Monday, July 20, 2009

Moving, day one

Friday, 10 July dawns optimistically bright. Sunlight through the blinds swiftly warms our bedroom, and I haul myself out of bed for our last-ever lazy day in the apartment. Susan, sniffling, asks for honey and lemon instead of tea. On general principles, I add a couple of slices of ginger as well.

At 9:00 exactly, I phone the lawyer. The house was still standing yesterday, I tell him, so please go ahead and complete. He promises to call back when it's done. I switch my phone to "Loud", tell Susan to keep an ear open for it, and go for a shower.

About 9:40 we stroll out to Alleluya for a big café breakfast. One last taste of city living. Big Breakfast for me, K-Road Special for S. It's quite nippy in Kevin's Arcade, and the tables in the sun are very popular, but it's a weekday morning so we still collar one. Food is fine. A couple of sparrows flutter about the tables, scrounging for crumbs and perching on the backs of chairs. Target would mark the place down for that, but I still think they brighten up the place and represent a vote of confidence in the comfort. About 10:00, the estate agent calls - congratulations, we can pick up the key any time.

"By the way, the lawyer called while you were in the shower" says S. "Thank you for not worrying me", I reply.

S wants a haircut at the place in the arcade. I go home and pack, desultorily. As I walk past the kebab place near the junction of K Road and Liverpool Street, a customer is clearing his sinuses impressively. I feel strong relief that I've succeeded in industriously ignoring the place for four and a half years.

As I pack, there's a programme on Triangle about Eartha Kitt. Being Triangle, it's an extremely cheap programme - probably cobbled together by a fan, mostly out of other people's documentary footage - but surprisingly well finished for all that. The sound quality, particularly, is excellent.

Around 11:15, we arrive at the agents to collect the key. Our agent isn't there, but another one hands the envelope over with a smile. "Don't I have to sign anything? I could be anyone."

It doesn't seem to have occurred to them. I guess, if I were Anyone, I'd be discovered pretty soon - and in the meantime, all I'd have would be access to an empty house. Still, something feels slightly - amateurish, about the whole performance.

At 11:30 we reach our new home. As I park outside the driveway, another car pulls into it behind me. Then a postal van. I had no idea it was such a social nexus. We amble up the drive and meet our new neighbour. Blair is a policeman. Not one of those tough, businesslike rozzers you see on the tackier type of TV drama, but a rather vague, definitely people-oriented person, in no hurry to get indoors and on with his day. We discuss police shifts and lawnmowers, learn of his own moving experience and where he works, before we can tear ourselves away to get inside.

The key is tiny, sized more for a locker or padlock than a front door, but it works all right. The door is double-locked. We search the house for more keys. None. Bloody kitchen drawers don't open, until I notice the child locks. The lights and water work, but no hot water. I dust the place with flea powder (the previous owners had a dog), while Susan potters about complaining about window seals and loose joinery. I really don't care right now - time enough to worry about that once we've moved in. Measure spaces for fridge and washing machine.

Outside, gas cylinders have been delivered. I turn on the gas and go inside. Gas hob now works beautifully. Hot water works once I figure out which way to turn the tap. The gas heater in the living room also works, but then I get a text from S: "I smell gas". She's texting me for that? I go outside. She's standing by the heater vent.

12:30, back to agent to ask about missing keys. "Under the doormat." What is this, 1960?

12:50, back to house. Sure enough, keys under doormat. Don't fit garage or patio doors, though. Text agent, who claims there are no keys for those. Ho hum. We're going to need a locksmith.

1:30, done for now. Home for tea break. The sky is turning white - there's a thin, even layer of very high cloud, far above the occasional puffs of cumulus. Still to do today: packing, buy fridge, freezer, broom, washing machine.

2:30, back out to shop for whiteware. Petrol first. The car has done 478km for 39.5 litres. That's 28.5 mpg in American, 34 mpg in British. Not too bad, for city driving in midwinter.

Back on the road: whereever did this traffic come from? It's daytime on a weekday, dammit. Sit on the motorway quite long enough, before reaching the shop we scouted a month ago, whose selection seems to have evaporated. Back to the motorway, all the way to West City - traffic worthy of rush hour - while S starts to whimper. I know the symptoms: Valkyrie Needs Food Badly. Arrive at West City, where there are four whiteware shops side by side.

Explore fridges and freezers. Doing the sums, we realise a fridge/freezer is cheaper to run than separate fridge plus freezer, even though the separate versions are individually more efficient. It's a size thing.

For dinner: there's a surprisingly good Japanese restaurant at Westgate. As we sit and review our achievements, I think the Big Day is in danger of morphing into just another day, with nothing more than a dull ache in the calves to show for it. We haven't bought any of the big stuff we set out for, and tomorrow the work begins in earnest - collect the van and raid brother-in-law's house. It's all a bit worrying. At the last moment we remember to buy a hammer and broom, essential tools for any proud householder.

Moving by easy stages. Can't beat it.

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