Lee Rotbart

Archive for the ‘Between the mortgage and the move’ Category

Me, Danny, and a big house in Cornwall

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

You may have noticed that I’ve gone a bit quiet this week. This has predominantly been for the following reasons:

  1. We have been moving – still! After moving Danny out of his flat, we then had to move (some of him) into mine, we then had to move most of mine into storage, we then had to move the rest of mine, and a little bit of his, into my parents house where we arrived last night, and where we will be for the next 3 months.
  2. We have been completing and exchanging on all 3 properties, which – inevitably – come with their own set of unforeseen problems and mini-crises. Notably a ‘Danny Dash’ from his office in Kensington to my office in Soho to sign papers that had we had emailed to us on Wednesday morning and needed to be received by the sender by Thursday morning (I can be grateful for the fact that it was a rare day with no tube strike).
  3. We have been planning our website and logo which is very exciting, and we have both been loving it, but our designer has been throwing questions at us that we hadn’t really considered and therefore every meeting has resulted in 2 -3 hours of debate.
  4. Work has been hell (and I am not exaggerating). I have had both my CEO and Commercial Director in Singapore and Australia and am being managed across different timezones and different cultures via email. For the managers among you, this is NOT the recommended approach for building staff motivation and commitment.

As an aside it has taken a HUGE amount of restraint not to use this blog to rant about my bosses and I am proud of this, along with the fact that I have resisted taking a AK47 into work and doing what the Vietnam veterans of America were doing in the 80s and 90s.

Going postal, in American Englishslang, means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment.

The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were gunned down by spree killers in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage.

Anyway… excuses for the silence aside, I am delighted to announce that Danny and I have exchanged on the property in St Ives, along with completing on our respective flats (well, Danny’s is nearly there). That’s it now, there is no going back. We are just us two and a big house in Cornwall. Oh, and a larger than expected storage box room in Bow which is absolutely stuffed to bursting.

As we drove away from my flat last night, with the few belongings that are going to see us through the winter in the back of the car, I thought that I’d be sad and a little nostalgic for my beloved flat; but that wasn’t the case. Instead I was excited, excited about the future, excited about being self-employed, excited that it wasn’t the end but the beginning, and excited about our new logo which arrived on email earlier that day. This excitement briefly manifested itself in the Big Yellow Storage building in Bow where we ‘surfed’ on the trolleys through the empty gangways (well it was 9.30 at night).

Precisely 5 months ago (to the day) we arrived back from our holiday in Cornwall and announced to our friends and family that we wanted to buy a guest house in St Ives and move down there. 2 flat sales, a mortgage, and a fair amount of negotiation and planning later we find ourselves on our way to doing exactly that.

My name is Lee, and I’m a hoarder

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 10, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I have only been living in my flat for 6 years and consider myself a bit of a minimalist so am surprised by the following things:

  1. There is a box at the back of my lounge (not even in a cupboard) that moved with me back in 2004 and is yet to be unpacked. It is obviously full of very important stuff.
  2. I have a cupboard full of plastic carrier bags – a WHOLE cupboard in a flat where storage space is at a premium.
  3. The top of my kitchen cuboard is covered by ‘nice’ paper bags that I’ve kept from various clothes shops.
  4. There is a pack of postcards from Vietnam (October 2006 holiday) shoved behind the letter holder in my kitchen.
  5. I have more wardrobe hangers than an entire chain of hotels.
  6. I have 6 pairs of tweezers and no, I do not have Norman Lamont eyebrows (possibly because I have 6 pairs of tweezers!?).
  7. I’m not sure I can bring myself to part with the Canon Starwriter diskette which contains my undergraduate thesis (please note, I no longer have the aforementioned Canon Starwriter and haven’t for at least 10 years).
  8. In a drawer I had purported to clear out a few months ago, I have an address book containing all the (landline) phone numbers and addresses of people I went to university with, and haven’t seen or heard of since graduation 13 years ago.
  9. I am still the proud owner of a poem I wrote, aged 17, which is full of all sorts of teenage angst (it starts: “The silence envelops me like a cloud” – need I go on?!)
  10. Despite the birthday gift two years ago of a set of beautiful saucepans, I still own (and use on occasion) the saucepan set I’ve had since I was 18.

I genuinely didn’t realise I had so much stuff; and can’t quite understand why I’m finding it so hard to part with it.

On Sunday, when clearing out Danny’s flat, we had at least 3 conversations about whether to keep Trevor. I should add that Trevor is a stone turtle with a hedgehog style brush on its back for wiping the dirt off your shoes (although I suspect it’s never been used for such a purpose). “Why not just chuck it?” you may ask, and I would say the same thing in your position. The thing is it has a face AND a name, and therefore Danny and I have given this inanimate object some kind of personality. Needless to say it ended up in the communal flowerbed in Danny’s flat complex; while we could bring ourselves to leave it behind we couldn’t quite confine him to the recycling shed.

What is it about us humans (and I know that I am not alone, bar the odd ‘freak’ who is genuinely capable of controlling their hoarding) that feel the need to collect these (often) meaningless items which somehow make up a life lived in a particular place. I could understand if I was messy but, as Danny will testify, I am probably one of the most anally neat people ever to walk the earth: MY hoarding is in tidy little piles scattered about my flat, consequently why I’m so surprised that I have managed to gather so much.

Last night I filled an entire recycling bag with plastic tubs saved from supermarket soups and takeaways. I’m guessing that I must have thought I’d use them for something otherwise why would I have kept them – but so many?? Really?? The real joke here is that I was chucking them away I was wondering if I shouldn’t just keep a few for the new place because, obviously, while they have been zero use for the last 6 years in London they are suddenly going to come into their own in Cornwall.

Luckily Danny, who is feeling proud of himself for managing to wangle a ‘home’ for Trevor, doesn’t seem to have the same emotional attachment to any of my stuff, and has promised to stand over me all weekend while I pack up what’s been my home for the last 6 years.

Even the sticky toffee pudding was a sign

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 8, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Far be it from me to wander around saying things like ‘it’s fate that we met when we did’, and ‘I can’t second guess what fate has in store for me’, yet last Friday would have tested even the most cynical. It was just one thing after another, after another that made me feel that we were destined to live in St Ives.

Here are the signs:


Arriving in Truro (on time) we had the opportunity to visit the stunning Truro Cathedral before our first appointment with our broker. We arrived at his place on  time, we then met the bank manager on time, enabling us to meet our solicitor on time, we then left Truro on time in order to arrive at the guest house we’d booked (in the name of research) in St Ives on time. Now, how often does that happen… A sign – no!?


OK… I know that it was Guy Fawkes night and the fireworks were not put on for our benefit but we could have chosen any weekend to go down there, and it turned out that it was that one. Fireworks on Porthminster Beach and some of the best chips I’ve ever eaten… A sign – no!?


It was raining all day on and off. For the two hours between us leaving the guest house we were staying in and arriving in the restaurant for dinner it did not rain; it was also eerily warm and we barely needed coats to be comfortable on the beach. Arriving at the restaurant later on that evening it proceeded to rain constantly for 2 hours, stopping only minutes before we left so we could take a night time walk around the town… A sign – no!?


Sitting down at a picnic table on the beach we started chatting to a lovely lady called Gloria. Slightly over-excited after very successful meetings all day with our bank manager, mortgage broker and solicitor, we couldn’t help but tell her what we were doing and that this gorgeous oceanside town (seaside town sounds too twee to describe St Ives) was soon to be our home. It turned out that she was also buying a place in St Ives and moving down from South London (Surrey). We spent the next 45 minutes animatedly discussing our new location and agreed to meet at the same place next year to find out how everything had gone.

Of all the people we could have sat next to, we sat next to Gloria… A sign – no!?


We had no plans for dinner and I had lost the restaurant recommendations that people had sent us. Wandering down the harbour among a throng of teenagers all looking for a ‘piss up’ on a Friday night (some teenage traditions transcend London) we came across the cutest restaurant in the corner of the harbour; covered in ivy it looked cosy and inviting; the menu was all about fresh fish and the prices didn’t scream ‘rip off’ so we went in to Hobblers.

We were sat on a table towards the back of the restaurant for about 10 minutes whereupon the friendliest waitress we had ever come across offered to move us to the best table in the restaurant as it was becoming free. It really was a fabulous table, overlooking the harbour, and we clinked glasses over a slighly wet but still beautiful St Ives view. Of all the people in the restaurant she moved us… A sign – no!?


…which we had at the end of the meal was quite possibly the best sticky toffee pudding we had ever tasted. I kid you not, I would have left Danny for that pudding! At that stage in the day, with everything having gone so right, even the sticky toffee pudding was a sign.

Danny was slightly less convinced about all these signs, however I suspect he welcomed the fact that I was being distracted from having exchanged on my flat earlier that day, and that listening to me talk about destiny was preferable to listening to nostalgic stories from the last 6 years. He did however, challenge me to make it sound viable in a blog which, reading back on it, I think I may have done.

Is this the real thing, or is this just fantasy?

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Last night as I sat in a cafe in Angel drinking a strong, black Americano coffee I felt a shiver of excitement. I suddenly pictured myself drinking coffee down by the beach while listening to the waves crash on the sand and breathing in fresh air. The sun isn’t necessarily in the sky, but it is quiet, and it is clean…

(if this was a film it would now go into soft focus)

Breakfast is over and done with, and the cleaning is being finished off by Danny (go with it, it’s fantasy remember). I’ve grabbed Jasper Penworthy (our dog) and taken him for a run. He is now sitting under the picnic table on a lead while I sip my coffee out of a polystyrene cup and stare out to the horizon. Clouds are thick and grey, yet romantic in a Wuthering Heights way; and there are wave crests giving a few die-hard surfers a good time.

There’s chatter from a few tourists but it’s not busy as we’re out of season at the moment. Overall it’s quiet – really quiet; I’m wearing a windbreaker and a knitted scarf and enjoying the way the wind picks up my hair and whips it around my head. I realise that I haven’t used hair mousse for over 6 months, as the water in Cornwall is so soft my hair doesn’t need it. How funny, I realise I’m not wearing make-up either, and I remember that I haven’t worn high heels in – what feels like – years.

It’s a moment of peace. A moment that has become part of my everyday life since I moved down here.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the afternoon. I’ll probably take Jasper for another run on the way back and then settle down for lunch and a quick read of the paper. I’ve got some work to do, an award entry that needs writing for my old company, and I need to find time to bake muffins before new guests arrive at 5pm. Danny’s doing the shopping (again – go with it) and I was going to make a quick update to the website; but that can be wait till later.

Arriving back at the house I am struck, as always, by the way the skylight illuminates the hallway; it makes it look so welcoming. The smell of toast still lingers from breakfast, and I automatically straighten the umbrella rack as I walk through into the kitchen. I sit down at the table and boot up my laptop to check emails.

As I work I notice how peaceful everything is and how far away I am from London, from the commute and the noise, and I laugh to myself when I remember how worried I was about this move.

Spin cycle

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 1, 2010 at 10:54 am

The title here refers to what’s going on in my head; it is not a prophecy about the amount of laundry we will be doing once the guest house opens.

On Friday at 7.30am we met with our accountant, and at 6pm that evening – after a manic day’s work – we met with our brand/web designer. Around 8pm Danny and I had a heated debate about on-peak and off-peak timings, and after a brief appearance at a birthday / Halloween party I excused myself to lie on my sofa with a stress induced belly ache, attempting to get some peace in my head by watching mind-numbingly bad Friday night television.

I suspect that what’s happened is that this process has morphed from a linear like form to something less tangible. After all, taking one step at a time is fine if you know what the next step is. When there are a number of steps to take, and they can all be taken at the same time and require the same amount of energy it’s difficult to know in which direction to turn. I am also finding that whatever I do ends up leading to additional (mini) to do’s, all of which take me further away from the initial choice and all the other things I have to remember to go back to.

Being absolutely paranoid that I will forget the one thing that is holding this project together even my lists have lists…. and they are everywhere. Everytime I switch on my computer at work or at home, open any one of my 3 email accounts, look at my diary, and find random bits of scrap paper, I am finding more lists.

I am also continually frustrated that I can’t do everything to completion. I can’t just remember to cancel my TV license, or inform the council that I’m moving. I have to remember it once, do the first thing, I then have to remember it again, and follow up once I have more information at my disposal or once someone has got back to me.

Then there’s the ‘to do’ list that isn’t urgent because it’s not about us moving out of our two flats, it is however vital if we are going to be able to market the guest house properly and not go bankrupt in the first year; and EVERYTHING – I mean EVERYTHING has an additional cost associated with it. We can’t possibly account for every single cost we are going to encounter, and everywhere we turn there seems to be more of the little blighters.

I wonder if this blog sounds like the inside of my head – disorderly, inarticulate, travelling at around 200 m.p.h, and leaping from one thought to another in the space of 15 seconds.

On Saturday, in order to address this problem, I attempted to practice some meditation. I spent 15 minutes sitting on my sofa listening to some woman, with an incredibly soft and calm voice, talking me through how to cope with change. I am to ‘let it flow through me’ apparently.

After 15 minutes I had written another to do list.

By Sunday night Danny was talking me down off the ledge (opposites really do attract) while we sat in my flat surrounded by boxes. He had to remind me (more than once, I’m ashamed to admit) how exciting it is that we’re moving to the opposite end of the country, and that all this craziness will be worth it in the long run.

Today I’m trying not to engage with lists and all things crazy, and am focusing on the only real to-do list that’s absolutely necessary: (1) BREATHE (2) EAT (3)SLEEP; everything else is a bonus.