Saturday, 28 September 2013

Why I hate buying a house

You may have gathered that Hubby and I are trying to get on the property ladder. We've moved a few times in the past 5 years so the whole packing up everything isn't that  uncommon to me, but this is the first time we're not simply moving into a rental. I appologise if I'm sounding a little bit like a stuck record but, this should be an exciting time... in fact at the moment I'm wavering between being totally non-plussed and hating it. Here's why:

Everything takes so long
We were lucky, we found the house we wanted back in June. It's now nearly October and we've still not exchanged.  It could all still fall down around our ears like, well, a house [of cards].

Our solicitors, their solicitors... both are just frustrating.  We went for a large online conveyancing firm to save a few pennies, and to be fair they've been okay... but they skate around giving advice. They don't ever seem to want to commit to a course of action.  I guess that's what you get for saving pennies.  The seller's solicitors on the other hand they are complete lemons.  They love giving advice. Shockingly poor advice. For example they have advised their client to not allow us to come for a pre-exchange visit.  I mean we're spending a ridiculous amount of money (only all our life savings) and the last time we saw the house was two months ago. We just have to hope that they've not knocked a wall down or been having wild house parties in the meantime.  We very nearly walked away from the whole sale...

People coming to poke around
So we've given notice of our intent to move to our landlord... I know I said we wouldn't,  but we were meant to have exchanged this week (it didn't happen as, surprise surprise, everything takes so long!) so we tried to talk hypothetically to our landlord... and it's all just run away from us. And now we've got people coming to our flat this weekend to have a poke around to see if they want to move in. Oh god.

Part time evening work (unpaid)
Both Hubby and I work a full time week. In fact I'm often working in the evenings and weekends to keep on top of everything... but somehow we have to try and squeeze in trips to mortgage advisors, calls with solicitors,  reading legal documents, shuffling paperwork... not to mention the seemingly endless toing-and-froing with the seller's estate agent. So I do a full day at work,  have a 2 hour commute home, and then have to start working all over again. It's exhausting.  It's also particularly challenging when estate agents and solicitors only work office hours!

We're buying our first house. Our family home. It's the start of something very exciting.  Somewhere where Hubby and I can start a family. Redecorate.  Get a cat. (Not necessarily in that order.) There's so much life ahead.  But before we get our foot through the front door we have to talk about our dream ending.  I know it's the sensible thing... but discussing your partners untimely demise or the fact that either one of us could become critically ill does take the romance out of the adventure.

I know I'm whingeing. It's just that I'm finding it such a hard journey. I can not understand how people regularly  remortgage and move house. It's not pleasant.  Everything seems to just get put on hold. You empty your piggy bank which makes everything seem a lot more expensive. You can't commit to anything because you may be packing or moving or trying to squeeze in some extra paper work... to be honest I'm looking forward to moving in and getting on with living.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Pushing away the grey: Bright Zebra Nails

It's been getting grey and miserable outside... Utterly bleak to be perfectly honest.  Rain.  Wet.  Grey...  Even the leaves are looking muted, the ones that are still clinging on to their green-ness look washed out, and the fallen ones are just too soggy to be anything more than mush.

So I decided to buck the brown-grey trend.  Just because the weather is turning doesn't mean that I have to pack away my summer-bright nail varnish.  So think week I've decided to brighten up my nails with a spot of zebra print.  But to help banish the autumn gloom, my zebra is turquoise.

Bright zebra nails

Zebra print is a really easy effect to achieve - simply pick your base colour (in my case this was Barry M's Pure Turquoise) and once it is completely dry it's time for the creative fun.

Black and white tend to work best, however any really contrasting should work.  Simply drag the brush of your secondary colour from the outside edge of your nail towards the middle of the nail in a line.  Don't go beyond the middle of the nail, otherwise you start to lose the zebra-edge. And don't try and make it too straight or even, in fact, the wonkier the better.  Then all you need to do is continue down the nail.

The effect works best when you move from one side of the nail to the other: once you have completed one zebra stripe move to the other side - move from left to right and back again so you end up with a little overlap in the centre of the nail.

Once completely dry (I didn't wait, which is why once of my nails has 'fuzzy' stripes), seal with a top coat - and be proud!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Why you should go to Thorpe Park in the rain

I've always loved rollercoasters.  I'm not one of those people that just loves to be scared (I'm not a huge fan of the static rides that swing you around, or drop you from a great heights, or horror films that delight in shock value, nor to I harbour a particular desire to do a sky dive or bungee jump), but stick me on track, buckle me in and I'll be grinning from ear to ear.  The views from the high point of the 'coaster before the big fall, the sensation of the wind whipping through the air - it's like flying.   

Usually when you're planning a family day out, you pray for blue sky and dry weather, but when we started to map out our visit to Thorpe Park yesterday with Hubby and the In-Laws (who says kids have to have all the fun), I hoped for rain...  

Making the most of your day : Shorter queues at the rides

Don't you just hate it when you fork out for your ticket, and then spend the day standing waiting to ride.  I know I'm British, but if I wanted to spend my days standing in a queue I'd just head to my nearest Post Office...  Whilst theme parks do their very best to keep those queuing entertained (actors in the queues, things to see, silent discos) the fact still remains is that you can sometimes be waiting for two hours to get your turn on a ride that will be over in less than a minute.  

That's why a grey sky is a great thing for a theme-park visit.  The idea of waiting in queue getting wet, cold and miserable puts a lot of people off making the trip in the first place... so as they snuggle back down in their nice warm duvet, you can make the most of the fact that the park is really under-capacity. Take yesterday for example: the longest time we queued was just 20 minutes to ride Colossus, with queues at THE SWARM and Stealth only taking 5 minutes each.  

Queue for SAW: The Ride at Thorpe Park
The queue for SAW: The Ride yesterday

We managed to ride all the big 'coasters and a number of the smaller thill rides within 2 hours of being at the park.  We were very happy bunnies.  

Get the fun started: Reduced waiting time to get in

So you're gearing up for  your trip.  You've accepted that you'll have to queue for the rides, but hey, maybe you can make that part of the fun... you've packed a spare change of clothes (you know, for after the water rides), you've got a picnic ready, your driving songs on the radio and by the time you arrive you're brimming with excitement.  You spill out of the car, rush up to the gate... Only to have your momentum completely thrown by the crowds of other adrenaline-seekers snaking their way up to the ticket booths...

No queues to get into Thorpe Park
It might look like a scene from a zombie film, but the lack of queues got our day off to a great start!

Yesterday, the entrance queues were, well, non-existent.  It was simple - just to stroll up to the counters! We maybe had to wait 5 minutes to pick up our tickets, and we were in!

Saving the pennies - Less excuse to spend money on sweet treats

When you're out and about it's just so easy to treat yourself.  Even if you've pre-planned, and have brought your own lunch, with the sun beating down the idea of an ice-cold cola or refreshing ice-lolly is almost expected: just what you need to cool down, and keep hydrated.  It's the perfect excuse.  But when temperatures have dropped slightly and the sky is grey the idea of something cool, sticky and sweet just isn't quite as tempting.

Which brings us nicely on to our next reason...

No one likes a pest - Fewer wasps

With stalls and shops selling icecreams, fizzy drinks, donuts and sweets around every corner, theme parks must be an absolute heaven for suger obsessed bugs - and with the warm summer we've had this year wasps are absolutely thriving.  There is nothing more annoying when you're queuing for a ride, or sitting trying to eat your lunch than being hounded by the little blighters... but with the cooler weather, they're sleepier and less likely to be a bother. 

Weather proofing: Rain rain go away, come again another day!

And finally, whilst I know that all these things are big ticks, no one wants to risk their day being a complete wash out... which is why I just love Thorpe Park's commitment to Weather Proofing.  If the rain is really bad, or it is too chilly to be comfortable, Thorpe Park will give you a free pass to return another day.  The offer isn't valid during peak season, but if you're like me and try to go off-peak, then there is the potential to score two days of fun for the price of one. Woooohooo!  So yesterday wasn't one of those Weather Proofed days, but it didn't stop us from having a blast!

This post has not been written in collaboration with Thorpe Park or any other third party.  No incentive has been received for writing this post and is completely based on my own experiences and thoughts.

Friday, 13 September 2013


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Friday, 6 September 2013

House Buying: Why I refuse to risk homelessness

There's a big difference between a house and a home.  And today I realised, that I'd rather lose a house, then ever risk the stability of a home.

But then maybe I'm beung unreasonable?

You may be aware that Hubby and I are trying to buy our first house. We've had our offer accepted.  We've sorted the mortgage. We've had the survey done. Problem is, we haven't handed in our notice on our rented flat, and today we find out that delaying two months may be a deal breaker.

For those who have never been in the buying process,  you don't legally need to buy a house, nor the seller sell you the house until you have exchanged contracts... a position we hoped to be in next week. Once we had things signed and sealed we'd hand in our notice.

Personally, I think this is reasonable.

It might be longer than average gap between exchange and completion but as we live no where near relatives, if we somehow end up with no roof over our heads (which is possible if the sellers pull out and we've given notice prior to exchange), to put it bluntly,  we'd be screwed... Bunking down on Park benches and curling up in our own cars becomes genuine possibilities.

But it's like talking to a wall to get the estate agent to grasp this fact.  I'd rather risk losing the house we're trying to buy, than end up without a home.

On top of that, our first-time-buyer wallets are already stretched to breaking point to reach an agreeable sale price, so moving into the house early and still paying rent on our flat just isn't an option (no matter how many times the estate agent 'strongly recommends' it). 

The thing is, I could almost understand the agents insistence on us moving faster if we hadn't mentioned it before.  But we did. I have 2 separate emails to prove it. And I'm genuinely not sure how much clearer the sentence 'We will not hand our notice in until exchange, and then we have to give 2 months notice' can be... so goodness knows why all of this has come as a surprise.

This whole situation is making me angry as the agent's attempts to smooth things over - not by fully recognising his mistake (oh no, apparently he simply 'misunderstood') - involved asking me if I would negotiate with my landlord to let me out of sone of our notice period.

Brilliant.  You don't want to explain to your client that you mucked up, so instead of taking a deep breath and having an awkward conversation you'd rather send the buyers to do the dirty work.  I'm sorry.  I refuse.

I'm starting to wonder whether this latest debarcle may just end up being the straw that breaks the camel's back... I'm honestly now on the cusp of not caring.

What will be will be...