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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Citizen Me: Let's Go Outside

It was important to us that we dig out the earth from around the cellar. Although we had a damp course we felt it would help to keep the apartment dry and free from the musty smell one often gets in basement apartments. Also there was a driveway located very close to the side of the house and by tiling the area around the house we would provide a place for the children and a terrace for other activities such as sitting out and even barbecuing.

 So a recap. Here on the left is where we began the Big Dig-Out! Below left is Andrew, age 3 and the newly created doorway and door -- and lots and lots of rubble -- most of which was saved and put to use in other ways later on. On the right are the new French doors which will eventually open out onto a patio. As you can see there is a lot of sand. Southport is built on sand hills -- which contrary to many peoples belief is very good to build on -- as long as there is no seepage or way for the sand to get washed away...

The Man now had to learn how to use a stone cutter. I can't remember if he leased one or our builder leant him one -- one thing is for sure -- he had his work cut out for him!! 



Directly above, a great feeling of accomplishment! The stone was removed from the basement floors before the damp course was laid and the dark tiles were 'donated' by the local council when they put in new footpaths.


As you can see from the picture above, the side of the house is yet to be cleared. But still the sand was swept away enough to find some enjoyment for the little boys.

We were fortunate that that summer was warm and the boys were able to enjoy the benefits of a paddling pool. And before long things were appearing -- on the outside -- quite civilized. What is it they say about appearances being deceiving?!


The final  photographs show the  area along the side of the house after it was finished.




And a reminder of the back 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perpetually Fun

Yesterday was the day long looked forward  for Perpetua came to tea! I had planned to start this post with a picture of the two of us. However, she would never have forgiven me if I'd posted  what The Man took.  Her husband had already taken some pictures and wasn't satisfied until he'd taken at least three. The Man would never have been so thoughtful -- he just wants to take a picture and that's it! Doesn't even check to see if it's turned out. I took a quick look at though. "Oh, no, she's done it again!" Perpetual does not like to have her picture taken. I can't explain why this happens, but no matter the fact you can't hear the shutter click, her eyes are closed and her chin turned down! So her husband, dear sweet man that he is, checked each photo until he had one that he was happy with. Because, mouth down in a frown and eyes closed is not at all what Perpetua is like.

Perpetua is full of life and enthusiasm. She has eyes that sparkle, a ready smile and laugh A few minutes after their arrival The Man joined us and we sat around the kitchen table as if we'd known each other for years. Tea was served along with warm home made blueberry muffins -- American style. I have to say I got them just right -- which was a relief because a few weeks ago I forgot the sugar and while they looked all right they were kind of bland and all together disappointing. Anyway, the four of us never stopped talking, talking, talking!

"Perpetua" and "Perpetuus" are very interesting people, but more than that they are also interested. They are also very intelligent and knowledgeable when they talk. They reminded me in temperament very much of my sister and brother-in-law. Needless to say time flew by and before I knew it, it was time for them to go -- with invitations to visit them in the future and for return visits here. Very soon they will continue on their way to Scotland and more adventures! So God speed, dear friends,and  until we meet again -- Peace...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Georges Loriol

Some of you may remember one of my Twelve Days of Christmas posts about the Loriol family (here). About a month ago I received a card from Mme Suzanne Loriol that Georges had died on 26 February. About six weeks earlier I had received a long newsy letter from Georges in response to my Christmas message, as well as a photograph of him and Suzanne taken in November. The letter was still in my 'in' box awaiting a few moments of my time to write back to him. I can see it now peeping out from underneath some photographs. I so intended to write back and to send photos and to make plans to see them both in September on our return to the UK from France.

Georges was a school headmaster, but he started his career in education teaching English. When I last saw him and his wife and son, Etienne, it was his 80th birthday which was on the 23rd of April. He was extremely proud of sharing his birthday with Shakespeare! The Man and I and our two sons were feasted on Lamb and we were regaled with stories of our past history together many years before. Etienne was seated next to me and it was astonishing to see him as a grown man with a wife and children of his own -- and a very out-going and gregarious personality, much like his father. This year he would have been 92.

A day or so after receiving the news about Georges' death I decided to see if Etienne was on the Internet. I Googled his name and discovered that he was on Facebook. I sent a 'Friend' request and he responded almost immediately! So after all these years of wondering whatever happened to them I am back in touch again and have even 'seen' him and talked to him on Skype. He no longer lives in Niort, but in Agde with his youngest son. Sadly his wife died of cancer a few years ago and he has been through a great period of grief and sadness. He has been going through the many thousands of photographs his father had taken over the years, including many from the year 1955 in the United States. Here is a very special one...
Etienne on the sled, Left to Right Little Broad (9 years), Annie, Yvette, my sister Mary

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Citizen Me: Drains, Drains, Drains ...

We bought the house in March 1983 and by Christmas we were living in the cellar and had a kitchen that almost functioned and a bathroom that left everything to be desired. The Man had bought an MFI kitchen -- which he proceeded to put together himself with the sometime aid of my 12 year old son. We also had installed a gas cooker/stove but how we were able to connect it all up -- that I can not remember. Initially our water supply  was a cold water tap outside the back door! I had two washing up bowls. One in the sink and the other directly underneath the drain, on the shelf of the cupboard, where the drain pipe would eventually go! An electric kettle provided the hot water. In the beginning I dumped the dirty water out on the driveway, until shortly after a neighbour complained that we were a sanitation risk. I can't remember what we did with the water after that. Anyway, the kitchen sink soon had running water and by the time the photos below were taken the hot water heater had been hooked up in the bathroom so we were already 'civilized'!

The problem was that we had to figure out how to locate the pipes so that they would have enough of an angle to drain away, but also we had to do some outdoor excavation  to enable the flow. There were pipes in place, but they were too far above the level of the bathroom. The big question was would we be able to get the right angle deep enough to be able to flow into the sewer? Luck was with us -- it could be done. But there would be a huge amount of digging out -- first to expose the existing pipes and then to access the sewer with the new ones. 



On the upper left is the original back door. This is before the old steps had been replaced and moved and the earth around the house had been removed to expose the old pipes. On the upper right and lower left some of the earth has been exposed to reveal where the pipes to the old kitchen sink had drained. In the picture on the lower right the window on the window would be replaced with a new window into the bathroom. The pipe you see here would be taken out and buried underground. This window was opposite  the stairs.


Nuff said!
The Man getting ready to put in a new window  after lots of earth had been removed and new drainage completed. Finally we had a plumbed in toilet and a bath. A washing machine was not far away!

Below shows the bathroom almost finished. Soon there would be a cupboard  around the water heater, made with louvred doors.





The Man built new stairs and the retaining walls. Eventually the house will be dug out all the way around. As you will see ... soon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Doing My Head In and Where My Short Fuse Still Lurks

Journey's End
Mother and Brother
On 2 February I went to my favourite travel website, Expedia, to purchase my tickets to go to America in April. It's my mother's birthday on the 13th of April and every year I try to be with her on that day. This year she will be 93. The one criteria for my ticket is that I want to contend with only one stop before reaching my final destination. My favourite and most convenient combination is to fly from Manchester to Philadephia and from Philadelphia to Hartford, Connecticut. However, on this occasion that flight was far more expensive than others and price is always a big part of my decision-making process.

So I opted for another combination, which I have also used before: Manchester to Newark and then Newark to Hartford. Another criteria in my decision-making this time around was that I arrive with a reasonable amount of daylight. This is the first time I will be hiring my car from the airport. This way I can have a car for three weeks for the cost of around $600/400 pounds, including insurance. Previously, I have spent an exorbitant $1000/600 pounds for 10 days including insurance from a dealer close to my mother, who comes and picks me up and at the end when I return the car takes me back to my mother's. -- I have done this because I am not clear about the way from the airport to my mother's home -- many back roads and tricky turnings before I am in familiar territory. The deal this time is that my darling brother will meet me at the airport and then will lead me through the maze of getting to my destination! And it makes Mom happy because she gets to see two of her darlings!

The Newark flight would have got me into Hartford at 5.30 pm. That was until 17 February when I received an e-mail from Expedia saying my flights had been changed, please call them! The flight from Newark to Hartford was to be no longer ... The alternative suggestion was to fly me from Newark to Chicago and from Chicago to Hartford! That would have got me into Hartford between 9 and 10 p.m. -- hours hours flying in completely the wrong direction!! So after I groaned and complained about that they came up with a whole new ticket scenario: Manchester to Frankfurt! Frankfurt to Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C. to Hartford... I hate to admit using the 'I'm getting old' blah blah blah schtick , but use it I did!

My luggage would probably have made it ok and better than going in the wrong direction to Chicago -- ok, I agreed. I did have the option of cancelling the whole flight. The carriers were United and Lufthansa. I would arrive in Hartford at 6.30 pm -- it would still be light! O.K. I went with going to Frankfurt and Washington. Kind of worried about having enough time between changes, but ready to deal with the challenge.

On Monday March 19 Expedia sent me another e-mail:
Dear Expedia.co.uk Traveller, 
We have received notice from Continental Airlines that they have:
 *Changed the carrier for 3 of your flights. 
It is important that we speak to you as soon as possible to review changes from the carrier so that we can discuss alternatives. Please contact us at ... 
I took a deep breath ... and then another. I called Expedia. The girl I talked to had an accent, but fortunately I was able to understand her. After discussing more alternatives. I agreed to Flying to Newark then flying to Washington, then flying to Hartford. Another flight in the wrong direction. After all that I was still on the same Washington-Hartford flight which arrived at 6.30. I did have the option to cancel altogether. It was frustrating though, considering Newark is only about 100 miles from my mother's place. However, I did not want to do the limousine thing -- explaining what I mean about that is another long post, which I will try to avoid ever writing ...

It then occurred to me that it might be interesting to see how much flights were going for if I were to start looking now. Do you know what??????? I could have booked my favourite flight -- U.S. Air to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Hartford -- which gets in to Hartford at 4.40 p.m. and it was available for 100 pounds less than the more inconvenient flights I had chosen!

Tuesday morning (yesterday) I was discussing this with The Man -- we were due at a lunch in about an hour -- and thought it was worth calling Expedia and seeing if I could change my mind! I didn't  hold high hopes for this -- but I did have the argument that I had originally wanted a flight with only one stop and a flight with one stop was what I had originally booked. I had nothing to lose and 100 pounds to gain.

I talked to Expedia. A very nice woman with an accent I could understand talked to me and said she would call the airline and see if they would agree to the cancellation -- even though the airline had already sent me a e-mail confirmation (which I received while talking to her). Since I was going out to lunch and needed to leave, she said not to worry she would leave me a message. And sure enough when I got home there was a message and the airline had agreed!!!! I needed to call Expedia with what I wanted to do. I'd already saved my preferred flight to my Expedia itineraries and was ready to 'book'.

I called Expedia back... This time it was a man and he had an accent difficult to understand. Of course I had to go through the whole thing all over again. I had explained that I'd received a message and that the airline had agreed. He looked up my file -- there were no notes to that effect. He then asked me if I was sure I wanted to cancel. After all, he explained, I was still arriving at my destination at the same time. And the Airlines don't often agree to cancel a booking. Several times I had to ask him to repeat because I couldn't understand him. He said he would have to call the Airline. I said -- but it has already been authorized! He said there was no record in my file of this. I told him that this was ridiculous, that I was not very happy and  just was not good enough. He said he would call back. I hung up. I think he was still talking! (At least I did not SLAM the phone down!)

About an hour later he called back to say the Airline had agreed. I cancelled my flights! I apologised for being rude. Then I went online and  booked the new flights and car. (Please U.S. Air, don't let me down...)

It is worth noting that while the car hire cancellation will be refunded within 7 to 10 days, the airline refund will take 2 to 12 weeks. Needless to say, it's The Man's credit card and he did not look to happy about that '12' week scenario possibility.

I was exhausted -- just not up to 'doing battle' anymore! But it goes to show that it doesn't always pay to book flights early.


HAPPY VERNAL EQUINOX, EVERBODY! 

 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Citizen Me: Some Things Are Just not Easy on the Psyche

These posts are supposed to be about why I want to become a citizen of the United Kingdom. The renovation work that we undertook is important to understand the path that led me to this decision. There was a time when I felt that the last place in the world I wanted to be was in the U.K. The stresses and the strains of the work were difficult enough, but the most difficult part of my life was that I felt so isolated. Not only was I doing without the normal things of modern life -- like central heating and a dishwasher, for example -- but I had had two children and the massive upheaval of a new life in a foreign country. And I had been separated from my family and my friends for several years.

The longer this separation went on the more vulnerable I felt. Often I didn't want to talk when I went out because I was constantly having to repeat myself. This still happens quite often -- I'll start to speak and the first thing people notice is that I have an accent. Instead of listening to what I'm saying they are listening to the accent and so I have to repeat myself. It doesn't happen so often now because I speak English on a regular basis --  instead of American! In the early days I would try very hard to remember the right English word for things -- but sometimes, especially if I was tired, I would forget and order 'fries' instead of  'chips' or ask where the 'elevator' was instead of the 'lift'.  The result? Blank stares!!! Now I am more apt to forget the right word when I visit the States and have to speak 'American'...

Then there were people that didn't mind letting me know that Americans were really inferior and/or to blame for all the world's ills and I was American so I was to blame... I can laugh about this stuff now -- but back then I took it all too much  to heart. I will give you a few examples...

The Man and I were attending a Ladies Night at RAF Woodvale where he was a member of the Mess. We were seated next to a couple we didn't know. As dinner progress we chatted with this couple -- who were very reserved and it turned out this woman was working in education somehow. She asked me if I were Canadian or American (standard) and about where in America I'd come from. At some point I told her that my father was an English teacher.

"Oh," she said in her 'hoitiest' and 'toitiest' voice "I am surprised. "It never occurred to me that America would have English teachers!" At that point, I wrote her off!!!

On another occasion, I very close personal friend, had just been to see the film Dances with Wolves. She'd dropped by briefly -- I think our boys had been playing together. All I can remember is that I was standing at the front door and she was telling me all about this movie and how fantastic it was and how terrible the native Americans had been treated. And then she looked at me and said, "Don't you feel guilty for how badly the American Indian was treated? You should!" I felt so personally attacked! I hasten to add that we are still very good friends and I did not hold a grudge -- but at the time I was very shocked and hurt.

Then there was politics! I got lots of teasing about that and I hadn't even voted for the man!!!

From 1980 until 1984 the only member of my family I saw was my brother, who visited me a couple of times for a weekend on his way home from business trips to Germany. In September 1984 after 4 years apart, my sister and her husband came for a two-week much needed visit. It was not until May 1985 that I was able to make my first visit 'home'.  I wept as we flew over Manhattan and then  there I was at Newark Airport with two little boys in hand. For the first and only time in my life a customs officer, a woman, saw me with my two little ones and lots of luggage. She walked over and spoke to me and then very kindly signed my customs declaration, led/helped us in the right direction.

At long last the three of us went through the doors and there they were, Mom and Dad waving like mad!  I was home and yet after five long years, in a strange land!
Home for my 40th with all the family!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Citizen Me: Some Groundwork and a Party


The photograph above shows most of what served as my kitchen for a short time. The white box in the middle is what served as an oven. On the top of the oven is a hob. The hob worked very well as far as boiling water was concerned. I tried once to use the oven -- to bake a meat loaf. It took over three hours! In the meantime work progressed downstairs.


The stairs in what was to become the kitchen had been removed. This was done by The Man and The Boy. The storage area that had been off the hall had its wall torn down and a new wall was erected with access to the kitchen over the top. This new space would provide us with a dining area.

 

In addition an entrance to the new dining area had to be opened up from the living room. Since it was a load bearing wall our builder/teacher had his men put in the necessary RSJ (Reinforced Steel Joist) to prevent the house falling down! You can see the new entrance and joist  in the picture on the right.

Below the chimney breast had to be opened up and re-plastered. Now my memory is hazy as whether we had the walls and ceilings artexed before or after the damp course was put down.  What I do remember is we had to clear the entire living space to be in order for the damp course to be laid. For sure one was done within a short time of the other. The other thing I remember is that the kitchen was definitely a work in progress. Actually, I don't think it had progressed at all!!!



So this was a very good time for our first dinner party, don't you think?

In an earlier post I mentioned 'the ladies' who shared the flat at the back of the house. They took a real shine to us and having the darlingest sweetest new baby didn't hurt at all. Two of our closest friends were visiting England with their new baby -- one month younger than Robert. Her name was/is Gabrielle. Now she has children of her own!

'The Ladies' I mentioned in an earlier post came to the rescue and opened up their kitchen to me. When I think of it now I do have to laugh at the running to and fro. The other day I saw a program about one of these huge English piles where the dining room was purposely located as far as possible from the kitchen, which was even on another floor -- this so that no smells would permeate through the the guests! Many hands, however, made light work of the two-ing and fro-ing and at least I did not have to 'dress' for dinner. I cannot remember the entire menu, but I cooked roast a leg of lamb with roast potatoes and plenty of vegetables for the main course. After covering the new black damp course with various scatter rugs we set up the table in the newly artexed living room and food never tasted so good. Good food, good wine (or plenty of it anyway) and the best of company make for a perfect times.
Left to right: sons The Boy and Andrew, The Man, Me, Mother-in-Law and Catherine

Left to Right: Catherine, Andrew, The Man, Me, Mums, and Karl
All we needed now was a kitchen, a bathroom -- and oh, yes ----- DRAINS...

Monday, March 12, 2012

When a Cold is a Period of Indulgence

I've been laid a bit low the past several days. Nothing like a good old-fashioned cold to take the joy out of Spring! The worst thing about it is that the older you get the more difficult it is to 'get on with it'! So I've learned to give in and just putter around being more or less useless. If I don't I end up with a chest infection and needing anti-biotics and then everything drags on and on and I become very disagreeable not to mention argumentative.

Garbo and Boyer in Conquest*
Spoiling yourself can be an art. I can be quite good at it. I have managed to keep up with all the blogs that I follow, for one thing. Since writing about my favourite movie scenes (here) I have acquired several Garbo films and on Saturday I watched 'Conquest' in which she stars with Charles Boyer. They were both wonderful -- Boyer, as Napoleon, being very much her equal on the screen. I have not seen this film for many years, but I have a very distinct memory of the end of the movie I had seen before and it is not at all the same as the end of the film I have acquired. Nor can I find anything on the Internet about the film having two different endings. This often happened with American versions of the film due to the kind of censorship that went on for so many years in the States. The film released in Europe is called Marie Walewska and in the end she and the son they have together see him to say goodbye just before he is sent of to St. Helena. In the film I saw in the States the end was very different. In it British authorities convince her to go to Napoleon in order to convince him to surrender and at the end see is seen  returning to the authorities with the sword of Napoleon therefore implying that he has officially surrendered to them. Some difference, I think!!

Yesterday I indulged myself further as I was not feeling improved at all -- in fact a bit worse. I slept past noon and then after a bacon sandwich on an English muffin, read the paper for several hours -- ah bliss the Sunday papers uninterupted -- until indulging further by watching an episode of Midsomer Murders that I had not seen before!

Today I am feeling much better. The threatened chest infection has subsided and the only symptom is feeling slightly fatigued. Perhaps I'll indulge in another episode of Midsomer Murders in ten minutes... (It's a feeling somewhat akin to a cat curling up in front of the fire ... That's me, a Kat for all Seasons!)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Citizen Me: The First Months

At first we stayed in our rented  house until we managed to get some sort of living accommodation ready for habitation. This would be an awesome task … Our goal was to be out of the house we were in and into the house we had just bought by September.

Our plan was to take the flat in the cellar and make it liveable for the family. This would require digging out the exterior of the building. The Man was to do all the work that he could possibly do himself. There were some structural changes, however, that would require a builder. The entire floor space needed to have a damp course, we hired a plasterer to do the living room and dining area and another man to artex that area. The bathroom and a kitchen  would  be installed by The Man.


The first job The Man tackled was to dig out the front and replace the window with French style doors. My 12 year old son was his only assistant. Once this was done giving us access from the front of the house, work could begin on what would become the kitchen.

The interior of the cellar was in a terrible state. It was full of junk and the detritus of a quickly put together flat by a rogue landlord. Added to the problems of making a place for ourselves, was the fact that the tenants we had had been badly treated by the man from whom we had bought the place. He was in every sense 'a nasty bit of work'. We were, however, fortunate that two old dears who shared the ground floor flat at the back of the house were very helpful and informative. They were also to become very helpful to me in the days and months to come! Then there was another, not so 'dear' old dear who was entirely suspicious on any and every landlord on the face of the earth and who complained and complained endlessly. But even she was no match for the young anarchist who disabled his meters and had free run of the electricity and gas! Becoming a landlord has a very steep learning curve, especially with the other tasks before us. As I write 'us' I am thinking that really it was almost all on The Man's plate.

Now then, here is an idea of some of the challenges before us in the interior of what would in time become our home ...

On the right is the room which would become the bathroom! When we first moved this room had a damp course that had just been put in, however, it was below the water table and a sump pump needed to be added. We were making do with a portable toilet. In order to keep our feet dry we planted bricks  -- as you might do flagstones in a footpath -- to the base of the 'convenience'. I am sure you can easily guess what The Man's least favourite job was... It was quite a problem figuring out what to do about the plumbing and for a while there was a question as to whether we could successfully access the sewer because of the depth of the cellar.

The room below had been a kitchen/living room. We decided that we would prefer to use this room as our bedroom even though there was the inconvenience of having the back door, which was also the one most often used. Eventually the apartment was expanded to include three bedrooms located on the first floor of the house and this early bedroom became a very large dining room.

Fortunately, the bedsit at the front of the house had become vacant and we were able to use this for a month or six weeks while The Man worked on getting the living room and kitchen ready to be used. In the beginning it was very difficult to get really started on our grand project because the house we were living in was several miles away. Since he was working full time for the RAF he had limited time to work on the house and when he got there his time would often be taken up with the needs of the tenants as well as finding that some tool or other he needed was back at the house 6 miles away!

Time to insert a very imprecise, but more or less accurate layout of the 'before' and 'after'.
On the left is the flat as we found it
On the right as it would become
The photo on the right is the hallway that would become the kitchen. The door at the back leads into the bathroom. We debated about the wisdom of taking out the staircase and losing access to the main house from inside the flat. We decided that eventually we would consider other possibilities for internal access and this staircase came out -- almost first thing.

I did not take many pictures of the living room 'before' but as you can see it was pretty grim! The electric fire was the main source of heat for longer than I would like to remember, but we would later find a more attractive position when the old fireplace was again exposed.

I cannot remember if these pictures were taken before or after the baby arrived on the 20th of May 1983. I know that despite unforeseen difficulties we did manage to move lock, stock and barrel into this house with three young children by September 1983.

In the next instalment: Have you ever considered what life would be like without drains? In my humble opinion and from my own personal experience, drains are the cornerstone of civilization!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Citizen Me: Life Happens

Not long after the Blackpool evening we were invited to dinner at Beryl and Derek's house, which was also a bed and breakfast hotel. They entertained friends in the bar of their hotel and evenings in their company were always great fun and there were always other people for us to meet as well. This particular evening there was a couple around our age. She was very attractive and had quite an odd personality. Beryl had warned us that she could also be very unpredictable -- and had a reputation for being psychic! I can't remember her name but let's say it was Miranda.

Well a few weeks later one of the other women who had been there that night was at our house for tea and during a very amiable chat, she leaned over to me and said something like, "Did Beryl tell you what  Miranda told her about you?"

I was quite taken aback -- as it hadn't occurred to me that Miranda had taken any real notice of me. "Nooo," I said, a bit apprehensively.

"Miranda told Beryl that you were definitely pregnant! Are you really?"

Well you could have knocked me over with a feather, because not only was I not pregnant but as far as The Man and I were concerned we had already four children between us and we were not planning to have any more. "Absolutely not -- no more for us!"

Now Beryl and Derek were the most darling couple in all the world, but this story went around to everybody! The Man and I were quite stunned in a way -- and quite relieved that Miranda was wrong, too.

Six weeks later though, it was a different story!!! I've never seen Miranda again and I'd never seen her before ... "And therefore as a stranger give it welcome; There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio Broad; Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Thank you Hamlet, thank you Shakespeare!) Let me tell you it's is quite a shock when someone tells you you are pregnant before you are!!!

The period of my pregnancy coincided with the most difficult period during our marriage. As I was no spring chicken it meant that we decided to have an amniocentesis. I was convinced that at last I would have a girl, but I wanted to be prepared in case it was a boy. Good decision!

The amniocentesis was traumatic -- the doctor who was a woman could not find the fluid and it went on and on for over half an hour and then when they said they were going to do it again I got hysterical -- I don't think The Man has ever before or since seen me in such a state! An the doctor was not only inept she started telling me off!!! Anyway, another appointment with my Consultant this time. Mr. Wilson had a very fine reputation as a doctor but terrified the sisters, nurses and even Matron, but was always very sweet with me. Anyway, there I was once again on the table, but this time only Mr. Wilson and an assistant, not a whole platoon of people like the time before. I got ready and grimaced waiting for the procedure to begin and within 5 minutes he said, 'You can stop grimacing and holding your breath now -- it's over!'

As the pregnancy progressed I began to suffer sever bouts of tunnel vision. This problem was always solved by lying down and having a nap. It happened once when I was waiting to see Mr. Wilson about two months before my due date. I am still not sure what the problem was, but I think my blood pressure was soaring. As I was waiting for Mr. Wilson to come in to see me I heard him on the phone. He was telling the person on the other end that he needed a bed that day for a patient. Then he gave her name. It was me!! I hadn't even seen him yet! So I ended up in the hospital ward for a week with maybe 10 other expectant mothers. I was told I needed a rest. It was one of the most fun weeks in terms of camaraderie I've ever experienced -- we all relaxed and laughed a lot!

Pregnancy aside, there was something else going on during all this. The Man decided that he needed to do something to improve our financial situation and that the way to do this was to buy an investment property that we could live in as well. He found a place that we both decided would be viable, but would be very demanding as there would be serious renovation involved. Somehow, The Man, was able to convince the Bank Manager to agree. The place we found had 7 bedsits/flatlets and the income would pay the mortgage off in 10 years! In 1983 this kind of property was much cheaper than it is today! Even so a lot was at stake and a lot of hard work for The Man lay ahead...

On March 17, 1983 we exchanged contracts, on 20 May 1983 our boy, Robert was born and by the end of the summer we went 'where angels fear to tread' and with three boys, moved into a house, under renovation!

The right side of the detached house
The Investment for Our Future