Archive for January, 2018

The state of the letting market

Let’s tell the story of finding a new flat – not least because I need to record this for posterity.

So, Dr Do(o)m and I are due to find a new place in February because the contract is going to expire at Casa Beaufoy.  Whilst there might have been the possibility to extend for a year, we agreed that the time was right to move on.  Searching properly began on 6 January although I’ve been keeping half an eye on what’s happening with the aggregator sites.

However, for the first couple of weeks, we weren’t having a great deal of success.  Every time we even thought about expressing interest in taking a place, the damn place was already snapped up.  And prices seemed to have increased rapidly in the area.  That said however, we also noticed a number of properties with falling prices over days and weeks (optimism on the part of the letting agencies?) so didn’t want to be fleeced.

This caused a bit of a rethink for us so we rallied and organised a blitz on a cornucopia of properties.  Couple on Monday, couple on Tuesday and a flood on Wednesday.  Ultimately, our choice came down to three: two close runners and a distant third place property. Property number one is behind Casa Beaufoy, a flat in a Victorian house.  A little larger in terms of floor space, a lot larger in terms of attic space.  Perhaps the biggest sell is the fact that there’d be significant cost savings from living there.

Number two was in Lavender Hill – close to Clapham Junction.  This flat blew me away – just under 1000 square foot of space – it was a huge place, great rooms, light, two bathrooms but the location (and lack of walkability to work) was the only off-putter.  Still, I was having visions of social events, multiple activities in the same room and the quirkiness of having rooms that weren’t quadrilaterals.

And the final one was a place near Stockwell.  Three floors, huge garden, older furnishings but still had a retro charm going for it.  Saw it when it was chucking it down with rain which might have contributed to a negative impression.  I mean it was quirky, different and the large garden was different but for me, wasn’t enough.  I just saw problems with space, with the narrow staircases which would be a bugger to move things up and down and there was definitely a lack of heating.  It was as if someone saw a gap between two houses and just bunged a property there.

Over a fantastic Ethiopian dinner (Harar – South Lambeth Road), we ruled out Stockwell.  It just wasn’t ticking the boxes and was an easy decision to make.  So we debated the two flats, using the scientific method, using the emotional method, using every comparison tool we could think of and there was just no X factor making one place triumph.  As you might have guessed, we were championing our respective corners.  I wanted Lavender Hill, he wanted nearby.

Went home in the end, to bed but neither of us got any sleep.  Even in the morning (after I did pass out) there was still no clarity.  Unfortunately, this is when I was thrown a curveball.  Y’see, there was one more property on the list which we didn’t fit into the blitz down by Bakery Close towards Oval.  More or less the same as where we are currently living except no pool/gym.  I’d come around to taking the flat close by – I have my reasons as to why.  But there was a certain amount of…persuading going on over having a look at Bakery Close.

That flat was ok – but not great.  The price was more or less the same as we are paying now, just a little further out.  The clock was ticking – a decision had to be made, not least as we’d been chosen to take the flat near us by the owners.  I cannot describe (in the few minutes I’m taking to compose this paragraph, it’s not going to be my magnum opus) how fraught things were.  A spontaneous walk mid-morning, quiet meditation in the afternoon, hastily composed Whatsapp messages… in the end, it was Heyford that won out (the flat near us).

So then all that’s left is the paperwork, the inevitable clearout, the actual moving and vague vows about never having to do that again.  Amazing how this move is focussing one’s thoughts.  The prints that I bought back from Berlin for example, I’ve framed them up rather than having them squashed in boxes.  And I’ve been eyeing up books, games and the line with a view to parting ways. Mixed bag of emotions.


Exit: The Abandoned Cabin

So, a spoiler-free review of my latest board game (which went into the recycling as soon as we finished playing it)…

Exit: The Abandoned Cabin.  I bought this half on a whim, half because I wanted to try one of these escape room board games a few weeks ago.  Now that the nightmare of Xmas and New Year is over, schedules can return to normal and we arranged a game for last night.

E:TAC is one of six games in a series where players are required to solve a bunch of puzzles in order to escape from a room, in this case, an abandoned cabin where you just happen to have broken down outside of in the middle of the night.  Anyway, after passing out, you wake up to see you’re locked inside the cabin with nothing but a note and a decoder wheel taunting you to solve the puzzles and escape before whomever trapped you in the cabin returns.

The game is designed to be played between 1 & 6 players – we did it with 5.  There’s no strict order in which you have to solve the puzzles but there is something of a linear progression: one puzzle will unlock a second puzzle and bits and pieces for other puzzles.  There are also clue cards in case you get stuck which can give you hints or outright solutions if you’re really confused.  Puzzles test observation, wordplay, pattern analysis, number work – no special skills are really needed to crack these puzzles.  Some are straight forward logic, some are more cryptic.  There are no intuitive leaps to be made.  So as these games go, it’s a good entry-level game to the world of escape rooms.

Now, the main problem with this particular board game is you can only play it once.  You could try and play it twice but for three problems: 1) you need to destroy parts of the game.  2) there’s no new content.  3) The surprises would be ruined.  And because you need to destroy parts of the game (it is technically possible to work around but very difficult), you can’t pass it on or resell it.  However, at only £13, it’s no more expensive than a cinema ticket.  So yeah, once we finished it, the game ended up in the recycling (less what I wanted to keep for my scrapbook.

In terms of the physical specs: the box is A5 sized, the materials are clear and concise.  The artwork is alright – good enough for the puzzle solving although a bit cartoony and small.  And colours do play a significant role in the game so anyone who is colour-blind may have some difficulties.  Play the game in a well lit room.

So overall, a fun little game.  Challenging but rewarding and with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and fresh.  Looking forward to the next one.

A farewell to 2017


My belated review of 2017.  Hadn’t made time to jot this down until today.

So, how would I sum up 2017 in a snappy sentence?  Difficult.  In some respects – and being my own worst critic – it was kinda wasteful.  I think for me, I allowed many opportunities to pass me by.  Kinda turned into the sort of person who I loathe in respect of maintaining contact with people and forgetting appointments by not writing them down.  However, I did try some new things, visited two new countries (Malta and Poland), did a couple of small, personal growth activities so there’s some stuff to cheer as well as boo loudly.

World events: lots of schadenfreude.  The chickens of 2016 are starting to come home to roost in 2017 with 2018 being I suspect, something of a “crunch” year.  The sexual abuse scandals hitting people in positons of privilege, certain MPs being forced to resign because they think they’re above the rules, humiliations of celebrities because they just don’t know when to stop (Katie Hopkins, Milo Yiannopoulos, Piers Morgan).  More optimistic than pessimistic I think overall.

Travel: As I said earlier, Malta and Poland were the new countries of 2017.  Having the two trips to Cardiff at the start of the year were quite nice, forgot how much I enjoy the place.  Did Swansea a couple of times, always a pleasure.  Squeezing in a couple of visits to Brussels didn’t feel like a chore this time, not least as I got to play tour guide with a colleague.  It’s nice to feel useful.

Personal Life: Like 2016, it’s been pretty good in terms of mates and doing stuff together.  I also feel that with work colleagues, a number of them have stopped expecting stuff to happen just because we all happen to work together and things are being more organic, spontaneous and that works for me a lot better.  Still gaming most weeks and meeting more people through the gaming network.

Vices: Because of a certain Mr Ringsell, beer consumption went up in August and September which is why I had a month away from the sauce in “Stoptober”.  Developed a taste for Erdinger Blue though.  And December was a particularly booze-heavy month thanks to Germany and Xmas.  Sadly, snacking has been a constant except for those virtuous weeks where nothing happens.

Love Life: Erratic.  Failure.  Depressing.  However, I have at least recognised that most of the failures are of my making and am seeking to improve that for 2018.

Ailments: Achilles Tendon healed nicely and there was no further limping after February 2017.  Had two really nasty summer colds where I felt lousy but other than that, a good year in terms of health.  Keep getting praise from the dentist every time I go which is nice to hear.

Gaming: With the release of Battlefront 2, Wolfenstein the New Colossus and South Park: The Fractured But Whole, I’ve been returning to video games a little more in the latter part of 2017.  Board gaming has been a strength: tried to stick to buying more expansion packs rather than whole games although there’s still a copy of Rebellion on my shelf which has yet to be played and I’d love a copy of Ghostbusters and Thunderbirds.  I have also been investing more in card protectors – 7 Wonders, Bang, Sushi Go Party, Avalon, Resistance and some of Talisman are now protected up.  Worth it!