Wednesday, 24 March 2010

You light up my life

One of my favourite birthday presents turned out to be a light. (Thank you Malcolm & Andrew!) Yup, I am digging something really practical. I may've mentioned I'm old mature now. This light has 256 possible colour options, and it can either phase through each one, like a slow-mo disco enhancement, or you can choose the light to match your mood. You need a bit of white wall for it to shine onto and a power socket and bam! Instant party starter. No, not really, but the kids were impressed for all of ten minutes.

I have to admit, it really does make the room warmer (well, with that expanse of glass and white it wouldn't take much).

The light is called a Philips mini LED and is
available here for £69.95. Progress on hanging the rest of our art is at a standstill but I'm pretty sure having more up will make it seem warmer still...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Turn it up!

Last week was a landmark week: yes we finally hung our first bit of art on the wall (my sister-in-law's graphic painting, refer earlier post) and I turned 40. People keep asking me how it feels to be 40... and I have to say, pretty much the same as 39, 38 etc. Maybe even better. I haven't thrown a big birthday party for myself since I was 25 so this was a good excuse to throw open the doors and invite some of my nearest and dearest to come and celebrate.

Fortunately, Rob bought me a set of Numark turntables, a mixer with iPod docking station and a very loud amp and speaker combination for my birthday. (I'm ignoring the fact that the speakers are in "beech effect"). I went to Ikea to buy yet another grey metal cabinet (now on sale for £32!) which houses all my vinyl. I am thinking about shipping over another two crates of vinyl I have in storage in New Zealand - there are definitely some gems in there, but I have a habit of buying records for their covers so no doubt there'll be lots of doozies too.

I ended up with three friends who are also professional DJs at my birthday (and a few bedroom ones) and had democratic DJing till way after the sun came up (apologies to my very accommodating neighbours). The soundsystem kept feeding back as I'm told the pickups inside the cartridge heads don't like being so near the metal of the cabinets so we had to pad it out with towels - will find a rubber backed mat for next time. The good news is that despite ramming in fullsize Roulette and Blackjack tables upstairs in the TV room and filling the house with people, it never felt too crazy inside, the acoustics were great and there was plenty of room in the fridge for what seemed like unlimited booze.

One of our original goals for the house was to make it a social space for this kind of thing and it sure beats hanging out in a sleazy bar with dubious punters and unpredictable music. Oh dear, I really have gotten old...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A taxing situation

Last week I got a letter from Parcel Force telling me I had received a package from New Zealand. They were holding it until I paid £28.64 VAT and a £13.50 clearance fee. I had no idea who had sent his package or what was in it so was loathe to hand over £42.14 for what could be something I didn't want. Heck, £40 buys an hour long massage, a hair cut or a week's worth of lunches.

Rob found out that my sister-in-law had sent me a painting for my upcoming birthday and was horrified that I wouldn't just pay to have it delivered. As the item was a gift this riled me even more - surely gifts are VAT exempt? Especially as the painting has no proven value (my sister-in-law has never sold a painting). I emailed customs and got an auto reply which basically said "Pay up or we'll ship it back. If you want to query the VAT you can take it up once you have received the item". As my sister-in-law had paid NZ$70 to post it over it seemed unreasonable to send it back as she'd have to spend the same again to re-ship it with a lower value on the customs declaration.

I was still annoyed about the unfairness of the situation when Rob volunteered to pay up so that the package would be delivered in time. And despite all this drama, I really do love the painting. It'll look great in our house if we ever get around to hanging it up (yes, I know this was a mission a few weeks ago but so far not a single bit of art has made it onto the wall...)

The moral of the story is if you are posting something to another country, don't over inflate the value of the item on the customs declaration, even if it's marked as a gift. (Rob would probably add something about my being ungracious and that I should've just paid without querying it, but that goes against my nature)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Re-mortgage fun

Hello spring, about freakin' time. London seems to have been suffering from the mother of all deluges for what feels like weeks and now we've had two consecutive days of blue skies. The park is popping with flowering bulbs and it's nice to cycle without having to wear horrid waterproof tent trousers.

Spring is about the nicest thing to happen this week. I am suffering from a comedown - Depeche Mode's Tour of the Universe is now over and I only got to see them five times. Pictured at top is the side view from the front row of my box seat at the Royal Albert Hall a couple of weeks ago.

And as of yesterday our mortgage went up
six and a half times.

Yeah it's a massive sum compared to what we've been paying, but it's still lower than it was when we actually bought it, so I'm trying to look on the bright side (AARRRGGGGGHH). Mind you, we could knock nearly £200 off a month if we can get the bank to reassess the valuation it gave us by a relatively teensy sum (within the £10K "margin of error" apparently).

The problem is 1. our mortgage broker is leaving her job next week and 2. there's a massive backlog at the bank.

Hopefully this will be sorted very soon. In the meantime, the babysitter has been cut to two nights per month and it looks like our Easter holiday will be spent in the vicinity of the house (AARRRRRRGGGHHH).

And breathe.