Sunday, December 19, 2004


The cooker is working, the boxes are all unpacked (I’m ignoring the cardboard mountain in the garage), the central heating is sorted, we have a TV and DVD player and a handful of channels (we went for the "limited basic" cable package), pictures are hanging and the new mattresses have arrived. Ah, the new mattress: space-age foam technology, divinely comfortable in every conceivable position. It’s just like the jingle promised: "it’s not too late to sleep like a baby: Mattress World." Nearly the best $1000 I've ever spent. Still to come: new French (freedom?) doors for the back of the house, sofas, broadband internet (don't get me started on that subject: suffice to say the cable company has lived up to its reputation i.e. a level of customer care I thought I'd left behind in Lewes). I have got as far as emptying the hot-tub (easier said than done as it recessed into the deck and thus lower than any nearby drain – a hosepipe out to the street seemed to do the trick however) - but have not yet refilled it.

I've started cycling / train-ing to work and am slowly returning to my normal proportions (Rachel has of course shamed me on this latter issue and has shed twenty pounds via vigorous application of an iron willpower - a quality I clearly lack. but I digress). By American standards, Portland is very bike-friendly with cycle routes criss-crossing the city and bikes allowed on buses and light rail. Still, the streets are not well lit and it remains somewhat dangerous; I take it gently and don a nerdy flouresecent tabard and cycle clips - you know, the kind of thing you wouldn't have been seen dead in when you were twenty. That what's so liberating about being thirty-two. It takes twenty-five minutes to get to the train station on the other side of town, from where it's a thirty-minute journey to work. Door to door it's just a touch over an hour, which is a bit more than by car, but a lot less stressful and better for me (presuming I don't get hit).

Have begun the excruciatingly slow and expensive process of restocking the old drinks cabinet from scratch. First on the list, a bottle of Ardbeg, winner of last year's Danish-hosted malt whisky competition (you had to be there really). Ah, the good stuff. It would probably be OK to halt the collection there actually. Not that I will. Am also hoping that "Lady Di's" English food shoppe of Lake Oswego will come through with the two cases of ginger beer I ordered a few weeks prior. Lady Di's (could I make it up?) is run by an English-born Portlander of some twenty years standing. Refreshingly she has not lost her accent at all and her little shop sells all those things only bought by little old ladies in Safeway plus a couple of lines that I actually miss, like Cadbury's chocolate and ginger beer. I will do a bit of a stock-take for you next time I'm there as it will make you nostalgic even if you still live In England.

Two days of work next week and then I'm on unpaid leave for the Christmas shutdown til Jan 3rd. Marvelous! No such luck for Rachel however, who has been cursing America like a stateside Alan Partridge virtually since our return. Much of this is work-related: with the exception of the Sussex Institute, she been cursed with bad management her entire working life, and this job is no exception: she's working far below her intellectual level with a large proportion of idiots and a few good apples amongst the rotten. However, no need to despair: changing jobs is remarkably easy, I've discovered. Just yesterday Zach, who works for me - and pretty much runs the operational side of things single-handed - announced he was going back to college to finish his Masters full-time. Starting in two weeks. Which means, given the aforementioned shut down, he gave me two days notice. This country…

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The big move

We love our new house and the cats are very happy!

our house
Our house, 3027 SE Main St in all its glory

So that's the good news out of the way; now the tales of strife and woe. Come on, that's why you're here: admit it.

First the money wired from the sale of Green Wall arrived a day late, sending our seller's agent into a state of apoplexy (hey, I'm the one with 120 grand lost in the ether - you can chill out). In Oregon the sellers move out of the property the day after they've sold it, which meant we finally got in on Thursday morning, just ahead of the truck carrying all our stuff, last seen in Lewes. I open the door... all I smell is gas. I call the gas company in, they identify a leak by the cooker, further identify non-regulation gas fittings, shut off cooker pending repair. So, we're told, no cooker til Monday; the plus side being I have an excuse to eat out for three days. This was merely the first of six call-outs relating to gas, two of which are yet to come. So, no cooker still.

Meanwhile, am hemorrhaging money faster than the Pentagon: new electrical everything, new miscellaneous bits and bobs. In other news at least two squirrels are making random runs between ground and first floors through as yet untraced entrance/exits. The garage is filled with boxes and the bastards at "Trashco" want to charge me a fortune to remove them. No municipal dump as far as I can tell, so it's a nice little racket. I haven't had to grease the Teamsters yet, but no doubt that's next. You have to fork out twenty bucks a month for the buggers to empty one largish bin per week. No, it's really not included in the $3700 pa property taxes which are squandered on luxuries such as police, fire brigade, education and other instruments of "the man". I never thought I'd say it, but it makes Lewes Council Tax seem (vaguely) reasonable. You pay this out from what's left after 22% Federal, 8% Oregon and 1% Multnomah County income tax. Plus salary deductions for healthcare, medicaid and social security, the final two of which I am not even entitled to claim back should I need them. Now you see why people hole up in the woods on Montana. Anyhow, I digress.

The house is really lovely and when we get it fully furnished it will be lovelier still. I think we'll be very happy there. The neighbourhood is really the best in the city with plenty of restaurants, bars and shops just around the corner. It's a forty minute walk over the river, or a short bus or bike journey to the real downtown if you ever feel like it. But for the time being we're really too busy and knackered to be really enjoying it. To give you a picture for just how bad things are: I own a hot-tub and I haven't even been in for a dip yet.

So, am I cycling to work, you ask? Well, the heart is willing but the flesh is weak, as they say. In an unlikely bid to shift the tonnage ahead of time I took to the treadmill at work (the real one, not a metaphorical one, I'm always on that) for about a week or so, 'running' a couple of miles in about twenty mins (hey, I'm not an athlete) before turning to the cycling machine. And I completely fucked up my knees. Which means I'm on doctor's orders not to take it easy so they can recover. Thus, am still taking the ginger mazda to work for the time being. On the plus side, it has been raining for about a week solid, so it's all probably for the best anyway.

More soonish.