The Broken House

Moving into the new house, which is about 20 years old, and therefore younger than I am by some way, has made lots of extra work.

First of all, the house is a bit dated. Its previous occupant was old, and sadly died over two years ago. The house has barely been touched since then. It’s a bit stale, old-fashioned, and in parts a bit smelly. We wanted to re-decorate, and the plan was to do it before we actually moved in, but we realised just how hard the whole process would be when we did one of the rooms ourselves. It was slow and painful. I simply don’t eat enough food to give me the energy to do too many physical chores… and J found the the process more challenging too. He thought it was going to be fun and exciting, and to be fair he’s done loads of good things, especially in relation to changing light fittings. He even pimped out an old mirror the previous occupant left behind by spraying it silver. It looks so random in the rest of the room, but it also is an oddly good fit.

Anyway, we managed to at least get someone in to decorate the living room, and that’s made it a bit better. It now looks a bit more like we are making something of it. The trouble is, the rest of the house needs so much attention too. The central heating diverter valve is broken. The immersion is now broken. The bathroom needs ripping out and starting again. The thermostat on the tank has now seized up. The downstairs toilet looks like something from the 70s. The kitchen is a bit… funky. And needs to change. The windows are horrible, rotting wood and need to go.

We’ve fortunately had the back patio door replaced before the super rain monsoons happened, as there was a huge gap underneath them. It makes a big difference. But the house itself is small and compact, and though we just about fit everything in it, we are often in each other’s way in the kitchen completely unintentionally…

Suffice it to say we need to spend a lot of money on it to make it more like what it needs to be to catch up with several years of neglect. It has been frozen in time. Houses don’t take kindly to not being lived in. They get damp and fusty. We’re slowly working it out, but it will be a long process.

The year itself has flown by though. It’s still a bit hard to believe we’re here, and now in possession of the new house.

Business has been OK – if stressful. The other company that I seem to be getting more and more involved in again is going through a critical phase, and I have foolishly lent it lots of money again. It was desperate, but it needed it. I am of the opinion that once this phase is over it will be either make or break for the company. The owner thinks its definitely it, and he will absolutely, certainly, be super rich by the end of next year. I am always more circumspect. The truth is usually somewhere inbetween, which is why, generally, we work quite well in business. We’ll see, as always.

Houses and business can go together. It’s just the way though that in order to make money you have to have money in the first place. I still haven’t worked out the answer to that one…


A Summer Update

It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to write, and a lot has happened.

First, there was the drunken friend of a friend incident, which resulted in my foolish partner outing himself to someone he really hates because they were so drunk and started with the innocent playful nonsense that people do when they’re drunk. She then proceeded to tell everyone there. It was incredibly awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved. I have made it clear my anger at the situation, where I was also outed amongst a group of people almost all of whom I didn’t know, and then she went around taking us into various conversations in a humiliating way. It was horrible. I didn’t ask for it. I wasn’t seeking anyone’s approval or acceptance. I was just trying to be a normal human being, not seeking to impose my sexuality or flaunt my “difference” – as so many gay people do. It really doesn’t matter, and I feel sorry for anyone who really is bothered about it, but I don’t actually care. No one does any more, or at least, no one should. Instead, straight people like to flaunt their own acceptance and tolerance. That was what it felt like anyway. Me? I was just embarrassed. Stop talking about me, I’d rather be in the background.

Then there is the imminent house move. I am now the joint owner of a teeny tiny house, the contents of which are a bit aged, but structurally sound. It has brought out a bizarre range of emotions, from irritating friends who mean well but sound know-it-all, to genuine happiness that something I’ve been fighting for for years is finally happening. The big move happens this Bank Holiday weekend coming. I can’t wait.

There is the business stress, where the Other Business has suddenly started taking up vast quantities of my time. It is posing many problems, and they don’t have a solution. Difficult.

Our own business is truly awful, and we grow to hate it more and more each day. To be fair, most people are nice and understand business is business. But some people are truly upsetting to us. They treat us with such disdain and can’t believe that we don’t charge a tenner for fixing things. Or worse, we can’t actually charge people because so much of IT is not even repairable or worth repairing any more. We’d love to find a way out.

Meanwhile, personally, something is different at the moment. I know sexual feelings are weird, and I’ve always had difficulty coping with who I am, but me and my partner are going through a really weird spell where we don’t talk about it. I don’t like writing these things. It feels like a betrayal. I am stronger than that, but it hints at something being wrong. I know we can work out what it is, but right now it feels like we’re so busy there’s no time to get past it.

This weekend the family have come to visit the new house. The family are being glossed over in our relationship, as, again, I don’t feel like I need to tell anyone anything. It’s my life. But it does cause some difficulties. My mum behaves very oddly these days to me. I wish I could sort of just get it over with, and then everything stayed exactly the same. But it won’t. People will start being more sensitive. Watching what they say. I don’t want people to treat me any differently once they know. It’s not even a thing. And yet my mum is not like that. She is very much like the character discussed at the start of this post. The type of person who gets off on how accepting and tolerant they are, and must announce it to everyone. I can’t cope with it. Mum is not the same person she was 10 years ago. I really don’t know what happened.

Yesterday we went to my sister’s boyfriend’s barbecue, which was being held for all of our family. It was good, and he has nice parents. She’s living not too far away from here now. She will soon own her own home too. The evening was pretty good, if tiring. I don’t do late nights any more. Suffice it to say that getting home in the next day and then waking up in the same day is really not my thing.

It really has been a significant year, and a decent summer. The weather has been shit, monsoon season, but it did have a super heatwave back in June. That’s the English summer for you.

Fun Is Expensive

The worst part of life is avoiding boredom. Sometimes it is easy and often free. In fact when you work for yourself it is often profitable.

But you can’t work for ever. I’ve learned this better as the years go by although I’m not the best at truly sticking to it…

It’s a little easier with a partner. There’s someone to spend the time with. That helps and it can make even the most mundane things fun. Shopping can be a little more entertaining with two people for observational banter.

But the trickier aspects are obvious. As anyone who ever has to organise a group knows, the more people involved the more likely it is that a compromise has to be found. Some won’t like it. Others will actively work against you. Doing things together can actually be very dull if you aren’t on the same wavelength at all times…

In the end, though, the trickiest aspect is that, sadly, there aren’t that many good free things to do. Virtually all the good stuff requires raiding the piggy bank to some degree.

Take last weekend for example. We really wanted to visit a zoo that’s about 2 hours away. Mainly because we’re already members of another zoo rather more local to us. That means the visit was actually free. But no one wants to do that all in one day. Otherwise it’s not very relaxing. So a Travelodge it is. £50. Then something for an evening meal. Evening out to Chimichangas. £50. Then something for breakfast. £10. Parking at the zoo. £3. Coffee. £7. Lunch. £10. Snacks and drinks. £10. Another coffee. £10. Evening meal on the way home. £30. Fill the tank. £35. And that’s with packing a few bits from the house to keep the cost down. Total for about 32 hours of life £215.

Imagine spending £100 a day on just discretionary stuff. £3k a month after tax. And that was being pretty tight. We had a really nice day and a half. But if we did that every weekend we’d very quickly have no money and nothing going into long term savings. Let alone buying a new house…

So it makes me sad. How can we have more fun – because we need it and deserve it for how hard we work – without spending a fortune? How can we be fun and spontaneous? I don’t think you can. Spontaneity costs an absolute fortune. Taking a packed lunch and stuff for breakfast saves.  But it means planning everything all the time. A break is less enjoyable if you’re having to constantly keep planning all the mundane crap.

No wonder people go on holiday all inclusive…

In other news the house purchase rumbles on. In fact we’re very close to the end… Maybe. I hate tempting fate but it will soon be time to start getting stressed over how little organisation we’ve done and keep not doing by wasting every day…

What’s Changed?

The world is slowly changing for me. In a tiny way and also in a big way.

The election was interesting. The result was fascinating. As a politics nerd, it was amazing. As a person it felt like a step forward. Maybe this country is finally seeing through the constant disaster of authoritarian, extremist capitalism. The type that privatises the profits and socialises the losses. I really didn’t expect enough of us would be convinced to vote to change this. I thought enough people would be scared off by the relentless media onslaught. It wasn’t too be.

I stayed up pretty much all night with my partner. We got there with a little nap before the exit poll… which made me horrendously nervous. Then the first results weren’t quite in line with the exit poll. I was devastated. Then things started to improve. Labour did well. Corbyn deserved an election and proved if the party could stick together progress could be made. He, mostly, got that. Imagine if the party had actually been truly on side…

But it doesn’t matter. We now have a lame duck government. And not much will get done. Maybe that’s a good thing though. I was sick and tired of the last wretched administration. Maybe stagnation is a good thing for a while.

Meanwhile, in home life, after much stress and battles with the bank, we may finally moving closer to buying our own home. At last. It’s exciting, but I sense we’re not there yet. More turmoil to come I’m sure…

Banks Are Mean

Throughout my self-employed life, I have come to expect nothing from a bank. They don’t like providing support, and when they do they do so only because the government has told them they need to lend to businesses.

But the worst phase of all has been in trying to secure a mortgage from them. Thanks to the financial crisis of 2008, they are now incredibly reluctant to do so without ludicrous amounts of questions that are structured backwards. You go on holidays, and buy presents for family and Christmas, and all of these are budgeted in before they decide how much you have left to afford for a mortgage. Daft. You feed yourself, pay debt next, then you find out what’s left. Cutting your cloth accordingly is not a phrase the rules understand.

So when the inevitable mortgage rejection happened, and this time for completely spurious reasons, I was somewhat resigned to it. This time, however, I am not going down without a fight. The ridiculous rules state that there is not enough evidence of consistent earnings for both of us, simply because my partner joined the business less than two years ago. Yet the business has been going for 7 years. Crazy? I just might think so.

We’re panicking a little. Timings for a nice and smooth changeover at the end of July are now very much out of the window. But we have to try and get a mortgage from somewhere. We can, and have, decided to go back to the bank and really push them hard. Banks may be silly, but they really don’t like the words “complaint” or “ombudsman”. It makes them look bad. Here’s hoping some sane person a bit higher up the food chain can overrule what is a truly absurd decision.

Life is full of surprises. In truth, I did expect this one, but this time I feel very determined to win. Last time we had this we gave up very quickly. I felt totally defeated. But it feels OK this time. It’s only a small interruption. Stressful, yes, but I will find a way…

A Significant Month?

The end of the financial year brings with it the end of the tax year. And as a self-employed person, these things tend to mean a lot to me. For one, it signifies the first estimate as to how much of my depressing student loan continues to be in repayment. But two, it also gives me a figure for the infamous “SA302” – the statement of income declared to the taxman, and therefore, how worthy you are compared to someone in standard employment.

For years I have been hoping that some day I’d be able to afford my own home. I’ve probably put it into several start of year laundry lists. But it’s never been realistic. And then, when my partner came along and diluted my earnings, as well as hurt my credit score, and then we moved house last summer, which put a massive dent in the credit score and also savings, it all got put on the back burner.

But this time, we may just have enough on our SA302s for the last two years for it to be worth something. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking at houses, including making an offer on two. The second one has been accepted, and now we’re desperately praying that the mortgage application will be approved. We may know more by the end of next week.

The clock is ticking. The tenancy agreement for this house expires in three months. They will need to know if we want to stay here by at least one month before that point. So we need two months to make progress. Will it happen in time?

The scariest part, of course, is the drain on the finances that’s about to happen. The house offer has been accepted at £226,950, which is a stunning amount of money. So much I can’t even imagine it. But it’s irrelevant. Hilariously, the potential monthly costs are less than the rent on the house we’re in now. OK, to be fair, the new place is smaller, but it would be ours. It would be a long term investment. And, as always with debt, it’s all about the servicability of it, not really the balance.

And that’s what fucks me off about this whole process. In reality, our earnings should not be an issue. But what may be the issue is the peculiar credit scoring system. Somehow, despite the fact that I have never missed a credit repayment over 13 years, and have always used and managed credit well, I have a worse credit score now than I did a year ago. It’s all bollocks, of course, and I know it’s partially down to the stupid car “balloon HP” agreement, and also my partner’s bad record, which is about 4-5 years ago, but is still affecting his score. Oh, and also the house we’re in now has a comedy address, so the credit reference agencies think I’m not registered to vote. Yeah, that’s why I have a polling card…

We have been thwarted for years by the algorithms we’re governed by, which dictate whether or not the system thinks we’re a good credit risk. They are nonsense, and always will be. In the past people made decisions. Now no one wants to, for fear of being sued for inconsistency. So we let an algorithm decide, and conveniently ignore that they were designed by humans. In one hilarious example, Lloyds Bank told me they’d be happy to lend £200,000… if I could hand over a 50% deposit. I laughed at her, and had a rant. She said it’s best not to get angry and stop lashing out at the system, but work within it.

It’s the age-old caricature. Life, and reality, has a horrible way of forcing you to accept its tedious confines. You question everything, then you learn to game the system and think you’re being really clever. Then you are the system. Then you’re dead.

But still… the next few weeks will be important. I’m trying not to put too much hope on it. A lot can go wrong from here…

A Fiscal Ending

March and April has always had a significant place in my business brain. It is the end of the tax year… and since we became a company, it’s now the end of our company’s financial year as well.

It has, as such, been a time for reflection on the year gone. It has been maybe the most stressful of my business career, but also, oddly, the most profitable.

And yet, the most unenjoyable.

We are reaching the point we we maybe have “enough” general background work going on that we don’t sweat the small stuff any more. People wasting our time with rubbish enquiries that lead nowhere don’t stress me so much. When I was new to business, they used to kill me. I used to worry endlessly about what I did wrong. Turns out some people are just… weird.

So we are considering how we dial back from our commitments. And increase profit that is maybe, unearned. Such as from investments using our company money.

Risky, I suppose. But I am getting old. I was supposed to be a millionaire by now.

Meanwhile, the other company I am still unfortunately involved in is having a fiscal ending of its own. Cash flow crises every day have resulted in many weeks of poor sleep, and strained relations. Our shared office is very tense at the best of times. It’s all rather worrying, to be brutally honest.

We may get there, somehow. Building a new set of houses is not exactly easy. But if it goes well it will be all good money for my main business. If we can survive the strain.

My biggest fear is that our ending of one year is the start of a nightmare new one.

The Spark

Relationships don’t last. I’ve always been a cynic with that even if my mum and dad can prove the opposite. It’s just not possible, surely, to keep liking someone year after year?

I’m now two years into a friendship with J. It’s not as good as it used to be that’s for sure. There are things that irritate me. I’m sure I irritate him as well. I’m bossy at times, as well as contradictory. He tries to second guess me, which I hate. I need him to be himself. Not the modified version of him.

It’s not easy though. The hardest part is the fact that we just don’t have a great deal to talk about any more. I’ve complained about this before, but when you do everything together, there is nothing to keep the spark going. Conversation and banter keep that alight. Shared experiences can help, but we have to live pretty frugally or we’ll never have any chance to own our own home.

Today I’m off to work on a Saturday, which is not unusual, but what is unusual is going into London for a client job. It’s been about 6 months since last time, which has flown. But the most important thing is that it gives me time away for just a few hours. That’s a good thing. There’ll now be stuff to talk about which is great. Though this train journey leaves a lot be desired. More expensive even at weekend and totally full…

I just worry that in another year’s time we’ll be totally bored of each other. I’ve recently noticed J being more suspicious with his phone (and the less said about what is on his work computer the better). He even has Snapchat these days and frankly no good comes of that. I have asked him about it, but if didn’t go anywhere. I’m expected to be trusting. But in this day and age where in 5 mins or less you could be exchanging flirtatious messages with a total stranger, trust is in very short supply.

Either way, what’s the alternative? I often say, out loud, that I don’t see the point in living. J complains that’s a selfish thing to say. But it’s true. If you’re not really living, just existing for the sake of existence, what is all this stress and futility about?

Stress being the name of the game. Work is stressful. The “other business” is also causing stress too as it’s relying heavily on me and J at the moment understanding there legal and logistical arrangements of building a house. Hmm.  We don’t and all we know we learned from Google…

Sounds like our main business actually.