Friday, 30 April 2010


I've never really considered doing a marathon. 26+ miles at one go seems impossible. Actually the idea of me running more than several hundred yards at one go seems inadvisable. Yet over the last few weeks I suspect I've actually walked several marathons. I've been helping our local Conservative candidate with canvassing and leaflet delivery. One very small cog in one very large wheel, but with time to spare I felt I had to do my bit. Like Spike Milligan's account of the war "Adolf Hitler, my part in his downfall" I'd hope a better title for this blog would be "Gordon Brown, my part in his downfall". However we'll have to wait another week to find out whether my efforts have all been worthwhile. I've had an enormous grin on my face these last couple of days however since Gordon's brilliant executed own goal in Rochdale.

Back to my marathons. I volunteered to deliver a couple of leaflets in our village and two neighbouring villages - about 1,500 houses. Mrs Troy and Troy Junior have helped out although Troy Junior seems to always get an urgent toilet break ("No.... I need a pooh!") when we are furthest away from home. It is amazing how quiet the villages are during the day with very few people at home, or out and about. One day, our candidate came to help out but the heavens opened and we got soaked. He came back to our home and we had a good chat whilst he dried out. Mrs Troy said afterwards that if our candidate could talk to everyone in their living room for 30 minutes then he would win by a landslide. He's such a nice guy! I suspect though that he'd have to start now to get round everywhere before the next election.

I've also helped out by assisting in the canvassing. I've marshalled up to five people as they've gone door to door whilst I've manned the clipboard recording their feedback of the voter's intention. We talk in code like "She's a C" which I've recorded as a positive result. I suspect Gordon Brown often says much the same thing about members of the public he meets, even when they are not Conservative.

It's not easy trying to control and record five canvassers. Their pace varies so much as some find no one home, so quickly deliver a "sorry we missed you card" before moving swiftly on. Others find themselves in conversation for several minutes. Meanwhile I'm scurrying along ahead to ensure canvassers don't knock on doors that have only moments earlier have been knocked by someone else. Then the waylaid canvasser catches up "they are Against at number 74" by which time I'm on a different canvas sheet on the next road. In villages where the houses have names rather than numbers it is actually much more tricky. The electoral rolls rarely seem to list the house names in the same order they appear on the road. I suspect I've done a good job though as they now always offer me the clipboard. I prefer this explanation to the alternative - that they don't want me to meet people!

Some people walking in the street actually seek us out with "can I have a poster for my window" or "good luck, you've got my vote". Always nicely spoken, nicely dressed people. Others, often passing in tatty old cars, put up their middle finger or yell out an obscenity. They don't seem to mind us paying our taxes to support them though.

I suspect most of the public and perhaps many of my readers are already getting election fatigue. Have you been watching the TV debates? Are you sick of seeing "how these polls would result in the number of seats in Parliament" graphics on every news programme?

That's why I've only done one blog posting on the election. I couldn't ignore it but one's enough.

I'll leave you though with a very sobering thought. The task facing the next Government is truly horrendous. The Conservatives always, at some stage, have to come in to pick up the pieces of failed Labour regimes. Some of the economic vandalism this time though is completely unreversable - the Nation's gold reserves sold off at rock-bottom prices, the destruction of the private sector pensions, our EU rebate thrown away. It will take at least a generation to repair the deficit and control the enormous debt burden. In reality, the position may possibly be already irretrivable - like Greece. The Governor of the Bank of England is reported as saying in the US that whoever comes in will have to make such difficult and unpleasant economic decisions that they will make themselves so unpopular that they'll be unelectable for a generation. That doesn't sound a great prize to win come next Thursday. There would be some irony if Gordon, perhaps with his new friend "I agree with Nick", had to stay and clear up his mess. But that wouldn't actually happen, it would be the IMF and our international creditors calling all the shots.

[I realise that some readers may wholeheartedly disagree with some of the sentiments expressed here. Let's not fall out but rather be thankful we live in a democracy where we can all freely express our views. Not just the sound ones expressed above but also others!!!!]

Thursday, 15 April 2010


I can't believe I've gone a whole month without blogging. Mind you, I can't believe how quickly the last four weeks have flown by. I've been very very busy, goodness knows how I ever previously found the time to earn a living! And I've been faced with so many choices, choices, choices.

I last reported about the new apartment I was buying in the centre of town. Having signed the paperwork on the 6th March, I exchanged contracts on 23rd March and completed on 30th March. The legal process was short but intense. In the meantime, two letting agents were actively seeking my business and getting the keys from the sales office to show potential tenants around. Both agents found me suitable tenants so I had to make a choice between agents. The agent with the lower upfront charges found me a divorced lady of a similar age to myself. This was someone who I felt would take care of my new apartment, so I went with that choice.

Having completed the legal process on 30th March and assessed what additional things were needed for this already "full-furnished" apartment - things like a cutlery tray for the kitchen drawer, towel rails for the bathrooms, loo roll holders, doormat etc. etc. - I had to hurriedly buy these (choices, choices, choices) and place them in the apartment. Then having liaised with the builder over the "snagging list", the tenant moved in two days later, on April 1st.

Whilst all this was in progress I also spent a lot of time in March coordinating the recruitment of a new Headteacher at Troy Junior's school. I haven't mentioned much in this blog about being a school governor as the details have to remain confidential. But having taken over as Chair in January, one of my first tasks was this recruitment. Meetings to decide the wording for the advert, draw up the information pack for applicants, review application forms to create a shortlist for interview, decide on the interview process - choice of questions and projects. Then a day and a half for the interview process itself. This all clashed with the apartment purchase requiring a lot of time juggling. I did however find the entire recruitment process (choices, choices, choices) to be a most rewarding and enjoyable experience and I believe we've now recruited an outstanding new HT.

Good Friday was my father's 80th birthday so early that morning we drove down to Bournemouth to be in good time to take him out for a special lunch. My sister and her husband together with my dad's best friend since his schooldays also joined us. Here's my dad, looking a tad silly, but also throughly enjoying his special birthday.

I mentioned before about wanting to buy a property to renovate then sell on (or rent out). No sooner had I bought the new apartment than our local property auctioneer posted their new auction catalogue which had several properties being sold by a housing association. Previously this association used a central London auction house and I was loathed to spend a whole day travelling up to London just to be outbid by others with deeper pockets. But now there were some great local properties being auctioned locally by a small family auction firm that we already knew. We viewed four properties shortly after Easter. At the guide prices they would all make great purchases (choices, choices, choices). Having got the apartment sorted - bought and tenanted - I was looking forward to this next challenge.

Then I got a call from the builder who sold me the apartment. The few remaining apartments in their final phase, the tower block, were being sold off at special low prices. In fact the prices quoted for this final phase were 20% less than I was quoted in March (remember I thought them then a little overpriced). In fact they are actually now going for less than half the price the builders had initially envisaged when the whole development started a few years ago. Troy has an eye for a bargain, so we went back to have another look. These prices seemed just too good to miss - but then I couldn't buy another apartment AND a property at auction. Choices, choices! After a lot of deliberation I decided to buy another new apartment! They won't be finished until the end of May at the earliest but here's a photo of the tower block as it is now:-

My apartment is half way up, so above the neighbouring roofline, with a westerly outlook. With so much glazing it is very light and airy. The balconies have still to go on and landscaping completed, and then they should look like this:

The letting agent went for a look then e-mailed me "I think it is fabulous and a great buy".

So, a hectic four weeks have flown by. No blogging done, but days full of choices, choices, choices. I've spent all my "ready cash" so will now need to carefully watch the pennies over the next few months. Its a shame I couldn't also buy one of the auction properties to renovate - I would really have enjoyed that challenge. I will hardly dare look to see what they sell for in the auction next Wednesday. But no doubt I will.