I know that it has been radio silence over the past few months.  I have been busy moving!  And this time, not myself.  So I have had plenty to do, and not enough time to write about it!

Some time ago, my little sister D, my best friend and flatmate, decided that enough was enough and she was moving out into her own apartment.  I was in favour of this move but whilst celebrating the principle of the move – it’s time, it’s the logical next step etc etc..  I was also absolutely dreading it.

I mean, firstly, and most importantly, I was going to miss her.  She is the person with whom I converse and communicate the most.  We are constantly in touch, either via Whatsapp, text, phone or in person.  We have this shorthand – and best of all a no filter policy which means that we can talk freely without fear of misunderstandings and resentments.  (Well most of the time – I mean that handbag was worthy of Big Bird’s mother and some random blogger is the big sister she never had… – not bitter, not bitter at all… that one sailed right over my head and did not penetrate my pachydermal skin – oh wait)

If I am honest, I was most worried about what I would do with myself once she wasn’t around.  Would I become bored at home, always trying to find stuff to do, pestering my friends to do things even though they are all – without exception – people with busy lives, children, commitments of their own.  I didn’t want to become that needy person who caused an eye roll and frantic arguments over who was going to pick up the phone when my number came up.  We obviously were saying all the right things to each other: ‘nothing will change’, “I’ll be round all the time!”, “you’ll be glad to get rid of me!”, but none of it rang true, it seemed as if we were just saying it to reassure ourselves and each other when really we knew that things might fundamentally change between us.

All this was exacerbated by the fact that people were asking us all the questions we were trying to avoid asking of ourselves and each other.  “How will you cope without D?” “How will D cope without you?”

We had become so integral to each other’s lives that even strangers couldn’t imagine us not living together.  I gritted my teeth and gave the it’s-perfectly-fine-we’re-both-grown-women-we-aren’t-joined-at-the-hip-there’s-nothing-to-see-here-move-along response.  And in my logical mind (the deep, hidden part of my mind) that was the truth.  I was well aware that we would be absolutely fine living separately and that our close relationship wouldn’t be affected.  That was the logical mind.  My emotional responses were just a teensy bit different.  I threw myself into helping with the preparations.  I helped organise utility visits, went shopping, went and tried out countless sofas (and fell asleep on several whilst waiting for decisions to be made), spent many hours looking at paint dry in various types of light etc etc.

I helped build flat pack furniture (and if that isn’t a gesture and labour of love, I don’t know what is) and it was go go go.  D had given herself a deadline.  She wanted to move into her flat before Christmas.  Come October, we had sorted out the boiler, broadband, landline, TV package and we were at the stage of discussing which week she would take off for the move.  Her flat is high up in a large block of flats, and she had been looking at ways to keep the flat warmer without donating a kidney to British Gas.  One of the things she looked into were thermal blinds.  This is the description on the website:

ThermaShade™ blinds blend stylish looks with a special fabric that could save you money on fuel bills. Honeycomb cells in the fabric create an insulating barrier that helps stop cold air getting inside and warm air escaping out the windows. So you can turn down the thermostat and still feel cosy. Book an in-home appointment with an expert advisor to learn more.

Sounds good right?  Saving money and keeping warm without replacing windows ticks a lot of boxes.  So D did as the website  – Let’s call it Hilarious Blinds – suggested and booked an in-home appointment with an expert advisor to learn more.

Enter Luis.

The first time Luis was due to show up, D and I rushed in from work, went into the flat and waited for a 6-8pm slot.  At 8:30pm, I went out and got some dinner.  We stayed at the flat for another hour and went home.

Not an auspicious start.

Another message from Luis, who passed the buck to Head Office, who had already passed the buck to him and we were beginning to feel the first curlings of dread.

Still, another appointment was made, the following Saturday.

This time, five minutes after the end of the appointed two hour slot, D gets a phone call.  It is a breathless Luis.

“I am about 5 minutes away, I will be there soon.  Sorry a bit late.”  He panted.

So 40 minutes later, Luis arrives, sweating profusely from 5 minutes away.

“Did you take the stairs?” we asked, thinking that this was the only explanation for the breathlessness and long gap.  (It would take me more than 40 minutes and one set of lungs to climb eleven floors up to D’s flat)

“No, the lift” he heaved.

I immediately got the giggles.  This did not bode well.  I imagined him running circles in the lift while it was traveling up the floors.  I stamped down the giggles.  This isn’t the time, Maria.  Get a hold of yourself.

We looked at him expectantly.  Further explanation was required.

“Well.  When I called, I thought I was outside your house, you know? But I had read the address wrong, and so by the time I realised, I was already too far from the van and so ran here.  You know, Head Office have me running all over town, I am responsible for the whole North London and I am busy.  It is a Saturday….”

Wow, so much information to sift through at this point.  Best drop it.

“So, shall we show you the windows, and maybe you could quote us for the job?”  D started. “As I said in my email, I am really interested in talking about the thermal blinds.”

He looks down at the two giant folders he is holding.

“I didn’t bring the ThermaShade™ Folder up with me.  Only net curtains.”

“We aren’t really interested in curtains, we specifically want blinds, and in particular were interested in talking to you about thermal blind options.”

“Well the van is very far away.  I don’t want to waste my time – or yours – going to get the relevant information, you know?  Ask me what you want and then I can take some measurements.  It is 5pm on a Saturday and I still have to be somewhere before dark as the next place I am going doesn’t have lights.”

“That ship has sailed Luis,” I said looking him directly in the eye. “By the time you have measured all of the windows in the flat, explained to us about how the blinds work, gone to your van to get the correct information and come back it will be dark.  I think it will probably be dark in 15 minutes.  Do you need to make a phone call?”

“No, no, come on.  Show me.”

So we took him round, showed him all the rooms, outlined what we wanted and it all kept coming back to the thermal blinds.

“What are the options? “

“I don’t really know.”

“Do you cover them?  It isn’t just foil stuff hanging from the top is it?”

“Well I am not really sure.  I never sold any before”

“Do they work?”

“I don’t know, I don’t have them at home.”

“Well, what have people said?  Have others been pleased with them?”

“Well, I mean, they are just blinds… I don’t see how they can make that much of a difference.  But you know, if they say they work, then I guess they must work.”

“Wow, that was a vote of confidence!  Are you saying they don’t work?”

“Obviously I am not allowed to say that. I work for Hilarious blinds.”

“But you don’t think they work that well.”

“I am sure they are fine, you know. The truth is, I just don’t know.”

At this point D and I were looking at each other in horror at his ineptitude.

I said:

“Maybe now is the time to go and get the ThermaShade™ folder so that we can look at some samples and see if it works in this room since without the folder you don’t know whether they will be able to be fitted against the balcony doors.”

“Yes, but the van is very far away.  I will measure and drop you a line if there is a problem.”

“We would really rather see the samples.”

“Like I said, it is late, it is Saturday, this isn’t my last appointment and the van is very far away…”

“We appreciate that you are having a stressful Saturday, Luis, and that you have to rush off to your next appointment, but…”

“Oh, don’t worry about me, you know?  I stay cool in the van, I have air conditioning and a good sound system, I play funky soothing music and  stay calm between appointments.”

For me now, the horror had switched into anger and quickly metamorphosed into near hysterical laughter.

D made one last attempt.

“Really it would be a help if I could have more information about the thermal blinds.”

“Yes, yes, I will email you or if you have a computer you could look it up on the website.  We could use my tablet.”

“I already have the information on the website.  You are the expert who is supposed to be advising us about the details”

“Yes, I never really sold any before, so I don’t really know, you know? I will measure the windows.”

Off he went and started measuring windows.  Badly.  He knocked over furniture, dropped his tape measure, muttered and cursed his way through the kitchen and bedrooms  At one point he called out:

“Do you think the windows in both bedrooms are about the same size?”

“You would have to measure them, Luis.  We aren’t sure.”

“They look about the same.”

'David discards his measuring tape for the faster 'eyeballing' method of measuring.'

He came back into the main room.

Look,” he said. “Are you gonna order any blinds today?”

D replied that she would not be making any decisions that day especially since she had had no indication of the cost and had received none of the information she needed to help her make the decision.

“Ok, then I’m gonna stop measuring and take off.  You know, when a customer doesn’t order straight away, I lose my confidence and my measuring isn’t very accurate, you know?.  To be honest, this is wasting my time if you aren’t gonna order anything, you know?  If you’re gonna make an order, then call me and I will come and measure better then.”

We stood there open-mouthed.

He continued, oblivious. “I will send you the quote by email tonight. Well, maybe not tonight because it is Saturday and it is already late, and I do still have to go to another appointment, I mean can you believe I have to work this late on a Saturday, but if not tonight, you will have it tomorrow morning.”

We nodded wordlessly.

And then, he dropped the cherry on the cake from a great height.

“I have to ask, he says, his demeanor changing completely, “I think I did a quote for some blinds for a member of your family recently. She lived in Maida Vale, at this address, her name was X.  Do you know her?  Is she a family member?”

I looked at the name and address.  It was a cousin of ours.

“Yes we know her, she is our cousin.”

“Oh, cool.  Could you tell me, did she make a recommendation of me to you?”

“Er, no it was just a coincidence, we must have both looked at the website at the same time, and you service all the flats in this area.”

“Oh,” he said clearly disappointed “I thought for sure it was a recommendation you know?  I thought like maybe you were talking to her and she said Man, this Luis is super-amazing, you know?  You sure she didn’t say anything?  Cause I know she was very pleased with me.  I sold her blinds that day. OK, well I am going to collect my stuff and get going ok.  I will send you the stuff by tomorrow morning, ok maybe not morning because it’s Sunday you know?  Maybe tomorrow afternoon, or maybe even evening…”

At this point I turned my back to him went into the kitchen and looked out, my back to him trying to hide my shaking shoulders and surreptitiously wiping the tears of laughter from my cheeks.  D followed shortly afterwards and we stood there looking out the window as he gathered his stuff from all around the flat.

Eventually, Luis left.  His parting words were:

“Ok, bye, nice to meet you, I cannot believe I have to go so far to the van you know?  I hope the people are still waiting for me, I hate when people don’t show up you know? I can’t believe I am working so late on a Saturday.  I will send you the quote on Sunday night, if not by Sunday night, then definitely by Monday morning.  Monday morning or maybe Monday night.  Latest Tuesday or Wednesday. OK?  You have any friends?  Tell them about Luis.  You’ll be hearing from me by the end of the week!”

He was still talking when we closed the flat door and collapsed on the floor in hysterics.  Any longer and he would have been giving us the time frame for the quote in decades rather than days or weeks.

In case you were wondering, D did make a complaint to Hilarious Blinds.  She received a lukewarm response and no apology.  They must have forwarded it onto Luis though, because the quote never arrived.  This was about 9 months ago, but it could be today or tomorrow you know?  Any minute we expect it.  We expect his confidence to be restored and the quote to cover half measured windows with blinds he knows nothing about to come through.

D never moved before Christmas, (more on that in another post) and the flat continues to require extensive heating to keep D in her happy zone (26-28 degrees centigrade).  She went for the cheaper more viable option that required no expert advisors – she cut out her own kidney and sent it to British Gas.