Have to complete some tasks for the home renovation project before my trip. What we did this week:
Picked up lights. One for my room quite expensive but the rest either display or from a shop that is closing down. For mum’s room she picked one with fan and for Papa’s room we found one that usually goes in kids’ room–an airplane shaped light. Other lights are variations of standard LED lights.
Picked out door lock for front door, accessories for kitchen and bathroom (toilet roll holder, mirror cabinet, shelves), light switches, colour for skirting board.
Ordered oven last week and it was delivered on thursday. They called the day before but I missed their call but they got through to mum. They left a message that they’ll deliver between 12-2pm. I was early, arriving around 11am. But just as I was getting off the bus, our contractor called that the oven had just been delivered, one hour early. Bless him, he dealt with them, even paying the small stair fee.
I remember when I bought my flat 20 years ago, I had a hard time trying to find an oven. Built-in ovens were extremely expensive and in the end the only option was an all-in-one with hob. Nowadays, ovens are much more prevalent. For the new kitchen, I’m getting an Electrolux. Very happy about it.
I’d anticipated having to hang around till 2pm, but I was already done at 11.30am. More time than what I know what to. I had to go to the bank at one point, but I had to find lunch first. Thought about going to the hole-in-the-wall Thai place sis introduced me to, decided on frites instead. I like their salad lunch buffet. I ordered my favourite st bernadus ale before I realised it wasn’t happy hour and the beer cost as much as the lunch! Argh. Ah well, it’s just me.
Our new domestic helper arrives tomorrow, so we’ve been getting ready for her. She’ll sleep on my sofabed while I’m on my trip so we won’t need to get her a bed yet. We’ve looked around and have an idea where to get it, the frame from a chain furniture shop and the mattress from ikea.
We got sheets, duvet, pillow and towels from ikea plus a couple of sets of duvet covers from another shop last week. Our problems started this morning when mum went to wash the covers, only to discover they are actually sheets. Argh, we have sheets already, now there are 4 sets. But it means no duvet covers. So I went to ikea after lunch to get them. I made sure they are single duvet covers, these came with pillowcases too. So now there are 5 pillowcases because some of the sheets come with them.
Second problem. When I got home we discovered the duvet we bought last week was the wrong size. Instead of single we must have grabbed a double. Argh again! Back to ikea we trudged. I was pissed off and hot and tired by then.
Initially they wouldn’t accept the return because the package was opened. Mum persisted and got us the refund in the end, phew. We made sure the duvet was the right size. There was some money left over, enough for me to get 2 bottles of cider. Silver lining.
When I put in blinds for the study, I picked one that was pale white. It didn’t have any blackout function at all, because I didn’t need it in the study. If anything, I wanted it to be light enough even when I had it closed.
I never anticipated that I’ll need to sleep in the study, but that’s what I’m having to do now. (I never anticipated I needed to share my flat with anyone, tbh.) The sofa bed arrived a few days ago and the first morning afterwards I was woken up by the bright morning light. Ah yes, in addition to pale blinds, the study window also faces east.
The solution, even though I’m not keen on it, is to sleep with an eyemask. There are no side-effects from using a sleep mask, if anything there seems to be tiny benefits. There are also fancy models costing up to £60–this one is made from:
organic, bamboo, silk fabric subtly infused with the scent of natural lavender.
I have a few of them, collected from flights. No need for £60 eyemasks, this simple one did the job. The problem is, I don’t really like using eyemasks. Having a cover for my eyes isn’t the issue, it’s the presence of the straps that makes me feel like I constantly want to yank them off. I just have to suck it up, either get woken up in the morning or get enough sleep.
The contractor had an electrician over to check our fuse box and he told us that we need to rewire as the wires are frayed, old and dangerous. It’s not a con, or contractors adding on work, because I knew it was the most important thing that needed to be done but mum didn’t want to at first. I’m glad we’re finally doing it.
I drew a plan of the flat and where I think the plugs should go. I got the idea from mm who had me draw a plan with measurements when the project first started.
Seemed to work, we went through with the electrician and he drew out where he will install plugs and wires. We want a lot of the plugs about 60-70cm above floor level which surprised him. Why do plugs need to be at floor level? If it’s behind the tv with all accessories like cable, dvd player why isn’t it raised to be easier to reach? I’m also getting 2 doubles next to my desk for all the computer stuff.
When the movers arrived at 10am, my room was all ready and so was Papa’s room, most of the living and dining rooms, store room, bridge, helper’s room, bathroom and most of the kitchen. Actually what wasn’t ready was anything to do with mum’s stuff. She was still packing as the movers were packing. I didn’t pack the kitchen except for storing anything we’re not taking in boxes so I asked the movers to pack that. Lots of boxes.
They didn’t have room in the van to take our stuff away so we’ll have to ask the contractors. There was room in the van for both mum and I to ride along.
What did surprise me was how little we actually took with us to rob, because it took them no time at all to unload, for me to unpack essentials, and for the flat to look neat and tidy. The sofa, tv table and coffee table returned to their original positions, we have 2 fridges, and I managed to squeeze about half the kitchen stuff into the kitchen. The rest are in boxes in my room ready to be taken back to ede.
I’m taking the small room which as aforesaid spare kitchen stuff, my plastic boxes, a box of stuff from my desk, my clothes rail and tools. I packed the most important items–passports, documents, money, chequebooks–into one backpack. I’m still sleeping on the sofa until I get the ikea sofabed.
Everything was done by 3pm. Sis came over and she had nothing to do! We all went to the globe for dinner, which was extremely nice.
Today is the semi-annual charity collection. One of the collection points is diagonally opposite us, so it’s really convenient. We had been storing up stuff to give to them, there’s a big pile of clothes, books, kitchen and home stuff. Sis came over to help too, and we carted some bags to the collection point. The building janitor expressed interest in some of the stuff, so we gave some to him. I usually give him old electronics that he can use as parts or sell.
The part-time helper came too so we had 4 pairs of hands packing today. Made some progress. I should be pleased that so much got done, but I’m not. We’re running out of time and there’s still so much stuff not sorted. Why is it so difficult? Takes mum 5 minutes to go through one item of clothing. How can one person have so much clothes?
In terms of distraction and entertainment, how about this 9-year old captioning New Yorker cartoons. It started when her aunt posted her work, which then got noticed by the magazine itself.
I have several favourites. This one is most apt to my current circumstances. I’m trying very hard not to judge, honest.
Have to start packing in earnest, the movers are coming next Tuesday. They will pack everything that is being moved, but our complication is we’re not moving a substantial amount of stuff, which needs to be boxed and labelled ourselves. Plus so much rubbish to throw away.
Took me more than a day to pack the huge glass cabinets in the living room. An entire set of Hornsea dinner set plus an entire cottage tea set. Wedgewood, decoration, wine glasses. Now I need to sort my room, then I can tackle the rest of the flat. But I soon realised: a) I have a lot of stuff crammed into one room; b) I don’t have any space to manoeuvre. The only solution is to dismantle the bed to clear space. It’s amazing how much footprint a bed takes up.
Winter clothes will be packed away and stored in the wardrobe during renovation. The clothes I’ll need for the next 3 months will go in my suitcases. I’m taking the entire contents of my filing cabinet but not the cabinet itself–4 document boxes. I can leave the files behind but I don’t want confidential and personal stuff around while the builders are in. I put 2 shelves of books to the pile for charity collection, there are some books I never read and will likely never read so may as well give them away. Others, I’ll get the ebooks.
It’s becoming clear that most of our possessions are not needed and we keep them due to some hoarding instinct. Why do I need 100 pens? Three large boxes of shoes when I wear one pair at a time? What’s the point of collecting a whole drawerful of small toiletries?
Anyway, I’ll be sleeping on the sofa for the foreseeable future. We’re taking my bedframe and Mum’s mattress and she will sleep in the larger bedroom. I’ll stay on the sofa until we buy a single bed, which will eventually go into the helper’s room.
Meeting mm in the afternoon but I had a few errands to run before that. Had to go across the harbour to central post office. I hadn’t realised that the price of postage had gone up so a letter I sent was returned. I had to pay a penalty (the equivalent of 5p lol) and the additional postage (another 5p) to send the letter again. The cost of the penalty and additional postage was less than how much it cost me to travel to the post office and back! But it was a management fee payment and I didn’t want the cheque to get lost forever. Anyway, it was a surprisingly clear day with no visible haze. I still had to take anti-histamine so there’s still a lot of pollution.
Had tea at toastbox with mm then took the bus to the area where there are a number of home decoration shops. Saw more tiles and other stuff. She had made me measure out the dimensions of the rooms in the flat and draw the whole flat out. Used that to ask for price estimate for tiles and the like. I’m so inexperienced with home renovation that I hadn’t given the process much of a thought.
Normally we meet for lunch at the foodcourt then take a taxi. We were very early today so we thought we’d take a look around the restaurants inside the shopping centre. Decided to try a Shanghainese place that had 30% off for dimsum. Order a selection and a main dish. Pretty good, makes a change from foodcourt food.
Lots of people at the cemetery. Saw nearly 20 taxis going down as we were going up. There was a long, long queue when it was time for us to leave, but it only took 5-10mins for us to reach the top of the queue.
Went to an ikea nearby. This one is huge!! More like the size of ikeas in the UK and US. Plus a restaurant too. Saw some useful furniture and designs. I’m not taking my bed with me when we move; I saw a nice sofa bed that I can use, and we can use it if we hire a helper.
Pretty full from lunch, just had noodles for dinner.
Take longer. Savour every chapter. Appreciate every drawing. Recall the taste of each tea that she describes.
This is how it starts:
And already I’m sucked into the mood the writer created. And then:
Which triggers so hard. Because as I look around me, is it the home I envisioned? The answer is no. A ‘no’ laced with so much despair. Regret. Disappointment. Anger. Never did I forsee the circumstances I find myself in. Never was I prepared for my current living conditions. Both sis and mm (I met them today for drinks) said I need to do something about not being shut inside my room that is so full of stuff because I had to cram two rooms’ worth of stuff into one that I can’t breathe.
Back to the story, which tells of the writer’s journey through her life and always, there is tea. Her early life is associated with the English Breakfast that of her mother, and then she moved around the world to new adventures. And there’s always tea. Tea in the UK, tea culture in New Zealand that is even stronger, chai in India, a young friend in Canada bonding over tea, herbal teas, camomile. And finding her home in the form of her now husband, because home can be a person. A place. A passage of time.
I used to say home is where my furniture is; now I’m more likely to say home is where my electronics are. But really, it doesn’t matter. I’ve lost my sense of home, because everything seems to be fading. People, places, memories, experiences, are all behind a mist that is harder and harder to retrieve. Oh, I know where some of them are stored–32,000 images on flickr, 4,800 posts here on the website–I’ve meticulously organised them so searching is easy. But if I’ve forgotten there is something to search, then it’ll never be remembered, right?
Anyway, don’t wallow with me. Make a cup of tea and spend 10, 15, 20 minutes reading Ms Rardon’s article instead.
Our building is a low-rise with a total of only 16 flats. It started life as a co-op for civil servants. As time passed, it became privatised and non-civil servants were allowed to purchase units. There is one company that managed to buy a few units as they came on the market. They seem to be a property developer represented by an estate agent and they rent the flats out to private renters. It’s a popular rental even though the building is very old and there are no lifts. One of the most important aspect for these renters is we are in the catchment area of a large number of good schools. The developer has a total of 6 out of 16 units.
Last year, there was a government inspection of the building and as a result, there is some remedial work that has to be done. Patch the cracks on the outside wall, replace some pipes, fix part of sewage system that has collapsed. For a building this age, it’s held up surprisingly well. At an earlier homeowners’ meeting, it was suggested to take the opportunity and add a few maintenance items like re-pave the carpark (which is full of potholes), renew the waterproofing on the roof (the top floor flats report leakage), repaint interior common areas like the staircases. The last time they did maintenance on the building was over 10 years ago so it’s good timing.
The building hired a consultant to manage this project, an RFP went out, responses were received and a shortlist of potential contractors came for an interview a few weeks ago.
The representative of the 6 units told us that their client (the anonymous property developer) wants only to do the absolute necessary mandated by the government inspection. They don’t even want to paint the exterior after it’s been patched. So the homeowners association is now split into two fractions. The “original” owners like us and an outsider property developer whose ultimate motive we suspect is to buy everyone out so they can tear the building down. If they don’t even repaint the outside walls the building looks terrible and people who may want to sell can’t get a good price from other buyers so this property developer can swoop in and get the flat cheap. That unfortunately is the MO of property developers and estate agents, I’ve never come across a more unscrupulous and downright distasteful industry.
Today’s meeting is to vote on what tasks to be done and to decide on the contractor. The original owners made the effort to contact every single owner to get them to come to the meeting or assign a proxy. It was important that we get more than 6 in order for us to have a say.
The consultant conducted the vote and as expected, the property developer voted against every item that was optional. Yes, even repainting the outside walls after patching. Luckily we still have a majority so most of the optional items passed.
Our group agreed that we need to come up with a viable strategy to protect ourselves. As time passes, more families may want to sell and as soon as the developer gets more than half the units, they will have complete control over what happens to the building. Any families still remaining will be in a disadvantageous position. Hard to believe owning a flat can get this political.
Airfares to London are reasonable right now. Virgin return in november around £600. There are additional expenses too, like accommodation and transport. But it’s tempting.
I want to travel to a few locations around the country to suss out cost of housing and what it would be like to live there. London zone 2 is too expensive, even though it’s my first choice of where to live. Where sis and Rob have bought a house, in Chichester, a 2-bedroom new build flat is half the price of an equivalent 2-bed flat in W9. I want to check out Chichester, Brighton, and the coastal towns all the way up to Kent.
Then there’s further afield, which fills me with trepidation because that’s unfamiliar territory. The West Country and Wales. Up the A11 towards Cambridge. Even further away up the A1/M1 to Yorkshire. All the way to Edinburgh. Where can I live that will make me feel like home. Where indeed.
The guardian has ten autumn weekend breaks to lesser known towns and cities and some look quite interesting. Salisbury, Aberdeen, even…Richmond which made me scratch my head. I like the look of Bakewell, hard to get to Tregaron in Ceredigion (I had to google map it to see it’s halfway between Llanelli and Aberystwyth) and Hexham in Northumberland which they described as:
a criminally under-visited county
Back to London. Buzzfeed has a list of things to do this autumn in London including the Harry Potter 20th anniversay exhibition at the British Library, £31 two-course lunch at Galvin at Windows, £38 bottomless ramen on sunday including drinks and dessert Shoryu (or £5 ramen on sundays and mondays). And I’m missing hawksmoor a great deal again.
I’ve lived with this view out of my living room (East River, NYC):
On this street (Chicago):
And this (London):
WIthin walking distance to this (Lake Zurich at Tiefenbrunnen): image courtesy flickr user eric andresen because I haven’t scanned my pics
Running distance to this (Belmont Harbor, Chicago):
So why am I now a prisoner in a hovel of a room where two rooms-worth of stuff are piled on top of each other and there is no space to walk more than 3 steps. Pollution so bad I’ve needed antihistammine every day for the past 6 months. Always weary of dark spots in case there are undesirable visitors. No way out.
Had to go back to the flat for a gas appointment. Every time the gas supply is turned on, off or transferred they send a technician to test it, free of charge. It’s a bother, but it’s safe. I turned the supply off after he left since no one will living be there for a while.
I probably need to do a little work to the flat. The main door hinge is broken and the wood pretty chipped so I may as well replace the whole thing. I’d like to redo the bathroom too but it may be costly. I’ll have a think think.
I was meeting sis for happy hour but there was a lot of time, so I stayed around to read. I only had my ex-tenant’s coffee table, but it seemed sturdy enough to sit on. Plus the beer and vitamin water he left behind were refreshment enough. The beer was mostly heineken so honestly not appealing but the vitamin water was good.
I was early getting to the hh place and they hadn’t started so I found myself at another place around the corner. They had a 2-for-1 deal which, in retrospect, wasn’t suitable because I had to finish 2 glasses of wine before going to the original place. Ah well #firstworldproblem. The hh place didn’t have any special deals, but they had canapes which made it a very popular location. They had small sandwiches, prosciutto, fried pumpkin and pasta. Enough to fill me up without needing dinner. Their wine selection was also much, much better than the around the corner place.
Mum’s friends introduced her to a part-time helper who can come once a week to help with household chores. We started with tidying the store room, aka the maid’s room that we have been using as store room. There is no ‘before’ pic because: a) I didn’t think of it and b) it was extremely horrible with stuff thrown all over the floor.
We threw away so much stuff! I’m so happy we can see the floor, albeit it’s 1960s style tiled floor. Most stuff we threw away are old or hasn’t been used for years. Organised other stuff that mum bought, put in a bag or box, and promptly forgot about it. That’s why we have so much toiletries, they were hidden in boxes and bags.
Next week, we’ll tackle the bridge and part of the kitchen.
One of the consequences of packing a uber bag is I learned about how to ranger roll clothes. It works with smaller items of clothing like thin t-shirts, underwear and socks. I’m not very proficient at rolling larger t-shirts, sweatshirts or jeans. I think it’s because I’m not rolling the initial parts tight enough so the end bundle is too fat.
I found out a way to fold socks that folds in the ankle then two simple folds. It’s different from ranger roll and results in a flatter end product. Barely takes up any space. I went through my socks drawer and refolded everything. Now it looks very neat. I’m very proud of myself.
Savills has the smallest castle in the UK listed for £550,000. It’s called Molly’s Lodge, a Grade II listed building in Long Compton in Warwickshire. Lots of pics at Country Living magazine. If it weren’t for the turret, it’d be a pretty stone cottage, not a castle.
Inside, it has one bedroom, one bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and a metal spiral staircase. Beautiful gardens that has fruits, vegetables, herbs and a chicken run to be self-sufficient.
What grabbed my attention, aside from the prettiness of the exterior and modern interior, is that there is a second house included on the property. Can see it perpendicular with the castle on the top picture. Called Molly’s Mews it has a one bedroom flat with open kitchen, double garage and an office. Perfectly livable, and the castle can be rented out on airbnb for income. The price tag of £550,000 seems too good to be true, I guess it’s because both houses are just one bedroom. Can’t even get a decent one bedroom flat in London for that price.
A creepy-crawly flew into my room and even though we sprayed like mad, we can’t reach it. Hopefully the spray did the job.
I slept outside in the living room. I don’t mind, I like sleeping on my sofa; mm too, when she used to come over she’d fall asleep on the sofa as soon as she sat on it. In fact, I think I slept better on the sofa than my bed. It’s also much quieter on that side of the flat.
Lately, I’ve found it hard to fall asleep. Or I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep at all. I guess I’m not alone. It’s likely sleep-onset insomnia, or I may have some negative associations with trying to sleep in bed.
It’s not ideal, to sleep on the couch. Softness of the cushions, the cloth material not suited to dissipate body heat, limited space to move are all factors that may affect the quality of sleep.
I’ll continue for a few more days, until mentally I’m okay with being back in my room. Soon it’ll get hot and I’ll have to go back to my room to turn the air-con on.
Scrubbed the hob with the brillo pads and the steel sponge I bought at the ¥100 shop. The steel sponge has a regular sponge on one side and the other feels like smooth sandpaper. It worked magic with the stubborn stains that had been ingrained in the steel parts of the hob. I haven’t been able to scrub them perfectly shiny clean, they look pretty good though. Perhaps less surprising, the hob that I use most often is the cleanest and the one I hardly ever use the grimiest. May be the heat and flame get rid of the food deposits. If only the store had more than just one of the steel sponges available; on the shopping list for next time.
Changed bedclothes too, which is a feat of engineering because I have a ginormous and heavy duvet plus 5 pillows. And barely any room to manoeuvre around my bed. Tried out this rolling method for putting the duvet inside the cover and it does work. I have to get better at flipping the corners but it’s quicker, I’m definitely huffing and puffing less, and the top of the duvet fits better.
Annual check of the emergency go bag. It’s pretty heavy but manageable if need be. Everything in order, added a bit more money. Previously I had USD22, GBP22. Added $10 and £10 respectively. Added € too. Everything has gotten more expensive and more money in an emergency is needed.
Switched out the teabags and chocolate for new ones that expire later. MRE is still okay. Still haven’t added shoes like I thought about last year. I figure, in an emergency I have to make time to grab wallet, phone and put on shoes. Worst case scenario, I’m at home I’m wearing crocs.
Homeowners’ meeting this morning, to go through the work needed after our mandatory building inspection. External walls need to be patched, cracks on common area walls, broken windows, roof waterproofing, sewage pipes and all that. Quite a lot. The contractor went through the tender items and we will need to invite for tender. There are only 16 units and one company owns 5 so it’s not a big group. Couple of things I learned. First, charge an admin fee for contractors interested in submitting a tender, to filter out riff-raffs. Second, it’s so easy to get everyone’s agreement on common sense stuff. There isn’t enough funds so the management fee goes up. Other places will need a formal quorum, vote etc. We just all said, yeah, we’ll have to increase. It’s all for the building anyway.
Lunch at home then met mm for tea with mum. Went to the pokka café so mum can try their hot chocolate. Fancy thick chocolate in a jug that she could pour over cream, and a container of marshmallows on the side. Less rich than the iced chocolate I tried at the other café.
With mum’s card, mm was able to get her shredder, coffee grinder, alarm clock and stationery. We bought a basket-full of snacks, toiletries and miscellaneous stuff.
It was already quite late. After looking on the restaurant app and calling a few places, we ended up at another ayce japanese place. This is for shabu shabu. Extremely cramped tables but we liked it because: a) the food was good and b) the service was fast and pro-active. The usual beef, pork, seafood, vegetables. We also had sashimi. Good value, especially for dinner. Apparently the place only opened a couple of weeks ago, so kudos to them for getting it right so quickly.
No office this week, I finished my project. Still went out early to walk around and explore a supposed seel nest. Only got 2 despite walking around for more than half an hour.
Then it was a long long wait at the flat for the washing machine delivery. First I had to disconnect the old washing machine and pipes because the delivery people only deliver. Took me about 10-15mins, had to figure everything out. After delivery, another 2-3hr wait for the technician to come and install it. He told me I could have arranged for someone to disconnect for a small fee. He was quite chatty, changed the socket and installed a filter between the outlet pipe and outside pipe to get rid of the sewage smell. All done at 4pm. Waste of a day. I hope the tenant appreciates it.
Needed something to eat and some wine. Saw an italian restaurant, Al Dente, near the escalator with 2-for-1 happy hour between 3-8. I was the only customer there. Asked for the snack menu and then the waiter said chef isn’t here yet so i said okay, no problem. He was thankful I was understanding. The house chianti was nice. When the chef came back, I ordered the anchovy butter bruschetta. Didn’t realse it’d be 6 pieces! Ordered a second round of wine, which the waiter comped. I gave him a 20% tip on top of the 10% service.
The bruschetta was filling enough to serve as dinner, so I went to a new area by the harbour that saw 4 porygons one day last week. Didn’t get lucky, walked to the end of the path and back. Got some various pokemons, probably should have stayed longer. At that point, I’d walked 10km for the day so I wanted to get home.
The tenant emailed to say there is something wrong with the washing machine, a puddle of brown water in the drum. It’s time to replace rather than try to get it fixed. In the long run, it’s better for my wallet and time. I went to the electronics shop and bought one that was fairly cheap with good functionalities and the longest warranty they had. Not a bad price $3600. Siemens.
Had time to wander around. Ran some bank errands, went to the library to look at travel NZ books and to make notes.
Was meeting mm and her brother for happy hour. We said between 5-5.30, I got there quite early at 4.40. But they didn’t show up till around 6, I was pretty annoyed. But nothing I can do. I can’t change her, she’ll always be late. I would have been sitting at another hh place myself anyway.
Dinner with her family. Sat with the nieces and nephew and they told us lots of jokes. Useful day.
Had to go to my flat in the morning to meet the handyman to sort out a couple of things. Apparently the aircon switch doesn’t work and there’s sewage smell in the bathroom and kitchen. The aircon didn’t work because the tenant had the unit in the off position!! I wonder if he’s ever seen a window aircon unit before, I bet in LA he has central aircon.
The sewage smell was due to stagnant drain. It’s the floor drain next to the bathroom that I never bother with. I’m supposed to pour water down it occasionally. So when the handyman did that, it solved the problem. I went out to the supermarket and bought a large bottle of disinfectant and now the bathroom smells nicer. The kitchen smell was due to the washing machine drain and the handyman told me to get some electrical tape and seal it off.
Met mm for lunch. Went to the DVD place and got The Fall s1 and 3, have to order s2. I wanted The Librarians but they don’t have it. Mum and I were watching over the weekend and looked interesting.
Grotty weather, drizzle and rain. We collected mm’s car that was at the dealer’s and drove out to the beach. Normally at the weekends it’s bustling. Today we were hard pressed to find a store that was open. Had ice cream and a beer. Walked around the village but retreated to the car when the rain got heavier.
Called up the utilities companies to change to my name. All different procedures.
Electricity customer service advised me to not change for another month. When the next bill arrives, call up to cancel the autopay and let the deposit pay for the bill. Then change name. I thought it was great advice.
Gas needed a fax or email with all sorts of certificates, include proof of relationship. Really? But then once I emailed it was done quickly.
Water took my details over the phone and that was it.
The fridge delivery people called at 12pm asking if I’ll be there in 20mins. Even though the arranged time is 2-4pm. I said no, it’ll take me an hour to get there. The cheek.
Mum and I took a bunch of cleaning materials (I took a big bag already on wed) and today’s aim is to clean the flat until it’s as clean as we can get it. Mum tackled the bathroom and I got started in the kitchen. After I finished the kitchen I washed the windows inside and out and mopped the floor. The fridge people came at around 2pm and I’m liking the fridge I bought.
The dry cleaner rang the bell mid-afternoon too. I expected him to deliver the curtains tomorrow but bless him he got it done today. Perfect, this means I don’t have to come back tomorrow. We spent quite a bit of time getting the curtains back up.
By 5pm we’d been working non-stop for more than 3hrs. Everything was done except we needed to get a drain filter for the bathroom. Tired already but we persevered. Walked to the nearby hardware store. It was dinner time so we had noodles and treated ourselves to dessert at this 100+ year old dessert place. Mum had almond soup and I had sesame soup.
Walked back home, got the filters in and final cleaning. We did really, really well today. Thanks, Mum for helping!!
A long, long, long day but productive. Went to the agent’s office first thing to sign the offer letter. Then I was going up to the flat and he kindly offered to drive me since he has to go do the inventory list. I took down the curtains while he was doing that and he offered to drive me to the dry cleaner’s.
I made my way slowly down the escalator and was in M&S when the agent called again. Did I have a spare key so the tenant can drop a few bags there? Sure, I said. They were meeting at Starbucks nearby so I popped over. Met the tenant, an analyst with a fixed income trading house specialising in distressed loans. Young, smart guy. He gave me the security deposit in an envelope of cash. I had to rush to the bank straight after the meeting finished.
Met Sis for lunch at the Globe. I had grilled leatherjacket, a white fish not unlike sea bass. Carrot cake for dessert and a glass of pinot noir too. Needed the rest and food.
Nice to chat and some things she said made me reflect and think of what I’ve been feeling and what I can do to help myself.
Bus to Ikea to get shower curtain and a towel for the tenant. His serviced apartment finishes on saturday and his shipment doesn’t arrive till October. I’ve been in his shoes. He asked for a towel, and it wasn’t expensive.
Met mm and bought fridge. Spent a while at the shop dealing with the fridge. Also saw this fabulous Bosch food processor that had both of us tempted. We were strong and decided to think about it hahaha.
Late tea / early dinner at toast box. We chatted and chatted and when we turned around it was past 6pm. Thought we’d walk around but ended up looking at the map and going after a kadabra, then a lickitung. Camped out at a gym to sneak in to get the 10 gold. Quick dinner at a food court, more chatting. It was almost 10pm. Went to the gym again to make sure mm gets her 10 gold, that was more involved, I had to fight to weaken the incumbent before she could sneak in.
Got home at 11pm, having been out since 9.30am. Still lots more to do in terms of flat.
Conference call this morning was quite long, two hours. Got quite a bit done and discussed, so it’s all good.
Got an email in the afternoon that someone is interested in renting my flat. Yay!! I looked at the offer letter and agreed to it quickly. The rent isn’t as high as I’d like (it never is) but it’s been empty and in the long run it works out.
The tenant is a single guy who recently relocated from LA and he doesn’t have too many requests. Provide fridge, provide shower curtain and do cleaning. So Mum and I went to the electrical shop to look at fridges. I had one in mind but the salesperson suggested another one. Marginally more expensive but much bigger. Seems reasonable. I’ll go get it after the offer letter is signed and I have the deposit. Shower curtain from Ikea is no problem. I called up a cleaning company and their quote is astronomical. Mum and I will probably go ourselves.
Some people came to look at our sofa set that we have been trying to sell for ages. These have been with the family for something like 40 years. Not exactly antique. We didn’t take them to the UK so they literally have been in the flat since they arrived. Parents took good care of them.
One three seater sofa, two armchairs, two side tables, one coffee table.
The people were buying for their new house, which is very damp so need to use these type of wood. They saw our dining table set and wanted it too. So we said yes. Price isn’t okay, I’m happy we got some money but I think Mum expected more. No one wants this type of furniture to be honest, you can’t pay me to take them.
Continuing to sell stuff. Posted a bunch of stuff: small gift items, kit camera lenses, the camcorder that I never use, sellable clothes, small furniture and my tv. Most people were interested in the small items, not a lot of bite for furniture.
Someone whatsapped me about the tv and the convo that followed was bizarre, in full glory below. I don’t know if it’s fat fingers or someone dictating to Siri or using a translation input or simply poor English. I’m still scratching my head. The bad news is, I didn’t sell the tv although someone else came to pick up the free tv stand later.
The movers showed up at 10am, and started packing the things I hadn’t. Plus wrapping the furniture in a mixure of large cloth and plastic wrap. Seems like for local moves there is no need to wrap furniture in cardboard.
Sis brought me lunch and watched as the last boxes were brought downstairs. The medium sized lorry was just not enough to take all items so they ordered a small van. There was enough space for me to go with the lorry, and I was also able to navigate.
Not a lot of space in parents’ flat. The intended space clearance was not successful. I was able to fit bedroom and study furniture in my room so at least that’s a plus. They piled boxes in any space available. A bit depressing, thinking about trying to fit everything in. Sigh.
A busy running around sort of day. Had to wait in the morning for a buyer for one of the microwaves to come by. The first interested party dropped off the radar ignoring me so I contacted the second person interested. She quickly sent her helper and we got the microwave in the taxi pronto.
Then took the useless printer, the old MSI netbook and a bunch of firewire external hard disks to the recycling centre. Those were the ginormous ext HDs that were 500MB, a big thing in their day. I’m too frugal to take a taxi so the netbook and ext HDs were in my backpack and I was carrying the printer on the bus.
Met mm for a quick lunch at a Japanese place. She had grilled mackerel and I had chirashi set. We caught up and it was good to just spend a little time together.
Hurried back home, collected the dehumidifier, sled and lawn chair. Called a UberVan to take me and the really heavy stuff to sis’ place. I’m teenager sitting tonight while Sis and Rob go to a school parents’ event. In theory my niece is old enough to stay at home on her own, but I guess it gives Sis and Rob peace of mind when I’m there. I really only read, watch tv and cook dinner. Dinner tonight was vegetarian tray bake: potato, sweet potato, cauliflower, red onion, whole garlic, halloumi and olive. It was very nice, if I say so myself. And I got compliments from everyone, Rob even got second helpings when they came back from the meeting. Nice way to end the evening.
I’m home to sell stuff, and to prep for the move. Throwing away as much as I can, I downsized a bit when I moved to London from Chicago (half the size for double the rent) and now it’s time to downsize even more. There is no reason one person should have so much stuff.
I asked the movers to deliver boxes ahead of time so I can pack; they’re doing that on Thursday. In the meantime I found some existing boxes and managed to start with packing. These boxes represent the contents of my 4 small cabinets and my desk.
In addition I threw away 4 rubbish bag full of useless stuff.
I’m going to move to my parents’ permanently. It’s not worth keeping my flat empty more than 50% of the time when it can be rented out.
Though in theory everything from my flat will fit into parents’ flat, it will be cramped. So I’m selling stuff. There’s not a huge second-hand market here, but Sis suggested posting on the local expat forum’s classified section.
First to be posted are two sets of small cabinets that were bought almost 20 years ago. After 2 complete trips around the world, they are still in good condition. I posted the 2-drawer set and got responses within a few hours. Sold to the first person who contacted me. To the second person I said I have a 3-drawer set, will she be interested? Yes, so I didn’t even need to post it. The first buyer sent his maid over today and we got the units into a taxi for her to take home (they’re only 5 mins’ walk away). The second buyer will pick the units up next week.
Thus encouraged, I will post more stuff this weekend. Microwaves (one from Switzerland, one from UK), candles, prints, chairs, two Ikea side tables, wireless router that has never been used. Not expecting a lot of money; every little will go towards the cost of the movers.
I remember an ex-colleague said she’s addicted to selling stuff on ebay. Now I can see why. I’m mentally going through the content of my flat and figuring out what else I can sell.
I sometimes humblebrag joke that my career consisted of being sent to various places around the world to play with excel. It had to start someplace, and it was 16 years ago that I went on my first assignment to New York. As a junior intern, it was the epitome of excitement and privilege. I didn’t know what to expect.
New York will forever have a place in my heart as the city where I saw in the millenium. New Year’s Eve I was at a stranger’s roof at a stranger’s party, having gone there with people I just met earlier that day. It was a bit surreal. All I can say about living in New York was, it was an interesting experience, it’s a place where one can very easily disappear and become invisible.
My boss called me as I was leaving so I spent a good many minutes talking to her on the (then swanky) mobile in the lift lobby. My cousin picked me up at JFK and brought me to the serviced apartment I was booked in. I stayed at that serviced apartment for 2 months, then moved to my permanent place at 175 E96th between 2nd and 3rd Ave. It was the first time in my life I rented, but even with the application form filling and not having a credit history it wasn’t as troublesome as it could have been. I was a bit clueless then, and my furniture hadn’t arrived so I moved the suitcases and boxes I had accumulated at the serviced apartment on foot about 3 blocks.
Reason I chose this apartment was I liked the bright airy feel and the beautiful view over the East River. On a clear day if I looked south from my living room I could see the Empire State Building. From the outside the building was imposing and my first thought was of a large drum. There were a lot of apartments per floor however the beauty of the cylindrical design was no one had to look at a neighbour’s apartment. I tried taping a big “X” on the living room window but it was too small to spot from the street. Hee.
It was only a few minutes’ walk from the subway and shops. My weekend routine would be wake up, read the paper and go to the neighbourhood supermarket run by Spanish speaking Koreans. More shops at 86th Street were only a few bus stops away, and since it’s only 10 blocks, on a nice day I sometimes walked down there. Once or twice I even ventured up past 100th Street in the middle of the day, I kept to the busy roads so I wasn’t that scared.
I did a lot of walking in New York. Some Saturdays I’d visit the Union Square market and then walked all the way down to Chinatown. Or I’d take the bus down to South Street Seaport and walk around there. I’ve always been a bus person because I liked looking out at the scenery, the subway had no view. In those days internet was dial-up. I subscribed to the weekend editions of the NYT and there would be small announcements of where street fairs would be that weekend.
New York was the place I learnt about food. Hours and hours of watching the Food Network and some of the enthusiasm certainly rubbed off. Food was abundant, cheap and portions huge. I thought nothing of having grilled strip steak once a week. The aforementioned Union Square market with fresh fruit & veg stalls, fresh meat and even a wine stall. Visits to the big name fancy food shops like Dean & Deluca and Zabar’s were a special day for me.
But most of the time I stayed at my little place. I might order $20 worth of Chinese take-out, gorge and then stick the rest in the freezer. When the Razor rage erupted that year I bought one and was happily speeding from the front door to the living room window, it was a good 30ft run. There was only one bedroom so my desk was at the corner of the living room. The only thing I still have is the desk. The chair, the glass cabinet, the iMac and the (gasp) cassette player, all thrown away or donated.
My assignment was supposed to be 3 years. The office was in Stamford so it was 1.5hrs by train each way every day. Once a week I’d work in the office in the city, which was at the bottom end of Broadway. My global head moved me to Zurich after one year so on 9/11 I wasn’t in NYC anymore. But I could have been.
It wasn’t long enough, one year, to live there. Took me a while to get used to it and I never made any friends. There were places I wanted to visit but I never got round to it. Fortunately in the years to come I’d get a chance to visit the US and eventually had my second US assignment to Chicago. Fewer regrets in life.
We always keep an eye out for property, I think everyone does that. In the course of discussions with friends, mm came across a new development in…Elephant and Castle. My memory of the area is a rundown roundabout. Of course it’s being gentrified, it’s in zone 1 so won’t escape the notice of developers.
The brochure is superpretty, of course, with unrealistic “indicative view” of the building and flats. The hint of Shard view, sunset and cafés. Yeah right. The cheapest are one-bedroom flats at over £600,000, nearer the £700,000 mark. Ugh.
On reddit: what does a $300,000 house look like where you are. That’s a paltry £200,000. And according to bb, it gets you a nice house in Dallas vs a garage in London. Not quite fair, comparing Dallas with London, and according to the foxtons listing, the garage has planning permission for a 2-bed house.
More realistic is the 1-bed flat in Peckham, which caught my eye because of the address: Bird in Bush Road, hehe. Around our neighbourhood, it’s mostly garages. The nearest is a studio in a converted house Willesden. These are almost always really small and horrible. We know better than to be deceived by estate agent pictures.
We know this already, London and the Southeast house prices are astronomical. How to be happy? Go live in the north. It’s hard to get out of the Londoner mindset though, we have a bit of ways to go.
Sis managed to persuade parents to get rid of some of their very old furniture. She hired movers to remove our childhood beds, two huge sideboards and several cabinets. The cabinets in the balcony and storeroom were so large that the movers had to break them up in order to move them, wonder how they got inside in the first place.
In exchange we got Sis’ cube shelves which take up the space of one of the sideboards. The other empty spaces will eventually have other old cabinets and shelves which hopefully allows space for my stuff.
No bed means I have to borrow her air mattress. It’s a big double mattress, it takes up almost all the floor space of my room. A portent of the challenges to come, I have to fit my bed into the same space.
I realised that in my haste to go to parents’ last night I left a plate of fruit on the kitchen counter. I never leave food out overnight, especially uncovered perishable food. I throw my rubbish out every night too.
Plus I had a load of laundry that needed to be done. So I went home for a bit, just enough time to do the laundry. Poor fridge, it’s completely not working so I turned it off. Took the remainder of the food inside back to parents’ place. Had half a dozen eggs, but no egg carton, so hard boiled them for easier transportation.
I think the decision is not to replace the fridge. Get rid of enough old furniture at parents’ place, make room for my stuff, rent out the flat. The income is enough for us to live on.
There seems to be some sort of universally acknowledged rule, that if you need to make an appointment for a technician to come to your home to fix something or to set up something like the internet, a) they can only offer you a vague, not useful time range; b) they are always late.
I spent the whole day waiting for someone to come fix my fridge. When I came back from shunde wednesday night, I discovered that the fridge and freezer had stopped working sometime between Monday afternoon and Wednesday night. The light was on in the fridge compartment so it wasn’t the power supply. For good measure I reset the fuse box of the whole flat. Nope. Everything in the freezer had defrosted so I had to throw most of them away, luckily I didn’t have ice cream that would have made a mess, or raw meat that would have smelled. I did however have some leftovers from the restaurant yesterday and some fruit that is barely surviving at room temperature. It’s hard not to have a fridge in 33ºC weather.
Anyway, the appointment was 1-4pm. I waited, and watched tv, and did a bit of TRX. 4pm rolled by, of course he hadn’t showed up. I called the service centre and was told he was still stuck at another job and it’d be an hour. Sigh. When will I ever get to be the 1pm appointment?
Almost 6pm and still no one. I called the service centre and no surprise they’re gone for the day. I called up the sales department and wouldn’t let them fob me off. I told them I was aware they were the sales department but if there was someone there who could help me please. To their credit, they found the appointment in the computer and rang the guy for me.
Technician showed up around 6.15pm. The fix took him all of 10mins. Apparently the timer on the thermostat flipped and was stuck at the off position. Argh. He also told me to leave an even larger gap between the fridge and the wall to let the heat dissipate. Strange, because my fridge isn’t in an enclosed space, but whatever. At least my food isn’t going to spoil anymore. There’s nothing in the freezer apart from dried food and film (35mm film, from pre-digital camera days) so I’ll have to do a mini shopping run soon.
I’m vindicated. There’s science behind why this 100% introvert doesn’t like speaking, can never come up with a witty repartee and generally has lousy comic timing (or any sort of interaction timing). Another thing I hate is phone calls. The stupid phone rings, and we’re expected to drop everything and respond immediately, without knowing what the other party wants. At least with caller display, we know who is calling.
I don’t do voicemail. Even when I was at work. I had to be subtle about it, but I managed.
I was the first one in my family to ditch my landline. In London I was forced to sign up for a landline because BT bundles it with internet. I hardly ever answer the phone anyway, so landlines are useless to me. When I was in the mood and bored, I remember having a grand time winding up this PPI scammer who called, so much so that he hung up on me. Victory!
It’s truly the end of an era when this week, my parents cancelled their landline. Generally the older generations tend to hold onto older technologies because they are used to them. But as my dad said, when almost 100% of calls on the landline are telemarketers or estate agents, then it’s a waste of money to keep it.
My dad is a very very late adoptor of technology and even he has a mobile now, albeit an old nokia non-smartphone. I notice they still have the Pavlovian response to phone calls, mum gets all upset and uptight at missed calls, whereas my iphone is permanently on DND. Anyone who wants to reach me can whatsapp (no one uses text anymore). Even email is passé.
There a small tinge of sadness. We’ve had our parents’ number for over 40 years. Phone numbers used to be 6-digit, then 7, then 8. It’s a good number, but it’s time to let it go.
Now if only the government will pass legislation restricting telemarketing calls on mobiles, the world will be a better place.
An architectectural firm in Madrid designed this modern, efficient space from a small apartment. One half is a fixed living area (seen on the slideshow) and the other half is divided into rooms using movable walls. The kitchen units and bathroom are on either side, and 3 plywood units can be moved to create kitchen, bedroom and sitting/utility area. The room collapses when the units are moved to another configuration. The walls themselves double up as storage and closet.
Technology is such that nowadays, movable walls and doors made from heavy materials can be moved with one hand. The walls are suspended from the ceiling and move along using tracks similar to what is used in libraries and archives. The bathroom looks quite small and narrow and it can get to be a pain to raise/lower the bed everyday. These are the only negatives I can see, everything else looks super. Of course, this is pretty much only suitable for people who live minimalistically and tidy up as they go about their day.
The name of the firm is PKMN pronounced pac-man, it shows they have a sense of humour. The video is fun too:
Spotted via lifehacker is a fun little exercise from the OECD to determine which countries we should live based on how we rank important topics like housing, health, safety.
Doesn’t tell me anything I didn’t know. Canada, Australia, Norway and Switzerland come out top for me. I know that these countries have good health systems and infrastructure, they normally come out top in most satisfaction indices anyway. I will be quite happy living in any of these places. Reminds me, I need to dig out and scan pics of my apartment in Zurich.
The fridge is not cooling down sufficiently again. This happened in March so I tried to fix it the way the technician did it when he came to repair it.
I unplugged the fridge, took out the freezer drawers, removed the door of the coil compartment and identified the problem. The evaporator coils of the freezer were frosted over so the cold air wasn’t making it up to the fridge compartment. I used a hairdryer to melt the frost, using a cloth to soak up the dripping water. It wasn’t a serious frost problem, so after10 minutes it was okay and the food hadn’t started to defrost yet.
It’s not the call-out fee saved—it’s pretty minimal; it’s timing. I’m thinking the earliest I could get a tech out would be monday, and by then my food would be spoiled. If it were any other piece of household appliance, I would have called someone. My first instinct is always to call someone, I’m by no means a good DIYer: I can change lightbulbs and drill a hole, that’s about it. Mum and I wallpapered and tiled the bathroom when I was young but that was mainly Mum. I don’t own any power tools and i certainly cannot change a tire.
Fingers crossed, that’s the end of my fridge troubles.
Of course, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Especially just before I go on holiday. Last time the fridge conked out, luckily there was enough time for the repair person to come, and it was just the fridge not the freezer. This is one time I’m glad we buy european appliances from a reputable dealer rather than from the high street.
Over the weekend, my hot water heater stopped working. It’d been raining very, very hard for the previous few days so moisture might have seeped into the heater and affected the pilot. The ceiling light next to the heater blew out too. Again, luckily the heater was from the gas company and I was able to book a repair appointment. Their earliest slot is on Tuesday though, so it’s been cold showers or going to parents’ place. It’s started to get warm, 30°C so cold showers isn’t a problem.
Then tonight as I was heading home, the bus broke down. The first sign was when it was turning from a side road to the main road and it slipped backwards. I didn’t think large buses had manual clutches — a normal car may slip when we don’t engage the clutch properly but I would have thought buses are automatics. The driver tried to start the vehicle multiple times, to no avail. We couldn’t have broken down at a worst place. The side road is narrow and connects from a large main road. It was useless to get off the bus, go to the next stop and wait for another bus because all the other buses were stuck behind our broken down bus. Not a great picture, but behind the #103 (our broken down bus) are all the others #23, #40 etc that could have gotten the passengers on their way. Luckily I was near enough home to be able to walk, even though it was 1.5miles, uphill, and it was hot, muggy and drizzling.
I got home, plugged into my mba and was greeted by a server error. No internet connection. What!?! The airport was on, network diagnostics showed wifi was working and connected. It was definitely not the wifi because both iphone and ipad worked. Seems to be a sporadic problem. Solved by shutting down and restarting. Phew.
Lesson learned: things will go wrong at inopportune moments. There is usually a silver lining though, so don’t panic (and carry a towel).
I hate shower curtains. They get icky and grimy and wet. They flow inwards and cling to my arms when the shower is on (there must be some physics that explains this). Anyway, I hate shower curtains.
In the absence of shower doors, because installing it will involve $$$ and a workman, I wanted to get a curved shower rod which gives more space in the shower. Problem is my shower rail is L-shaped, and I have yet to see an L-shaped curved shower rod.
Then I saw this idea on indiegogo, of shower curtain rings that pushes the curtain outwards to give more space. $35 for a set and $55 for two. Comparable to the curved shower rod with the advantage that existing shower rods can be used.
The project isn’t very well funded right now, less than 5% with 15 days to go. I wish there were more funders, then I’m more comfortable at putting my contribution in. Thinking about it.
Chicago is frozen and much of the UK is flooded. Here it’s been cold enough for 2 duvets and a fan heater. Today it’s almost t-shirt weather but I would still much rather be anywhere but here. I haven’t been outside since Friday, and I’m perfectly happy to stay indoors for days. I guess I don’t suffer from cabin fever a lot.
This year’s nano is inspired by a Grand Designs episode that featured two women who built a beautiful, eco-friendly, grass-roofed, larch-cladded house on the Isle of Skye. Grand Designs, for those unfamiliar, is a UK tv program that follows home building projects. While that description seems bland and boring, it is quite the opposite. Most of the homes featured are unusual, thoughtful and frankly covet-worthy.
This is one of my favourite episodes because this one was all about following and realising a dream. From a young age, one of the owners have dreamed of having her own house with a grass roof, and this is the story of how she achieved that. The episode is also about compromise, and living within one’s means. The resultant house isn’t grand: it’s only 90m2, with one bedroom and an end window that would have been spectacular if it were higher. There’s a wistful and sort of inspriing quote that comes out of this:
better to have a small amount of something you love than to have too much of something you don’t need
I also found another inspiration recently, of a young couple who build a glass house from recycled windows. It’s a peaceful, fantastic house with another story about another couple. Theirs is also about a dream, but also about creativity and finding a particular way of life.
The practical side of me questions these designs. Do houses with grass or flower roofs really work? Won’t they flood or collapse? A house with top to bottom windows sounds so precarious, surely it can’t withstand heavy rain or strong winds?
But that’s me. If everyone were like me, these projects would never have seen the light of day.
I’m almost done outlining the story. The MC inherited some land and a dilapidated hut/cabin. She wants to build her ideal house, but has to balance between her past life and lifestyle with her idealistic view of her future life. The second MC has already achieved her ideal orderly life, and she doesn’t need creativity or dreams, or so she thinks. Hopefully I can come up with some good interactions and character development. Still have to do some research into the logistics of house building, find info about where to set the story and decide on the supporting cast. The house itself will be a character in the story too, since its growth is so intricately tied to the growth of the MCs. It’s almost like I can name chapters based on each stage of the process.