Friday, 27 August 2010


By the time we started our retirement in 2009 we had slimmed down our lives and reduced our belongings to an absolute minimum so that we could move onto our boat unencumbered, or at least as close to this state as we could manage. The apartment in London from which we moved had a fitted kitchen, built in wardrobes and cupboards so contained little furniture that was actually movable. Knowing that anything we did retain beyond what we could take with us on Cirrus we would have to be stored, at some expense, we rapidly abandoned our sofa (it was well past its best) and as many other large things as we could. The thought of paying week after week for an expensive hole in a warehouse somewhere is a pretty good motivator for this sort of thing and we felt pretty good about it at the time - de-cluttering is supposed to be a therapeutic experience - never thinking that one day, some time in the future, we would move into a comfortable house, a new space, and have nothing to fill it.

Well now we are house dwellers again, and as a result we find ourselves going through the reverse process, re-equipping our lives with domestic hardware, but this time doing it without the benefit of earned income. Fortunately we are the sort of people who favour economy over the latest fashionable style and for whom the pleasure in getting a good bargain never really wears off. In just a few short weeks we have acquired a three-piece suite, a dining suite and a double bed, all for less than a good pair of shoes. Until today the bed was our best bargain; we only had to buy £2.50 worth of bolts to assemble the wooden pieces we found in the garden shed. Then whilst returning from the shops Kate's eye was caught by a swiveling chair sitting on the pavement, a piece of paper stuck to the back flapping wildly in the breeze. 'FREE TO A GOOD HOME' it said and we thought aha, we have one of those. So now we have our least expensive furniture item so far. To better this we now need to find something we need and have someone pay us to take it.

One particular item we parted company with some years ago was the television set. This was partly because the last set we did own and use was rather ancient, so no great financial loss was incurred when we parted company with it, partly because we came to recognise that our viewing habits were embarrassingly unintellectual and partly because we felt that none of the content offered on any station we could receive really justified the cost of a licence. But then of course we were still working, with leisure time largely restricted to evenings and weekends, a whole different lifestyle to the one we lead today. So when, after moving in here, we discovered two solid looking TV sets lying about the house we thought it might be a good time to see what had changed in the land of UK broadcasting. As retirees we could expect our tastes to have changed significantly and in the interval since we last had a set of our own surely we could expect the content to have improved too.

The first thing we discovered, in our naivety, was that we could receive nothing on the sets bequeathed to us because the analogue signal in this part of the country has been switched off, just recently apparently. This might explain, of course, why the sets had been abandoned in the first place. Nevertheless we have decided that we'll give TV another chance so, taking our sanity in our hands, we popped into our local Tesco store and invested in the latest technological marvel. The first thing we noticed was that unlike all televisions we have ever owned, this one came in a box which was light enough to carry out of the store and take home on the bus. Rather more mystifyingly, the box is stuffed full of acronyms like HD, DVD and USB which have almost nothing at all to do with the picture we might get to look at on the screen. We know we can expect, when it is working properly, to find our old friends the BBC and ITV have proliferated alarmingly into more channels that we know what to do with. However first of all we must deal with the work of our old friend Will Botchit again who, for reasons best known to him and his maker, seems to have disconnected the roof aerial from the socket in our living room wall. A trip into the wildest parts of the attic will be required to try to rectify this and just at the moment, other more pressing tasks come to mind.

It is a fact that one of the unexpected aspects of the house renovation is the mental stimulation the process is giving us. At any point we look around us and there are just so many jobs we could be getting on with that it becomes a real struggle to focus on the priority of the moment and not be distracted. For me the trick is to make lists, lots of them, plan each day the evening before, and stick to the plan, ticking off each item when it is complete. This is taking its toll on us both. Kate secretly took this candid picture as I was pondering what to do next, trying to remember what I had intended to do with the piece of wood lying in front of me. Something to do with the stairs, I think, which we have 'remodelled' by removing the banister and stripping back to the bare wooden treads.

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