Having been in this flat for 6 months, finally sussing out the ins and outs of the building and its environs, I am about to move again.  This time it is the last move in reverse.  Last time I moved, I was moving from a big place to a small place.  Now I am moving from a small place to a big place.  In theory, this should be fairly simple.  Get all of our furniture and stuff out of storage, find a spot for it in the new place.   Tell D that we no longer have space issues and watch her fill up the new place at an alarming rate. Job done.

In theory.  I don’t think I need three paragraphs to outline the vast differences between in theory and in practice.  I theory, everything slots onto place, we have more room, D’s new room comes equipped with a cupboard specially designed for her shoes, everyone’s happy, the world is a better place, let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya now.  In practice however, it’s a little more complicated.  Not the space issue.  I think we’ll manage to fill all of the extra space nooo problem.  It’s the logistics of the move.  The new place is an old building with a tiny lift and porters who clearly received their training from the gestapo.  They frown upon using the lift for your suitcases when you go on holiday never mind for an entire household of stuff.  Also, it’s on a main road, and stopping outside isn’t allowed during the week and on Saturdays, which means that a moving truck will have to negotiate the extremely narrow driveway (these are the movers who destroyed my previous home’s ample driveway with their vans in 20 minutes) and stop in there thus blocking it for hours at a time.  The Head Porter’s moustache was already twitching when I went in and introduced myself, I can imagine the scenario when I tell him that we may need several days to move in (with stuff coming in from different locations).  I don’t know if this is relevant or ominous but in the lift, someone has actually bothered to take out their keys and etch the Head porter’s name into the brass panel with the floor buttons on it and the word wanker underneath.  Somebody else (the handwriting is different) has written bastard underneath that.  I think it may turn into a list on the elevator wall soon.  So he’s a popular guy then.

I have to confess, even though the move isn’t for a couple of months, it is this that is keeping me awake at night and not the repairs that the flat is undergoing at the moment.  We are painting, and fixing a few things,  all fairly normal stuff – nothing structural (thank goodness as structural stuff needs permission from so many people that frankly a children’s party at Guantanamo would be easier to orchestrate.)   The builder who is helping us out is a nice guy, he has done stuff for us before and always works to schedule without charging through the roof.  But still problems arise, and if the porter gives him grief or whatever, I do not want to have to find anyone else at short notice…  Still, I am optimistic about this renovation, I feel like the 3-4 weeks I was promised are achievable, although let’s face it, I am anticipating 4-6 weeks as more realistic. 

Yes, I think we’re all familiar with the language employed by people in the building trade.  They use words designed not to make sense preying on idiots (like me) who nod in assent because they don’t want to appear stupid.  So for example:

“These two bathrooms have no ventilation at all because there are no extractor fans, and as a result, all the paint is flaking off the walls.  What can we do to prevent it happening again, or how can we improve this situation?” I asked him when he first came over to see the flat (extractor fans are not an option unfortunately)

“Well, we can drill vents into the wall between the two bathrooms and the air will circulate between them creating better airflow, as long as one or both of the doors and the window are open.  This should help with the condensation and therefore the peeling paint.” He answers helpfully.

I tried to process this information, all the time nodding and pretending to understand.  Later I broke down the sentence. The translation was as follows:

1)      We will drill a vent between the two bathrooms as a visual aid for you to feel better about things. 

2)      This will have no positive effect on either of the two bathrooms apart from the fact that all sound proofing from one to another will be cancelled out.

3)      None of this will work unless you shower with the door open in one bathroom, and the window and door open in the other.

4)      We could have avoided all this conversation if I had just said: yes, there’s really not much you can do without leaving the doors and windows open at all times.

I then suggested tiling the walls instead of painting them.  Would that help? 

“You would still get condensation… you would just have to wipe the tiles down instead of having the paint peel.”

I obviously wasn’t suggesting we tamper with the laws of physics.  I am not after the elimination of condensation, just a solution that doesn’t have me painting the bathroom every year.  Wiping down tiles sounds better than redecorating and looking at nasty paintwork 90% of the time.    Still though, he didn’t seem to think that would help, so we’ll go with the paint and see how it goes.

The flat we are moving into is the one I have talked about in a previous post, the one that we redecorated after 50 years about 10 years ago.  As I wander around it, I am struck by the amount of things I didn’t click about.  For example apart from the kitchen counters (standard height, just 2 inches too short for me to use comfortably), it struck me this time that all the light switches are at a ridiculously low level.   I mean not at knee level or anything, but definitely below hip level.  The sparky who came to look at the flat asked if we had designed it that way for wheelchair users.  I didn’t think so.  But then I thought it might be that the decorator thought that it wouldn’t be me but my midget staff who would be switching the lights on and off. Seriously that woman was crazy. 

Still, the paint colours have been chosen, the new wallpaper for D’s room, it is all ready to go.  Let’s hope that when we said starting on Monday we meant it, but time will tell.

On Friday, the man from the blind company came to take the blinds down for cleaning.  I hadn’t given it much thought really, I went to the flat to wait for him, they had called in the morning and told me they would be there between 11 and 1pm.  I got there at 11, patting myself on the back for remembering to bring a magazine, and settled down to wait.  Of course, waiting in a flat with no chairs, tables, cushions or even ledges is not easy.  There is only so long I can sit on the floor without my back and butt seizing up.  I paced, I wandered, I perched, I leaned.  I read about how to achieve double orgasms by yourself and with a partner (Cosmo – a new type of orgasm every month) and also about what men are thinking about while they are having sex ( no surprises there) and finally about an hour and three quarters in, the guy arrived.  

“Hi, sorry, I had the wrong building name, so I must have driven past here 5 times”

He was a cheerful man, very nice, he measured everything to give me the quote, and then, when I had recovered from said quote, started taking down all the blinds.  As I watched him work, and answered questions, and he kept feeling the blinds and muttering “this one will need re-lining” (of course, they all did), I realised two things.  One: he was alone, and there were a lots of blinds to come down, and two, he was sweating profusely (not on the Heston scale, but pretty close) and I had nothing to offer him.  I mean nothing.  The flat is empty, there are no glasses, or anything in the fridge.  When he stopped to give me the quote, his mouth was so dry he could hardly speak.

“I am so sorry,” I said, “I have nothing to offer you to drink or anything.”

“No problem” he said, making a parched sound in his throat.

I felt really bad.  For those of you who aren’t in London, we are in the middle of a heat wave here, and on Friday it was 30 degrees and roasting.  He went out to his van (parked 10 minutes away illegally – damn you Head Porter – I may have to add to the growing list in the lift) to get his tools.  I hoped he had a drink in his car.  If he did there was no evidence of it when he got back.  He looked as dehydrated and parched as ever.  I watched him take down the blinds and couldn’t bear it any longer. 

“I’m just popping next door.” I said.

I knocked on the next door neighbour’s door and asked for some water and two glasses.  Luckily, they were in and super-nice about it.

I came back into the flat and made him stop and drink water.  I have never seen anyone drink so gratefully;  I think he had started seeing palm trees and watering holes.   He finished the job and another three glasses of water and left completely knackered. 

Note to self:  Equip the fridge with water and buy some plastic cups or glasses.  There are going to be people wandering in and out of the flat for the next two months repairing, painting, and fixing etc.  You don’t want anyone dying on you while they are doing so.

Speaking of fixing, I was talking to D the other day about how shocked I have been as more and more of my childhood television presenters have been accused of sexual assault, the latest being Rolf Harris, but the first being Jimmy Saville.  She has found it hard to understand why I have been so upset by this, but the truth is, I thought that these people were kindly friendly types, and I find it deeply shocking and upsetting that it appears that the only reason people were getting into kids’ TV presenting in the 70s was to obtain a steady supply of underage victims.  When I mentioned that I had written into Jim’ll fix it once, and told her why, she said:

“Oh, he fixed it for things to happen.  Oh, that makes more sense.”

“Why what did you think he was fixing?”

“I thought it was some kind of engineering show, you know where you ask the expert how to fix your stuff.  I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.”

When I stopped laughing, I realised that if you hadn’t ever seen the show, and given what is on TV at the moment, this wasn’t the crazy suggestion it first appeared to be, but still the image of Jimmy Saville’s mailbox being filled with broken tape recorders and stylophones and requests for how to repair a cassette tape that had been accidentally unravelled still makes me smile every time I think of it.

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