As well as packing up the stuff in the house, I have to also get the place we are moving to ready.  The flat in question is empty of people but not of things.  So this morning, after wasting away the three hours I wished I was asleep, I headed over there to try and make some space.  My brother-in-law, A, came to help.  As I have said the flat is small, but it is high up in the apartment block with amazing views and a little balcony which means that my brother and other smoking friends don’t have to go down 14 flights of stairs to have a cigarette.  I haven’t lived in the flat for about 5 years, and so I have been re-familiarising myself with the ins and outs of the building and apartment.  I went out onto the balcony today and sorted through what there was.  A wanted some of the stuff, so he filled a box with plant pots and compost and other gardening items to take home with him.  (Let’s just say that in terms of hoarding, he fit right in with our family – I am a ‘them’ whereas he is definitely an ‘us’.)  After we had separated the stuff he wanted to keep we set about seeing what else was out there.  Out on the extremely small balcony there were 12 bottles of beer, 8 large bottles of lemonade & coke, assorted cans, 6 bottles of wine, 6 large cans of paint, and enough mud to start an allotment.  Also out there was my tree, Bailey, easily one of the best presents I ever received, and now, sadly,  dead as a dodo looking stark and barren in its pot. All of the drink went off in the distant past and so was emptied into the sink and the bottles etc put away for recycling.  Due to the volume of stuff that needed moving, I called down to the porter and asked if there was a trolley.  He told me there was a Sainsbury’s trolley round the back by the bins.  I thought it would be easier to load the stuff into the trolley and take it down the two long corridors to the lift and down to the bins.  A foolproof plan or so I thought.  As it turns out, (of course) I am the fool.  I found the trolley, couldn’t get it to the lift, so A came to help.  We get it to the lift, and it’s about a foot too long.  We try the service and passenger elevator with no success and A is just taking the trolley back outside when my mobile rings.  I answer it, not recognising the number.  It’s the porter.

“Hi Maria,” he says, “Why don’t you try the other lift down the corridor? It’s a bit bigger.”

I paused.  I mean, that’s a bit creepy right, how did he know we were struggling to get the trolley in the lift?

“Wait, what? How – you?” I said (I am so eloquent when I am confused).

“I have been watching you on the monitor” he says,” and you seem to be struggling.”

What can I say, I am so pleased that he watched me struggle alone for a while and then wait around for A and then watched us both push and pull etc.  I have visions of him eating popcorn with his family joining in and commenting like those McCain wedges before a Film 4 movie..  I have never felt more like little brother in my life.  It was creepier than when you get those traffic fines in the post with a picture of your friend exiting the car, and you have to try and remember where and when you stopped and who you were with.

Anyway, porter aside, we got a lot done even without the trolley and this leads me to my next point.  Lifts.  An excellent invention as I am sure we will all agree, especially if you live/work in a high rise. I went downstairs today holding some cardboard for recycling.  It was me, with about 6 pieces of cardboard.  The lift stopped on a lower floor and a biker got on holding a helmet.  We did that awkward bit (English style) where we both spoke without speaking.  “Mumble mumble, sorry” say I. (Why am I apologising?  For taking the lift?  For owning cardboard? For having the audacity to board the lift first?)   “No, no, mumble mumble, sorry” says he.  Then we did this strange dance where we both had to shuffle about,  twist this way and that and basically fit into the lift like tetris blocks in order for the lift door to stop opening and closing and saying ‘Doors closing, mind the doors’ in a tinny monotone female voice that is meant to be soothing I’m told.   The lift in question is small (see earlier point about trolley), I mean the two of us were touching in order to fit in. However the sign in the lift proudly announces that the lift is for 4 people or 300 kgs.  What I want to know is who decides?  Who is this person who inspects lifts and establishes how many people fit into the space provided? Does he live in Lilliput?  Let me tell you that I am not the standard by which they measure how much space you take up in a lift.  I mean, I am not Gigantor, but I am also not petite.   I am sure it’s not just me.  I often have  conversations about this with strangers I am pressed up against and can feel the buttons of their clothing digging into my back or chest as we laugh nervously and try to pretend that it isn’t extremely awkward sharing breath with someone who you have never met before and are unlikely to meet again.  No matter what the capacity of the lift is, I have never found one that can actually fit the number of people it says on the sign.

I got on a lift in Athens once in a hotel.  The lift was already full and my (petite) friend and I jumped on as the doors were closing.  Suddenly a bell starts ringing and a voice says “lift overload, lift overload”.  I was mortified.  All eyes turned to me and I felt my face turn a delightful shade of crimson. My heart started hammering.  After all, this is the stuff of everyone who has ever thought they could lose a few pounds’ nightmares.  I did the first thing I could think of.  I looked accusingly at my friend and said “What have you got in your handbag for goodness sake?”  The tension was broken, we got off the lift to wait for the next one, and I avoided our fellow passengers all evening.

As a policy now, I never run for the lift.  I’d rather wait than have that voice announcing loudly that the 4th person is actually a Lilliputian and a half.