It is traditional for my first post of the year to look Janus-like at the year that has just been and one the one yet to come. Who am I to stand in the way of tradition?
2013 was an extremely hectic year with much of what life can throw at you and so we were hoping for a more sedate 2014. With 3 children life is never going to be sedate, neither however, was it hectic. In 2013 life through many things at us including: births, deaths, marriages, holidays, big birthdays, and house moves and although my company relocated (and came under new management) there were no new jobs in the Bagnall household. It seemed that life was not finished with the Bagnall household and does not conform to the convention of numerical years and almost before the Christmas decorations had found their way back into the loft and certainly before Lucinda had returned to work from maternity leave the news broke that she would have to find a new job.
2014 saw the opening of the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport and Air Canada, the company where Lucinda had worked for the past 16 years, was one of the Airlines that was due to make it their new home. Air Canada though, took this opportunity to look at their accounts and decided to outsource ground control to the handling agency ASIG. Lucinda therefore had two choices: transfer to ASIG or redundancy. Since Lucinda had such long service it made sense to take redundancy and then apply to ASIG, hopefully be offered a similar position and try to negotiate favourable terms as an individual.
Thus the stress of returning to work after maternity leave was coupled with the uncertainty of redundancy and job applications. Nevertheless, Lucinda took it in her stride, took the favourable redundancy package, applied for a position at ASIG and managed to retain her job share hours which ties in, as nicely as it can, with my hours.
My hours have just been ridiculous this year with the conclusion of the move from Chiswick to Uxbridge (doesn’t sound too exotic, does it?) and especially moving Premier League Productions and at the same time taking on another major client in the guise of European Qualifiers. It is nice to know that we are busy (better than being the opposite) but it would be nice to spend some time with the family. However 2015 is bring a new structure and hopefully this will free me from the coal face and move me to the management side of my role and thus free me from the shackles of weekend fixtures.
These upheavals in work life have obviously been coupled with the usual stresses of being the parents of three young children and the small matter of moving into a new home. We had only owned our new home for two months before 2014 was upon us and with Christmas 2013 around the corner all we had time to do was unpack. Therefore this year was the first chance we had to do anything major with the house.
The house felt homely when we moved in and rooms were allocated almost on our first viewing and a year on they haven’t changed. Our furniture, however felt dwarfed in the bigger living space and although we didn’t want to clutter the space with furniture for the sake of it we have acquired a few new pieces including the extending table that was used to full effect for Christmas dinner.
We haven’t made too many changes to the house so far, indeed we have only really made three major changes:
- The installation of photovoltaic panels
- Painting of the exterior
- New French doors
The installation of the photovoltaic panels was never a definite plan but something I have always been interested in, especially when I realised how much bigger the fuel bills were for a larger, older house. When we investigated the various methods to acquire them and how much it would cost to buy an array and we decided that there was no better time than the present. We are earning about £800 a year from them, if this year is at all typical, and our dual fuel bill had dropped by £60/month. At that rate they will have paid for themselves in less than 6 years (not including any energy price increases) and they are guaranteed for 20 years. Could be a good little earner; I’ll keep you informed.
The first thing that we noticed about the house when we came for our initial viewing was the colour. The house is pebbledashed (something I am not too keen on) and was of the original mortar colour. Not very exciting, it was a good job that the rest of the house was so good. We decided as we stood in the driveway in those first minutes that if we purchase the house that we would like to paint it.
After moving in, it seemed that painting the house was an unnecessary extravagance and we should just live with the colour. Then the wettest winter in many a year hit (and parts of Staines Upon Thames became Staines up-in-Thames) and the one thing that we noticed (apart from the fact that we were not flooded apparently, we discover we sit on a 1,000 year flood plain) was that there were an awful amount of pebbles on the driveway. The mortar was absorbing the rain and crumbling. This then pushed us back to the idea of painting the house. It would serve two purposes, the first brighten the exterior of the house but secondly and more importantly it would bond the mortar and pebbles and add an extra layer of protection against the elements.
It was about this time that Lucinda was made redundant as Air Canada outsourced ground operations at Heathrow Airport to the handling agency ASIG. With a nice little bonus in the bank it seemed to be the right thing to do to invest some of it into looking after the house. So the house is now a Country Cream colour and certainly looks a lot brighter as you drive down the road.
The third improvement has been the replacement of the old sliding patio doors to some modern French doors. Again it was one of the features of the house that we disliked when we first looked round. We initially wanted bi-fold doors but apparently our opening wasn’t big enough so we comprised on French doors. They give us the bigger opening that we wanted, bringing the outdoors in, as the architects are fond of saying, (although not what we particularly want at the moment) but also additional security compared to the sliding style patio doors and additional insulation from the modern double glazing.
Not a bad haul for the first year in our new home. There are still plenty of things to be done, the most pressing in the heating system. Last year we had a power flush to try to make the system more efficient and allow the radiators to actually output the heat that they are rated for. The fact that last Winter was so mild (damp and windy but mild) it had sort of fallen to the back of our minds. However this winter has already had cold days, and even colder nights and with a lack of heating downstairs, this has become a level one priority.
From a non-expert point of view it seems that there is so much gunk in the system that the hot water can not circulate around the lower half of the system. Therefore we have hot water and a relatively warm upstairs but no heat downstairs. This is coupled with single skin walls and a lack of underfloor insulation meaning that it can be unbearably cold downstairs. Therefore, we have employed oil-filled radiators and fan heaters to attempt to make sitting downstairs bearable, which is denting the savings we would be accruing from the photovoltaic cells installation.
We have a heating engineer coming round in the week to see what he can do. It might involve new radiators and pipework. Hopefully not a new boiler but if it is needed, then it is needed. To help retain the heat in the house we will also be looking at underfloor insulation in the coming year but that is going to be a big job and probably involve new carpets (or floor covering of some sort). That however, can wait until the spring and be in place for next winter.
This past year has also seen our first attempt at cultivation. Not in a self-sufficiency kind of way but just to see if we enjoy it and to help teach the children where our food comes from. We were relatively successful with runner beans (there are still some in the freezer), potatoes, tomatoes and raspberries. Not so successful with strawberries (squirrels dug the plants up before they had a chance to grow) and pumpkins (only one survived until Halloween). The main thing was that we enjoyed doing it and managed to eat our produce so let’s see if we can do better next year.
The first event of last year that I would like to mention was the fact that in moving home we were further from Éowyn’s school but only a short walk to another. Therefore, we made the decision to move sc
hools. This was confirmed by the local education authority at michaelmas half term. There have been tears and she is not enjoying it as much as she was at her old school, but we are confident that it will not take her much longer to settle it, especially with everyone returning after the Christmas break.
Amélie, on the other hand, is positively enjoying her new pre-school and looks forward to going to her ‘new school’. The fact that both schools are a short walk from home and they can ride their scooters their, we think is a huge positive too. There are also around 4 or 5 other families in the street with children of the same age so we feel more part of a community than we ever did at the previous school. If only Éowyn’s best friend and favourite teacher were at this school then there would not be a problem, but life is not like that.
2014 has been another interesting year in the Bagnall household and I am sure that 2015 will just as interesting. Plans that we have will come to fruition and I am sure that this will be coupled with unforeseen obstacles that life will throw at us that will need to be overcome. No doubt some things will go smoothly and others will be more bumpy; some things will fall into place without too much planning while others will fail despite being planned to the nth degree, and on that note I would like to leave you with this thought from Neil Gaiman:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
Peace and Love
PS. 2013 saw disappointment surrounding Comet ISON which strayed too close to the sun, denying us a promised ‘Comet of the Century’ experience. January brings us, not a ‘Comet of a Century’ but with luck and the benefit of a dark sky you maybe lucky enough to see Comet Lovejoy that should become visible to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere from the 9th January reaching perihelion on Friday 30th January 2015. Keep those eyes peeled.
PPS. Geeky web stats for 2014 can be found here.