Friday, April 27, 2012

Finding my voice

If ever there was a time to blog, when you might have something engaging and interesting to say, when those you love are far, far away and really want to hear it, one might think it would be when you embark upon the adventure of an overseas move.  I was determined to chronicle the Long Journey - and recounted the story to up until the point we checked in to our hotel for a few days stopover in Iceland.  And then nothing.

I wanted to do that little bit of heaven justice - with photos and descriptions of how marvelous our time in Iceland was.  To tell of how a jet-lagged walk to the 24 hour supermarket in the wee hours led D to discover one of the most exceptional displays of the Northern Lights, rarely visible from within the bounds of Reykjavik's city lights (and I was fortunate he sprinted back to the room to wake me up to enjoy it too). To convey, with ironic humour, the seriousness with which D mooted the idea of emigrating to Iceland before I'd even set foot on British soil with my newly-minted settlement visa. But the business of settling into the UK took over my energies, and my dogged determination to tell the story with some kind of chronological sense stopped me in my authorial tracks.

So here we are.  There is loads to tell - if only to keep those that care about me in the loop - and I best just get on with it.

England has been amazing and terrible all at once.  We've been here three months this past week and I still feel unsettled due to a rough bit of luck with respect to our living accommodation.  We had rented a cottage, based on the virtue of pictures and a couple of phone conversations with the landlord who claimed it had just been fully renovated.  It appeared ideal.  A semi-rural village on the outskirts of Windsor.  The charming little cottage, set on a 13-acre gated equestrian property, next to a large house with lovely manicured gardens, a swimming pool, and plenty of parking (always a plus in England).

Our landlord seemed kind - concerned that we would be comfortable during the five-week period before the shipping container arrived, when we'd be living there on the floor with nothing but the suitcases permitted by the airline baggage allowance.  He invited us around for a drink and during the course of the evening offered us free access to his apartment in the South of France, should we ever want a holiday there.  He's a very old, very lonely man whose face would light up if we happened to wave to him in passing.

Yes, it seemed ideal, and for the first three weeks, life in England was indeed pleasant.  We explored Windsor, enjoying lovely views of the castle during evening ambles along the Thames, delighting in the knowledge that we weren't mere touristas here, we actually get to enjoy it full time.  The cast iron lion that serves as a door knocker made me smile whenever I arrived back at our new home.

There were a few niggles.  Take, for instance, the fact that the floors we were sleeping, eating, lounging, living on were absolutely covered in a layer of fine dog hair.  The carpets the landlord claimed had been professionally cleaned: upon showing him the problem, did our landlord offer to get the job done right?  No, he did not.  So it took D over two solid, full-time days of painstaking vacuuming to make them passably clean.  Further, the oven didn't work, the fridge compressor leaked, and one of the shelves in the newly fitted kitchen cabinets was missing its mounting pins (halving the storage capacity therein).  To top it all off there was evidence of rodent infestation in the closets.  We patiently submitted a list of items to be addressed, at which point the landlord started giving D the names of contractors and asking him to sort it out.  Having just completed the exhausting renovation of a home we actually owned, the injustice of having to take on the landlord's job in a place we've rented started to feel a bit unfair.

Then came the Sunday morning when the power in the cottage suddenly went out as D was preparing brunch.  After a bunch of diagnostic trips to the fuse box, we determined the water heater was the cause and went next door to inform the landlord.  He asked if he needed to get someone to deal with it that very day.  Magnanimously, we said, "No, that would cost too much - tomorrow is fine."  Loyal readers, we were without hot water for 13 days.  And, ironically, the plumber insisted on doing the work on a weekend, so we were forced to cancel our plans to go away in order to accommodate him because we were so desperate to just effing have it fixed already.

It took a well over month to get the pest controller in to review the rodent problem, and when he did arrive, he pointed out that not only were there mice in the closets, but the attic in the bathroom extension was literally carpeted in rat shit.  (Oh yes, and that the power shower unit up there was leaking, so the landlord had it switched off without telling us.) The exterminator spoke to the landlord about the remedial actions required, and on a return visit when nothing was addressed, he advised us that we were perfectly within our legal rights to move out and strongly recommended that we do so.

Meanwhile, our container had arrived and, unwilling to unpack when we had made the decision to break the lease, we were now living essentially in a storage unit with paths leading through the boxes.  We commenced the soul-destroying effort of finding another place to live, which consumed another month of our weekends.  The halcyon days of our first few weeks were replaced by a frustration, bordering on anger, that life has to be this much effing hassle.

Au revoir, Leo, you're the only thing
I'll miss around here.
But fear not, my faithful friends.  Things are looking up.  Last weekend, after having had a number of promising properties rented out from under us before we could even see them, we secured (through a bit of luck) a detached cottage to rent.  It is set in a picture-postcard village of Tudor houses set around a 12th-century church and we're excited to be moving in next weekend.  We are very much looking forward to beginning what we hope to be a much more settled and content existence.

I've loads more to tell you about my new life in England, but I shall leave that for another time.  Thanks for reading, my lovelies, and for all your support and encouragement.