Steve n Jen's UK adventures

UK and European adventures. Read on my pretties, and discover what two stray Aussies can get up to on their travels.......

17 July 2007

Jul 2007 a

A word of warning - there are truckloads of photos in this fortnight's blog.....

Sun 01 July 2007
This afternoon Jen decided to go for a walk along the "greenway" which is a glorified, raised pedestrian/cycleway through Stratford and nearby suburbs. The greenway will be used for locals to walk and cycle to the Olympics in 2012. It also has powerlines all along it, and is the main sewerage pipe for much of London.

Above left: what the greenway looks like. Above right: a view from along the Greenway.

Mon 02 July 2007
After work we met up with another ex-pat Aussie. This time an old work colleague of Jen's. Bonnie and her fiance Steve met up in the Shakespeare's head pub (well really you can't go past the cheap food and central location) which is now entirely smoke-free! Yay! Bonnie and Steve have moved to the UK for a year, and were glad for some friendly advice on how to survive London.

Tue 03 July 2007
Found out today that there's another offer on the house we'd like, but our offer is higher. However apparently their offer was made some while ago and they're expecting to sign a contract/exchange ownership on the house this week. If the contract isn't signed this week then we're "in with a chance". I wish we'd been told it was just a waste of our time to begin with.
After work, Jen views another house. Not impressed at all.

Above: the garden path that literally leads to a wall, and the kitchen that is so tiny it could only be shot from outside.
Below: the bathroom; and the second bedroom which should be a walk-in wardrobe really.

Thu 05 July 2007
Found out this morning the contract was signed - so must keep on looking for more houses. So, after work, Jen visited all the local estate agencies to 'register' with them.
But during her work day she enjoyed a tour of the future work premises which will be finished around Easter 2008. Here's Jen and some of her zany work colleagues.

Fri 06 July 2007
A stroke of luck!!!
One of the estate agencies we registered with is the one selling the house we're in. This morning we heard from our landlord for the first time. He mentioned that he'd almost sold the house but the buyer had pulled out, opting for a larger home instead. The result being, he asked us to stay longer if we like - using one month leases until either party wants to opt out. What a reprieve!

After work we hopped on the tube and were at London City Airport 20 minutes later. Our plane was tiny and had 6-bladed propellers! Arrived in Edinburgh and were picked up and driven to site, about an hour north. Arrived on-site at Nine Acres scout camp around midnight and Jen promptly fell into the provided bed. Steve stayed up a little later to socialise around the campfire.

Sat 07 July 2007
This event if called "Battle of the Heart" here in sunny, windy Scotland. A relaxed event, some archery, foot combat, swimming for the brave, dancing and music, and later relaxing around the fire.

Above: what a lovely event site it is with a few streams meandering throughout.
Below: a new kind of "joust" we'd never before seen, and some fabulous music.

Sun 08 July 2007
A relaxed morning, and a trip to see the local Bed and Breakfast. The host gave us a wonderful tour of his castle and grounds!!! We would have stayed here except they only have 1 room and were already booked for the weekend. The host was happy to play tour guide and might be amenable to future events on his large estate. Oh and there were a dozen peacocks roaming about the place too!

Above: yes that's Steve in the purple number.
Below: The host showed us his fish stock
Bottom: the medieval dovecott which was home to messenger pigeons.

More about this very affordable, lovely B&B:

Mon 09 July 2007
Made a concerted effort tonight to troll the internet - gathering a list of homes for sale, to enquire about during lunch hour tomorrow. So many of them say "sold"! Why don't they take those off the website?

Tue 10 July 2007
Phoned up about all the homes - apparently they're all already sold or have an offer on them. All of them. And these were the ones that didn't say sold, or under offer on the websites. Crazy! So, Jen visited the more friendly/professional estate agencies to remind (nag) them we're still looking, and to keep us fresh in their minds.
Also managed to secure a viewing of an intersting house, for Thursday lunchtime.

Wed 11 July 2007
During lunch Jen purchased movie tickets for tomorrow....

Thu 12 July 2007
During lunch, Jen views a "bungalow" which is to say, a one-level house. A real rarity for these parts. Problem is, it looks great from the outside but not so good inside - for the price they're asking!!! Plus, there would surely be security issues behind the house. The shed is away from the back fence so people can't jump down into the backyard from the road above.

After work, we saw the new Harry Potter movie! (opening night in the UK) It was wonderful! We really liked seeing the flying scenes over the Thames and through the bridges, and thinking "that's where we live!"

Fri 13 July 2007
Jen saw another property today but was stood up, so didn't get to see inside. Oh well, they're obviously not interested enough in selling the place.
After work we did the "Museum and Beer" gathering with our London SCA pals. This time we visited the National Portrait Gallery - yet another free gallery! Afterward we were lucky to get a table for 15 in a nearby pub!

Sat 14 July 2007
In the morning, more house viewing!

Above: the first house was nice but the area felt really scary and unsafe.
Below: the second house has a good location (its only the left half of this "house"). The two rooms aren't as big as we'd like, but its a nice place. The asking price, we felt, was too high for what was on offer so we decided against this place.

Above: the third house had scary carpet, and also the smallest rooms.
Below: the fourth house we visited was looking OK until we realised the shower was designed for midgets. Didn't help that the ceiling curved down over the bath and Steve's head was literally craned against the ceiling.

In the afternoon, Jen was the Stand Manager for her work stall at a suburban fair. Steve was a helpful ring-in, and besides, Jen really appreciates his company!

Jen looks red because of the red tent roof.

Sun 15 July 2007
Today Bonnie and Steve visited, so Bonnie can play with a Mac computer, since that's the dominant platform for Designers in the UK. (ie, very useful for her future employ).
Bonnie is an old work colleague of Jen's, from Brisbane, and she's living in London for up to a year.

Mon 16 July 2007
Jen started work early (to finish early) and view three more houses.

House number one:
The renovator's dream. Looks like a regular townhouse, but really run down. It would need lots and lots of work! However, it is bursting with charm, is offered at a so-called "bargain price", and has four bedrooms and two bathrooms! The stairs just go up and up.

House number two:
The good location, nice house, ready to move in. Could do with a little redecorating but otherwise OK. Has two toilets - a bonus. Strangely though, it has a bath/shower plus a shower cubicle both in the upstairs bathroom. Didn't take photos as the estate agent never turned up, but the tenant was kind enough to let Jen inside anyway.

House number three:
A poor to OK neighbourhood. Its the area that lets this house down. The house itself is completely renovated to perfection! Its the mirror image of our current place but with two equal sized bedrooms, so has a little more space. The only thing we might consider doing would be a loft conversion for a little extra space, but that could be done much later on.

So, having consulted the house prices over the past two years in these three roads, we've come up with what we feel are reasonable prices, and will put offers on all three properties! We'll see what fate brings our way......

01 July 2007

Jun 2007 b

Sat 16 June 2007
Today we visited Vitus' place (which is very near Hampton Court Palace) with Dan and Elizabeth, for a BBQ.
He has a lovely place with a large garden chess set in the back yard. Jen played against Steve, who defeated her (no surprise there) then Dan and Vitus battled it out in two games, winning one game each. There was still plenty of light at 9:30pm!

Sun 17 June 2007
Today we did more "reign" paperwork... including writing our monthly column for the 'Dragon's Tale' newsletter.

Mon 18 June 2007
Back to work. Looking at our financial position, for whether we can afford to buy a house. Looking at prices, looking at mortgages, getting advice from work colleagues...

Fri 22 June 2007
At work, Jen got a 'tour' of the 2012 Olympic building site, from a spectacular vantage point (so, no walking about). The view here has us looking west toward the city.

A= Stratford tube station (just out of the picture)
B= The new international train station (to Paris)
C= Some more buildings to be knocked down

The new international station will be opening late 2008 apparently. We had previously thought it was opening this year. Oh well.
Jen learned its expected much of the Stratford area will be dusty for months, as one huge construction site, with up to 40 lorry trucks a day in and out of the area - so noisy too. There may be a large transitory population of mostly male construction workers; and with that, 'red-light' businesses are preparing to move in. So perhaps moving out of Stratford isn't such a bad idea! Cheaper too!

Sat 23 June 2007
We go to the 'War of the Roses' event outside of Cambridge. (which is just a cool name for an event rather than actually being on one of the known battle sites)

Above: Steve cuts an impressively royal figure in purple and ermine.
Below: Clancy was generous with his time and money and made (with the help of his sons) a pair of Kingdom thrones for our use. The rondel in the centre was made ages ago by Duke Sir Garrick, a past local member.

Above: Some of the the spectators prepare for an archery shoot
Below: the fighters. From left: Clancy in maroon, front row: Daffyd, Sigmundr, Thurstan, Poul. Back row from left: Alan, Lutr, Vitus, Alaric, and Dean.

One of the scenarios involved a maze with paths of mown grass. Hidden in the maze was a fleece (a sheepskin rug rolled and tied) hanging from a tree. If the fighters leave the path they are 'dead' and must make their way back through the maze to a 'resurrection' point, and continue to search. Clancy, (who had mown the paths) played the Minotaur and tried to get people off the path or otherwise defeat them. He didn't have to stay to the paths, so he leapt out and attacked the teams at different stages. All good fun!

Sun 24 June 2007
Had a leisurely time helping others with packing up camp (we had stayed overnight with Ross and Sarah in their nearby home) and headed back home, to spend some time shopping around for houses.

Mon 25 June 2007
Jen gets paid. Feeling more prepared for our house deposit. Jen arranges to view a house for tomorrow.

Tue 26 June 2007
After work Jen views a house....
Below: its the house with lady opening the front door for us.

Above: one of two bedrooms
Below: the other people viewing the house with us - showing how the top of the stairs (between the two rooms) finishes with a step between the rooms. Crazy!

Above: the other viewers in the back yard (from the second bedroom) note how the entire backyard is divided up.
Below: the kitchen

Above: the "bath"-room (with hand basin behind the door)

The advantages: - great location - 2 good sized bedrooms and kitchen good size - little storage shed out the back
The disadvantages - asking price of £225,000 - looks to be currently inhabited which could mean waiting a long time before the owner has bought a new place - the bath has one hot tap and a cold tap, and no shower!!! - we'd need to buy an oven+stove top as well as the usual other white goods - the boiler is in one of the bedrooms! - loads of cosmetic work needed, such as painting everything, replacing or dying all the carpets, major work clearing the amateur concrete job and brick fencing in the back yard - getting rid of the garden gnome mecca.

Suffice to say Jen didn't feel the need to put an offer on the place.

Wed 27 June 2007
We have a new prime minister here.

Jen visited Abbey bank to get a "mortgage agreed in principle". This turned out to be a good idea - since when she made an offer on a house (for the first time ever) they really took notice! Those without a house to sell are much more attractive clients.
So, here's the house we did put an offer on.

Above: (left) looking back at the front entrance (right) continuing through the lounge into the kitchen
Below: the kitchen, which has an oven and cooker (and a space for washer) the lime green is a bit stronger than we like but we could live with it.

Above: the kitchen leads on to the back yard. Here's the back of the house
Below: and here's the back yard

Above: Hurrah for built-ins! The main bedroom.

The advantages:
- £219,995 asking price, cheaper than the other place - vacant, less of a wait to move in - more storage space - is in great decorative order - there is nothing that needs to be done to the place, except fixing the damaged bit above the front porch - perfect location - spacious kitchen and rear garden - storage shed - the place is vacant already
The disadvantages: the lounge and second bedroom aren't as large as we would have liked.

Fri 29 June 2007
Steve gets paid - hurrah. Found out that the house we want was repossessed, so is being sold by a bank!

Sat 30 June 2007
We drove to Holmbury St Mary, south of London, for the 'Summer Tourney' event. It rained and rained (traditional for a summer event!) so it was fortunate the tourney could be held inside the hall. Ooops! We forgot to bring the camera.

We introduced Tierce (a "tag, you're it" running game) to everyone - great fun! Gave out the Kingdom service award to Dan (don't like to give awards to our friends, but we'd received a number of impressive recommendations for him) and also Raphe, the kingdom Chronicler (and the event cook) who was also well deserving. A bit astonished actually there was only one other recipient of the award at the event.

There were 8 fighters for the tourney, and although it was a small event, it was really excellent! The feast was very fine indeed.

Sun 01 July 2007
Smoking is now banned in UK pubs and all public enclosed places!!!!!
It has been so disgusting to see people smoking in the local shopping centre and cafes, so we're relieved its banned now!

We expect to find out if our offer on the house is accepted, sometime midweek.
We don't recommend trying to buy a house while reigning either - the stress does add up.

Next weekend we'll be at an event north of Edinburgh!