Clearing out the box room on Saturday

Eddie and Gareth in picture frames
You’ve been framed!

Well, that was a busy weekend! On Friday evening Jane and I drove down to Selkirk again to help Mum get the house ready for selling. On Saturday morning my brother Edmund joined us and we set to work on clearing The Box Room, a task that was actually (and thankfully) much easier than we’d anticipated.

Although maybe it didn’t quite feel like that at times:

Eddie sitting in the box room looking glum.

And it soon started to pile up in the adjacent bedrooms.

Jane looking worried by the pile of stuff on the bed.

But despite the fears I was able to clearly see a way to sort things out! (It’s an information architect thing, I guess!)

Lenses making Gareth's eyes look enormous!

Stig(ma) of the dump

Eddie and Gareth breaking up a bed in the garden.

Well, in the end we had a really relaxed and quite weekend in Selkirk.

Oh, hang on! No! It’s the other one. We had a really busy, emotional but productive day clearing out seven car-loads of “stuff” from the shed.

I even managed to lose my head once or twice.

Eddie sawing off Gareth's head in the garden.

The irony was that most of the stuff that we binned was stuff that Dad had … “salvaged” from skips about twenty years ago.

On our first visit to the Civic Amenities Site (dump!) the attendant was wearing a shirt and high-vis bib. On the second visit he’d abandoned the shirt and was just wearing the high-vis. A couple of hours later, on our third trip he was topless. I can’t tell you how nervous we were on our fourth and final visit of the day.

We’re going back (to Selkirk) in a couple of weeks time for The Clearing of the Box Room. It makes Pandora’s Box feel like Disneyland!

Surprise news

For Sale by Owner

Believe it or not, I didn’t do any blogging last week. Oh, I know that blog posts appeared on the site each day but I actually wrote those two Fridays ago, while watching Comic Relief, and scheduled them to appear throughout the week, just so you wouldn’t miss me!

The plan

Last week I was in Selkirk, visiting my Mum. The plan was that I drive down on Mothering Sunday and throughout the week give Mum a hand clearing out a few cupboards, the shed and help organise her paperwork. Hey! What else are information architect sons for?

The reality

However, the week didn’t go entirely to plan, on two accounts. First, I developed a UTI, and second, Mum decided that she’d have to sell the house. The rest of the week was spent taking antibiotics, drinking copious amounts of cranberry juice and helping Mum begin to get the ball rolling with regards putting her house on the market; Jane came down on Thursday evening and was a star on Friday speaking with estate agents, the building society and the bank.

The realty

It wasn’t a decision that Mum wanted to have to make. She doesn’t want to sell her house, the house she’s lived in for 35 years, and in which she raised her family. But the reality is that with recent increases in mortgage and fuel rates she now has no choice. So much for a Labour government looking after its people! It is sickening.

On the other hand, a smaller house will be cheaper to maintain and hopefully will be much less hassle for Mum. But a house move is always stressful regardless of the circumstances.

Pray

If it is your discipline to pray, please pray for my mum Rosalie, that she’ll

  • be able to sell the house for a good price
  • find the right house or flat to move into, in Selkirk
  • continue to trust that God has everything in hand and will support and guide her

Thanks.

Solving the mystery of Mum’s unstartable PC

Belkin surge protection socket

Yesterday my brother Eddie and I drove down to Selkirk for a four hour, military-precise exercise to build a new bed for Mum and return her now up-to-date and working PC. At least that was the plan.

The bed was built in under an hour, a spot of lunch was taken before Eddie set to work clearing out some junk from the shed while I plugged in the PC and made sure it was working and connecting to the internet okay. Only it didn’t boot up, which was exactly the problem that it was experiencing before I whisked it away to the Saunders PC clinic just after Christmas.

The problem

I couldn’t understand it. Her PC had been playing up for about six months before I finally took it away to examine it. It was initially quite unpredictable: booting up fine some days, not others. On the days that it did boot up okay it would suddenly reboot in the middle of tasks, or would simply hang and have to be restarted, with a quiet prayer that it would even restart at all. Latterly it wouldn’t even boot into Windows, preferring instead to hang anywhere between the Power On Start-up Test (POST) screen and the Windows loading screen.

I suspected either a dodgy power supply or a dying CPU, and on Boxing Day 2006 loaded it into the back of our car and drove it back home with me. Only to have it sitting in our hallway for six weeks while I tried to find the space and energy to examine it. If there might be a lot of faffing about replacing components then I wanted the space and clarity of mind to do it.

The diagnosis

Last weekend I set it up on the dining room table, plugged it in, switched it on and … it booted straight away. So I took that opportunity to back-up all Mum’s data to DVD-R before risking another reboot. It rebooted fine. I updated Windows XP, and rebooted. In fact, I had it reboot about 20+ times during the weekend and each time it started fine. I couldn’t detect a single problem with it. Whew!

Actually, what I suspected was that it was simply allergic to being at Mum’s. Maybe it had a pet allergy, or something.

The good news

I phoned Mum and gave her the good news and said that I’d find an opportunity to nip down to Selkirk to deliver it. And that opportunity presented itself yesterday as Eddie was going down to Selkirk anyway and Jane had volunteered to help her sister paint a bedroom in Edinburgh. So we picked up Eddie in South Queensferry, dropped off Jane in south Edinburgh en route for the Scottish Borders.

The return

So with it safely returned to Selkirk, I unpacked it, plugged it in and switched it on. And waited. And waited. And waited. Hmmm… maybe it is allergic to being at Mum’s after all, because it would not boot up, preferring instead to hang on the Windows XP loading screen. Very odd.

I couldn’t understand it, I’d purposefully only plugged in the bits that I’d had in Anstruther: the PC box, the monitor, the keyboard, mouse and speakers. I knew that that worked, and had actually suspected a dodgy USB connector as having been the non-boot culprit.

The solution

And then I realised that the only component that I’d not had with me when I tested it at home was Mum’s surge-protection 4-gang power socket. I replaced it with the 4-way that I had with me and it booted. And rebooted. And rebooted yet again.

It turns out that it was the power-socket that was the problem all along. I went and told Mum.

Gareth: Mum, I’ve found out what the problem was with your PC.

Mum: Oh, that’s good. What was it?

Gareth: It was your surge-protector socket that the PC was plugged into.

Mum: Oh, well done. Do you think that had anything to do with the massive thunder and lightning storm we had last year? It blew a lot of my friends’ modems.

Gareth: Yes. [Thinks: And you only thought to tell me that now, why?]

The replacement

I’ve now ordered Mum a replacement Belkin 6-Socket SurgeMaster Tel/Fax/Modem/Cable or DSL Modem Protection cable (with built-in insurance up to £25,000 for any equipment damaged as a result of the surgemaster not doing its job properly).

In other news…

That Mum’s Orange dial-up account was no longer working — not having been dialed-into for over 90 days — is another matter, but to get her back online we used uk2.net’s account-free service. A useful number of keep in mind if you’re ever in the same situation, or your broadband goes down for a time. (Thanks to Mike for looking that up online while on the end of a mobile phone conversation with me.)

Wedding photographs

On Friday 15 September, as Jane and I were driving down the road to Selkirk we both suddenly realised that we’d left our digital cameras at home. Usually that’s not much of a problem, but we were heading down to attend the wedding of our dear friends Kenny Fyfe and Chris Goble in Selkirk.

Thankfully my Mum had been given a digital camera for her birthday, and my nephew Benjamin is also a budding young photographer. So I’ve been meaning to post these photographs for a few weeks now.

Kenny and Chris Fyfe with Gareth outside St John's, Selkirk
Kenny and Chris with Gareth outside the Church of St John the Evanglelist, Selkirk.

Rosalie, Jane and Benjamin Saunders
Rosalie (Mum), Jane (Wife) and Benjamin (Nephew) Saunders.

Alasdair Allan, Gareth Saunders, David Watson and Warren Bumpsteed
Friends Reunited: Alasdair Allan, Gareth Saunders (me), David Watson and Warren Bumpsteed.