On the morning of the 10th Aug, Sue took the boys to Corby and had an excellent time at the lake in some ‘Muddy Play’ activities organised by the Council. I spent time at the allotments catching up with weeding, spraying and pruning. During the afternoon we both played with the boys in the garage at table football and air hockey.
The following day we had Lucas and Ellis again, but this time we had the distraction of the impish Mia as well. Lee had dropped her off on his way to work in Northampton. Of course the boys had quite a few excited walks that day with an equally excitable puppy in tow.
On the 12th I travelled down to Charlotte’s to remove the banisters. With lump hammer chisels and saw they were soon removed and stored away in Lucas’s bedroom. I returned the following day to oversee the furniture successfully make its way up the stairs and into the 1st floor lounge. We had decided to modify the bannister so that in future it could be removed very easily and I spent the rest of the afternoon replacing the woodwork with the new modifications. Sue met Lyn in Harborough for coffee.
During that week and the next, Sue and I began to haunt the local carpet retailers, we have decided to replace the carpets in the lounge and dining room. The choice of patterns and materials is mind-boggling and to reach a decision was no easy thing. However, before despair fully set in we settled on a carpet that is not a million miles away from what we have now, but is thicker and will be a lot easier to clean. They are being fitted in September.
On the 15th Sue and I took Lucas and Ellis to London on the train. It was an early start so the boys stayed over after Family Curry Night . We caught the 7.15 am train from Harborough. After arriving at St. Pancras we set off on foot to Embankment Pier to catch a boat to Greenwich, we had a Family Rover ticket and could use the river boats all day. It was during our journey to the Thames that I took a phone call from an irate Jamie, he had discovered that his bank account had been cleaned out. After advising him on what to do, I then rang Suraj to go and give him some support (details at the end of the blog).
After queueing for the first boat of the morning we made our way down river with two excited little boys. Disembarking at Greenwich Pier we made our way to see the Cutty Sark and then the Visitor Centre before wandering through the buildings of the Naval College. Returning to the pier we caught our next boat to the O2 .
Before entering the Dome we sat outside and had a picnic. Inside the building we first visited the SkySports Activity Centre and the boys and myself had a go at taking penalties (not a great deal of success was had by any of us). Venturing up the floors we saw how Sky brought their news and sport coverage to our TV’s and the boys got involved in quite a few of the ‘hands-on’ activities.
Moving on we visited the Nissan Innovation Station. Here the boys put their supplied electronic tags to good use and explored many of the machines and activities available, though I guess the racing cars was probably their favourite as they spent most time on these. A brilliant place for both children and adults, loads to do and the latest technology available I was setting myself up to have a 15 minute drive in a Nissan Leaf around the Arena, before Sue ‘scotched’ plans by insisting WE didn’t have the time. Luddite!
We had earlier plans to continue on down the river to the Arsenal and visit several of the military museums but time was getting tight so we caught our boat back to Embankment. We caught the 4.15 pm train back to Harborough, it was direct and only took 50 minutes. Charlotte and Suraj were shopping in Harborough and picked up the boys from our house. Later that evening I watched an encouraging England performance against the French at the ‘Angel’.
On the 18th the Rothwells became Red Indians. They had booked a couple of evenings in a Tipi near Hereford. Sue and I had attempted to book one of the Tipi’s also, but unfortunately the Rothwells had the last available one, There was a canoe available and they took advantage of it a couple of times. Charlotte cooked on an open fire and the results looked edible, though it seems there was a skill involved in venting the smoke through the top of the Tipi. They returned to Northamptonshire smelling rather smoky.
Sue has been to Saddington Car Boot over the last few Sundays. She leaves very early, in fact I have yet to notice in the morning that she has gone. When I awake and make my way downstairs there is the usual chalked message on the board ‘Gone to Car Boot’. If she is as good at spotting a bargain as she is in TV programme ‘Bargain Hunt’, she must be salting away a fortune, somewhere.
We still attend the Odeon Silver Screen, the last film being ‘The Longest Ride’, a palatable film about the tensions between a bull riding cowboy and his art loving girl..
The 23rd was Sue’s birthday. I had planned a few surprises for her. She knew that on the Saturday we were going away for four days but she didn’t know where. We had a delayed start as Jamie turned up just before we were to leave and wanted to use the garage to work on his car. I drove to the south shore of the Humber Bridge where we stopped at the viewpoint and had a picnic. It was a lovely sunny day and the bridge was at its best. Completing our repast I told her we were going to walk the bridge and that it would take one hour to accomplish. There were several others doing the same and quite a few were on bicycles. When we reached the centre of the span, surprise, surprise the Rothwells jumped out. A stunned Sue took a while to take this in. They had parked on the north shore and made their way towards us. After Sue had recovered, we continued on to the north bank and after saying goodbye the Rothwells returned long the opposite carriageway path to the car.
Still not aware of where she was going I drove into Hull and the DeVere Village Hotel that I had booked, where we met the Rothwells again. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel. The Rothwells in the pool and sauna and Sue and I mooching around the hotel and relaxing in our room. We ate our evening meal in the hotel restaurant. I managed to complete mine in time to catch the England v France match in the hotel sports bar with Lucas and some players from the local Hessle Rugby Club. I have been looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in September all year, I think it may be another disappointment. Four years ago I was in Bulgaria and luckily missed it on TV preferring to knock down walls etc.
The following morning after present opening and breakfast, Sue had another surprise when Sarah and Lee arrived. They were staying at a nearby hotel. Together we all made our way to Bridling ton for a lovely day on the beach. Fish and chips were eaten, sandcastles were built and shells collected. The castle building turned into a competition with the three constructed entries being of rather different and radical design. Facebook ‘likes’ were to decide the winner and astoundingly it was a three-way tie, Enough said
Back at the hotel it was pool and sauna until time for the evening meal, where Sarah and Lee joined us. We finished the night off with a dart competition in the hotel bar. I say dart, as the bar only had the one, which did limit the scoring somewhat.
Sarah and Lee joined us for breakfast and then we all drove to Withernsea. There was a sea-fog just off the coast and after we had collected stones on the beach, played ‘roll-a-penny’ in the arcade, climbed to the top of the lighthouse it rolled inland turning a lovely day into one quite murky.
We drove on in the gloom to Hornsea, stopping briefly at Mappleton to have a look. We had lunch in a cafe on the promenade and then after a short walk and a challenging climb up the sea wall we visited the Freeport for some retail therapy to while away the rest of the afternoon.
Returning to the hotel we said goodbye to Sarah and Lee, who had to be back for work to following morning. After visiting the pool and sauna again we had our evening meal. We watched a bit of football in the Sports bar and then rather tired and stuffed we retired for the night.
Checking out after breakfast we made our way with the Rothwells into the Old Town of Hull. Parking the cars next to the Princes Quay Shopping Mall we found the Tourist Information Centre which was the start of The Seven Seas Fish Trail.
It is a trail that takes you by all the interesting buildings, history and exhibits in the city centre. An excellent route that kept us interested throughout, and we managed to find all the fish, some that I have never heard of! After collecting our certificate from the Tourist Office we had lunch at a Subway.
Making our way back to the cars we said goodbye and had a relatively uneventful journey home.
Though the summer has been largely absent the garden and allotments don’t seem to have noticed and the vegetables and fruit are just as bountiful as is the grass and hedges. The pool is always high maintenance when it rains and isn’t being used, Rain water contains a lot of sand and this always finds its way under the cover and has to be hoovered up off the bottom to prevent the growth of algae. There is always something to do.
On the 28th it was just warm enough to have a family BBQ, though Sarah and Lee couldn’t make it due to work commitments. The following day I spent the afternoon with Charlotte in her allotment, tidying up and planting leeks, afterwards we retired to the ‘Charters’ for a drink and was joined by Suraj and the boys, back from a birthday party.
Fraud: Continuing on from the phone call made by Jamie during our London trip, it became evident that one of Jamie’s past friends had emptied his bank account. Sue had taken the boys that Thursday to see Jamie’s corn snake in his apartment and found that the block’s alarm system as being serviced and all the doors to the floors were open and indeed so was Jamie’s apartment. Though this had been left open by Harley. Jamie’s friend had taken the opportunity to enter his apartment, have a shower, take his underpants and some T-shirts, make a meal, steal some money from Harley’s handbag and take some bank statements from a drawer. He later drove to the HSBC bank in Leicester claiming that he was Jamie and had lost his card. Using the statements as proof of identity he persuaded the cashier to part with £200, returning two hours later to empty the account. Jamie was aware of this on Friday night when he tried to buy petrol with his bank card and it was refused. Checking his account the following morning on-line to find it contained £0. He contacted the police and the bank and with Suraj had a meeting that afternoon with the bank in Leicester. The bank admitted fault and replaced the money and eventually compensated him with £300. The police arrested his friend a few days later after checking cctv at the bank and the apartments. It transpires that he was already on bail for stealing £6000 from his mother and assaulting her, there is already a court case coming up for 24 counts of fraud.
On lighter note, Jamie is looking forward to having a holiday in Spain in 3 weeks time and yesterday he went on a road trip to Weston Supermare to see the Dismaland Bemusement Park, created by Banksy.
Sarah is now a baker and made her first loaf of bread.
Charlotte has changed her car. Her Range Rover was sold last week and the other day she travelled to Evesham and bought a Mitsubishi ASX4.
It pays to procrastinate!: It seems that August is the time of year that this house has chosen to be’Make your mind-up time‘. Both Sue and my car insurances were due, gas and electricity fixed rate tariffs ended, broadband and telephone contracts finished. The car insurances were quick and easy, an hours surfing comparison websites demonstrated that remaining with the same company was our cheapest option. The gas and electricity proved trickier as though there are comparison sites and organisations willing to help you through the process and that EON provide me with all the necessary data, you do have to wrap your mind around the terminology and get up to speed with some of the conversions. The energy companies are snakes! You have to keep in mind so many factors in comparing rates, standard charges, exit penalties etc. what appears to be on the surface straightforward, IS far from it. After 5.5 hours of researching, learning and comparing I finanally settled on a one year fixed rate for both with a new company called ‘IS’ (I kid you not), as being cheaper than that offered by EON. A little uneasy that I may indeed be filling the coffers of a Syrian Caliphate I thought I would have a look at EON again before pressing ENTER, but this time from the standpoint of a new customer. Well, well, well it appears that if I hold my hand up and admit that I have thin blood, wrinkles, failing mental abilities and love to sit next to a 3 bar electric fire throughout the winter months, in other words I am over 60yrs of age, they have a special tariff called Age UK Fixed 2 year that is cheaper than all the rest and gives you Tesco Club points too. Why did they not suggest this to me in the first place? Moving on to my communications package I had a stroke of luck. A Virgin Media leaflet popped through the letter box one morning and for once, as it was raining, I read it before consigning it to the bin. Later that morning the phone rang. Unusual, because the line had been down for 4 days and it wasn’t scheduled to be fixed for another 3. It was BT. After a little confusion as to what the call was about; I thought they were just informing me that the line had been fixed early and they were trying to tell me that my present contract was about to come to an end. Eventually it dawned on me that they were going to increase in price all the elements of the services they provided and they were keen to sign me up again to a anew contract. Asking him to hold a while and then getting Sue to dig out the Virgin Media leaflet from the bin, over the next hour I got the rep to carefully explain the new charges and compared them with the heavily discounted Virgin charges (for 6 months). Despite his pleas that BT have to fund the fight against SKY, I suggested that it would be much cheaper for me to move to the Virgin package. He then asked me to hold for a while. When he returned, he offered my present package, plus to waive the proposed £5 monthly BTSports charge (for as long as I am a customer), throw in a BT YouView box, waive the connection fee, and sign me into NetFlix. Instead of paying £20 more than my present tariff I am now paying £10 less. When the YouView box failed to turn up on the designated day I rang Madras and complained. It arrived the following day and another one three days later. So now we have BT Sports in the lounge and the bedroom. I think I question BT’s strategy in taking on SKY, they have a lot to learn.
I remember the days when I didn’t have choice. We trusted people and organisations to do their best for us, because there were Ombudsmen, MP’s , policemen, Citizen’s Advice Bearueas, TV Consumer progs etc. who were also looking out for us and could challenge any despots on our behalf, if they conned us into paying too much for a service. We had the law on our side. So they, by and large, didn’t bother. Well, I guess if bankers can walk a away with billions of our money without being brought to book, it now becomes necessary to question every £1 spent and research, learn, procrastinate and choose to the minutest of detail how we live our lives in order to hang onto that which has been hard fought for. I worry for when I really do get old.