I left home for real a couple of weeks ago, which is why I’ve been a bit of a Slack Alice on the blog front recently. Turns out, moving house is actually REALLY time-consuming, expensive and fraught with frustration. Who knew? Anyway, things seem to be getting sorted out now, and I no longer have to wear a gas mask to bed to avoid getting asphyxiated from toxic paint fumes. Which is, you know. Nice.
Anyway, these are all the terrible things that happened in the last two weeks:
When we arrived at the flat to check-in with the property, the letting agent looked me straight in the eye and told me with a straight face that the place had been professionally cleaned from top to bottom. Unless the cleaner had had no arms and no legs and had just spent the whole time rolling around frolicking with the dust bunnies, the place had been clearly untouched since the last tenants decamped (leaving – amongst other things – a television, about seven non-working bedside lamps and a lingering odour of mould in the master bedroom). After a certain amount of wrangling with the agent we were given a proper cleaner, who was called Sylvia and also Polish, which meant she really went to town on it. Even now, the inside of my wardrobe smells of Pine Fresh. She was one of these very jolly types, but her only downside was her refusal to accept that I wasn’t living with ‘two boyfriends’. I tried to explain that one was very definitely not interested in me (or any other women, for that matter) and the other has had an enormous question mark floating over his head for the eight years I’ve known him, but she wouldn’t have it. She winked at me so many times I ended up feeling a bit seasick and had to go and lie down in a darkened room for thirty minutes.
Although Sylvia managed to blitz 95% of the house with the terrifying efficiency that seems to come naturally to people whose forebears got utterly shafted by Soviets/Nazis, she wasn’t able to make even a dent in the countless layers of fossilised shit encrusted in the bowl of the upstairs lavatory. To date we’ve tried black tea, lemon juice, all sorts of bleach, limescale solution and specialist bog-cleaning products (amusingly called ‘Bloo Solid Rims’) but the best we’ve achieved so far is just permanently turning the toilet water bright blue, which although an improvement is not exactly the effect we were going for. Knight even brought back a two litre bottle of the dirtiest, nastiest cola he could find. If it could rot teeth and clean pennies, we figured, it could certainly do a half-decent job of dissolving human faeces. Not so, apparently, which just proves you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. The only thing we haven’t yet tried is vinegar, which is tonight’s option. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The Paint Purge Palaver
Beside the grime, the flat didn’t come to us in brilliant condition. The person responsible for choosing and executing the colour scheme, who we can reasonably assume had an advanced case of cataracts, had selected various sickly, hospital-inspired shades with which to decorate with. In the interests of maintaining our sanity (and not being embarrassed to invite our mothers over), we decided to repaint. For starters, there was no way I could live with my bedroom’s existing paint job, a queasy combination of institutional yellow and an orange the exact shade of what I threw up once when I had Heinz tomato soup for dinner followed up with about a gallon of Smirnoff Ice (ah, 2005! What a classy year.) One of my other housemates had to deal with wall-to-wall baby blue, so I wasn’t the only person totally grossed out by the previous tenants’ abominable taste in home décor. I’ve never decorated anything before in my life because my mother is the kind of woman who won’t let anyone else near a paint roller and spends three weeks going round the edges of a room with a children’s face-painting brush every time she does a room. Compared to my housemates Ellis (the offspring of a professional carpenter) and Knight (the sort of person who not only owns eighty types of wrench but also takes delight in explaining to people how to use each of them), I am the most inexperienced in matters of the home by a country mile. It’s not even like I’m a budding DIY aficionado stunted only by the mother’s absolute refusal to let me do so much as clean the paint brushes; I have next to no interest in interior design whatosver. I probably wouldn’t even know Laurence Llewelyn Bowen if he rugby-tackled me to the ground, wrapped me in wallpaper and spat on my face.
So last Sunday morning I got up and started to mask off all the floor and electrical fittings with unfamiliar gusto; suddenly decorating seemed a lot more interesting now that the alternative was living in a Heinz-tinged vom-shack. With the help of my more able housemates the vile orange was purged and replaced with ‘Polaire’, a crisp neutral with cool, fresh undertones (i.e. white). Predictably, we soon discovered that as well as having no interest in DIY I also have no talent. I hope nobody has been keeping count of the number of brushes I’ve ruined by leaving them to go hard or cans of paint I’ve left to dry up by not putting the lid on properly; apparently I am a shining beacon of incompetence. I guess it’s just lucky the guys conform to stereotype and know pretty much exactly what to do whenever I fuck something up (which is practically every time I pick up a paint brush).
The Great Gloss Saga
Polaire white paint had dried, it was time to crack out the gloss – the finishing touches (or so I thought). Turns out I’m as woefully ignorant of paint drying times as I am of poncy long-haired DIY programme personalities. My room has a sort of built-in shelving unit at one end, like a bank of cubby holes, but they were so stained and scarred by years of neglect and seemingly random drilling that I just thought I’d do the whole thing in Brilliant White Satin Gloss. Unfortunately, because the cabinet is made of such dark wood, it took about twelve coats to get it completely covered. I felt like Adrian Mole when he tried to paint over his Noddy wallpaper with cheap black paint and had to go over all the hat bells with a Sharpie. It was AWFUL. And the worst part is that gloss is just the foulest, most disagreeable substance known to man. It’s like white tar; you just CANNOT get rid of it. It’s oil-based so using water only makes it worse, and the only way to properly eradicate it from your skin is to really go at it with a nail brush soaked in white spirit. My inescapable clumsiness combined with a totally retarded decision to wear a vest top and little shorts for painting proved to be a recipe for disaster, and before long I was completely covered in the stuff. Even now, I estimate at least 4% of me is covered in paint.
Carla came round to help one day and fashioned a sort of jumpsuit out of bin bags and rubber gloves, which made her look like a fucking idiot (but also, in retrospect, a bit of a genius). I’d recommend going down that route if you’re thinking of glossing anything yourself.
The Mattress Fandango
As well as my ongoing gloss problems, the mattresses were also a massive problem. When we looked around the property we were told that the mattresses would ‘of course’ be replaced. Unfortunately we took this for granted and didn’t think to get it in writing, so when we arrived to find we were expected to carry on using the old mattresses – practically solid from years of dried sweat and goodness knows what – we were basically told to fuck off by the landlord when we protested and asked for new ones. We finally managed to get the council to pick them up yesterday, which means the rancid flea farms are now out of the house, but my new mattress still isn’t arriving for another ten days. Until then I am sleeping on an air bed on top of the divan. It’s generally okay, but seems to deflate rather quickly and last night when I rolled in completely blotto at 12:30am I was too out of it to blow it up so more and had to sleep like a starfish to distribute my weight evenly enough to not be touching the base. It’s definitely better than the scabby old mattress I’d be sleeping on otherwise though; I don’t know how old it was, but evidence suggests that the previous owner was an incontinent nymphomaniac who also suffered from a very heavy flow. Gross.
The lesson here? Get everything in writing and carry an emergency air bed at all times. You never know when you’ll be expected to sleep on a sweaty, pissy, blood-stained mattress.
The Egyptian Cotton Affair
To compensate for my shitty mattress (in every possible sense; I reckon there is at least a 50% chance that somebody had actually defecated on it at some point) I went a bit mental on the bedclothes front. I bought a whole set of crisp white bed linen and some goose down feather pillows. My bedclothes are probably now the very best thing about me (which would be a bit sad if you hadn’t ever slept on them – they are sublime. It’s like sleeping on a fat angel’s arse.) My housemate Ellis looked on enviously, and told me that actually I’d overdone it and that I’m going to have a bed that was too comfortable. I scoffed at him, mistaking his wise words for bitterness, but it turns out he is right. I now have a problem in that I absolutely cannot get out of bed in the morning. I had a day last week when it took me an hour. AN HOUR. Even my tried and tested technique of throwing myself out of bed like I’m suddenly on fire and lying on the floor for a bit in the cold doesn’t work. I need to sort it out; I can’t keep on being late for work like this. Any suggestions are welcome.
But, you know, of course it isn’t all bad. I mean, I’m currently as poor as fuck but the good things definitely outweigh the bad. I guess the rediscovered independence and twelve fewer hours a week spent commuting are the big ones, but best of all is not having to put up with my mother’s appalling habit of leaving used teabags in the sink. It’s bloody brilliant.