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I've almost given up Christmas cards so this message is a substitute.
I notice that I've become much slower and lazier of late spending a lot of time getting very little done, though I manage to exercise my brain a little by re-reading Hardy and Wright's Introduction to the Theory of Numbers. I read most of it a year or two ago, but then I concentrated on the chapters about prime numbers and skipped quite a lot. This time I'm aiming at reading everything, and now know more than I used to about Farey series and continued fractions. I've worked out a strategy for reading Mathematics. Almost everthing is read three times; the first time to get a general idea what it's about, the second time to sort out the details and the third time as revision oprepare myself for the next bit. Each day I tackle another two or three pages. Although progress is very slow, it seems to be fairly sound.
I spend a lot of time pottering about the internet, or browsing through books, and in the mornings it takes about three hours for me to get up, breakfast, check emails and cix conferencing messages and prepare myself to face the world.
Cix Conferencing is a great boon. Older than the Internet it began as a bulletin board accessed by telephone, though it's now usually accessed by the Internet. The wonderful thing about cix is that whatever I want to discuss, I can find someone somewhere on the system who knows something about it and is prepared to discuss it, and I can even find people willing to discuss Mathematics!
I've never been and enthusiastic traveller, but these days I never travel very far. London, whither I used to day trip quite frequently, now seems rather threatening, especially the underground. It's much easier to potter around the world with Google Earth than to go to places in person; as a virtual traveller I don't have to worry about the weather, or the difficulty of finding the gents when I need one.
I've just bought a tablet computer so that I can explore the Internet anywhere in the house without having to carry my rather heavy lap top computer around - and unlike the laptop, the tablet does not get too hot to repose comfortably on my lap. The documentation is quite the worst I've ever encountered, but after pottering about for a while I came upon some more instructions in the machine itself, and discovered that holding one's finger on an icon is roughly equivalent to a right mouse click, so I can now move and copy files.
I still belong to Leicester U3A where I run the Science and Technology Group and recently started a discussion on Puzzles and Paradoxes. I also act as caretaker web master to the U3A. Someone else is about to take over the web site and make it do remarkable things that are quite beyond my conjuring abilities, but while he designs the new site, I keep the old one ticking over.
However the big thing this year has been planning a move to Market Harborough. I've already sent various people anecdotes about the move and have lazily cut and pasted material from those emails into this one, so please forgive me if you realise you've already read some of the following.
I've never been enthusiastic about living on the edge of a large city, and Leicester seems to have deteriorated since I moved here. At first I could do most of my shopping about ten minutes walk away; now I have to catch a bus into town for almost everything. Also maintaining the garden has become rather a strain. In the 1990's I established order by covering much of the ground with weed suppressing membrane and planting shrubs in holes in the membrane, but now a layer of soil has accumulated on top of the membrane, so weeds abound, and I need to remove the membrane and start again which would involve a lot of digging in heavy clay soil, and these days I can't turn more than a couple of sods without giving myself backache. So a smaller more easily controlled garden would be better.
Market Harborough is a pleasant small town, with plenty of shops, and I've been able to find a house in easy walking distance of the shopping centre. The town is only about 14 miles from Leicester, with plenty of buses and trains linking the towns, so I can still stay in touch with old friends and get to U3A meetings.
My friends Jon and Liam, who have been living with me for several years and will accompany me in the move, felt the same; I couldn't have managed it without their help and support. I find it very reassuring to have younger and energetic folk to keep an eye on me.
On 2 June I completed the purchase of a large, intriguingly rambling but very dilapidated Victorian house in Market Harborough, and have since been busy arranging its repair and redecoration. Work has been supervised. by Jon, helped by Liam. We bought a trailer so Liam can move about bulky necessities like joists, floorboards and sundry items of furniture. The trailer paid for itself when we used it to move two redundant asbestos sheets to the council disposal site. Had the council collected them we'd have been charged £450-00 + VAT.
The house is in easy walking distance of the town centre, which will make shopping much easier. There will be a spare bedroom for visitors, and the old bed settee has been given to the poor, and replaced by a two seater settee for the sitting room and a proper bed for the spare room, so when we've settled in and redecorated the spare room we should be able to accommodate visitors in reasonable comfort
Fortunately I've been a good enough saver to be able to produce the purchase price of the new place without selling the house in Leicester as it would have been impossible to move right away. Although there were two bathrooms, both baths leaked, and although one of the two kitchens could have been made to work it had very little storage space and the cupboards and work tops were dilapidated, so we consigned the whole lot, along with all the carpets, to one or another of the numerous skips we've hired.
Most rooms had to be re plastered - we found a very muscular odd job man to remove the old plaster and an obliging plasterer to replace it.
In the course of a complete re-wiring it emerged that the previous wiring was both illegal and dangerous, so I'm very glad I had it replaced.
Jon has replaced the entire floor in the front room downstairs where several joists had become detached from their proper resting places and were hanging down from the floorboards.
It's all been quite exciting, especially as the neighbours, delighted to be rid of the previous owners, have been telling us about their manifold misdeeds, including using a large outhouse as a sort of illegal bar catering for people who like to smoke while they drink. They referred to it as 'the Legless Arms', and in the old fuse box two fuses were labelled 'L Arms'. One neighbour secured a noise abatement order to quell the sounds of revelry from the Legless Arms. Another neighbour described with great relish watching an early morning raid by the police drugs squad a week or two before we moved in. A police officer who lives nearby promised to tell her colleagues that the house is now under new ownership, so surveillance is no longer necessary.
In one place what had been a large window was boarded up; apparently, during a family barbecue, one of the sons threw a brick at his father who inconsiderately ducked so the window received the impact. We've now had the window restored.
Fortunately Market Harborough is well supplied with artisans and craftsmen who are good at co-ordinating their activities. The plumber is especially obliging; when the plasterer finishes plastering a room, the plumber will drop in and replace the radiator. He's also found us a joiner to make us a new back gate,to replace all but one of the doors, and to fit the new kitchen units.
Thare is a garden of modest size at the side of the house. It was rather overgrown so we cleared it. Reconstructing it with easily managed raised beds should keep us occupied once we move in. We already have a pond liner and a little fountain, and there are lots of plants in pots in Leicester; they'll move with us to provide a bit of greenery while we sort the rest out.
I've taken a lot of photographs of the house as I found it, and they'll eventually be displayed on this site with more pictures, not yet taken, showing what we did to it, but there will be nothing to see for a while, so be patient!
There are several strange local bus services it will be interesting to explore, especially route 44 by Centrebus. It goes from Fleckney to Foxton, via Kibworth, the Langtons and Market Harborough. You need to see the route on a map fully to appreciate its eccentricity. It will be useful to have a bus service to Foxton, as Foxton locks are one of the sights of Leicestershire.
We plan to hire a van and move in the course of the week 5 to 11 January. During that period I shall be sometimes at one house, and sometimes at the other. I shall try to keep up with email during that period, but any other form of communication would be unreliable, and I may at busy times neither answer the phone nor check messages on the answering machine.