Friday, 19 September 2014

The House that Escher Built

Can I just say how much I love our new place? It is an interesting pink house with a small walled (slightly overgrown) garden--we’ve got bleeding hearts and a rose bush and quite a lot of dandelions. It even has a name.

 Model Villa.

 Because a name makes everything better. FACT.

 We live on the first floor (that’s second floor to my American  peeps) above a really nice bloke who reads comic books like we do. It is nice to have a friendly neighbour.

To get into our flat, go through the main door and then unlock another door and go up the stairs. At the top of the stairs the landing splits into two sets of small stairs. Which way will you choose? The Lady or the Tiger?

three sets of stairs!


See what I mean? It is like a drawing by MC Escher.

One side leads you to the kitchen, bathroom and dining room, the other to the bedroom, living room and my personal favourite--the craft room.

Yes! I get my own little cosy room to do all my crafty/ musical stuff!!!!!

 It is only a one bedroom flat (whereas our old was two) but it is surprisingly spacious. We just had to rethink how we wanted to arrange things.

 Now onto the tour.

 This is our bedroom. We have hung our wedding photo over the bed (it used to be in the living room)

This is the bookshelf Mama Bear (formerly in the hall) and the Altar (formerly in the living room)

One thing we found out when we moved in was how un-level the floor is. Seriously, everything leans. Which was a bit of a problem for bookshelves--all those heavy books made it lean even further. We had to add a bit of a prop up on Mama Bear and Papa Bear to stop them leaning. Spiderman cleverly rigged device made of three unbreakable rulers (bought on a back to school sale) wrapped in packing tape to keep them together. Not too bad, huh?


This is how we have our clothes. Spiderman already had an open clothes rack, but I had a wardrobe at our old flat that we had to leave behind so we bought me another open rack. Thankfully we both don’t have too many clothes.


Now for my craft room!  This is a small room probably meant to be a study or computer room, but it’s mine all mine!!! I couldn’t get a good shot of it, but the colourful shopping bags hang on the door and my sewing table and shelves with all my crafty bits and bobs fit in perfectly.  There is also space for my music stand and Tallulah the Ukulele! Plus I can close the door when I want to practice!

And just because I love my space so much, another gratuitous close up.

most of the OZ artwork is now in here


Then the living room which is a combination of our old living room, the hallway and the back room. We have the sofa and Doctor Who watching station on one side (you can see all our books from our Beginning Welsh course on the floor! More on that later!)

can you spot Opus wearing 3-D glasses?


Then by the window you can see the computer desk and Spiderman’s work area. Plus you can see what we’ve done with the bottles which used to be in our bay window. Lovely, innit?

hard to see because of all the lovely light from the window

 Then we’ve got the bookshelves Papa Bear and Baby Bear that used to live down the hall.

still getting rid of boxes (in the corner)

Then the spiders, safely tucked away from sunlight in a little alcove.


Spiderman cleverly rigged this up--since we are going to be as poor as Church Mice, here are Mr and Mrs Church Mouse and their tiny door and a stained glass window above them (they are Church Mice after all!)


Then if you go to the other side of the stairs you get to the bathroom (I couldn’t seem to get a good photo, but it has pink tiles and our bathtub is buttercup yellow and rather narrow. I like to call it the Yellow Submarine! Big bottoms beware!)  

Then the kitchen. I’d always dreamed of a bigger kitchen, but alas! It was not to be.


It is lovely kitchen, small but weirdly spacious. Too small for our fridge, so because of that more roomy, if that makes any sense. The oven is great! Our old one you needed to use blue tac to hold the temperature dial in place or all your food burned. No blue tac this time!

So if that is the whole of the kitchen, where’s the rest of it? Why next door in the dining room, of course!


We put all the food that used to be in the pantry and all the bulk dry goods and baking dishes that used to live down the hall all together. Plus things like tea towels that used to live in a kitchen drawer now live in a basket.  Up close--one side:

food in labelled containers make me happy

Then the other:


It works out fine. There is space to dry clothes as well and we have our little table set up (not in the shot) so we can have a lovely, civilised sit down meal together and not eat on the sofa like we used to. Bliss.

 So that’s basically it. 

We get lots of natural light which is really pleasant, it is not too noisy as we are set back from the main road and some of our rooms have wood floors which is extra nice. It is an easy walk to the shops and the library as we are close to town centre and the rent is £200 less than what we used to pay.

You heard me, £200 less. What a blessing. If we’re going to be as poor as Church Mice (and we are at the moment as I’m still looking for a job!) then at least we have a gorgeous, comfy (if slightly wonky) home to live in.



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Angels in Human Form

Have I told you how God answers prayers? We may not have always gotten what we wanted, but we have gotten what we needed. We were fairly settled in Hitchin, with comfortable lives, comfortable jobs and a sense of safety.

 Then this.

 A chance to start over, to simplify our lives, to give up comfortable things and try something new, to expand our borders, literally and figuratively.

In another country--far, far away.

But to do this we needed a few things. I wrote in my prayer journal we needed:

1. A way to pay for the move without incurring huge debts

2. A way to get through the “hungry gap” of when old pay checks end and new (considerably lesser) ones begin

 What could we do, but pray? And help arrived,

John Lewis Gift Voucher
Our schools gave us nearly £100 of John Lewis vouchers (think posh gift certificates my American peeps) which we used to stock up on dry food like rice and lentils and beans and pasta at Waitrose to help us keep our food costs low for the first few months.

My amazing, generous Mum sent us some money to help ease the transition. So we asked for local removal companies to give us estimates as to how much it would cost to pack all our stuff and drive it to Wales.

Their estimates were eye watering to say the least. The cheapest was £1800.

Seriously, £1800. That is a helluva lot of dosh.

We were trying to count our blessings and say “well Mum’s generous gift will nearly pay for half.” But in our hearts we were worried. How would we come up with the rest of it?

Then it happened. Out of the blue.

 Our friend from Quaker Meeting Hannah approached me and said she and her partner Nick were shocked at the high cost of removal and offered to take the day off from their high powered jobs and drive the removal van for us.

 I was dumbstruck. I kept saying, “You do know we are going all the way to Wales, don’t you?”

She did.

I kept saying, “How will we pack and unpack the van? Won’t we need big burly men to do all the heavy lifting?”

 But the Heroic Hannah had an answer for everything. She contacted some blokes she knew who had a man with a van service and booked them in to actually load the van, after all that’s the trickiest part--getting all the stuff in the van.

And so it was. We rented a removal van for around £100 (think U-HAUL to my American peeps) and Hannah and Nick would drive it to Wales for us, then unpack and drive it back in the same day.


On the morning that Spiderman took the train to Wales, I was left to supervise the removal guys and ride in the removal van. They arrived promptly and cast a worried eye over all of our stuff. There were boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes (mostly books and framed art and food) and he was a bit worried it might not actually fit in the removal van.

It was squeaky bum time for me as I tried to triage anything I thought we could live without. But in the end the fantastic guys got every last bit into the van. He said it was due to many years of playing TETRIS. I would believe it. God bless video games.


It took a full three hours to pack which cost us £120 and then we were off like a herd of turtles. I paid for petrol (£120 total) and we drove for five and half hours to Wales.

It took slightly longer than we anticipated as the van was super heavy and Wales is mostly uphill. We listened to the pounding rhythms of Iron Maiden to keep us going--it worked. Their songs last for ages so you really felt you were getting somewhere.

We followed the Nippon Express for a long time. Hannah says they saw it again on the way home.


We stopped for food (about £50) and a wee break (a short break and a pee-pee break) and finally arrived in Wales around 6pm. Then the super fit and strong Hannah and Nick and Spiderman unloaded all the heavy stuff into the flat and I did the lighter, smaller stuff.

By 7:30 it was all done. With grateful hearts we sent them on their way to drive all the way back to England and return the van by 8am the next day so we could get our deposit back.

She texted me around midnight to say they were safely home.

Oh did I also mention she gave us her old Nokia phone and bought us a SIM card so we could keep in touch on the moving day? We have never owned a mobile phone (CEL phone) but it was a lifesaver for the first few weeks until we got our landline sorted.

That woman thinks of everything.

So that is how prayer were answered. This was something we thought would never happen, it was way too much to ask someone to do--and then some people offered.

When you totted it all up--the cost of boxes and bubble wrap, the van hire, the petrol and food --it came just under the amount that my Mum sent.

We are blessed, make no mistake. Here we are hot and tired, but joyful outside our new house.

yes, our house is pink!


Then, the next day after we had finally slept, we woke to find there were a few problems with the flat.

 There was no hot water. Yikes.

But again we were blessed. We have the most amazing landlords—a pair of genuinely funny brothers who were over here like a shot and tinkered around with the boiler and called the gas company and got it sorted within 24 hours.

Then, as an act of kindness I will never forget, Soong offered us a free meal in the Chinese restaurant he owns because he saw a jar of peanut butter with a spoon in it that we had been eating from in the kitchen.
 Can I just say it was the most delicious meal I have ever tasted. We were hot, tired and still had a mountain of boxes to go and there was food—real delicious good—and a lovely restaurant to sit down in and rest. Plus extras to take home.

 It nourished us in more ways than one.

Stay tuned for the excting saga of the wonky house!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Up All Night

We are not procrastinators.

Not really.

Not much.

Well, if I’m being honest…we are a bit.

 As our moving date approached we took the carrot and stick approach of “let’s pack one box and then watch an episode of Doctor Who on DVD.”


Yeah…we somehow ended up watching more Doctor Who than packing boxes.

To be fair, we did pack a whole lotta boxes. But any odd shaped or sized thing was relegated to the back room to be dealt with “later.”

Suddenly it was the night before the big day and what did we have? A room chock full of stuff and six spiders who needed to be put in their travel boxes. How much time did we have?


Until 7am.

 Oh dear.

 So we got cracking. We packed boxes and snacked on any last thing that couldn’t carried with us and worked out little booties off. Unfortunately, because everything left to pack was odd size or shape it was tricky to get it all in a box.

 Did I mention that we were rapidly running out of boxes?

At 5am everything but the spiders had been done. We were running on adrenaline and time pressure and love. It was amazing that we had not snapped at each other or murdered the other one.

Now, we normally don’t have to put the girls in their travel boxes all at the same time. When we have to clean out their tanks, we do one a day and let them leisurely make their way into the dreaded box with no time pressure.

 But now there was two hours to go and six little girls needed to be cooperative.

 They weren’t.

 Perhaps they could feel our time pressure and we were trying to be as quick and firm as we could, but they needed to get outta the tank and into the box.

 There was  quite a bit of “I don’t want to go in the box!” and “Don’t make me go in the box!”

 How do you know when a spider doesn’t want to do something?

 They tell you.

 Not with words, but with gestures.

 There was much hair flicking (a defence mechanism where a spider uses a leg to flick irritating hairs at the predator) and some defensive postures (see below) to make themselves look big and scary. This usually means “I don’t want to bite you, but I will if I have to. Hopefully if I scare you, you’ll piss off and leave me alone.”


 There was one narrow escape attempt by Pippi, but by 6:30am, all were safely in their travel boxes. Poor girls. They were probably quite stressed and frightened and that is the last thing we would want. No wonder they were flicking and posturing. Poor spiders. But they survived and are thriving in their new home, never fear.

Did I mention that as soon as Spiderman got a girl into a travel box, I would dash outside as the sun rose in the sky with the tank, empty the substrate, dash back inside and wipe out the tank and wrap it in bubble wrap and place it inside the previous tank (Spiderman had the good sense to pack up the girls from biggest to smallest so the tanks would nest inside themselves).

It was done.

 Spiderman took the fastest bath known to man and was out the door with all the spiders safely tucked in his travel bag and headed for the train (what First Capital Connect Train Services doesn’t know won’t hurt them!) so he could get to Wales early and get the keys from the Estate Agent and I was left to collapse in a heap and wait for the removal van to arrive at 9am.

Stay tuned for the exciting saga of the Tetris removal van!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Down in the Valleys

Here we are.

 In Wales.

 In the Valleys.

 In the green part of the world.

 We are here.

 It has been three weeks since we arrived and I have hardly had a moment to write for the blog. Have you missed me, oh best beloved? I have missed you. My life is so full of blessings and good things and happiness, but it has also been rather busy and hectic.

 We have just moved to another country after all.

 Let me just say, it has been a strange time of attachment and letting go. We found as we packed that there were lots of things we could let go of. Things we loved, but somehow it felt right to give them up. Our collection of 40+ hedgehog figurines were lovingly boxed up and sent to St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital so they could sell them in their gift shop to raise money for animal welfare. Visit them here  to see all the good they do for animals. They even said some of our stuff might go in their hedgehog museum!!!  

We also gave up our rock and fossil collection. Really, if I am honest, it just collected dust. It was on top of a book shelf (one I had to stand on my tippy-toes to see) and so I rarely saw it (or dusted it) and we knew it could be better used elsewhere. We gave the rocks to my old school for their science cupboard and the fossils to one of my favourite students who used to drive me potty with his hyperactivity and his constant tapping and humming, but enchanted me with his deep thoughts and ability to take anything electrical apart and put it back together again. He also said funny things like “George the third is my favourite king of England because he went mad” but he couldn’t write the alphabet.

not actually our books, but it felt like that
We also weeded about a hundred books, which brought us down to about 573 books.

Yes that is brought it down to 573 books.

We still have a lot of books. 

We looked at things that we have loved, but were extremely fragile and decided they might not survive the move so we gave them away.

K-9 was adopted into to a very good home--the Doctor Who crazy daughter of a friend.

 We had a lovely wooden tree that we used to decorate with each season, changing the decorations with each solstice and equinox. It was so fragile that every move we had ever made within Hitchin we had asked a friend to drive it over so it wouldn’t get broken. That just wasn’t an option with this move. So we gave it away.

But don’t worry--I came up with a wonderful plan to have a similar but much more compact version that I will share with you soon! Plus some extra wonderful to ways to mark the seasonal changes. Stay tuned!

In the end we gave away dozens upon dozens of boxes to charity shops.

But there was still so much stuff.

So very much stuff.

 We like to think of ourselves as minimalists but clearly we are not. We may have a more minimalist lifestyle that most of our peers, but damn we have lots of stuff.

Lots of good stuff.

Art and books that feed our souls, but take up way too many boxes.

But we wouldn’t want to live without them.

We wouldn’t be us without them.

So I don’t mind.

Okay, peeps, that was the getting ready stage--stay tuned for the actual moving day!