The house hunting goes well. After 8 years of searching we have finally found a house that we would like to buy. We have put in an offer that has been accepted and now we are in the infuriating state between acceptance and completion which could last weeks to months, or fall through, as one in three often do.
We have even found a house to rent to bridge the gap between our current property and our possible new one. Other than the inconvenience of a forced move we could do without, things are actually going rather well.
The past few week has not been good for them. They have very serious security defects in all version of Internet Explorer from as far back as records go up to and including the very latest version in Windows 7. Several governments have formally recommended that users do not use IE of any version until it's fixed.
To make matters worse it now transpires that they knew about the problem some time ago and even when exploits were being used they did nothing about it.
Using Microsoft products is one long pathetic patch process. You buy, you hope, you patch, you patch again and finally you start again at buy...
No sane person starting today would ever deploy anything from Microsoft, the only reason anyone uses their products today is because of ignorance, inertia and the fact even if they want to change they are trapped (addicted?).
Over the past few weeks I've been mostly wearing socks with a high wool or Coolmax content. They are less common than socks made out of cotton and often don't come in fun colours or patterns. Yesterday I put on a pair of cotton socks, I wish I hadn't, I had a blister before I even made it to work.
Note to self: get rid of all cotton socks and replace with wool/synthetic mixed socks.
The UK has the smallest average sized homes of the "developed" countries, about one third the size of a typical Australian house. The UK also has some of the most poorly built modern houses and a large body of inefficient and in need of replacement old houses.
For most of the last half decade house building has been a mixture of shoddy standard and poor design and worst of all far too few houses have been built, constantly missing targets for decades at a time. The Overall result is that houses are absurdly expensive and stupidly small. They are probably the wost value for money anywhere in the "developed" world.
An "average house" is now well above the acceptable level at which a mortgage is normally lent to someone on "average income". In 2003 the national average ratio was around 3.4 by the height of the boom it had reached 5.1. This is utterly insustainable in the long run and has been a contributing factor in the recent price correction.
Because a sensible house it so stupidly expensive in the UK, an absurd concept of a "buying ladder" has developed. You buy a house you can afford but don't want, pay some mortgage off on it, then after a few years you sell it and buy a bigger one and so on until you arrive at the house you do want. Given that house prices tended to rise faster than inflation in the 70s and 80s this would mean each trade up you could use the gain in property prices of the lower rung to fund the deposit on the higher rung. The fact that the rungs tend to get farther apart as house prices rise, was silently ignored by the bulk of the population.
When we moved to the village the "normal UK" thing to do would have been to buy a house and by now we'd be on our second or third house. Instead we chose to rent and even though we are being forced into our third house I still think we are ahead financially. If we had bought the first house we lived in for the price it was probably worth then of about £180k it would now be worth around £200-210k, a capital gain of £20-30k. We would have paid a monthly mortgage of at least £1k, or at least £250 per month more than our rent, which over the years means we have saved more than the house would have appreciated. Over the years we would have paid some of the mortgage off but we'd have also had much higher maintenance and service charges for owning the house and that excludes all the legal costs.
As it happens we have actually save considerably more than above figure, so other the inconvenience of having to probably move twice this year we should be able to buy the house we (nearly) really want this year with less of a problem than if we had done the "normal" thing.
PS. Trying to explain a house buying ladder to foreign relatives is very hard - it seems so illogically!
We made it home without any delays. Our trains were running bang on time, well 1 minute late into Basingrad - but that counts as on-time... It had snowed, just as the news said, but was hardly 20 cm, more like 5 cm. Not a problem to anyone on foot with decent shoes but I'm sure it caused chaos for car drivers.
Because of severe snowfalls in Kent customers were offered free travel another day deals in Paris this morning. At the moment we are speeding though the Kent country side looking out at the pretty but not very light dusting of snow. I suppose they got their fingers burnt badly in the run up to XMas, so they are taking no chances today, even if there is barely enough snow for a decent snow ball fight...
Yesterday when we checked the evening news we discovered that southern England was under a blanket of snow - and not the feeble "pretend" snow of 2009, a real fall of 20-30 cm.
We checked and the national rail services seem to be running okay and Eurostar are running a mostly okay service, so we decided to try our luck and set of home from Paris.
We arrived at Gare du Nord in time and went through security and border control without a problem. The gates opened on time and we made it to our carriage only to be sent to another one. We legged it all the way to the other end of the train and we are now sitting in business class. They still don't have enough power sockets but that should be okay, as long as we are not delayed anywhere.
One of my favourite eating apple varieties is the English Egremont Russet. It's different from the bland modern apples that are nothing more than bags of wet sugar. While on holiday in France this New Year, I came across a relative, the Reinette grise du Canada, a popular French variety of russet that came from England via Canada. It's a older variety and slightly larger in size, but very similar in texture and flavour - well worth finding.