Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ali and I are getting Divorced!

Or so I have been told. We were wondering why it is that we applied for a mortgage to buy the house we are renting, but the lender hasn't been in touch to arrange for a "lender valuation". This has to happen to ensure that they are happy to lend you the given amount. Any delay to the purchase of our house could incur additional cost and pain so we really didn't need this. So I took things into my own hands and rang the surveying company and it turns out they had never heard of us and had no instructions from our mortgage company.

Obviously I was a tad perturbed. I contacted our financial adviser who had sorted out our mortgage and told him to find out what was going on. Due respect to him, he managed to get to the bottom of the problem in less than an hour. Here is his explanation; "The problem was that they thought it was an "add and remove" - in other words a divorce case where one of you was moving out. They assumed this because the address was remaining the same. I have sorted this now and it will be instructed asap.". So that is a three or four week delay because they didn't bother to ask us. Anyone who has worked in customer support knows that making assumptions makes an ASS of U and ME.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Liverpool FC win the European Cup

What a game. Liverpool down 3 goals to Milan at half time and they still manage to win on penalties. Phew - what a scorcher. Obviously I have to offer my condolences to Milan, they dominated the first half and perhaps had the best of extra time, and to go out on penalties is very unfair. I always favored removing a player from each side every three minutes until a goal is scored or they get down to the goal keepers, but my influence over the world of football is not a great as you might think.

Anyhoo, back to Liverpool. The transformation after the first half humiliation was phenomenal. Big congratulations to Benitez, the LFC Manager for his tactical awareness and the changes it brought. Getting back into the game is one thing though, but pulling back three goals was amazing. Well done you cheeky scousers. It's nice that the champions of Europe are British again since Man Utd were champions six years ago.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I've been mugged :-(

Or more specifically my team, Man United have been. Manchester dominated the whole of the FA Cup final but were beaten by a lackluster Arsenal after a penalty shoot out. Despite Arsenal's dismal display during normal play, I don't blame them for beating us in what amounts to a lottery. They don't make the rules. But their fans must consider themselves very fortunate.

As for the United team, there was one very obvious fault. Despite making all the play and taking the game to Arsenal, they failed to score. And that is why it came down to penalties in the end. Having said that, they can hold their heads high. Ferguson's tactics were clearly better than Wengers. The pincer movement of Rooney and Ronaldo on the wings resulted in a steady stream of chances. Arsenal were obviously missing Henry but they barely got a shot on target which was astounding for such a quality side. Leyman was forced to make several crutial saves and we had a shot hit the post and a goal disallowed (validly, it was off side).

Basically United played them off the park. John, one of my Gooner mates texted "Is there only one team in the final or did Arsenal turn up as well" with about 10 minutes of normal time remaining. I really would have preferred it if Arsenal had scored to win rather than it come down to penalties, partly because if they had scored the striker would be the hero, but as it is Paul Scoles will have to live with the responsibility of losing the game for United. And that just isn't fair.

All I can say positively about the Arsenal performance is that after much criticism this season Jens Leyman had a huge game, kept them in it and then saved the penalty to allow them to nick it at the end. So a begrudging congratulation to Arsenal. I'm gutted.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

It's a Beautiful Day....

So much is in the air at the moment. We are still waiting to find out if we will succeeded in buying our house. And my employer is "restructuring" which normally results in some "involuntary separations". Not an ideal combination. But then I have been through about 7 redundancy processes over the last 16 years and have only been given the boot once - and that turned out the best thing that ever happened to me (in that it made me move from Hull to London).

But despite these dodgy thoughts in the back of my mind, we had a lovely day today. Firstly I had a nice lie in and didn't get up till midday. When I got up Ali was sunbathing in the garden (very nice view :0). We then went for a really nice walk in Richmond Park. Specifically the Isabella Plantation which is totally beautiful at this time of year. After a couple of hours enjoying the sunshine we popped for a quick shandy at the Sun Inn opposite the pond in Barnes (quite literally, I really did drink shandy - Ali was drinking Pimms). Then I cooked a full Sunday Roast with Chicken, Prince Charles's Chipolatas, Savoy Cabbage, Broccoli, Roast Spuds and Parsnips and even bread sauce and gravy. Controversially we also had Yorkshire Puddings which you shouldn't have with chicken, but sod it - no roast would be right without them. And I am a Yorkshire man in all senses of the word :0)

The night was rounded out with watching the 100 greatest War Films on Channel Four. It was great to see awesome films like "Ice Cold in Alex", "Das Boot" and "Apocalypse Now" getting good placings. And no surprise that the excellent "Saving Private Ryan" got the nod as best War film ever. But I was frankly baffled that my favorite War film, "Crimson Tide" didn't even rate a mention when some really ropy stuff got mentions. What would you have picked?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Expensive Stamps ...

We found out today that our offer to buy our rented house has been accepted :0) So this evening I instructed our solicitors to do the undefined stuff that they do (apparently it is quite hard judging by how much they are charging us). I also instructed our IFA to proceed with our mortgage application (apparently this is quite hard too judging by how much they are charging us). We also had to sort out a survey and valuation for the mortgage vendor and a Home Buyers survey for ourselves. Having lived here for two year it is clearly worth our money to find out where the local schools are and what the amenities are (apparently this is quite hard judging by how much they are charging us). And we haven't even started on home insurance or life insurance, but I'm guessing that they won't be applying for charitable status any time soon either :0(

And I thought that the house was going to be the expensive thing!

Still, we are very chuffed that thing seem to be going in the right direction. Even though it seems that we have secured the house, and the Estate Agent has told us the property is now off the market, we haven't put the Champagne on ice yet. We will only be quaffing the bubbly stuff when we Complete. And that could be a while away. But everything seems to be pointing in the right direction.

I should say, none of this would be possible if my Mum and Dad hadn't agreed to help us out with the Stamp Duty. Giving the government just over £10,000 seems a bit steep. Is it just me or aren't those pretty bloomin' expensive stamps? It's not like they have pretty pictures and a handy collectors pack. ..

Hitchhikers Movie

Ali and I went to see the new Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy filum last night with Marcus and Ellen. I have followed H2G2 (as those of us in the know call it) from it's original birth as a radio show, through the five novels and the (now rather dated) TV Series. Each was a bit different and each had its own nice little touches. I was a bit concerned because many of the reviews of the film have been luke warm to say the least. Others have been downright scathing. However when you're a fan you just have to go. Like the Star Wars prequals.

But we were in for a very pleasant surprise. It was brilliant. Martin Freeman was engaging as the baffled Arthur Dent whilst Trillian and Ford added able support. Sam Rockwell has received criticism for his portayal of Zaphod not being very likeable. Which just shows that the reviewers don't know the H2G2 material. Zaphod is a complete idiot and a total ego maniac tempered only slightly by his charisma, which is exactly how Rockwell played him. A big shout out must go to Alan Rickman who added the voice or Marvin. His little asides and moans were perfectly timed.

The special effects were great and there were plenty of laughs. But for propeller heads like me there were loads of subtle touches, for example cameos for the original Arthur, Simon Jones and the original Marvin. If you are a fan then I highly recommend it. If you have never read or seen H2G2 then you will probably be a bit confused - so don't write a review of it!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

So now we have a mortgage, we just need a house

Ali and I went to see an Independent Financially Advisor today and they took us through AIP. This means Approved in Principal and it means that a mortgage provider confirms that they would be prepared to lend you the sum required to purchase your desired house. It basically involves answering a bunch of questions like age, address and what our modest stipend is and then waiting on tenterhooks while the lender checks our credit record and does some maths. In this modern Internet age they do it while you wait. It was quite a nerve wracking listening to the IFA relaying all our details and then hoping we were going to get the thumbs up. And we did.

So we now know for sure we can get a mortgage. The trouble is that the mortgage we can get is a shade under what our landlady wants to accept. So we have to wait until Monday to see if she is prepared to accept our offer. If not, at least we know we can afford to buy somewhere else. But we really don't want to move, so fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Interesting Times

Apparently in China, wishing someone "interesting times" is a curse, because in their culture stability rather than change is prized above all else. I have no idea if that is an urban myth or true but Ali and I are certainly facing interesting times. As you might have read previously on this log, we are having to leave our rented house because the landlady needs to sell the place. But following a visit to a Financial adviser, we now discover that we are possibly in a position to buy it.

We have made an offer but have not yet heard back if it has been accepted. So it is a strange feeling when people come round to view the place knowing that they are effectively in competition with us to buy our house. So how do we subtley try to put people off? Well first of all we make sure that all the windows are open so they can hear the noise of trains and planes going by (our house is next to a train line and on the Heathrow flight path). We considered putting up Bio hazard or Radiation notices to put people off but thought this might be a bit obvious! Today Ali put down a bowl of flour with a label next to it saying "Rat Poison". A bit more subtle but I'm not sure it will work.

What do you think we should do to put off prospective purchasers? We considered disgusting things like not flushing the toilet but discarded them since we still have to live in the place for the next month. Any inventive but none disgusting ideas for putting people off welcome. Interesting Times indeed.