Thursday, 29 December 2011

Sad Times On the High Seas

I'm just posting this very quickly for any regular visitors to the blog who want to know what's going on. Apologies for a lack of pithy analysis or snazzy photography - Finn's a bit poorly and I'm tired.

Anyhoo, these are the haps.

We decided to make another offer on Boat House. We got excited. Christmas preparations happened. We got distracted.

The Wednesday before Christmas we rang the estate agent to put in our new offer. He informed us that the vendor had accepted a cash offer that very morning.

Crapbaggins.

This is us then, back to Square One (again).

Wish us luck.

- Hannah

Monday, 12 December 2011

House Viewing: House of Why

Hello!

Well, I'm finally back with an update on our activities, and a report back from our latest house viewing. I'll start with the house viewing, because I know you all love the picturey bits the best ;)

House of Why (so named by Mattie, who is beautifully illustrating the source of this name in the picture to the right) is a 5 bedroom/3 reception room property round the corner from where we live now. It is cheap, very cheap. This explains why we went to see it.

The house is a reposession so it's on at a tempting price for it's size (around £115k), but sadly there is nothing tempting about it. Frankly, the only tempting thing is to walk around it saying "Why???" repetitively, which is just what we did. Subject to a fascinating variety of DIY projects over the years, it has fancy flush spotlights in places and serious structural issues in others. There are built-in DVD shelves and fixings for a large flat-screen TV in the same room as large amounts of homegrown fungus. I'm all for self-sufficiency but growing shrooms out of your walls is taking it a bit far.

Suffice to say that this may suit someone, but it isn't us. Another one to put down to experience then. Sad times.


General Updatery

Our final offer on Boat House was turned down and we don't feel inclined to go higher at the moment. It's such a tricky balancing act deciding what to offer, and when to walk away, and it's not something that any of us enjoy. On this occasion it's been a particularly hard decision to make, but we will find the right place in the end. True fact.

In other news, Mattie has decided to move on to pastures new. The precise location of these pastures is as yet unknown, but they look likely to be in the region of Leeds. This move may involve those notorious cattle-rustlers, Cornerstone, and it may not. It may also occur in March, but that is as yet unconfirmed.

Hang on: I seem to be suggesting that Mattie is a cow and that the largely vegan/vegetarian Cornerstone dwellers are cow-thieves. Step away from the metaphor, Hannah (however much I may think that Mattie would approve).

You get the gist though. We will soon be a co-op member down and this makes us all of the sad-but-supportive-of-peoples'-choices. What this means in terms of co-op numbers is also uncertain, but we will keep you posted.

In other, other news, the Localism Bill is now on the statute books, so we are safe and sound as regards the HMO legislation. Woop! That's a little something to cheer us on the long hunt for a home :) 

- Hannah



















Wednesday, 16 November 2011

No news is good news?

Hello peeps -

I can't believe it's been 5 weeks since we posted about putting an offer in, and I can't quite believe that I still have nothing to tell you.

That's right. We are still in the process of making an offer. Numbers have been bandied back and forth a bit, but as yet there is no conclusion. It's all a bit depressing, and a bit of an eye opener about the absurdities of the house buying process.

I shan't say too much, as the internet is a small place, but we're hoping to have more definite news for you soon. Whether it will be good or bad is rather out of our hands at the moment, so only time will tell.

Apart from the whole offer process, affairs chez Golem are pretty much as usual. Mattie and Sven had a jolly time at the latest Radical Routes Gathering. Cassian has been making awesome comics and generally improving the world one gender-neutral step at a time by drawing attention to petitions such as this. Finn has had his first birthday, taken his first step, and is now capable of turning any object whatsoever into a drum. The rest of us have plodding along being awesome in less definable ways, but being awesome nonetheless.

I promise to update you further when there is something to update, or when, as today, it's been far too long. It's a good thing we're in this for the long haul, eh?

- Hannah






Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Haps.

Ok, so these are The Haps.

We've decided to give up on the house idea and live on a boat instead.

Sort of ;)

Oh seasoned readers of the blog, you know where I'm going with this. We like Boat House, and since Sven came up with The Plan, we are probably going to make moves towards making it ours. The Plan is an intriguing one as it involves planning to expand into another house in the near future. The Dinghy is not that house though. It just doesn't seem right, for some reason. We're all agreed on this, and we're also all agreed on our love for Boat House.

The logic is that we will get along with one communal room (and oodles of lovely external communal space) until a further house can be bought, and filled with more of our co-opulent brethren, plus one person who will have been residing at Boat House in the meantime.

I realise this sounds bonkers. We've been spending so long looking for somewhere that would fit, and whinging about how nothing does, and now we've gone and fallen in love with something which is unequivocally too small.

Cope.

This house is within budget, allowing lots of scope for eco-renovating it, fits almost all of our far-ranging criteria, and has a sexay garden which is much bigger than we could ever have dreamed of. How could we not?

We're hoping to have another viewing before next weekend (still some unanswered questions and unphotographed corners) and then move on to the whole offer/valuation/survey rigmarole.

Fun times ahoy!

- Hannah

Friday, 7 October 2011

Sven’s slightly but not entirely made up recipe for Apple Ketchup that Mattie and Finn helped with

(as yet untested because we only made in 2 hours ago)
Makes 10 mostly big jars of various shapes and sizes.
Takes some time

1.      Volunteer to do roofing at Crabapple a few times, making sure that you take enough cloth bags to bring back 3.5kg of miscellaneous apples. Get one co-op member to meet you at the station to help carry them up the hill. Mattie reckons that the mutual aid adds some sweetness to the ketchup.
This is too many, 'k?

2.      Chop the apples up into reasonably small chunks, removing the cores but leaving the skin in because you have to sieve it all anyway and peeling them seems like FAR too much effort. Get someone with eyes of steel to slice 800g of onions. If possible choose someone who’s in need of a good cry anyway, it’s a great excuse.  
3.      Pop the onions and the apples into a large preserving pan that someone had for Christmas last year (festive connection not mandatory for the recipe). Add 1.7 litres of cider vinegar and 300ml of malt vinegar that you saved from some pickled onions because it seemed a waster to chuck it. 
4.      Feel pleased with how things are going.
You should aim to be about this happy.

5.     Add 3 heaped teaspoons of ginger powder of questionable provenance, along with 2 heaped teaspoons of cumin, some oregano, 5 drops of Tabasco sauce (Steady!), 1 ground nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of black pepper and 50g sugar.
6.      Give it a good stir and then go read the Good Shopping Guide with Finn for a bit because it’s taking ages and he likes books. Alternate these two activities, taking care not to stir Finn or read to the ketchup by mistake.
7.      Eventually your house and everything in it will smell of vinegar and the ketchup itself will look very bog like and smell tasty. At this point, turn off the heat and put the mixture through a sieve, regretting not peeling the apples in the first place.
Acursed sieve clogging fiend

8.      Jar and leave to its own devices until one night you really want some ketchup and think you might as well give it a try. (Sven says ‘At least 2-3 months’.)
9.      Feel the love.

Mattie and the Golems
x

Sunday, 25 September 2011

House Viewing: Boat House and The Dinghy

This is why it is called Boat House.
So, we went to see Boat House again. A week ago. I suck.

We also went to see the house opposite. It's for sale by the same vendor, and would address the fact that Boat House isn't big enough for us. We would need to expand the co-op, which is a whole can o' worms, but we're generally open to the idea. Hence our nosing at this intriguing property.

Aren't they all intriguing?
The Dinghy is technically down as a 3 bedroom house, with 3 reception rooms. I don't know how estate agents decide this stuff, it's fascinating. It's been previously let as a 5 bedroom HMO, with the large basement reception room as a lounge, presumably. This takes up the whole lower ground/basement floor, and has a small bathroom and garden off of it, as you do. The garden was so overgrown we have no idea how bit it is, but the answer is likely to be "not very".




There's another garden which is totally paved (see left) which is at lower ground level but inaccessible from the lower ground floor. Why of course! This makes perfect sense! So to get from the living room to the main (for which read, bigger) garden, you have to get up the stairs and then down the outside stairs again. Hm. The paved garden was nice though, if seriously overlooked. No naked sunbathing here, then. (With a co-op like ours we need to consider these things.)


The bedrooms were suitably non-descript, the kitchen was pretty tiny, and there's a garage. There's not a lot more to be said really, although that is coming from me as the least keen member of the co-op. I do see the benefits of having two houses, and this house is OK, but I like Boat House much, much better.

After looking around The Dinghy, we had another quick peruse around Boat House. Bless the estate agent, he didn't seem to mind our epic nosiness. It did help consolidate the layout in our minds, and also allowed us to answer a few questions we couldn't resolve from memory. I still like it, and everyone else seems keen too.

There are obviously things which wouldn't be ideal with a two-house setup: one house would have a bigger kitchen, dining room and living room, and would be better suited to communal eating. It also has ALL the garden. Does this matter? I don't know, but we need to think about these things. Having the two houses would create a wider range of possibilities, but also a lot more roof to maintain.

We need to cogitate.

To aid both myself, and anyone else who might need it, with their cogitations, I leave you with this picture of Mattie looking uncomfortable sexay.

 - Hannah

Saturday, 3 September 2011

House Viewing: Boat House

 Finally, another house viewing! It's been quiet over the summer with no new sitings of potential houses, but this one has been sitting on the market for a while. We actually got the particulars the same day as those for Labyrinth and The Tardis, but the excitement of those two meant this one got lost, quite literally, down the side of a chair. A massive toddler-proofing clearout of the living room at Golem HQ led to it being rediscovered, and we trundled along for a look this morning.

Boat House resides at the top of a rather steep and well-known hill, and has epic views to prove it.  It also has possibly the nicest garden we've seen on a house yet - terraced but sizeable to both front and back. You can see the sea from just about everywhere. J'approve.  Incidentally, it's called Boat House because the terraces at the back have awesome rope hand rails. My bad that I forgot to take a picture, but take my word for it that it feels sufficiently deck-like to warrant the name.

 The awesome garden-ness was a lovely surprise, and provided an interesting contrast with the outside space at The Tardis. It's funny how seeing one house really makes you re-evaluate others, and for me it was interesting to realise how unhappy I am with the the outside space at The Tardis, and how important it feels for Finn to have a lovely garden to grow up in, even if it does have ALL THE STEPS. Our fitness levels would greatly benefit from living here, though, it must be said. Either that or we'd soon be installing a stairlift. Joking aside, we were hoping to have an accessible property to those with mobility issues, and this will never be that. We're doomed to constantly be trading one thing off against another; such is househunting.

We knew from the particulars that this house does not have enough rooms, no matter how we rejig things internally. Without extending, there is no way to fit in all of our basic list of requirements, but we went to look because the whole thing is within budget.  That potentially gives us the option to extend/modify a house to suit a little better, so it seemed worth a look. 

The interior was a total surprise. This house has another huge hallway, and a big sweeping staircase which I am dying to swoosh down. Much to everyone's astonishment, few of the rooms matched the sizes on the particulars, and the interior space is generally lovely. It helps that it's light, with a tonne of south-facing windows. Win all round. Everyone liked the bedrooms, which is a pretty rare moment in our house-viewing history. Cause for celebration there, methinks. There is space for a co-op office in the hallway, and a lean-to utility room/pantry in the generous side-return, if only to reduce the amount of stuff that would have to live in the kitchen.

Because unfortunately, the communal rooms are another story. To be fair, there are two great sized bathrooms, so no problem there. But the kitchen is small and surprisingly triangular - less than ideal for mass-cooking, storage and dining. There are three rooms on the ground floor, two of which would have to be bedrooms, which leaves only one communal/spare room. Although technically this could work, discussions following viewings of similarly under-endowed houses have led us to believe that it would be anything but ideal to only have one communal room. Some of us felt that this was possibly mitigated slightly by the large garden, but that feels slightly tenuous and I'm not sure any of us were totally convinced. As always, pros and cons.

 There is some extension potential (the house is already extended quite radically on one side) but at the moment we can't quite see a way to make ourselves fit. Also, it has some interesting smells/cracks which might account for it's intriguingly affordable price. Still, we all have a good feeling about it, and it has led to some interesting re-evaluation about The Tardis (more on that below). We've decided to let this house sit on the backburner for now, and to re-visit it at a later date if it still doesn't seem like a write-off. Sven has a slightly bonkers plan regarding how we could make this house work, but I am saving it for a later blog-post as we need to get more information. Mysterious!


In related news, we tried to book another viewing for The Tardis, but were heartily put off by the estate agent. It looks like it is not going to be on the market for a while, and so he is reluctant to show us around. Doom biscuits all round. We're still considering it though, and at the very least, it does provide a good contrast property for anything else we look at.


Secondary Rules Progress

We've been working on these for quite some time. I don't know how long, it feels like forever. We are making progress though, yes indeedy. It's just the slow, consensual type of progress which we are becoming accustomed to on our journey as a co-op. I meant to type up a list of all the things we are aiming to have secondary rules for, but Finn has just woken up, so I shall instead give you some quick examples: income, children, bills, visitors, joining/leaving and grievance procedures, rents, bills, decorating, pets - the list goes on. We even have Rule 7 (disappointingly our particular Rule 7 is only the third definition on Urban Dictionary) to cover pretty much all eventualities that we don't manage to cover in the myriad of other rules.

This might seem like dramatic overkill, but we think it's an important way to shape the culture of the co-op. Radical Routes thinks that they are important too, and having a set of secondary rules, however simple or complex, is a requirement of membership. Respect and common sense come from peoples' behaviour, but it doesn't hurt to have something to point at when something doesn't quite feel right to the rest of the co-op. Agreeing these things while we are all on great terms with each other is also better than trying to thrash them out when there's a emotive issue on the table.

The secondary rules also serve as a good way of outlining what living in our co-op will be like, both for ourselves and for future potential members. When they're done, we will also post them on the blog so that you can have a nosey at them in all their verbose glory. For now, have a gander at these from Mary Ann Johnson Housing Co-op and Rhizome Housing Co-op to get an idea of what we're up to.

- Hannah 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

We're back. Sort of.

Hello lovely people!

As Lotte so brilliantly told you in their prior post, we have been away in fields in various places across the country. This has included adventures to Earth First camp, Dance Camp Wales, Women In Tune and the Radical Routes Summer gathering, to plug but a few. We're all glad to be back in our own beds.

And they're still the same beds, because we still don't have a new house yet. Sad times indeed. The search continues, and so do various other machinations of the co-op process. We have another secondary rules workshop (click here to see the secondary rules of an established housing co-op) planned for next week. We also have a repeat viewing of The Tardis and a viewing of another interesting property on the cards next week, so we're not just sitting here twiddling our thumbs. Well, we're managing to squeeze that in too.

We had our first meeting in quite a while this evening, and although it was slightly fraught (tense issues were discussed), we slipped back into consensus decision-making and honest discussion in a way which felt affirming and brilliantly familiar. For those of you with a dread of meetings, I cannot recommend consensus techniques enough. I miss them when I'm in meetings where they're not used. Go and have a read about them, and see if they could make your meetings less arduous.

Right, I'm off to be a Viking for the weekend with this shady lot. Although I'd like to think that swapping modern society for a societal structure from a thousand years ago counts as radical social change, I have to admit that really, I just like dressing up.

We'll post soon about our house viewings and progress on the secondary rules. Fun times, even if we don't have new beds yet.

- Hannah 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

*honkshu* (by Lotte)

Our co-op is slightly on hold a little bit. Due to festival season (commonly known as Summer in colloquial language), and therefore many of our members being in fields in far distant lands, sometimes as far as England, it is difficult to be looking around houses. Especially Tardis houses that are technically not at all for sale.

I can assure you that we are not completely asleep, though. I don't feel able to speak for the others, but for me, I am mostly banging on with the gender activism. My latest exciting thing is convincing the UK Deed Poll Service to offer a gender-neutral title on their documents, thus convincing hopefully many more organisations and companies that genderqueer people do exist and won't accept Miss or Mr or whatever.

I also somehow ended up in Lesbilicious.

Leave a comment if you want a signed photo, people.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Starting as we mean to go on...

We have already written the bulk of our secondary rules, and the gist of most of them is that it is the co-op's responsibility to help and encourage it's members to be socially aware and responsible people. Part of this means finding ways to help each other to get involved in things we may find challenging - whether that be doing the co-op's accounts or attending a demonstration - rather than admonishing people for not taking part.

Today this manifested as us going on a picnic in order to discuss the concept of social change. A tricky subject, and thus best accompanied by a tasty lunch and a nice view. As members of Radical Routes (RR) we have promised to be involved in radical social change, but what this really means is a hot topic of debate both within RR and our own co-op. Personally I feel like I have an understanding of the concept of social change, but one person's radicalism is another person's every day, and arriving at a working definition is fraught with difficulty.

To try to work out what radical social change means to us, and how we can help each other to do more of it, we took ourselves up to Rosehill Quarry, assembled lunch on a bench and tried to get our heads around the matter. We used one of our favourite meeting tools - the go-round - to find out what it is that interests us as a group. Queer issues were at the forefront, closely followed by environmental ones. Parenting also got a look-in. We pondered whether our aims involving these things were radical, how we might support each other in campaigning on these fronts, and what we could work on as a group to provide a focus to our activities.

What struck me about these discussions was that they come from a solid foundation of wanting to support each other in our own interests. We thought through ways to use the co-op structure as a basis for forming a wider group, and devised ways in which to lend weight to each others' plans.

Predictably, some of these plans involve cake.

What we end up doing is still open to discussion, but we have ideas, and know that we will have others to help us. We each stated what we were prepared to do, and we have a full spectrum from letter-writers to those keen on more direct action. Change takes all sorts.

Sometimes I think about the notion of the housing co-op, and it seems like a lot of work for somewhere to live. I already have somewhere to live, and so does everyone else in the co-op. We could stay where we are and save a lot of time spent in meetings. But in the short time we have existed, and without us at any point owning a house or even all living in one place, we have already become much more than just a group of housemates. We cook and buy food together, share childcare, help each other with all manner of projects. We are learning about consensus decision-making, non-violent communication, and the compromises and strength that co-operation brings.

Having the co-op as a focus enables us to do far more than just dream of living in a non-landlord-controlled property. I don't know if any of this counts as radical, but our society would certainly be changed for the better if we were more able to share, work together and resolve issues peacefully.

As a rather over-used, but still true, Gandhi quote goes: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world".


Hannah

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

House Viewing: The Tardis and Labyrinth

Since Mould Mansion we have not had a house to view which in any way fitted our size/price criteria. We've been to look at some nonetheless, but always with the knowledge of their inappropriateness in the backs of our minds. Sad times, indeed.

The other day Finn and I had a borrowed baby sling to try out, and so we went on a trawl of the estate agents to see if there was anything interesting about. We drew a blank, but a few hours later one of the agents rang saying he had a house that had just come on that would suit, and that the owners lived in the same street and were thinking of selling their house too, and did we want the particulars?

Er, yes!

When they came through they were incomplete, but very intriguing. Both houses are within our price range, and have enough rooms and random bits of space for communal good times as well. In fact, there seemed to be far too many rooms for what look, from the front, like quite narrow terraced houses. Oh yes, and one of them has a first floor conservatory, too. Random.

And so, today we embarked on a very exciting house viewing of these two properties; the Tardis, and Labyrinth.

First, The Tardis*.  This house looks a little different to others on the street, both inside and out. The owner has had great fun moving walls about inside, creating an awesomely wide and light hallway. There are 7 bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, 3 bathrooms and an awesome basement with two windows. It also has a small garden, conservatory, a sun terrace on the second floor, and a large study area on the landing. The basement is enormous, and gets extra points for being the only one I've ever been in that doesn't stink of damp. In fact, it didn't smell at all - and neither did the rest of the house. A house in Swansea with no visible/smellable damp? You can imagine how impressed we were.

This house is different to others we've looked at on many levels. For one, it appears to have been reasonably well-loved and looked after. The owner seemed quite proud of it, and he didn't seem like a blagger, which made a nice change. The house felt; well, it felt like a home, and that is something I know our house will feel like. It was hard not to like it. It doesn't have any massive bedrooms or any teeny tiny ones. We'd all get an OK-ish amount of personal space, and lots and lots of varied communal space. Whether this suits everyone is still up for discussion.

We next went down the road to Labyrinth. Despite their similar size and location, the two houses couldn't have felt more different. Labyrinth has been HMOdified**, which is to say that every door is a fire door and thus shut all the time, that there are numerous extra internal walls making even large spaces feel small and boxy, and that the kitchen smelt weird. Such is the way of the HMO. 

It's currently split into two flats, with the bottom flat having a huge living room, small kitchen and bathroom in the basement, and then 3 bedrooms on the ground floor. The top flat has 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom, and a living room. The room sizes are more varied here, but there weren't any absurdly small rooms, just some a little smaller than we'd like. There was a bigger garden here, but no other extraneous areas.

Were we to live here, we'd have the whole ground floor as communal space, which would be awesome. In The Tardis the space is more split up into different areas, but there's also more of it. It's so hard to work out which is more important sometimes, but such is the way of buying houses. We are always trying to think of what will work best for the long-term of the co-op, and that does mean making tricky judgements.

After the viewing we went back to Cassian's for a debrief/squeebrief***. This involved, amongst other things, deciding the houses' names (for bloggity purposes) and determining that choosing between them was somewhat akin to a fight between David Tennant and David Bowie. Cue rubbish artwork.



Less importantly, rough floor plans were drawn and pros and cons debated, and it turns out that we see merit in them both. We're going to go for second viewings, and try to get more detailed measurements for The Tardis, which had some hilariously inaccurate ones in the particulars. We're going to do some investigating of market values, and re-work the business plan to see how it goes with both houses. We're going to have a meeting; the first of many, if we decide to go for one or the other.

As Joe so pointedly said, here we go again.

Hannah




* It's not only named for the TARDIS because it's bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside, but also that if you painted it blue, it would have a slight similarity. Honest.
** I made this word up today, and had to use it :)
*** Another word I made up today. Clearly I'm on a roll.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

MOVING HOUSE MAKE HULK SMASH ANGRY

So, I am moving house again, for will be the 4th time in just over 2 years. This makes me sad.

Artists impression of the Author.

Mattie! I hear you cry, what does this have to do with us? We are here to read whimsical exposition on mould and Babies, not hear you whinge about your personal housing situation! Well PAH! I tell you. This is about social inequality, unstable housing and the benefits of stable, mutually organised housing managed by tennants. So there. Listen to my whinging, oh invisible audience.


The situation is this.
Well, are you?


My current landlord has issued myself and my 2 housemates 2 months notice to scarper and find somewhere new. In a way this is nice, because in all my 8 months of living there I have <ILLEGALITY WARNING> not been on the contract. While partly because of disorganisation, mostly this is because I cannot find £160 of non refundable 'going on the contract' money.  The only housing security I have had is that my housemate is awesome and not some form of baddie.

My housemate - Not Skeletor


Swansea has very odd HMO rules that mean that should you want to live anywhere near anything ever you have to be less than two households. Otherwise HMO housing. Lovely, expensive student housing, in short. So far, the estate agents that we have spoken to have either said 'no, we don't do small HMO properties', 'we have houses but they're filthy' or 'we have a good house, but you'll have to pretend that there are less of you than there are'.

Due to being on 16 hours a week I will have to claim housing benefit. This means that upon moving into the next house I will need to pay contract fees and a bond. For living in a house.  How demanding am I.


Not this demanding though, God kids!


Now, this may just be me, but as a bond round here can be up to and beyond £300, contract fees £160 and a months rent around £180-250 before bill seems a bit steep for somewhere to live. You know, living, that thing that people do.

Start a housing co-op, take over the rental market. Make sure that I am part of the last generation that haemorrhages money it doesn't have into private pockets for the privilage of a roof and 4 walls.

But of course, private rental landlords, follow the advice below.

.
Bad Advice Chimps





Monday, 23 May 2011

Being the Change (by Lotte/Cassian)


In light of recent discussions at Radical Routes, the definition itself of "Radical Social Change" has come into question. Since I feel like a bit of a freak, and not for want of trying to be otherwise, I thought I'd pop in and say a little bit about my radical social change at the moment. (To recap: as members of Radical Routes we're required to do 16 hours of radical social change per week.)

The thing is, I don't really feel like I have a choice. (Technically I do, in that I could just lie back and stop trying to have basic rights, but there we are.)

I'm genderqueer. I feel a bit weird saying it out loud even now! Everyone has a different definition of this word, but for me it means that I feel like I don't have a gender at all. My preferred pronoun for myself is singular "they/them" and I'm happy with anything that's not he, she or it. Don't get me started on a genderqueer wardrobe when you're committed to secondhand clothing, you're on benefits and you've got a chronic illness that prevents shopping.

I did a Google image search for "Queer bra" to break up
the enormous block of text that is this post.
This is my favourite of the results.
No, I don't understand either. Why are they lying on a car?

So, all that is fine. Having worked out yet another thing that is freaky about myself, I feel relieved for having worked it out. But when people say things like this are a choice, I want to stab them with forks (perhaps a Genderfork?). And when people imply that I would want to choose it in order to be difficult, I want to stab them with rusty forks. To do so may count as social change, and on their part it may count as suicide to disrespect me in this way, but despite these motivations I hold back. I think time spent not stabbing people with rusty forks maybe should count towards my social change.

People who're out and proud speak of coming out as being not one big event, but as infinite smaller ones. The same is true of being genderqueer, only more so, because I have to come out to many people more than once. I'm female assigned at birth (FAAB, dahling), and basically look (at the moment) like a tomboy. I'm really trying to look less like a woman, but most people don't realise that there's anything aside from man and woman. Upon meeting anyone I'll be seeing often, or who needs to know these things, I will explain that I'm not a woman but I'm not a man either. I will explain the pronouns, and about not using "she." My new acquaintance will appear to understand and be sympathetic. Some time later, unless the person is queer-savvy or particularly thoughtful and respectful, they will use "she" or refer to me by my feminine birth name.

My bank insists on me having a gendered title on record and on all correspondence. Don't you think it's strange that there's one title for men, three titles for women dependent on marital status, i.e.: relation to a man, but NONE at all for people whose gender is unclear? In written communication, that seems pretty lax to me. I have asked to change my name from GenderedName to Cassian Lotte, but they refuse because I want either the title Misc or no title at all. (Edited later to add: They've now changed my name, and this is some kind of awesome stuff they say about titles.)

When I go to a restaurant or cafe, chances are there won't be bathroom facilities I can use unless I want to wave the disabled card. Underwear for FAAB people assumes that I want breasts to be big and obvious, or at least supported, but I want mine to be not there at all. (I had to spend a lot of money on a chest-binder from overseas.)

For something like gender that's so basic to human life and yet irrationally has so much meaning, every moment of my life is radical. Every time someone makes an assumption about me I am committing an act of radical social change to speak up and be myself. Why yes, you're right, I do have a vagina. What does that have to do with what we're talking about? Oh, I see, it means that the clothing I buy, the TV shows I watch, the people I fall in love with and the food I eat is affected by my vagina. Thanks, I'm glad you let me know, because here was me ignoring my vagina in my day-to-day life. And now I can tell people about my genitals through the act of dressing, watching TV, falling in love and eating. How kind of you to tell me over and over again when we've only known each other for five minutes.

Fortunately, there is a bright side.

The phone rings. It seems to be a telemarketer.
Me: "Hello?"
Them: "Hello, is this the lady of the house?"
Me: "Not exactly. Who's speaking, please?"
Them: "Is your mother or father in?"
Me: "I'm 24, I live alone. Who is this, please?"
Them: "Could I speak to the lady or the man of the house please?"
Me: "There are no men or women living here. WHO IS THIS?"
*beeeeeeeep* as they hang up.

I'm accosted in the street by a Christian who wants to talk to me about God.
Them: "Come into this church and listen to my talk! You'd be very welcome."
Me: "Thanks for the offer, but I am Pagan and very happy in my faith! I hope the talk goes well, though."
Them: "Even more reason to come on in!"
Me: "Well, I'm not exactly resistant to hearing what other people have to say, but why not give me a bit of an overview before I head in, so I can decide if it's something I might like to hear?"
Them: "Okay! Well, finding a common ground might help. Do you feel that there are some things, some acts, that are fundamentally immoral?"
Me: "No, I think we as human beings ascribe morality to meaningless acts."
Them: "But there are things that everyone can agree are wrong. Take, for example, adultery."
Me: "I'm polyamorous."
Them: "But that's deceit!"
Me: "No, I'm very honest in my relationships. A basic part of polyamory is the idea that everyone understands what's going on and everyone is consenting. There's no deceit. You could argue that there's less cheating than in monogamy, though that's not always true."
Them: "But you must, in your lifestyle, feel that sleeping with two people is dishonest, and you can never truly love someone and be happy."
Me: "You can, but for the most part that doesn't apply to me. I'm asexual."
Them (with anger/disbelief): "So you're polyamorous and you don't have sex??"
Me: "My sex life is none of your business, but for asexuals in general, relationships are very much not at all about sex."
Them: "Hang on, talk to this man about religion."
They then refer me to someone who proceeds to tell me that I am doing everything wrong and I am wrong as a person, that I shouldn't want to be the way I am naturally, that I can change who I am, and that his entire way of life is correct and right and good because he believes it is and that makes it true.

It feels like a battle, but it's one I'm happy to fight, because it's harder and more painful to pretend to be a straight, sexual, monogamous woman.

Edited to add:
I was joking earlier at Golem HQ about how this post is a block of text that needs pictures, so I added the photo above that I found on Google Image Search for "queer bra" - it was my favourite result. :D However, I also found this excellent Autostraddle article on buying bras when you're a great big queer. I thought you should know.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

HMO Progress. Hmogress?

A small update on the campaign by Friendly Housing Action to fix the Housing Act and make it so that fully mutual co-ops don't need to have HMO licenses. Basically the good news is that the government has yet again admitted that co-ops should be exempt, and that it intends to fix the issue. They don't want to open up any unintentional loopholes in the law for other types of landlord/organisation though, so further advice is going to be sought about how to word it, etc. Although this doesn't mean the battle is over, as I imagine a tremendous number of small, yet important, things slip through the cracks at Westminster, it is a significant achievement and Friendly Housing Action deserve a massive round of applause for their work.

Full text from Hansard*:

"Andrew Stunell: My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr
Leech) has tabled new clause 26, which relates to a specific situation for
fully mutual housing co-operatives. By a quirk of the legislation, they are
caught by the houses in multiple occupation requirement for licensing and,
sometimes, planning permission. The Department has been lobbied by the
Friendly Housing Action campaign group to secure an exemption for fully
mutual housing co-operatives, and I am very sympathetic to the campaign, as
such organisations were never intended to be caught by the licensing
provisions.

We have to be careful to ensure that in granting an exemption we do not
inadvertently allow other categories to slip through the loophole, so I am
asking for further advice on how we might achieve that. I hope to return to
the issue at a later stage, so I hope that my hon. Friends will not feel the
need to press new clause 26 to a Division. "

This is a signifiant step forward for the campaign. However, we now need to
carefully manage the passage of the amendment through the Lords. We should
probably hold a meeting during the next gathering to work through this.


* I'm hoping to get a video of this glorious moment, which I will embed as soon as I have it.

Monday, 16 May 2011

How To Buy a House

So far, we are nowhere near being experts at this. In fact, none of us have ever bought one, and although it feels like we've been close, there are no doubt an enormous number of other doomful things which we will encounter next time. Still, in the spirit of encouraging, informing and inspiring the formation of other housing co-ops, we thought we'd share the Golem Guide to How To Buy a House - or at least, How To Get a Bit Closer To Buying a House Than You Probably Are Now.

Snappy titles are not my thing :)

1. Try to give yourself more than three weeks for the process. We can honestly tell you, from our highly-frazzled experience, that house-buying is a lengthy endeavour. Everything will take longer than you expect, even if you over-exagerate your expectations. The universe knows, and will alter the amount of time things take. That's how timey-wimey works.

2. All situations are open to change, often at short notice. In fact, situations WILL change. Accept it, and try to remain flexible.

3. Make friends with any trades people that you can. Find builders, glaziers, plumbers, electricians and gas engineers (you might be surprised to find that you already know people who fit the bill - we were) who are happy to come and look at things for free, and if you find a house you like, take them along. We were really lucky to form some good contacts during the Mould Mansion saga, and will be revisiting these relationships when we next find somewhere we like. All of this free advice is still not as awesome/legally important/project-nixing as a survey, but it will give you a better idea of the property before deciding whether to fork out for one.

4. Temper your enthusiasm, yet be enthusiastic. We wouldn't pretend that we have got the balance right within our co-op, but there is clearly a balance to be sought. Downright pessimism does no-one any favours (after all, you have to have a bit of optimism to be a group of low-income people trying to buy a house in an over-inflated property market) but neither does raging optimism, fun though it is.

5. Surveys are worth the money. Also, they're fascinating. We learnt so much about MM from the survey, and most of it is applicable to all the Victorian housing stock in Swansea. There isn't much over-estimating how useful a survey is to a group of people without a huge reserve of cash sitting in the bank. If we had bought MM, we would have at least known all the major flaws of the property. No big surprises can only be a good thing, although still expect lots of little ones.

6. Get a valuation before doing your survey if you can. Basically these two things both cost hundreds of pounds each. The valuation was what thwarted our hopes of buying MM, and because of time restraints, we'd done it after all the other stuff, including the survey. If your mortgage company won't lend you anywhere near the asking price for the house, move on to pastures new. Or haggle.

7. Once you've discovered that you can actually purloin the funds for the house, get a survey and write a proper business plan. We have worked out a basic budget for what we can afford, knowing in advance what the maximum rent is that we can charge. There's a lot of fine tuning to be done in business plans, but if you can't get an appropriately sized mortgage in the first place, save yourself some time. This is also where your awesome survey comes in. There might be some surprises that need to be accomodated in the business plan, but you can get quotes and include them before submitting everything to your mortgage company. This should hopefully lead to annoying them less and saving you a lot of work. That's what we're hoping for next time, anyway.

8. Look after each other. Primarily we failed on this front by letting individuals take on major jobs with no back up. One person was responsible for all the mortgage company contact, another for all the number-crunching, another for getting all the quotes. Although we did a brilliant job of comunicating with each other, this did mean that if, for instance, the business plan person was ill, or knackered and unable to eloquently explain the finer points of day one work and it's effects on rents, we were all scuppered. Having a second person involved in each task means no one is carrying the entire weight of something. Since we're a co-operative, we're meant to be co-operating, but it's easy to forget when there's so much to be done.

9. Eat cake. Socialise with each other even when there's lots of work to do. Insert lots of innuendo into your meetings (hurrr!). Feel free to stop the entire process at any point if it's all becoming too much. Eat more cake. Look after yourselves and each other, and no matter whether you have a house or not, you will still be improving the net amount of co-operation on the planet, and that can only be a good thing.

So there we are, How To Buy a House from the beleagered mind of someone who has never bought one. This might all be tosh, but our hope when starting this blog was to provide something so that other fledgling co-ops and interested parties can see what a daft, frustrating, awesome experience being a housing co-op can be. We're taking you along for the ride, and that includes all the bits we know nothing about. Everyone has to start somewhere, after all.

If you're interested in doing similar, or are already doing it, or like the idea, or have any good cake recipes to share, then please get in touch.

Hannah

Thursday, 5 May 2011

"BLEEEEUUUUUURRRRR" TO AV!


AV is so sensible, even six month old babies can do it. Admittedly, the urinal booths are still a little bit high up for Finn's leetle leggies even on his second voting mission, but he still had fun and found the whole situation laughable. I.e.: Why do we even need to discuss this? The solution is clear.

When interviewed about whether or not he thought AV was a good solution, six-month-old Finn from Swansea said, "Bleeeeuuuuuuurrrrrr!" Professional translators agree that he is heartily in favour of AV.

"Although I don't think AV goes far enough, there isn't an option on the card which says, 'I'm voting no because AV isn't good enough.' Since a 'no' vote would be a field day for the Tories, I'm voting 'yes.' It is ironic that in order to avoid helping the Tories we have to vote tactically," says Hannah, Finn's mother, 29-year-old brunette from Swansea.

His uncle made this video, and you should watch it.



He also made this, which is lolarious.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

House Viewing: Igor-To-Sell

Another quick house viewing post, and I promise it's not an exciting one. In the period of gloom between giving up on Mould Mansion and the auction, Sven spotted Igor-To-Sell on Rightmove. It turns out Lotte had seen it before, but we'd not been keen to see it as it was over our budget and doesn't have much garden to speak of. Still, we needed cheering up and you never know what lies behind the front door of a property, so we decided to give it a look. The estate agent described the vendor as "eager to sell". This bit is important later.

Bless the man showing it to us (the eponymous Igor), he was a very good guide around the property, and to be fair, it was quite nice (in places). It's actually owned by a company of some sort, who currently let it out (and please bear in mind that it's a 6 bedroom house and one bedroom flat) to one woman, because it doesn't meet the HMO regulations. They currently use the downstairs flat to store more tea towels than I've ever seen in my life. That bit never got explained. Neither did the fact that the estate agent hadn't mentioned the attached double garage which doesn't come with the property, even though they share a flat roof.

Hmm.

Size-wise it was fine, but it had no garden and was too expensive for us. On top of that, it's not for sale.

Say what?

Yep. On the way out Igor told us that, bemusing though he found it, his mad scientist masters had put the house on the market to "test the water". They're actually in the process of getting quotes to turn it into either a HMO or self-contained flats. It was only put on the market (and at what seems to us an over-inflated price) to see if they could get silly money for it.

Eager to sell, indeed.

This seems to me to highlight, rather neatly, yet more of the foibles of property as a speculative commodity. In order to see if they could squeeze unreasonable money out of someone, on their way to squeezing a lovely rental profit out of some other people, this company has told the current tenant that they might have to leave at any time. Her housing situation is insecure in either case because some distant company, apparently against the advice of their local Igor, wants to make as much money as possible. Because of their unwillingness to spend money to upgrade the property, a 7 bedroom property in a popular (and expensive to rent in) area has been occupied by only one tenant. Something is wrong here.

I cannot wait until we have a co-op house, and can hopefully inspire there to be another housing co-op in Swansea. And another. And another, ad infinitum.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A picture says 1,000 words.

Or in this case, 155,000 words.





Find more artists like Cradle Of Filth at Myspace Music


PS: The awesome lady on the left is Molly, musical genius.

Edited to add:

Auctiontimez (by Lotte)

So, a couple of us are off to the house auction where Mould Mansion will probably be sold, in about half an hour. In the highly unlikely event that it doesn't sell, I will post in about 2 hours with many CAPS and excited exclamation marks, because that's the only situation in which we have a tiny chance of getting the place.

However, if I reset the blog layout to have lots of black and crows and skeletons on it, the house sold for far too much money and I'm highly depressed and listening to Cradle of Filth. My hair and fingernails are probably also black.

NB: We're all coming to terms with the fact that Mould Mansion isn't right for us, so neither of these things happen, it's because the house sold to some other bugger and I'm too lazy to whine about it on the internets.

Monday, 18 April 2011

House Viewing: Rebound House and Liberties Lodge

Two quick updates about house viewings we have had in the last few days. I'm afraid there are no pictures as both houses are occupied, and although this means you often get to nose about in other people's book collections, it also means you can't take photos and post them on the tubes. Sad times.

Anyway, these were both unsuitable - on paper and in reality - but they did remind us that there are more houses in the world and that we will find one soon, honest. Rebound House (I couldn't think of a pithier name) was a reasonably bog standard Swansea terrace. Three stories high, split into 3 flats and currently a HMO, it was one of the nicer versions of rented accommodation to be seen locally. This lack of mange was reflected in the price tag, unfortunately, but had it been gorgeous we could possibly have stretched to it.

Alas, a thorough look round led us to the inevitable conclusion that it just isn't big enough for us at present, let alone having any space to expand. Biscuits of doom. The undeniably keen estate agent seemed to enjoy telling us that we could never possibly get a house to fit us in the area, and we'd have to settle for something smaller. Alas, we know this not to be the case, and I'm afraid I went home wishing that Mould Mansion could somehow be ours, yet again.

 Liberties Lodge is called that because the vendor is, quite frankly, taking liberties. This was a strange house for us. Set in (what appeared to be) large grounds approximately 5 miles out of Swansea, it's an ex care home with 16 bed rooms. These are all rented out, although they share only one kitchen, but because it's out of town and only on two storeys it is exempt from HMO legislation. Nice.

Although there were a ridiculous number of rooms and a surfeit of conservatories, there was also a smell of mildew, little natural light, and the Strange Case of The Missing Garden. The vendor also owns the property next door, and her drive runs through the garden of the Lodge. She has, in her wisdom, decided to keep the driveway (not unreasonable) and all the garden on the other side of it. Essentially Liberties Lodge sits on the little island of it's own garden, marooned in a sea of someone else's. Bizarre. I hope she finds someone who's not keen on gardening to buy this place from her, but it clearly won't be us.

A couple of us are going to the auction on Wednesday to see what Mould Mansion goes for. This might be slightly torturous, but I can't resist my own morbid curiosity to see what might have been. And of course, it may not even sell. Hope springs eternal, eh?

And in the meantime, the search continues, so if anyone happens to find a 7 or 8 bedroom house down the back of the sofa, please do let us know.

Hannah

Friday, 15 April 2011

Moulder and Wiser

Dear readers, I am gutted to let you know that we have had to abandon the quest for Mould Mansion.

I can't pretend this is a post I'm pleased to write, but I will be doing my best to focus on the positive. Frankly, there's nothing else for it. After the most frenetic period of activity in the year long history of Golem Housing Co-op, we had a meeting last night to formally agree that we could not realistically go to the auction for Mould Mansion. The mood was curiously upbeat, which I suspect was mostly down to the relief of finally knowing something for certain after so many weeks of uncertainty. It's just a shame that the certainty was that we are likely to remain an un-housed co-op for some time.

To re-cap, Sven spotted the magnificent mouldering edifice that is MM on Rightmove some while back. Some of us were keen, others less so. Why was the start price so low? Did we really want to deal with the vagaries of the auction process? Could we possibly ever afford such a large house? A viewing was arranged for those of us keen to have a closer look, and we duly saw that though undeniably mouldy, it was (spacially, at the very least) the perfect house for us.

Excitement set in and a second viewing was arranged. Could we, dare we go for it? More viewings and more discussion led to the unavoidable conclusion that we had to try, and so off we embarked on the incredible rigmarole that is attempting to buy a house.

And this is where the process defeated us, for at the end of the day, for all of our enthusiasm and determination, we cannot manufacture time. Quotes take time, valuations and surveys take time, finding investors takes time, and fitting all of these things into a workable business plan which gets approved by mortgage companies all takes precious time, which, in the end, we did not have. With a normal house sale there would be time to do these things consecutively, but with the auction deadline looming, we were forced to do them all at once.

Clearly, this approach did not work, but I feel proud that we tried, and amazed at how much we have learned in so short a time.

Focusing on the positive, (which I promised I would do), we all now have a clearer idea of the complexities of the house-buying process, and it's pitfalls. We have built relationships with surveyors, builders and trades people of all sorts, solicitors, guarantors and investors which will stand us in great stead when we next see a suitable property. We have all learnt that we can push ourselves to get things done to tight deadlines, have three meetings a week and not go mad (even when two golems are at work on dissertations). On a personal level, I have learnt more about damp and insulation than I, for one, ever expected to know. I can give you a rundown of energy-saving home improvements by cost and effectiveness in a way that the geek in me is unspeakably proud of.

Most importantly, we are all still friends. We still eat together. We still fill our meetings with innuendo. We still make pots of tea and hold babies for each other when needed, and we still want to continue in the unpredictably emotional process of buying a house together, which is surely the most positive thing of all.


Onwise and Upwise

To fend off dejection and ensure that our collective thoughts remained focussed on finding a house in which we all shall live, those non-dissertationing golems amongst us will be turning our energies towards one of the major stumbling blocks we face as a co-op: The Housing Act 2004. This mighty embuggerance legislates for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). It's meant to protect tenants from unscrupulous absentee landlords, sub-standard and dangerous living conditions, and other such perils of rented accomodation.

For this, we applaud it. But our applause ends abruptly when we consider that it also applies to housing co-ops. As a co-op you are both tenant and landlord, and as such, mightily unlikely to keep yourself in sub-standard living conditions. Not only this, but certain characters at Westminster have openly admitted that housing co-ops were never meant to be included in this law. Indeed, there was meant to be an exemption for them, but somehow it got forgotten. A minor oops in bureaucratic terms rendered many co-ops illegal overnight, and the co-op movement has been trying to get this situation rectified ever since.

Some golems have already been lending their weight to a campaign by Friendly Housing Action to get an amendment made to the Housing Act, and in the pursuit of a home to call our own, we will now be working on ways to persuade Swansea Council to clarify the situation in our local area. If you're interested in the issue and want to help out, then do get in touch.

Hannah

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

The mood here at Golem HQ has been a strange one of late. After a flurry of activity, late night meetings and intense bursts of decision making, we are left to wait for other elements of the house-buying process to slowly grind into place. Completely out of our control, we can only hope that they respect our tight timescale and get a blimmin' move on.

Ahem.

This week, amongst other things, we commissioned a survey of Mould Mansion, and are awaiting the results with baited breath. 

There will undoubtedly be surprises, but rather like waiting for the MOT result on an old rust bucket of a car, it's inevitably going to be worse than imagined. You panic when the mechanic does that sharp intake of breath that only mechanics (and builders, I suspect) can do, and brace yourself for the worst. When it comes, you suddenly look at your car as though it were some death-trap on wheels which could tear itself apart from the inside at any moment, and wonder how you ever got it to the garage in one piece. How have you survived your daily travels in this perilous conveyance?

Then you take a step back, breathe deeply and realise that the car is no more dangerous than it was yesterday. The difference now is that you know that the suspension is shot, the exhaust needs welding and the head gasket is blown. You know the cause of the strange banging noise when you go around tight corners, and why you can only park on hills below a certain gradient.

None of this information makes the car more dangerous, and when you can stop panicking for long enough to appreciate it, the exhaust clears and you feel better for knowing what is wrong and how to fix it. Even if there is nothing for it but to scrap the car, the certainty can be an unfathomably welcome relief. 

This rather lengthy allegory is meant to demonstrate the atmosphere here at Golem HQ when the survey is mentioned, and how I hope it will be responded to once it is received. None of us has even been involved in this process before, and I, for one, had never expected it to be so emotionally involved as it is. And as we wait for the diagnosis of Mould Mansion's health, it is hard to stop imagining what we will do if we manage to get our mitts on it. The garden is being planned, Sven and I are getting over excited about insulation and DIY solar air heating, and Lloyd is contemplating the best places for sound proofing in his bedroom/studio. Indeed, we have to keep imagining and dreaming these things, because if we do win the Mansion at the auction, we will have only 28 days until we get the keys, and that 28 days will be a period of such intensive physical and mental activity that there will be no time for dreaming.

So, with crossed fingers and crossed toes, we wait by the letterbox for the heavy tome of the survey to arrive, and until it does, I'll be planting fruit trees against the back garden wall.

Hannah





Friday, 1 April 2011

What we are up to in our personal lives. With visual aides.

Like A level students dashing to complete their coursework on time we lunge madly at mortgage providers, builders, loan stock people and the like, collecting together the necessaries. And we're doing pretty well, all in all. So far we have worked meetings, mortgages and more meetings around babies, protests, goth nights, university, jobs and chronic ill health. We are officially awesome.

Here, for you dearest invisible audience, is a summary of what's going on in the intimate private lives of Camp Golem.

Lloyd - An artists impression
Lloyd is getting on with his second year like a ninja. He's recording with a lovely and exceptional artist called Molly for about a month soon, his manipulation of sonic waves for audible pleasure continues to amaze and entertain. The advantage of a co-op set up is that we all live together, an so all get to be the test audience. Here is a song that he and the Glorious and talented Molly made last time she alighted at the Golem Citadel.

Find more molly zacharias songs at Myspace Music

Joe, the second of the three wise men at University, is approaching the end of the 3rd year, meaning assignments all over the place. He was recognised for all his LGBT activist efforts with the 'Greatest Contribution to Liberation' award from his uni, and quite right too. He is currently cooking us a big ol' dinner, potato wedges and home made veggie burgers for >9000 people. Shame there are only 7 of us.

No cuts to the NHS!
Mattie's still meandering along with work and a reasonable pace whilst being the co-ops pet typist and paper chaser. Turns out she's pretty skilled at pestering mortgage companies daily. She's also pretty excited at an impending MRI scan (nothing too seroius, dear readers), as she's seen Tron and has decided that there's a link between the two.

Sven is at the cruddy end of a fair amount assignments, but on the bright side is off on a day trip to Tenby. Something to do with old houses, I'll find out when I get my postcard, no doubt. He's been doing a pretty incredible job of keeping the business plan in shape and generally enthusing about insulation whilst being a highly amusing Pa to young Finn. As you do.

Overlockers hate everyone
Hannah now owns an Overlocker sewing machine. We are all terrified of it, as it follows none of the usual rules of sewing machines and could easily break at ANY MOMENT. Oh noverlocker! Her enthusiasm has lead to me having new and most excellent pants, Finn having excellent bibs and the co-op having glazing quotes.

Lotte is still fully ensconced in facilitating a gender revolution, changing pronouns, educating the masses while knitting a very nifty sock yarn blanket. The work they are doing online and beyond is proving popular and they're getting quite a following. They're also still writing the rather awesome Poly in Pictures web comic, and a co-op cooking blog. Read them, they're part of your 5 a day.

Snazzy Aardvark
Finn is doing very well, he's learning to sit up and we suspect giggles may be just around the corner. He has also forged a deep and hopefully lifelong bond with Misc. Corduroy Aardvark. He is mostly unfazed by the co-op based mayhem, as he is too busy trying to eat juice cartons. An up-cycler already.



So there, that is what we are up to, with visual aides.  Normal informative service will resume soon, but until then keep safe, be seen and have a good'un.

Mattie Rose

Friday, 18 March 2011

Anarchist task-division (by Lotte)

It is ALL going on. Srsly. There are a lot of things we need to do, and we've divided the tasks up in a fabulous and apparently random way.

Back in the early days of the co-op, I was somewhat apprehensive about organising something in an anarchistic fashion. If tasks were assigned according to personal skills and enthusiasm, I thought that there'd be an unfair division of labour. Some people will be naturally more enthusiastic about helping the co-op, and some people will just sit back and let them take that work on. Perhaps some things just wouldn't get done. I thought this would annoy me, and it was one of my (few) anxieties.

However, this is so far not the case. Other people see things differently, I'm sure, but this is why I think it works so well at the moment.

Everyone in the co-op is really passionate about getting this project off the ground. Failure isn't an option! If something needs doing, someone has to do it, and so someone will volunteer. This might not always be the case, but it is now.

Also, some people in the co-op can't volunteer for much because they have a lot of work to do in their own life and/or they don't have the energy to spare. This is what I thought I'd get annoyed about, but actually, that's fine too. We all know each other well enough to know that if we can't take on much work it's because of other factors that can't be helped, and so I don't resent people who can't work. This seems to have happened without me noticing.

Even the people who don't do much still do something, and it's something essential. If it wasn't done, we'd be doomed, I tell you, dooooooooomed. Like, I'm a bit of a hermit and can't go out and about to meet people and make lots of organising phone calls, but I can learn about and understand things thoroughly and be a point of contact. So I've happily taken on the task of organising the solicitor, and if it gets more social/travelly, someone else can help me. Others are good with numbers and have attention to detail and will handle the financial aspect of things; others are good at talking and knowing who to talk to, so they're handling the people-organising. And even the people who aren't doing any of this don't worry me, as there's always plenty of varied stuff to do, and they'll find ways to help later on in the process. Even now, everyone's cooking for the co-op, and I think that helps more than we all realise.

Some people are taking on loads of stuff, because they feel able and because they're good at it; hopefully later on when we're settled in a home, be it Mould Mansion or somewhere else, they can take a well-earned break and let others keep things ticking over.

So things are a little quiet here, blogwise. But IRL, we're doing loads. We've got something co-op-related going on every day for the next three days, and that's just what we've planned so far.

It's all very exciting, and we've not even put in an offer!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Golems Are Go!

After getting to grips with posting regularly on the blog, it may seem like we went quiet on you again rather suddenly. All I can say is, we've been too busy to blog, and this week has been one of the busiest in our short history for one very good reason: we've decided to make an offer on Mould Mansion.

I'm not sure we ever thought the right house would come along, but now it has, we are having to mobilise very quickly to try and make it ours. There is so much to do, and it's at times like these that I am most accutely aware of how lucky we are to have six people sharing the work. There are quotes to obtain, appointments to make, spreadsheets to tweak, and emails and phone calls flying off in all directions. Two of the six golems are in the last few months of their degrees, with dissertations to work on and coursework to hand in. Another works full-time and is fitting all the co-op work and meetings in around the job. One has uni work and has just been offered an amazing, time-consuming, career-furthering project which will run over the next few months. My days are usually spent juggling a small baby in one hand and a basket of washing in the other. The last of us needs to rest a lot, and has to manage their time very carefully. But thankfully we can distribute the things that need to be done between us, depending on what people find the easiest to manage along with their other commitments. This is one of the many reasons that co-ops are awesome.

As part of this epic activity, we need to make sure we have the finance in place to buy the house and to make it the lovely (for which read: habitable) home we all envisage. That means knowing that if our offer is accepted we know what we need to do to fix it up, how much it will cost, and how we are going to pay for it.

And this, dear reader, is where you can get involved with this brilliant adventure.

We are looking for further loanstock, and for guarantors willing to provide a guarantee for sections of the loan we will be applying for from Radical Routes. For loanstock, you can loan anything from £500 up, and choose your own investment period (3 years plus) and interest rate (up to 4%). Further details can be found on our loanstock page. Loanstock is unsecured, but co-ops are typically a very safe investment, and by investing in a co-op you will be helping to provide long-term affordable housing which no individuals can personally profit from. Ethical or what?

For guarantors, we would only need you to put your name to £1000 of our loan, and you would only be actually required to provide the money if the housing co-op failed, the house was sold and it's sale price did not cover our outstanding debts (thankfully a rare occurrence, and an even rarer one for co-ops which are part of Radical Routes). You can offer to guarantee more than this if you wish, though to guarantee over £1,000 you will need to provide proof of savings. As soon as is possible we are planning to have the house revalued so that the guarantees are no longer needed, so this is more of a temporary back up so that we can get started than something we imagine being called upon. When we have raised the value of the house, your guarantee has supported us without you having to pay a penny, sothis is a fantastic way for anyone who would love to help us out but has no money to buy loanstock with to get involved. Happy times.

If you're interested in helping us out with either loanstock or a guarantee, then please contact us. We're happy to talk about it and answer your questions, and if you decide it's not for you, that's no problem at all. These are very exciting times, and if we can make an offer that is accepted by the vendor, things are only going to get more exciting. Sharing these developments on the blog is hopefully something that might get some of you more interested in co-ops, and if even one of you chooses to get more involved with the co-operative movement in whatever way, then all of our rambling has been well worth it.

That's it. Ramble over. I'm off to read more about different types of insulation, just in case;-)

Hannah

Friday, 4 March 2011

House Viewings: Hippy Haven/Mould Mansion Revisited

We had two house viewings today, topping off a busy week of co-op activity. What with three house viewings, a meeting, our usual co-op meals, a referendum and Bi-Fest Wales tomorrow, it's a wonder we've managed to keep so on top of the blog. Go us.

So, first up was Hippy Haven, a new house to us, and one which we already had a good idea wasn't suitable from dissecting the particulars. It was, however, considerably under our budget, and so we went to see it with a view to assessing the potential for extension.

This house is vendor-occupied, so I didn't take pictures, but we did get to meet the fabulous lady who lives there currently. Essentially she's Mattie in 35 years time, which means she's awesome:-D The occupant prior to her was an Italian called Monty, who sounds like a future version of Sven, having planted in the garden, amongst other things, some grapevines, a brick pizza oven and a still.

You can tell the vendor was amazing because we know all this.

Anyway, the long, short and medium-length of it is, the house is too small for us and an extension would be possible but logistically a nightmare. I was sad that we couldn't offer to love this house, if only because the owner is so sweet and so enthusiastic about co-ops. It will be a fantastic home for someone's family, but sadly not mine.

Somewhat later in the day a small party of us revisited Mould Mansion. Sven and Lloyd had not been able to attend the first time, but the enthusiasm shown by the rest of us made a return visit inescapable. Me and Finn went along for the walk, and to have a proper nosey in the garden, and because, essentially, I couldn't resist.

Can you tell I like it?

The strange thing is that the mould downstairs was not as bad as I remembered, though I stand by my replaster-the-whole-kitchen-or-I'll-never-eat-a-thing-cooked-in-it stance. Lloyd made it clear that he approved, in his quiet way. Sven took lots of notes, in his building geeky way, and pronounced it to be not as bad as I'd made out. Some blocked gutters may be causing some of the problems, and a lot of things that need to be done could feasibly be done by us, apparently. To get a second opinion on this, we have a third visit booked on monday and are taking a builder friend along.

Can you tell we like it?

We fit into this house, and it feels like this house fits us, and we are fit to make it fit for us (!). All of which wordplay leads us to believe that we might be drumming up loanstock pledges again some time soon. Watch this space!

Hannah