Although there's a rich history in the house of papering over, tiling over, or otherwise covering or working around problems, I have no intetion of following suit.
Last night there was a little wrecking. I also managed to construct something. It was the first positive bit of construction in the house unless you count the installation of the bed in the bedroom and the connection of the TV to the DVD player for the watching of Scrubs (mmm, Scrubs). Here's pretty much how last night happened.
I rushed away from work, following a day that was interesting in that I managed to do a bit of this and that with the project and yet still emerge ahead of my estimates (perhaps the estimation process is going more pessimistic than is usual for me), and following some time spent in a job interview situation (on the interviewing side of the desk) where I was amazed at the combination of salary expectations and the candidate's inability to draw any sort of coherent diagram. The reason I rushed away from work is much like the reason I constructed such a long and unintelligible sentence just now. I expected the result to be different. I had expected an electrician to be racing to meet me at the house at 5pm. As it happened, I arrived at the house sooner than I expected, sometime around 4.45pm. During the journey, in hands-free mode, I managed to speak to a friend whom I'm meeting this weekend when I go up North. In fact, we're probably going to travel up north together. It will depend on how easily he can get trains etc. While waiting for the electrician, I decided to have a go at a random shelf attached to the chimney breast in the lounge.
This shelf had no visible means of support. I surmised that it might be one of those magic shelves. By that I mean a shelf that is attached to a metal strut that plugs into the back of it, so the bracket is integral to the back of the shelf. Working on this theory, I starting trying to pry it away from the wall. I was having no luck. I hacked and banged and pried and poked and eventually took to dissecting the shelving wood with a chisel to see if there were any secrets. It's a two-tier shelf with side supports, making it look like a trapezium from the front. Now it looks like a trapezoid hole in the wall with a shelf at the bottom of it; I'd managed to remove the top and sides before I lost energy and drive. The electrician hadn't come and it was coming up to six.
The electrician rang to say that his personal organiser had gone flat and so he'd gone home, ostensibly to charge it, but also to get it working so he could let me know that he was now at home and, thus, unable to come back out to do my estimate. Whatever. He's coming next week instead. Nevermind the waste of my time, then.
Still, there were things to do. I went out and got food. Then I ate the food at the house I recently stopped living in - it is warmer and has a cat in it. Then I went out again, and bought a vacuum cleaner at Comet. I was going to buy one from Tesco, but it turns out that Comet was cheaper. Perhaps I should have bought this vacuum online. In fact, no. I just checked. It is the same online as in store. Phew. I also checked in Tesco, and they were selling a 1600w one for about the same as I bought this 1800w Electrolux Bagless upright. So, I think I did well. The purpose of this vacuum cleaner is to provide a machine for my tenants in Newcastle to use. This is because I'm reclaiming my Dyson. Although I don't want to wreck it by using it to pick up rubble, I do want to use it on the carpets in the new house and I do want it in general. I liked my Dyson. I also have a Hoover in Newcastle, which I don't mind using on rubble. So it should be a win-win situation. They get a new machine, and I get my old machines back. Woo.
The visit to Comet was a little odd. I did the man-in-a-shoe-shop thing and went into the shop and immediately selected what I wanted. I wanted a cheap bagless upright cleaner made by someone I'd heard of (so, not a Bindilaxahom or whatever). The machine that fit my profile jumped out at me. Reduced from £100 to £70 (let's not pretend that prices usually end in a 9 to confuse you). Simple. I spoke to the assistant, a youngish woman - maybe around 20 years old. She took a couple of attempts at finding the machine on the system (the first "serial number" she took down, turned out to be the date of the promotion) and then started arranging to get the vacuum cleaner located in the warehouse and "booked" for bringing into the main bit of the shop. While she was doing that, I told her I'd go and look at ovens, since I had a "whole house to fill with electrical items".
Off I went, perusing the cookers. "Perusing the cookers" you won't see that phrase often. When I'd finished looking at the cooking, I went and paid for the vacuum. She tried to sell me an extended warranty, I decided not to buy it (it's her job to sell it and the job of any reasonable person to decline). Then she wrapped the receipt in the standard warranty slip and handed it to me. Maybe it was a misjudgment of timing on her part or mine, but she didn't actually release the card when I tried to take it out of the mid-air space between us. It sort of stuck in her fingers for a bit. Lingered, as it were. Slightly embarrassed, she released the card, in the demure manner of Lady eating spaghetti in Lady and the Tramp. Since the vacuum cleaner wasn't yet out of the back room, I said I'd go and look at some more electrical items, since I had "a whole house to fill".
Off I went, again, perusing some washing machines and dryers this time. It was "white-good" heaven, though some of them were metallic or grey. Eventually I was called over. My box of vacuum cleaner had arrived and was being hovered over by the assistant. I thanked her and, realising I didn't have to sign for it or anything, I just picked it up and attempted to leave the shop. The assistant said something that I didn't quite hear. I asked her to repeat. She did and it was something about not getting smashed over the head by any trees on the way home. It had been a very windy day in Reading and a few trees had come down. Fair enough, but why send someone off with such well-intentioned, but pointless advice. Was this like Basil Fawlty to Sybil in Fawlty Towers "Drive carefully dear, don't drive over any MINES"? Sarcastic and vicious. Was this woman, making some point that I'd been a skittish and mawkish customer, making too many references to my big empty house and its need for white goods? Had she found me showy? Was I telling her, by my actions, that I could "easily buy a whole Comet's-worth of goods right now, but I'm just condescending to buy a cheap vacuum cleaner"? I don't know. Then I wondered if she wasn't doing something else. After all, there'd been the lingering over the warranty card, her kooky behaviour and then the awkwardness of saying a goodbye that was more than just a goodbye. Was it a "goodbye, drive safe, be careful, I'll miss you"?
I don't know. It was odd and slightly silly. I made some remark about not worrying about being hit by a tree unless it happens and then I got the hell out of the shop and went to Tesco.
While buying the evening meal's worth of Subway, I'd visited a small Tesco Express with the intention of buying some coffee. The coffee was to be instant coffee, since the best I can manage is a kettle at the moment. Yes, I could make a caffetiere's worth, but I won't as I don't have a caffetiere, and it's not my preferred technique for brewing from ground coffee. So, instant coffee. I like my instant coffee like I like my men: fair trade, organic Arabica. Looking back at that remark, I'll admit it makes no sense. I'll rephrase. I like coffee to be fair trade, so I don't feel like I'm killing some Kenyans or crushing some columbians, I like it to be organic, since I'm easily swayed into thinking that it makes it somehow taste better and more natural, and I like the flavour of an Arabica bean, because I do. I would compromise on many of these requirements in a push, but I don't want to compromise on the fair trade bit. I earn enough to feel occasionally guilty that many hardworking people do more and get less than I do. At least when I buy a luxury item like coffee, I can pay an extra 30p of my earnings to stop some of those hardworking people getting blisters on their donkeys through overwork. Or something like that.
Tesco extra categorically failed to have any fair trade coffee. It was Nescafe - Nestle oooh - or Kenco. I have nothing specifically bad to say about Kenco, but it's not what I wanted. So I didn't buy it. Nor did I get any more luck from the, almost next-door, Sainsbury's local (inside a garage). The big Tesco was where I eventually managed to buy my tick-all-the-boxes fair trade organic arabica. Good work me.
See, although I feel like I've lost momentum, my blow-by-blow account of last night is rich in detail and accounts of doing things, so even though I ended up watching Scrubs at 10.30pm and trying to get an early night, I still didn't quite hang around.
Following Tesco, it was back to the old house to spend a bit of time on the computer. I needed to catch up on some emails. My broadband isn't installed until next week, so I need the old house for computering. I also need the old house for showering, if I'm honest; my own shower isn't really up to much. I will probably end up braving it some more, though, since going to someone's house for a shower seems a bit weird.
Computer time over, I returned to my own house. I took the mail that had accumulated between the house becoming empty and my ownership of it, and I readdressed it all to "return to sender" or "return to [insert the return address from the letter inside]". The idea of returning it to the sender is to show the sender not to send it to me again. In one case I returned a letter marked for "recipient or occupant of the house". This letter was the council tax letter and I've now informed the council tax about me. So they should start to extort money soon. A card, sent in September, was for a completely different address. It may get to that address now, but it will be too late. I think the Doctor's appointment it describes has pretty much been and gone by now.
A stash of mail redirected, I turned my attention to the new toilet-roll holder. £3 from Asda. I fitted it to the bathroom wall. I made a good job of that. It was the first thing I'd attached in the house. It felt good. Well, good with a hint of futility. The holder should be back off in the next few weeks when I have that room re-done. It's all go, and it's all gotta go!
So, I went to bed last night and watched four episodes of Scrubs. I had wanted to read, but I couldn't be bothered. Then I tried in vain to get to sleep. There was a rhythmic knocking coming from somewhere nearby. Knock knock knock knock, like an poorly written joke. Occasionally it was punctuated by a bought of creaking. I started to believe that I was listening to an energetic couple, really going for it. For well over an hour I heard this until dropping off to sleep around 2am, I suppose. When I woke up this morning, it was still going on. So, I suspect that it's not an energetic couple. While I'm sure that I have, in my day, managed occasional bouts of bedroom vitality, I don't imagine anyone would be that, er, vital, for over 7 hours. It's probably a lamppost in the wind. My advice, if you've read this far, is to pat yourself on the back, and then amuse yourself for a moment with the phrase "lamppost in the wind", the idea of it being a simile for a couple doing the dance-of-love and how this might have rewritten a famous Elton John song.
So, I tackled a few tasks yesterday and now I'm off for the weekend. My energy is low owing to the sleepless night I had. Still, all the thinking about things house-like, coupled with the fact that I'm planning my return to stand-up, and have been doing some script reading for people, led me to write a new joke. This joke follows the standard "Premise, exposition, punchline" three-stage joke format. It's taken me a while to refine it to this level of conciseness, and I hope you find it funny.
My plumber is a menopausal woman. She messed up my bathroom. Now my toilet has hot flushes.