Thursday, December 15, 2005

firing blanks
I'm too contented to write so have decided to take a holiday. Really, burbling on about how great everything is and how super it is to plan to paint a wall is dull, dull, dull.

Monday, December 12, 2005

marvelous medicine soup and other tales
I made soup on Saturday. Water, yellow lentils, an onion, half a butternut squash and some carrots were added to the saucepan, but only after I'd fried up some spices. I wish I'd paid more attention to what I was doing because by happy accident the soup ended up tasting sublime - just the right mixture of spicy, earthy, robust and delicate. I remember adding fenugreek, ginger, chillies, cumin, a dash of paprika, a healthy shake or two of turmeric and cayene. Whatever it was I did, it was good and I hope I'll be able to repeat it.
The Sett continues to delight, even though we had our first experience of the responsibility of homeownership. Poor TA spent an hour and a half on Sunday unblocking the waste disposal unit in the kitchen. Meanwhile I am full-on nesting - I find myself unwilling to leave the flat, even for things I really want to do. Getting up and out for things I don't really want to do - work, for example - is verging on impossible.
This morning I woke feeling slightly troubled. I'd dreamt that I was swimming in a public pool. I had to swim front crawl because I needed to see where I was going (I'm much better at backstroke) and everything was blurry because I wasn't wearing my glasses. The shallow end of the pool was far away and I was tired but I carried on swimming doggedly, self conscious because I knew that my legs were sinking and I was not swimming well. When I finally reached the shallow end a lifeguard insisted that I get out of the water as I was a danger to myself. I refused and so he drained the pool to prevent me swimming any more. I told TA about my dream, expecting some affection and reassurance. But no! He thought this dream most amusing and chuckled at my twisted subconscious.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

happiness is
Do you remember those naff cartoons saying ‘love is’, featuring a cutesy girl and boy in the buff doing cutesy-cutesy things? Well, I hate to admit it, but my life is beginning to resemble those sickly-sweet cartoons. I find myself overwhelmed with joy at the most mundane things: a teaspoon, for instance.
When we lived at the Palais we kept most of our kitchen equipment boxed up in the shed, since the apartment had been supplied with crockery, cutlery, pots and pans. So, instead of using the beautiful plates we bought with our wedding money or the elegant glasses we had been given as a long-ago flat warming gift, for the last seven months we have been eating off ugly white standard-issue plates and using the cheapest, nastiest, worst designed knives and forks you can imagine. The spoons, in particular, were a source of revulsion. The bowls (what is the technical terminology for spoon anatomy?) of the spoons were larger than they should be and the neck was oddly hollow (as were the handles, which used to fill up with water when they were washed – ugh) a sort of ‘n’ shaped stem joined the bowl to the handle. All sorts of food would get into the ‘n’, but what bugged me the most was seeing my yoghurt in the back of the spoon.
Last weekend we unpacked boxes that had been in the shed since we left Badger Mansions: out came our lovingly chosen plates, our good-quality kitchen knives and the cutlery that TA had bought when we first moved in together. Well-proportioned, simple stainless steel – the teaspoons looked positively dainty in comparison to the clod-hopping nasty spoons I could never become resigned to. Happiness is eating yoghurt with a teaspoon that doesn’t get clogged up.
Last night I was so keen to get home I tried to run the whole way (but only managed a 50:50 ratio of running to walking); as a result I got home in a record-breaking (for me) 45 minutes and then promptly had to sit down to recover. TA and I pottered around the kitchen – roasting a chicken, veggies and washing spinach – while we waited for the bedroom design chap to turn up. To cut a long, dull story short we didn’t think much of the chap, he was patronising and repetitive, or his wares, which weren’t as flexible or customisable as we had hoped. We discussed the bedroom at length while eating our chicken (beautifully roasted, even if I do say so myself).
“Honestly, if we ignore practicalities and cost, my heart is set on real, solid wood,” I said. “But I’ve been looking for solid wood fitted bedrooms and it seems they don’t exist – we’d have to hire a carpenter. Can you imagine the expense?”
I popped a Brussels sprout in my mouth (beautifully cooked – slightly charred outer layer, sweet and soft interior and pleasingly salty – even if I do say so myself) and we thought about the expense of homeownership, both still shell-shocked at the revelation that a merely adequate fitted bedroom could cost £3.5k.
TA and I discussed what we wanted in the bedroom – the importance of ensuring that the end result looks city-type sleek (we plan to rent the flat in a few years’ time), the need to maximise storage space, the fact that spend has to increase rental value (which is different than increasing sale value). TA and I discussed his bed – had he enjoyed building it, how long did it take to complete, what tools did it need, how much did the wood cost? And slowly, but inexorably, the conversation began to sidle up to considering a whole new level of DIY.
TA’s first step will be to create a 3D model of each room so that we can try out different design ideas, colours and so forth. Once that is done – hopefully before the New Year – we can begin planning our bedroom in earnest. And then the carpentry, and the fun, will begin!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

home sweet spinach
I cannot begin to describe to you how happy I am with the sett. I spent the first few days just trying to absorb the knowledge that this is our home, ours not a landlord's and not shared with anyone. Having finally got everything to an adequate level of sorted outness, I curled up on the (temporary) sofa on Sunday and just breathed it all in before reading a book and enjoying the space. It's the simplest things that make me realise now how crabbed our existence at the palais had become, how fearful I was of stepping outside our bedroom door and entering the perfect storm of theatrics. I find myself reluctant to leave the cocoon. I find myself cleaning just for the pleasure of making the most of each room.
TA is most excited about the loft, which is ripe for a half-conversion (leasehold gubbins prevents us from ever being able to fully convert the loft); while I am both thrilled and overwhelmed at the prospect of gradually transforming each room until we have a beautiful apartment. Our bedroom is my highest priority, since it is tiny, cramped and lacks storage space. An advisor from a fitted bedroom manufacturer is coming round tonight to draw up plans and give us a cost estimate. It all feels unreal.
The vendor left all the furniture in situ (hence the temp sofa, which sure beats having a temp housemate), having taken our pick of this bounty we have arranged for the estate agent to dispose of the unwanted items soon and scheduled to collect the inheritance furniture in January.
From now on you can expect regular progress reports on the bedroom, bathroom and loft renovations; not to mention colour schemes for the living room and kitchen makeovers. Should I apologise in advance for boring you silly?
And the title of this post? When I was teaching in Greece my English housemate and I were taught the Greek expression for ‘home sweet home’ – unfortunately it was several months before we realised that we’d been saying the second half of the phrase incorrectly ‘spinaki’ instead of ‘spitaki’. Spiti mou spinaki mou = my home my spinach.

Friday, December 02, 2005

ready, sett, go!
Yesterday I worked from home, the old one, so that I could help TA with the removal process. Having made three round trips with our rucksacks the night before, I woke up quite sore and overwhelmed at the task in front of us, wishing that I had been successful in my efforts to persuade TA that we needed to engage the services of a "man and van". We set off with more stuff at 7.30am so that I could be back in time to log on to work at 9am. The Sett already looked like a bomb site - a clothes mountain in the living room, many leaning towers of books... And we'd barely scratched the surface. When we returned to the Palais TA's sister requested an audience - TA came back thunder faced, he said: she wants us out so that she can move her stuff into this room. He headed out with another full rucksack, a suit bag and a suitcase on wheels that was falling apart - he looked like he was about to face his doom. We did another joint trip after lunch and on our return TA had a moment of clarity, admitting: we need the services of a "man and van".
After securing a man and his van for this morning, our efforts yesterday afternoon became more focused - boxes were taped up, furniture dismantled - as items were sorted according to their portability and weight as either "van" or "rucksack". We made our last trip yesterday at around 9pm and, for the first time since viewing the place four months ago, I took a few moments to look around properly. Even through the haze of tiredness and the mess I could see that we had managed to find a little gem. Sure, I'd rather be more central, sure, I'd rather the flat was bigger - but all in all I think it's a good flat for us. Phew!
We returned to the Palais and pottered around, trying to clean up as much as possible and prepare for the final big push. Finally, we could do no more and went to bed exhausted. Lying in the dark on the bed that TA designed and built himself, I whispered, "I think of this bed as a magic carpet - where we live changes, we move, but we always sleep in this bed. In my imagination it flies to the next place." TA harrumphed.
This morning I cooked TA scrambled eggs and bacon before we took care of the final few tasks. We rolled up the futon and as I left for the office for the last time from the Palais TA began taking the bed to bits.
Two hours later my phone rang. The tired voice of TA came down the line - it's all done, I'm knackered. He had carried 12 large and heavy boxes, a multigym, our bed, his computer and various other belongings up three flights of stairs.
Tonight we are meeting at the Palais. We'll pick up our frozen food and a few straggling items and then close the door of the Palais and with it that tumultuous chapter of our lives. Hurrah! My month of Advent has ended just as the traditional one begins.