Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our House

So, we are in our new house.

There's really not much to say about it; I mean, there is so much that I can't write one summary blog post about it, but at the same time, it's so new that I'm still discovering lots of things about it each day. It's like getting a puppy, or having a child, I suppose, in that I need to learn about its quirks and habits and get to know its rhythms.

In the meantime, while I'm getting to know my house, here are some photos so you can see it too.

The front

The hallway, from the living room looking out the front door

The kitchen, looking out to the back patio

The lounge and back patio

The hallway on the upper floor, looking in the bathroom

The master bedroom (with a big closet!)

We are no where near being unpacked. I managed to clean the bathroom and half the kitchen, while The Irishman put together the guest bed in the spare room so we could sleep there while we wait for our new bed and mattress to arrive (delivery date TBD!). Because we moved so quickly, we had tons of plans in place with friends and tickets to events meaning that we have been out every night this week. I desperately just want to go home and clean some drawers and vacuum everything.

And once that is done, the DIY will start... we spent £150 at B&Q on Sunday on who knows what – paint, wall filler, sandpaper, dropcloths, rollers... we're painting the whole place white to begin with so it's fresh and clean for now, and then slowly decorating. My main priority though is to buy garden furniture so we can enjoy the patio for the last few weeks/months of warm weather. The Irishman ordered a BBQ that arrives Tuesday, so surely we need to sit outside to eat our burgers. And drink our rosé!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A week on the southern coast of Ireland

It would be my luck that in the midst of all of the moving stress, I've come down with a cold/terrible allergies; I can't tell which it is, but I'm feeling preeeeettyy crap. So I thought it might be soothing to revisit my week's holiday in County Cork with The Irishman and his family. Even though it's only been two weeks, it feels like a year ago already!

I've blogged before about my visits to a tiny corner of the Irish coast called Oysterhaven where The Irishman's family has been going every summer for over 20 years. It's one of the most idyllic, relaxing and wonderful places in the world. I never have mobile reception or Wifi so I truly shut down, and relish indulging in reading, chasing the sun, outdoor pursuits like walking and running, and having nice big meals with plenty of good wine. Really, what's not to enjoy?

But I also make The Irishman take me out for drives to see touristy things; this year we went to Blarney Castle and I kissed the famous Blarney Stone. 

 We also strolled the streets of Clonakilty, a postcard-perfect village west of Cork.

And of course, spent time on the golf course. Well, The Irishman and his family did – I don't golf, and have no interest in learning, so I just hung out in the sun on the porch of the clubhouse enjoying the view.

I also requested some time on a beach; Ireland has tons of beaches, being an island of course, however most of them lead into freezing cold Atlantic seas. So my beach day consisted of a walk to collect shells and feel the sun on my back. It was a good way to walk off the pizza lunch we had at Ballymaloe Cookery School – if you ever go to southern Ireland, make sure you stop in there as it is such a treat!

The nearest town to where we stay is Kinsale, and I always make The Irishman take in for a wander. It doesn't matter how many times I've strolled the streets, I still get excited looking at the colorful homes and flowers. It's such a cute little place!

Usually we start our trek back to London on a Sunday evening, but this year we took Monday off as well and headed into Cork City before going to the airport to visit The English Market. It's one of the biggest and oldest indoor markets in Europe and it's FABULOUS. We wandered around for at least an hour and helped The Irishman's mom pick up some food for the week before having lunch upstairs in the restaurant. All of the food served there is from the market (obviously) and locally grown/sourced. Such an amazing treat to cap off our lovely, wonderful week.

Please let me know if you go to Ireland; I love hearing other people's stories about their adventures there, and getting new tips and suggestions of places to visit!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

From exchange to completion to moving in 10 days

I almost titled this entry "shits gettin' real, y'all" but then thought better of it; though it describes how I feel about what's going on in my life, it doesn't really explain the journey we've been on over the last four weeks.

When last you heard about our house, I was giving you the update that we heard bad news regarding the property. At that stage, we had no idea whether we would even go through with the purchase or whether we would have to start back at square one with the house hunt. It was demoralizing, sad, and really really difficult to process. I mean, we had already picked out potential kitchen units for a refurb taking place two years in the future! We were emotionally invested.

So the only way to deal with our disappointment was to stop all home-buying processes in their tracks until the situation was resolved. No packing, no shopping, no plans, nothing. It was coming up to our week in Ireland, and still no word on what was going to happen so we mentally decided to give it until we returned – 31 July – and then start pressuring the seller to make a decision. 

But we finally got word the Friday before our trip that a plan was in place to enable the sale to go through, and we had to make some quick decisions. We had to decide whether we a) still wanted the house, and b) could stick to the originally agreed timetable for completing the sale by Tuesday the 7th. After much discussion, stress, and tears, we went to the lawyer during lunch the day we flew to Ireland (much stress!!!) and signed all of the necessary paperwork for exchange. Then on our return from Ireland, we went to see the house again and agreed the dates of the sale with the seller – exchange last week and completion this Friday the 10th.

So what does all this mean? It means that last week I emptied a few bank accounts, Monday my dad sent me a large sum of money in the form of a loan, yesterday I sent more money than I make in a year to a lawyer, Friday afternoon The Irishman and I will get keys to a house we own together, and Saturday we will move in! 

This process has been so complex and emotional, I can't even begin to explain it fully. I will write some posts soon about the house buying process in England and how we (sort of) survived it, but in the mean time it's all about the packing. It's a good thing, too, because we're running out of spaces for boxes for stuff. Phew! It will all be worth it in the end.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Spotted: Buff Bus

A bit of a different Spotted, one with an explanation...

During the Olympics, many countries have taken over spaces in London to celebrate their cultures and athletes, welcome guests, and basically have a great party. The biggest ones are Holland Heineken House at Alexandra Palace and Switzerland House on Southbank, and we are lucky enough to live down the street from the Czech House in Islington.

The Czech Republic commissioned a fabulous sculpture outside of the venue by artist David Cerny, whose weird baby sculptures are found all over Prague. This time, he's animated a London bus – it does pushups while grunting. There is a video below, so you can see it in action!

If you're interested in hitting up some of the nation houses during the rest of the Games, here's a good guide to the ones you shouldn't miss.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympics: Women's Triathlon

Buoyed by the thrill of attending Beach Volleyball on Thursday, I woke up way too early for a Saturday (7:30am!!) to join some of The Irishman's friends to watch the Women's Triathlon. This is one event where Ireland had a contender, Aileen Morrison, so The Irishman and his mate from Dublin were keen to get there and get a good spot for each of the three segments.

The entire race took place in and around Hyde Park, where lots of spectators were showing their support for their ladies. Lots of Irish were out and about.

Swimming was in the Serpentine, and hard to get a good vantage point. We ended up standing on a small rise but it was reminiscent of the Diamond Jubilee – standing on tiptoes and trying to watch around really tall people. Note to other spectators: please don't use your iPad to take pictures. It's just RUDE. It's the spectating equivalent of opening your newspaper to full width on a packed subway.

We got a much better spot for the cycling. There's Aileen there! The contenders did 6 laps of the cycling route, so we got to see them go past a few times before running back to find a spot to watch the running.

While we were waiting for the girls to come back around, the crowd noticed a couple on the terrace of their hotel across the street – in their robes. We had a great laugh as they played around with us and pretended to flash us. Oh my!

When we were trying to find spots to watch the running race, we happened upon this lovely scene: a police officer offered to wear a spectator's homemade hat so he could take a photo. About 10 people gathered around to join in the photography shoot and the police officer gamely smiled through it all, saying he was a better draw than the sport!

Finally the running started and off they went. The route took 4 laps so we got to see them pass by 4 times and could see who was leading the pack. From the first pass, we could see that the leaders were neck and neck; Team GB's favorite to win, Helen Jenkins, was upfront for the whole race.

Aileen, however, had dropped back to the back of the pack. She ended up finishing 43rd of 50.

It was a photo finish in the end, with Switzerland taking gold; unfortunately, Helen Jenkins finished a very disappointing 5th. Team USA's Sarah Groff came in 4th.

Since tickets are still so difficult to come by for the remaining events, I think The Irishman and I will continue to go to free events like the men's triathlon and the marathons. It's a great way to get into the spirit of the Games and cheer on your country without dealing with the London 2012 ticket website.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympics: Beach Volleyball

There are no words. It is not a sport, it is a spectacle: the most amazingly fun, sports-themed, music-filled, rowdy crowd event. It was Olympics-lite for the non-believers (like me). It was sandy and sexy. I loved every minute.

The announcer was the voice of X-Factor and between sets the beach dancers in cute 50s style bikinis (not enough men in my opinion) came out to do fun routines keeping the crowd entertained. The setting was fantastic; it's the only Olympic site that puts you in the heart of London – and from our seats we had a view not only of the games but also Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Number 10 Downing Street. At one point in the evening, the X-Factor guy said "We've just had a message from Number 10 - Mr Cameron wants an early night, but we're not going to let him BECAUSE WE'RE THE PARTY VENUE." Whoop whoop!

We saw three matches, Switzerland v Austria (mens), USA v Czech Republic (mens) and the lucky loser match (winner goes on to try to get a place in the final rounds) - GB v Austria (womens). We cheered until midnight, and I desperately wished I had brought my American flag. The Irishman and I left on cloud 9 with a mission to get as many tickets as possible for the rest of the games. I LOVE IT.