On… being married

Ok, so I’ve been through another slack period as a blogger. Something about living life rather than writing about it, or more likely too lazy to put a few words through a keyboard.

One of the more significant things I did over the past six months was to get married. We’d been planning it for a while, getting the money together to go out to New Orleans to do it as an elopement. We asked a friend each to come with us, and stayed in a really cool house off Esplanade for a week. Hen/Stag was a night out around Bourbon Street, which would be totally crazy at peak times but in late May was just busy.

The wedding itself was cool – nice and relaxed at the French Quarter Wedding Chapel. It was only when having lunch afterwards that we let people know what we’d done – sending pics out. Luckily my folks were pretty cool about it (I think they’d have loved to do something similar when they got married). The next day, a Saturday, saw me and my mate Darren go off to drink and watch two footie games – the Champions League final in an Irish bar, and then to watch New Orleans Jesters play a fourth tier match against Knoxville Force – while Jas and Sonya went shopping. How quickly we became a stereotype!

We did have a party a couple of months later for family and friends, so people did get to see Jas in her dress (and me in a suit). Our first dance was Jump Around by House of Pain and we ended up with Fairytale of New York.

Over three months on, it’s still a bit weird to be married. We’ve been together for about 12 years, and lived together for all of that apart from two year-long periods when we had to long-distance it. So it’s not like we don’t know each other. The weird thing is that it doesn’t feel that different to be married. Remembering to say ‘wife’ instead of ‘girlfriend’ is getting easier, though.

A million quid?

So the latest plans for pedestrianising the centre of Rugby are out – as reported by the Rugby Advertiser.

For a cost of £1million, we would get…

  • The bit of Church Street and North Street between Regent Street and Chestnut Field will become a bus & taxi only lane during the daytime
  • A slightly larger ‘civic space’ around the Clock Tower

And that’s it. The picture that has been released and shown in the Advertiser site only shows the change in a little part at the top, with the most prominent part being the already pedestrianised area to the south of the Clock Tower (shown empty but will presumably still be used for the Market).

It is not a pedestrianisation if buses and taxis still go along the road.

It is about 150 yards long, meaning the cost is over £6,500 per yard, which is more that the bypass cost even after the delays and overspend.

It will shift traffic into Park Road, Regent Place and Albert Street, and affect roads all around the town centre which are already congested at peak times.

It will make it harder to get to the car parking around the town.

There are ways that the town centre could be made more attractive, and to link the ‘Independent Quarter’ to the north of Church Street with the rest of the town centre for pedestrians. What about these?

  • Pedestrianise between Regent Street and Albert Street, creating a square in front of St. Andrews Church.
  • A proper set of bus stops or (radical!) a bus ‘station’ in the town would help.
  • Perhaps not easing through more out-of-town development with the Debenhams at Elliots Field which will suck custom away from the ‘Independent Quarter’ boutique-y shops

Saturday entertainment

Which is the most embarrassing celeb-heavy ‘game-show’ put on by the BBC on a Saturday night?

It’s a tough one. “That Puppet Game Show” is like the Muppets with all of the jokes and interesting characters removed (using extreme force) and replaced with the most pointless games imaginable – Punching out lights on a jumpsuit? Grabbing hot-dogs in musical order? Then there was the excruciating banter.

But “I Love My Country” is serious competition. A house band led by Jamelia, who are more painful than Glen Ponder and ‘Chalet’ ever were. Equally pointless games – Hangman with additional pork-pie-on-a-map, for criminy’s sake! And that wheel thing at the end. It’s enough to provoke treason if this is how you are supposed to ‘love’ your country.

I know that ITV have put out some absolute shockers (Red or Black being the most expensive waste of everyone’s time to date), and generally the trend nowadays is to make Saturday nights on TV so atrocious and so celeb-laden, but what are the people commissioning this dross thinking?

I can’t believe I’m actually reminiscing with fondness about Total Wipeout.

To those who may have noticed this post after a huge long gap, well, sorry, I’ve been a bit busy. Since I last posted I got married and changed employer while supervising the selection process for Labour’s Parliamentary candidate in Rugby for 2015, and also started getting a little more serious about my hobbies of running and gaming. Sorry to break my silence with a moan, but it’s the most annoying thing today – more than the breaking of two garden forks or the discovery of a leak from the bath overflow.

Turning the lights out

In my last post about Fraser Pithie’s bid to be elected as Police and Crime Commissioner, I mentioned street lighting plans.

What is happening is that the County Council has announced that they intend to switch off 80% of their street lights in the hours between midnight and 5:30am from April next year.

While there is an ‘engagement’ exercise requesting feedback, that decision has already been made – the question is which ones are affected (or rather, which ones are left on). There are criteria set out, but the real problem is that these are based on a need to move the vast majority of lights to part time.

So, for example under the current plans the Southfields estate in Rugby, where I used to live, will have no street lights on at all after midnight.

The County Council pages going into the detail are here, and there’s a google map showing all of the County Council lights that are covered that will show you how your street is affected.

Still not blogging much

It’s all go here still, as we try to get the new house ready for us to move some stuff into it. Back to work this week as well, which slows things down a bit.

Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve been given links to two blogs today by people who think I may be interested.

First up is one from my alma mater Manchester University – Whitehall Watch. A post from last week about the implications of localism and the government programme of cuts left me nodding along and wondering how many Tory and Lib Dem councillors are going to get thrown out on the back of them.

Secondly is one from my home town of Crawley – Pete Lamb. He’s a councillor for Northgate Ward, which only a couple of years ago was a Lib Dem stronghold and now has seen Labour winning both seats. He must be a decent bloke as his middle name is Keir (as is mine).

Finally!

I started this version of my blog because I had moved up to Rugby from Crawley. The process of moving across from the old one took about a day to finish. If only moving home were so simple.

At the end of 2008 I found myself needing to find a new role at work, after the customer I was working at decided to outsource the bulk of their IT function to Tata. Even though the banking crisis meant a lot of the likely customers were not looking to expand (I have been generally working for financial services companies for 15 years, and it’s not easy to move to other sectors), my company found me a role based at Northampton starting in Jan 2009. Jas and I decided fairly early on that we liked Rugby as a place to live for loads of reasons, so I came up here and rented a place.

Then followed a period of about a year when we had to wait until Jas could get work locally – that was where the recession really hit us. Luckily we were able to rent out our house down south which helped with the costs, and in doing so we helped out a friend with a cheap place to live and a decent landlord.

Jas could move up here in Feb 2010 as she did get a transfer with her company, and into a position with more responsibility at a place a few miles away. So all we had to do then was to sell up in Crawley and buy a place of our own in Rugby.

Putting the house on the market in March was fine, but within weeks it was clear that it was going to be a long slog. We had few viewers and the price had to be brought down in stages. The new government invalidated the HIP I paid about £400 for as well, which didn’t make me any more kindly disposed towards the Tories or their yellow lapdogs. We finally got a buyer in August and as things moved on, were able to start looking around. We put an offer in, and then a little chain built up around us.

Everything was going along fine until it just before the expected exchange of contracts. It transpired that my buyer didn’t actually have a deposit, and when his bank found out, they refused the mortgage. My house went back on the market, but in the meantime there was some frantic activity as some of us in the chain tried to see if we could help by buyer out. We couldn’t, but luckily everyone was able to wait, and most of them were patient.

In October I got new buyers, who were keen first timer buyers and had a definite deposit. It seemed that we could still get everything sorted by Christmas. Unfortunately, they had a problem getting a solicitor, and in the end the one they were forced to use turned out to be useless. My buyers had given notice on the place they were renting (which was risky) and so we had to kick their lawyers into gear to get everything done by Fri 14 Jan. Any later and they’d have been homeless. Somehow everything got done in the days leading up to it, and I temporarily was mortgage free and with a big lump sum in my name. Of course, that was mostly used to get the place we were buying.

That all completed last Friday (21st). It has been a long and at times frustrating process, but we are now looking up the home straight.

The new place needs a lot of work, but the last few days have seen us make a great start. The previous owners had not done much to the place and the decor in most rooms was a bit dated. I say ‘was’ because it isn’t there any more after 3 days.

We’ve stripped most of the wallpaper, and all of the polystyrene coving & ceiling tiles. That revealed a lot of crumbly and cracked plaster, so a plasterer will be coming in to start on the walls next week. The carpets are all pretty dilapidated, so we’ve taken most of them up and luckily the floors are pretty good. The kitchen units are at the end of their days, so we’ve started on getting quotes for having a new kitchen installed.  There was some odd shelf unit built into the lounge and a fitted wardrobe in one bedroom, so we’ve ripped them out.

The best job was done today: A gas fitter came round to disconnect an old gas fire in the living room. Half an hour later, thanks to a sledgehammer, the huge ugly tiled fireplace was out. There is not much that is quite as satisfying as when you have shoved couple of large lumps of concrete out of the way.

S Frica

At the weekend I watched District 9, the South African science-fiction film. In one way, it’s a rollicking action film, with a feel not too far away from Children of Men – automatic weapons battles being followed by hand-held cameras. In another way, it deals with massive issues like xenophobia and inhumane treatment (err, a bit like Children of Men). Being South African, and being about a situation where a large number of aliens are living in a shanty town with few rights and to the disgust of the humans around them, it has clear parallels to apartheid. It also touches on the more recent problems with violence towards and between refugees and immigrants from other African countries. There’s one glaring issue with the plot (spoiler alert)  Read the rest of this entry »