Priced out

Yesterday I went into London. Always good to do once in a while as a reminder of why it is that going into London is to be avoided. This time round I was going on-peak and discovered that the fare is £49.50 a day. A season ticket is less per journey, but £49.50?! I knew that the ticket price was ridiculous, but as it ‘creeps up’ and I last traveled in 2012 it’s difficult to keep track of a figure that’s not widely publicised and is rarely broadcast.

It puts into context how the newly refurbished one-bed flats in Reading are able to start at £400k and how the houses of last year at £170k are now £250k, a pattern repeated along the two Reading-London mainlines. People get stuck and will pay that as there’s no alternative as the costs of living in London make commuting the only option for anyone working there.

But it’s not sustainable. The main free commuter newspaper has articles on a Friday explaining that £300k is actually affordable for a one-bed flat, but have recently started reporting how “buyers are beginning to baulk at the prices”. No, buyers have been baulking a while, but now it’s at the point that with income, family gifts, loans, lodgers, or any other income it’s still not possible to afford anywhere. The latest edition had how on a “decent salary” and aged 30+ renting a room is now ‘in’ and the trendy thing to do, with a causal mention that it’s now the norm and with no hope of ever moving on.

A question is what jobs are outside London and the need to commute in at all. I can see that certain things will always be London based, but it inspires to look elsewhere even if the knock-on effect of prices creeping outwards and upwards means putting it into practice is expensive.

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Events, dear boy, events!

Lots been happening and one of these days I’ll tell you all about it.

It includes the rude awakening last weekend when the carbon monoxide detector went off. “Oh!” we said, achieveing personal bests to the windows and frontdoor. Nice man came round and shut the gas off, followed by another nice man who said, “Yeah, been here before, your neighbour has a dodgy boiler, I’ll just go and tell them again in a more emphatic manner.” And lo! It did come to pass that our highest reading was in the living room just where you can smell their cigarette smoke and cooking smells coming through and our own boiler is absolutely fine. Looking for a new house though. Urgently.

In other news, here’s what scientists and engineers really look like:
But then we already knew that…

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Dragon keepers

The unthinkable has happened: Dragon has been driven by someone else.

This is bigger news than it sounds for a lot of subtler reasons that I won’t be writing on a live blog.

So now Dragon has a new keeper to share the responsibility of tending such a character-filled charming beastie and keep it properly fed, attended and appreciated.

Recently I was discussing this with a friend who had seen the adverts for the Eden Project for this summer. Apparently ‘Dinosaur Keeper’ was publically advertised in her professional magazine. Today I saw ‘Lego constructor’. There are times when I know that this whole ‘growing up’ thing isn’t compulsory. Another friend said, “Huh, you’ll never grow up”, but then given the usual definitions of ill health, crippling responsibility and debt, I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing.

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Haunting atmosphere

When we returned there was something different. After accusing the carpet, the curtains, the bedding, the luggage, each other, and pondering if it was something at the neighbours… we discovered that just before we left for Cornwall the freezer had been unplugged. As part of efficiency someone had decided to put all the meat in it before we went too. So now the whole place stank of rotting meat through a vacuum sealed freezer that had been left somewhere warm and now every meal has a heavy emphasis on frozen vegetables.

An improvement on the neighbour who discovered that a rodent had gnawed the cable of theirs though, “Bet it’s hair stood on end when it hit the live bit.”

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Eccentricity at its finest

Just back from Cornwall.

In addition to the manure-powered pineapple pit we met other prime examples of eccentricity at its finest.

In 1932 a lass who owned a patch of land by the sea wanted to stage ‘The Tempest’. She decided that the best way to do this, for the full atmospheric surroundings of roaring sea and howling wind, was to hew it out of a solid cliff face. The ‘Minack Theatre‘ now holds shows every night and by day you can amble round to really appreciate the architecture. Perhaps Tolkien had seen it before he came up with Rivendell?

The Eden project takes a day to go round normally, but this time we found real live dinosaurs scampering about. I think they’ve borrowed the animatronics that were at the National History Museum. One is in a scene and responds to noise and movement in the audience, but another is a very well done ‘live’ one that runs about free range, snuffling at food and scaring small children. Obviously there’s no man inside carrying a 5+m long frame suspended from his body – that dinosaur is real and will roar at anyone who says otherwise! Eden project’s tickets are the same for a day or a year, so we got the year and went back again.

Then when we got home someone who feels I hoard as I keep back-ups managed to delete all the photos. There were ‘words’ and now we have them back again from two data storage rescue programmes.

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New adventures

August is apparently a time for new adventures.

It’s true, I’ve been revisitng parts of the country I’ve not seen for a while and visiting parts I’ve not seen before. There’s even been elements of unforeseen excitement that I’ve not had to deal with previously.

Dragon made it as far as Essex before, for the first time ever, going ‘crunch’ and rolling to a holt at the side of the road. This could have been nasty, I could have been in the middle lane of the M25, so I was impressed that Dragon chose a sunny day on a widened A road with good visibility.

I was told, “Yeah, bring it back” in the smiling tone of a vet talking about an errant puppy, so Dragon returned to its usual garage on the back of a tow truck. Then the real fun began. It turned out that three flimsy spot welds had failed. They were put in before Dragon’s catalytic converter or rear seat belts were even legal requirements – poor workmanship we all called it to only last this long. New replacement parts weren’t an option without taking out part of Dragon’s bowel, so Dragon’s original parts were repaired and now Dragon roars again!

Since then we’ve been using Frankie for long journeys, mainly because we can share the driving. But as of tomorrow Dragon will have another wrangler and so can go freely scampering about, causing mayhem as only small, characterful Little Dragons can.

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Out of harms way

Years ago at the funeral of a family friend, his wife described how, “every day of my marriage I felt cherished” and that as this didn’t stop just because he’d died she still felt happy and loved.

She did though warn of one character flaw that she learned early in the marriage, that ‘D.I.Y.’ stands for ‘Don’t Involve Yourself’ and that the best way to deal with his wandering off somewhere in possession of a tape measure and a speculative expression was to make herself scarce until the shouting, banging and sparks had stopped.

I’m reminded of this now as the bathroom is filled with men who may know what they’re doing, but who are tackling the aftermath of the previous property owners who didn’t. To tile around the bath they’d started at a random height on the wall, chosen purely for aesthetic merit, then left just enough gap above the bath that it was impossible to seal it properly without an element of plumbers’ metaphoric and literal fudge. The plug and taps were attached with sealant, from the inside. Underneath was filled with expanding foam, to add an extra element of surprise. We’re doing better than someone who had their toilet plumbed into the middle of the floor with nausea-provoking wavey tiles on every vertical or horizonal surface, but only just.

I shall sit quietly elsewhere listening to Silas Marner. Obviously this is a safely measure: if they hit something vital they’ll want someone free who can call an ambulance.

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