Thursday, 26 June 2008

Trash and mortgages

When we were enjoying ourselves in Sweden and Copenhagen two weeks ago we managed to miss bin day. As a result our rubbish, some of which is now over three weeks old, is starting to get quite mature. SO mature, in fact, that the smell hit me today as soon as I started down our drive and a cloud of flies is massing near the back door. I dont envy the dustmen when they return next Tuesday...

And now the mandatory house update: We got a letter from Nationwide yesterday confirming that our mortgage has been approved. Precious little to do now except wait.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Visiting Isabelle (again!) plus house update

I'm still totally over the moon about my new niece, Isabelle. We went back to Bristol for the day yesterday to see the family and get a good bit of cuddling time with Is. As far as I can see she still sleeps almost constantly, though I'm reliably informed that she's very active from about 1am onwards which she seems to have decided is the start of her day. I took the opportunity to snap a few more portraits.

Regular readers will note the change in photo hosting site above. After a couple of weeks playing with Google pictures (aka Picassa) I've come to the conclusion that the UI is ugly, the features limited and the uploader downright painful (Picassa is great if you want a whole photo editing and organisation suite and enjoy having your hard drive scanned, not so good if you already use Lightroom). After a bit of shopping around I've settled on 23, a small outfit based in Copenhagen who have a really slick and attractive UI plus nice features like a calendar view. They are free for up to 30 uploads a month or £16/year for an unlimited account. We'll see how they go...

And now the promised house update. The survey is now complete and didn't throw up any major issues, and the mortgage should come through next week. Our next decision regards when we give notice on our current place - wait until exchange, but then have a two month gap before completion, or put notice in now and risk having no-where to live if everything falls through...

Sunday, 15 June 2008

On vacation in Sweden

We're in Sweden, visiting Mattias, Jenny and Harry and meeting Sally for the first time. Sally is a five month old Bernese mountain dog, almost up to my knees but still a big clumsy puppy. She's not really into playing fetch but seems to love nothing so much as licking and chewing anything that comes into range (me, for example).

We've been subsisting mostly on barbeques, walks on the beach and football, but we're getting by! Shame Sweden couldn't hold Spain to a draw last night, but you can't have everything.

I've posted some pictures up to Picassa, mostly of Harry and Sally.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Off to Sweden

I'm taking a quick break from packing - off to Sweden tomorrow for a long weekend on the beach. That and a bit of football watching (Sweden play Spain on Saturday, cant miss that). Fingers crossed for good weather - apparently the sea is about 20'C...

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Progress on the mortgage

After a bit of badgering yesterday, Nationwide have ground into life. As you'd expect, awakening the beast was a bit of a battle. Dialling the number on their website eventually got me through to a mortgage call center in Swindon. A couple of minutes discussion established that this call center only dealt with "direct" mortgages and that I needed to talk to another call center entirely for an on-line application (oh what a fool I am).

So, I call the new number (I cant be transferred, obviously, and no the number isnt on their website) and get an automated answer as follows:

"Welcome to the Nationwide on-line mortgage call center. Please select an option from 1-4 as follows:
1) Mortgage team 1
2) Mortgage team 2
3) Team 3
4) Team 4"

There's nothing like a clear customer interface, eh :-)

I decided to go with team 1 (why not!) and got through to the Northampton call center where I found out that despite mortgage applications being down by 50% industry-wide they were snowed under with work and doing overtime to deal with the backlog. After a bit of wangling I managed to jump to the top of the pile and get my application assigned.

As of this morning they've sent me some emails, the survey should be happening today, and we have documents in the post that we'll need to sign. Its nice to see something happening on this front - gives me a feeling that we're making progress.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Sunday lunch at Hugo's

After visiting Isabelle on Saturday, Sunday morning we high-tailed it back down the M4 to London for lunch in Queen's Park. The venue was Hugo's and the reason was to meet up with friends.

Lovisa was visiting from Sweden with Sofia (right), and this naturally called for a minor convening of the Swedish mafia. The girls seemed to have a great time (so far as I could tell - it was all in Swedish) and Jon and I had fun with the kids; I'm now something of an expert on "Puppy in my pocket" (warning: link contains dangerous levels of girlie pinkness).

Hugo's was great for taking some photo's - lots of sunlight pouring in and maroon walls providing a colourful backdrop. Cute kids helped too! I've posted my pick of the photos up to Picasa.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Been to see Isabelle

Went back to Bristol on Saturday to meet my brand new niece and to see how the family were doing. Isabelle seems to be settling in well, sleeping whenever she's not hungry and generally having the world revolve around her. She's a gorgeous little thing, and I cant wait until she's old enough to do anything except just lie there and sleep.

Jane and James are bearing up really well - I was impressed how bright and hostly they were considering the tiny amount of sleep they've had this week! I've been trying to persuade them to start a blog so we can keep track of them all, but no luck yet...

I've posted a little album of photos from our visit up on Picassa (as an experiment - I'm considering using Picassa from family / friends albums and Flickr for "arty" photography).

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

I'm an uncle!

In other news, Isabel (or possibly Isabelle - there doesnt seem to be clarity on the issue) Watson popped into the world early yesterday morning. I cant wait to go visit my new niece at the weekend - photos to follow, I'm sure...

The mortgage cometh

The house purchase rolls forward. We've appointed our solicitor (Hart Brown) and also secured a mortgage (3 year fixed @ 6.25%, with Nationwide).

The mortgage was a bit of a struggle: we sat down with our mortgage broker for 2 hours Monday evening, went through the options, picked one and filled in all the forms (and boy were there forms). He submitted that the next morning only to find that Nationwide had upped their rates by 0.3% overnight and our selected mortgage no longer existed. Joy! After some shopping round I found that Nationwide still had a good rate if I cut out the broker and went direct - it's 6.25% instead of 6.05%, but sadly that's as good as we can get. So, one disappointed broker later and after re-entering the data for all the forms (joy) we've got the application in and been approved. So hopefully that's one down (what could possibly go wrong?).

Next I have a bunch of forms from the solicitor to fill in...

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The paintings have arrived

Our paintings arrived today, courtesy of Rob and Iz who met up with Laurie last night. We've wasted no time in finding them temporary homes in the dining room so that we can show them off to all and sundry...

Next we have to decide where their permanent homes will be post-move, and whether they need framing. That and pay Laurie for them, of course (thanks for the credit!).

We're buying a house!

Kristin got an extra special birthday present Friday when the estate agent phoned to say that, against all the odds, our offer had actually been accepted on number 13. All of a sudden it seems we're buying a house!

Panic set in Saturday morning: Can we afford it? Will we fit everything in? Will the sale actually go through? Its all quite exciting :-)

After lunch we spent an hour making friends with the sellers (the Fletchers) and exchanging contact details. This should help build trust for the sale process and is particularly important as they're only moving across the road so they'll be our new neighbours..

We also met the people the Fletchers are buying their next house from (the one across the road). As it turns out the house is being cleared and they're trying to get rid of a piano they dont want. They were very keen for it to stay local and be loved and were very happy when we offered to adopt it. No idea how we'll get it across the road but its all good - not just a new house but an antique piano too. A new era dawns... now we just need a solicitor and a mortgage.