We’re moving house… again. Not too far, this time – we’ve bought a house, still in the same city, but its ours (and the bank’s!). A small, three bedroomed semi-detached home – the box room is going to be my study, and we have a guest room for visitors. Nice big kitchen/dining room, and a comfy sitting room. Small garden. All we could want, really!

Its led to a great deal of stress though. Yes, as I am frequently being told, moving house/buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can do. I know all that. It still doesn’t change our experiences. We put an offer in on the house at the beginning of July; and we got the keys last week, and move in tomorrow. This is a two house chain, so it should have been relatively straight forward. The vendor’s solicitors caused the hold up – here’s a free tip for you – never.. EVER go with the solicitors that the estate agent offers you!!

What it has meant, though, is that we’ve not known when we were moving for a very long time, and this in itself has caused a lot of stress – not being able to plan anything or say “yes” to anything because we simply did not know if we would be moving or not. I have also signed up for a Masters in English Local and Family History, studying part time. I’ll hand in my dissertation for that in January 2017, which right now seems like a very long way away. That started last week, so I’ve been in the pleasant position of starting my MA and trying to move house. Arrrgghh!!

We’ve been focusing on getting things sorted out at the new house. My study was a ten year old girl’s bedroom: Pink hearts and One Direction posters. That had to be redecorated PDQ! Michiel was also keen to redecorate the room that would be our bedroom, in order to make the house more “ours”, rather than the previous vendor’s. In doing this we’ve discovered all kinds of problems that the survey did not (and should have) picked up. There is a strong possibility that the house needs rewiring – which was not reported, and had we known we’d have dropped the offer some – and the previous vendors weren’t great at DIY, took a number of cheap shortcuts that didn’t obviously show at the time we viewed but we’re seeing now. So that’s very much affecting how we view our new home.

However, I think its important to remind ourselves. In many ways, the new house is no worse than our current one, that has definitely been mistreated and unloved for a number of years. At least the new one has a working boiler – this one is very intermittent, which was okay in the summer when we only needed hot water (shower was on a different system) but now it is starting to get colder we’re starting to wish it was working, although given the boxes of books piled in front of the radiators in different rooms, we couldn’t turn it on even if it was working. And at least the new house is ours – with no interfering landlady who takes everything as a personal affront when things go wrong. I’m seriously dreading giving the keys back because I really think they’ll try to stiff us on the deposit, although we’ve reported everything to them.

So. moving tomorrow. We leave this house with very mixed feelings. Its a quiet home – despite the busy road we live on, with buses trundling by every few minutes – the back is quiet, and has fantastic views over the city, which come into their own on fireworks night and new year. This house has healed much of the damage that our old home did. When we moved here three years ago, and sat outside in the peace and quiet of a warm September evening, with no shouts of kids or people arguing or the fear of having our windows chucked in…. we cried. We still have the fear that our new house may be like the old one. It is ex-council stock and some in the area still rent from the council, but the deed is done and we must move. But then, I think we’d have this fear regardless of where we moved and we couldn’t afford a lot. This house has also seen me complete my degree, seen the death of both my grandmothers… seen many changes. Its seen happy times too – Christmasses spent with my mother, the visits of Michiel’s parents, happy times with friends, graduation. For all the problems associated with this house (the infrastructure, the landlady), it has been a good home to us and in many ways we don’t want to leave. I think If we had had the money to buy this house and do it up, we would have given it serious serious consideration.

I just hope that the next house offers us the same happiness. It’ll be a long slog to get it put right – not least the saving up to pay for it all – but given time, we’ll get there.

Goodbye old house…. I hope someday you find owners to love you as much as we do, because you deserve better than you’ve been treated before us…

[* line from a song by Paul Young, “Whereever I lay my hat”, originally released 1983. Printed copies of lyrics are widely available on the internet, video available on YouTube.]


it feels like only yesterday that it was September and we were moving into our new house – yes, you can see the theme here. Where DOES the time go?!!! Seriously though, I promised Stoney an update a while back, and someone else some photos of our new home, so I’m combining all this and a year review in one blog post. And then I shall probably go silent again till I get another break at Easter…!

Anyway. Be warned. This is a VERY photo heavy post, which is why they’re all behind the cut. the page will take a while to load…

First of all, though, an update. The last three months have been very sad ones, as well as busy. University studies have taken most of my time, and are mostly going well – you can look at the Education page to view marks for specific assignments. But outside of studies, they’ve been sad because I lost both my grandmothers: my paternal grandmother at the end of October, and my maternal one just 2 weeks before christmas. Both had been ill towards the end; Nannie (Paternal grandmother) had broken her other hip and was in a great deal of pain, Grannie (Maternal grandmother) had had a spell in hospital a few weeks before but had just given up, mentally. For both, death was a release, a blessing, so to speak, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that this year has been a very bad one for our family, especially as I lost my father in January 2011. I just hope 2012 will be substantially less painful.

Dad, in one of his favorite places in the world, Scotland.

Christmas was especially painful – not just because of Grannie’s funeral, just a few days before Christmas, but because, as a cousin of mine put it, “there were too many empty chairs”. I know exactly what she meant. It will take a while to get over this. I was far closer to Grannie than to Nannie – Grannie was the lady who owned Stoneheads house, the inspiration for this blog, and a woman who was also directly responsible for my childhood love of history and who never stopped encouraging me to learn, to develop, to make the most of myself. I shall miss her greatly.


… apologies to ol’ Rod for the bastardisation of his song, but yes, we’re moving house!

We finally got the news earlier today, and the deposit has been paid, so its all official – at least, until the day of the move and we get down there to sign the tenancy agreement! We’re moving in on 27th September, with this flat being packed up and closed on 26th September (we’re staying at Mom’s overnight).

Its a nice, 3 bedroomed semi-detached house in a nice part of Leicester. Not the best, but we can’t afford the best. Its better than where we live now, so this represents a step up in so many ways. The spare bedroom means that Mum can come to stay with us on a regular basis, as often as she wants to, (as well as anyone else, like Michiel’s parents) and I get a study of my very own for all my university studies. We have a week to get the house sorted, then I start at Uni on 3rd October.


Thankfully, we’d already found a removals firm and established a relationship with them, so all they needed was an address and a date. They’re packing for us, which also reduces a lot of stress, but there is still an awful lot to do in the next two weeks. But we’ll get there – we have a lot of motivation and a lot of help and support from people that count (such as our families).

But for now, for today, we’ve handed in our notice on this flat, we’ve agreed things with the removal firm, things are slowly starting to grind towards the chaos that is moving day, and … well. we’re happy. We have hope. And that’s the important part. 🙂

The house hunting still isn’t going well. We went to stay with Mum for a few days the last few days (I’m typing this on the train on the way home) and yesterday we drove to Leicester for the day, with the intention of fitting as many house viewings in as we could. It did not go well.

We were just getting into Leicester when Michiel had a phone call from the agents handling the house we were meant to be seeing at 10am. It was 9.10am. They apologised and said that an application had come into the agency for that house that morning so they were no longer taking any viewings for it, but there was another property in the same road that they would like to show us round. We agreed on the basis that we were there, so we might as well, and it might be a nice house (we were actually extremely cross because the house we were supposed to see was very nice, and the agency knew that we had come all the way from Manchester for this). The agent was late – actually, the original agent was so late the agency sent out a replacement. The house turned out to be a disaster: the decoration was dreadful, although the landlord said generously that we could decorate it how we liked, the rooms small, the yard tiny and unkempt, the kitchen was tiny and there was a huge gap in the back door that would’ve allowed a terrible draught in winter. The general feeling was.. “no way in hell” and we thanked the estate agent and said that we would let her know.

Property no 2 was okay. a quiet street, but opposite a school, the property turned out to be a disappointment, although it was well decorated and kept, the kitchen turned out to be disappointingly tiny (much tinier than it appeared on the photographs), and the set up downstairs meant that the dining room would have been turned into a study-cum-larder-cum-bikeshed-cum-dumping ground – and we wanted a nicer home than that. The agent was late for this too, although he apologised profusely and explained that one of his staff had called in sick: after that he was unfailingly polite and professional. (I’d consider any future properties from that agency, actually, I was so impressed with his demeanour).

The agent for Property no 3 was also late (are we seeing a pattern here?). Again, the property turned out to be tiny and not what we had hoped. The bathroom was dirty and the paint was peeling from the ceiling, the kitchen was tiny. The agent seemed to have difficulty keeping his eyes off my breasts and had the general all round air of “creepazoid” – and it wasn’t just me, Michiel commented on it as well. Not impressed. Parking was difficult as well – we had to park a few streets away.

Property 4 – late again! – was well decorated but again, not what we expected. Most of the property was okay but there was a tiny bathroom and a tiny kitchen, which definitely needed some work, and the garden, while large, had rotten fencing which Jess could’ve gotten out of. It was also on a main road and backed by what looked like rough council houses. Nothankyouverymuch. We thanked the agent and left again.

Property 5 – which was the one we liked the best, before viewing any of them. It had a river running down one side of the property and we jokingly called it “the moat house”. We arrived to find some people already in the property, viewing as well as us, which we were rather annoyed about. We questioned the agent about if we put in an application for the property, would it be kept for us, they wouldn’t allow someone else to gazump us? the answer was no. So we had a look around. The house definitely needed some work but it was the best we’d seen – the kitchen wasn’t ideal but it had a large covered veranda with a large secure garden, a huge garage, a lovely joint sitting room/dining room, with three bedrooms.. it was just what we wanted. not perfect, but it had to scope to be somewhere we loved a lot. We immediately drove to their offices in the centre of leicester and put in an application. We couldn’t move in till 16th, and the agent warned us that the landlord wanted someone for the 9th, so he said, well, put your application in. i’ll call the landlord, see what he says. if he says no to 16th, I’ll call you and you can change it to 9th, and go with that. we agreed and gave him the application fee (£250!) and left the office. Within 10 minutes we had a call from him saying that he couldn’t reach the landlord because he was away working, but he would call him first thing in the morning, and call us then, but he was going to recommend that the landlord accept our application. We agreed, and headed off to the last viewing.

Property 6, which we decided to view anyway in case something fell through on Property 5, the agent never showed up for. Fortunately the existing tenant was home, a young woman with a child, and while she didn’t know anything about the viewing she welcomed us in and showed us around. A semi-detached house, with a through sitting/dining room and the tiniest kitchen i have ever seen, it was nicely decorated with a small triangular garden and a small garage. not ideal, but definitely no 2 on the list. We thanked her and thankfully hit the road to go home because it had been a long day – we’d gotten up at 5.30am and by this time it was 6pm.

We felt full of hope that night. We were going to get out of the flat we hated, our heads were a-whirl with plans for the new house, what we would have to get done in the next two to three weeks in terms of closing up the flat, preparing to move and so on.

That all came crashing down this morning. The phone rang as we were sitting down to have some coffee at about 10am. It was the agent. He was most apologetic but another couple had put in an application that morning and since our application had not been formally accepted by the landlord, the agent had to hand him the other couple’s application as well as ours, and the other couple got the property, not us.

We were very very very angry, needless to say. it seemed to be one rule for other people, and one rule for us. A dream had been ripped away, but more than that. This is a time when I should be preparing to go to university, looking forward to an exciting period of my life, and instead i’m beset with worries about where we’re going to live, worries about actually getting to Leicester in time for the commencement of the University term, and unpacking, getting things sorted out before the chaos of fresher’s week. I begin to see why the vast majority of first year students go straight into halls – it saves the stress of learning a new city at the same time as learning one’s way around the university. I sat down this morning after the phone call to try to find some more properties, and I just felt so disillusioned with the whole process. I felt like I could not trust any of the agencies and had the general attitude of “well.. why bother?”, an extremely black mood. Fortunately I managed to lift myself out of it – helped by Mum taking us out to lunch at a local pub with very very nice food, and then up to Clee Hill, which I’ve been up before but which has some stunning views.

And now.. we’re on the way home. Uni starts 5 weeks on Monday. We have 5 weeks left to find somewhere to live and move there. Mum has agreed to go back to Leicester next Tuesday to view more properties (since she can get over there more easily than we can) and we are going to have to trust her judgement, although she will take photos, and we’ll go on those. we just have to keep bashing away and hope that somewhere out there is the right house for us that the landlord will let us have. But certainly, I am disappointed. And angry. And I don’t think I’m unjustified in feeling that way.

[and now I’m home, and posting this. I’m allowing myself to chew on the anger, to be upset, but tomorrow: tomorrow is a new day and we WILL get past this. I’ve worked too hard to be defeated by a bunch of rude estate agents….]

Well the move… ain’t moving. not yet, anyway. Its all been caught up in ifs-n-buts with trying to sort out exactly what our financial situation will be after I start at uni – which is vastly complicated by Housing Benefit and all the ifs-n-buts surrounding that. However, I think we’re getting towards the point of getting it ironed out now – so much so, that I’ve actually started looking again. So far we’ve found quite a few possibles: we’re having to contact each agent with a “will your owner consider a couple with a pet?” email first before we go any further, and unfortunately, we’re not getting much in the way of responses. Having said all that, we have found one gorgeous house that isn’t too expensive in a small village outside of Leicester which would be ideal (except for the fact that the last bus is at 8pm, but that’s not insurmountable) in many ways, and the agent is actually responding to us. He’s contacting the owner to see if they’ll allow Jess in there – fingers crossed that they do cos we both really like the look of the property. But there are other irons in the fire so if it falls through it won’t be the end of the world.

We’ve also found a removals firm – they need two week’s notice, so as soon as we’ve found a house we can sign on the dotted line, hand in our notice here and book the move, and we’re off, off and away!

In terms of college, the last two exams? I got distinctions for. Don’t think anyone would be majorly surprised by that! I’ve had the official results letter: a certificate should be arriving at some point in the next couple of weeks. I’ve had an official letter from UCAS confirming my place at Leicester University so its all officially and stuff now.

Its just dragging on long enough now that i just want to move and have done with it. We’re living in limbo here: not knowing where we’re going to be in the next few months is seriously starting to pall. On the plus side though.. for the first time, we’re actually starting to think about where we’re going to be living, and planning, and daring to hope for somewhere nice. Before, it was a case of dreaming of not being HERE, of getting out of HERE, without any real thought as to where we would go. Almost anywhere would be better than HERE. Now, the focus is switching, and for the first time in a long time, there feels like real hope in our future.