23-Aug-2015 Many Delights, Some Setbacks

Another whirlwind week has wound by.

It started with an overnight stay by Anthony John and Julia fresh from their time at Cropredy – a lovely evening watching the final version of the new folkumentary DVD that we’ve made. Even though we’ve seen this many times from the original shootings, through numerous edits, and many drafts, and many tweaks, we still love it. We watched right through before dinner, then again afterwards again with popcorn and chocolate and wine. After celebrating that we now have the definitive version we headed upstairs to the study/office to finalise the artwork – after the occasional tweak and talking to the wee small hours we retired for the night, tired but happy.

Onkyo TX-NR535Having installed a TV and soundbar and TV in the bedroom we decided to upgrade the sound to proper, full hi-fi and so the research began into which amplifier/AV receiver to buy which would have great sound, techno features such as bluetooth and wi-fi networking and wouldn’t break the bank. We settled on the Onkyo TX-NR535. Somehow this morphed into “if we can have super great sound and bluetooth and wi-fi in the bedroom setup, why not the main lounge setup too?”… so we decided to buy two (yes 2) of them… then this morphed further into “if the bedroom and lounge hi-fi will be the same, why not the TV as well? That way we only need to learn one set of controllers and buttons to press wherever we happen to be.”… yes, you guessed it… we decided to upgrade the TV as well. No research needed, we’ll buy the same one we recently bought for the bedroom and everything will match.

Panasonic-TX-50AS650BNaively, we drove into Newcastle (again feeling slightly awkward about using the blue badge for parking) and popped into our favourite hi-fi/TV/AV shop and outlined our plans. Sorry, that TV has been superseded by a supa dupa new model which naturally costs more… hmmm, we’ll need to ponder that. And the amp/receiver? Last year’s model, now superseded – the only one we have is a shop ex-display open box model (10% off the normal heavily discounted price). So we looked it over: a few scuff marks (no big deal), some stickers missing (no big deal), unfortunately no remote (huh? Surely not. Not to worry, we can probably get one for you it’ll probably cost you a tenner or so (excuse me? I’m not paying for that.). There was a bit of an impasse – on one side the store manager grumbling about stock, and we were already getting a great price anyway. Val resolutely stood her ground almost insisting that they scour their other branches for what we wanted, preferably brand new and un-opened… no madam, you don’t understand, nobody will have that in stock. But surely it’s worth trying? We are good and valued customers. Over the years we’ve spent thousands here as we always buy our gear from you.

In the end they tried ringing their biggest store (in London) – after 15 minutes of waiting there was still no answer and it was close to closing time. They promised to try the following morning and let us know the outcome. So we trudged out of the store having spent nothing and our plans dashed. Back to research and Googling all sorts of suppliers etc. Eventually we found someone advertising the Onkyo (OK more expensive), so we ordered two online and somehow their system decided we had to go to Carlisle to collect them! And, sure enough, no one had the TV we were seeking.

Next morning, still dazed and only half awake, Jimmy phoned to query why Carlisle and not Newcastle. After much hmm-ing and hah-ing they found the order… but guess what? They don’t have any in stock, but they do have this year’s replacement model at twice the price… err, no thanks, just cancel the order. So that set us back a little further, and with heavy-ish heart we headed off to St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle for the introductory session of their “Positive Steps” course. We hadn’t expected much from this as were not greatly into group sharing and therapy and that kind of thing. But the two hours flew by and we were comfortable with the presenters and the group members and we learned a lot about what the hospice offers and the multitude of staff and volunteers who work there. And, strangely enough, we’re actually looking forward to going back next week.

The following day we were visited by Lee from Homebase who had an appointment to do some measuring so that he could draw up plans for what we might want and prepare a quote for the items. Val spotted an advert in the local freebie paper that looked quite promising so we drove up to Ashington to visit the shop/showroom for yet another firm who did design, supply and fit. Although small, the showroom had some nice, good quality stuff and we talked to the chap there. As luck would have it he would be in Blyth that evening, would it be convenient for him to call? Yup, certainly… and he did. He measured and looked and checked what we wanted, made a couple of alternative suggestions, gave us a ball-park figure and we arranged to go back to the showroom so we could see and touch what we would be getting. So that’s another trip to Ashington on Monday.

Homebase-showerCome Friday we headed back to Homebase for the materials quote (which was quite reasonable, the 3D printout of how it might look (not bad at all) and to talk about what would happen next. AS it’s not a full bathroom installation (only a bath out and shower in) they couldn’t do it all in house and we would have to make a single call to their recommended installers to get them to come out and quote for installation. Hmmm… not ideal, but the least we could was ring them and find out what’s what. Oh no madam, you must have it wrong. We only do like for like work – bath out, bath in or shower out, shower in… otherwise it’s extra work and that might be difficult. So we called Lee and told him the sorry tale. He said to leave it to him and he sort it out as there must be some mistake.

While waiting for a call back Val rang the hi-fi shop – yes madam, we have two unopened boxes with Reserved stickers on them. Great!!! We’ll pop in later today and collect them. But first, off to Mike and Hazel’s for a bite to eat and a chance to chill out together. While we were driving to Mike and Hazel’s we got a call from Lee at Homebase… not good news, the partial fitting team were correct and would not be persuaded, and the in-house team manager would not be moved either, so our only option would be to purchase the items and arrange the whole installation ourselves… oh bummer, what a let down. We went to them because they advertised what we thought was a design, supply and fit all under the same umbrella so to speak. Ah well, they may just lose our business, and we can’t be the only people who feel that way.

It was a lovely afternoon, the sun was shining, and we decided to sit out in the garden. And a lovely time we had too – delicious nibbles and our favourite cheese too – unfortunately Jimmy can’t take the lovely strong ginger wine that is Hazel’s speciality so he had to decline and have orange juice instead. But that was perfect in shade of the trees and an ever so light breeze blowing. Hazel had baked a cake especially and it was a delicious way to wind up the al fresco session where we chatted and laughed and didn’t put the world to rights. We talked a bit about Jimmy’s cancer, not in a negative way but more about the way it has changed our philosophy somewhat and how we’re able to appreciate the good things that perhaps many of us take for granted in our everyday lives. Thanks guys, it was a joy to spend that time together – the next one is definitely on us.

There was still time to pop into Newcastle before shop closing times. First stop was Guitar Guitar – no we weren’t looking for yet another guitar, we just wanted to pop in and say thank you for exceptional service and the stunning Taylor PS14CE that we’d recently bought from them as a birthday present for Val. We asked how we could officially leave feedback so that not only the public but also the powers that be could hear about our great experience with the store and all the staff. Jon, the manager, was probably quite embarrassed by our forthright enthusiasm but was obviously pleased to hear it. And isn’t it nice for us to be able to spread a bit of good cheer where we can? Then we popped into the hi-fi shop to pick up our matching Onkyos and also purchased the supa dupa telly too – what the hell, it’s only money, and you can’t take it with you. Spend it on what you enjoy and be happy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing, and it feels great and liberating.

So Friday evening was spent removing the TV and hi-fi amp/receiver and installing the new gear and setting up most of the bells and whistles. Between us we managed to get everything in the lounge working to our satisfaction and wow! We love it – we thought what we had before was really good, but the new setup surpasses even that. It looks great and sounds great too. The only thing we haven’t looked into yet is the voice control feature – my, that will be fun. Wonder if it will understand our accents? But perhaps more amazing than the actual gear and sound is the fact that a fortnight ago Jimmy would have been unable to even contemplate lifting the boxes into or out of the car, but we managed everything ourselves without struggling and straining. OK, twisting and turning and that kind of thing left us both a little tired and some minor nagging muscle pain, but you’d expect that anyway so we’re thrilled.

The bedroom hi-fi install will be a little more awkward as we have to drill holes in the wall for shelf supports and do some heavy work getting everything in place. Jimmy will have a go over the next few days, and if we can’t manage we’re sure we can count on our friends to rally round and assist. We won’t go into the search for shelves as it’s a long story about who stocks what, who does cutting, who has or more likely hasn’t stock of the exact fittings we want, etc… no, no, no… that’s almost sorted, probably just another trip to our friendly local B&Q is all that’s required.

We rounded off the week by driving to Jedburgh to see and Anthony John and Julia and present them with the 46 inch TV that had previously graced our lounge and that we had all been enjoying just a few days previously. We had a smashing picnic in the castle grounds, setting up the table with loads of goodies and beautiful views all round. Julia even played accordion for us too. Another wonderful afternoon, and one that we will remember fondly with big grins on our faces. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

On the way home we got a lovely phone call from a friend who we see very occasionally nowadays and, although driving in the borders meant we kept losing the signal, it brought it home to us very strongly how much people do care and how we are not alone and how people will be there for us in the dark times that will inevitably come at some stage. Through tear-filled eyes Jimmy declared to Val “I’m not ready to die yet, there’s a lot more to enjoy together and I plan on sticking around for all of it”.

AT-Dancing-CDToday, just before finishing this week’s blog we were visited by Allan Taylor, stopping off on his way back home after Edinburgh gigs. He brought us a very special present, recorded especially for us at Stockfisch studios – a bare, stripped back version of “Dancing On A Saturday Night”, the song he wrote as a wedding present for us back in 2009. Try, as hard as he might, Jimmy couldn’t help but cry. But that was to be expected, his emotions are everywhere right now. It was great to see Allan and catch up with his and our news and to have him play our┬ámany┬áTaylor guitars – we really are fortunate to be able to hear wonderful players who are friends playing our instruments so we get to hear close and up front the different nuances of each instrument brought alive – still very much Taylor guitars, but also very much stamped with the individuality of the players, a musical feast indeed.

And that pretty much rounds it off, a week filled with many delights, and some setbacks… life is good, and very changeable.

Health update

No real change to report, just a continuation of Jimmy being in a good place following a change to pain management and also a short term course of steroids. Eating well, feeling good and much stronger. It’s like a second wind. Let’s hope this improvement remains for some considerable time – lots of living still to do.

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