Flat Purchasing Fiascos

After nearly a year of flat-hunting, one has finally been purchased. What I initially thought would be a simple process turned out to be MUCH more complicated. By simple, I mean I thought it would be a matter of outlining my requirements, going on Rightmove to see what was available, arranging some house viewings, placing an offer on my dream abode, and moving in one month later.

Silly me, I clearly live in Lala Land.

I think it’s because things seem to move a lot faster in the only country I’m completely familiar with – good ‘ol Canada. There, it’s not atypical to have a house sold in 4 days, or even before it gets listed, and to get the keys within 1.5 months of the sale going through. Whereas in Bath, it seems like 3-4 months is considered standard from placing an offer to getting the keys in your hands.

May 2013

Bright eyed and optimistic, this is when M and I first started scoping out flats. We had a rough budget in mind and with that, we made bookings for every flat that fit within the budget that was in a decent location. I don’t consider myself to be high-maintenance but apparently I have demanding…um…demands. It’s not unreasonable to want an ensuite bathroom, high Georgian ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a garden…is it? I mean, Bath is one of the most beautiful cities in England and I figure, if I’m going to live in Bath I would want to live in a typical Bath Georgian building. Reasonable request? I think so!

October 2013

By month 4 of flat-hunting standards started to change and sacrifices were made. We were getting nowhere fast and the prospect of owning a flat was slipping away. I escaped back to Canada over the summer months to deal with visa issues and left M to his own devices. When I came back for a brief visit in October I came back to a deliriously happy fellow. One who had just purchased a flat. Without me. I know I wasn’t around to view any flats and while it’s true I told M to make the call in regards to putting offers on flats he deemed worthy that was just me being nice! I didn’t think he’d ACTUALLY do it!

So he showed me the flat. I think it was all I could do to not burst into tears. The pictures below show a very beautiful flat…to the naked eye.

Spacious sitting room going out onto the balcony. But what the hell is up with that huge pink piece of plastic on the wall!?!
Sitting room looking into the kitchen
Kitchen the size of a walk-in closet...and more pink plastic!!!

I think M was blinded by the flat’s beauty and was put under some evil spell that compelled him to put in an offer. This spell inhibited his logic and reasoning in the following ways:

  • It was WAY too expensive for what it was. He put in an offer that was £10K below the asking price and his offer was accepted. That would’ve been good and dandy if the flat wasn’t priced £40K above its valuation.
  • The flat was on one of the busiest streets in Bath and the bedroom faced the main street. Something I absolutely cherish is a good night’s sleep. And there was no way in hell that was going to happen in this bedroom. Noise-proof and fully insulated windows (double glazed windows) aren’t allowed in listed Georgian Buildings, as it goes against the city’s ‘aesthetics’.  This means I would’ve woken up to 6am lorries and morning traffic EVERY SINGLE DAY. Weekend sleep-ins? Good luck! It was also opposite a night club, which means not only would it be extremely noisy Fri and Sat nights, but one would not have the right to be surprised/angry if faced with the smell of piss or puke.
  • One of the biggest highlights of the flat was the large balcony in the back. True, it was very nice. What M didn’t seem to mind (which I thought was a big deal) was the fact that the stone of the building was starting to come apart. It’s not a good sign when the sales agent says: “Watch your head, the building’s a bit old, you don’t want the stones to fall on you.” Forgive me for, you know, wanting to keep my head intact.
  • The flat required probably an extra £15K in renovations and with the already high price-tag of the flat I could see any hopes of going to the Maldives evaporate before my very eyes (yes, yes #FirstWorldProblems).

Oh, I tried to be supportive but I knew with every ounce of my being that this was a mistake. The question was “How do I make M realize this is a mistake without sounding like a horrible person…?”

Enter: Flat Surveyor!!!

Getting a flat surveyed is the norm here (and probably in Canada for older buildings? Confirmation, please!) and the process involves hiring someone who’s familiar with the internal structure, the outside of the building, inspecting all potential problems and submitting a 1000 page report (perhaps a few pages less…) of all potential issues as well as what they think the property is worth in their professional opinion.  I struck a deal with M. If the surveyor came back with a valuation within £10K of what we purchased it for then we’d continue on with the sale. Else, bye-bye flat!

I waited with bated breath as M went through the report.

He smiled.

I thought “fuck. I got this wrong…I got this completely wrong.”

He asked what I thought the report stated and I looked dejectedly at him and said it was obvious the report came back in his favour.

He pointed the computer screen in my direction and that’s when I saw – the figure facing me was £30K below the asking price and £20K below what M offered.

HALLELUJAH!!!!! I WON!!! I WON!!! M’s convinced I smirked all night, but it was just an expression of jubilation. I didn’t have time to console him. I was too busy thinking: “Maldives is back on the table…”

February 2014

Another offer was put on the table. No ensuite. Not a Georgian building. No floor-to-ceiling windows. But this one had potential…LOTS of potential. This one was a project and I like projects!

Offer accepted…and the waiting game to get the keys began. The flat is part of a complex that belonged to a woman who just passed away. Her family was acting as executor and to put nicely, the family was in no hurry whatsoever to get this sale going. With the flat being unoccupied and totally ready to move into I thought the move-in process would be all ‘BADA BING BADA BOOM’.

March 2014

We wait

April 2014

We wait some more

May 2014

Lots of back and forth emails exchanged between the two parties’ solicitors.

June 2014

Take a wild guess

July 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!!! 5 months later – we gots da keys!

Present day

I wish I could say things are now smooth sailing and I could show you pictures of my new humble digs but apparently, the fun (please note heavy sarcasm) has just begun! The flat is a fixer-upper and while I like working on projects, I didn’t think I’d actually have to LIVE in one. Renovations are well underway. I am currently living in a construction yard but hey, at least I’ve got my next blog topic! Stay tuned, folks. An update on the extensive flat renovations is on its way!

Sunday Fun Day – It’s ROAST time!

If there’s one thing I love England for it’s for their immense devotion to providing their countrymen with a pleasurable way to end off a long and hard week. Two words. 1. Sunday 2. Roast. Of course, the reason for the long and hard week is because I’ve had to work my body to the max to burn off the million calories from that one meal. But I digress…

I’m ashamed that after living here for two years and having kept up this blog for basically the same amount of time, not a single entry has ever been devoted to one of my most favoured English gastronomic experiences. I have to specify English because let’s face it, not even the crème-de-la-crème of Sunday Roasts will ever beat out Chinese-style lobster and Peking duck.

But it’s never too late to correct an error (is it?) so I will now begin to document my Sunday Roast experiences. The good, the bad, and most especially, the OMG-THAT-WAS-SO-AMAZING-I-WISH-EVERYDAY-WAS-SUNDAY experiences.

Allium Brasserie  Abbey Hotel, North Parade, Bath BA1 1LF

Price: £££  ||  Atmosphere: 3/5  ||  Service: 5/5  ||  Would I go back? Yes, but it wouldn’t be my first pick

Allium Brasserie’s one of the more pricier Sunday Roasts I’ve come across, but with Chris Staines, bearer of a Michelin star, as head chef I can see why. I ordered my go-to dish, the traditional roast sirloin of beef. At £18.95 the roast came with the regular trimmings: Yorkshire pudding, parsnips, carrots, roasted potatoes, and a bed of greens and bacon.

Sirloin beef with all the trimmingsSirloin beef with all the trimmings

The good:

-I appreciated that the server asked if I was OK with my roast being served pink.

-We were served bread that was ACE! It was a beautiful sourdough bread that’s leaving me with a watery mouth just thinking about it even 9 hours later. Props to serving this delicious bread warm and for providing us with room temperature butter that just melted right onto the bread. We ordered another round of bread because it was so good.

-The service was quick, efficient, polite, and I never had to wait long before my empty glass of water was refilled.

-The meal itself was pretty nice. The beef was tender and juicy, although the slices were precut for me and I’d prefer to be served a chunk of meat and be given a steak knife so I can cut my own portions. That way the beef will stay warmer as well. The carrots were caramelized and pretty delicious. The roasted potatoes were piping hot and seeing as they were triple fried in duck fat, pretty tasty as well (but just three potatoes? Come on…).

The bad:

-The atmosphere and ambience of the restaurant was definitely catered towards a higher end clientele. It’s probably nice as a romantic date kind of setting, but on a Sunday afternoon I just want to have a good laugh and relax with my friends. Allium Brasserie is definitely not the place for that. We all felt we had to be on our best behaviour and had to make sure our indoor voices were in check.

-Not enough gravy. I adore gravy, and the more of it I get, the happier this girl will be. I want to be able to dunk my beef, all my vegetables, and have enough gravy left over so that my Yorkshire pudding can go for a lovely swim. The gravy supply was definitely lacking, leaving my Yorkshire pudding dry and lonely. Poor thing.

-I’m a self-confessed quantity over quality girl and while I’ll admit I didn’t really NEED to eat more at the end of my meal I would have preferred to leave the restaurant STUFFED . I mean, a Sunday Roast should leave you satisfied all day long. I just had dinner 2 hours ago. I would have preferred more of everything and would have also appreciated more vegetables, namely greens. Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts – anything! I mean, at that price I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

-For the next point I don’t think I can hold it against Allium Brasserie because I think this particular downfall may be a remnant from last night’s dinner, but I found certain parts of my meal to be overly salty (eg. bed of greens with bacon). I’m stating I could be biased because I had a doner kebab for dinner last night, which was so loaded with sodium that I woke up today with a completely parched mouth and proceeded to drink a 1.5 litres in one take. I think my palette was a little extra sensitive to salt today, so again, can’t hold this point against Allium but I thought it’d be worth a mention.

In conclusion, not a bad experience whatsoever. It just wasn’t my ideal situation but I would recommend it to those who I know would appreciate Allium Brasserie’s qualities.

Row, row, row, your boat, gently down the stream..merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream

One of the things I love most about my English lifestyle is being surrounded by nature. Lots of it. Luscious, green, beautiful nature. I got to indulge in my environmental fetish last Sunday when M announced he was taking me on a fun outing. He packed a picnic lunch (for those of you who are interested the lunch was composed of a grilled avocado/goat cheese/tomato sandwich and…Cool Ranch Doritos) and off we went to…*drum roll* the Bath Boating Station!

We hired (oh wait…RENTED) a row boat and off we went, rowing down the River Avon. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly beautiful day…I had my winter jacket on and in hindsight I should have brought gloves…and a scarf, winter hat, and a thermos of hot chocolate mixed with Bailey’s but all in all it was a nice outing ;).

The adventure started off pretty relaxed. We admired the willow trees, people’s back gardens, all the animal wildlife. Then we saw a swan.

Now when you think of a swan the general picture that comes to mind is a really graceful and pure bird, right? Now I’ve got a question for you. Where the hell did that connotation come from??? I got really excited when the swan first approached us but that excitement quickly turned into paralyzing FEAR when the swan started to attack our boat. And not just the boat, but the people INSIDE the boat. i.e….ME!!! I don’t know what this dude’s deal was but it had an appetite for human flesh and it seemed determined to do some successful hunting. M was having all sorts of fun laughing at me until the evil bird turned its attention to him. We rowed away as fast as we could at this point, escaping death, but to this day I still wake up in cold sweats from nightmares of the beast.

Our end goal was to reach a nice pub at the end of the river where we could indulge in some delicious hot drinks and a yummy afternoon snack.

The wind picked up a bit, making it more difficult to row (from what I was told since I was clearly the passenger. Did I touch the oars once? I think not.) and while I wouldn’t have had any problems whatsoever in rowing for a bit, I like guys with big muscular arms and I wasn’t going to deny the opportunity for M to pump up the muscles a bit. If anything I think I made a sacrifice for him. I endured the bitter cold so he could get some exercise. How great of a gf am I??

I want to try venturing out on a row boat again sometime this summer, decked out in a really pretty sundress with a white lace parasol. How romantically English would that be? Oh…I should mention here that today’s activity was to celebrate something. Guess who just celebrated her 2 year anniversary? That’s right, yours truly.

Some people do their part to make this world a better place

Unfortunately, today, I was not one of them.

Something happened today and I will likely mull over it for awhile wishing I could have done something different. Regret- an awful feeling that little sucker is.

M and I spent the afternoon taking advantage of the amazing weather by basking in the sun and taking in a few ciders at Royal Victoria Park today. We weren’t the only ones who came up with this amazing idea, as the park was packed full of people- families, couples, friends…and pricks. Well, there’s one prick in particular who angered me to no end, but I’m even angrier at myself for not having done anything about it and just being one of the many others who watched him be a prick.

What first caught our attention was a dog running around with a long piece of crap flailing behind him. His owner was running after him trying to clean him up a little and everyone watching thought it was pretty entertaining. Our attitudes changed a second later when the man threw the plastic bag containing the dog shit over the park fence. There was probably a garbage bin not even 5 meters away but he just decided to litter the park instead. I actually couldn’t believe what he was doing when all of a sudden I heard someone shout “Throw it in the bin, you lazy git!”. I whipped my head around and, to my delight, I saw a girl doing what I wish I had the guts to do. The man didn’t take too kindly to being yelled at in public and a screaming match ensued. His wife (or whatever female companion who was with him) scurried away (I hope she was embarrassed) while he tried to defend his actions  by saying “that area is for trash!”, which only caused further infuriation since the “trash area” he was speaking of was where the city had put wood chips for compost. Hardly a dumpsite! He walked away and all I could think was how I wish I could have videotaped the whole scenario. Not just tape the scenario, but to have sided with the girl as well instead of being another bystander. As I was grumbling over my “if only” the man came back…only he didn’t come walking back like normal. He came back strutting like he had something important to say. I was waiting for something intellectual to come out of his mouth, but instead he just yelled “And don’t you ever dare to speak to me like that again!”. I thought that was a bit odd, but then he bent down to pick up a jacket on the ground and strutted off again. Turns out he forgot he left his jacket on the ground and the humiliation wasn’t enough to prevent him from coming back to pick it up.

I would have loved to have the video go viral and to start a manhunt…I have a feeling he wouldn’t want to show his face around Bath much once people recognized him as the prick from Royal Victoria Park.

For now, I’ll just have to praise the girl with the long purple skirt and orange scarf for saying something on behalf of everyone else at the park. So…thank you, girl with the orange scarf. I wish there were more people like you out there.

Through my lens

Ever since I entered the blogging world I’ve found myself constantly looking at beautiful photographs. Apparently one of the golden rules of blogging is to satisfy people’s visual appetite by taking perfect pictures. I thought I was doing my due diligence by merely uploading pictures but I don’t think the pictures from my cell are meeting the basic requirements.

The thing is, I do have the right equipment to take pictures, but as is often the case for many people, having the right equipment just won’t cut it…you need to know how to USE it. After much begging and convincing, I managed to score a beautiful DSLR (Canon Rebel XSi) for Christmas. This was 3 years ago and my beloved camera has probably spent more time hibernating in my closet than it has being put to full use. The way I use my fancy little gadget I may as well just have a regular point and shoot. Always on automatic. The manual settings intimidate me and it’s for this reason that I’ve become fairly well acquainted with the running man, the portrait symbol, landscape, and the stars that symbolize night portrait. I wanted the camera so I could take amazing National Geographic-worthy pictures during my travels and while I have taken the odd nice picture or two, it’s really always been by sheer luck.

I guess M heard me moan enough times about how I wish I could take nicer photographs to take some action because this past Christmas I received a photography course by the Royal Photographic Society from him! I’d always contemplated taking a course but thought it’d be a waste of money considering everything I would learn I could just teach myself from the manual. If only I could bring myself to read the manual…

I just completed the short weekend course and learned more in one day than any self-teaching I’ve done over the past 3 years. I FINALLY get aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Do you know how happy this makes me??? Photography is actually starting to make sense! The information-packed course included a mini field trip around Bath and I spent the majority of the afternoon trekking in mud and tortured my exposed hands to a near-frostbite incident. But it was all worth it when I took a look at some of the beauties I took! You know those amazing waterfall/babbling brook/streaming river pictures you always see where the water is all blurred but everything else in the background is nice and crisp? Guess what? I learned how to do that! This is a VERY amateur shot of something that could be very cool, but once I invest in some camera accessories (just a tripod- nothing fancy) I’d be willing to bet a bowl of cereal that good quality pictures will adorn my site.

My hands weren't steady enough to make this a perfect shot

The second part of the course was a crash course in Photoshop. Wow, this subject contains enough material to do a whole degree in it and I finally learned how I can make myself other people look 5 years younger than they really are. But I think Photoshop has also allowed photographers to remove a lot of the naturalness from their pictures, which is a shame. I often find that professional photographers go Freddy Krueger on pictures and just edit the living daylights out of pictures. The natural beauty of pictures are often removed and are instead oversaturated and overexposed until the entire composition of the picture is altered into something analogous to Michael Jackson.

My goal is to take GOOD pictures and use editing software only to ENHANCE what’s already good. Think of my picture like:

…Natalie Portman

My goal is to turn

into THIS

You know, something that already looks really great to something that looks AMAZING. I’ll know I failed if my pictures go from:

Something that looks nice, but has the potential to look better..

To something that’s been wayyyy to overdone and just ends up looking ridiculous.

 

Here are some pictures of my Bath beauties…it’s just a preview of better things to come. It was cloudy all weekend so I didn’t get the opportunity to take some brilliantly beautiful pictures, but for a practice round it’s not too shabby, huh?

Path after a mid-afternoon drizzle
Making way for spring
Lovers' lane
The photography class taking a lunch break overlooking cloudy Bath