Progress on Mum’s flat

Mum standing beside a bookcase
Mum standing next to one of her new pine bookcases.

Here’s what we got up to at Mum’s on Saturday. This is my to do list:

To do at Mum’s


  • Rudely awaken Jane at 08:00 – DONE
  • Poke Jane with pointed stick* – DONE

* I was quite inventive: I used the stylus from my O2 Xda Orbit.


  • Affix door stops – DONE

Living room

  • Put up clock – DONE
  • Fix chair – DONE
  • Check TV, DVD, VCR connections
  • Buy doormat


  • Mark location of shelves

Guest bedroom

  • Put up curtain rail & curtains – DONE
  • Buy 2 x tall bookcases at Argos – DONE
  • Build 2 x tall bookcases – DONE
  • Unpack boxes – DONE
  • Setup PC on desk

Mum’s bedroom

  • Affix wall hanging (need 2 x 1m poles) – DONE
  • Remove red trunk – DONE

Walk-in Cupboard

  • Buy shelves – OUT-OF-STOCK


  • Affix washing line – DONE

Not bad: got most things done.

Mum’s new flat is coming along nicely. The carpets and vinyl are down now, and the place is really beginning to look homely. She’s done marvels this week unpacking, with more than a little help from friends Dougie and Julie, and my sister Jenni. They’ve done sterling work.

We didn’t get as many cardboard boxes unpacked as we’d hoped, but we did buy Mum a couple of deep, wide bookcases which will allow her books to climb the walls … rather than her guests! 😉


A couple of annoying things about the new place:

  1. In the bathroom the shower was fitted with a rather cheap-looking shower mixer tap (the shower is fed from the boiler rather than an electric shower unit), which is almost impossible for Mum to switch on and off, it is so stiff. It has already been replaced with another one, which Mum can switch on but not off. Mum has arthritis in her hands; I don’t but still have trouble with it. It’s just bad quality.

  2. In the kitchen the waste pipe from the sink has been directed within the space for her dishwasher. The gap is 600 mm deep; her dishwasher is 600 mm deep; the waste pipe is about 90 mm deep. Surely it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that by removing 90 mm from a 600 mm space you are clearly not going to be able to install a dishwasher!!

    So at the moment her dishwasher sticks out … completely preventing access to one of her kitchen cupboards.

My Uncle Lewis, who owns and runs Brydon Home Improvement Services, came over on Friday night and we’ve come up with a snagging list of about 12 items, which also includes a dangerous fuse box, wrong light switches fitted (“… but we ran out!” is not an acceptable excuse in my book), unfinished tiling work in the kitchen, and a missing on/off power switch for the dishwasher.

A couple of weeks more, I reckon, and the house will be completely unpacked, fixed and Mum will be enjoying the benefits of her new smaller place. And then there is the garden to tackle … but, as they, that’s a whole new ballpark of worms.

Off to Selkirk again …

Bedroom filled with boxes

Off to Selkirk again for another overnight at Mum’s. Today was the day that Mum handed over the keys to her old house of 35 years. An emotional day.

We’ll be sleeping in the guest bedroom tonight (see photo above), amidst the boxes. Tomorrow’s task will be to reduce that pile of cartons to nothing, as we systematically unpack.

I’m looking forward to it, and to helping make Mum’s new flat feel more homely and hers.


Just to let you know, if you want to contact Mum: British Telecom weren’t able to connect Mum’s phone yesterday because the contractor still hasn’t had the flats connected to the public exchange. So in the meantime BT are going to redirect all calls to her home number to her mobile phone, for no additional charge.

It looks like it won’t be until mid-September that she gets her landline installed. But that, at least, gives us time to archaeologically remove the layers of boxes!

A (house) moving experience

Border Removals van

Wow! Well that was one long, tiring and emotional roller-coaster of a week. For the last six days I’ve been in Selkirk (in the Scottish Borders) helping Mum move house; I got back late last night and pretty much went straight to bed.

Here’s how my week has been:

Monday 20 August

I spent all morning, and much of the afternoon cleaning our house (in Anstruther) from top to bottom. I wanted to leave a tidy, clean house for Jane so that she didn’t have much to do this week — I knew that it would be a long, tiring week for her.

So, I arrived in Selkirk at 17:00. Mum had spent the day communicating with lawyers, estate agents and the Halifax building society trying to make sure that the bridging loan would come through in time … it was a nervous wait overnight.

Mum suddenly realised that she needed buildings and contents insurance for her new flat. When I arrived she was on the phone arranging it.

We finished as much as we could in preparation for the removals firm coming in at midday on Tuesday to begin the packing.

Tuesday 21 August

I phoned the removals firm to confirm when they’d be arriving. They confirmed 08:30 … on Wednesday!

The Halifax phoned to say that it was looking unlikely that the bridging loan would go through in time for a move on Wednesday, but they’d do everything they could … the snag was that there were a few things that would need to be looked into by both of Mum’s lawyers (buying and selling).

I telephoned the removals firm and made contingency plans should the loan not come through.

Mum went to a funeral just before 11:00.

During the following 90 minutes the phone rang endlessly: lawyer, Halifax, another lawyer, Halifax again, repeat.

Mum returned a began chasing up one of the lawyers, who still needed to confirm something with the Halifax. If he could do it before 14:00 then there was now a good chance that the loan would go through in time. The Halifax sent them a fax around 11:30.

Mum got through to the lawyer’s office. He was on a call, he’d phone back. He didn’t phone back.

Repeat that last sentence.


Mum eventually spoke with him around 15:00 (too late for the loan to complete). “What fax?” he said. And then laughed, “Oh! Oh! There’s a fax on the fax machine from the Halifax.”

A nervous wait.

The phone rang. It was the lawyer, he’d sent the required information to the Halifax. Oh, and the sale of the house had just been completed. The missives were signed, there was no way that the sale would fall through now. Mum and I both visibly breathed a sigh of relief.

It was doubly good news: now that the sale was completed it meant that Mum’s bridging loan would go through as a closed rather than open bridging loan, because there was a guaranteed limit to the length of time required on the loan. That’s a saving of about £700 for Mum.

The phone rang again. It was the Halifax: Mum would have to go to the local branch of the Halifax Bank of Scotland to sign the papers. The money would be queued for processing the following day, anytime before 17:00.

On Tuesday evening I took Mum out for a meal to celebrate, and then a drive around the Borders countryside. We needed to get out and away.

Wednesday 22 August

Removals day. At 08:30 sharp Border Removals turned up with two lorries and six men. They had most of the house packed and cleared in 90 minutes, when one lorry and three men disappeared to attend to another job.

Mum’s lawyer phoned around 11:00 to say that the money was in. She’d have to write a cheque, deliver it to the estate agents and then she’d call back to say that the flat was Mum’s.

After Mum went up to the lawyer’s office to sign the papers, I went down to the flat with the vacuum cleaner to hoover the carpets only to discover that the floors were up and Mum’s gas supply was being fitted to the living room.

Gas pipe under the floor

The removals men arrived just as the joiner (carpenter) was hammering down the last few nails. The lorry was unloaded and by 14:30 they had gone.

Jane arrived around 17:00 and we set about transferring all the boxes from the guest room to Mum’s room, building the guest bed, and transferring all the boxes back again. Mum went to bed with her room as normal and uncluttered as possible:

Bedroom with orange curtains

Thursday 23 August

On Thursday a couple of men arrived from The Fireplace, Hawick to knock a hole in the wall.

Hole in living room wall

Limited unpacking today: I was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Besides we couldn’t do much until the gas fire was in (Friday) and the carpets down (Monday).

Friday 24 August

The fireplace men came early (08:15) and began to install the gas fire and limestone fireplace …

Jenni and Jane in front of the new fireplace

… which looks fantastic. Roll on Monday when the vinyl (hall and kitchen) and carpet (living room) are laid. Then the unpack-proper can take place.

But already Mum’s new flat is beginning to look like a home.


Praise the Lord for

  • the good weather
  • the masses of love and support that Mum’s had from friends and family
  • the wonderful people at the Halifax Bridging Loan department
  • the diligence of her lawyer
  • a new start for Mum

More photos…

See all my photos of the move on Flickr: Mum moves house (August 2007) collection.

Comments have been disabled due to the amount of comment spam I’m getting from removals firms!

A sledge?!

House with a for sale sign outside.

Today we were down in Selkirk again for a flying, less-than 24 hours, visit. We’re efficient like that.

During that time we took in visits to:

  • The Fireplace in Hawick (they sell fires)
  • a sawmill near St Boswells (they make and sell garden sheds)
  • Keith McLean’s carpet showroom in Selkirk
  • the civic amenities site (the dump!)

Just to bring you all up to speed: Mum’s house was on the market for a few weeks (offers over £170,000, in case you were wondering) but about a week ago Mum accepted an offer (of some money, in case you were wondering … plus a cow and a handful of magic beans). So Jane and I were down offering some advice on the whole moving house thing, what with us having done it twice last year.

Moving house is a stressful activity, and it’s been upsetting to see Mum so unsettled during these last few months, but the end appears to be within view and it was fun to accompany Mum today as we investigated gas fires, sheds and carpets for her new house.

Amidst all the upset, and worry, and uncertainty it’s conversations like this one that keep your spirits up:

Gareth: So … what will you actually keep in your shed?
Mum: Gardening tools.
Gareth: Fair enough.
Mum: Erm … plant pots.
Gareth: Okay.
Mum: A sledge.
Gareth: A sledge?!
Mum: My filing cabinet.
Gareth: … WHAT?!!

At one point during the conversation Mum’s topic flipped between a large cupboard and the shed, and for a second I had a vision of her opening the walk-in cupboard to find a shed, and inside the shed was a filing cabinet, and inside the filing cabinet was a Russian doll!

But I’ll conclude by asking the question again, because good questions are worth repeating: a sledge?!

Weekend in pictures

Saturday morning

Eddie tidying the study

I was in Selkirk again on Saturday helping Mum sort things prior to putting her house on the market. My brother Eddie and I focussed on the study, where we’d dumped various books, boxes, and files from previous weeks’ tidying. It was satisfying putting right the mess we’d made before.

Saturday afternoon

Owen and Eddie

In the afternoon Eddie’s wife Rebecca and son Owen came down to visit. This is one of my favourite photographs of Owen that I took that afternoon. He’s looking so like a little boy now, rather than a baby — he’s 16 months old now.

Sunday afternoon

Anstruther harbour

On Sunday afternoon Jane’s sister Pauline and family came over for lunch. We took a walk down to the harbour on a beautiful, warm afternoon; enjoyed ice creams at quayside and took a walk along the pier.

Jane kissing Gareth on the cheek.