Having received a card from the middle-aged couple a few doors along, next week we're having a little soiree for the neighbours - all except Dead Bob Willis and his invisible wife, obviously. As I drive home from Homebase with a boot full of planks singing along to "Rebel Rebel" it somehow feels Christmassy and normal.
Lynda's supposed to meet me at the train station but the Stilo's out of action: some sort of steering rod calamity that will cost more to fix than we paid for the infernal thing. For about a trillisecond I consider taking a mechanic's course then remember I have better things to do. I'm not sure what, exactly, but I do.
Joy! The kitchen sink is finally installed so now we can wash our pots and clothes without resorting to the scabby old bathtub. Shame about the missing cutlery drawer - "I'll come back later," says the plumber, vaguely - but who cares when you can clean your socks without your hands resembling Brillo pads immersed in Jif?*
Continuing to work in London is disorientating: waking hours before dawn, driving along waterlogged lanes to the station where I wait for the local train to take me into Cambridge, where I make a dash for anything heading towards the city: no time for coffee or breakfast, then I look up drowsily from "Portrait of a Lady" (how did these people ever actually mate?) - and I'm back in the smoke.
One of the main reasons we left our beloved London for a tiny village no-one's ever heard of is the local primary school, which is tiny, with its own little swimming pool and straight As all down its Ofsted report. Unfortunately, although there's a place for Sean there isn't one for Emma and rather than try elsewhere we're keeping the kids home.
A few days later, I'm stuck up a step-ladder holding a drill and wondering what to do with it when our immediate neighbour trudges grimly to the door; he's around 70, with an unyielding and yet woebegone face, like a dead Bob Willis. When I put out my hand he regards it like it's a dead badger and doesn't shake.