Earlier this week, after much liaising and planning, we took delivery of the stuff that we visited in Chingford a few weeks ago.  As usual, the exercise involved a complicated sequence of events, but we are seasoned professionals at complicated these days, and it has obviously rubbed off on the storage company who no longer bat an eyelid when we throw outlandish requests at them.

So, the plan was as follows:  load up the van, and deliver stuff to A&K’s house.  Then take a tree from theirs (they no longer wanted it, it was cluttering their house and since they were hosting it for us, we said it could clutter our house instead) and deliver it to us.  They were also to deliver some stuff to me, which I had spent the weekend moving other furniture to accommodate.  Then, they were to take some stuff from mine, and go back to Chingford to pick up stuff for J which they would then deliver to Barnes.  Piece of cake, what could go wrong?

So that morning, I was expecting them at around 10:30 for two reasons:

a)      They were delivering a whole lot of stuff to A&K’s first, and that was going to start at 08:45 after her school run.  I figured it would take them about an hour and a half before they came to me.

b)      When they applied for permission from Transport for London to park outside my building, they were granted permission between 10:30 and 13:30 at a cost of £200 or so.  I assumed therefore that this meant they did not have permission to park there before or after the set times.

However, because six of them came down in the van from Chingford, they were done and dusted at K’s by 09:15, so I got a text from her saying they’re on their way.  I had planned on doing some last minute preparation for the arrival of the stuff.  For example, I had moved these bookshelves from outside my room to inside my room last night because they were bringing a shoe cupboard which I was going to put in its place.  I figured that vacuuming in the space left was a good idea, because let’s face it, I know what sort of housekeeper I am, and I do not move heavy items of furniture every time I vacuum.  Pretty much, once the big stuff is in place, we wait for it to take root.  Recently, we have moved often enough not find anything too scary behind or underneath the furniture, but when we left our family home five years ago, the dust bunnies were more like dust lions.

At 09:30 therefore, my doorbell rings, and Robbie is outside with one of the Pauls holding a three and a half metre head board for my parents’ bedroom.  The way the flat is designed, there is a long and narrow corridor with rooms going off of it.  The headboard is solid, it does not bend and a certain amount of swing room is therefore needed to get the thing into the room.  Although the flat has high ceilings, the doorway is for regular people not giants, and so they spent about 15 minutes doing the whole:

“How much space do you have there, Paul?  Come to me  a bit. No wait, not like that, lift up a bit, a bit more… a bit higher, higher, HIGHER!”  (To be honest, it sounded a bit like our yoga instructor when she is making us do an exercise where we feel that any higher/deeper/lower will actually dismember parts of our bodies, but she keeps saying “let go of the pain, come up a bit, a bit more, teeny bit more… that’s it, bit more, breathe through it, sink into the hips, pull your knee into your armpit, bring your navel to touch your spine etc etc”)

Anyway at this point, I had to step in, because Paul couldn’t actually go any higher because he was standing in the wrong position and unable to move under the weight of the headboard.  I wedged myself under it and pushed from lower down, and finally we got the angle we needed to get it into the room.  It was of course, upside down and facing the wrong way, so cue a lot of gymnastics as we tried to turn it around.  A couple of inches either way and it wouldn’t have made it into the room at all, so I am counting it as a win.  The alternative was to either have it lingering outside in the corridor for a while until we could find someone to cut it and then re-fix it together, or to bring it in through the third floor) window.  Like I said: win.  Now that it is in there of course, we have to move the light switches so that they are not obscured by this giant headboard which requires some assembly and mounting on the wall, I sense a call to Big Stellios in my very near future.

So the headboard was in, and other stuff started to wander upstairs.  The six men who had been at K’s had dwindled down to four at this point.  I had Robbie, two Pauls and – wait for it – Peter.  Hurray, my life is complete.  Peter upon arrival immediately did his usual

“Can I use your toilet, I’m busting” routine, complete with actions and pointing to his crotch which, although I am used to (I did work with children for 15 years after all)  I do not usually see or deem appropriate from adults.  Anyway.  He disappears into the bathroom with a magazine and then we lose him for a while.

In the meantime, more stuff is coming upstairs, and although I was expecting most of it, there were still a few surprises and things I had forgotten about.  The first unpleasant surprise was an electric fireplace.  We have a gas fire here, which we hardly ever use (because the only time we will need a fire here is if we started running  bikram yoga classes out of the flat).  We did not need a cheesy ugly fake fireplace.  I suddenly remembered the conversation with D in Chingford.

“Let’s get rid of it.” Say I.

“No, just like that we’re going to throw it out?”

“Yes, we don’t need it, nobody wants it, it weighs a tonne, let’s just leave it here for them to throw out.”

“No, please, I want to bring it home, open the box, look at it and then – if we decided we don’t like it, we can throw it out ourselves.”

It all came flooding back to me when I saw Robbie with the trolley and heard the words:

“Electric fireplace, Maria?”


“Er, [long pause] just leave it here in the hallway please Robbie, D wanted to have a look at it before we throw it out ourselves.”

“Really?  It’s really very heavy, I don’t think you can move it.” These words, coming from Robbie who had just lifted a small safe I couldn’t move and put it somewhere else as if it was a box of tissues.  Inwardly I cursed D and answered.

“Yes, please, just leave it there so that we can have a look at it and then I’ll invite everyone I know over in the hope that we can move it enough to get it out of the house.”

I went into my computer and fired off an email to D entitled ‘f***ing fireplace’ and containing the following:   #shouldneverhavespoiltyousomuchasachild.  Immediately I felt better.

Boxes started to form a lovely pile in the front hallway too, it was nice, kind of like a new coffee table.  Obviously, I have to empty these boxes fairly quickly otherwise it will become a coffee table and never be moved.  Eventually, I will accept the pile’s existence, cover it with a nice tablecloth and we will never speak of the empty floorspace again.  Like I said, you can’t let these things fester in our house.

So, slowly slowly, paintings, cabinets and chairs were coming upstairs, and funny shaped blanket-wrapped parcels which were all piano parts.  We were in fact building up to the fact that there was a piano coming.  It was this piano that had prompted me to go to the storage facility and see about bringing some stuff out of storage.  We have space here, and that piano is a beautiful thing.  I couldn’t bear the thought of it in pieces on the floor of some giant warehouse waiting to become great again.  I had ummed and aahed about where to put it in the house, and although the front hall was an option and it would have looked amazing there, I felt that the front hall is way too useful a pace to have most of it taken up by a giant piano.  Plus which, in order to save space, the piano would have faced the corner which isn’t really the point.  With this in mind, I cleared the space next to the shelves with the albums on.  As you may recall, my brother J and my sister D both feel that albums and pianos are in fact mutually repellent.  I don’t know how to make albums (is that the plural of album?  Could it be albi?) disappear, and neither do I know how to materialise shelfspace somewhere else in the house without compromising a) free and easy passage from one room to the other and b) cupboard space that would normally be used for clothes, crockery and other sundry items.  In fact, I could suggest that if the alba? went into these cupboards, then perhaps we could put plates and sweaters on those two bookshelves, and then perhaps it wouldn’t be so offensive to their expert eyes?  I might suggest it and see what happens.

Anyway, that was the space I cleared.  To clear this space however, I also had to put what was there somewhere.  I thought about it long and hard and in the end just scooched it further along the same wall so that now we have an interesting little collection of furniture at one end of the room.  It is a motley crew of occasional tables, armchairs, chairs, a lamp and assorted other items, all huddled in the corner looking out at the room envying the other furniture its space and stature.  I will get to you, I promise.

There was a lull.  All four men had disappeared.  I assume to get the piano.  Soon, faint grunting sounds started to drift in from the stairwell.  It turns out pianos are really heavy.  These four guys really gave it all they had.  I could hear the grunting, gasping and swearing from three floors up.  Apart from being very heavy, the piano also didn’t fit in the lift, so they were alternately pushing and heaving the thing up three flights of stairs.

They would stop on each floor to catch their breath and take a break.  It sounded something like this:

“Ugh, pull, argh, to you, up, not there, ugh, yep, three more, ok, ugh, gasp! We’re there, stop for a break. Pant pant pant.”

“I enjoyed the Liverpool game at the weekend…”

Three voices immediately interrupt.

“Oi, no need for that, thanks mate, shut up Paul, Jeez, we don’t want to talk about that”

“Er, but”

“SHUT UP PAUL!” in unison, the other three.

“Come on then, let’s get it up to the next floor”

And the process would begin again.  This happened three times.

When they got the piano upstairs and into the flat, they were all sweating, breathless and Peter (of course, who else) was bleeding from a nasty cut in his hand.  I made them all coffee and brought out cold drinks and biscuits and put on my best teacher voice and said to Peter.

“You in the kitchen with me, I need to look at that cut.”

“But, it’s nothing, it’s ok, I’ll wash my hands and it will be fine-“

“We’re not going to do this again are we?”

“Sorry” he mumbled, and followed me into the kitchen.  The other guys were calling out about how he was going to have his cut looked after and would I kiss it better etc etc.

He held his hand under the tap while I got antiseptic and stuff ready.

It was quite a nasty cut, and as I applied antiseptic cream it became clear that it wasn’t going to stop bleeding immediately.

“I am afraid you are going to have to accept some teasing from the guys and put on a plaster or two.” I said.

“I’m sure it will stop soon, I don’t need a – “

I gave him the look.

“Fine, I’ll put a plaster on.”

This is when I knew it was going to get a bit dicey.  I usually have plasters of all different sizes and types, but I had just finished a box recently and hadn’t had time to go out and get any more.  Consequently, all I had left were Disney Princess plasters.  I took them out apologetically.

“Aw, come on Maria, I have to go and give a quote later” he whined.

“You can take them off soon, but just keep them covered while you set up the piano and hopefully you won’t be bleeding everywhere by then.”

Needless to say, the guys reacted as you would expect when their colleague came back out with a red face and Snow White and Ariel on a pink background on his hand.  Still, it’s better than blood all over my living room and piano, so I was unrepentant.  (I have added plasters to my shopping list however).


The inside of the piano was both fascinating and pretty

After that there was about 15 minutes of coffee drinking and arguing over the last digestive.  Then the serious work of assembling a piano in ten pieces began.  I watched fascinated as they pushed, pulled, tightened, lifted, screwed, unscrewed, balanced, held and finally brought it back to life.  It was fascinating to watch and although I wouldn’t say they were polite to each other (one of the Pauls definitely got the rough end of the deal ribbing-wise) the fact that they have obviously all worked together for years (at least 5 that I know of) really shone through.  Then they lifted the piano to where they thought I wanted it and put the lid, cover and music rack on.  I didn’t love the new location of the piano.  They had put it facing outwards into the room (so far so good) but they had made it diagonal to maximise the effect of the curved edges.  That is all well and good, but the resulting effect was one of a giant piano having been dropped casually into an already full room and all the the furniture merely moved slightly to accommodate it.  Needless to say, it looked cluttered, messy and I didn’t like it.

“There, that looks good.” said Robbie.

“I am not sure I like it there,” I said.

I could see Robbie panicking at the thought of having to move the piano to another location in the flat.

“Maybe if we just rotated it.” I said.

“No, it has to be outward like this”

“Yes, but it takes up the whole room.”

“Yes, but that is the point of a grand piano.”

“Be that as it may, when I have a concert here and Keith Jarrett comes to perform, I can rotate it so that it takes up all of the space.  Hell, I’ll even remove some of the other furniture and hide the bloody albums, but for the moment, I have to live here, and there won’t be any ground-breaking piano concerts happening in my living room.  Please let’s rotate it.”

“Ok, let’s put everything else in its place and give you some time to get used to it.” This really set my teeth on edge.  This is a tactic employed by my Dad when he doesn’t like my first answer.  The conversations always go like this:

“Maria, would you like to come to the 250th anniversary of the Baltic Exchange?  It’s a dinner to be held in Greenwich in three weeks.”

“No, thanks Dad.”

“Shall I leave you to think about it?”

“No thanks, Dad, I don’t want to come.”

“I’ll leave you to think about it.”

2 days later.

“Have you thought about the 250th Anniversary of the Baltic Exchange dinner? Shall I get you a ticket?”

“Yes, I told you, I don’t want to go Dad.  Please do not buy me a ticket.  I have plans that night, and I don’t really feel like attending what with it being about 2000 people I don’t know eating a dinner I probably won’t like because English people don’t think it’s posh food unless it’s gamey and undercooked, and I already answered you the first time, no thanks.”

“Ok, I’ll leave you to think about it.”

2 days later.

“Did you have a chance to think about the Baltic event? Shall I get you a ticket?  They’re asking me for final numbers.”

“No, thanks Dad.  I don’t want a ticket.”

The following day.

“I’ve left the ticket for the 250th anniversary of the Baltic Exchange on your desk.”

“I told you I didn’t want to go.”

“I thought you were thinking about it, they called and I told them to keep you a ticket so you wouldn’t miss out.  I’ve already paid.  It’s two weeks on Thursday.”

You understand therefore why Robbie’s response irritated me.  Anyway, we busied ourselves putting everything else in its place (me pointing, them lugging) and then Robbie brought up the paperwork, I signed it and before you know it they had left.

I walked back into my living room and realised that they hadn’t moved the piano back.  It stood, proud and huge, bang smack in the middle of the room with the rest of the furniture huddled around it looking untidy and pathetic.


I assumed that since it took four burly men several hours of grunting and sweating to move it, that it was there until I happened to invite all my strongest friends over one day simultaneously.  I called to P, and she came in.

“What?  They left it there?  What is it doing there?  It’s taking up the whole room!”

Ah, P.  She hardly ever states the obvious.

“ I know!” say I.  “Let’s try and move it.  We lifted slightly and pushed and the piano yielded slowly.  We rotated it so that the flat edge was parallel to the wall and the curve looked out toward the room.  I took a few steps backward to see the effect…

And tripped over a footstool that looks like a custard bloody cream, I swear D you are on my shit list today.  Eventually, I was able to look at the piano from halfway across the room.  I think it looks great there.  It makes me feel like my decision to bring it and give up about 3 square metres of floor space was a good one.  Not only does it look majestic and beautiful, but so far nothing too disastrous has happened due to its proximity to the alba (I promise, alba works too, I looked it up).  I sat down to play a few notes.


In the corner but still grand. (Note the albums in the background, and the custard cream footstool)

Ouch.  It turns out that pianos that sit in warehouses for 5 years in pieces are seriously out of tune when they eventually are reassembled and put somewhere warm.  Off I went to organise a piano tuner, which necessitated the promise of body parts (apparently we only really need one lung) and any future offspring.  Still, the guy is coming on Thursday so let’s hope that the piano sounds better after that.

I went around the flat to see if everything had gone where it was supposed to.  I realised that they had delivered the wrong set of bookshelves (A&K had the ones I wanted).  As I looked at the bookshelves to see which ones they were I realised that what I had previously assumed was a piece of dirt/dust/lint was in fact a spider carcass.  I immediately liked the bookshelf even less.  P came in to bleach the surrounding area while I called A&K and arranged to switch bookcases.  Listen, I am all for spiders dying.  Just not on my stuff ok?  Go somewhere discreet. And far away from me.

So after 3 hours in one morning, my previously extremely spacious flat now has a grand piano in the living room, a large pile of boxes in the front hall waiting to be opened, a massively heavy electric fireplace, also in the front hall, waiting to be photographed and then thrown out, a bookcase that was previously home to a spider carcass (and don’t think for a minute that I haven’t connected the dots and realised that this means it was also home to a live spider before that), and a shoe cupboard which is currently sitting on freshly ironed carpet.  We also have a new tree and even more chairs than before which is ever so slightly frightening.

All I have to do now is unpack the boxes, organise the moving of the light switch, get Big Stellios in to put up bookcases and bedboards, move around 6 or 7 paintings to accommodate the new ones that arrived from storage, and learn to play the piano.

No problem.