And HMRC wonder why they are receiving flak right now …

“I got a letter from the government

The other day

I opened and read it

It said they were suckers

… ”

(Public Enemy, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, from the album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back, 1988)

Actually it was from HRMC and this letter received in early November 2015 informed me that as of April 2015 married couples were able to transfer part of their tax free allowance to their partner.

Normally I tend to file anything I receive from the tax office, however this letter went straight into the shredder.

Not, I hasten to add , because of the delay in the introduction of the allowance and the receipt of the letter. Though I did notice the 7 month delay in receiving information pertinent to my tax code (not counting the length of time previously when this was announced)

Nope – it had much more to do with the previous letter from Her Majesty’s finest tax collectors confirmed that wife number 1 had transferred her tax allowance over to me and this here was my revised tax code … received over the summer 2015.

You know, on second thoughts, Public Enemy said it true …

So everyone else is doing a list at the end of 2014

Things achieved in December –

  • New Windows fitted – check
  • Gutters replaced – check
  • Water filters cleaned beause of replacement gutters – check ( sigh)
  • Zombies removed from  Africa due to total failure and replacement of PS3 console – double check ( woohoo)
  • Old shed removed – check ( at last)
  • New shed installed – not check ( delay to actually choose a shed)
  • Cbeebies  panto watched – double check ( not so woohoo)
  • Loft ladder installed- check ( just need the hook so wife number one can reached them without needing another set of ladders)
  • draft of article for inclusion in trade press – check (but you’ll have to wait a few months to see it ..)
  • taken the little monster to our annual theatre show – not check (ticket moved at the last minute)
  • caught a horrible little cough from our youngest terror – check *cough, splutter*

Happy New Year all

That 1.30 feeling


There are times when every point that that time occurs on the clock, you are moved in space as well as time.

Taken from last Wednesday for example for me, at 1.30am I was asleep in bed in MK then 12 hours later was driving to a wake in south Cheltenham having attended a very good service (as far as you can rate these things).
1.30am Thursday found me back in bed in MK and 1.30pm saw me helping to de-package the brand new hot box at work.
1.30am on Friday found me back in bed but only going to sleep as I had been answering a work email at midnight then running the download for windows 8.1 for the third time this year ( our luck with laptops holding as usual then). At 1.30pm Friday, I was just about to get back into the pool for my youngest’s swimming lesson.
And whilst at 1.30am Saturday, I was again heading to sleep, this time I was lying on the flyfloor sofa having completed a get-out at a nearby theatre. 1.30pm that day found me trailing behind my family at the school fete somewhere between MK and Buckingham
And 1.30am Sunday, I was about to get back into bed again having completed another get-out, this time at the home theatre. 1.30pm I’d moved again and was in the loft of my dearly departed grandma’s in the vicinity of Telford, removing all of my Dad’s incriminating evidence of his childhood (yep, apparently he did have one)
For 1.30am Monday, I had made it back to my bed in MK ahead of 1.30pm when I am likely to have spent the morning on a fork lift truck.
Tuesday 1.30am I’m expecting to be asleep in bed and 1.30pm I’m expecting to be out in the depths of Kent, somewhere near Tonbridge, returning the company camping site and picking up our ‘Mardi Gras’ dance floor.
Wednesday 1.30am I’d really like to be in bed asleep as 1.30pm I’ll be in Clapham on day 1 of my Health and Safety Reps Part 2 (there is no way to make that sound interesting but it is actually very useful)

For someone who doesn’t ‘travel’ all that often, I’m going to have racked up around 1,000 miles of travel over this time

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

headline – I do not agree with the ice bucket challenge

Get the gasping out of the way and I’ll continue.

It’s not the giving I object to, it’s not the nominating of friends that irks me – no it’s the flagrant waste of water. The ice bucket challenge is very definitely a first world concept.

Just in the Metro over the last two days, we had an article on how there are many families who must walk miles from home just to reach a supply of water, then must walk miles home carrying the full container of walk. This journey must be repeated each time water is needed and as it comes straight from a natural source, it generally is muddy, unfiltered and swarming with bacteria.

I would think any of those families whom you gave even one ice bucket to, would treat it like the precious resource it is.

The second story in the Metro was Palestinian people doing the ‘rubble’ bucket challenge – to highlight that, as a result of the conflict, access to water was more and more limited.

I may be and likely am being a killjoy – but I do wonder how many people who have taken part in the ice bucket challenge have previously actually donated to ALS. Raise your hands please. Mine certainly is.

Kudos to ALS for capturing public opinion, well done to any challengees who used grey water or were able to reuse the water they poured over their head and shame on anyone taking part who doesn’t routinely give to charity

I’m sure that I’ll be receiving the challenge soon – I’ve yet to work out how I will respond to receiving the challenge

Don’t expect me to be tipping water over my head though … and do note that this is the first published post on my blog in several years. That’s how strongly I feel against this.

The external union

Following on from a debate on the Theatre Sound Mailing List on unions after a recent Fox News broadcast, I’m posting an article written by Professor Gregor Gall, Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Hertfordshire, on behalf of the Centre for Research in Employment Studies.

This was in turn sent to me by one Peter Clennell of the British Musuem (at least at the time of sending).

It makes for interesting reading.

Cracking the Perennial Nut: understanding members’ views of their unions


‘What’s the union doing about this?’, ‘I pay my subs and getting very little back in return’ and ‘What’s the union ever done for us?’ are examples of common responses of union members to the issues and challenges they come across in their workplaces and working lives. At root here, ‘the union’ is seen as a body external to themselves and an organisation which they believe should work for them on their behalf without much in the way of work and involvement from themselves. The union is seen more like a bought service that is contracted in when there is an emergency of some sort – a bit like phoning a plumber to come round and fix a leak. Even despite the rise of ‘union organising’ which stands in conceptual terms at least in distinction to the latter approach which is known as ‘servicing’, the problem of such membership expectation and inactivity is a seldom discussed one. This problem for unions is arguably more fundamental than any others that unions currently face. It is about the combined issues of membership participation, democracy, effectiveness and responsibility. While it is not an absolute truth, there is much truth in the view that membership participation is likely to make unions more democratic and more effective in a kind of mutually reinforcing, upward spiral. The purpose of this research paper is to examine the roots and contours of this problem of membership expectation and involvement.

Historical and Contemporary Contexts

Historically, many of the first unions in Britain practiced direct democracy rather than representative democracy, whereby all members of the union would meet together in a mass meeting to decide upon policy and courses of action. This was possible as membership numbers were relatively small and located in one place because the union was, for example, the wool workers union of Chorley or the wool workers union of Leyland. However, as unions grew and expanded, particularly as regional and national unions were formed, this method of operation became impractical. Indeed as the employment relationship became more subject to more juridification and as the personnel function of employers became more developed, it seems plausible to suggest that workers would no longer be able to command the breadth and depth of knowledge to operate without a division of labour within unions. The structures and processes of representative democracy and sometime later employed unions officers (often referred to in neutral or pejorative terms as the ‘bureaucracy’ depending on different perspectives) were deployed. Historically, it was at this point that a physical separation of unions as institutions from their members as workers began. Whether ways of operating – such as through representative processes and structures with delegates and elections – could square the circle of the unions’ members controlling those employed by the union and what was done in their names became central issues here. That said, the issue of members treating their membership as a bought in service speaks to an altogether different problem – one which suggests that after unions crossed this Rubicon, they are either a reflection of their members’ passivity or that unions have not been successful in communicating the core message of participation to their members.

Setting out the Issues

There are a number of possible explanations for membership passivity and inactivity:

• A ‘servicing’ approach is promoted by the union and members are recruited on that passive basis
• The overall culture of citizen participation in the organs of civil (non-state) society has been eroded and is now at such a low point
• Membership passivity and activity ebb and flow as waves and tides depending on historical circumstances so the current levels of membership inactivity are not set in stone and not unexpected either
• Members are dissuaded from becoming active in their unions as unions are not welcoming or attractive for potential activists in terms of their culture and structure
• The ‘organising’ approach is insufficient in quantitative and qualitative terms to make any difference to the challenge of achieving more membership activity
• The centrality of work and work identity to workers has declined so that this has a knock-on effect on unions whereby unions are not seen as important players in people’s lives
• The weakness of unions does not make for an attractive recruiting sergeant (and with low worker consciousness, workers are unable to make the leap of logic that if they were more involved in their unions then these unions might become stronger)

This will now be taken each in turn and examined.

Servicing Culture

The premise of the servicing culture, or business unionism as it is sometimes called, is that a (business) service is bought by members and thus delivered by the union as part of a contractual arrangement. In historical terms, some have argued that when there was economic growth, favourable state policy and less employer hostility like in the post-Second World War period until the 1970s, this was a form of unionism that was quite effective in delivering material advances with little membership involvement. In this period, and notwithstanding some exceptions, it seems that both unions and members were willing to acquiesce in a relationship which was far from perfect but was less demanding, and allowed both members and union officials to get on doing what they wanted to do without too much hassle from each other. There are two problems with the servicing approach; one is that it ill prepared the unions for the onset of hostilities from government and employers, and the other is that it is of little use in developing strong unions when government and employers are hostile. Union strength in these times does need membership participation but the disincentives to doing so are higher (in term of an effort-outcome calculation) and there are thus many members who for these reasons and others (ideological, instrumental) are quite happy to be serviced and leave their relationship with their union at that.


Under post-war social democracy and/or periods of acute social crisis conducive to the emergence of new social movements, levels of participation by citizens in the political process (voting, canvassing, campaigning, membership of political parties) as well as their own organisations (unions, community groups, pressure groups and the like) were far higher than they are today. This was despite many of these organisations still being quite hierarchical, dominated by leadership elites and unresponsive to grassroots membership pressure. Since the 1980s, there has been a managerialisation of all types of politics (official and unofficial) so that citizenship participation is now much reduced. This is a result of the increasing penetration of neo-liberalism throughout all parts of society for an important component of the politics of neo-liberalism is that those that are regarded as being ‘entitled’ or ‘suitable’ to hold any posts of influence in society must be those that are qualified and experienced, and this means qualified and experienced in terms of being compatible with – or certainly not very challenging of – neo-liberalism and its claim that business knows best.

Waves of Participation

Historically speaking, membership participation in unions has ebbed and flowed according levels of overall struggle and the impact of the outcomes of those struggles on the morale and confidence of members (i.e., whether defeats or victories broadly speaking). For example and generally speaking, victories tend to encourage further and greater participation because of a positive demonstration effect while defeats the opposite because of failure and retribution from the victor. In this regard, there is nothing particularly unremarkable about the present period of industrial relations in Britain which is one of defeat and retreat in this regard. However, it is the length of this period, lasting as it has from the late 1970s and the continuing rise of neo-liberalism throughout it which mark this period out as unusual and worrying.

Union Environments

Unions are sometimes, with an element of truth, characterised as male, pale, stale and increasingly frail. They are not then particularly representative of their memberships as a whole despite much genuine effort on the part of unions to make themselves so. There is a sense of Catch-22 here for without the participation of these members, especially those underrepresented groups/types, within the union the situation will not change and without more from these groups/types involved, more of their co-members will not become more active and involved. Affirmative action and positive discrimination have not broken through this ceiling. But setting aside this issue of the representation of minorities, most of the obvious majority constituencies of individual unions (which themselves vary) are women and men (regardless of other attributes) and here neither is active in their unions in very high proportionate terms. Within this, it is probably the case that women are less active in proportionate terms for there are quite a few unions where the majority of members are women but men predominate in terms of activists and leaders. Some of the reasons commonly cited for the under-representation of women in term of the environment being unwelcoming concern macho-cultures, the incursion of family responsibilities and the like. It is unlikely that the issues of unrepresentative and unwelcoming environments are the crux to explaining paucity of participation. Sure, they do not help but they are arguably secondary to other explanations offered here for there have been occasions when these barriers have not constituted the obstacles they seem to be. So, it seems reasonable to conclude that they are rather more likely to be symptomatic than casual of other factors.

Union Organising

This issue has been covered extensively in previous research reports. Suffice it to say, whether for reasons of quality of union organising and/or quantity of resources dedicated to it, union organising does not seem capable of delivering upon its promise of self-organised workplaces and empowered members, i.e., far more active members of unions and in all their diversities. This would seem to be because in the current circumstances, the objective of union organising here is far too ambitious, in addition to which it can be questioned whether the top of a union can regenerate the bottom of a union in this way.

Centrality of Work

The balance between work, consumerism and leisure in people’s lives in society has changed over the last few decades. Work is no less central to people’s lives in terms of the time it occupies but for many at the lower end of the labour market, it does not provide the same form of identity and affiliation that it used to. Part of this is attributable to the declining control that working people have over their working lives when at work, and the rise in job insecurity so that working in one job or form for a long time is less and less common. Part And, just because there is not more time for leisure does not mean that the desire for leisure, particularly that associated with consumerism, is not now more feted than ever before. The consequence of this is that in preferred meaningful terms work is less central to workers now that for a long time as a badge of identity. In a sense, the attempt to escape from work through various ways is probably now greater than for a long time before – and the route to escape from work is not necessarily work itself in terms of working hard or long hours to pay for things that make work bearable like holidays etc. None of this suggests that workers are more likely to engage in participation in their unions because work is no longer of the same importance or the same means to an ends.

Union Weakness

Union weakness does not make for the most attractive recruiting sergeant for active union members, and with low worker consciousness, the vast majority of union members are unwilling or unable to make the leap of logic that if they were more involved in their unions then these unions might become stronger. It is clear to many on a cost-benefit analysis that becoming active in a union is a risky business – not necessarily because of possible victimisation but more so in terms of the high risk that the personal effort, time and emotion put in is unlikely to yield a good return. Here, good return is not about personal gain but rather collective gain. Therefore, many conclude that doing so is not worth it at the moment or for the time being.

Solutions to Problems

There is no single set of magic solutions to these problems which manifest themselves as members saying ‘What’s the union doing about this?’, ‘I pay my subs and getting very little back in return’ and ‘What’s the union ever done for us?’. Even the old adage that people’s consciousness changes through (collective) struggle does not help us understand why and when they might struggle in the first place and how this helps change their consciousness. Yet there are some things that unions and existing activists can do to begin lessening the problems they face here. One is to constantly and consistently explain to new and existing members that joining a union is akin to joining a club, and clubs only function, and function effectively, on the basis of membership participation. Membership fees entitle and oblige participation. Membership confers both rights and responsibilities. The point here is to actively shape member expectations of what they put in and what they get out (and the link between the two) by not allowing these expectations to seem too one-sided, i.e., the union – as an external body – can get you this or that etc. What is really being discussed here is the brand of the union and how this is being sold. This task of achieving membership participation is one that has much better chances of succeeding if there are also actual demonstrations in practice that collective action is evidently productive. However, expectations of unions and their activists also need to be tempered so that these are not dashed for it will never be the case that all or even a majority of members are highly active other than in the most exceptional circumstances. Another is to be careful in the use of the term ‘the union’. It is common for even those supporting and working towards greater membership participation in unions to use a language of ‘the union’ as in ‘the union makes us strong’. Here, the union can still seem like an external, third party. Consequently, the use of language needs to be titled more towards ‘we the members, we ourselves are the union’ and ‘the union is us’. Although changing the language does not change the social reality, it may act as a spur to workers and members identifying and understanding the need and their obligation to do so.

The fading sounds of analog technology

My attention was brought to the following article – and it’s one I want to share. It’s a short read but one that will resonance with those above a certain age – and those below that age may get an inkling of what some of the more esoteric sounds are they hear.

January Musings

Regular viewers will have noted the irregular posting schedules over the last nine months or so.

That pretty much equates to the age of the lil terror – she may be lovely but it is full-time looking after her and you don’t get to go home after 40 hours

It’s not all attributual to her though. My own working shift from Head of Sound to Technical Coordination means that I spend far longer on Excel sheets and email, see the family more often and actually don’t have lots of contact with shows once they actually arrive here. I tend to know the tech riders and schedules inside out and how they logistically fit but just don’t engage in the practical side of things or run shows all that much any more.

This isn’t a complaint – it’s just a change of pace and focus but it does mean that I have less to feature in these posts. Very few are going to be all that interested in updates on spreadsheet formula (though if you do require training, I do recommend Happy Computers in Whitechapel. All lovely people, have a selection of hot and cold beverages and biscuits, and teach well)

I’m also more involved with some of the wider sector issues – I’m linked in with the working group looking at the National Occupational Standard for technical theatre (which will be the basis for all tuture vocational qualifications); I’m on the BECTU committee for independent theatres and arts centres and will be be attending the Annual Conference as the branch delegate and I’m starting to use the carbon calculator from Julie’s Bicycles Industry Green tools to work out our carbon footprint.

All very laudable but not as easy to write about – or at least write entertainingly about.
For now …

surrounding them all

Since the move, it’s been relatively quiet workwise.
Since the American dance company, we seem to have had a season of return visits of a range of shows, most of which I’ve either covered before or else have talked about something that technically would be very similar.

I’d like to say that the lull in technical demands has meant that we’ve been able to hit the new home with the scale that we renovated the old flat but at that point, we didn’t have the lil monster literally underfoot. She is now sleeping a straight ten hours at night (WOO-HOO!) but is getting more active in the daytime and we’ve more steps to deal with now.

As we draw towards the end of November, I’ve just spent this weekend at work rigging surround speakers. Normally if we are putting surrounds in, we’d be looking at 2-4 speakers a level. For the Christmas show this year (a retelling of a panto classic now set in Blitz era London) though, we are installing a fairly huge speaker setup.

Just on the stalls level we have installed 26 speakers (E3 and E0) just for surround and throughout the auditorium total we have around 60 speakers rigged off derig arms, acroprops, scaff and I think shoestring in one instance

The main system will then be a Q-series array – which we know and like here but does run into the problem of audio shadow under the balconies so I suspect that we’ll be seeing some E12/C690 or similar when the array proper goes in, along with B2/Q-subs on each level and delay lines

It’s lucky in our schedule to have two days to do this rather than trying to cram it in around setting up the show proper and good that the producers have agreed to pay the extra staff/hire costs for the install.

It’s going to mean that when we start the get-in, a lot of the infrastructure will be in and that more time will be available to tune the system and rehearse the sound – which benefits the show and makes it a more pleasurable experience for the audience.

Certainly not always a viable option but nice to experience nevertheless

movin’ on

Since before my little monster was born, wife number one and I decided that it was time to leave the London environs and move onwards to somewhere else.

As I still needed to be able to reach London fairly easily, and as we wanted to reduce journey times to parents, the choice of areas was quickly limited to those near a train station that served Euston or St Pancras, that was an hour or less on the train, and not too urban while the house itself had to have several bedrooms, more than one toilet, parking space (yep we’ve accepted that we need to become car drivers again), a garden, near to a school, somewhere for a study.
Oh yes and within our price range …

With all that list, we narrowed down to the Milton Keynes area and looked at the south MK region headed down towards the Herts, Bucks, Beds county lines. We’d actually picked out a new build three storey townhouse very close to the Grand Union that ticked all the boxes – apart from the shared equity to buy it (we’d be able to purchase 80% now but would need to buy the rest within a decade) and we’d started to proceed with that back in Easter time.
We didn’t stop looking though and an older semi became available in a nicer area, nearer to the same train station and we’d be able to purchase the entirety of the property.

Sellers were looking for a quick sale, which was fine with us as our buyers were renters taking their first steps onto the property ladder.
We’d used Fridays as our surveyors (this being when HIP were required) and decided to engage them as solicitors as they had done a good job.

In retrospect, being good at surveying is not being good at being soliciting, as we were to find out …

It all started well, though a little slowly, and swopping from the first property to the next seemed to go off without a hitch – right around the point that our lil terror joined the world, we received an email giving us the name of our contact at the firm for the move. Understandably we were a little pre-occupied but based on the timescales from various information sources we expected the whole move process to take place in late July, around 3 months after viewing and deciding on the second property.

Buyers and sellers solicitors would contact us for various bits of paper and we’d duly forward them onwards to Fridays or send them our selves.

It got to late June and the purchase was being slowed by our buyers struggling to get the finances approved. The completion date slipped back to end of August but this didn’t faze us too much and our sellers were still happy enough with that. We also didn’t mind the hold up as the later it got the older the daughter and the potentially easier to move her – we’d been back up a couple more times to confirm that we wanted to buy and the lil terror had seen the house that would become her home albeit be it from daddys arms at only weeks old – I guess that it probably hasn’t made much of an impression on her …

We also figured with the delay that the rest of the solicitors would have plenty of time to get everything sorted ready to move. No, change that … we assumed that they would …

Lil terror passed her 3rd month and as we were entering August we got confirmation from our buyers that they would be able to finance the move and it was on.

Baring in mind that we’d signed various documents, paid deposits, priced up movers, and kept up with our legal requirements, we had expected that the late August moving date was still good.

It was about this point that we started to notice that solicitors and estate agents were contacting us a little more asking if our solicitors were on top of things. We assured them that everything people had asked of us had been done. “Yes,” they said “but what about the things we’ve asked of your solicitor?”

4th month anniversary approaching and we are looking at the rapidly approaching proposed moving date with a little horror (and I don’t mean a new sibling).
Looking at and waving as it goes past.

As we go into September, the emails and phone calls are getting daily, our sellers are getting twitchy and our solicitor is just getting started. And as we are moving from a shared ownership property, that’s an extra level of complication to deal with.

I’m not certain what our contact at Fridays was doing but it certainly wasn’t anything to do with our moving house. I speculate that nothing was started until the buyers confirmed – possibly a folder was created for us.

It’s mid-September – lil terror is nearby 5 months old (and she wasn’t born when we started all this) and we finally get confirmation that the move will go ahead at the end of September, just about giving us time to arrange the movers and for me to sort out holiday time. We asked specifically to have completed and exchanged by the September 29th which was a Thursday – we did not want to be wanting to do this on a Friday.

I’ve been in contact with the line manager of our solicitor at Fridays and with several of her colleagues – I’ve even been to actually see her, giving her 24 hours notice and turning up with paperwork to ensure that I was seen. Which I was and which did see to work as up to that point we’d had precisely one email and one phone call from her – in 4 months.

The week arrived and – yeah you guessed it – the completion date was the Friday.

This was also the week though that we found out that rather than being in a chain of four (our buyers, us, our sellers and the homes they were moving to) as most of us had thought, there were actually another seven levels above.

Oh my.

The Wednesday of that week arrived. The movers sent packers over and the flat disappeared in a mountain of boxes.
Thursday was spent panicking – we still hadn’t exchanged and everyone was set to move the next day. Confirmation came through that afternoon and we sighed a biggish sigh of relief – the big sigh would come when we had the keys the next day.

Friday arrived – and we’d still got a few bits to pack up. But first I took the lil terror, now over 5 months old on a train across London to be picked up by her step grandma. And typically she fell asleep on the way, which did mean the handover in Victoria station was pretty quick and I was on the train back inside of 5 minutes.

Get back to find wife number one has nearly finished loading the car (roofbox and all) with cleaning materials and food. Sent her on her way and work fast to try and get the packing finished by 1pm for the movers to arrive.
Realise that I’m not going to manage but figure I can get it done as they load the majority and still be out by 4pm for our sellers to move in.

Get a call from the movers around 12ish – they are standing around waiting for a key for the morning job and will be a few hours late. That’s fine as we still haven’t completed and I’m still packing the crockery.

The call confirming completion comes in shortly after that – quick cheer – then back to the seemingly not going down amount of packing – didn’t we have men in to do this?
The next call is not as much fun as it’s from the movers who are still waiting …

I’m really not liking this now – I know that our buyers have no where else to stay and there’s an awful lot of the flat that has our boxes – which technically means I’m now squatting …

There is a little spark of good news when I hear that the buyers movers are running a couple of hours late and I can now envisage two large trucks arriving at the same time and we are having to make sure that we get the right truck doing stuff. That is dashed when I get yet another call saying that my moving truck is still running late and it’ll be well into the evening.

This now means that I alter from the last few bits of packing into a concerted effort to clear at least one room for the buyers to at least start moving stuff.

And not a moment too soon as they arrive on schedule at 4pm. They arrive but their truck is late so while they are greeted with a long amount of boxes not their own in their own flat, there is at least the beginnings of space for them and we quickly get a room cleared for them.

Wife number one is getting very bored sitting in a now clean but very empty house.

I’ve conceded defeat and have begged Mr Ben to drive from his work near Watford to here to assist. I’ve also requested (not quite tearfully) that we may need to stay at his that night – all rather dependent on where the beds end up.

He graciously agrees to help which means that I definitely have a good friend. Hopefully I’m not about to lose that friend. And that someone driving a Land Rover is going to arrive and that means we can put stuff into it if needed.

Meanwhile, the lil terror wakes up in a strange flat with strange people (as she hadn’t met those parents very much). Predictably her day was mostly spent crying – except when on the balcony of their 11th storey flat. And of course, the train that should have left from the nearby train station has problems so granddad is forced to drive from Chelsea up to the new house, where he has never been, in Friday evening rush hour.

Mr Ben arrives moments before the buyers truck (bad timing on his part but good for the rest of us) and I get more bad news when I hear of the traffic.

“Where is your truck coming from?” he asks me.

“Near Borehamwood. Should be leaving around now (6.30pm ish)
“You mean where I’ve just come from? Setting off 90 minutes ago?”
“Yes. Oh”

Correctly presuming that I won’t have eaten all day, Mr Ben says we should follow the example of our buyers (who have gone to the pub for food) and leave the flat for eats.

We go, rather ironically, to the chinese downstairs. Some of you may remember a post that described a free and frank exchange of views regarding parking spaces not longer after we moved in which had meant us not frequenting the establishment there after (probably for the good of our wallets and waists). But is was near, did good food and should the truck arrive early we’d be right there to receive it.

It didn’t.

Lil terror has by now made it up to her mum, and wife number one has taken them both to Mrs Mr Ben – luckily we thought to send baby stuff up in the car including a cot. As it’s now approaching 9pm, I resign myself to not seeing them until tomorrow.

Bang on 9pm, a glorious sight is beheld – our truck has arrived.

“It’s not big enough,” Mr Ben says as we back it into the too small car park.

I’m inclined to agree with him but trust their packing is better than my estimation of the volume of stuff in the flat.

It isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong – their packing is great and with the buyers back from the pub eager to claim their property from the squatter (me) we have a number of bodies. But it quickly becomes apparent that the size estimator AND the packers from earlier in the week have not been generous enough in the estimates.

This is when I fall on the mercy of the buyers and ask if we can leave some items for pickup over the weekend. They thankfully say yes. I did plead with Mr Ben and he agrees to help the next day – though to be fair, he already was. Then I smile sweetly over the phone at Mrs Mr Ben and say that we’ll be arriving so late it’ll be early and could she meet us with keys at some ungodly hour of the morning. Then I get angry on the company and get them to agree to pay for me to hire a van at 10.30pm on a Friday night at their cost. Streetcar to the rescue. The nearest transit is a few minutes drive away (and I have a friend with Land Rover) and we squeeze a considerable amount into the truck, confirm that they have the correct address and send them on their way.

Then we load the van and the Land Rover and prove that we can do this pack tetris as well as anyone – though not well enough for everything. Our buyers are finally able to kick us out the door a little before midnight.

There is a vague recollection of stopping at a services for coffee but we arrive at the new home at half past ungodly o’clock. Mrs Mr Ben is waiting for us with keys and news that two strange females are sleeping in her spare room. I presume that these are my two strange females and we start to unload,
Considering that we have moved from a two bed flat to a four bed semi, I’m noticing that an awful lot of the floor space is disappearing under boxes.
Come up with a quick plan to use a shed as a temporary store for the weekend. Stumble to the bottom of the garden as we find that the outside light’s is quite good at blinding you in the conservatory and quite rubbish at actually lighting the garden and spend several minutes using phone light to test through the bunch of keys.
Nothing fits
Plan C invovled yet more Tetris trickery.

We’ve now reached really quite early in the morning and I’m afraid dear reader at this point I’m about to disappoint the two, brilliant, moving guys.
Look ahead a paragraph if you are easily upset.
It’s as we draw to a close that I’m left thinking that that we should have been wrapping this up around six hours ago – about the time the truck actually arrived. The company had kept me informed of progress, had tried to source another vehicle and the gentlemen in the truck were good-humoured and got stuck in despite it being the second job of the day and that they had another job the next morning. Yet it’s still Saturday and I’m in the middle of the street thinking that my new neighbours probably aren’t too impressed with being woken up by the sound of a truck being unloaded. And so I withhold half of the cash payment for the move. I’ve got the full amount, I even show the guys this but refuse to give more than half.

Mr Ben and myself set up mattress’s in separate bedrooms, surrounded by boxes and collapse for a couple of hours before staggering to our respective vehicles and driving all the way back to the old flat as the van that I hired needs to be returned before 9am for another booking. A vital stop to a cafe for caffeine in a cup then we call in at the flat for yet more of those blooming boxes – the buyers used the living room as a bedroom as I had used the main bedroom to store the boxes that we couldn’t load in the four vehicles trips that had already gone up in the last 24 hours.

And we still couldn’t fit them all in the Land Rover.

Back up again to MK and arrive to find Mrs Mr Ben back with two strange females, or wife number one and lil terror. She gets past from person to person (mostly Mrs Mr Ben) as the rest of us start on getting the house set-up (you know games consoles plugged up, kettle and microwave in place). My boss turns up in the middle of all this, and mucks in.
I’d jokingly invited her up on the promise of hot dogs and tea and Mrs Mr Ben found herself sent off in short order to get hot dogs purchased. And buns, And ketchup as we couldn’t find that in any kitchen box (the packers had put it in with the clingfilm and similar items, we later discovered), She coped with the delay in hot dogs well, though was a little put out when she had to carry the old washing machine to the shed

We also solved the mystery of the shed key.
“Do we not have a key to the shed?”
“Yes,” said wife number one “smallest key on the set”
“Tried all of those a few hours ago in the dark. Nothing fitted”
“I had it open earlier in the day. I checked when I made up a set of keys for you and a set for me. Look it’s this key”.
“Oh, you mean that one that isn’t on my set of keys?”
“Oh. Yes. Oops.”

Back to the withheld money, it was late morning when I received a phone call from our contact at the moving company. She was not happy that we had not paid the money that they required. I was not happy with the whole late night van hire and additional trips. We ended that call at loggerheads.

Started to get towards evening, we profusely thanked our helpers, foisted more hot dogs and chocolate on them and set them on their way. Went to put lil terror to bed and realised that we had to assemble the cot
This was the point that wife number one informed me that she hadn’t assembled the cot last night as she was missing the bolts to hold it together.
I go to the bag that I put them in specifically to keep them safe, which admittedly had gone up with her yesterday.
Not there
Try the box that the bag was in.
Not there.
Try a couple ore boxes that definitely were in that room
Check a few other bags that came from that room.
Put a foam top cover on the floor, lil terror’s mattress on top and surround it all with boxes.
She rolls off the mattress within 5 mins
Untangle her from the gro-bag that she sleeps in, carefully position her central to the mattress and add more boxes.
That finally works

The bolts turn up a couple of weeks later in a bag in a box. It was the one that I hadn’t checked as i knew that I hadn’t put anything in that box – except the bolts when I found them still in the room the morning of the move right before I started to receive phone calls …

Sunday dawns and I of course drive back to the old flat (MK to south London in case you were forgetting) to pick up the last few items. Final goodbyes to our buyers and everything is now taken from the flat that we will need
Except for the one item that had to be posted afterwards. At least it fitted in the postbox.

The next few days are filled with the obligatory shelf building, furniture adjusting, box removing, purchasing of items that will later be found, moving of items that have been unpacked in entirely the wrong place, broken only by a letter from the moving company giving us a week to pay the balance or we’ll all be visiting the small claims court.
This is about the point I decide that maybe paying the remainder is a good idea, put the cash back into the bank and get the money into their account.
In a nice touch, the receipt comes with a big bunch of flowers.

We also find that when we contact our solictors to arrange the final payments (to us from the housing company, and from us to Fridays), that the lady whom had been in charge of the case has been transferred from direct client contact into the finance department.

On a side note, Fridays is no longer a trading company.


So, all in all, the move took 6 months (including taking a liking to the original property), we gained a daughter, accrued a massive friendship debt, took hotdogs off our eating list, didn’t antagonise our new neighbours too much (at least that they have admitted too so far) and possibly took down a company (lets say we did – it sound better)

I don’t think we have any plans to move any time soon (like in the next couple of decades or so …)

Good ole American respite

Straight after the footwear asssault was a piece of American dance heritage – a company with a strong African-American founding who portrayed several works that ranged from the classic Americana to contemporary dance via the modern (the problem with assigning labels like modern, classic and contemporary is that at some point the meaning is going to be lost …)

As we seem to find with the US companies when they come over, it was heavily crewed and there was a very distinct ‘this is my job and that is your job’ attitude amongst the entire company. This isn’t a personal attack on any of them but while I do support the need for specialists, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think they should muck in if they can help. The skill level was high amongst the crew but there were several times where the house crew really noticed that a department would be waiting on another to finish their tasks before they commenced.

[Shop Talk]
Technically, there isn’t a huge amount to say on this show – lighting was appropriate to the demands of the individual pieces – bright and breezy for the Americana and full of shadows, saturated hues and sharp angles for the modern pieces. Lighting was controlled from an Eos in the wings and the rig was toured generics. Sound toured their own front end desk which tied into the house EAW system.
Set was black box with or without a cyc for all pieces with the companies own sprung floor and marley.
[/shop talk]

The dancing was of a high standard, the pieces were well received and the whole environment was fairly stress free, which was a good respite from the previous show …