Sunday, 30 September 2012

I... I who've done nothing...

Well, I say nothing. I still spent 5 hours today marking baseline assessments for Years 7 and 8, during which I was thinking, 'Exactly how more baseline are these going to get?' and, 'Have you never heard of full stops/ capital letters/ dictionaries?'

Other than that, and having a massive house clean yesterday morning in preparation for house viewings that aren't occurring, I have done very little. Still, a tidy house always cheers me up so it was worth the elbow grease for that reason alone. I had planned to do some writing. I had planned to do some sewing. But the truth is that I have a non-functioning brain at the moment regarding anything creative. I am still fretting about work, and every time I try to distract myself with activities other than cleaning and staring at the TV, my mind drifts back to school. It is not good.

In contrast, Andy has been enormously productive. He has been cooking and baking. He has made some spectacular loaves of bread, and some delicious soup and cheesey onion soda bread, and a very scrummy quiche. He also made a moussaka for dinner. I am almost forgetting how to cook.

And Heather went out this morning to buy her first car! She passed her driving test about six or seven years ago, and she is now, finally, the owner of a black Ford Ka. She also starts a new job tomorrow, having been poached by a department within the company for which she currently works. And she has also taken to walking around the house dressed in a hoodie. This causes Andy and I a huge amount of amusement as we get to shout, 'Hoodie in da house!' every time we see her. She is being very patient with us at the moment, but I suspect the patience may run out soon because basically we don't know when to stop. I am suspecting that very soon we shall be treated to a withering stare and told 'for goodness sake, grow up.'

And that's about it. Not so much a Much Malarkey Weekend; more a Not Much Malarkey Weekend. First day of October tomorrow. It's getting cold. Pandora Kitten has started demanding lap space in the mornings which is a sure fire indicator that Winter is on the way. The willow arch has dropped most of its leaves. Andy has requested I construct my birthday list for 2012. I've struggled with that because all I want is a couple of books. I toyed with requesting a couple of bantam hens, but we're supposed to be waiting until the house move until we chicken-up again.

Back to work tomorrow. Not looking forward to it, but I'm taking it one day at a time and there were Christmas cards in Sainsbugs on Friday, so the end of the year and my teaching career can't be that far away.

Whatever you do this week, make it a happy do!

Saturday, 29 September 2012


It's been a horrible week at school. We've been subject to a pretend Ofsted. And I have gone from being graded as outstanding to having notice to improve. How can that be? How can my standards have dropped so dramatically in the space of two months?

The answer, of course, is that they haven't. And I know this but it doesn't stop me thinking that suddenly I am a rubbish teacher.

This is the devil in teaching. You are constantly under scrutiny. You are constantly  having to justify your professionalism to everyone - senior management, parents, students. You are constantly being bombarded with new initiatives, the latest being 'collaborative planning' which basically means teachers like me who are conscientious and organised pick up the slack for those who are lazy and counting the hours until they can go home. You are constantly being given more and more things to do and no time in which to do them. You are denied lunch breaks and tea breaks. You find yourself working longer hours every week just to try and keep afloat, let alone make progress.

For the last week we have been required to hand our lesson plans in to senior management every morning, because they don't trust us to be professional. The plan has to be on a specific planning sheet. Each plan takes me 20 minutes to complete in full, which adds another hour and twenty minutes to my work load each day. And this is the worst bit. We have been told that everyone in the department must comply for a whole week. And if we don't all comply, if someone refuses, then we all have to carry on until everyone does as they are told.

Yes, folks, there is someone in the department who is refusing to comply. And whilst he refuses, the rest of us must suffer. It's like keeping the whole class in for detention because one kid is being naughty.

And so I came home from school yesterday and I cried. A lot. I can't do this any more. I don't want to do this any more. I'm not going to do this any more. I am going to resign. I am going to find something else to.

Perhaps I was never meant to be a teacher in the first place. You know the saying - 'Those who can't, teach.'

Well, I would add that those who can't teach become Ofsted inspectors.

And some how they think it's okay to demean a perfectly good teacher until that teacher feels so bad about how their job is making their life a misery that they decide to leave the profession. It's not just me. Read any related teaching websites and you'll see this happening all over the country.

I thought the Much Malarkey Manor Adventure was going to be the house sale and move (and finally our agent has put a For Sale board in the front garden - it's only taken them 4 weeks to arrange this but then it is hand carved from rare mahogany and inlaid with precious jade and diamonds).

But it seems the Adventure extends to another aspect of my life. The Career. The Job. The Putting Money in the Bank to Pay the Bills.

Ah well. If you're going to have stress you might as well get it all over and done with in one happy bundle!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Desperately Seeking Silver Linings

Blundering downstairs at 6 a.m I tread in a pile of cat sick at the bottom of the stairs. Could have been worse - could have been cat poo.

Arriving at work I had to deal with a PP aka Pushy Parent. It's difficult telling a mother that her off spring isn't the creative genius they think they are. Could have been worse - could have  been a PP who actually HAD a creative genius for a child.

Playground duty in hissing rain. Could have been worse - could have been hissing rain and crashing thunder and lightning and my brolly could have been struck with 500 volts and I could have ended up a shrivelled pile of ashes.

Estate agent called. Our buyers have had their mortgage application rejected.

We are back on the market.

Silver lining? Hmmm...

...well, we spent over £100 going to and from Wales at the weekend, but at least I have discovered that I don't think Wales is the right place for us, and going by our rule of 'We must both agree on a place for us to move to,' that means we needn't waste any more time looking for a house in Wales...

... and we can carry on paying more off the mortgage whilst we wait for another buyer...

...and we can go on more leisurely visits around the country to scope out places  to live (Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire next)....

...and we hadn't got around to filling in the enormous sellers' pack from the solicitors, so we have saved time doing that and can now shop around for a cheaper solicitor...

...and the estate agent is going to have to do a bit more work for their fee...

...and we didn't fall in love with the house over the weekend so we won't feel we've missed out on it by suddenly not having a buyer...

...and...and...and..., that's it. I do not have it within me to summon up any more silver linings to this horrid cloud that has blotted our horizon. We are feeling deflated. Not quite back to the beginning, but feeling a bit like we have.

Ah well. That's clouds.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

There and Back

There and back to North Wales from Kent in one day.

Beautiful countryside. Stunning views. Peace and quiet.

A mini-adventure indeed.

Of course, the danger of being so certain about something, of building hopes up high, is that when you realise you are wrong, it takes a bit of recovering, a bit of tending wounds, of nursing self - doubt.

Recovering is what we are doing today.

Is the house for us? It turns out, then, that no it is not...

...but we went because it called to us. We took a chance. We've never been that crazy before. We did something new.

Back to square one? Not quite. We've taken the first step of our next journey. We've tested our resilience. We know a little bit more now of what we do and don't want.

The Much Malarkey Manor Adventure continues...

Friday, 21 September 2012


Wellie boots - check!
Umbrellas - check!
Toothbrush and credit card for emergency hotel stop-over - check!
Number One son on cat sitting duty - check!
Promise made to bring back a Welsh dragon for grand-daughter - check!
Spare camera batteries - check!
Camcorder on charge - check! (Camcorder instruction manual - uncheck. Winging the operation of camcorder - check!)
Notebook and pen - check!
Spare pen - check!
Chocolate biscuit supply for car journey - check!
 One 'Don't worry Mum, we'll be okay,' phone call - check!

Too excited to sleep -check!

Better had though - long journey ahead...

...double check!

Thursday, 20 September 2012


Andy the Adventurer has returned from Telford. He is tired. We have been sitting on the sofa together whilst I mark another pile of books, and we have been drinking tea, eating choccie digestives and talking 'house.'

'Of course,' says Andy, all casual-like, 'I reckon that house is going to be ours.'
'Why's that, then?' says I, because only ten minutes ago he had been describing his exploration in the dark and equating it to walking through the forests in Transylvania.
'Because I marked our territory,' he says.

It takes me a moment to realise exactly what he means by 'marking our territory.

'You mean you weed?' I say.
'I was desperate,' says Andy. 'It had been a long drive. I went behind a tree. It was dark.'
'You tiddled beside our rough hillside track?' says I, who hasn't tiddled in the open air since I was eight years old.
'Like I said,' says Andy, 'it had been a long drive.'

Well! There you have it, dear reader. Open air tiddling. Malarkey standards heading towards the gutter already. It'll be feeding chickens in the nude next.

You mark my words!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Andy the Adventurer

Andy is on a training course thingy in Telford. He went yesterday and he is back tomorrow.

Well, he is supposed to be in Telford. He has been in Telford all day. But Telford is near North Wales. And Andy has just phoned.

'Are you okay?' I say, because he is huffing and puffing and sounding like he is being chased through some woods by a bear.

'I'm just walking down a hill,' says Adventurer Andy. 'I've just been up a hill, and now I am returning because it has suddenly got dark and there are a lot of trees around, and it's a little bit spooky.'

'Where are you?' I say. I don't need to ask really. I know where he is. I knew being within a reasonable drive of our prospective new house would be too much temptation...

'I'm in Bala!' says Andy. 'And a black cat has just stopped to say hello to me. Is that lucky?'
'Yes,' I say. I don't know if it is or not because I can never remember, but for the sake of the exercise,tonight black cats are lucky.

'What's it like?' I say, because I've had a truly rubbish day at work and if I didn't have to go in tomorrow I wouldn't. I need cheering up.

'It's beautiful,' says Andy. 'The lake is gorgeous, it is so quiet, it's really gorgeous. You'll love it.'

'And the house?' says I.

'I saw the corner of it through the trees,' says Adventurer Andy, who is still puffing a bit, but I think the threat of bear attack has receded. 'But I didn't want to go up to it and peer through the windows in case the tenant thinks I'm a weirdo.'

He describes the drive fromTelford to Bala. He describes the little villages, the moments of driving
between hills and seeing scenery that made him go, 'Wow!' He describes the track leading up to the house; that we shall definitely need a 4 wheel drive car.

'I wish I had waited until Saturday so we could have seen it for the first time together,' he says.

But he is right in his reasoning of taking the opportunity to see the area today. Because if he had gone to see it, and hadn't liked it then there would have been no point in us going back on Saturday. Our new house is a place we both have to like in equal amounts.

We are a partnership. We are in this adventure together. Me and Adventurer Andy.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bora da!

See! Still chipping away at the Welsh. Trying to do around twenty minutes a day because it's all my tired brain can cope with after spending all day trying to teach teenagers English instead of grunting.

We got our first bunch of paperwork from the solicitor today, for the selling of our house. Our old house, not our would be house. Corr, I think I'm in the wrong business. I nearly fell over when I saw the estimate of their selling fees. Ah well, it's all part of the painful process I suppose.

I am not going to dwell on the money side of things. Because, following an encouraging email from an old friend today, it suddenly occurred to me that we, Andy et moi, are going to lead a somewhat Bohemian lifestyle for a while, and proper Bohemians don't worry about money. We shall grow with our new house, wherever it may be, and work will be sent our way when we need it, and there are more important things to worry about in life, and to learn from life, than stuff linked to money. Whether I shall still be singing the same tune when the bailiffs are knocking down the door wanting payment for the electricity bill I don't know, but for the moment it is a good thought, being a free bird.

And after a day like today, when I got told off because my learning objective for Year 9 wasn't encompassing enough (?????) , the idea of being a free bird is very, very appealing. Come and tell me  my learning objective isn't encompassing enough when I am half way up a Welsh hillside tending my herbs and chickens and I am likely to respond in a not very polite way a la 'get off my land, you wassock!' followed by a large rock to the ear.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Systems a-go-go

An appointment has been confirmed for us to visit our house in Wales on Saturday. Along with the appointment came a) a plan of the land that goes with the house and b) a set of rather worrying instructions of how to get to the house which included choice phrases such as 'rough track' , '4x4 vehicles only', 'angry farmer' and 'park at the end of the road and walk a quarter of a mile up the hill.'

And the answer phone message Andy got from the estate agent saying that e-mail was being sent  with the instructions and plans started along the lines of, 'Ah, so you are the people who want to view the semi-derelict house.'

Ooo- eer!

Anyway, the map of the land was interesting. Sort of rhomboid, edged to one and a bit sides by some hefty looking trees and then a bit of a swathe of land around one side and out the front. Or possibly back, I haven't quite got my bearings yet.

'What's that?' said I, thinking that is looked like a bit of a field.
'It's a bit of a field,' said Andy. ' I think there's about half an acre altogether.'

Corr, I thought. I could fit a fair few chickens on half an acre. And geese. Hooter and Honker could have a playmate called Alice.

Andy read the instructions for getting to the house. Firstly, I am hoping the weather holds out for us. I am not sure I could manage an umbrella and climbing gear. Secondly, I'm thinking that perhaps I should take a homemade cake to placate any grumpy farmers we may encounter and thirdly, I am also thinking perhaps we should leave a trail of breadcrumbs in case we get lost in the woods and Welsh mountain rescue have to send out a search party for the stupid English house hunters.

And fourthly, I am thinking maybe some sort of harness might be appropriate so Andy and I can take turns hauling each other up the rough terrain. I said, 'is it too late to buy a pony?' and Andy said yes it was, and it was also too late to buy a donkey/ shire horse/ goat and trap and any other form of alternative form of transport I might be considering.

So our plan is to leave Kent v.early on Saturday morning and travel up a bit and across a bit until we get almost there, stopping off for various cups of tea and buns along the way.And then we shall follow the instructions.

And hope that we won't be disappointed and that we emerge unscathed from the whole hillsidey derelictness of it all.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

'Dyfal donc a dyr y garreg'

Sunday morning.

Sitting up in bed, drinking tea and learning some Welsh. Like you do.

'There are 29 letters in the Welsh language,' I say. '29! And some of them aren't even letters. Well, not as we know them, Jim.'
'Please don't call me Jim,' says Andy. 'I'm a Whoovarian, not a Trekkian.'
'What I don't understand,' I say, 'is that they have removed 5 perfectly good letters - k, q, v, x and z' - and replaced them with the likes of 'll' and 'dd' and 'rh',which isn't strictly speaking a letter, it's a dipthong. Which is NOT type of knicker,' I add hastily, because I know exactly what Andy will say if I don't head him off at the pass, so to speak.

'And what about Scrabble? ' I continue. 'K, Q, V, X and Z are valuable letters in Scrabble. Do you think Welsh Scrabble boards are different? Do they play Scrabble in Wales?'

Andy admitted he didn't know. He was busy rolling his 'r's. I can't roll my r's. Well, not whilst sitting in bed, anyway.

'Do you think it will be a handicap if I can't roll by r's?' I say.

Andy said he doubted it. In fact, he said that if, nay when, we get our house like we are planning to, and we move there, it is so isolated that no-one will be around to hear me making a right royal cock-up on the Welsh pronunciation front anyway. So I wasn't to worry, dear. (He stopped short of patting me on the head, which was a wise move given I was holding a hot cuppa and sharp biro and can be quite jumpy first thing in the morning.)

And then Andy had a little giggle because he had just found out what the phrase for 'tin of beans' is.

Ffa tun.

And if I tell you that the 'u' in Welsh is pronounced 'i' then you will realise just how childish my forty-something husband can be. Doctor Who evidence aside.

'There are two extra vowels,' I say. 'W' and 'Y'. I can just about accept 'Y' as a vowel given the sound it makes, but 'W'? Who thought that was a good idea?'

'If it's got a 'G' in front of it it's pronounced 'w',' says Andy. 'But if it hasn't, it's pronounced 'oo'.'

'Oh, well that's okay then,' I say. I think I need to get up and have some brekkie. My legs are getting pins and needles and so is my brain.

'This book says we should use this phrase as our mantra whilst we are learning Welsh,' I say. 'Dyfal donc a dyr y garreg.'
'And what does that mean?' says Andy.
'It means 'Steady tapping breaks the stone,' I say. 'The trouble is, steadily tapping a stone also makes people want to grab the hammer from you and shout 'STOP DOING THAT!'

'What if we learn all this Welsh and end up living somewhere like Norfolk?' says Andy.
'I'm going to speak it regardless of where we end up,' I say.
'Could confuse the locals,' says Andy.
'I don't care,' I say.

Friday, 14 September 2012


It is my sad duty to announce that Andy has just scored more correct answers on Mastermind about the subject of Doctor Who than the so called specialist contestant.

Yay verily indeed he did score full marks aka 100% aka did not make one mistake.

At all.

You see what I have to put up with, dear reader? Of course, it is why the attraction to Wales is so great because apparently Doctor Who lives there. And the novel Andy wrote for Virgin Publishers about Doctor Who way back in the early 90s was set in....Wales....

It's all making sense now.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Off Market

Our buyers have had their mortgage approved. Our estate agent has advised removing the house from the market. I feel slightly aggrieved that the agents are going to be paid a considerable amount of money for 12 days of 'work' and with ne'er a 'For Sale' board in sight.

But the job is done, I suppose, and at least the rest of the Malarkey gang can breathe a sigh of relief that I can now stop following them around with vacuum cleaner, duster and anti-bacterial spray clearing up every speck of dust they create 'in case we have a viewing.'

I feel oddly calm about the whole situation. Well, we have connected with 'our house' haven't we? Today we have discussed bathroom fittings.

'How about one of those roll top baths?' said Andy.
'Yes,' said I, who has been researching the advisability of Damp Permeable Membranes in old cottages. 'Because that'll be really easy to clean under, won't it?'
'We can put it slap bang in the middle of the bathroom,' said Andy.
'Sorted,' said I.

So there is not much we can do now until we've been to see our house on the 22nd. After a burst of excitement, it feels like we are being given a breathing space, a time to tread water. We've achieved a fairly painless book cull - well, Andy has, because I am pretty ruthless with books already.  Five less boxes of books to cart with us.

Oh, there is one thing we could do to keep our minds occupied. We could learn the language of the locals. Apparently, 80% of the population in the area we are aiming for speak a language that isn't English, and a little note on the bottom of our house's details suggests that newcomers to the area learn some...

...Welsh!... order to fit in with the locals...

So, for now...

Da boch!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Much Malarkey Danger

We can't view 'our house' until next weekend. Not this weekend as we had hoped. This means waiting another week which is badly dangerous because is gives us another week to make crazy, daydream plans, and this could be setting us up for a hefty and disappointing fall, especially as we also now know that someone else is looking at it tomorrow. I was livid! How dare they look at our house! I came over all protective, but calmed down quite quickly because I don't want to appear a complete control freak house stalker.

Already we have decided on connecting the main house with the cowshed via a glass atrium like they do on Grand Designs. We've found the house on google earth and have decided that the configuration of buildings means this is possible, nay necessary. We are also thinking underfloor heating in the bathroom, and I am keen to get a couple of geese NOW to take with us when we move. They are to be called Hooter and Honker. Andy doesn't know this yet; it can be a surprise for him when he reads the blog.

I have also planned a Welsh slate house name sign. It is quite big, because it needs to have the words 'much' and 'malarkey' and 'manor'  carved into it. It looks very smart.

Wisteria for walls, and loads of lavender under the windows. Umming and ahhing about whether we could extend into the loft, but very keen to have underfloor heating in bathroom. Tybalt has requested a wood burner in the living room. I said yes, but only if he keeps a reasonable distance because I can't abide the smell of burning fur. There is currently an open fire in the living room, so a wood burner, regardless, would be a sensible option.

Another thing Andy doesn't know yet is that he will be rigging up as long washing line. This is a house that wouldn't be seen dead wearing a rotary line.

It's all dangerous stuff, this daydreaming.

But it is also fun stuff and is keeping me sane now that I am back at crazy school.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Is it? Isn't it?

We have found 'our house.' I am anxious about calling it 'our house' because it might be the kiss of death on the whole malarkey, but then I want to show some faith in the Universe that this house we have found has been put our way because it has been waiting for us.

Enough babble! We are travelling 5 hours at the weekend to go and and see this house. It is down a track and is reachable by four wheel drive only so we shall need to change our car. It has a large garden somewhere beneath the undergrowth that would give a jungle explorer the heebie- jeebies so we would need to get scythes and chainsaws and flamethrowers. It has a pigsty so we would need to get some pigs. It has a cowshed, so we would need to get some cows.

'No cows!' says Andy. He knows I would like a cow, but he is probably right, because this house is also on a hill overlooking a lake and the kind of cow I would get would likely be a dozy sort who would roll down the hill and plop into the lake.

This house has a wood burner and a very old range cooker. A VERY old range cooker. This house is a tip. It needs work doing on it in a renovatory sort of way. It has electricity. It has a private water supply. We shall need several giant skips before we can get anywhere near the nitty gritty renovations.

I can see geese walking through the garden of this house. I can see me and Andy sitting by the front door watching the sun go down over the lake. Of course, we'll be a bit stuffed if the sun goes down at the back of the house, but then we won't be put right on these assumptions until we visit.

I keep telling myself not to get too excited about this house. But I can't help it. Neither can Andy.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Would You Like..?

So, about five minutes after I posted yesterday's blog, the phone rang. It was the estate agent.

'The couple who viewed at lunchtime,' he said, 'absolutely love the house. They would like to make an offer.'

And he told me what the offer was. And it was considerably more than we had anticipated. And certainly more than one agent suggested we would achieve, so what did he know....HA!

'The couple have met with our mortgage advisor,' continued the agent, as I tried not to fall off the top of the stairs where I was perched, so excited was I, 'and all seems good to go. We have to do a few more checks on Monday and obviously the house will stay on the market until everything is finalised, but all is looking good.'

Well!Who'd have thought it!?

Obviously, we can't get too excited because an offer does not constitute an actual completed sale, and we've been stung before with people making an offer and then vanishing at the eleventh hour, just as the solicitors were poised to take their gallon of blood.

But we allowed ourselves a tiny 'WHOOPEE!' and had an indulgent evening eating chips and searching for houses on the internet because we have some sort of figures to work towards now.

We went through our list of twenty or so saved properties and deleted a third of them because they suddenly seemed wrong or were obviously too expensive. We found a couple of extra properties to add to the list. We tried to be restrained and sensible and level headed, which didn't always work but that could have been due to the consumption of a chocolate and courgette cake that Andy made in an attempt to whittle down the hundredweight of courgette we currently have blocking up access to the fridge.

Most of all, Pandora Kitten was very smug with her success at approving a nice family, and intends to set up a new business called 'Select Your House Buyers Via The Media of Kitten,' which I am not sure will take off especially with such a clunky title.

'It's a work in progress,' she said.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

How To Sell A House

Firstly, before you all get too excited, I have to say that we haven't actually sold the house yet. We've been on the market for a week, we've had three viewings, we've had no feedback or offers. But that's okay, because it is early days and we aren't in a hurry, although we have accumulated a fairly hefty list of 'potential MMMs Mk 2s' that we are going to view as soon as we have got a buyer.

Anyway, viewing Number 2 was yesterday at 4.30 which meant I had to make a quick exit from work to be here when the potential buyers arrived. And 'tis from this experience that I have constructed the Much Malarkey Manor Guide to Getting Your House Ready For a Viewing.

1) Arise at 5.45 on the morning of the viewing to incorporate a preliminary tidy-up before going to work. This to include the clearing up and putting away of all breakfast accoutrements, sweeping the kitchen and hallway, tidying up newspapers and magazines, doing the ironing and changing the litter in the cats' litter trays.
2) Go to work.
3) Undergo severe mental strain as 90 + small children cross your classroom threshold during the day and make unnecessary amounts of noise associated with 'Start-Of -New-School-Year-itis.'
4) Plan to leave work dead on 3.30 to drive home and give time for secondary tidy-up in case gremlins had a party whilst you were at work/ you overlooked some glaring obvious in-need-of-tidy-up zone that you missed this morning because it was 5.45 and you were still half asleep/ you were burgled during the day.
5) Get caught up by colleagues making stupid requests, so don't leave work until 3.45.
6) The usual 15 minute drive home takes 30 minutes because the stupid town in which you live is being dug up by the stupid gas board and all stupid road capacities have been reduced by 50%, and the stupid traffic is heavier than usual because it is Friday afternoon and everyone is leaving work to start their stupid weekends early.
7) Arrive home at 4.15. Check kitchen floor and all carpets for random acts of cat sick.
8) Open all windows because it is 80 degrees and more, and the place is doing a passable impersonation of a high-efficiency sauna.
9) 4.29 - Clear up poo deposited by Pandora Kitten in litter tray. Spray area liberally with air freshener. Waft back door open and shut to increase fresh air flow.
10) 4.31  - Clear up poo deposited by Tybalt in litter tray because when one cat poops, another is sure to follow. Spray area liberally with air freshener. Hope viewers might be a bit late.
11) Threaten Phoebe with withdrawal of sustenance if she decides to join in the obviously deliberate act of cat-poo sabotage. Phoebe responds with, 'Wot? I'm 83, you know...'
12) 4.35 - Notice kitchen window is in dire need of cleaning. This wouldn't normally be obvious except for the stupid sun shining through it and highlighting the stupid accumulation of dust, cobwebs and dead spiders.
13) Wonder if there is time to clean aforesaid window - wondering is halted by knock on door.
14) Show viewers around. Answer questions about parking, age of house and building work, schools, traffic etc etc.
15) Try to avoid showing irritation that viewers have extended conversations with each other in a foreign language, which I think is just rude.
16) Try to avoid showing annoyance that youngest child of viewers is teasing Pandora Kitten who has flattened her ears, has a wild look in her eyes and is giving the appearance of a cat that is going to launch herself at him any minute NOW and rip his face off if he keeps irritating her. Think, little sod deserves it if she does. Thinks, perhaps HRT might be appropriate, at least whilst the house is waiting to be sold.
17) Say 'thank you' and 'goodbye' to viewers, shut the door and make cup of tea.
18) Think, 'not bothered if they don't make an offer because if Pandora doesn't like them they are clearly the wrong people for our house.'

Whereas today...

'I liked that family who came to visit at lunch time,' says Pandora Kitten, who schmoozed them all and got schmoozed back.
'I know,' I say. 'So did I. I think they would suit this house. I would feel happy leaving this house in their guardianship.'

Which I know is the wrong way of looking at the process, because it is sentimental and not practical and it is, after all, just a house.

But it's the way I feel now, and Pandora Kitten agrees.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Like Buses

Three house viewings booked in over the next four days - one tomorrow; a couple who have already sold their house and are travelling from Sussex to view. I want to shriek, 'Why are you leaving Sussex to move to Kent? Don't you know it'll be a concrete jungle within two years?' But I won't because they are viewingwhen I am at work and Andy will be showing them around and he is far more tactful than I.

The second is a gentleman who is a cash buyer and he is viewing on Friday. A cash buyer? I suspect that if he makes an offer it will be a silly offer. Like £12.75.

The third is a couple, mortgage agreed, viewing on Saturday. No more clues than that.'s all happening.

Tomorrow I am delivering a training session at school on how to structure an outstanding Ofsted lesson using interactive activities and continual assessment. The vice principal asked me to run it because he thinks I am fabulous. I am thinking if it goes well I could start a new career as an educational advisor and earn great wodges of cash for doing very little other than prancing around telling other teachers how to suck eggs.

 13 people have signed up to the session, which means I have the biggest audience to deliver to out of all the training sessions on offer.
'Well,' said Neil, a signed up attendee, 'at least you'll be entertaining.'

No pressure then.

I have decided to teach a lesson on poetry as if the staff were actually year 8 students. Jo, who is also attending my session because she thinks she will be entertained, is planning on role-playing the student who messes around in class.
'No, you blooming' well won't,' said I. 'You'll blooming' well behave yourself.'

Anyway, I have found some rude limericks to use a starter activity. And I shall make sure I have my whistle on hand in case they start running riot.

I'm not having any messing around in my lesson, especially from a bunch of colleagues.

Monday, 3 September 2012

For Certain

If ever I needed reassurance that our Grand Malarkey Manor Adventure Move is the right thing to be doing, I got that reassurance today.

Because today I went back to work. And came home with a headache and the urge to eat at least half of the enormous chocolate cake Andy made yesterday. I didn't but it was a bit of a struggle.

It was all 'Ofsted...blah, blah...exam results....blah...lesson planning...blah di setting....achievement...blah, blah,, focus, blah, blah BLAH!'

And the children don't even come back until Thursday!

And returning home, which means I have to travel across the centre of a town that is in the middle of a year long programme of gas replacement road works, and being on the receiving end of the road rage of an idiot thug in a stupidly big car who kept beeping his horn in order to make me jump traffic lights and sit in yellow box junctions because he was fed up with the non-existent speed of traffic progress, and arriving home to hear three pitiful specimens of humanity sloping up the road effing and blinding and spitting and dropping rubbish in the form of sweet wrappers, well, I have had enough and living in the middle of nowhere has massive appeal now, I don't care what anyone else says.

(I didn't give in to the road rage moron, by the way. In fact, to my shame, I gestured out of the window and shouted  't***er' at him as he roared past and cut up another two lanes of traffic. But that is a symptom of being a teacher, I'm afraid. You spend all your day keeping patience, biting your tongue until it bleeds and tolerating some awful behaviour so tempers tend to boil up and spill out on the way home. Okay during winter when the windows are shut and the stereo is on loud; not so good when it's boiling hot and the traffic is nose to tail.)

Estate agent activity today - zero. We have been internetted, and I am in permanent cleaning frenzy mode - 'Don't walk on that/ sit on that/ touch that; I've just CLEANED it!'

Last night I trawled the entire width and length of Lincolnshire, and found 5 properties for our potentials list. Got very excited about an old coach house. Trying to contain excitement. I think this selling malarkey might be a bit of a long old slog.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Options, Pink Ties and Laura Ashley Malarkey

I like making plans. Making plans makes me feel like I have some control over any given situation. I suppose this means I am a control freak, but anyway, there is nothing as satisfying as sitting down with a pen (special girlie or otherwise) and a clean sheet of paper and saying, 'Right, this is what we are going to do, this is THE PLAN,' and then trying to ignore the sound of God cackling in the distance.

Therefore, Andy and I have decided not to have A PLAN vis a vis the Much Malarkey Move. We have, instead, decided to adopt a series of 'options' which are being listed in our 'option' book because when one starts dealing in 'options' one becomes befuddled and confused, because 'options' have a habit of branching off into many directions, where A PLAN does not.

'Options' are the lemon balm of the herb world, where as PLANS are the bay tree. You pop a tiny plant of lemon balm in your back garden because it looks sweet and manageable and incapable of causing any sort of herbidacious havoc and one year later it has spread like a triffid and you are finding bits of it sprouting in parts of the garden you never knew you had. Whereas you plant a bay tree and it's still where you put it three years later, looking about an inch taller if you're lucky and threatening to shed ALL its leaves at the first hint of a frost.

(Herb Analogy of the Day - tick!)

So, on Day 2 of the Selling of the House Phase, here are the current options for your delight or derision:

1) we sell the house, we decide to stay in Kent in order to assuage feelings of guilt from leaving family and friends behind, we extend the mortgage because to buy a cottage in the middle of nowhere in Kent these days you need a fairly hefty budget. This is because the middles-of-nowhere that used to exist in Kent in proliferation are being built on like building is going out of fashion, and all the hamlets are becoming villages, which are becoming towns which are becoming extensions of London. I blame John Prescott (who, for those Much Malarkey Manor Guests who hail from across the seas, was Tony Blair's Deputy Prime Minister. Looks of a dishevelled bulldog, manners of a fart, brains of a kidney bean.)

2) we sell the house and go into rented accommodation for six months so we can take our time looking for THE RIGHT PLACE and continue in our jobs a while longer to get a little more money behind us for wherever/ whatever we end up doing. Obviously, we shan't want to pay out more rent than our current mortgage because that would be defeating the object. Plus, we need to find somewhere that will allow us to take the cats with us. And it would mean having to move twice in a relatively short space of time. Moving house is supposed to be the third most stressful experience in life after bereavement and divorce; back in 1997/98 I experienced all three of those things in the space of three months and I survived okayish. Went grey, but other than that it was a character building experience. Two house moves in a year? Doddle!

3) we sell the house and buy, outright, one of the four potential barn conversion projects we've found on the interwebbly. We then live in rented accommodation/ mobile home/ caravan/ tent (according to finances and strength of loin/ any work we can fall into) next to the barn and plunge ourselves into the world of renovation and self-build.  Oddly, this is the option we are preferring at the moment, because it would render us mortgage free. And possibly hot water/ toilet/non-leaky roof free. And open to the elements, rats and the lurgy. We think we'd have enough funds to get a renovation started, but we'd have to find work in order to fund the completion of a renovation either bit by bit or by going to see the bank for a short-term loan. "What can we afford to do this month, darling?" "We can fit a front door and a tap to the kitchen sink but only if we live off beans on toast and dandelion leaves."

4) we scour the ENTIRE country and buy a house outright with the proceeds from the sale. The houses are out there. It can be done. Whether we can get jobs in those areas is another matter. Some of them look like education and caring for your animals have yet to emerge from the depths of cave life. Paying the bills thereafter could be a problem.

I think that's it on the option front.

And how did we choose our agent? (Yes, we've decided against the selling-it-ourselves route because I suddenly remembered I'm back to work tomorrow and probably won't have the stamina for teaching AND managing a house sale at the same time. Not without ending up sitting in a corner and banging my head against a wall to relieve the pain by October half-term anyway.)

Well, we saw three agents and narrowed it down to two fairly quickly. Over a walk and lunch in town, we assessed the pros and cons of each remaining agent. Basically they offered the same thing for the same money. So it came down to personality. And the agent who won?

The guy in the lovely pink tie who stepped into the hall and said, 'Ooooh, it's very Laura Ashley, isn't it?'

And any man in his late twenties who knows about Laura Ashley wallpaper, must be able to sell a house.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Much Malarkey On The Move

After several weeks of 'shall we, shan't we?' and indecision on a very grand scale, we have done it! For today we put the house up for sale - Much Malarkey Manor is on the Move!

'What do you mean, we are on the move?' says Tybalt.
' We are selling this house and moving somewhere else,' says I.
'Where?' says Tybalt.
'We don't know,' says I, because we don't.

For we have decided that now is the time for a grand Malarkey adventure!

Some might call it craziness. Some might call it mid- life crisis. Some might say, why put your safe little life at risk in pursuit of a crazy, countryside dream?

Well, we would say, if we don't do it now, we will become that couple in twenty years who will be saying to their friends, 'We really wanted an adventure when we were younger, but it's too late now. Ah well.'

And we don't want to do that.

So, we are going to sell the house. And we are going to take the money we have left over and do something with it that will mean we can leave town life  and mortgage behind and live in the countryside, with chickens and peace and quiet, and trees and sheep and a little dog called Colonel Bunty, and open the front door (or tent flap if the house sale doesn't realise as much cash as we envisage) in the morning and hear not much but see much more.

'You are really going to do this?' says Tybalt.
' Yes, we are,' I say.
'But...' says Tybalt.
'No buts,' I say. 'It's our adventure.'
'I am a bit worried about this Colonel Bunty,' said Tybalt.
'Don't be,' I say. 'Because when he comes along, I am sure he will be lovely.'