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Everything posted by montesquieu

  1. Apologies if I've managed (as an outsider) to cut across this. I'm not really attempting to apportion blame of any kind, just noting the impact on someone like me coming in not expecting it (or at least, the scale of it). I'm sure it looks worse than it is (the violent crime numbers speak for themselves) - mentally at least I know I'm not in any real danger for the most part, and I'm sure many thousands of people go about their business every day without giving it much thought - but it is extremely off-putting if you aren't used to it. Coming back and driving around Berkshire - where the odd flag you do see carries a somewhat different set of meanings - I'm really asking myself whether I need the mental and emotional grief.
  2. Thought I'd report back on this .. was a bit of a shock to be honest. I'm not a total stranger to NI, being originally from the West of Scotland which has some of the same backdrop if thankfully a lot less of the actual bother. I've been over quite a few times in the last 40 years, from childhood holidays on the north Antrim coast, to visits to Belfast for work (in recent years, admittedly usually no more than an overnight with taxis to and from City Airport). I've been there this weekend looking at houses, which is a different kind of looking admittedly than what you see if you are over for a few meetings and drinks with colleagues or sunning yourself on holiday.. What has shocked me now I'm actually looking is the sheer number of flags, especially of the Loyalist variety, in whole areas it seems to be every lamp post and every other house. Not just in Belfast but in 'nice' areas like Bangor and even Holywood, and right up to the edges of the Malone and Lisburn Road areas. That and the bands of course, unavoidable on both Friday night and Saturday this week. The flags themselves are mainly the Union or Ulster flags but the number celebrating paramilitaries has really surprised, in these supposedly enlightened days. Of course no-one would come to NI and expect life to be free of these things and I certainly didn't. But a casual or occasional visitor such as myself could only come to the conclusion that things have gone backwards in recent years. Maybe rose tinted glasses and all that but I just don't remember so many of the damn things. They are ugly, depressing and carry an undertone of menace that sits directly opposite to the PR of a 'Norn Iron' in the midst of a transformation to something more 'normal' in a wider UK context. It's struck me quite forcibly and making me think twice about our move. I can only imagine if I had business investment to make what I'd think of it - I'd probably be right back on the plane with cheque book firmly in pocket. WTF is going on? Quick sociology lesson please! (FWIW I don't think this is necessarily the work of 'idiots' whatever the stereotype there is something deeper going on here I suspect).
  3. Interesting. When I did business with Unipart in the mid 00s they were a well run company doing well. What happened? Well it turns out Unipart Automotive was sold off, the main part of the unipart business is still going strong. From their website: We were saddened to hear that Unipart Automotive, the company we sold in 2011, has gone into administration. Recent press coverage has confused Unipart Automotive with Unipart Group. It is important to note that Unipart Group and Unipart Automotive are different companies. Unipart Automotive, the branch network which was previously known as Partco, was sold by Unipart Group to H2 Equity Partners in 2011. Unipart Group retained an equity stake, but a condition of the sale was that Unipart Group exercised no control over the business. Unipart Automotive was granted a restricted licence to use the Unipart brand on a limited range of wholesale outlets and a tightly controlled range of automotive car parts. Who bought in 2011? H2. Asset stripping w*ankers.
  4. I must say the absence of sold prices is a real pain. Is there really no way round this - no-one attempting to keep some kind of data at local level?
  5. Great thread thanks and the NINIS site looks very useful.
  6. Can't say I'm surprised I work quite a bit with MS, when you meet with them, you always get a room full, yet somehow no-one takes responsibility for getting anything done. I actually think their current product set is very good indeed (their cloud products in particular) but as a company they are seriously hard to do business with. Very disjointed. The writing is on the wall for paid software anyway, the future is in Cloud and Services - this will cause tensions with their partner organisations though.
  7. Following on from the query about the car registration: I'm looking in earnest now, coming over shortly and trying to tee up looking at some houses (though won't really be able to offer until we've sold here in Berkshire which may or may not take a while - depends on what we ask for I guess). 1) What's the deal on the rateable value figure? Sometimes it seems broadly in line with asking prices (just slightly under) other times well under. I assume this is like the old rates used to be in (pre Poll Tax) Scotland ... so there must I assume be a formula for calculating the rates bill - where do I find that? 2) Are all Sold prices recorded? I've come across a few Zoopla couldn't find (some issue with the data?) Is there a particularly good site for NI sold info? 3) Any good property portals apart from properypal and propertynews - looking around the £400k mark, from Holywood round to Bangor, also in Malone and University areas. There isn't a huge amount on the market really at that price point and some of it looks a bit pricey for what it is. (I suppose you get chancers everywhere). 4) What's the protocol on offers? - I've noticed a few like Scotland asking 'offers over' which you seldom see in England - are people expecting full asking or full asking+? Buying our current place a year ago we offered -20% and moved up a little from that (that was before the recent market revival here). But I'm not sure where prices are at in NI - a couple of places we've liked have gone to Sale Agreed in the last week or so but some have been around clearly since the Spring - worth a cheeky offer when we are positioned to do so? I do recall it went a bit mad in NI on the back of the lunacy in the Republic, and then settled back quite a bit (40% I've read here). What 'year' in terms of historic prices should I be looking at? 5) Any good sites on demographics of particular areas? Upmystreet was great (for GB anyway) but has vanished.
  8. Just to say the wife got the job - it's taken a few days to agree terms but it seems we are now on our way. Homing in on Bangor/Helen's Bay area, relatively expensive compared to most places but £400k-ish budget should get us something reasonably nice. Off next weekend for a proper look around.
  9. Thanks. Interesting I can keep the existing reg number, but I guess might be sensible to change it to 'blend in'.
  10. Last night I re-opened a thread about moving to NI that I started a month or so back, now that the wife has been shortlisted ... but I have one more question, will I need to have the car re-registered?
  11. Thanks for the input on this - was a wee bit academic for a while (pardon the pun) but the wife has now been shortlisted (total shortlist is three people so she has a fair chance, I would say quite a good one knowing what I know about the subject area and her reputation in it). I guess budget is £350k-450k (we could afford the £450k but don't want to go that high unless we really feel we need to - it would be nice to have a smaller mortgage than we have now in Berkshire, which can be a bit of a strain). As for what we want: Looking for a detached (don't care if bungalow or any particular period) with a decent garden and a bit of greenery around and if possible some views (in Berkshire we have 1/3 acre and 11 very large mature trees at the rear boundary of the garden - it all feels more rural than the location really suggests). As far as NI goes we are increasingly looking at the rural area around - she is finally persuaded of the need to learn to drive. I quite fancy some of the places we've spotted online either up around the coast north of Bangor, or around the Strangford Lough. (Though we only know either area from pictures at the moment - need to get over soon for a proper look about). I think we've ruled out central city. We both work from home a lot and need an office space each along with three bedrooms. We lived in Somerset for over a decade and used to have the Mendips at the back door, a previous house in N Somerset was 5min from the beach (fantastic when the kids were small but the've flown the nest now). I do like views and am partial to loch/sea views in particular - I have fond memories of living in New Zealand right next to sea when I was working there 20+ years ago. We are both big into seafood and since Waitrose and Ocado haven't got to Northern Ireland yet we'll probably be hunting down independent buchers, fishmongers, organic grocers, farmers markets, like we did when we lived in Somerset. I guess that makes us sound a bit stuck up, we aren't really, we just like good food and a natural environment. For all the South East/London area is supposed to have everything, I've never liked it - too crowded, too hectic and to be honest I've never warmed to the locals that much compared to the friends I made in Somerset and NZ (probably because too hectic, busy etc). The reason we are open to the move to NI is because I have a strong suspicion there's more of what we value in life there. One last thing, I'm a musician and have played a bit of Scottish (& Irish) traditional music in the past (guitar, mandolin, banjo) ... would finding somewhere with a session be difficult in the areas we are looking at? Something I definitely miss in the SE. Oh and in answer to the question on areas I'd really like to live (if possible) among people who go in for as little flag-waving as possible. I found the small number of parades of both sides in the West of Scotland that I grew up with irritating enough. I'm a practising Catholic and technically could count as 4th generation Irish if I was so minded, but my politics (in terms of Scotland for sure) are pro-union. My sense is I'm probably most comfortable in a mixed area - certainly when I visit my company's Belfast office, people whose names are probably enough to identify their 'community' rub along perfectly well and have solid friendships outside of work - I'm sure t'was ever thus for many in NI, but I get a strong sense that the overwhelming majority want to put the past behind them. In any case I fully intend to keep my mouth shut on anything related to subject as I'm sure there are experts aplenty and I fully admit my ignorance having not lived through any of it.
  12. We got £40k off the asking just because of the state of the place. To put it right it probably cost us about £50k, £10k of that we would have spent anyway. My view now is that houses with problems generally aren't worth paying the money for: it's cheaper to buy already sorted/with decent plumbing/boiler/in a reasonable state of repair and decor. It's also my experience that with nicely turned out houses, the opposite applies - sellers can't recoup anything like the the money they've lavished on them. The latter sell quicker but the work involved to get them to similar condition is not reflected in either price.
  13. Thanks for the tips everyone. I'm originally from the west of Scotland so have some idea of the likely weather. We are definitely going to explore this further. Point taken on the likelihood of a 'stitch-up' it's a bit like that where I come from as well. Though last time this job came up she was tapped up to apply but had only just got the London job and wanted to give that a proper go. (The winner that time has just moved on elsewhere). So I would say it's probably a realistic prospect. Opportunity to live by the sea and still be handy for the city centre really appeals btw.
  14. The wife is eying up an academic job that could be be perfect for her in her research field, at Queens in Belfast. She has tenure at a (slightly higher ranking) University of London college and we live in the S East, though neither of us have roots there. Oustanding mortgage is about £300k (on 10 year fix) but we have equity of maybe £250k or thereabouts. I'm 15 years away from retirement. There's no real pressure to move beyond my wife's wish to have access to specific teams & materials which are really big in her chosen field. I could in theory move my job to Belfast as my company has activity there, though on my salary I'd stick out like a sore thumb in the local numbers (wages are much lower). Company might not even let me do it without taking a wage cut, but otherwise I'd certainly be vulnerable to the spreadsheet merchants looking for easy cost pruning. Would also reduce my wider job prospects (Thames Valley is where it's happening for my field, colleagues made redundant here usually find something in weeks). Looking at what you get for your money house-wise we could get something equivalent to what we have now (large 4 bed converted bungalow in 1/3 acre with mature trees, nice area) and be close to mortgage-free, or we could have say £150k mortgage and live somewhere extremely nice/totally beyond our means in the S East, and pay off in half the time (say 5-7 years). I have no plans to retire so would keep on working - it would give me freedom though to do something more fun/interesting/risk taking. Wife doesn't drive but current takes a taxi much of the time - she only goes in 3 days a week in teaching term, and I often pick her up in the evenings (I've run the numbers it's way cheaper than her learning to drive and then buy & run her own car). She'd do the same in Belfast. I do worry though that we'd be stuck for a further move, as if we ever wanted to move away our budget would be a lot lower from selling up (though could be made up by saving as hard as we can for as long as we can). We have no roots in Ireland (N or S) any more than we have in Thames Valley. (The weather here is better though ... a consideration). Questions for the Belfast lot: What's the nicest places to live in taxi distance (say 10-12 miles) to Queens, on whatever side of the city has sensible traffic? I am worried I'd miss out on cultural life (chamber concerts and so on). Our big thing is small-scale classical music (not opera or big orchestras which we know Belfast does have but it's not taste really). We're Wigmore Hall regulars. Also slightly worried about lingering sectarianism so want to make sure and avoid areas where division is still an issue in day to day life. Where best to avoid?
  15. I got caught by this this year after submitting a fairly late tax return. Reality was an instant demand for about £2k (unexpected) which they allowed me to pay off at about £200 a month (with interest) at the same time as they clobbered my code so I wouldn't be so badly off the following year. I'm about £450 a month worse off altogether this year, dropping to £200 a month next year - a fair amount to lose just after buying a house last August (10 year fixed rate BTW as I'm very pessimistic about rate rises). It's a nonsense that people in the 'middle' (that's the perception - I know not reality but the fact is, things are fairly tight since buying last year after 6 years of renting) are caught by this when the really rich aren't.
  16. Total nonsense. 180km underwater tunnel to TAIWAN? I don't think so.
  17. Assuming a 'no' would be a dangerous mistake as the lunatics are well and truly out of the asylum and prosletysing on every street corner. Having denied the vote to Scots living in England who might have had some experience of life outside and therefore a more sane and sensible view of the world, while extending the fanchise to 16 year old numpties with no knowledge of anything, the Gnats are on a roll and anything could happen. Anyway I think what you are seeing may be an East Coast phenomenon, when I was up home recently it looked like Glasgow and Lanarkshire were still way down.
  18. There are different kinds of accountants. Those who primarily record, and those who interpret and assist with planning and strategising. The latter kind aren't going anywhere and indeed seem to have more hooks in more part of corporate-land than ever before. The first kind are still necessary despite the march of technology (though some functions have indeed been automated). But they are the cheaper variety anyway. Don't think all accountancy is like filling in tax forms. It isn't.
  19. Modern denatured wheat varieties are pretty bad for the body anyway. There are plenty of substitutes.
  20. For once the UK is way ahead of the Californians http://www.sloughexpress.co.uk/News/All-Areas/Slough/Clampdown-continues-on-sheds-with-beds-09042014.htm http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2277443/Rogue-landlords-create-sheds-beds-illegally-house-migrant-families.html
  21. When we bought our place in August I couldn't get builders, plasterers, kitchen fitters, sparkys ,plumbers to bother with our poxy little renovation job when there was new build to work on. It was a real hassle and in fact the last bit of plumbing was only done last month. The eastern Europe bit is spot on through, the only reliable guy out of the whole lot was a Polish bloke we got hold of when my wife started chatting to a Polish girl on the checkout in B&W. Did job from start to finish, on time and to budget, not 2 hours on then away to do another job/go down the pub, stringing the work out for weeks. Guess who and his mates will be getting any future work? That's right not the lazy stuck up white van man 'geezers' in Berkshire who behaved like every small thing was doing us a big favour even to turn up. Toss**ers.
  22. Depends entirely on where. London? Mug's game right now. But plenty of places where the risk is FAR lower. As ever the answer depends on individual circumstances. There is no perfect, always right answer to this question right now.
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