a lot of walking in New York. Some Saturdays I’d visit the Union Square market and then walked all the way down to Chinatown. Or I’d take the bus down to South Street Seaport and walk around there. I’ve always been a bus person because I liked looking out at the scenery, the subway had no view. In those days internet was dial-up. I subscribed to the weekend editions of the NYT and there would be small announcements of where street fairs would be that weekend.

New York was the place I learnt about food. Hours and hours of watching the Food Network and some of the enthusiasm certainly rubbed off. Food was abundant, cheap and portions huge. I thought nothing of having grilled strip steak once a week. The aforementioned Union Square market with fresh fruit & veg stalls, fresh meat and even a wine stall. Visits to the big name fancy food shops like Dean & Deluca and Zabar’s were a special day for me.

monterey05living

But most of the time I stayed at my little place. I might order $20 worth of Chinese take-out, gorge and then stick the rest in the freezer. When the Razor rage erupted that year I bought one and was happily speeding from the front door to the living room window, it was a good 30ft run. There was only one bedroom so my desk was at the corner of the living room. The only thing I still have is the desk. The chair, the glass cabinet, the iMac and the (gasp) cassette player, all thrown away or donated.

monterey20plan

My assignment was supposed to be 3 years. The office was in Stamford so it was 1.5hrs by train each way every day. Once a week I’d work in the office in the city, which was at the bottom end of Broadway. My global head moved me to Zurich after one year so on 9/11 I wasn’t in NYC anymore. But I could have been.

It wasn’t long enough, one year, to live there. Took me a while to get used to it and I never made any friends. There were places I wanted to visit but I never got round to it. Fortunately in the years to come I’d get a chance to visit the US and eventually had my second US assignment to Chicago. Fewer regrets in life.