The Old House, Eight Years

I found these two images of our old house. I didn’t realise how similar they are. The oldest of a young (old) family moving into a space which would become their home.

old house 2010

A baby H not quite crawling, nowhere near walking, but getting the hang of it. Having this huge space to move around in and working it all out. When we moved from our old place, she could reach to grab things. When we moved to the old place she had to work out how to move further.

It started as a happy place. We had ups and downs, but it was our home.

In the old house our floor seemed to be a shelving unit.. with piles of things left everywhere.

Old House 2018

The keys are back with the letting agents. We’re waiting for our deposit to be returned.

The reason we’ve rented for so long was the lack of affordable houses near us. Our only option was Shared Ownership although there was nothing locally.  Local developments which had houses earmarked as affordable seemed to switch to the riskier Help to Buy option. With only 21 years before we (potentially) retire, it isn’t an option for us.

With Shared Ownership there is no holding deposit. This house is ours. Nobody is going to sell it and force us out. Nobody is going to insist we keep everything neutral and to the landlady’s taste. It’s ours.

There’s one major difference in the two photos. The radiator. We had central heating installed after our carbon monoxide leak.

It’s now our responsibility to get our gas boiler checked every year – not someone else’s to forget about. Gas Safety Week 2018 is in a couple of weeks.

That chapter is closed now we’re out of the old house. The old, painful memories aren’t there every day any more.

Buying a Shared Ownership Property – Insurance

moving house, our new living room, insurance

Insurance for insurance, and more insurance for that insurance. Oh, and by the way, would you like to write your will? That’s what this last month has felt like. 

Insurance is one of those things which is making me SO cross right now. There are so many things which need insuring; things we’ve never had to think about before. 

The plus side is by buying a Shared Ownership property the housing association takes care of the buildings insurance. Though as I’ve found out, if a tile falls off your new build roof, you can spend anything up to two days wondering when someone is going to let you know what’s going on. It’s slightly better than renting. 

The down side is the things you have to insure. We changed address on our contents insurance and were charged an additional £20 fee. I’d love to know how they can justify that charge – surely it’s just pressing a button?

Then again when we rented we’d be charged a £50 annual fee for paperwork. The letting agents occasionally remembered to send us a copy once we had signed it too.

We’ve got car insurance covered. Well, apart from the fact that our policy we had went up way too high, so we re-did it via Compare the Market and got a price similar to the one we originally did. There’s no logic there… at all. 

We have life cover dating back to 2003 which was a jolly sensible thing to do. The majority of our cover costs us next to nothing each month, whereas to top it up to our mortgage amount costs us almost double the original amount. Because it’s through the same company we get a small monthly discount too which is handy. 

I’m thinking ahead. While I feel like my job is safe, who knows what is going to happen after Brexit. So I need to make sure our mortgage payments are covered – so there’s another type of insurance that looks after that. 

Our solicitor cheekily mentioned us making a will. I’ve seen that Macmillan are offering free wills for the month of August, so if we can get our act together quickly enough, hopefully we can do it, otherwise I’ll be on the lookout for the next time we can. 

Can I have a month off all this grown up stuff please? 

Your House Move – There’s a Lot to Think About.

A house move is said to be one of the most stressful things you can go through. I think I managed to forget this fact.

It took well over a week thanks to having far too much stuff, though we’re in now! Things are slowly making their way into the place they’ll belong.

It is stressful, exciting, tiring, exhausting and so much more. Insomnia reared its ugly head again, reminding me what it was like to have too much going on in your head.

I’ll do a bigger post very soon, but being a practically minded kind of person, it’s important to get things in place before you move, such as insurance.

In 2003 we took out Life Insurance. Because of this existing policy, our new cover didn’t need to be quite as high, plus we got a discount. This is fortunate, as a 2003 premium is way better than a 2018 one.

Because of my age our overall mortgage term has reduced to 21 years, rather than the standard 25. Fortunately there’s plenty of choice out there which cover older people, so it wasn’t difficult to find what we needed.

Now we’re having to look into our contents insurance. Our premiums have jumped, possibly due to this postcode being a new build. The bonus is that we’re in Shared Ownership so don’t have to take out buildings insurance – our housing association covers that.

The next things we’re looking at are policies which protect our mortgage payments should we lose our jobs. We also need to make a will. I believe November is the month to do that. I feel quite grown up about the whole thing, while still in a bubble about it all happening. It happened so quickly…

The main thing is we now own part of a house, nobody is going to put it up for sale and we can stay here as long as we want to without the fear of something going wrong.

If something does go wrong, our insurance has to cover it. I think that’s a fairly simple way of looking at things? After all, if this is the place we spend the rest of our lives, it makes sense to have everything looked after so we can just live here rather than worry about everything.

When it came to the house move itself, we saved quite a lot of money doing it ourselves. We hired a van for three days, which cost us around £90. A few days later we hired a smaller van to take the rest of our belongings to the local civic amenity site at around £30.

I used the Anyvan service to have two men move our largest things which ended up being our two settees and our bed which cost around £130.

I think next time I consider a house move I’ll pay someone else to do the packing, though there was a lot of KonMari-ing and some severe Swedish Death Cleaning going on. But our shelves are looking a lot better now, and we have books that bring us joy.

There are also still shelves in the hallway, but hey, they might be gone in a week…

Then there’s the property we left. Our contract says we have to make sure everything is clean and how we found it. Shaun has done a lot of painting and we’ve borrowed next door’s Vax machine which should do the trick. If not, there’s always the chance to hire a Rug Doctor.

I’ll be glad when this is all over. Moving house is not my idea of fun, and especially not over the summer holidays! I’d much rather have a holiday instead – especially with this weather we’ve had.

Moving House – A Big Blank Canvas

moving house, our new living room

Moving house is definitely in my top ten of stressful things that I have to deal with. I’ve had my fair share of it, having lived in several places. We’ve only moved as a family of three the once, over eight years ago. This is a big one.

Very soon we’ll be moving house, moving from the world of renting to Shared Ownership. We’re moving areas too, though only fifteen minutes up the road. Far enough that we have to change schools.

Shared Ownership is when you part buy and part rent a house. There are quite a few flats out there, though houses seem to be more difficult to come by. We wanted a garden and we wanted a nice area which we’ve eventually got – it took about two years of looking.

House prices around here are too much for us, and even where we’re moving they’re as high. With Shared Ownership we own 30% of the house, paying rent on the other 70%. It works out exactly the same price as renting so we’re not out of pocket.

A new housing development near where we currently live had Shared Ownership houses planned, though they appear to have dropped off the developers plans. This has happened a lot and gets quite frustrating when all you want to do is settle.

Our house is a new build which is where being a blank canvas comes in. We have a lot of pictures from renting and not being able to decorate, indeed, I’ve been told that you can’t decorate or paint a new build for the first year until everything has settled. We’re in no hurry.

moving house, the stairs with H on them

When we’re settled I’ll write up the mortgage process and what we found we had to look out for. It went through smoothly, helped with us both having taken out Help to Buy ISAs. When you close your ISA, your solicitor claims back 25% of the value from the Government which is a big help.

Things are moving along nicely, other than getting rid of a lot of our things – mainly things we really don’t need any more. Marie Kondo has been with me in spirit helping me tear myself away from most things…

The moving house day is a week or two away, that has given me time to sort out the transfer of internet, tv and phone services. This time we’re going with BT for everything.  I’m booking removal vans and we’re hiring one to do smaller journeys once we get our keys.

moving house - looking outside to the garden

H is getting used to the idea now. Her room has a little cubby hole which is going to be a reading corner over time. She has the books for it – I suspect we’ll need bigger shelves. She’s enjoying planning her space. 

moving house, the cubby hole, to be a great reading corner

End of Term Gifts for Everyone

I have often joined in with other mums in class to do a collection for our teachers. I have often given boxes of chocolates to people to thank them for teaching my daughter in swimming, Brownies or football. End of term gifts are important (we feel).

End of term gifts are that tradition that is getting a bit out of hand. It has just passed and with it came the acknowledgments for everyone who made H’s last term a good one. So that’s one teacher, two teaching assistants, two Brownie leaders, five young leaders, one swimming teacher and one football coach.

It can get expensive…

So this year we invested in two things – a glass cutting tool which is remarkably cheap via ebay – and a wood burning tool.

glass cutting tool

We did a trip to Ikea for a pack of six glasses and some wooden spoons, ready to create.

The glass cutting tool is the easiest of the two once you get the hang of it. H wrote a message on a small piece of paper which was stuck inside the glass to trace. I outlined it on the glass, and H filled in the area a bit more.

doing some glass cutting

Remove the paper from behind and you will have a clear idea which bits need extra cutting.

One thing to bear in mind is there will be glass shavings on your table, so cover it up accordingly and clean up well afterwards. This isn’t recommended for outside crafts, especially if windy.

The wood burning tool was slightly trickier. The heat involved can burn you – fortunately I had blistered fingers though learnt my lesson the hard way. I always have tweezers handy to change the nibs on the tool. Ours has six different nibs you can use, including several which can just be stamped.

For obvious reasons I don’t have any photos – it was extremely hot to hold.

H wasn’t so keen on the writing side, but loved stamping designs so as a compromise she wrote her messages on her spoon in pencil and I wrote over them using the wood burning tool.

Spoons for teachers using a wood burning tool, still needs to be gone over again but you get the idea of how it will look

It isn’t easy, but gets easier with practice. You have to hold the tool quite far back – so not like a pencil. Slowly and patiently are the way forward.

We had some Tiger Stores clear wrap and gingham ribbon which made the end of term gifts easy to decorate. Wash the glasses carefully and fill with sweets. Wrap the clear wrap around them, tape at the bottom and gather at the top with an elastic band. Get a piece of gingham ribbon and tie a label for the person it’s for around it.

end of term gifts - glass cut glasses filled with sweets

I think the end of term gifts look pretty good! The best thing is they’re something practical too, though I have heard horror stories about teachers having cupboards full of mugs…

Our Wildcats Time Comes to an End, Sadly

This week we received an email, letting us know that our Saturday football sessions with Crystal Palace Wildcats will finish.

H at SSE Crystal Palace Wildcats

Which makes several young girls aged 5-11 quite sad.

Wildcats are girls-only football sessions which we’ve been attending since we did some work with the FA. We have an awesome group of girls, we meet almost every Saturday whatever the weather and we play football. We train, we learn skills and we have fun.

But not for much longer.

I had noticed several clubs starting extra Wildcats sessions around the country, and Crystal Palace weren’t alone in this, starting three extra sessions.

Crystal Palace Wildcats sessions 2018

Which leaves me wondering – has it all been too much? Have SSE stopped sponsoring Wildcats and actually the clubs can’t afford to do this, so these sessions are the first thing to go? Has the FA pulled funding?

We don’t have answers, just that there’s an opportunity to move to Caterham Pumas.

But it does make me wonder, If that was the case, why didn’t they set up Caterham Pumas Wildcats?

Although then we wouldn’t have had our amazing coaches, Charlotte and Sophie. They have made such a massive difference to all of the girls, bringing a love of football to their Saturday mornings. H used to be someone the boys wouldn’t pass to, to now being someone who will try and get a ball from the boys.

They have been brilliant, and we’re all gutted that won’t have training sessions with them any more. They made a difference.

It does make me wonder. Is it about money? Everything to do with women’s football is to do with money. Look at the new league structure. Coincidentally, Crystal Palace Ladies were accepted into Women’s Premiership on the same day we got our email saying the sessions would no longer exist. I’m sure the two incidents aren’t linked…

So, onwards we go, having to find another club to play football. I can only hope any future coach gives H the support and confidence which got her to the level she plays now. I’m hoping that all her friends she made make the switch as well…

Thank you Charlotte and Sophie. You made a difference to a lot of girls and will continue to do so. Thank you for taking the time out to make a difference.

Hagrid the Bear aka A New Family Member

This weekend we’ve had a new addition to our family. Hagrid the Bear.

Hagrid the Bear is named by one of our friends, it’s the perfect name but H is still to come around to it. She will. Here’s his story.

I’ve been an active PTA member since H started school, doing it alongside my job and Brownies, plus this blog whenever I can. The PTA is important – especially these days. With school cuts, you can often find yourself funding things the schools can no longer pay for. In our case it’s IT Software. Yes, IT, the subject of the future. Good old school cuts, it’s quite depressing.

However, the upside of this is the summer fair. We went along to help our school yesterday, sitting on the Crazy Sand stall which is always fun. You get to help kids make interesting creations with varying sand colours (I’d like to think Brownie leader skills come into it and being able to help kids without being too bossy).

Then of course, there’s the grand raffle at the end of the day, with such delights as a Samsung Tablet, tickets for Chessington and an Amazon Echo Dot as prizes.

We only buy a small amount of tickets, but always contribute to everything as much as we can. I didn’t expect to win, though it would be nice, as we’re trying to get rid of things for potential downsizing. Swedish Death Cleaning and Marie Kondo are my friends right now.

So imagine our joy when H’s name got called out as a prizewinner. We won this. A.K.A. Hagrid. (H is still not convinced, but let’s face it, he’s a Hagrid. Big bear, much loved).

H and Hagrid the bear

Apparently, there were tears from some kids in the playground when they didn’t win him. There were tears from Shaun and I as we wondered where on earth the bloody bear was going to live. There were tears of laughter from the parents all around us as we had all stood repeating “please don’t let us win the giant bear” and they saw our faces.

H had tears of joy, however. “He’s going to sleep in my bed!” she announced. No he’s bloody well not!

He makes a good foot rest. (n.b. you must always read books with a pen in your hand according to H)

H and Hagrid the bear chilling on the settee

Even Shaun got in on it. He’s got a new buddy.

Shaun and Hagrid the bear

Eventually, the football finished and it was time for H to head to bed. Without Hagrid the bear. He’s got his own bed, it would seem.

Hagrid the bear in bed

I mean, SERIOUSLY. What are we going to do with Hagrid the Bear? He’s about five foot tall. I’m laughing and crying at the same time. At least we won’t have any problems finding clothes for him, should H choose to dress him up….

So yes, if your school PTA has a summer fair, beware of the giant bear. He might come to your house when you least expect it… and if you donate one as a prize to the fair, you’re probably me. I totally get it now…

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Tour at WB Studios

We were invited to Leavesden to visit the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tour at WB Studios. It was our third visit, H and I eagerly going along as proper Harry Potter fans. Shaun joined us knowing that it’s quite good fun and interesting, having surrendered to everything several years ago!

The Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tour at WB Studios runs until September 2018. There are a whole load of new things to see while you’re there.

Hogwarts Bridge section at WB Studio Tour

We found it was a good idea to watch the movie beforehand. It’s not often that a movie has its own exhibition which makes remembering and spotting things a lot easier. The thing I’ve found with the WB Studio tour is you see things you’ve missed on prior visits all the time. There’s always something new there.

The biggest change is the entrance – the large building (which we were told will be a Fantastic Beasts extension back in December) is well on the way. Nobody would confirm this on our visit, though it makes perfect sense, got to store the Nifflers somewhere, right?

Magical Menagerie Diagon Alley signs

Passport in hand, we entered the building making sure to stay on the left hand side of the room to get front row seats in the auditorium.

Large Goblet of Fire at WB Studio Tour Leavesden

It’s all about the Great Hall though, those doors,

Entrance to the Great Hall

the statues…

Statues by the Great Hall

The first thing you’ll spot on the right hand side in the Hufflepuff section is Cedric Diggory’s jumper as worn for the Triwizard Tournament.

Hufflepuff Cedric Diggory Robes

At the end of the Great Hall the Goblet of Fire was on display with a demonstration how it works, plus an additional ring around it so nobody can take some polyjuice potion and try and swing the result. It’s a nice touch having the Fred and George mannequins either side of the goblet!

Ring around the Goblet of Fire

You get souvenir parchment at this part too.

Once you clear the Great Hall you can do the tour in your own time. This means in H’s case you have to read every – single – thing. Again. Which is okay but the staff were closing areas behind us as we had a 6.45pm slot.

Prefects bathroom taps Harry Potter

Other things on display include the taps from the prefects’ bathroom – so tiny in real life.

Golden Egg Triwizard Tournament

There’s a golden egg from the Triwizard tournament plus how they created it.

Fleur Delacour's costume

In the costume area you can see Fleur Delacour’s costume which she wore to Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament.

Inside Dumbledore’s office you can look into the pensieve which was fun.

Pensieve at WB Studio Tour London

One of the most fun parts of the WB Studio Tour is the photographs. Within the broomstick area you can have two different photos (and a video) – one family shot…

Or maybe just a little bit of broomstick training.

Later on as we got to Platform Nine and three Quarters we got a family shot on the train carriage. [all photos were provided to us for free]

Tom Riddle's grave

Tom Riddle’s grave is on the main floor and is the centrepiece of the area by the Forbidden Forest (it was on a ledge higher up in December). Obviously you need your photo taking with it…

H and Buckbeak

The Forbidden Forest has plenty of sound and visual effects as well as the creatures who live there – particularly Buckbeak.

From there you’re into Hogwarts Express land…

Butterbeer Ice Cream

With the Backlot Cafe the next stop on the tour. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and of course the obligatory Butterbeer. This time we all opted for ice creams and as a slightly dehydrated old lady, mine went down a treat in about ten seconds flat.

Inside the Knight Bus

Once you’re at the Backlot Cafe you’re just over half way. You can sit and relax or just wander around outside taking in the Knight Bus (peeping at the beds inside), Privet Drive and Godric’s Hollow.

Godrics Hollow at WB Studio Tour

There’s also the only section of Hogwarts Bridge made (the rest was special effects) which is fun to wander down, plus the motorbike and sidecar as favoured by Hagrid.

motorbike and sidecar WB Studio Tour

There’s also the Ford Anglia as driven by the Weasleys. Top tip – when photographing the Ford Anglia make sure you’re not too far to the right hand side.

The next area holds the special effects where H tried to get Dobby to do the Macarena again (he wasn’t playing ball) and dabbing (he did that). You’re soon at Diagon Alley and the tour is getting closer to the end.

Durmstrang Institute ship Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

A model of the Durmstrang ship which the Durmstrang Institute used to get to the Triwizard Tournament is on display. Of course, the final part is the giant Hogwarts Castle. At the front is a small model of the Beauxbatons carriage entering Hogwarts – keep an eye out!

Beauxbatons carriage Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

As you enter the wand room you’re at the end. We spent ages looking for friends who worked on the films but only found Jarvis Cocker. It’s an impressive room with a wand for all the castmembers and people who were involved.

Oh, and right there, at the very end is the Triwizard Cup. One of several made for the films, it’s in a glass case and looks mighty splendid.

Triwizard cup

It’s also the point you’re about to enter the merchandise area. We spent a lot of money there in December so skipped this part, but for anything Hogwarts this is the place to spend your hard-earned cash.

The additions to the tour certainly do the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book and film justice. It feels like there is they’ve included everything.

The WB Studio tour has the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire exhibition until the 23rd September 2018 – tickets are available now. We’d recommend going for early slots to get maximum Hogwarts time there!

We were given tickets to see the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire exhibition at the WB Studio Tour. We also received photo passes, our butterbeer, food and a chocolate frog. We’ve visited twice before, so this didn’t affect our opinion in any way.

Other bloggers who were there include :
Kippers and Curtains
The Stage Mommy
Hippie in Lippy

Almost Eight and Three Quarters

Here we are, H is almost eight and three quarters, we’re heading into the home straight before she turns 9. This age is a great one – I’m finding I have a lovely sociable daughter who isn’t fazed in any way around adults and will happily join in the conversation. Sometimes she even has an opinion.

H at SSE Crystal Palace Wildcats

She’s not the most confident child, but she’s speaking out more and more. She’s had a rough time with friendships at school since September. I put a lot of that down to 8-9 year old dramas, hormones and life. Simple, right?

I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be H’s age, but do remember this was around the time we left York and moved away. Which strangely enough we’re looking at doing with several possibilities at the moment.

I love that we go shopping together, and she’ll try on clothes because she knows her style. We’ve had several shopping trips of late as she keeps growing – her new favourite shop is New Look. I quite like this as I get 10% off with my NUS card.

H is growing her hair again for the Little Princess Trust, alongside a fellow Brownie (and neighbour). We’re planning a big talent night to raise some money, Brownies & Guides Got Talent which should happen at the end of the year. I’m hoping the two girls can spur each other on – it’s such a wonderful positive thing to do.

My little swimmer is having her term of swimming lessons at school. She is in the Advanced group which is helping enhance her regular lessons. She’s working towards her Gold Award badge and is coming on really well.

Starting the zipwire at PGL Marchants Hill

I’m watching her grow. At Brownies I can see her taking on more responsibilities and helping others. At PGL I saw her grow from a girl too scared to do things to one who got on with it and did it and had the time of her life. Who went on a school residential for two nights and had a brilliant time.

SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 – Arsenal v Chelsea

The Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 was a repeat of 2016, two teams we’ve seen a few times but always different. When I go to Wembley to watch the women’s game I feel safe. It’s somewhere I will go for a happy atmosphere. It is still so different to the men’s game – however, things are changing.

The Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 was Arsenal v Chelsea. That’s okay, the women’s team of both have players we like – and in H’s case, Fran Kirby. I could have sworn we’d never seen her play, but looking back to 2016, in fact we did.

Wembley Stadium from outside, in the sun, Women's FA Cup Final 2018

All we wanted to see was some great football, to enjoy the atmosphere and to get home at a reasonable time.

This time we were in Block 221, right on the back row so a decent view of the game, though to be fair you get that from most areas at Wembley. It was only later on I realised why the game was a bit earlier than usual – because it would be fitting in with Tottenham’s games at Wembley for this season. I hope they keep it at this time for future years.

Women's FA Cup Final 2018 panorama, Women's FA Cup Final 2018

We go as neutrals every year, sitting alongside supporters of both teams. Unfortunately I had a chap next to me who made it his job to boo every time Chelsea did something which got a bit tiring, especially as he was the only person doing it. We don’t need that negativity! We support football! I just clapped louder to drown him out, helped by Wembley providing everyone with pieces of foldable card. H had about five of them and it definitely drowned him out…

Mid-way through the Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 and we had no goals, and I was starting to calculate the time we’d end up getting home if it continued that way.

Fortunately Chelsea got three, Arsenal got one and the game was decided by 90 minutes. Also – Fran Kirby scored so H was delighted as it was a GREAT goal!

H with Fara Williams and Mary Earp, Women's FA Cup Final 2018
This year there was an FA Fanzone outside Wembley. We saw the new Subbuteo set which is based on our two Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 finalists. You can’t actually buy it though, only win it in giveaways. Hmm.

Fara and Mary autographs, Women's FA Cup Final 2018

We were in that area just as they announced that Fara Williams and Mary Earps, England players, would be there for autographs. H was happy as she loves being in goal and made sure she got her Wildcats buddy their autographs too. Overall there were less freebies (a good thing, we don’t need more SSE spongey things) but more things to do. The weather was perfect as well.

Wembley falafel veggie hot dog

We had food inside Wembley. Three hot dogs cost £18. Did I mention that our three tickets for the Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 cost us £15 total? We’ve been SSE customers for our gas and electricity for over 8 years, finally making use of SSE Reward. Our tickets were half price.

The FA For All

Will we be back again next year? Of course – this year had a record-breaking 45,000 supporters attending – way up on last year’s total. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.