Are you ready for this?

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Yes...this is ALL about me, and mine. Marvellously self indulgent, feel free to tell me how splendid I am, leave comments, nice ones please, I have little kids and teenagers who can do the rude stuff. I am a grandma, to the glorious Joshua, I'm allowed to look frazzled and weary, I earned it. The older I get, the more I see that hanging on and being patient is worth it! They ( whoever 'they' are) are so right when they say you never know what is around the corner, it isn't always an articulated truck! It is vital to make the time for making memories, friends are the greatest treasure, I love mine. I am rich!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Home is where the ......

Since I was 15 and I had my own first home, a tiny, rented cottage in a small Cornish town, I have loved making my home wherever I happen to be.
I have had a room in a nurses home, shared a flat, lived in Army accommodation in Germany and various towns in England. I have rented council houses, grand converted barns, town houses and a stinking evil spirited hovel.
I have always been able to make wherever we are home, people like coming to my home, we love to have people come, so that works out well.
I love the house I am in now. I do, it's a lovely house it has enormous potential and often I sit and imagine what I would do if this were my home. I have become jaded and wary of spending money on rented houses because landlords ( and ladies) love to have tenants improve and make beautiful and then they sell or make you move. So I don't do that anymore, beyond doing what I can do that can come with us should we have to move. I will make curtains and buy rugs, find beautiful furniture in back street thrift stores. I will make and mend and rearrange, I love it, it makes me heart happy.
When I was growing up we moved a lot, it never seems to matter because my mum has always been able to make wherever she lives a place where people love to be.
I go to my mums house and more and more I want to live there.
I am so tired. I am bone weary of trying, of trying and trying and trying to make this home a place where I want to be.
It is warm and we feel safe.
It is big enough for all of us and the clutter that a family of 6 collects and makes precious.
The neighbourhood is OK, it is incredibly handy for schools, town, parks, everything we want and need. Jordan, Mel and Joshua live in the street down from us. It is ideal in so many ways.
It has been one long struggle after another since we have lived here, the hot water, the damp and the rats. Oh the rats that keep going on vacation until we sigh with relief and believe we have done it and sent them packing and then they come back, with their relatives and  common new friends they picked up in Costa del filth.
We have been hearing them again for a few weeks, we have trapped and caught some, then the traps stayed empty and the pitter patter of worryingly loud feet running across the ceiling ceased. Exhale, relax.
The night before last I was woken every 40 minutes or so by the loudest crunching I have ever heard in my life, crunch, crunch, I would sit bolt upright and shine my ever handy torch in the direction of the wood crunching monster. Nothing. Zilch. Zero.
Nod off, CRUNCH, sit up, shine torch, hold breath, see nothing, lie down, drift off, CRUNCH, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Last evening I sat outside the bathroom reading a book while Eli had a bath, Crunch....SHUT THE HELL UP! Crunch.
Watching TV at 10pm I said to H " Listen..hear it?  Can you HEAR IT? Listen, above my head in that corner....HEAR IT????" He smiled and said " Do you hear voices sometimes or is it just the crunching?" Git.
This morning, as I was getting dressed I threw my PJs into the corner by the door and then I froze because what in the name of all that's freaky is THAT? I'll have to post a picture because it needs to be seen to be, look....


That wasn't there last night, that is some bloody great MONSTER RAT trying to (this is the bit that gives me the eebie jeebies) GET OUT OF OUR BEDROOM! Which means, if you are a little slow on the uptake, it was trapped IN our room while we were sleeping.
Which naturally made me feel the need to discover where that thing was coming in and it didn't take long at all.
I leave my towel, my lovely oversized bath sheet, that I can wrap around my bigger every day body on the radiator, so that it is always warm and toasty when I need it. It is a HUGE towel, big and thick and not fluffy because FLUFFY TOWELS are a BAD BAD thing, I hate fluffy towels they don't dry properly but I digress, this huge towel drapes rather prettily onto the floor and I was drawn to it, I whipped that thing of the radiator and there it was, a big old hole, eaten from beneath, through the floorboards and the carpet and TADA rat access to my bedroom.


Right there, can you see it? Black hole. Revolting carpet and who cares? I would if it was my house but it isn't so it stays until the landlord thinks we deserve new carpet, which will be never. Wait, that means it stays until never, work that one out when you're bored, you're welcome, can we concentrate on the RATS please, forget about the ugly carpet, keep up please.
Let me tell you, H came back from town and I caught him by the hand and I took him upstairs and I said " Hear THIS voice....that's most definitely NOT my imagination" which pretty much showed him who's crazy.

So that's where we are. Here, with the rats.
I hate it and I won't lie, I had a panic attack of splendidly impressive proportions, cried into my T shirt ( for greatest effect it ought to be an apron but darned if I ever got 'round to wearing one) looked online at beautiful and unobtainable homes to rent ( 5 bed, 2 bath, no rats and a garden) imagined packing and went out for the day in the sunshine that appeared today.
There you have it.
We have shoved wire wool in the rat hole and H has set more traps, if I get woken up by a SNAP sound in the night I can't say for sure what I will do.


Monday, February 21, 2011

In hot water, and liking it.

Oh, I didn't keep that little burst of blog activity going long, did I? Why is it so hard to come here and spill my thoughts? Facebook, that's what I blame, that little box that lets you type what you're thinking, releasing that need to share, instant satisfaction, no need to go anywhere and write complete sentences, that make sense and entertain. Oh but that isn't so. It's true that it temporarily satisfies that vain assumption that the world is waiting to hear what you have to say ( I say 'you' I mean 'me' naturally.) but what FB doesn't do, that a blog can is give you a reference, somewhere to come back and remember where you were and what you were doing last year, 2 years ago, even further in the past.
I love that about my blog, seeing how far we have come, or not. ( there I go with the 'we' it's ME, this is all about ME dammit.)
The trouble with using Face Book to vent all my woes in the odd sentence, is when I come here I can't remember if I ever mentioned something or not. So I tell myself I did and not point saying all *that* again and off I go to entertain myself on the social networking blog killer site once more.
We have hot water. Look at that, 4 words typed all quickly as if they don't mean anything when those words are HUGE! HUGE I tell you.
Last June our boiler was condemned, we have been without hot water upstairs for all that time. We have a small, weak and pathetic electric shower that we have used to 1/4 fill a bath for the boys, we then started to get enormous bills, £200 a month bills that I pay every month only to find that after 6 months we are £900 in debit, so the baths had to go, once a week the boys had a bath and the rest of the time it has been baby wipes or a sink full of water and a wash. That isn't a good thing with little boys, little treacle fingered boys with the magnetic grime thing going on. Little boys, when they reach 10 start to smell like big boys, so they smell and they are grime magnets, they ooze sticky and smelly substances from every pore.
I have been, I realise now it is over ( oh please let it be over, for actual real) that I have been jittery and sad, panicked and miserable because I am, it must be said, so vain about my children. I know they are beautiful and I like that, I like them being little gasp makers, being out and about and having people tell me how glorious they are. I don't like them being stinky or grimy, I hated feeling constantly as if I was losing the battle on keeping them above the line of pitiful.
Oh that bath last night was like a little piece of heaven for those boys, I sat outside and listened to them as they played and soaked and enjoyed that full bubble bath.
"Oh I missed this so much, I missed this happy feeling"
"we can have a bath all the time now can't we? We can bring our toys in and play in actual hot water"
I loved that this evening, a whole 24 hours later they stilled smelled so splendid, their nails were still clean, their hair was shiny and soft.
I am so grateful for this thing that in the past I have always taken for granted. Hot water out of a tap, just like magic.
The radiators are like mean heat machines, the old boiler must have been working overtime to give us that fragile warmth we used to have, now we can feel the heat from 3 feet away, all this while the setting is on economy, at the half way mark, like it's all "Meh, nothing to it, take the heat lady, I got so much more if you need it"
The plumber / gas man, who I feel I am related to in some way so long has he been coming here and not actually doing anything. All the visits to give estimates to a landlord that takes 8 months to decide on what work he is willing to pay for, he said he wants to come back in 6 months to see how our bills have changed because he is pretty sure that old boiler was costing us a bucketful of money. It was, I have been telling anyone that will listen that £200 a month is not normal, this is not how it should be, I am hoping beyond hope that we see a big difference.
I got mad last month, really mad. We got a letter saying that the rent on this house was being increased, after all that waiting, all the money we have paid to keep this house running without hot water and the landlord thought now was a good time to increased our rent, that was like the final slap in the face for me. I wrote to the estate agency to vent my ire.

"Kerry, we received the letter today about the rent increase for the property we are renting, the same property that has had no hot water since JUNE 2010, I am sure you appreciate that this is completely unreasonable with the water situation still not resolved. The sheer nerve that this man can expect us to pay MORE money for this house that the council has deemed sub standard is breath taking.
As well as the hot water problem ( or should I say the NO hot water problem) we still have dangerous electrics, sockets hanging off the walls, lights etc blowing, we turn one plug off in the hall and the one in the front room turns off. Water filling an ELECTRIC light fitting because the toilet leaks. All these problems have been reported EVERY single time there is a house inspection ( that laughingly is always accompanied by the letter saying this inspection is to note any problems we might need fixing!)
We have absolutely NO record of any safety inspection on the electrics ever being performed in this house, we certainly haven't had a safety inspection since we have lived here ( 3 years this month) I will expect immediate action to rectify this fact. I have 3 children who are living in a house that is not proven to be safe, this is unacceptable and also illegal.
I have to let you know that I will NOT be signing any forms or sending them to my bank until ALL these problems have been dealt with, properly, to our satisfaction. I am equally sure that you will understand my reasons for this. We have paid our rent, in full and on time, every single month since we have lived here. We have paid for repairs ourselves, we will no longer be making any repairs or spending any of our money on this house. We will be reporting and expecting FULL repairs in a timely manner, as stated in our contract.
I will be taking advice on what to do about this rent increase which is no more than a blatant attempt to retrieve the money the landlord has not yet even spent on the new boiler.
I am extremely disappointed that Bradleys seem to be so on the side of the Landlord and not at all concerned for the welfare of the tenants under their care. I appreciate that you are all exceptionally polite whenever I call and say all the right, placating things, this is no use to me whatsoever, I need action to rectify all faults.
I don't care if the man who is going to help the other man fit the boiler in on jury service, I don't care if the gas man has lost his assistant and doesn't know where to find him, I don't care how many estimate the landlord has asked for or how many phone calls anyone has made in the EIGHT months we have been without hot water upstairs.
Does NOBODY see this as completely unacceptable? If I withheld rent for even ONE month I am sure the landlord and Bradleys would be contacting me every day until they received the money, I am disgusted that this has been going on so long and over and over again we have exercised immense patience and understanding over every pathetic excuse not to get the work done.
I am not prepared to be patient anymore. I will be contacting anyone I think might help me get the work done that should have been done IMMEDIATELY the boiler was condemned, a week or two at most would have been acceptable but EIGHT MONTHS is beyond ridiculous, I can't even begin to find the words for my feelings about this, never mind the audacity of this man to expect us to pay MORE money.
Please don't reply with understanding words and polite excuses, I am completely out of patience and understanding, it doesn't heat the water I need to keep 3 little boys clean and warm, I need DATES and TIMES letting me know EXACTLY when this boiler is being replaced.
This whole situation is completely unacceptable and I intend to do everything in my power to rectify the injustice of it all, tenants cannot be placed in these appalling situations and continue to be expected to pay for the failings of both unscrupulous landlords and ineffective rental agencies.
I wait impatiently for your reply informing us of exactly when we can expect the boiler to be replaced, please feel free to forward this email to the landlord so that he is left in absolutely no doubt that his request for increased rent will be dealt with as speedily as our request for hot water.
Helen ."

She replied
Dear Mrs ,

Many thanks for your email.

I'm afraid I knew nothing about the intention to increase your rent but I will be speaking to the office that dealt with it later on today.

With regards to all your other outstanding issues I will sit down this afternoon and make all the necessary calls, I will then get back to you as soon as I can with some kind of timeline for the repairs.

I will also chase the electrician, I instructed him to attend in October of last and as I had heard nothing further assumed, obviously wrongly, that he had attended and carried out the works required.

I will do everything I can to get all your issues addressed as soon as possible and will keep in touch along the way.

Kind regards,


2 weeks passed and still no work was done, another letter arrived, worded exactly the same as the first but changing the date of the rent increase to March instead of February.
I wrote to them again....

"Dear Kerry, it is over 2 weeks since our last contact and other than 2 visits from Electricians to prepare estimates and a phone call from 'Cheerful Andy' the gas man, explaining how thoughtful he was being in waiting to replace our boiler ( so we won't be without heating as well as hot water) no work has been done, no progress made and another letter explaining the rent increase and asking that I complete the enclosed forms in time for the end of March has arrived.
I am disappointed, though not surprised, that this is the case and am writing to tell you that having taken much advise and speaking to several people from the council and citizens advise etc I see that we have very little in the way of action we can take.
There are a few options however and I feel it necessary to start proceedings in the few choices we have available.

I have been advised to contact you ( and therefore the Landlord, expecting that you forward all and any correspondence from me, to him, I will work on the assumption that you will do this) and give 14 days notice for all the necessary work to be completed.
This work includes the replacing of the hot water boiler, electrical safety check and ALL necessary electrical work needed to ensure the safety of the electrics in this house ( Address of falling down house deleted in case freaky freaks read it).
If the work is not completed in 14 working days ( Tuesday March 1st) I will then move forward with the following actions.
1. I will hand over the case to the council worker who has already been and inspected the house and deemed it sub standard.
2. I am, by law entitled to secure 3 estimates of my own choosing for the work necessary and then will be able to contract with the lowest bidding contractor to get the work completed and am legally entitled to use my rent to pay for the work done.
3. In my frustration with this whole situation I have thought long and hard about how appalling this is for tenants and how on the side of unscrupulous landlords and agencies who enable such poor care of tenants the law appears to be. I have reached the conclusion that morally I am obliged to work in any way open to me to try and change this balance in the favour of people who, in good faith, pay rent on time and in full and in return do not receive even the most basic of care or consideration.
I imagine that my first port of call will have to be the media, both local and national, I am sure that we are not the only tenants who find themselves in such impossible situations.
I have contacted local MPs to try and raise awareness of families such as mine who are trapped in impossible circumstances and look forward to hearing from them how they can change this unfortunately too common practise.
4. I am uncertain as to how aware the head office / general managers are of how ineffective their policies for the care of tenants are.
I have to wonder how much or how little they know of the grass root problems regular tenants such as ourselves are facing, left to live in sub standard properties being fobbed off with " oh this is on my to do list for today" and " I was just about to call you about this" How content their workers are to leave properties unsafe and unmaintained and yet still send letters of intent to increase rent.
I have no option but to contact Bradleys head office and make them aware of our case. Bradleys will also be named in any contact I choose to make with the media.
So, March 1st 2011 is the deadline for all work to be COMPLETED, not started or promised to start, if we do not have all work completed by this date I will have no choice but to use the options open to me, which are sadly few but hopefully will ensure that we will have hot water and safe electrics in this house, something the law states we are entitled to when paying rent.
I look forward to hearing from you with details of when we can expect work to be started (and completed) and feel more content knowing that one way or another we will soon see an end to this miserable situation we have been in since June 2010.
Yours faithfully Helen"

They got that email on Friday, on monday last week we got a phone call to say the boiler would be fitted this week, it is now done, 3 days without heating or water but oh my goodness, it is so wonderful to have heating and hot water and feel like regular people again.
I write me a mean letter. I am often very impressed with me, this was one of those times.

Other news in our family is the most wonderful news that Mel is expecting grand baby number 2, in June and it is a girl. Oh some PINK in our lives. I am trying so hard not to go completely over the top about it but I am failing. I am ridiculously excited about her and she already has a name, she is Lola-Mae and of course I keep seeing and buying teeny tiny things with Lola on, good old Charlie and Lola, children's TV show, there are all manner of sweet and girlie things with 'Lola' on them, I think I am buying them all. I have 18 weeks to buy the rest, I think I can do it.
I also want to make things, pretty frocks and pretty bedding, all pink of course, with ribbons and bows. This desire is made difficult by not having a table to put my sewing machine on, darn it all I could sit all day making lovely PINK things but how, pray tell, do I so that without a table? Always something, isn't there?