A Murdoch-free zone

Wednesday September 27, 2006

I have my task for the rest of this week and for all of next week lined up, weather permitting. The patch of lank, over-grown grass that will become our back garden is to be given the full, one-bite-at-a-time treatment by an old grey poet, wielding a brand new line trimmer [some call ’em weed-whackers] bought today in the end of season sale at the Focus DIY store. Reduced still further by my old farty 10% discount it cost the princely sum of £16.86p and I shall sell it on for £10 when the job is done. Or £5 if I can’t get £10 for it.

I’m looking forward to the job. I’ve removed the scattering of weeds from the front garden and now I see it as a blank canvas on which we can paint our garden design. I want to reduce the back garden to a similar state so we can more clearly see what it’s to become when we impose our design upon that, too.

So soon as it’s under control, we shall plant the four small trees we’ve decided are to be the main leafy part of the design—a black-leaved holly, two rowans, and a silver birch. They’ll sit there happily over the winter, nestled in good organic compost and ready to leap into action in the spring. I’ll unroll the plastic slatted temporary path from the paved patio by the house to the back gate, and either discover the metal tube siting for a rotary washing line used by our predecessors or acquire a new one and position it myself. It irks me to have to dry all our washing in the tumble drier, using over-priced electricity, and I miss the job of pegging out the wash to dry.



The patch of lank, over-grown grass
that will become our back garden


So soon as he can Graham will prepare the site in the back right-hand corner for a smallish garden shed, acquire one, and erect it. That’ll enable us to shift the workshop stuff from the garage, clearing enough space so the little silver Ford can be garaged properly over the winter and thereafter. In turn, that’ll reduce the car insurance premium by about 6%, possibly more, and a properly garaged car lasts longer, too, deferring the time when I’ll need to dig out the cash to replace it.

Budgetting is very much on my mind at the moment. Moving house is an expensive business and the small cushion I maintain between monthly income and my savings account has all been used up. For the second month running I am having to watch the current account, and expenditure, very carefully to avoid needing to dip into savings. There’ll be a load of stuff to put up on eBay when we’ve fully unpacked and isolated the things we’re not going to need, or want, in the new house, and that’ll serve to replenish my cushion fund. Meantime, towards the end of the month, I’m getting to be very mean and parsimonious with cash. I’m more used to having money left over at the end of the month than I am to having month left over at the end of the money, and I plan to return to that happy state as quickly as possible.

An example of my parsimony came along today, a very happy day. We’d proceeded from Focus to Sainsbury’s, calling in at the pet food superstore on the way, and when I’d picked up our groceries I asked Graham to look at the Freeview digital TV boxes for me. The price of these has fallen to less than £30 and I was planning to buy one for the house as soon as the next pension cheque comes along. He was very impressed.

“You were right,” he said. “They really have come down in price. You’ve decided against renewing the Sky TV package, then?”

“Yup. Freeview gives me all I want or need and I like the thought of not paying a monthly subscription. Rupert Murdoch has had all he’s going to get out of me.”

“I can see the sense of that. Why don’t you put it on the plastic and get it now?”

“Oh, no. I don’t use my plastic unless I’ve got already got the cash in the bank to pay the bill at the end of the month.”

“Good man. Recipe for success, is that.”

And then, walking back along the aisle, he caught sight of another Freeview box. One with an 80 gigabyte hard disk built in for recording and time shifting. £79 it was.

“Oh, boy!” he said. “This is the one we need.”

“Can’t afford it,” I said.

“No, but I can.”

With no more ado, and brooking no argument, he grabbed a box from the display and plonked it in the trolley. “I shall pay for it when we get to the checkout,” he said.

I said my thanks, properly, there and then, but I left my “Oh, boy!” until we were back home, lunched, napped and he’d set up the new box. The Freeview digital signal is excellent here, coming from the Mendip transmitter rather than across the water from Cardiff, and gives us the full 35 or so free to view channels. I’m sure I’ll manage to handle the record side as soon as I can sit down quietly and study the instructions.

One feature is immediately obvious, though, and incredible. Picture it. You’re watching your favourite programme, or a broadcast movie, and the phone rings. Or you need to take a comfort call. Or you can’t live another second without a mug of coffee. You press ‘pause’ on the remote and the programme freezes. You go about your business and then, so soon as you’re settled again in your comfortable viewing chair, you press ‘play’. And the darned thing carries on showing the programme without a blip, just as if you had paused the DVD player. “Oh, boy!” indeed.

So our old Sky box and the satellite dish will go up on eBay, buyer to collect, and I’m all set for a winter’s happy viewing.

I doubt Rupert Murdoch will have noticed the minute reduction in his income since I cancelled the subscription after moving from Lincolnshire, and I doubt he’ll notice it now that I’ve decided finally not to renew. I shall notice it, though. I can buy food for three or four days a month on what I was paying Mr Murdoch. And it’ll be good to be living in a Murdoch-free zone once more, too.



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