Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Moving Stuff

We spend a lot of time moving stuff these days. It’s what happens when you live in a small place; you are always in your own way.

If you want to get some stuff, chances are it’s under or behind some other stuff, so you have to move stuff off the top of stuff to get at the stuff you want. And then you have to move the stuff you took off the stuff you wanted back to where it was or it will be in the way of other stuff that belongs in the place where you put that stuff.

It’s like living on a canal boat, but without the charm.

Okay, so our flat isn't this small, but still...
When you are faced with the problem of having too much stuff to fit into the place you live, there are three options:
                             1.      You can cleverly store your stuff
                             2.      You can get rid of stuff
                             3.      You can let the stuff overwhelm you

A fourth option would be “move to a bigger place,” but we can’t do that, so we are making use of Options 1 and 2 and striving to avoid Option 3.

Having grown up in a three-bedroom house with my parents, two brothers, two sisters, various dogs, cats, guinea pigs, occasionally homeless friends and frequent visitors, I know how to ferret out usable space. Looking up is a good place to start. In our tiny office, I have managed to find accessible locations for my guitar, keyboard and bagpipes, something I didn’t even have in the old flat. And, as a bonus, with all that stuff off the floor, you can actually open the office door now.

Prior to moving in, we managed to off-load one filing cabinet, leaving us with just two smaller ones. After moving (i.e. once reality set in) it became necessary to dispose of another one. Fortunately, Staples had a marvelous solution in the form of stackable, plastic file boxes. Now, if I need a file, I still have to move stuff, but at least I don’t have to hunt for what I’m looking for; I can see the folders without opening the boxes. This save a lot of time.

Stackable, transparent file boxes, and a rubbish bin, all neatly stored under other stuff.
Another issue was my guitar case. Having solved the storage/access issues vis-à-vis the guitar itself, I now found I had a lumbering, space-consuming, and surprisingly heavy, hard-shell case to contend with. So, I bought a guitar bag, and that solved that problem. However, it left me with another problem: what to do with the hard-shell guitar case.

I put it outside in the hall hoping someone would steal it, but unfortunately, we have a better class of tenant here and, several days later, it was still there.  So I told my wife I was going to take it into town and leave it in the market place with a sign on it reading, “Looking for a new home,” but she said that would be Fly Tipping.

(I don’t think there is a US word for Fly-Tipping but, basically, it means taking stuff you don’t want—garbage, topsoil, that old armoire you don’t need anymore—and, after checking that no one is looking, dumping it somewhere so as to make it someone else’s problem.)

I told my wife that, since I was planning to come back and check on it at a later time, it would not be Fly-Tipping. It would simply be an unattended parcel, which would also mean I would just have to wait for the sirens and the swat team and the helicopters and the loudspeaker announcements that the town center was to be evacuated immediately to know that someone had taken an interest in the guitar case.

We’re about as packed in here as we can be now. It’s workable, but, ... well, whenever it starts to get to me, I just remind myself that people are currently paying over a quarter of a million pounds for flats that are smaller (and less well built) than this one, and that do not contain any storage space whatsoever. So, even though we have to move stuff off of stuff to get at stuff, at least we have a place for our stuff.

Well, most of it, anyway.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Residential Respite

It’s been a month since our move and, diminutive living quarters aside, we like where we live.

The town center was a convenient and agreeable place to reside, but Horsham is a growing town and, lately, it had become too rowdy for the likes of us. Here, I don’t have to jostle my way through crowds to get to the corner store. It’s peaceful, and secluded and you hardly see anyone, and the people you do see often say, “Good morning,” which still startles me a little. Instead of the bustling main street, the lanes are tree-lined and empty.

Where we live now

Where we used to live
And it is so nice to be able to walk out of my front door and not have to go down 68 steps to reach the pavement. I have not lived in a ground floor flat since 1993 and, although I did like being on top of the world, there is a lot to be said for street level.

Even on the ground floor, this flat has a balcony, so I get to sit, have a pipe and enjoy the view. Granted, the view is of the building where they keep the rubbish bins, but it’s a tidy little brick structure that reminds me of a pill-box, and at the very least it’s better looking than the rubbish area at Pelham Court, where we originally lived.

My current view

View of the rubbish area at Pelham Court
And it’s quiet. At night, there are no revelers with their 110-decibel conversations at two in the morning, no delivery vans banging and clanging at four, no bin lorries bashing and revving their engines at five and no street sweepers whirring and churning at six. For the first time in nearly three years we are able to get a full night’s sleep.

The nights here are dark, and the only sound is the distant hum of the highway (this is the south-east of Britain, after all; you are never very far from a main road). In the mornings we hear only the twitter of birds, and I’m pretty sure a pellet rifle will take care of that.

It is also, however, very, very white. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no racist; I’ve got nothing against white people (though I wouldn’t want my sister to marry one), but the town center was populated with people from the sub-continent, China, Indonesia, Africa and Eastern Europe who, together, wove an exotic human tapestry, and I find I miss the diversity.

Fortunately, the town center is just a15 minute walk away, so when I feel the need for multi-culturalism, I can find it fairly quickly.

But, alas, the place where I spend the bulk of my time—my office—is much smaller than my previous office and I find it still pinches around the edges. With so many other advantages, however, I’m sure I’ll get used to it. In time.

Old office

New office

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Well, we’ve moved. Or, to be exact, we are in the process of moving: we are still have stuff to retrieve from our old flat and there are still many things lying around on the living room floor, or in boxes, looking for a place to live. But the heavy lifting is done, the massive payouts are now just a painful memory and most of the initial maintenance has been completed – more on that in a moment.

We were without a phone or internet for two weeks after we moved in because, well, Britain. And we spent a lot more than we should have needed to on maintenance materials.

As mentioned in my previous post, we are being held to exacting standards vis-à-vis the condition of our erstwhile flat, but it seems the people leaving here were not, nor did the landlord care to give the place a quick once-over. And so, in addition to the headache of moving in, we had to deal with the dust and dirt and the pervading aroma of “old person’s house,”

Not only was the place not cleaned thoroughly, it was…well, take a look at these:

This is the inside of the cabinet in the dining area.

This is what happened to the towel holder when I touched it.
Some bright spark drew instructions for the burners, but didn't think
to tell us which was was "Hotter" and which was "Less Hot."
This is the inside of a kitchen cabinet.
And this is the inside of the other dining room cabinet.

I do give the landlord credit, however, for being tenacious enough to seek out the cheapest, flimsiest, most insubstantial shower curtain I have ever seen. He obviously puts a great deal of effort into sparing no inexpense.

In short, if this place was a hotel room or a holiday cottage, I would give it two stars.

We then set about the task of trying to fit ten pounds of shit into a five-pound sack, which involved the shedding of furniture, the building of a bespoke (US: custom made) desk that would fit into the tiny office, the hanging of shelves and the creation of an airing cupboard and storage cabinet where there had once been a large but useless space in the bathroom. Then there was the painting and the general maintenance, but much of that is also behind us (he says with the smell of fresh paint wafting through the air).

And in the middle of all this, our car died. It was ten-years old and had over 100k miles on it, but it seemed robust and we were quite fond of it, but then it just, quite suddenly, gave up the ghost. “Cam-belt,” the car-guy said, as he pronounced it DOA. At least it didn’t suffer.

So then we had the experience of trying to buy another car, while not having a car, and in the middle of moving, without the aid of a phone or the internet.

So, do I have anything good to report. Certainly:

The flat, while smallish, is adequate, and we are quickly making it our home. The area we moved to is quiet and close to town and has a Co-Op mini-market around the corner, a pub across the road and a theme restaurant (The Smith and Western, Yee Ha!) next to it. It also has a covered balcony, which has come in really handy these past two weeks.

The other good thing is, with all this heavy lifting, DIY and running about, I have lost nearly 10 pounds. But don’t worry, it’s got to be around here somewhere, I’m sure it will turn up again soon.