Monday, March 29, 2010

Notes on living in a listed building

I live in a block of flats that is Grade 2 listed. This is because the estate we live on is of special architectural interest. This sounds posh, doesn't it...

When we first clapped eyes on our flat some nine years ago, it was love at first sight. We liked the estate from the exterior. When we were house hunting, we often drove down the street wondering what it was like to live here. Through a combination of factors (a broken collar-bone; a day off work to go to an anniversary party; a sale fallen through; the particulars of the flat posted to me when I happened to be at home to find them) we arranged a viewing and put an offer on the place within five minutes of walking into it.

This flat is extraordinary for a number of reasons that you don't really care about. I've loved living here. But there are snags.

When you're listed, there come a number of things that you need to be aware of and numerous rules to abide by. For example, if we wanted to install laminate flooring (we don't), the terms of the freehold prohibit it. If I wished to hang our laundry in front of our windows (I don't), the terms of the freehold prohibit it. The latter is one of the dafter rules in the book, but this gives you a flavour - there are many more.

Then there's the maintenance, which we pay a hefty quarterly charge for. We have soft wood window frames, which are a nightmare. Once every seven years we have our external window frames examined for rot and replaced by carpenters. This process is like pulling teeth. Broken glass, crappy paint jobs and a slapdash attitude prevails. The listing means that this estate is stuck with the soft wood, until the place falls into decay, presumably rotting from the window frames out. [I've not even touched upon the work that is needed on the interior window frames. Just the thought of that makes me break out in a cold sweat.]

Also - we have a flat roof. Freezing in the winter! Boiling in the summer! And likely to spring a leak just when you don't expect it!

A couple of people who live here love it to an obsessive degree, poring over the original architectural features and generally acting like unofficial curators. That's fine, it seems like a funny sort of hobby to me, but whatever floats your boat. My own view is that I'm not living in a museum. It's my bloody home, thanks.

This ramble leads me to make a statement of fact. I've enjoyed living in my place in the trees. It's gorgeous here in the spring and the autumn, especially when it's clean and tidy (rare). But we're both beginning to think about more space, and neither of us want to endure another winter here. So, the work begins to move on.

Monday, March 22, 2010

As birds we dream of the sky

Another weekend in Devon. Yesterday afternoon, I persuaded Mum that we should drive down to the coast for a bit of a look at the sea (with the proviso that we wouldn't get out of the car). She agreed, much to my amazement, so off we went.

We went to Exmouth, the nearest seaside town. It's a place that holds some fond memories for me, because I spent a lot of time there with friends and my ex while I was at college. We parked down at the far end, near the cliffs, and watched numerous dogs and children tearing about on the sand. We felt a little bit guilty, having left the Greatest Dog in the World at home, but I didn't fancy her trying to get under my feet/brake pedal while I was on the motorway. Next time I'll take an assistant with me who can put her in a headlock in the back. We ate ice creams and Mum wore JJ's wraparound driving sunglasses, and looked like an elderly female version of The Fly, which was momentarily strange.

I've been taking the Dog out for at least two walks a day, and I've been enjoying listening to the birds chirp and hop about. I think we're all longing for spring - two legs, four legs, winged and beaked alike.

My new regime is hard, which I was prepared for, but it has also made me realise how much time I've been wasting. It's clear that things won't be the same after this is all over, in more than one respect.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

It's just the same old show

I won't be the only person bemoaning the proposed closure of BBC 6Music on a blog or in tweets this week, so what I have to say here isn't particularly original or sparkling. But I feel it is worth writing about.

We bought a DAB radio back in 2006 with 6Music in mind, and in the main, it hasn't let us down*. I've spoken before about the amazing Adam and Joe show, which has provided plenty of laugh out loud moments while doing the chores on a Saturday morning. I'm not sure that I ever wrote on here about the incendiary Russell Brand Sunday morning show (before it moved to Radio 2, the rest is history), which used to reduce me to helpless tears of mirth week in, week out. I know he is an acquired taste, but by golly, that show really gave a glimpse into his mind. Of course, there's also Stuart Maconie's mighty Freak Zone, home of the esoteric ramblings of Professor Justin Spear.

Some are already starting to shout conspiracy about the leaking of the report and view that the suggested closure has been stage-managed specifically to increase listening figures for both 6 and the Asian Network. This is entirely possible. It does seem bizarre that two supposed "niche" stations which have no real commercial equivalents have been earmarked for closure.

Anyway, enough conspiracy theorising, back to real life.

This was the first week of my new part-time working regime. I used my first ever Monday off to have a budget facial at a student beauty salon (which doesn't sound so good, but I can assure you was fantastic. It was advertised as relaxing, and it was - I came out of the salon feeling more chilled than I'd been in an age). From there I went to the van Gogh exhibition, which was good, but impossibly crowded. A mooch about the West End later, I met up with JJ and Mrs Hall (followed later by Mr Hall) and we had a chat over some food. Splendid.

Back to Devon tomorrow to look after Mum, this time via the medium of trains. I wish myself luck!

* I should qualify that statement with two words: George Lamb.