Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Driving myself mad

This week, in between wheelie bin management, scouting for work and scouring property websites for a home, I am re-learning to drive.

I say re-learning because I passed my test about 13 years ago, when I originally lived in Manchester. But then, I landed a job in London pretty soon after and quickly discovered that a car in London is a stupid idea. No driveways unless you are a multi-millionaire, no space on the roads to park, congestion charges, permits...it's just a hassle. Plus, there's a tube station every 10 metres so you don't really need to drive.

But of course, in the north and in real life, things are very different. There's a tram system, but it only goes to about three places. My mate lives a 15 minute drive away, but if I tried to get there by public transport it would take about 3 days.

So. I have to get back in the driving seat. Problem is I'm not a natural driver. Usually, my own personal trick to get over being nervous of anything is to think "sod it, what's the worst that can happen??" and that always helps me to stop being a big dithering jessie and get on with things. But this is different.

What's the worst thing that can happen if I cock up driving a car? Well, quite a lot actually. I could end up mangled in a pile of metal and wheels in a ditch. Or worse I could end up leaving someone else a mangled pile of metal and wheels in a ditch. Which I know is quite pessimistic, and a little bit sinister, but I blame my over active imagination. Every time I get behind the wheel I just see an episode of Casualty playing out in front of me. (Maybe I should channel this dark side, write a gory book, get it out of my system?)

And with the nerves, it means driving doesn't seem to come naturally to me. It took three attempts to pass my test. The first failure was me going over speed hump to fast - the bloke taking the test hit his head on the roof of the car and all his change rolled out of his pockets. That's never gonna gain a pass is it?

Then as I say, when I eventually did pass, I didn't get on and do any driving. So here I am. I had a few refreshers in London, which helped, but I need to stop being a big girls blouse and properly get on with it now. My hubby's taken me out a few times, but I'm not sure that's conducive to a happy relationship. One of us may end up seriously injuring the other - and that's after we've got out of the car.

Luckily a family friend is a driving instructor and she took me out yesterday. I warned her I was nervous. And at the end of the lesson she told me I was "bright red and hot looking" at the start, but as I calmed down and relaxed, my colour went "a bit more normal."

She must have thought I was insane. Perhaps I should take some valium pre-drive? Or snort some cammomile. Now then, let me crack on with my gory road accident novel....

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Living like pensioners

Toby loves to sit on the flowery seat in the conservatory and keep a watchful eye on the garden.

We are currently living in a bungalow rented from family friend for absolute peanuts, which is helping us save money as we look for a home to buy.

And it’s a cracking space - it has two bedrooms, huge fitted wardrobes, a good size lounge, a conservatory and a garden. Compared to our tiny flat it feels like Downton Abbey. I actually keep losing my husband. And all the extra space is really giving us a taste of what's to come when we eventually do buy. I’m actually enjoying hovering for the first time, mainly because I can get the hoover out without a million thing stoppling on me. In our old flat, the hoover was wedged in a vey small storage cupboard with roughly a thousand other things ranging from mops to suitcases to christmas decorations. It was our garage and loft space in one making it a giant game of jenga every time we opened the door.

The only slight drawback about the place, apart from the fact that it smells of biscuits and corned beef, is the decor. It was previously owned by an elderly lady, so it's all a bit pensioner chic. Think anaglypa walls, flowery curtains and bathroom suite that is two tones of turquoise. I kid you not. It's one step away from having a bath with a door for ease of getting in and out. Also, this lady smoked like a chimney so everything's a bit yellow and I'm off my head on the smell of plug-in air fresheners. I have used a phenomenal amount of Febreeze since we moved in. But, as I say, it's temporary and it's saving us a small fortune. So I'll live with the flowery curtains and weird smells just fine.

Have you ever seen a bathroom like this? Part of me finds it so awful it's actually very cool. If it was ours, I'd be tempted to work with it, go full on retro. Maybe.

You might also recall I whinged about wanting a wheelie bin in one of my earlier posts. Well, dear reader, be careful what you wish for. Because I now have FOUR of the bloody things. Turns out Manchester council love to recycle. One for paper, one for bottles and tins, one for food waste and one for Toby poo. (that’s not the official use of course, it’s actually a bin for stuff that isn’t allowed in other bins, but is mainly used for Toby's turds. Don't tell the binmen.) And there are so many bins to manage, you need a chart to work out which bin to put out on bin day. Cos they don’t all go out on a Monday. Oh no, that would be too easy. I have a small chart affixed to my fridge to help me keep track.

So my new nightly activity is filing and organising rubbish and my new ‘husband-nag’ is telling him off when he puts a crisp packet in the bottles and tins bin. Oh how things have changed.

They could at least make them a nice rainbow of colours. You know, throw in a bit of purple or red or something.

Ey oop chuck, I'm back in t'north

Fresh air! Greenery! Big walks! No cockneys!

Apologies for my absence on this here blog, but these last few weeks have been a whirlwind, my feet haven't touched the ground. Foolishly I thought I'd be a lady of leisure for a long time, enjoying pottering around with a duster and hoover, with the most strenuous task consisting of pegging out my washing in the commercial breaks of Midsomer Murders.

But in some incredibly jammy twist of luck, I have landed quite a chunk of freelance work up here already. Which is great, but currently means most of my evenings are spent sitting up a corner dribbling and rocking back and forth with the stress of moving home, moving city and trying to set myself up as a freelance writer in a very, very short space of time. Three quarters of my wardrobe is still in boxes because I haven't had time to unpack, so my outfit rotation is currently very limited.

But apart from the dribbling and lack of clothes, it’s already feeling brilliant being back up north. People talk. And smile. In fact most of them walk at a leisurely pace rather than hurtling along at 100mph cos they are panicking about catching a tube or getting to a meeting with someone called Giles or Tarquin.

The other great thing about Manchester, aside from cheaper beer, is everything’s concentrated into a much smaller space. Which means you can get stuff done. I no longer need to allocate three hours and use four different modes of public transport just to pop out for some milk.

But the best bit my miles, is being near family, friends and the countryside. I still can't quite believe we've actually done it.

Hubby shares his ham butty with Toby during a walk in the Peak District. Next we went to the pub and got change out of a tenner for two pints. It was a miracle.