It was to be our first night, just Ian and me back in our very own house again…
But first let me back up a little…
The last you all knew was that our tenant was going to leave our home at the end of October, which was why we had rented a furnished matchbox attic apartment by the canal. So adamant was he that he did not want to move out earlier that we agreed to a two months’ notice period on the flatette. Still following?
On the last working day of June we heard via via that our tenant had moved out! Gone! In fact he had left BEFORE we had moved into the sardine tin. Anyway, I won’t bore you with the ins and outs but with a two-month notice period on the temporary place we thought we’d take our time moving in. Get things sorted. Allow ourselves the luxury of moving in after the boxes had been unpacked.
“We’re unpacking slowly this time,” I told my brother.
“You never do anything slowly,’ Patrick replied.
This time I’ll prove you wrong, I thought.
So, on August the first, the shipment delivered, I was back in by the canal,watching the ducks and kind of chilled about things. But then at 2.30 pm I received an email from the landlord…
“We thought you would be gone by now. A new tenant is moving in tomorrow!”
Think of the saving on the rent!
Think of the enormity of moving in right now!
In the end it took Ian leaving work early, eight hours, hiring a van from Bo-Rent and all four of us working flat out to empty that tiny weeny pint-sized flat. How, I ask you, can we have arrived in The Netherlands in late March with just five suitcases and 150kg of airfreight and now need a massive great van?
The canal flat is on the top floor. Our own house is three storeys and above a shop. That means stairs, stairs and more stairs. Remember too that Ian had a knee operation recently? I am well-known for being a weakling. Thank God we had the boys with us.
So there we were the first night of August eating dried tortellini with a bought sauce, hardly able to lift our forks to our mouths and knowing we had duvets to unearth and beds to make.
But there were boxes everywhere. Empty boxes filled with crumpled white packing paper. Filled boxes with labels that read, for example: MBR (master bedroom) shoes or Pitchers. With our MBR on the third floor it was a tad frustrating to discover that the shoes box contained car-cleaning equipment, kitchenware and one pair of garden shoes. You get the pitcher…
Yesterday Josh headed off on holiday with some mates and minus a few of his must-have possessions still uncovered post trip in the van. Sam was on a night-shift and Ian and I miraculously had our first evening alone, in permanent accommodation since December 8th 2016! I made palak paneer just as Meeta had taught me to do at Ganga Café in KL and we drank delicious strawberry and mint water kefir given to us by Julie Jones that afternoon and settled down to watch an episode of our latest box-set addiction. That was when the cracks started to show in my ’til then even-tempered old man.
The delivery chaps had mysteriously put the wrong stand with the wrong telly and after a few choice expletives and a failure to fit said wrong stand onto the screen he stomped to another floor to find either the other telly or the other stand. Finally, we had at least one TV standing but no remote control. I know, I know, you’ve been there. At least we had a laptop. No wifi connection of course yet, but we have a laptop so we gave in, gave up and slumped in front of a BBC download followed by a much-needed early night.
Boy, was our own bed comfortable that night! We were surrounded by clutter but it was our bed. Our duvet. Our sheets.
Two am. Beep!
Ten seconds later… Beep!
It was either a lorry reversing or the dying song of a battery in a smoke alarm.
“I..i..i…an, I’ll never sleep with that thing going off…” I moaned rhetorically and down the stairs he gallumphed in search of the offending alarm and a ladder. Our 19th century house has very very high ceilings and Ian has vertigo. Soon he was back in the bedroom.
“You’ll have to hold the ladder, Jo.”
Well, it took about an hour for us to work out how to take the damn cover off, to find a replacement battery (miracle!) and get the cover back on.
We have hundreds of smoke alarms in our flat. It’s a Dutch regulation apparently. And so the ladder went from room to room, up and downstairs and still the sodding thing beeped.
Maybe the replacement battery, being from Malaysia, was a dud?
Maybe one of the connections was corroded?
“I’ll just have to try turning off the electric circuits one at a time and see if that stops the beep,” suggested Ian heading for the ground floor in his boxers.
One by one the lights went dark.
We turned off all the lights and sat in one room after another waiting for the beep to see if there was a flashing light or some other clue that told us which alarm might be the culprit.
Then, I remembered something. Earlier in the day I had heard a few high-pitched beeps and some loud cries of frustration from Josh. He’d said something about knocking a carbon-monoxide alarm. I didn’t even know we had a carbon-monoxide alarm so I just ignored him. Ian didn’t even know we had one either.
Desperate, dog-tired and downright confused we both sat at the garden table that was currently in the dining room. That was when Ian spotted an unfamiliar plastic white box at convenient waist height. Was that a carbon-monoxide alarm?
“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” he asked remarkably sweetly considering the circumstances. “It must have been fitted after we moved out because of the gas fire.”
Then he stood up, lifted it easily off the wall and re-seated the existing batteries. It took about three seconds.
Back the wooden stairs to Bedfordshire at last…
This morning there were two things that I knew would make things all right with the world…
A bath in our bath. Our very own bath.
Toast made from yeast-free spelt and kamut bread bought from the healthfood shop downstairs and spread with the last jar of pomelo and ginger marmalade I’d made in Malaysia, a cup of proper Clipper builder’s tea in my favourite mug and a glass of Julie Jones’ kombucha.
Oh and Patrick, you win!