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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Watch out Greenwich, here comes Witho...


As promised, the letter I wrote to the council regarding the £16,000 of works...
The names have been changed to protect the innocent



Dear Council

Re: Proposed Works at [insert name of block], [insert name of road]

We are in receipt of your Statutory Notice of Estimates dated 8th April 2004 regarding the proposed works at [insert name of block], [insert name of road].

After reading your notice several times through disbelief, we feel compelled to respond to your request for observations. Our observations are clearly too lengthy to fit on the sheet provided, so we hope you will forgive us for detailing them in this alternative fashion. We also hope that you will take time to consider these observations very seriously.

Observations

1. Cost to the Leaseholder

Our first observation is in relation to the estimated cost to the Leaseholder of the works.

We understand that the Council has a responsibility to the Council tenants of [insert name of block] to ensure that the building and the individual tenanted properties are maintained to a satisfactory standard. We also understand that those who have chosen to purchase properties on the complex have a responsibility under the terms of their lease to contribute to such reasonable works as are necessary to the upkeep of the communal areas of the building and its structure.

However, it was with some astonishment that we noted that each leaseholder would be required to pay some £16,000 for these works. Knowing some of our fellow leaseholders at [insert name of block], it is clear to me that this kind of expenditure is way beyond their means. To put the situation in context, one of our neighbours (a pensioner, I might add) barely paid more than £16,000 for her property in the first place under the “Right to Buy” scheme.

You state that the Leaseholder can arrange to pay in 10 instalments. You and your colleagues may earn enough in excess of £1,600 a month to be able to afford such instalments, but I’ve no doubt that the majority of the leaseholders at [insert name of block] are not so privileged.

You also suggest that Leaseholders could arrange a bank loan. Whilst I expect some of them could, some of them may not even qualify for such a loan. This is also beside the point. The amount you are suggesting is not reasonable, taking into consideration all of the factors involved. The Leaseholders have not asked for these works to be carried out. They have received an unsolicited “bill” for a significant amount of money, a sum which most other homeowners would have to spend years saving up for before thinking of spending on their home. Homeowners should be able to choose when major works costing thousands of pounds are carried out to their property, other than emergency situations which would probably be covered by applicable insurance.

2. Works

Our second observation is in relation to the works themselves – how they benefit the Leaseholders and if it is justifiable to recharge them to the Leaseholders.

From earlier communications which have come to our attention, it originally seemed that the major focus of the works would be the replacement of the existing metal-framed windows with u-PVC replacement units. Having recently had work of this kind completed on a property of mine, we know that this should not cost in excess of £4,000 per property, and could cost as little as, say, £1,500. On looking more closely at the schedule of costs included with your recent letter (which, I might add, was not at all easy to decipher), it appeared that there were other works which contributed large chunks to the schedule, notably:

1. Rewiring of all flats
2. Concrete canopies
3. Replace timber door frames

In an earlier letter which was sent following the Residents’ Open Day, held in October 2003, it was stated regarding the rewiring (and I quote):

“This work will be carried out only where necessary within tenanted flats”

Thus, in our opinion, the £74,100 cost associated with this work should appear in the “Tenant” column, and not be rechargeable to the Leaseholders.

With regard to the work on the concrete canopies which represents some £25,000 – exactly how this work is of any benefit to the individual residents at [insert name of block] is quite beyond our comprehension.

In the table of observations from the previous notice of intention, it was noted that only the front doors of tenanted properties would be replaced. Does this mean that the item “Replace timber door frames” should also appear in the Tenant column of the schedule, and not be recharged to Leaseholders? Or do you intend to replace all door frames but not front doors? This requires considerable clarification.

3. Additional fees

Our third observation deals with the additional fees which appear on the schedule, i.e. the “supervision fee” and the “management fee”.

These add a significant amount to the total the Leaseholders would be required to pay, yet there is no explanation of what these fees are actually for and what service is provided in exchange for these extortionate fees.

4. Rechargeable costs

Our fourth observation concerns the “Rechargeable Block Cost”. You state in your letter (and I quote): “Not all of the works being carried out can be recharged to you under the terms of your lease”. This suggests to me that the Rechargeable costs should be lower than the calculated Block Cost, yet the “Rechargeable Block Cost” exceeds the “Block Cost” by some £34,000. I am afraid the logic of this escapes me. These seem to be accounted for by “Shared costs” yet there is no breakdown of what these costs are. This discrepancy requires a full explanation.

5. General Maintenance

Our fifth observation is more general. The fact that you are having to carry out works costing the best part of a million pounds rather suggests that the property has been neglected over the years, despite Leaseholders paying significant service and maintenance charges – supposedly for its upkeep.

Conclusion

It is clear to us that it is unreasonable to expect the Leaseholders to pay the amount quoted for these works. It is a major investment which, we believe, will not add enough value to the property to justify the expenditure.

By going ahead with these works as planned, you risk not recouping these costs, as the Leaseholders will simply not be able to raise the funds to pay the debts you will be forcing upon them.

On a purely personal level, we have recently put the property on the market at a price somewhat below the local average, due to its status as an ex-Local Authority property. This news will clearly make the property even less desirable and we shall likely have to drop our asking price further. It is even doubtful now that we will be able to sell the property at all once the would-be buyer discovers the extortionate bill with which they will be faced.

It seems to us that this situation does not seem to have been thought through with enough care. You must consider that you have a duty to Leaseholders as well as Council Tenants, and provide solutions which recognise the needs of all concerned.

Suggestions

Whilst it is easy for us to criticise, we do recognise that some of the works are necessary and we would like to put forward our own ideas which could make the situation more palatable for the Leaseholders:

  1. The work could be phased over a long period of time – e.g. focus the first phase on replacing the windows. This would make each phase of works at least vaguely affordable for the Leaseholders.

  2. Give Leaseholders the option of whether or not to have property specific works done (e.g. windows, rewiring, front doors).

  3. Provide a means of paying for the works over a significantly longer period of time – e.g. by increasing service charges


We would also suggest that the calculations are revisited to ensure that the Tenant Only works are excluded from the Rechargeable costs, as detailed earlier in this letter.

We would appreciate a full response to all the points we have raised, and hope to hear from you very soon.

Yours sincerely

The Big Fella (Leaseholder)
Witho (Official Hanger-On)


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Aching...

... hmmm, the ergonomics of my new desk just aren't right



It took a long neck/shoulder rub and a bath to get everything back into place

I haven't got time to read blogs

Harumph!

But the job is fine - I'm learning more and more bits of the job every day and feeling like I'm getting to know the "system" (such as it is)...

I wish I was working 9 - 5 instead of 10 - 6 though - I get home and have hardly got time to sit down, let alone have a power nap, before I have to start cooking dinner...

I'm tired


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Today's activities - in bullets





Monday, April 26, 2004

Part-time blogger

Whilst I apparently *do* have internet access at work, the PCs are horribly out of date and slow, and judging by the bitchiness of certain members of staff toward the other new starter who *dared* to leave her PC on when she left the office (I can think of more important issues in the world, but hey...) I'm trying to stick to the rules for the moment...

So, blogging will be evenings only for the time being. And my lasagne is going to burn if I don't serve it immediately...

*mutters something about there not being enough hours in a day*



Saturday, April 24, 2004

Sausages

Sorry, couldn't think of an all-encompassing post title, so I had to revert to my default word (eyes left).

So, yesterday, after eight weeks of being on display, this:



was finally and undeniably true... and I've got the bank balance to prove it... but shush, dear readers, it *will* of course be invested back into the property market in the near future... well, most of it... probably...

Well, at least I won't have to spend any of it in TK Maxx as, thanks to my birthday, I've now got £45 of TK Maxx vouchers to keep me going on that front. Now £45 in normal currency may not feel like much - but in TK Maxx terms, I'm cash rich! This was my present from the Southampton contingent - they know how to shut me up, bless 'em.

Other presents included a digital camera, a book and a dozen red roses from the Big Fella (plus last night's dinner in a posh Indian), a Miffy t-shirt, choccies and Sex and the City (season 4) DVD from bro' (though probably chosen by sis'-in-law, bro' not being a fan of shopping...) plus more items to come when I see my other siblings next weekend.

And I got a *million* comments and e-cards and messages and stuff from my lovely bloggie pals - gawd bless ya!

What a lucky little Witho I am! (or should that be a ?)

So, yesterday, as well as being my birthday and completion day, was also the first day of my new job. I'm working for a recruitment consultant specialising in engineering and IT disciplines. It's an office completely devoid of men, which may prove interesting - but before you start thinking, in horror: "synchronisation!", at least three of the women are, by my estimation, post-menopausal, and there are only 7 people in all. I am the tallest, but that's hardly relevant unless you're currently writing a dissertation on "Relative height in the workplace" which is, let's face it, unlikely to be the case.

The company is a matriarchal one - I met the daughter yesterday who seemed very pleasant and must be okay as she shares my first name and all my initials - including the middle one! Which could prove confusing... However, throughout the morning I spent there, I kept receiving subtle yet consistent veiled warnings about the mother (who was absent), from both the daughter herself and the two other women who were in the office. It appears that the mother boss does have a tendency to get stressed, and can "take it out" on people. Furthermore, they "get through" quite a number of temps... though the daughter explained this away by saying that the agency often sent classic PA/Secs and the role is not what you'd be looking for if you were dead set on that kind of work... Well, I'm not dead set on anything other than getting out of the flat, earning some pocket money and killing some time before we leave, so *that* wouldn't be a reason for my leaving...

So, what does my job entail?
Like many offices, they have their own, uniquely elaborate way of making paper travel around an office, which I shall now describe for your delectation:

I take a pile of printed cvs which have been emailed in response to job ads on the internet.
Each cv has previously had a "data capture form" stapled to the front.
For each cv I must ascertain if the person is already registered on the recruitment database.
If so, I must circle "update" on the "data capture form" and write down their registration number.
I must then check that their name, address and telephone details are correct on the database - if not, I must update the details and indicate that these were updated on the "data capture form".
I must also fill in today's date, and the "cv updated" date shown on the database, as well as their "engineering discipline" which is stored with their details.
I must then change the "cv updated" date on the database to today's date (hence, writing it down first before overwriting it - clever eh? Bet that's caught a few people out over the years...)
I then write the person's name on the "data capture form" at the top.
I press F9 (to "tag" the database record) and F10 (to save the changes), and then deal with the next one.

If their details do not exist on the database yet, I simply circle "add" on the "data capture" form, fill in their name and the date on the front and put them in a separate pile. These, dear readers, are the cvs which *might* be thrown straight into the bin (or the recycling basket - not sure which yet) so there's no point me spending too much of my time on them...

Then I must find the paper files associated with each previously registered cv - ah yes, the "mother" is also a technophobe, had I not mentioned that? Not trusting the technology to do what it does best, each person has a little bundle of paper filed firstly by engineering/IT discipline (IT people in the filing drawers to the left, engineering on the right) then by surname.

Once their file(s) has/have been found (yes, some people have more than one discipline, so they have more than one paper file - good innit?), I then have to print out all of the "tagged" records from the database, cut up the printout so that each person has a little slip of paper (some people spill over the end of the paper, so I have to staple their bits together), and clip this to the bundle of cv and paper file. Don't forget to remove all the "tags" from the database now, Witho!

I then go through *all* the cvs (including the new ones), and if the person has mentioned the job reference in their email, I must write this on the data capture sheet.

I then sort these bundles into folders for the "recruiters" (i.e. the mother and daughter) - mother has all IT, mechanical, document controllers and daughter has everything else. The folders for mother are placed on her chair (I wonder what happens if she's sitting on it at the time, do I put them on her head?) and those for the daughter are placed on the windowsill behind her. I love these little "foibles" people have, bless...

So, that seems to be my job. There are other factors too - answering phones to people, telling them that mother boss is not available if applicable ("don't tell them she's not here, always say she's not available" says my colleague, mysteriously...), telling them to send their cvs in if they're not registered, all fascinating stuff.

I couldn't help slipping into "IT developer" mode whilst using their crusty old recruitment system - imagine, a system which doesn't even allow you to use the tab key to move between input fields! Cuh! And, as I spacebarred over the characters in the field which needed to be deleted, I couldn't help thinking: "Where's the field exit key? This thing is just crying out for one!" (Tilesey, Stevan and Swiss, if no-one else, will know what I'm talking about...).

It's a job, that's all. It'll keep me going...

Kajagoogoo

Watched "Bands reunited" on VHsomethingorother the other night - what a concept! As the subtitle suggests, this one was about reuniting Kajagoogoo for a one-off show, and it was way cool. I really admired the way Limahl was so up for it, despite the fact that the others basically kicked him out of the band for being too "teenie-boppish" (funnily enough, it didn't take long after he left for people to forget they ever existed...). Nick Beggs - the bassist and main songwriter - was clearly trying desperately to cling on to his youth, but at least he'd done away with the poodle-based hairstyle of the eighties. Limahl looked kind of haggard. The poor old drummer hadn't played for 20 years, but he had a go, and they really performed quite well. I'd forgotten how much I liked the bassline to "Too shy" - always a sucker for an interesting bassline, our Witho...

Well, I think I've blathered on quite long enough. Just enough time to say, I'm currently deciding if I like Franz Ferdinand or not... I think I do, they're kind of Talking Heads-y which, to my mind at least, is a good thing...


Friday, April 23, 2004

Today is...




Thursday, April 22, 2004

Miscellanea

Dear dog owners

I’m sitting here in the park, minding my own business. If only your dogs could do the same. It’s not their fault, they just go about their daily business, sniffing turds and other dogs’ bums. Fine, if that’s what floats your boat, but just don’t get me involved.

I’ve just been jumped on by a large labrador. The owner beckoned the dog away once it was too late, but didn’t even think to apologise. He received a “withering” glare, let me tell you. Dog owners are a bit like parents of annoying children in public places. They expect others to be charmed by the behaviour of their appendage. Well no, funnily enough, I don’t really enjoy being launched at by a large slobbering beast (BF excepted of course… *wink*)



Dear clouds

I know you have your role to play in the arena of meteorological phenomena, but why must you always suddenly appear when I’ve finally got my arse off the chair and ventured out to the park? You've been conspicuous by your absence all morning - you were sitting there, lying in wait for when I waltzed out of the door, now weren't you?



Dear bee

Whilst I appreciate your key role in providing me with honey for my crumpets and Lemon and Ginger herbal tea, I’m afraid I’m at a loss to explain why you feel the need to buzz around my head, somewhat annoyingly. My hair has no colourful petals, and there is certainly no nectar lurking within its depths. I’d advise you to concentrate your efforts on more worthwhile pursuits. And no, that doesn’t include bashing yourself against closed windows when the open one is literally inches away…



Dear sun

Ah, there you are. Just a polite request to stay put for a bit, if you’d be so kind. Thanks mate. And while you’re at it, burn some of those clouds away would you? I’ve already had a word, but they have failed to respond to the issues I’ve raised…



Dear World

La Witho has a job. Just a temporary one, doesn’t pay much, not that exciting, admin/reception/PA. But it’s a job and it’s local, and it should be within my capabilities. I have to go in tomorrow morning (my birthday – hint, hint) for a handover, then I start properly on Monday. So nerr…




Love Witho


Bums...

No, not real bums, with buttocks and that. Just figurative ones...

I got a letter today from the University of Greenwich, inviting me for an interview. I must have applied for this job over a month ago... It's some admin job at one of their campuses (campi? BF?) which is literally minutes away from here. "Good news, Witho" I bet you're thinking. "That'll get you out of the flat and stop this ceaseless moping to which you have become worringly accustomed..." you add, helpfully...

But listen, this is a permanent job. I don't really know why I applied for a permanent job - I must have done it before BF got his job in Taunton or something, but now I've got the dilemma. The interview is mid-May - which means the job may not start until June at the earliest, I'm leaving London in August... I think I'm just going to have to tell them the truth...

Other Greenwich-based news

I'm currently composing a very long letter (more of an essay, actually) to Greenwich Council regarding this window fiasco. On looking more closely at the paperwork they sent, I really think they've failed to "do the math, girlfriend". On the one hand, they cite major works which will *only* be carried out in tenanted flats (i.e. those still owned by the council) whilst on the other, they are recharging these works to the mugs Leaseholders. Either they're trying to pull the wool over people's eyes, or they got the work-experience girl to put together the spreadsheet. Well, la Witho has time to kill and nits to pick, so watch out Greenwich!

To be honest, I doubt that my sarcastic witterings will make any difference to their crazy idea of sending people bills for £16,000, but I must feel I'm doing something. Once finished, I may post some (or even all) of it on here for your delectation...


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Only the crumbliest, flakiest Witho....

BF and Witho are having a bit of a chinwag about the day's events
J is one of BF's schoolfriends, who is a barrister

BF: Oh, by the way, J has just been made a judge
Witho: Oh...
BF: What's up?
Witho: *bursts into tears*

You are probably wondering what prompted this, no?

Well, apart from the inevitable hormones (you know, I think us girlie bloggers might be synchronising, let's just say that Fanny Frog's services may be needed in the not too distant future...), Witho did her now regular "I'm going to feel sorry for myself" flaky moment, brought on by the knowledge that BF's friend, who is the same age as Witho, has clearly made a success of his life and is "somebody", whereas Witho is a nobody. How many times am I going to take the wrong road before I find what I *should* be doing with my life? Will I ever get it right?


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Dipstickerie du jour

Witho is preparing jacket potatoes in her usual style.

This involves blasting them for a few minutes (usually about 7) in the microwave, before banishing them to the oven for half an hour, to provide requisite fluffiness inside, and a crispy skin. That's the way I like 'em.

*ding*

The microwave has finished blasting the spuds, so Witho opens the conventional oven in preparation for the "potato transfer manoeuvre". She then opens the kitchen drawer to retrieve the tongs which will facilitate the aforementioned "potato transfer manoeuvre".

Tongs in hand, Witho bends to peer into the conventional oven.

"Eh? Where have those potatoes gone?" she ponders, somewhat befuddled...

"Derr, you haven't taken them out of the microwave yet Witho, you dipstick!" screams the voice of reason (who, you'll note, only makes an appearance once the damage is done!)

Cuh!


Juxtaposition

I feel I've been over-using the word juxtaposition of late, but it seems so appropriate for this:



Whilst sorting through all my old stuff at the flat, I came across my first ever mobile phone (I think I got it in 1996 or 1997), and look at what a monster it was! Oh, and special thanks to my moblog, for allowing this picture to happen. It's not as if it's your job or anything...

Paltrow

I made the mistake of watching Sliding Doors on a non-wide-screen TV a couple of weeks ago (kept forgetting to mention it on here...). Paltrow looked so scrawny - Gwyn, eat some pies love! Although she's got a bun in the oven at the mo' so she's hopefully looking a little more healthy...

My other objections to the film are:



Being a saddo, I recognized that the tube station they used for the tube scenes was Waterloo (specifically, out of the Waterloo and City line). Presumably on the basis that it doesn't run at weekends as it's purely a city slicker Monday-Friday station so they could film there without getting mixed up with real passengers... They used to use Aldwych for such purposes (which was a peak hours only station - I used to use it as it's right next door to my university - why walk a couple of hundred yards from Holborn, for God's sake?) but it's completely closed now...



Monday, April 19, 2004

Films of the weekend

Secretary

Always a fan of Spader anyway, and knowing that the film had been recommended to Tilesey by Elsie and Minnow, I saw that it was on Box Office, so we had a lookie. After the first few scenes of the film, I thought it was going to be a grim account of self-harm, but it so wasn't. Quirky, funny, dark and strangely slow - almost like the actors were underwater. I liked it... What else has the lead actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal, been in? She looks so familiar...

Auto-focus

A film, based on a true story, about the demise of Bob Crane, a family man turned sleaze bucket, thanks in part to Willem Dafoe's character... An interesting and enjoyable little jaunt...

The Filth and the Fury

A fascinating docu-film about the Sex Pistols, with Johnny Rotten's lumbering narration, and lots of clips of music and news from the time to set the context. I wanted to see the other members of the band but they were all silhouetted, oddly... Enjoyed it muchly, and learnt a lot about them that I hadn't known before - I was only about 5 when they were on the scene...

Other non-film stuff

Solicitor

My solicitor phoned today to tell me that both Exchange of Contracts and Completion on my flat will happen "contemporaneously" (lawyers, eh? Why use simple terminology when there are so many posh words around?) on Friday. He tried to get an earlier exchange to give me the peace of mind (in theory, the buyer can still pull out until contracts are exchanged) but with no luck. I'm not too concerned - I know this guy is a serious buyer - he's already bought 4 flats in the block...

Teaching

I still can't seem to throw off the itch of teaching, but really need someone to tell me whether it'll be right for me (and I'll be right for it) or not. I've spoken to someone at the Teacher Training Agency, and their recommendation is to do some classroom observations - this is exactly what BF suggested, having done them himself prior to doing his PGCE. I tried to arrange some with local schools a few weeks back, but despite leaving messages and sending emails, I didn't get a response from any of them. Probably because the teachers are too busy... well... teaching or something! How dare they? Who do they think they are, teachers?

So plan B is to get BF to sort some out at his school - not our first choice, as there is the potential for piss-taking (of both me and he) if the students cotton on to who I am. We already had a run-in with some of his, let's say, less sympathetic students at the cinema. Here's the story:

BF and Witho approach the cinema entrance
Witho is aware of a gaggle of teenage girls being raucous just behind BF and Witho
Witho is also aware of BF walking very swiftly towards the cinema
BF ducks off to the Gents, while Witho gets the pre-ordered tickets from the machine
Witho wanders over to the gents to see the gaggle of teenagers harrassing some woman, saying:
"Do you know Mr "Fella"? Is you Mr "Fella"'s girlfriend?"
Witho is now suspicious of the gaggle's intentions
BF comes out, looking sheepish, and the gaggle of girls follow
Gaggle of girls realise that the woman they've been harrassing is not Mr "Fella"'s girlfriend, and decide to harrass La Witho instead:
Gaggle: "Is you Mr "Fella"'s wife?"
Witho: "No, I'm his girlfriend"
Gaggle: "Really? Oh my God, Mr Fella! Oh, well done sir, well done"
All of this is going on whilst BF is virtually dragging me up the escalator to the screen in an attempt to get away from the gaggle of cackling harridans...


Saturday, April 17, 2004

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

Spurred on by the “draft first, post later” régime, I’m currently typing this post in the park, using the laptop as it should be used, i.e. a portable computer! Will wonders never cease? So, I’m typing away with the Big Fella beside me. He’s preparing some notes on Virgil’s Aeneid which he is going to dictate to me shortly – I type much more quickly than he does, and I’ve frankly nothing better to do. This is the first day of the Easter holidays (and, ironically, the last day of the Easter holidays) where we’ve just chilled – no hauling of boxes, no moving of furniture, no taking of stuff to the dump. I have just been looking through a local job (for local people) newspaper to no avail (had I found something interesting in the newspaper, could I have said “to avail” I wonder? I’m guessing not…).

So, now you can picture the scene, here I go…

Since I’ve been back in that London and partly prompted by various comments and articles on people’s blogs, the following question has been troubling my addled brain: Who are the real Londoners? How do we define a Londoner? In fact, how do we define anyone as belonging to or being from a particular place? Is it where you’re born, where you live now, or the place where you felt most at home? Does it even matter where we’re from – isn’t it more important to think about who we are now? Lots of questions for a Witho to puzzle through…

I’ve always considered myself to be a Londoner through and through. I was born, educated, and domiciled (with a couple of interludes) in East London until about the age of 25. I’ve even got a bit of a cockney accent, bless me (though I was accused of being “posh” at secondary school – more a reflection of the kind of school I went to than of any poshness on my part…). I have been known to be rather precious about my so-called London-ness (or should that be Londonicity?), partly as a defence mechanism for people accusing me of being an Essex girl (okay, Walthamstow has borders with Essex, but I’m from the London side, honest!) but when faced with someone with, for example, a Surrey postcode, claiming to be from London - just because they had an 0181 phone number (though it may have been 081 or even 01 at that time!) I would barely be able to contain my wrath. And as for those who are blatantly born outside of London, but who moved into the big smoke for work and have put down roots here - there was a time when I’d have been most disgruntled to hear such a person describe themselves as a Londoner.

But these days I realise that it’s often these latter people who know and appreciate what we think of as London much better than I probably ever will. I happened to be born in London – that’s undeniable fact. I didn’t ask to be, I’m not particularly proud or ashamed of the fact, I certainly won’t apologise for it – it’s just the way it is. But these guys have deliberately come here – they actively seek out what London has to offer. Does that make them a Londoner? They’ve embraced London – yeah, okay, they might moan about the commute and the pollution, they might wince at the juxtaposition of the very privileged and the extremely deprived – a contrast which is more stark in London than in anywhere else I’ve been - but on balance, many of them will weigh this up against what London has to offer, and stay.

London is not just the West End, the City, the museums and galleries and the major rail termini that most people visiting will experience. There are the outer “boroughs”, where the majority of “Londoners” actually live. They’re not really different from other small towns dotted around the country, they just happen to be part of a bigger picture. Some (even many) people who were born and raised in the outer zone don’t even leave their “borough” at all – all the facilities they need are there – cinemas, supermarkets, theatres, museums…they probably won’t venture into Central London any more frequently than someone who lives outside London and comes down for a day trip shopping in Oxford Street or visiting the Tate Modern, unless they work there, though many of the City’s rich high-flyers live outside of London altogether, in the home counties or even further afield. Come to think of it, can we call these people Londoners too?

I guess what I’m saying is that my own definition of what a Londoner is has widened to encompass a much broader spectrum of people. From the homeless guy who lives under Waterloo bridge, to the Sloane Ranger in the £1m pad in Chelsea, to the graduate who moved from their home town up North to Clapham 5 years ago to work for corporation x, to Doris, who was born in Walthamstow and only ventures out of the borough for her annual holiday in Bognor Regis, all of these are Londoners. Which is why, when people say: “Londoners are x” (where x is usually a derogatory adjective), I get annoyed. Londoners are a hugely diverse group of people who have one thing in common – a connection with the huge, sprawling metropolis which is London.

Hmmm, so there...


Thursday, April 15, 2004

Beware, it's a long 'un!

It’s not often that I write posts in Word first, before pasting them into the Blogger posting window. But today I feel I’ve a lot to say, plus I don’t want to connect to the interweb at the moment, as we are expecting a phone call – one day we’ll probably get broadband, I always like to ensure that I’m several years behind on all technological advances. I’ve only just bought a digital watch… probably…

It’s also not often that I go almost a week without posting to the blog (I think the last time was probably when I was on holiday with my non-blog-sympathiser friends and didn’t feel able to sneak off for a quickie(!)…).

But the last few days have been absolutely hectic as I decided to use the long weekend to pack up the flat and move out. The completion date is still yet to be confirmed, but I don’t live there anymore, so thought I might as well just get it out of the way. We also arranged to meet up with various friends down there, to break up the monotony of box-packing…

So, what have I learnt from this experience?
(Those of you with a limited timeframe for reading blog posts, click away now…):



Furthermore...

Dear Wembley Arena

Please explain why you had to confiscate the lids off people's plastic bottles (e.g. of water, coke, etc) for "Health and Safety" reasons, whilst allowing (nay, encouraging) other people to walk around brandishing glass bottles of beer, alcopops etc.

In addition, I would like to point out the following to all budding venue planners:


Lots of love

Witho


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

We apologise for the interruption to this transmission....

Fear not, gentle reader(s), I am here, but have been (amongst other things) moving out of my flat in Southampton and becoming far too familiar with the southern section of the M25 - the full saga of which I shall relate shortly, when I've got my breath back...

*slumps on the sofa with a nice cuppa*


Thursday, April 08, 2004

Stolen from Billy, who stole it from x, who stole it ....:

I started this earlier on this morning, so some of the answers will have changed since then (e.g. the one about what time it is!)

1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:
exstructus toto proflabat pectore somnum
(one of BF’s books, evidently)

2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
Bucket of Woolworth’s Pick ‘n’ Mix

3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Deportivo v AC Milan (it’s BF, he’s corrupted me!)

4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is:
10:33

5: Now look at the clock; what is the actual time?
10:39

6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
BF opening sliding wardrobe doors

7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
Went for a walk last night with BF down to Chislehurst ponds. Needed some fresh air….

8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?
My blog

9: What are you wearing?
Khaki combats, black t-shirt with "boxfresh" written in graffiti writing across it, slippers

10: Did you dream last night?
Yes - but I can't remember the details. Something about not being able to find my clothes

11: When did you last laugh?
When reading Babs’ post about chocolate ice-cream versus thigh algebra

12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Clothes hanging to dry from the picture rail, 2 blue ethnic masks, a clay humpty-dumpty plaque (?) and a shoe horn

13: Seen anything weird lately?
An article in the Sun about having sequins grafted onto your eyeball

14: What do you think of this quiz?
I’m likin’ it

15: What is the last film you saw?
Monster (at the cinema)
Shawshank Redemption (at home)

16: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
A house in/near Taunton

17: Tell me something about you that I don't know
I appeared on French Television (TF1 News) being interviewed about student protests (in a “vox pop” stylee…)

18: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
Abolish window envelopes, or establish world peace – one of those…

19: Do you like to dance?
Yes, but only on my terms – not if someone says “come on Witho, dance….”

20: George Bush: is he a power-crazy nutcase or some one who is finally doing something that has needed to be done for years?
He is the figurehead of a much larger, more complicated issue, upon which I am not qualified to comment

21: Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
Lily. That’s what my real name actually means, allegedly…

22: Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
Beelzebub! Not really, but I can’t think of a sensible answer…

23: Would you ever consider living abroad?
I have done, on two separate occasions, and would do so again under the right circumstances


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Blue Sky

The last few times I've been to the cinema, I've seen a trailer for the film "Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind". What interested me about the trailer was not the film itself, but the use of the song "Mr Blue Sky" by ELO (you can listen to a snippet of it here if you're not sure what I'm talking about). For me, this song is so evocative - it reminds me of my (fortunately, very happy) childhood. My brother bought the 7" of this at the time it was in the charts, on blue vinyl - how cool is that?

It's one of those songs where you just know every drumbeat, strum, key change - all of it is so very familiar...

So, every time I saw the trailer, I thought "I must try and get hold of this song" (lord only knows what happened to the blue vinyl version... it may still be lurking in my brother's loft...)

Yesterday, the BF and I were on our way back home and he suggested we pop in the charity shop and have a nose around. I wasn't overly keen, thinking that we were both supposed to be ridding ourselves of junk rather than accumulating more of it, but he dragged me in there anyway. What should we find, but ELO's Greatest Hits on CD - for the princely sum of £2. Yes, two of Her Majesty's finest pounds sterling. And, of course, thereupon, the final track - "Mr Blue Sky".... Needless to say, I snapped it up immediately!

Woo-hoo!

It's been going round my head since...

In other news...

Today, I signed up with another agency which, as it turned out, are a sister company to one of the other agencies with whom I'd already signed up. This turned out to be handy, as it meant I didn't have to go through all the typing and MS Word tests again... I'd already noticed the text sitting next to the PC in the interview room was the same text as I'd used on the copy typing test from last time...

Again, they seemed hopeful of being able to find me something locally - which they always do, though I haven't seen much evidence of this so far...



Tuesday, April 06, 2004

It's all coming together...

I've been fretting quite a lot over the past few days about moving out of my flat. I spent the weekend in Southampton, supposedly starting packing and working out how much stuff I needed to transport and thus the kind of van I'd need to hire. What I actually did was fret almost solidly (aside from the time I spent engaging in social activities with friends and family... not really the objective of the visit, but hey, I had a nice time!). Okay, I did sort out all those clothes for charity Fluffy, but that was about it.

However, it all seems to be coming together now, and I'm feeling much happier. Today, I have:



So Witho is calm for the moment, but don't worry, I'll find something else to fret about very soon no doubt!


Monday, April 05, 2004

OMG! I met another blogger!

Those of you familiar with the lovely Fluffbags will probably already have seen her account of our encounter today (my first meeting with a fellow blogger I might add, aside from those people I knew *before* they were "famous"...)

"So, what did you make of Fluffy?" I hear you clamouring to ask... What struck me about her was how ... well... normal she seems. I hope she won't take this the wrong way. Having read her blog for some time and knowing what she's been through (and is going through at the moment), I suppose I expected her to be, well, somewhat... unhinged, unstable, some other word beginning with un-. But no, she wasn't un-anything. A gorgeous, smiling, welcoming, relaxed Fluffy - how do you do it girl? You must be made of strong stuff...

We'd gone to Fluffy's to drop off some clothes which I'd sorted out as part of the "rationalisation" (a.k.a. clearout) of my flat. I'd mentioned in a comment box that I had several bags of stuff for charity, and Fluff said she might be interested in having a look - so we popped in briefly on the way back from Southampton. Our arrival was greeted with the sight of three little girls peering out of the living room window wide-eyed and excited - angelic, just as they are in the photos... bless 'em. I'd barely got over the threshold, when Tally offered me her pink bear figurine, saying "would you like it?". I politely declined, but she insisted on making me a pink badge with hearts on it. Gaby was serene on the sofa, watching LOTR "The Two Towers". I asked her if she'd seen it before. "Oh yeah, loads of times..." she replied, nonchalantly. Milly was wide-eyed, drinking her juice, eating her Quavers (or were they Skips?), staring at the two tall strangers sitting on the sofa opposite...

So, my first meeting with an "internet friend" - other than the slightly topsy-turvy way of meeting someone in the flesh after knowing some of the more intimate details of their life, it was just fine... I don't know why I expected it to be otherwise...

Look forward to seeing you again, Fluff...


Moving woes...

Dear Removal firm

Please allow me to apologise. How inconvenient of me to be moving from Southampton to London. Yes, I know I didn't tell you that I was moving to London, but to be fair, you didn't ask where I was moving to. I'm so sorry I misled you because you wrongly assumed that I was moving from Southampton to Southampton and quoted me accordingly. Yes, it must be awful for your men to have to sit in the van for all that time on the motorway, even though I would have thought it was their job... or maybe I just got it wrong! Tell you what, I'll change my plans shall I, so that I can move locally and then I'll pay less, and your poor men won't have to sit there in the van doing nothing for hours on end. Yes, that's what we'll do. So sorry to have inconvenienced you in this way.

Love Witho



Friday, April 02, 2004

Easter Holidays

It's the last day of term today for the BF, so we had our usual Friday fry-up and he stocked up with Miniature Heroes for his form. Bless.

Off to Southampton tonight to start sorting out all my stuff for the move, which is scheduled (though not confirmed) for the 16th of April (exactly one week before my birthday, hint hint...). So far, I've put together a spreadsheet of all the stuff I can think of (including "random bits of wood for craft projects", "Christmas tree", "kitchen door" (which I took off the day I moved in, nearly 4 years ago, and has remained in the hallway since...)) and trying to work out where each item will be going. Luckily, I've managed to palm many of the bigger furniture items off on friends and family...

This weekend's task will be to gather all the remaining stuff which will need transport into a corner of the flat to work out the size of van I'll need to hire. The Big Fella's idea - he's a clever old chap y'know...

We're also planning to go and see Monster at a *nice* cinema, and hopefully meet up with some of my friends down there, while I've still got my South Coast pad...

Sewing machine news

Silly me, it wasn't the tension knob, but the tension screw! A quick bit of manipulation, and it was sorted. I celebrated by making a simple fabric blind for the bathroom. Today, I shall make a similar item for the kitchen... I love making things. Sometimes I wonder if I should do this sort of thing for a living...




Thursday, April 01, 2004

A new baby chez Witho!

Look:



My umbrella plant has had a little baby, with another one on the way! Spring is here!

I love Spring - I like the "inbetween" seasons, Spring and Autumn. You've still got that freshness in the air, without the oppressive heat and humidity of summer (I'm not good with heat), or the bitter desolation of winter (when the cold just takes your breath away). In Spring, you have the smell of freshly cut grass, and the blossom; in Autumn, the muddy, leafy, smoky aromas and moody sunsets. Mmmmmm...

That umbrella plant is one of the few plants I've managed *not* to kill. Which probably doesn't bode well for my dream of having a kitchen garden in my next home and living the "Good Life"... ah well...

Just had to switch the radio on to disguise the sound of my neighbour coughing horribly...

The London Blogmeet site is up and running and gathering lots of comments and ideas. Pop in, tell us if you're coming, stick the button on your sidebar - just do it!

Today, I think I'm going to tackle my sewing machine, which decided the other day that it was going to produce lovely neat stitches on the top layer, but a shambles on the underside... I reckon that tension knob has a lot to answer for...

Best be off - catch you later!



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