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  1. Sold!

    April 21, 2015 by Amy Hansford

    Guess what? One day on from the last post and we received a offer of the full asking price for our house. That never happens. Or at least it never used to. But say hello to a buoyant housing market. Literally, houses go on the market in the morning and go under offer in the evening.

    And now it all gets really exciting! Oh wait… nope, no it doesn’t not it all goes very quiet while everyone takes money and does things, reporting things, finance things. So we wait. And we wait.

    It hasn’t all gone wrong yet. But we’re at the bit where we don’t have any power to move it forward, so. We wait.

    Still waiting.Sold

  2. Make Your House Sellable

    April 10, 2015 by Amy Hansford

    We are generally tidy people. However, I’m rubbish at cleaning, so we are fortunate enough to have a lovely lady come in once a fortnight to sort everything out. But we do have a fair bit of clutter, or ‘personality’ as we’ve come to call it.

    In viewing various houses, we’ve learned things that make a house look like an appealing home.

    1. Crank up the heating and open the windows. Economical madness, I know, but it makes the viewer feel warm and comfy yet gives fresh air throughout.

    2. Everyone has to take their shoes off. Our carpets have been vomitted on copiously by our cats, and have been professionally cleaned as many times. None of this matters though – a ‘no shoes’ rule gives the impression that this house must be kept in its pristine state.

    3. Flowers. Strike that – green. Doesn’t matter if it’s artificial (as long as it’s the good kind), but a bit of fresh colouring makes the house fresh. You’re selling a lifestyle as much as a house.

    4. Declutter. Strip back as far as you can. On viewing day, everything in the bathroom is hidden except the fake plant and the toothbrushes.

    5. Lights on. If you have energy savers that take a while to warm up, stick them on before you leave the house. Speaking of which…

    6. Get out of the house. It makes a viewer feel awkward having you there, and you won’t be able to resist earwigging otherwise.



    All our cables are hidden, laptops shelved, Elite gaming kit under the sofa, crap on top of the bookshelves removed. All but one bin is put in the garage. Cushions are organised. The computer is hidden behind a guitar. All medication, cups, glasses, books and random notepads from the bedside table are shoved in the wardrobe.


    No really, hide EVERYTHING.

    The result? Space. Clean lines. Funky yet unobtrusive colours. A lifestyle. If you live here, you too can have an uncluttered world of peace. Your plants will grow healthily. You can make bread in your breadmaker. You can have an even better life.

    During the original Moving Up post, we were on Monday and having photos taken of the house. The house listing went live on Tuesday. We have had four viewings, have another two coming up, and have received an offer. IT IS FRIDAY. So if you have a garage, throw out as much as you can (be ruthless), move all non-essentials into it, then have a box ready to run around the house prior to viewings to hide all those random things in. You too can sell your house!

    Coming up: It’s all gone wrong (probably)

  3. Moving up

    April 6, 2015 by Amy Hansford

    I like to be productive. I struggle to relax because I see it as unproductive. So when there’s a job to be done, I am… well, productive. So when my husband sent me a link to a property on Rightmove, we decided to end a year or so of window shopping and start viewing some properties.

    We'll build a Lego house

    We have a lovely three bedroom house which we’ve made our own. We use every bit of it (productive, see?) and it works perfectly for us. Well, almost. There are three things we wanted to change;

    1. Garden. We currently have a little patio out the back which looks out on to the marina. Beautiful views, but not much fun when you’re four. We have a lovely courtyard in the front with a planter for veg, then patches of grass around the property that need mowing. But we long for a safe, secure, private rear garden. It doesn’t have to be huge, just enough to kick a ball, have a picnic, that sort of thing.
    2. Space. We have two bedrooms and an office. While friends are welcome to stay on the sofa bed in the living room, we’d love another room to put people up in. Something with a bit more privacy.
    3. Schools. We find out in a week’s time what primary school Little L will be start at in September. I’m not a huge fan of the available options, and we’re aware that she needs a good push to keep her engaged (she outsmarts us a lot of the time) which the current schools won’t necessarily do. So better schools would be really good.

    We saw our first two properties on Friday (soulless, small garden). Two more on Sunday (both small gardens). Then three on Thursday (cold, old) including the perfect house. Great school area, perfect size, lovely garden, excellent condition. We saw it again on the Friday and had an offer accepted on the Saturday. We had our house valued the same day and we’re having photos taken today (Monday). Our house will be officially on the market tomorrow.

    I know this could easily all go to pot. But the owners of the new house don’t have a chain, and we have a ‘niche house’ so it should get plenty of interest. So we’re 5 days in to our adventure with buying this new house. I reckon the whole thing will take about three months, but you can place your bets now. Housewarming date to be confirmed…

    Next up: Make Your House Sellable

  4. The educational lottery

    October 24, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    We’ve just completed the online application process for L starting school in September 2015. It was harder than you think.

    When we moved to Milton Keynes we were a happy young couple, keen for a new start and excited at the prospect of having our own house with a view. We had no plans to have children and didn’t know that L would be popping along a few years later. As such, we didn’t consider the whole ‘family’ thing when we were looking at houses. Fast forward five years down the line and we realise we *do* have a lovely house in a lovely road, but the catchment schools? Yeeeeeah.

    At first we were okay with the catchment school, which we shall call Buckaroo High. As an ex-teacher, I know how much pressure can be felt during OFSTED inspections and how their report is not always a true indication of school life, so I glazed over the “Requires Improvement” grading. They were probably having a tough day.
    I popped in and asked if we could arrange a show around and was told they didn’t do that – once your application is in and you’re allocated the school, then you get to see what it’s like. Okay.
    But then someone on a large MK parents group asked for feedback on the school. I was expecting encouraging comments, anecdotes of children achieving and happily enjoying school life. Instead…



    Yep. Not one person came to the defence of Buckaroo High. I know it’s “just” a school, but every parent wants to give their child the best chance. We decided that Buckaroo High was not what we were aiming for.

    Cue a someone emotional search (I’m rubbish at this sort of thing, it weighs on me like I am letting my daughter, my country and planet down) for a school we had any hope of getting into. Not in catchment, no siblings already there, L isn’t in care or under supervision… Then along came a glimmer of hope in what we shall call Firefly Academy.

    An email asking about showarounds was replied to by the Vice Principal, no less, welcoming us in. We had a nose around today. It was lovely – the teachers looked chilled (it was the last day of term, to be fair) the children happy and not manic, older pupils were running errands around the school (Responsibility! Trust!), lots of incentives (a tea party with the headteacher at the end of the week to reward WOW pupils!). But you know what I spotted? Loads of resources. Happy kids. Happy parents on the way out – not begrudging, or fed up, or desperate – happy. Potential. The best chance.

    So that’s it. The forms are in. We have no hopes of getting into pretty much any other school in Milton Keynes (except Crappington School – *shudder*), so we’ve gone for Firefly Academy in at number one (please please please) and Buckaroo High in second (hey, it’s better than Crappington School).

    Now it’s just a quick 6 months before we discover our allocation – easy!

    *Runs and hides in the biscuit barrel*

  5. Top 10 musicals: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

    September 24, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the next on the list.

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998)

    At the height of my Rocky Horror whirlwind, it was announced that a film was coming out of a musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I remember the first time I saw it – I wept in the cinema at the beauty of it, the sadness, the need to find one’s other half. It’s not a film I watch religiously, but one I go to when I need to be a little self indulgent. It’s my Thelma & Louise, my Beaches. My favourite song from it is “Origin of Love”. Schloppy title, I know. It takes from Plato’s Symposium the theory that once there were three beings, one made up of … well, just watch the video below.

    Omitting the final verse and using only the lyrics and music, I once taught a class of 9-10 year olds this song as part of a music project when our theme was the Greeks. It was the most amazing assembly and the kids loved the idea of it too, just in a much simpler, more innocent way. I’m lucky now that I’ve finally found my other half, but I like to think that just by watching this it’ll give others hope that they will find their’s.

  6. Top 10 musicals: Rocky Horror

    September 23, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    You’ve got to love a fad, and Facebook (there’s that name again!) is full of them. Last month it was a charitable homage to the Bucket Of Water Song, this month it’s all about posting your top 10 musicals. Here’s my list, in no order whatsoever.  I’ll be posting the reasons why over the next fortnight.

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    Little Shop of Horrors
    Bugsy Malone
    The Producers
    Anything Goes

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

    I was eight when I pulled a sickie and Mum had to take me shopping. I was allowed to choose a VHS to entertain me for the day. I chose this – the red lips on the black background jumped out at me. My mum happily bought me the 15 certificate film (fair play Mum) and I watched a funny film where lots of people danced, chased each other, a pretty sparkly girl tap danced and everyone fell into a pool at the end. Fast forward a decade and you’d find me at uni with a twisted ankle, running through my old VHS tapes and watching this for only the second time or so. And seeing so much more. This led to attending a theme night at a local pub, then onto travelling to London every Friday night to catch Charming Underclothes perform a shadowcast to it at the Prince Charles Cinema. I found an outlet for my mischiefness. Costumes, callbacks and company. I learned every movement, every nuance, every soundbite. I learned to sew. I founded my own shadowcast, Less Vulnerable. I performed in England, Scotland, NI, NYC, conventions, screenings, charity events. I even went to Richard O’Brien’s birthday party.

    (c) Nikki Cross

    Less Vulnerable as we were in 2004

    And then it and everything I’d known collapsed underneath me. I walked away. It’s only in recent years that I’ve been able to go back and watch it and enjoy it. I still want to be Columbia. I still want to shadowcast, I’m just too sleepy for midnight shows now I’m older. But there’s still a little sparkle in me.

  7. Pink vs Blue

    February 20, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    There’s been plenty of noise made lately over the colouring of toys. How, traditionally, toys and activities aimed at girls are pink, and those aimed at boys are blue. How dolls are pictured being played with by girls in pretty pink dresses complete with lace and bows. How cars are pictured being played with by boys in t-shirts and jeans.


    As a result, several retailers have decided (finally, and sensibly) to categorise toys by type, not gender. More manufacturers are creating gender neutral toys in a range of colours, not just the pink and blue palettes.

    Well, I finally have something I want to say on the situation.

    I couldn’t give a fig what colour my daughter’s toys are.

    Seriously. Not one fig is given.

    She has a pink table and chairs, a green and yellow Happyland set, a brown pirate ship, a red football and a red/blue/green/yellow set of Megablocks. She has a yellow and green bedroom. She has a pink pram for her dolls. She has Disney Princess puzzles and jungle ones. She has a pink monster onesie and a grey knight outfit.

    If she is lucky enough to be able to choose a toy, I don’t care what colour it is. If she is fortunate enough to be given a gift, I couldn’t give two hoots what colour it is, or who is on the packaging for it.

    The only thing I really give two bits about in terms of my daughter playing with toys is this: Is anyone going to die? Does this toy promote killing people or things? As long as the answer to both of those is ‘no’, I’m a happy camper. And so is she.

    So if my daughter appears one day pushing a pink baby in a pink pram whilst wearing pink shoes and a pink coat, please don’t be scared. It’s because she actually wants to. Equally, if she happens to be wearing jeans, a Star Wars t-shirt and is playing football with a blue ball, please don’t fear that I’m pushing her one way or another. She’s a free thinker and chooses her toys herself, for the most part.

    It’s just a colour.

  8. I don’t want to go swimming.

    January 24, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    I just don’t. I don’t want to be cold,  or to be paranoid about getting a wedgie, or have to deal with wet hair, or lugging bags in and out, or trying to balance getting a towel out of the locker whilst not soaking everything else in the process. I don’t want to have to play Jenga in order to keep dry things off of a wet floor in a restrictive changing cubicle.

    nirvanaBut Little L does. From her point of view, it’s lovely fun splashing around, feeling the water swish around her and navigating around the kiddie pool.

    I don’t know how all the perfect parents manage it. They stroll in, look like models from a holiday home magazine as they throw their child in the air and stroll out again WITH PERFECT HAIR.

    I look around for another parent in a similar situation.
    Case #1: The mum expertly managing triplets under 1. Bad example. Ignore her.
    Case #2: The dad swimming an entire length of the pool underwater in order to burst out in front of his thrilled son with an amazing impression of an octopus. Forget that.
    Case #3: The parent ignoring their child desperately struggling in the water in favour of having a chat with her mate. Oh God. I don’t want to be that person.

    And the realisation: I’m the only person standing between my daughter loving swimming and her becoming that struggling unconfident swimmer. It’s not too late.

    I’m going to have to go swimming, aren’t I?

  9. Wer Wer Wer

    January 16, 2012 by Amy Hansford

    I recently posted on Facebook that this was the year of the anti-mope. No more moping and whining, instead it’s time to just get on and get over the problems, working around them so they’re no longer as issue.

    I’ve caught myself in a right old mope. So here’s my anti-moping* action plan.

    Issue: Weight Gain
    I’m not doing Slimming World. Alex is. I’m doing it by proxy, in that I’m eating everything he is but having something different if it’s easier, especially with getting to rehearsals/the show on time. According to our scales, I put on 3.3kg in the past week. That’s 7lbs. That’s half a stone. That’s ridiculous. I wasn’t looking to lose any weight, but I definitely didn’t expect to put any on.
    Action: SUPU
    That’s “Shut Up and Put Up” for now. There’s not much I can do for the next fortnight while the show is on. At least if I’m eating three meals a day, the work out of nightly dance routines should put the extra weight gain to bed. In the meantime, I can continue to walk with Little L each day.

    Issue: Knackered Knees
    Before Christmas, I was suffering with Bursitis around my hip joints. In the past week, my knees have started to crunch. It feels like the bones slice into each other within my knee joint, if that makes any sense. It mainly happens when my legs are straight, but also in the dances for the show.
    Action: Osteopath and change of gait
    Alan, my osteopath at Joint Solutions, is brilliant. In the past, he’s had me go from being doubled over in pain to being able to perform a whole show in a day. So, a trip to Bletchley is in order. In the meantime, I will do a slightly Steptoesque walk with my knees slightly bent.

    Issue: Tiredness
    I don’t know if it’s because I’m a new(ish)mum and therefore spend my day chasing after a wee babe, but this show is really taking it out of me. I dropped a rehearsal last week as I felt tired enough that I would likely crash on the way home (it’s a 35 min drive away). It’ll all ease off once the show is over, but for now, I am cream crackered.
    Action: More sleep
    Alex is already very tolerant of me getting home and falling into bed within ten minutes. Perhaps I need to nap when Little L naps too. Add to that my B12 jab next week (okay, a week late, but it’s on the way at least) and I should have a little more zip about me by the end of the month.

    What are your solvable gripes at the moment?

    *I ummed and erred over this spelling. On the basis that the action of using a mop is ‘mopping’, I felt happiest with the ‘moping’ spelling. Yes, these are the things that would otherwise keep me up at night.

  10. Two Wheeler

    January 13, 2012 by Amy Hansford

    For anyone that didn’t believe me when I said there were Segway-mounted security guards in Milton Keynes shopping centre…

    Admittedly, it seems to be their First Aid unit rather than general security, but can you imagine the chase when a thug steals a scooter from the toy shop?