Saturday, 31 May 2014

A new home....

There have been times when I never thought I would get to the point of being able to write this post.

It was almost 12 months ago that I began looking for my first home to buy. After finding a flat at the end of August last year, things began to fall apart in the purchasing process and I eventually walked away from the sale in October.

Once I returned from my fellowship trip, I started to attend property viewings again. The re-start of the process also allowed me to review my priorities - and rather than looking for a small flat in London, I decided to push my search further afield where I could afford a small house and garden.

Of course, the re-start of my search coincided with a booming property market in the south east of the UK. There was even a marked difference in what my budget could afford from when I started searching a few months previously...and as the time went by over Christmas and New Year, I could literally see the prices rising on my search alerts.

I set myself a broad search area - I was getting details on properties across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Hertfordshire...pretty much anything that was on a main train line into London with a commuting time of 45-60 minutes. Still, the market was flooded with buyers, so it was still a long and drawn out process to find something I liked, could afford, and was successful with submitting an offer.

Finally, in late February, I found a lovely little Victorian semi-detatched cottage in Kent. It was a popular listing, so I was delighted when I heard a week later that my offer had been accepted.

If only the rest of the process had proceeded as smoothly. The past three months have involved arguments with the mortgage valuation surveyor, roofing contractor reports, and vendors further up the chain throwing tantrums and threatening to pull out of the chain. Which only confirms how unnecessarily stressful the property purchase system is in the UK. Finally, after three months of ongoing negotiation, paperwork and stress, contracts were finally exchanged this week (although the attempt was started on Wdnesday it wasn't until a few minutes before 5pm on Friday afternoon that it actually occurred...nothing like drawing out the pain of this process until the last possible minute!)

So, I have a new home....the completion/move-in date is imminent, so I'll be back soon with some more pictures, and an ever-increasing list of projects that I'll be undertaking over the next year or two...


Monday, 26 May 2014

RSN Silk-shading project finally completed...

It is now over a month since I attended my introduction to silk-shading course at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit it has taken me this long to finish the project, but it is now complete.

I'm feeling a little ambivalent about silk-shading as a technique. I was pleased to learn a new technique, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to embroidery, and I found this technique one of the hardest to master. I think my colour shading is 'clunky' - but perhaps that is one of those things that improves with practice.

It was certainly the first type of embroidery I'd tried where you have two and sometimes three different colours in needles and work them simultaneously. Additionally, the majority of this is worked with single strands of embroidery thread, so understandably it can take quite a long time to complete a section.

Nevertheless, I'm pleased I tried it, and I think my shading in other types of embroidery will now be more proficient as a result.

I still can't recommend the RSN short courses highly enough. I'm already looking forward to my next course in April.

And in other embroidery news...

...some simple bullion roses on a baby-grow to welcome a new daughter of a work colleague...

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Lake District (a belated Easter update)...

Whilst we are enjoying a beautifully sunny May bank holiday weekend here in London, I am finally finding time to record my trip to the Lake District over Easter with two good friends. Although only two weekends ago, it seems much longer - possibly due to the fact that just after we arrived back from the lakes, I flew to Atlanta for five days to speak at a conference.

The trip to the lakes was only planned a few weeks in advance. When my friend L was able to extend her trip to the UK past Easter, we made a decision to look for somewhere to stay and explore a part of the UK to which she had never been before. I also calculated that it was over 15 years since I had last been there - it was so beautiful that it made me wonder why I had allowed such a long time to pass before a return visit.

We stayed in a little terraced cottage in Bowness (a village on the shore of Lake Windermere). After a seven-hour drive from London on Friday, we arrived to a lovely warm and sunny afternoon. We promptly set off to explore the village and lakeside.

In our planning we had decided to devote one day to a walk. Based on the weather reports, we chose Saturday as the day, and decided to take the walk that circumnavigates Derwent Water. Being such a beautiful day, it was a popular route...but after the first hour or so, the numbers of people thinned out. The surrounding scenery was gorgeous...

And one cannot visit the Lake District without reference to Beatrix Potter. On Sunday we caught the ferry to the other side of Lake Windermere and walked (uphill!) to Hilltop, the farm that she bought with the sale proceeds from 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'. It is located near the village of Far Sawry. Beatrix mainly used the farmhouse initially as a holiday home. Once she married, she lived on a farm nearby, but used to visit Hilltop daily to write and receive visitors. Hilltop is now managed by the National Trust (after Beatrix bequeathed it to them after her death).

Hilltop Farmhouse

We were so blessed with the weather, and it was lovely to spend the time in the company of two very good friends...