Have you ever seen the film Brazil…

Only.

Our COA was sent back as ‘your payment details were wrong / card declined / some other card related payment problem’ . The problem is they don’t send back the payment page.

My credit card has a whacking great limit on it (not for the sake of pride I say this, but because banks are foolish and upped my credit limit every time I neared the limit on the card for a long time). So despite my urge to ring them and hurl abuse at them for being idiots, I rang and politely asked if I could find out what happened because otherwise we’re just sending back exactly the same information again.

Their response is brilliantly useless. 

“We don’t send back payment details for security reasons” – okay, that makes a vague degree of sense. Although you’ve just told me they’re either wrong or the card’s being declined. If I’d stolen the card, surely I’d know the number off the stolen card already. And wouldn’t using a fraudlent card be spectacularly dumb when contacting the Home Office? Anyhow.

“We can’t tell you what went wrong.” – Uh, ookay. So I can’t find out what the problem was, so I can’t actually rectify it. All we can do is do it *again* and see if the same thing happens.

There is, apparently, no way to compare the number on my card to the number that they read off the form. No way to find out whether they match. No way to find out if it was declined or if the card number was wrong (and as a side point what’s the point in us giving them a contact phone number if they don’t fucking *ring* it).

So, we now have to fill in the same fracking form (no, we can’t send back the old one with a new payment page) and send it back to them. For 300 quid you’d expect some degree of service. But no. And at 50 quid a page, it’s not cheap (several of those pages consist of ticks).

I’m sure Canada’s beaurocracy is just as dumb as ours, but I’m fucking glad I’m planning to leave this country.

Huge house / holiday / car update

Oh lord alive, I’ve not updated for a while, and there is much to say… There follows:

So, let’s start at the beginning (since that’s generally a good place to start). At the beginning of the week (the one before the one before this one), as we commenced our ‘week of tormenting the house’ we discovered the availability of one, free, DAF44. Now, to those who are unfamiliar with the DAF, it’s a car with a constantly variable transmission driven by big belts. It’s really awfully clever, and now, apparently, Mercedes do something similar.

At any rate, I’d fancied one for a while and it seemed like the perfect (simple) vehicle to get Kathryn so as she had an automatic to drive to work. It does, however, need some floor.

It’s also not a runner. Ignoring this, at the beginning of the week we headed down to see it, and decided that for the cost of transporting it, it was worth it. So, at the end of the week Joggernaught (not Juggernaught) arrived outside our house, somewhat reluctantly, and covered in a 3 year accumulation of tree-gunk. Some scrubbing by Kathryn (and a little light helpfulness from me) and she was kind of off white. Not exactly going to win Concourse, but presentable. Which probably relieved the neighbours. J-g needs a service, some fresh petrol, and I spent a lot of time persuading the passenger side door to shut. It’s in need of a little adjustment still, but it does shut, which is altogether goodness.

Annoyingly, the idea was to get the car and decide later if it was salvagable, but it’s kinda cute and it’s burrowed into mine (and I think Kathryn’s) heart somewhat. But there’s a financial limit on what we can do, so we’ll have to see what we can sort. Kathryn’s devoid of driver’s licence at the moment anyhow, and we’ve not even got the Autodata manual to get it serviced, so it’s just sitting for the time being. Shots of the DAF are here

The week, however, was mostly spent gutting and redecorating the office and the bedroom. This did not entirely go to plan. Essentially, the idea was that we’d empty the bedroom and the office, sand and paint the office walls (which were already stripped), strip, fill, sand, paint the bedroom walls, paint both floors, varnish ’em and move back in. Oh, and construct a desk and a wardrobe at the same time.

Unfortunately, although it mostly went pretty well, we had two disasterous walls in the bedroom (which now await my attention to replaster), and some lazy sod had applied wallpaper over old wallpaper. This doesn’t come off unless you attempt to apply filler over it, at which point it leaps from the wall with reckless abandon. And the wall that used to have a fireplace in is also a complete state – one which requires us to attack it either with cloth or wallpaper, as it’s also a strip-and-replaster job otherwise.

But we achieved an astonishing amount (with some assistance from my Mum and Parmito, who popped down for the day and opted to spend the day sugar-soaping the walls in the office); the bedroom is so-much-nicer…

Before:

Bedroom, before decorating

After:

After decoration, or at least part way through

A bit of a change, I hope you’ll agree.

To be fair, we’ve not spent the last year sleeping on the camp bed, but it does let you see how hideous the carpet was.

So yes, the office now looks like an office, too. This is awesome…[House reno photo sets]

Anyhow, because of the disasters we were a day late heading from there to Brizzy to see Nikki and Kate. But we piled in the car and headed down to see them having spent some time making the house liveable. Having got down there we headed down to Weston giving Pepper and Eddie a chance to run around like maniacs, and Kathryn, Nikki and I a chance to take photos of them running around like maniacs (and a few of each other). Despite the sun-shine the wind was cold, April this year feeling a lot like, say, November.

Anyhow, ‘cos I’m lazy, the photoset from Weston is here.

We then spent a few hours the next day (monday) mooching around Bristol. I love Bristol, it’s a great city, and were I staying in the UK it’s one of the places I’d be happy to live (and could actually afford to live). Oxford is beautiful, but way too expensive to stay; Brighton (the last place we visited) is another I’d happily live in… Anyhow, I wanted to show Kathryn what I mostly feel is ‘my city’, so we took a bit of a wander. Mostly around the St. Nicholas market area; we were going to head up into Clifton but unfortunately, no one warned us that Fopp has reopened. Sucked in as we were by the sound of cheap music and cheap books calling us, we ended up spending far too much time and money in there… and thus Clifton and the Camera Obscura and such shall have to wait for another day.

So the photoset from Bristol is here… (see, really blindingly lazy, but you’re getting an update, what more do you want?!).

Anyhow, we then headed up to the Lakes, this was for somewhat of a working holiday in that we had 7 hotels to visit to check out as wedding venues. In the end, what we thought might be a hard decision turned out to be astonishingly easy; in that one hotel really stood out as being just the most gorgeous views, the nicest staff, and just really the hands-down winner. After some trecking we did come up with a second, but it’s not really in the area of the lakes I love. It’s a beautiful place, and quite definately a fantastic venue. Had we not have seen the one we’ve fallen for then it’d’ve been first. But yes. So I rang the Registrar today; there’s not many times available, so when I get home from work today we’ll have to sort it, hopefully.

Because my birthday fell while we were in the Lakes, we did take a day off from venue hunting, and wandered up to Easedale tarn. Kathryn got me a shiny shiny book (and it turns out a Suzanne Vega single, and something that’s not arrived yet…). It was wonderful to be up in the fresh air, on a mountain, in the quiet again. Just looking out over the vista was beautiful. Being as we’d not done lots of walking to build up to it, we just went up to the Tarn and back down – but that alone was a fair walk – and the weather though cold was clear and sunny most of the day. It rained for literally a couple of minutes (really lightly) just after we got back, and while we were preparing to head out for Dinner. Kathryn also took me to dinner at an italian restaurant in Grassmere which was just lovely. The food wasn’t anything to write home about (it was fine, not unpleasant or anything, but definately itallian as cooked by the english), but the company was excellent :)

The next day was back on the road, touring more venues. Poor old Brick’s exhaust’s temporary repair started to give up; I suspect the road up to the hostel was to blame, but he soldiered on; slightly more throaty and distinctly more rattly than is ideal… and we headed, after touring venues, down to Manchester.

The lakes photos are here.

Kathryn’s friend Helen lives in Manchester, and she showed us the city a little (We toured Ontario basin in Salford before heading in to the city); we spent lots of time chatting to her and her housemates, and had a very good chinese takeaway. I had a thoroughly nice time – and it was really really nice to sleep in a proper bed. It was also fantastic to meet one of Kathryn’s friends. I’m not very good at being not-shy, but I tried… No photos from Manchester because, well, most of the things I wanted to photograph were inconveinently located in the kinds of areas where taking a camera out is an invitation for someone to take the camera…

So, huge thanks to Helen for showing us some of Manchester and putting us up for the night :)

Then onward again, this time to Brighton. 

Brighton is one of my other favourite cities; although I’ve not spent much time there, that which I have has been good, and it has a thriving music and culture scene. Unfortunately, it’s also home to West Pier, something which I have watched disintegrate since my youth. I love West Pier, I think it’s the most damning inditement of our Listing laws that there is a Grade I listed building lying in the sea. One which could, and rightly should, have been saved.

Anyway, ignoring the ranting, the plan was to chill out in the afternoon, get some food, head to the hostel to book in and go clubbing. All of which we did. We headed to the museum too, and encountered work of a very cool musician called Al Start; we also risked life and limb entering a variety of bookshops and other-small-thing shops, but the clubbing bit? Friday night at the Candy Bar was quite empty. Even come 11pm there was not much life there. We did have a game of pool, which was excellent, and then headed back to our Hostel. Finally we spent Saturday Morning touring the shops and going down to see Brighton and West Pier. We’ve already had the rant, so you could just have the photos

So, finally we get to the Car. Poor old Brick has racked up 1000 miles this week; he’s burnt virtually no oil, but he’s dumped around 3 – 5 litres of coolant. Flushing the radiator was inadequate, it seems. And while short journeys are conducted fairly reasonably, long ones are only okay as long as you are very, very gentle with the throttle. And no suddenly stopping for fuel or you’ll get that coolant explosion.

However, we seemed to get away with just topping up the coolant regularly; but what we didn’t get away with was 1000 miles on top of the 12 or so thousand miles on the temporary exhaust repair. It snapped sometime up in the lakes, and unforunately the hostel near Brighton was actually up an unmade track, and that spelt the end of the front section which, it seems, also had a temporary repair at some point.

Unfortunately, about 40 miles from home the exhaust gave up completely, shearing into 3 separate pieces; and the RAC bloke couldn’t bodge them back together. Thankfully, the very nice RAC bloke towed Brick home (despite me only having roadside assistance) – his argument being that it was freezing cold, and it’d take him as long as it would to wait with us. He was an absolute star, and will mean that the RAC get my recommendation and continued custom. They rock.

Unfortunately+, I can’t seem to get hold of a new exhaust for Brick. Well, I can get a stainless steel one, but I deem that somewhat excessive. Especially when Rebecca’s looking at being finished fairly soon…  I’ve got to head to work now, so we’ll save the rant about cars and money for later, shall we?

Original Content

Yes, today’s one of those rare days when I’m writing original content. I’ve been reading a fair bit lately (well, one book, but reading it quite a lot) and we’ve also been watching Men In Trees / The L Word / Father Ted and the odd episode of Pushing Daisys. I’ve been watching House and Yes Minister as well, which just shows how little work you can get done if you really try.

I’ve been feeling though, the lack of creativity in my life. I don’t *mean* to watch TV when I come home, but quite often I’m just exhausted and sit down thinking ‘oh, I’ll just watch one show while I have some tea’ and the the exhaustedness which was following me home gets through the door and catches up with me. And that’s kind of it, I’m stuffed. There’s still plenty left to do around here, but we’re holding off on the kitchen until I’m less in debt. Plan is to tackle the two bedrooms which are (hopefully) just a touch of plaster and some paint. Somewhat less trauma than removing an entire concrete floor and having it relaid, a doorway bricked up, a new doorway opened and so on.

But in the name of doing something nice for a change (instead of, for example, sitting around the house reading stuff on the internet, watching TV or reading – all of which are pleasant enough but one does need a break, and it’s nice to get out with my beloved) we headed in to London.

The plan, such as it was, was to tackle some of the time-out treasure hunts, spend some time lurking in bookshops and get something to eat… 

Kathryn had yet to see Foyles, and wanted to do so, and so after a nice little lunch in the Foyles Cafe we started our afternoon with a tour of Foyles. Yeah. See, we’re both slow in bookshops when they’re tiny. Foyles used to be the largest bookstore in the world; it’s probably still the largest in the UK. We entered the store around 2pm and left around 5, carrying only 2 books… The list of books we could have bought was huge; I could happily spend thousands of pounds there.

Which would of course, be foolish. When would I have time to read that many books? But hey.

It being slightly later than perhaps intended, we headed off to do the Literary treasure hunt. It wasn’t really a hunt, as such, in that they basically tell you exactly where what you’re looking for is, and what it is. And apart from a few slightly clunky bits of navigation, it worked well. It was, however, nice to see a bit of London that, well, I’ve not really seen since my childhood, despite being really very cold…

We also ran into a couple of people doing the hunt themselves, although they were doing all 5 and we – in the end – only did one (it was bloody freezing).

Having satisfied ourselves that CC&K would be open for desert we headed to Palm Court for dinner; supping on fine cocktails (well, one each) and eating fine food. Being rich would actually be quite handy.

Finally, we finshed the day in CC&K, and headed home to bed.

…then on Saturday we got a phone call in the morning – the wedding dress place we wanted to visit was open that morning – my mother was coming with the hope that we’d get to go visit it, and so we quickly made an appointment and headed in. It’s a weird experience being fitted for a dress. I’ve never been fitted for anything in my life, not by anyone else, and so being prodded and poked and squashed into a dress was quite a novel experience. But, the women there were great – they didn’t make us feel bad for not having much in the way of a budget; they let us try on loads of dresses, and my mum’s and their advice combined to get us two good possible combinations.

Obviously we’re going to try some others too; but that first experience was important – it’s quite unnerving to be in your undies in front of lots of people you don’t know who’re pulling you into dresses… And in the end it was quite fun; and Kathryn looked truly stunning. Even I didn’t look too shabby :)

We then had a chilled out day at home – sorting out music and french lessons for my mum and Parmita. Today’s been a chilly day; the snow falling steadily all mornind, but distressingly not settling even a little…. I’m hoping for more… but a peaceful day of paperwork and snuggling lies ahead.

So not quite as posty as I thought then

I’m surprised by my restraint, although until yesterday I’d not fixed either of the laptops and the dead G5 continued to vex me, so posting would have had to be done via Kathryn’s laptop or by the TV-Hackintosh. Yesterday I finally got around to stripping down the Dell laptop, it was broken in rather a lot of places; the screen’s casing’s disintegrating, the connectors seem to be working loose; but thankfully the power-supply connector hadn’t broken. Despite feeling crunchy and loose, it’s actually the cable that had died and pulling one of the spare powerbricks with a new cable from the attic had it working again. Still no battery though.

And the screen, while clear and sharp still, has a serious flicker issue which isn’t related to the connector on the board. So rather than being back with a laptop that I can close and open at will, I’m still with one that has to stay in a fairly fixed position. And the screen casing’s cracked around all the screws that hold it together; so moving the screen without proper care is prone to making the screen casing come apart. Still, it’s all araldite-and-wire’d back into some sembalance of a structure. It’s nice to be able to pick it up without the whole thing flexing disconcertingly.

I’ve stripped the hard-drives out of the G5 and will give the company who repaired it a ring as soon as they’re open; see if I can’t get that back up there to be looked at again. I am concerned though as to why the supplies packed up again. I’m switching things around though, it’s no longer going to be the video server; which will, frustratingly, make the machine in the lounge somewhat noiser, but should mean no more network streaming issues.

As for the house (renovation photo set number 19), well, I spent thursday generating as much dust as it’s humanly possible to create, but this time I sealed the kitchen off from the rest of the house and channelled away with my wall chaser. While it is an ace tool, it’s also the most manky job in all of christendom. On the plus side I’ve got two electrical boxes to sink and then we can put the wiring where it should be. I removed all the wiring from the immersion heater – all the way back to the fuse box, in the end. The distressing thing is this house’s wiring is a mess, there’s no proper ring main to speak of, there’s just little pseudo-rings scattered around and linked by a big junction box (hidden) and spurs running here, there and everywhere. I could, were it not for the Part P regulations tidy it all up. Chopping some chunks out, drilling some new holes, etc, and I’d have a downstairs ring and an upstairs ring. But because I’d then have to call in an electrician to check over all the work I’d done; and to re-do wiring in the kitchen requires (‘cos of Part P) even more in the way of work that’s nice-but-not-required (as far as I’m concerned, and the electrician I spoke to agrees :) ) that I’m better off leaving it all alone and just putting new sockets on the front so it all *looks* nice.

Incidentally, while pulling down the wall, I came across a Daily Mirror from 1963. Sadly it’d suffered from being right near the filler pipe from the cistern and was disintegrating pretty badly. Also, whoever put it in there then decided to use cement, not plaster, which probably didn’t help it any and made it somewhat hard to separate from the wall and from the huge clump of concrete. There’re some shots of it in my newly created ‘Renovation Finds’ photo set.

Never mind.

In other news (at least not house related news), I broke my Cafetier today. I’m quite distressed by this, being a coffee lover. I have a filter maker, but that makes a minimum of 2 cups, and I’ve got a little ‘filter in a cup’ which is just dandy, but I can’t just sit on the couch and have that. I have to make it then bring it in. So a new cafetier will have to be sought.

I rather liked the one I had :-/

And in other, other news. I went up to JLH on Saturday to see, well, what remains of Rebecca. It’s pretty distressing still, the car’s visibly got lots of work to go – and seeing what Charles Ware had done; panels (structural ones) that are meant to meet other panels and fall about an inch short? The boot floor (the *new* boot floor) was rusted through because they’d not protected it with paint… It’s another 2grand just to put right the mess they’ve made on that side.

So, anyway. i’ve got an interview with the unnamed nursing agency in 2 weeks, so I need to dig out all the relevant paperwork for that today too. In addition to working a long day and a late. And hopefully heading towards reducing that debt again :-)

And one thing I’ve not discussed is the Wedding; which I really should, but which warrants a whole post by itself (without my finger hurting each time I press a key (walls, slipping claw hammers and fingers don’t mix, incidentally). But, if any of you out there know a good seamstress… I’m going to talk to a colleage at work, but more options is always better than less if you ask me. We were thinking about doing a sort of gift-wedding; because we *have* everything (well, everything we *need*). Traditionally, marriage was move-in-together-start-a-new-home; but for us, we’ve got a home, we’ve got a complete dinner service, we’ve got tables, chairs, toasters, ovens, bed-linen, furniture, glasses, a fridge, a washing machine, a blender… We considered the possibility that instead people could gift us bits of the wedding (or something towards them), but we came to the conclusion (having discussed it with people) that this was more odd than normal, possibly even ‘too odd’. So instead we’re pulling in friends who can do things (or who know people who can do things) to keep costs to something we might be able to afford this lifetime.

So; on that note, if you know anyone who’s a seamstress, that’d be handy, and if you’d like to do something for the wedding, shout – or we won’t know :)