Things may get less quiet around here.

Or more quiet. Who can say.

We’re looking at a house. We’ve had an offer accepted, but the survey (inspection) revealed some significant concerns. Well, really one significant concern that breaks down into a number of significant minor concerns.

Tomorrow, or possibly Tuesday, we go back to the sellers with our “fix these things” offer – and we’ll see if they’re happy to accept it.

If we get it, there’s actually a fair bit of work there. The electrics need updating, although that wasn’t obvious before hand, there’s some decorative work, and it needs a new bathroom. This is certainly no-where near the level we were at with the Bristol house, but it should be enough to keep me entertained through the summer.

The other news is that I’m planning to change job. Back to nursing again. Not full time though.

Hopefully I’ll get back to feeling a bit more like myself, and a bit less like I’m wanting to weep through each day. I clearly am feeling a bit more like myself, because we went into a bookshop today (just B&N), and I ended up walking out with books and feeling pretty excited about some other ones that I didn’t end up getting.

This is a feeling that I’ve really missed. Excitement about things.

I’m not exactly sure what our future holds at the moment. We’re both pretty wrung out. But at least I’m feeling more like there is some future.

Plodding along

Life continues to trundle along, and we keep hunting houses. We’ve been to see virtually every house in our price range, I think. There’s one that has some potential but is insanely overpriced. There are a bunch we’ve discounted for a variety of reasons. I’m still sad that we didn’t get the one we offered on first, or the one that we visited before we were in a position to make an offer… because everything since then has felt like much more of a compromise.

Today we looked at an entertaining one which we were quite excited about until we discovered that the pricing seems to be for an imaginary third bedroom. We were thinking maybe the area was worth more than we’d realised, but looking at prices of things sold around there, no, the price is for a 3 bedroom house. It does have a 3/4ths height finished attic space above the garage – which is, I we think, what they’re calling the third bedroom.

But it’s not permitted, nor is the forced air heating system with the slightly suspect ‘furnace in a cupboard in the lounge’ design. Which is a shame, because the lot is really lovely, and there’s quite a lot of potential there.

The house hunt has been painfully depressing, really. Possibly would be less so if work wasn’t quite so tough. But work has continued to be a real struggle for me. I’m hoping that things might change on that front, but that’s really a fingers crossed affair, rather than a definite at the moment. So, well, that’s where we’re at.

Hence the quiescence on the blogging front.

Well, hrm

So today we looked at houses. I’d say we looked at 3 houses, but one of them was in such poor condition that it was more a stack of rotting timber with bits of rust holding them together. I kind of wanted to see inside, but sadly the code didn’t work on the door. It was built, I think, in the 1930s, and built appaulingly. No foundations, just wood directly onto brick / concrete piers. No obvious dampproofing to protect the wood. Just plonked atop. The whole thing looked like sneezing wrong might cause it to fall over. Indeed, I was slightly concerned that opening the front door, had the code worked, might have made it so structurally unsound it fell.

House 3, now that wasn’t great either. It’s been on the market for a long time – and when we went in it was apparent why. It is a dingy, smelly house. It had some things that we thought might be worth looking at in the photos – mainly hardwood floors. However, when we got there the overwhelming smell of smoke, and the fact they’d clearly had pets, and pets had clearly had incidents involving the floors… that wasn’t so great.

Now, house number 2. House number 2 is upsetting. It’s possibly slightly overpriced, in an optimistic way. It’s a 1950’s rambler, but manages to be a rambler that we actually like. It has underfloor heating in the main areas of the house… which is pretty f’kin nifty. And it’s in a not unpleasant area. Rather closer to I-5 than we’d like, but actually by the time we’d been there half an hour, the white-noise of the cars had disappeared (to us).

It’s clean and very out of date, which is the kind of thing we do. Irritatingly, had we seen it before we bought the land, and intended to buy a house (rather than land) this all would have been insanely easy.

As it is we have the complexity of: Well, we can afford it with a mortgage, but then what do we do about the land, because if we buy a house and use all of our money to reno’ it, we’re unable to develop the land. And we’re certainly unable to build on the land. And well, we might be able to get a construction loan, but the county have encouraged us to get a well on the land as soon as possible, because the well-rules are going to change…

…only that means getting a permit, and we have no timeline for permitting.

…which leads us back into a circle.

Part of the problem is at some point Rebecca will be returning to the fold*, and we have nowhere to store another car. Which means that our rental situation which has up until now been really quite pleasant (although currently seeming to be an entirely ant-related insanity place), won’t work out in the long term. Also, we’re paying someone else’s mortgage and that always makes me feel a bit grumpy. Even when the person is nice.

Of course, there is no good solution to this, which is part of what’s so pissy. The county have left us in an impossibly shit place, and seem unwilling to concede any wrongdoing. And here we are trying to work out what’s for the best. And I have no clue.

*hopefully, although I every time I ring, the person trying to source me a diff in England despairs slightly more, because he’s paid for 2 diffs, neither of which has arrived.

Our odyssey continues unabated

So, as I’m sure you’re all dying to know how our Bokashi odyssey is progressing. Given the state of the world, our ability to compost left over veg trimmings and off food is clearly something of vital importance.

So, one of the things with Bokashi is that the veg left overs need to be chopped up. There are devices like this:

Hand-cranked-veg-chopper

Which you can use to chop up the veg – but I* didn’t want to fork out the extra for one of them so at the moment we’re manually chopping up all the veg off-cuts. Normally our recipes have a fair bit of veg in – this about 2/3rd of the off-cuts from one of our larger dishes…

IMG_20170114_194326

As you might imagine this adds some time to our preparation. However, although the little compost bin – the countertop one we use to hold veg so we have sufficient to “make a layer” does smell sometimes (with the lid off, it’s fine with the lid on – it has a charcoal filter :) ) – the other bin so far is fine. When you take the lid off it smells a bit fermenty, but with the lid on nary a thing. And the fermenty smell isn’t bad. I wouldn’t want the entire house to smell of it, but it’s fine for a few minutes while we chuck the veg in and squidge it down.

These are the Bokashi bins:

IMG_20170116_175017

We have two, because you seal one up to ferment for two weeks or so, once it’s full. We’ve about 2/3rds filled one of them – in about a week and a half. So it should work okay for us…

Addressing the state of the world issue – I’m feeling more and more pressing need to do every-single-thing we can to reduce our impact. We’ve realised that we can compost the paper towel we use (I have tedious allergies, still, so finding something to do with all those tissues is handy), composting has reduced our ‘landfill’ waste by about half. And I’m continuing my quest to work out a way to substitute our insight for a fully electric vehicle.

We keep trying for some political engagement, but at times it’s insanely overwhelming. On top of which, work still demands nearly all the time that exists. So self care has become of significant importance… so well, yes, that’s where we are.

* This was my idea and it was meant to arrive around Christmas, as a sort of “I’ve got this for both of us” gift – but…it arrived late. To be fair, I ordered it very late.

Soooooo…. yeah.

I applied for this job a little while back. I didn’t really think I had much of a shot at it, and I had been on nights so it wasn’t my best application ever. I ended up hurled the application together, and submitted it when I was barely happy with it because I really wanted a shot at it — but they were already interviewing and I didn’t dare leave it any longer.

…then I got invited for an interview.

…and I thought “well, there’s no way I’ll get this”, so I was (for me) relaxed. I even slept some last night. But I actually quite enjoyed the interview, relatively speaking, and had answers I was happy with for most of the questions. And the teaching session I had to do seemed to go well.

…and I came home and thought “well, I did okay. I did not make an arse (nor an ass) of myself”. Thought I’d pop off an e-mail saying thanks (as is the custom here) and then wait a couple of weeks for the answer…

…but I just found out I’ve been invited for a second interview. Which is fantastic, and terrifying, because it means I actually do have a shot at this, which makes it much more terrifying. But also fantastic, because I’d really enjoy it, and it’s kind of the combination of lots of threads through my nursing career.

So that’s pretty unexpected. And scary. And cool. And so on.

Today has been less positive than hoped

We spent some time talking to the strawbale architect consultant about building today, and the price for the timber frame alone is prohibitive, and startling given the costs we’d seen for kit-built-post-and-beam houses.

Some of the cost assumptions we can tweak, because we’re happy to do things like using used components as long as they meet current requirements. Both houses we’ve had had salvage bathroom components, and electrical I’ve discovered that Habitat for Humanity have big plastic boxes filled with sockets and light switches, some of which are clearly nearly new.

Also, our requirements for the kitchen are ‘it has a sink, stove and fridge’, we can “finish” it later. Indeed, the entire house, our finishing requirements are that the walls are plastered, and the electrics are in.

Anyhow, at the moment we’ve gone from excited to ‘trying to figure out some way to make this happen at all’.

Abroadland

I didn’t think that moving to the US was going to be transformative in many ways. I mean, you take yourself with you wherever you go, and that broadly means taking your problems with you. There were some things I hoped it would change for the better. The destruction of the NHS, for example, is now distant enough that I feel sad about it, but I don’t feel the screaming despair. And I get home from my nursing shifts tired, not completely exhausted and demoralized.

Let me make clear, I loved my workplace. I loved the NHS and working the Emergency Department – I worked with some of the most incredibly talented and committed nurses and doctors that I could ever hope to work with. But the word challenging doesn’t even begin to cover it. The number of moments when I left work thinking “No, today is the day I’ll be struck off”. I would make life and death decisions, I would weigh the risks and then choose the slightly less risky option. I would walk a tightrope between stress and exhaustion.

And being in a job where I actually get to sit down, where I get to take break and eat my food, where I can take a breather… despite my inexperience in the US. Despite the fact that I’m still finding my way around. Despite all of that, I get more sanity than I had for years. So whilst I watch the conservative party dismember the NHS and gift its severed limbs to their mates, I can do it with a bit more detachment. It’s still heartbreaking, but I can cope better now it’s not my own heart that’s being shattered daily.

So that’s nice. And the space is wonderful. Driving home I get to see the glowing evergreen forests, and sometimes it’s so utterly incredibly beautiful that I want to cry.

I kind of expected that too. I knew it was a beautiful place. I knew that there was a danger that my commute to work would be a struggle not just because of the time, but because I’d just want to disappear into the landscape. I’d want to let the light wash over me and lie in the woodland smelling the pine needles.

What I didn’t expect is the vague but unnerving existential sense of loss. I should have, because I’ve read hitchhiker. And I’ve often thought of the ancient Arcturan Proverb “However fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Arcturan Mega-Camel.” As Adams pointed out – this would mean, in these days of hyperspace and improbability drive, that most people’s souls are wandering unprotected in deep space in a state of some confusion; and this would account for a lot of things.

At the moment I certainly feel like my soul is meandering around the west coast of the UK, or perhaps somewhere into the Atlantic, and being very very confused. Whilst sometimes I miss the UK with an almost fierce sadness, what I miss most is my mum, friends and family, Bristol, the Lake District and Amaravati. I miss the centuries of built environment crammed layer upon layer, ill fitting and incomplete, jostling each other, interrupting each other like unruly children. 60s towerblock by Victorian terrace by medieval wall. The US doesn’t do that, at least not on this coast. The Native American cultures, didn’t, at least as far as I know, throw up such vast monuments to themselves. And those centuries of building have left Britain with an adoration for things past.

Sometimes it’s really frustrating, but the angular functionality and general lack of preservation of anything not immediately seen as beautiful or meeting current requirements here is hard to get my head around.

And some stuff isn’t even that clear cut. Like… before I came out I had a real look at myself. I introspected quite thoroughly, because, lets be honest, I had spent years denying myself. I spent years denying everything about me. So when I finally started to work towards dealing with my issues and working out who I was, it took a long time. A long time and a lot of thought. And I thought I’d kind of taken myself back to the very components that built me, and reassembled myself pretty carefully. There’s a degree of brokenness, because it turned out that actually the bits don’t all fit together very well, and some stuff is definitely hodged back together in a very bodgy way. But all-in-all I was pretty happy with the self-that I built. But when I did that I didn’t really realize that it was built on a foundation of Britishness. The wonderful Professor Elemental says it very well:

“So if you’re down with the Brits then make some noise
But if you’d rather not, that’s fine
We’re inventive, accepting, eccentric
And yes, I suppose we’re a bit bizarre”

And suddenly I find myself not only the archetype for British, which as I was always weird, even by British standards, is kind of an odd situation, but I’m also questioning who and what I am if I’m not living in Britain. Am I still really British? I mean, what am I now?

It’s all about as hard as I kind of expected, and at the same time way harder in person.

Kathryn mentioned she’d seen a blog post by Naomi Hattaway talking about the effects of living abroad, and whilst I’m no-where near where I’m sure she’s at, with her triangle-self, I suspect I’ll rapidly get there.

Anyhow, so that’s partly why the quiet on here, recently. Because I don’t really know what I’m doing in my head, and some of that needs to be resolved through wittering like this, and some of it needs to be resolved through just quietly thinking. And some of it, apparently, through repairing random electrical devices. This whole uncertainty of self is, I think, is part of my recent spree of electrical repair. It harks back to a childhood activity, something I used to do with my dad. And that makes me feel a bit more like me, perhaps. Less untethered from existence.

Creeping Americanism

So, my card holder finally no longer contains my British bank cards. They’re now securely & safely stored away… I’ve not quite had the heart to remove some of the loyalty cards from the independent retailers in Bristol. But the transition plods on.

I more or less remember to say pants at work, and ask them to get up on the gurney (although gurney still sounds odd coming from my mouth). I still fuck-up though and say plaster, not band-aid, which confuses the hell out of people. And I continue have no clue about degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, most of the thermometers at work will do the conversion for me when patients ask (and we work in Centigrade anyhow).

I can say gas station without feeling too silly, although in my head it’s still a petrol station. At some point I’ll switch and it’ll no longer feel unnatural.

I’ve finally got around to contributing to saving an NPR station (KPLU), and I think I may finally have managed to waterproof the front of the minor against the PNW’s weather (no guarantees yet, but it wasn’t wet after two heavy storms). All gradual signs of settling, I suppose.

On the topic of the Minor, the back is proving a little difficult to sort as it turns out most of the reason it’s had water in there isn’t that it’s been running down through the many small holes I’ve been sealing. Or at least, some of the reason is that. Some is that the trunk lid (no, that still feels wrong, the boot lid) actually fits pretty terribly. It’s a glassfibre replacement for the original – I went with glass fibre because the metal ones rust through due to a fabulous water trap.

Issigonis was good at many things, and apparently designing mud and water-traps in his cars was something he excelled at.

Anyhow, I remember when it was installed Jonathon commented that the first one was a terrible, terrible fit, so they sent it back and got a replacement that was merely a bad fit. It looks fine until you get close in and then realise that the panelgaps are all wrong, and from the underside you can see a gap through into the boot (trunk).

Added to which, the seal – which is held on with glue – is peeling off. So I need to find me some impact adhesive and see if I can sort that out.

Also, when we get back into dry weather I need to see if the vinyl repair kit will repair the tear in the front seat. Although I might want to do that when Kathryn’s here, because she’s much better at mixing paint colours, and I need to get a match for the blue of the seat from the selection of not-matching colours provided.

In other news, I gave in and ordered a new motherboard. After a full 4 hours of attempting to get around the fact that my motherboard is buggered, I admitted defeat. Every time you try and move a large quantity of data it falls over in a heap. I considered finding the code for my single byte-at-a-time read-write routine from the RiscPC (which was painfully slow, but did something handy at the time), then realised that I was clearly insane. All the disks report good health (although I’ve had very sick drives report everything is dandy). It does it whether or not you’re using the graphical system (which seemed to make the problem worse at first, but actually seems not to after more playing).

I worked out eventually that the reason it was going quite so spare was that I’ve moved a bunch of files around and both Plex, Logitech’s media manager and Subsonic were all simultaneously attempting to catalogue the roughly 8-9 terabytes of data.

I did pay for the speedy 3 day delivery of the motherboard…which I’m peeved at myself about because I’m not going to be around to install it until next week anyhow. I should have thought about that more. I was previously peeved at myself for forgetting to pay for the extra fast delivery on the case…before realising that I should be grateful that I forgot!

Now we get the excitement of seeing if Linux will nicely handle the sudden change in all the underlying hardware, or if I get to play ‘lets install everything again’, which is a fun game for one (annoyed) player. It almost invariably boots when I do shit like this, but usually there’s some problem that persistently rears its head and causes me to end up renewing the installation.

My main hope is that I can, at least, get away without buying any new hard disks for the moment. I mean, really that’s the bit I’d like to upgrade. I’d like a nice Raid 6 array, but it’s tricky to do so as things stand, because pretty much all the disks are full. And a complete state. Although it might be a possibility with careful shuffling. Hrm. Also; would involve expanding the partition after the installation. I forsee many complications… but it’s worthy of more contemplation. Might have to spend a moment looking at the state of the disks and then playing with them before I get into reinstalling.

Anyhow. House wise we’re still flailing around hopelessly. We look at places, debate whether they’re too far to really be liveable, fail to make any decision on where we’d want to start a business, and basically are having a bit of a crisis of ‘too many big decisions and not knowing what to do’. We’ll get over it, but it may take a little bit.