Its all gone Pete Tong

I haven’t posted for a while because we’ve been going through a rather difficult time with our house purchase. It sounds silly doesn’t it – getting anxious about buying a house – though apparently its one of the most stressful transactions of your life.

We’ve been relatively calm if not downright excited about our house purchase and everything was going swimmingly well until 3 weeks ago.

Now, let me be clear – we aren’t jumping up and down because the sellers aren’t leaving their curtain poles or because we are missing a FENSA certificate for the windows (which we actually are missing as it turns out). No, we have had a shed-load of anxiety because one week before we were due to exchange contracts we found out that there are new regulations coming into force which stipulate where septic tanks can drain.

Its not a nice topic is it, septic tanks. But once you get over the lavatorial element of it, they are quite remarkable systems and the ‘science’ behind it is interesting.

The problem

Anyway, from 2020 any septic tanks that drain into a ditch or watercourse (which is defined within the regulations) are prohibited. So if you have a septic tank which does this, it needs to be replaced by 31st December 2019 or you face a massive fine by the Environment Agency – tens of thousands of pounds depending on the severity of the pollution.

Options

To be compliant with the regulations (known as the general binding rules) you can do the following:

  1. Install a small sewage treatment plant; or
  2. Re-route the pipework so that the tank drains into a drainage field (this option is likely to include a replacement/upgrade of your existing tank too)

You may need planning permission and building regulations consent, so check with the local authority and the Environment Agency if necessary.

The cost of the work is, quite frankly, as long as a piece of string. It could be £5,000 it could be £25,000. It all depends on the system you opt for, the land in question and any other issues unique to your property (such as distance from another dwelling or main road, which can be factors).

Unfortunately, if you are buying a house with a septic tank you are unlikely to know whether or not it is compliant with the general binding rules until about half way through the conveyancing process unless the sellers are already aware of the rules. We only have a very basic plan because the house we want to buy is so old, so we had to carry out a number of enquiries before we could establish that the septic tank was not compliant. For other properties it may be more obvious.

A drainage field is compliant (above); a pipe to a ditch/stream isn’t

Helpful links

If you think you may be caught by the new general binding rules, have a look through the government website here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/general-binding-rules-small-sewage-discharge-to-a-surface-water#enforcement-and-sanctions

I’ll update you all with how this plays out, but I can’t right now due to the sensitive nature of the issue and the ongoing conveyancing work.

Wish us luck!

back to basics: a strive for balance

I’m sat here with a cup of tea, my fourth in only a few hours, and some mini shortbread biscuits. Aside from the horrific morning I’ve had, I’d say I’m as relaxed as I possibly could be at this moment in time. In a minute I’m probably going to put some cheesy film on Netflix whilst I finish writing this.

But it was whilst I was chewing on my second shortbread that I started pondering life. Not the big ‘why are we here questions’ – that’s far too deep for a Sunday. But I’m sat looking out on my [badly maintained] garden and all the greenery; the trees, plants and my sunflower. My sunflower is my pride and joy. I grew it from a seed and its now nearly 4 feet tall. But it doesn’t seem to like much rain – the clue may be in the name? Anyway, with the amount of rain and wind we’ve had the last couple of weeks its looking pretty sorry for itself. And I’m thinking, given my stressful morning, why do I feel so calm all of a sudden?

I’ve pretty much always loved the great outdoors – albeit camping out in it took a bit of getting used to. Perhaps, I thought as I munched, its living in the countryside and all its calming influences. Hearing the wind whistling through the trees and rustling the leaves. The birds chirping to each other (though I do not appreciate the ravens who have made their home in next door’s tree who circle and squawk very loudly at all hours of the day and night).

No traffic noise. No pollution. Not being reminded of work at every turn or the fear of bumping into clients whilst you’re dressed in ripped denim and an oversized cardigan with slightly greasy hair (its a look I rock most Sundays). Being able to see the seasons pass. When I lived in Guildford it went from summer > winter > summer. I barely saw any open spaces to see the leaves fall and then the buds starting to sprout months later.

You can lose yourself in nature. Walking, cycling, just getting out there and immersing yourself in it. You don’t need company, you can go it alone. & maybe we all should more often. Get away from it all. From everything. You can lose yourself in thoughts; a flask of tea and a notepad and you can be someone else entirely.

 “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”

– Lord Byron

We live such fast lives nowadays. Always trying to get somewhere quicker than we did yesterday, moaning about everything; service, the weather and that guy who walks so slowly off the train. Doesn’t he know you have somewhere to be?

Its got me thinking about my commute to work tomorrow. A 40 minute fast-train ride. I see the same people everyday. I know where they stand on the platform for the carriage they want. The business men in suits, newspapers under their arms and smart phones tucked into a pocket. The lady who had a walking stick long after her twisted ankle healed, simply so she could get on first out of pity. Everyone moves in unison. A shuffle, a step and then settling in for the journey. The same mumblings to the conductor, day after day. The hoard of people, seamlessly moving towards the barrier and out, into the big city to go to their desk jobs and bark orders down the ‘phone. Drones. Coffee, coffee and more coffee in cardboard cups; the Starbucks logo quite possibly the epitome of modern day living.

People passing through without really noticing their surrounds, at least, not til its too late.

Absorbed.

Head down, looking at a ‘phone. Images that flood our daily lives from social media. Idealised images that are far removed from reality and which cause you to question your life. Some aspire to craft a life like that which they see online, as if everything is perfect and in vibrant colour. And if they try hard enough, maybe they will succeed and appear to have such a wonderful life as they would lead you to believe. Social media is here to stay for the foreseeable future, yet how relevant is it in our life? To have your life documented online for the world to see; but only the good parts. Not the bad, the ugly the dirty or the reality of it.

Don’t get me wrong, the irony is not lost on me. I’m a blogger and I have a Facebook and Instagram account.

To always be connected and close to those around you. A positive, depending on the circumstances, but also so often a negative. My ‘phone is ‘meant’ to be connected to my work emails. It was for nearly two years until 3 months ago when I disabled it before I went on holiday. I had full intentions of re-installing it with the swipe of a button on my return, but figured I would see how long I could get away with it. 3 months on and I can’t imagine having access to those emails ever again in my downtime. I hadn’t realised it before, but simply hearing the buzz when an email came in caused me to worry. What if? What if that email was the one that would show that I’d done something wrong? The beginning of the end of my career. Dramatic, I know. I’m not even a worrier compared with some of my colleagues; calm, level-headed I’m described. But I can’t not read it. That little red circle hovering over the envelope symbol glaring back at me. So I do. And its always nothing. Something I could have dealt with in the morning.

& thats it. For me, in a nutshell. Its all about being connected. And I just don’t want to be. I would throw my ‘phone in the river at a drop of a hat if I felt that I could. But I can’t. Modern life wouldn’t allow it. How could I possibly know if my train was running on time? Or what the people I follow on Instagram are up to?

So I strive for balance. I do what I must during the working week and try to fit in. To show that I can do it. An old person in a young body. But downtime is me time. And if I want to make onion soup and live in wellingtons and not wear make-up, well I’m damned well going to. I’m far from perfect. I don’t take good photographs and my vocabulary feels like its become limited to only those words that I need to use being a lawyer. But I’m learning. Every day is a school day and with each day, I’m settling in to myself and appreciating what I have more. Sometimes, I feel older than my years as if I’ve lead a full, enriching life and I’m looking back it on it with hindsight in my 80’s. Maybe I just want to make sure that here on in, I’m doing the right thing. Noticing the right things. Being true.

My life with Sam is great and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Except, perhaps, to go back 20 years to a world without ‘phones and targets and to the ease of a time where there was no immediate expectation of reply.

So, appreciate the beauty around you. It doesn’t have to be green and breathing. It can be grey, concrete or a tower block. But just make sure that you are happy and doing whatever it is you’re doing,  for you and live for the important things in life. Not the latest craze or getting the perfect photo, not messaging inane rubbish for the sake of it.

Just, going back to basics.

My shortbread is making me feel bad. I know its full of butter but it tastes so good. If only I could eat a normal amount and not the whole tin.