Tuesday, February 24, 2004

A happy arranged marriage

This is an Observer article on the tale of one Indian man brought up in Northern Ireland who had an arranged marriage that worked out in the end. I'm a sucker for happy endings, so here it is. For more personal thoughts on arranged marriages you'll have to wait (maybe indefinitely).

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Scary support for the BBC

ScaryDuck writes a passionate defence of the BBC, and I have to say, I agree with just about every word. I'm a big fan of the BBC. I know that they get things wrong but it's a damn fine institution and puts out some of the best radio that I've ever heard.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


It looks like the AUT will be on strike next week, myself included. If the UCEA doesn't re-open negotiations, there will be a national strike by the AUT and the NUS on Wednesday 25 February in an attempt to close down universities across the country and a Scotland-wide strike on Thursday 26th February.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Partied out

I've been to three parties in as many days this weekend. First Olaf and Kirsty had a party because, well, they haven't had one in a while; then I had an anti-Valentine's party as a sort of communal support group for those of us who are single over the commercial fraud that is St Valentine's Day; and my flatmate Joy had a party to celebrate her birthday (which was a few days ago). None of them were huge parties, but it was a very pleasant weekend.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

My home. All mine. Mine, I tell you!

And so it comes to an end. Quite quickly, all told. What? The process of buying a house. It's not for nothing that it's said that this is one of the most stressful experiences in life, but I think that got off lightly. For those who haven't been around for me to constantly bore with details, here's the complete story.

Summer 2003
Start thinking about buying a house. I looked into some mortgage stuff, but nothing came of it.
December 2003
Started thinking about house-buying again. Went to see a mortgage advisor at the Bradford and Bingley who advised me to come back after I had seen a few properties. So I saw three flats before leaving for Christmas and didn't like any of them very much.
Christmas 2003

I saw some more flats that I might want to look at over the Internet.

I went to see one of these flats the day after I got back from home after Christmas. This is when things started getting hectic...

Day 1
Went to see the house in the morning and really liked it. So I called up the mortgage advisor (Claire) to talk about it. She arranged an appointment for that afternoon. At the interview, I decided to put in a survey on the flat. The surveyor would go round the next day and I should get results that same day.
Day 2
Got the results of the survey. All was well, but the flat was valued at an awful lot more than the offers over price. At this point, I thought that I was out of the race for this flat, but Claire reckoned that I could still afford it, with the large amount of help that my parents were offering. So I thought about it and decided that I'd go and see Claire again to get some more detailed figures.
Day 3
Went to see Claire and on the basis of the figures that we worked out, I decided that I'd put in an offer on the flat.
Day 4
Was contacted by the solicitor that Claire had arranged for me (Hannay Fraser and Co) and he said that he'd contact the seller's solictor after the weekend to put in our agreed offer (which was slightly below my absolute affordability limits, so that I could raise it if necessary).
Day 8
I heard back from Mr Fraser from the solicitor to say that I had got the flat! And at a price less than I had authorised him for as well, which was very cool. It did leave me in shock for a while though.
Day 16
Finalised the paperwork surrounding the mortgage.
Day 20
Got a call from my grandfather saying that they were going to get a new suite and that I could have the old one, which was great. Suites and beds were my only major purchases, since the flat would already come with kitchen stuff – cooker, fridge-freezer, washing machine and dishwasher, which is great, since I'm already at the limits of my budget, and that's with all the help that my parents are giving me.
Day 21
Got a call from Claire saying that I needed to go and make a first time buyer's appointment with the mortgage lender (the Cheltenham and Gloucester). Also went looking at beds and carpets (since the flat currently has wooden laminate floors, which I don't like). The guy at the carpet shop said that I'd need to lift the existing floor up before putting down carpets. Pondered this for a while and decided that I'd make do with rugs.
Day 22
Went to the first time buyer's interiew with the C&G, which basically rehashed stuff that I had already gone over with Claire.
Day 24
Discovered that the seller wanted an entry date much earlier than I did. Eventually compromised on a mid-way point (alhtough it was still earlier than I would have liked) and I panicked while I tried to ensure that I had all the necessary funds in place by that time.
Day 27
Bought beds. I didn't mean to. I just went out to have a look around and try some out, but I was there, the beds seemed nice, and I really didn't want to spend even more time on it, so I bought two. One for my room and one for the other bedroom.
Day 32
Got confirmation that I had a mortgage.
Day 35
Hanny Fraser got back to me saying that they would want stamp duty and land registration fees from me at the same time my deposit. This caused me to panic for a bit as I checked that I would have enough funds in my account to pay it. I figured out that I would, but not before more anguish.
Day 37
Discover that Hanny Fraser want paid before they will complete the registration. Rats. Well, that wasn't quite how I put it at the time, but this is a family friendly blog:-). More panic, another call to my mum to ask for help and talking very nicely to Mr Fraser meant that I got that sorted by giving them a post-dated cheque.
Day 39
I got my keys. Eventually. First I thought that I'd have to go to the seller's solicitor (which is miles and miles away) and then discovered that I'd get them from the seller herself, but she didn't have a working phone and her solicitor didn't have her mobile number. In the end, it turned out that her new home was just round the corner from me and so I just went up and picked up the keys from her in person. The end.

Well, that's it. The story of buying a house in under forty days from first seeing it to having the keys. Looking back through this account, it feels like a very "just the facts, Ma'am" account. There's very little of the real fear, self-doubt and anxiety that I felt during the process. But they were all present and probably made me difficult to live with at times, but it's over now. Hell, I still don't know if I've made the right decision or not. Only time will tell that.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

AUT strike mandate

The membership of the AUT has voted by 66% for strike action. An even greater number (81%) voted for action short of a strike (such as refusing to mark exams etc). The union also has the backing of the NUS (and locally here in Glasgow, the support of the SRC, since the Glasgow University unions aren't affiliated with the NUS), so the action will be supported by students. Hopefully this will make the employers sit up and take notice, and give us a strong bargaining position.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

My obituary

I was at a Race and Religion conference at work today which was quite interesting. In one of the workshops, we were asked to try and write our own obituaries. Unfortunately, a) we didn't get enough time to do so and b) we never actually found out why. But the whole thing got me thinking, and in the ultimate egotistical act, here is my own obituary, as written by me.

Raj was a dutiful son, a loving brother and a trusted and trusting friend. He always tried to do the right thing, with some measure of success. He cared an awful lot about his family, his friends and his world. He was fascinated by the world around him and the universe in which it was situated. This fascination led him towards the realms of science in which he found joy as a layman. For his entire life, he held the belief that people were basically good, without ever fully understanding why. He had a great sense of fun and a part of him never fully grew up. He will be remembered.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Click here to find out why

Monday, February 02, 2004

Cheap online music?

The Register runs an article discussing viable ways to allow non-DRM-crippled music to be shared over the internet with fair recompense for artists and record companies. It's a neat idea and one that appeals to me. I'd certainly be willing to pay the extra $6 a month required to allow myself to download music. I disagree, though, with the assertion that record shops will struggle to survive, since there will always be those (including myself) who like having the physical medium of the CD (or whatever) along with the sleeve notes etc that come with it. Those last two sentences may appear to contradict each other, but they don't. There are circumstances when I would prefer to download music and others when I would prefer to buy the CD. And I'd be willing to pay for the privilege of having freely-accessible downloaded music.

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