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I love moving house.  It ranks right up there together with self-immolation, root canal work and repeatedly smashing my thumb with a hammer as a leisure activity.  Gee, how I wish I could move more often.


As relaxing weekends go, last weekend (12-14 June) was probably not the best, starting as it did with a visit to the new house late on Friday to check that all the work was done.  Although everything looked like million bucks, we did notice straight away that the lounge was still full of building materials (and a toilet!), meaning the building work hadn't quite finished on schedule.  In the overall scheme of things, not too bad.  But from there, the annoying discoveries came fast & thick:

1) the electrician was not sure which lights to mount on the wall in the bathroom, so he mounted the 2 lights that are meant to be the ceiling lights in the lobby and guest loo!! All I could think of was the 3 screw fittings that those lights come with, and how they had probably drilled holes for them in my pristine porcelain tiles…

2) the loo roll holder was mounted in such a way that it was too close to the wall to get a full roll of loo paper onto it!!

3) nobody had checked to see if the toilet and the boxing behind the toilet (to cover the bath waste pipe) were matched in size, despite the fact that the loo had been standing in the lounge, ready to be measured, for 2 weeks. So they had built the box, then installed the toilet… but the back of the cistern was a good 5-10cm away from the wall. If you were to lean back, it would TILT!!

4) they had fitted a Yale lock to the front door… and managed to misalign the lock and the little hole in the door jamb where the lock is meant to engage, so the Yale did not lock/work.

I'd be lying to you if I said I was a happy puppy on Friday night. I just felt totally defeated by it all – it was as if we'd put in SO much effort and commitment and planning, and one careless afternoon screws it all up. And now we not only had the prospect of a fight with the builder on our hands, we also had more work to be done on the house and the prospect of builders on site next week when we are living there! And things got worse. On Saturday morning the electrician showed up to change the lights and we told him just to push the key (to the old, working lock) through the mail slot when he was done. We went shopping, had lunch, and at about 3 Nick returned to the new house with paint & brushes, ready to go. Only to find that… the electrician had SOMEHOW forced the door to lock and engage the night latch, so he was locked out of the house completely. Call the builder – no answer. So Nick called a locksmith, who came out and spent AN HOUR (and £90) breaking into our house and explaining to us how this was the wrong lock for the door altogether. So now we also had a big hole in our (steel plated) door!! (at least we know the house is hard to break into…).

But through all this, we still had to move.  Our old landlord had his builder coming in on Monday morning, so we had no choice but to get our stuff into the new house.  I read a wodnerful Stephen King book a year or two ago called Hearts in Atlantis.  In the first novella, an old man arrives to lodge with the young hero and his mother, and the mother takes against the lodger purely on the basis that he arrived with his possessions in shopping bags rather than suitcases.  On that score, we were already marked out as social pariahs, as most of our stuff made the move in the council's orange plastic recycling bags! This is what happens when you decide to move yourself rather than engage the professionals… 

Because we had a couple of oversize pieces of furniture (and because Nick did not want my potted plants in his car!), we also engaged the services of that great British institution: the man with a van.  Ours was Polish and arrived looking like a 16-year old surfer in need of a beach, as well as looking stoned off his board.  Nice.  Just the look you want in the man who is moving your precious possessions.  Good thing the drive between the houses takes precisely 30 seconds!

So by Sunday night, everythign we own had been hauled out of the old house and deposited in the new house, mainly in the uncarpeted rooms (i.e. the kitchen, the conservatory and the study), so as to avoid having to move everything again ahead of re-carpeting.  Our first meal in our new house was (*shocking culinary exposé alert!*) a bucket of KFC eaten on the lounge floor shortly before midnight.  It had been that kind of day.  And then it was off to dreamland on our borrowed inflatible mattress (thanks Olwen!).

Monday morning bright and early we had the builders back in, and to our relief they agreed with pretty much all our gripes and immediately set about rectifying them.  As I said, the electrician had already switched the lights on Saturday, and as it turns out he had stopped short of drilling holes for the incorrect ones, so no holes in my tiles.  The loo roll holder was removed and flipped around so that it became usable.  The space behind the toilet cistern was promptly boxed in and tiled so that it is now solid as a rock. And the lock was replaced with a perfectly fitted Yale.  They had brought extra drill bits, so soon the bathroom fittings were all installed; and the plumber made short work of installing the downstairs loo, so no more lounge-loos for us.  Hurrah!  I have to say, overall I was really impressed with our builders, and still amazed at the fact that they got the project done on time (give or take a day!) in 2 weeks flat – and for exactly the quoted price.  If ever you are in need of bathroom specialists in East London, do yourself a favour and give Jason from JJH Interiors a call.  And if you want a reference, call CookSister :) Check my Flickr album for a full photographic account of the renovations and move.

All that remained were the new carpets (which were done last Friday and look like a million bucks) and painting (an ongoing project for which Nick volunteered!).  And of course the unconfined joy of living in a house where anything you need is guaranteed to be packed in the box at the bottom of four tons of other stuff, behind the upturned desk in the study.  Luckily my work colleagues have been too discreet to mention the fact that I suddenly only appear to own three outfits. 

So apologies if posts have been scarce on this blog - as you see I have been spectacularly otherwise occupied.  But I have lots to tell you, particularly about our houswewarming party last weekend and the food I served – which was, incidentally, a perfect match for the latest edition of the Waiter, There's Something in My… event.  Andrew is hosting and the theme is tapas, so make sure you check your chorizo, try your tortilla, and manage your morcilla in time for the deadline at the end of June. 

Please don't forget to check out my latest column on Food24, all about when to buy organic and when not to bother. 

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  1. Terri says

    Oh my goodness! we are going through exactly the same thing!
    We are having work done on our flat in South London at the moment and I visited the site last week to find that our builders had also installed our loo a good 10cm away from the wall! They seemed to think that this was fine..a rocking cistern? are they crazy?? and they put in a new yale lock in our front door last week and it promptly fell out the first time we tried to unlock the door! Anyway, they are almost finished (duim vas!), with all problems now rectified..we shall see tonight. I sincerley hope that we will be able to live in our flat again this weekend (and wear different clothes). It’s been three long months.
    (another South African in London)

  2. says

    Hey, congrats on the move and not letting the pre-visit nightmare melt you into a heap of jibbering uselessness when it came to the move day. Tis hell but tis also home now, so enjoy the settling in.

  3. says

    Oh goodness Jeanne, how could they *not* agree with you on the mistakes they made… They’d have to be completely ignorant. I’m glad things appear to be getting in order! :)

  4. says

    I’m glad you’re safely installed in your new house now after all the travails.
    And it was great that the builders actually did turn up on the Monday and sorted things out – so often you hear about them disappearing for a week on another job and leaving you stranded with a loo in the lounge for weeks!