Friday 17 December 2010

That's just wrong!

The good news from Brighton is that it's now estimated that the work may take 8 weeks! But they may fit a mini hot-water boiler to keep us going in the meantime...

Over the last couple of years my previously svelte figure has developed...and I now have a gentle bulge in the stomach region. This year it's got a little rounder as I've not been cycling as much as I used to, as much as I like, as much as I should. A few months ago it was named 'The Pod'.

Last night we squashed on to the over-full tube following our trip to see 'Wicked'. I stood next to The Cat.

The Cat (16, female)"I can feel your pod"
The Boy (15, male) "That's not his pod"

Looks of horror around us....apart from one man who giggled.

Nota Bene "I'm sorry, we're a very dysfunctional family"

I may have failed as a father. Badly.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Do you smell something?

If you've been reading for a while you'll know that we've devoted a LOT of time and energy to sorting out the flat in Brighton. It's been a labour of love. And hate.

I bought the place nigh on twenty years ago...a two bedroom flat on the top floor of a regency building in one of the squares in Brighton, with an 'oblique' view of the is at the bottom of the road. The square is beautiful, and I've always loved being there. I decorated it to the nines. Most of my friends thought I must be gay, because his was in the days before it was OK to like 'designer' stuff if you weren't.

When I married The Boy's mother, she came as a package with a little girl, and the flat was suddenly too small. By good fortune and a helpful mortgage adviser, when the flat beneath became available I was able to buy it. The lower flat hadn't been touched for thirty years, had no central heating and was in poor condition. I did the basics of knocking them together, but then the enormity of the task sank in and not a lot happened...until a couple of years ago.

At that point, I decided things had to change, so the ENORMOUS task began. It was like rebuilding the walls of Jericho. Fortunately, The Cat's Mother got the bit between her teeth and together the pace has been transformed. The Cat and The Boy joined in with enthusiasm initially...although it did begin to fade, and latterly they've not come down with us. That's a shame.

With new carpets going down last month, the place is awesome. Really beautiful and absolutely delightful.

To celebrate, we decided that his year's New Year's gathering would be held there. It's also a chance to re-enthuse the teenagers who no longer needed to fear yet another tedious task on arrival at the flat. Approximately 20 people are coming...we will gather to see Cinderella, fireworks on the beach and then singing and dancing. It will be the first time that our friends had visited the place. A chance to show off...and for them to see 'our' project which we have talked much about.

At the beginning of the week, the woman who lives in the basement smelled gas. The gas men arrived just in time. It was a big leak and could have gone bang. They switched it off by digging up the road and disconnecting the pipe. And then they decided that the pipes were all old and need to be replaced. Not just the pipes that connect the gas main to the building, but all the gas pipes in the building. At best this is six weeks work. At best.

Until then there is no gas. That means no heating. In mid-winter. Worse still, there is no hot water. And no way of making hot water as we have a condenser boiler with no hot water tank.

It's a disaster, and we're heartbroken.

We can plug heaters in to make the place warm, but no hot water is the real problem. We think we're going to book a hotel room, just so we can use the washing facilities.

Instead of a triumphant evening of fun and frivolity we're going to have to cobble things together. Our bubble is well and truly burst.

But at least this is not our main home...I could almost weep for the other people in the building...they are going to have a cold, miserable time over Christmas. For them this is truly a disaster...what a terrible way to spend the bleak mid-winter.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

A sparkling gallery

I'm so glad that over at Tara's there's lots of sparkle going on...its this week's gallery theme. There's not much sparkle here at chez Nota Bene - more on that another day, but any way, here's a picture of a very sparkly piece of ice on an Icelandic beach from earlier this year...

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Christmas starts with a phwuuuuurgh...

Last week was the annual gathering of the Old Boys...with the emphasis more on the Old than the Boys. We generally meet up a couple of times a year, but the Christmas bash is always good fun. We dine at the Anchor and Hope pub near Waterloo. Our favourite is 'Shank of Cow''s enough to feed thousands, but we manage it all by ourselves. But this year, it was called off at the last minute...not sure why, but the enthusiasm just wasn't there, and by the day, most people had dropped out for one unconvincing excuse of another. I was quite disappointed.

On Thursday is our Christmas lunch. We've booked my favourite restaurant - Formans, just by the Olympic stadium. I've written loads about it before. I love it. I love the food...and the English Wine. As usual it was booked for 2, and the celebrations would run on until it was time to go off to 'Wicked' the musical. We're a small group, but this year we thought we could expand numbers by bringing along partners. But as the time as got closer, people have dropped out with 'one unconvincing excuse' after another, so yesterday I cancelled it. The first time in 15 years there will be no work celebrations. I'm really disappointed.

But if other people can't be bothered, I can't be bothered either.

I have a pretty busy Christmas schedule - last week was the school Christmas Carol Service, and there's nothing like a great carol to sing along to. This week we have Shakespeare's Winter's Tale on Wednesday, Wicked on Thursday, a dinner party for 18 on Saturday, lunchtime Christmas drinks on Sunday, Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra on Tuesday and Woman in Black on Wednesday. Phew. That just about brings us to Christmas and then there's more. On Sunday we went to see Cinderella - the Matthew Bourne modern ballet, not the Pantomime (that comes in Brighton over the New Year!) which was fantastic...I really enjoy the beauty and grace of Matthew Bourne's work.

So I'm just run off my feet, so it's a good job that last night as part of The Queens birthday celebrations we went to a garra ruffa fish spa...quite an experience.

...and I hear that it's GUARANTEED to be a white Christmas. Ding Dong!

Monday 13 December 2010

Even Stevens

I think I might take up shop lifting. Three times now we've bought The Boy some clothes and the shop has forgotten to take off the security tag. We've been in and out of other shops without any problems or alarms going off. Of course, it's going to be a bit embarrassing walking round with those enormous magnetic tags hanging off a sleeve or a leg, but just think of the savings. On balance, I think it's worth it!

I've never been a never seems a clever or productive way of spending money. When The Boy was five of six we did go horse racing the shadow of the Sussex Downs, and we each put on £1 a horse in every race. Remarkably as we were choosing more on the colours of the jockey's shirts, or the names of the horses, we came out with a profit...about £12 if I remember rightly. We were pleased as punch.

And recently, Gay John (he's not really gay at all) pointed me in the direction of a Spanish city banker that had turned tipster (well have you seen the state of the Spanish economy - makes it look as though we've never had it so good!). So I allocated some money...not a large sum...and have blindly been betting on the tips. They've mostly been tennis, but recently some Spanish football games. I'm not entirely surprised that I'm running at a loss - about 25% of the money I allocated. But bearing in mind the tips are coming from a city-boy, I guess that's not surprising given the state of the world's economy.

I've also taken some money out of my savings and chucked it into two companies...BP (yep that's the one that could stop a leak. They should've called a plumber) and De La Rue...they print bank notes, but were careless in a few cases, and then went and lost their CEO. In both cases, I 'bought at the bottom'. And in the case of the bank not printer, there's a take-over bid. I think I've got a farily hefty profit.

So the first lesson from that the city really did indulge in uninformed casino capitalism, and their advice is not worth the paper it's written on. And secondly I haven't hesitated to profit from other people's misery. Oh.