Photo: my birthday party. This is not the final decor of the living room.
We’ve now officially moved out of Amsterdam. The place where we now live, Almere, is a small-ish suburban-ish town-ish – I’m going to tell everyone it’s a village, because I like the idea of living in the countryside more than in the suburbs. It most probably isn’t because “Town-ish people” wouldn’t make a very catchy blog post title. Most probably.
Thursday, Oct 3
A day of two very important events: my 42nd birthday (and as we know 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything) and the house keys being passed from Old Vumman to us.
The Old Vumman proved not to be all that old and not half as weird as we expected her to be. She was actually quite nice and a bit talkative. The proceedings began with her wishing me a happy birthday and handing us a pot of chrysanthemums (which in Poland are a funeral flower). This was the last bit I really understood before she launched full-speed into explanations of something. Husby listened and I sort of let the word-flood wash over me, until I caught something that kept repeating. Cliquot. Cliquot. Cliquot. What can she possibly mean, I wondered, then she briefly slowed down just enough for me to understand that it had to do with rubbish. Did the rubbish collectors expect only top quality drinks handed to them as… uh… tips…? Later Husby explained to me that she was actually saying “clicco”, because the rubbish bins, when they’re being dragged to the pick-up spot, make a click-click-click sound… Ah. Obviously.
The Old Vumman left some things behind. One of them was a freezer so huge that if we had five enemies we could chop them, freeze their bodies, and still have space for one very small enemy we missed. Since we can’t think of even one choppable enemy, the freezer will probably have to go. She also cleaned the house, if somewhat randomly – some parts left sparkling, some others, uh, not sparkling. I was still delighted, because she didn’t have to clean anything, really, not to mention giving me funeral flowers. I mean, birthday flowers. We went to the notary, signed the remaining documents, shook hands with four or five people, then suddenly stood on the street, our pockets filled with keys for various doors and gates, our minds simultaneously blank and a mess of epic proportions. We also had to hurry up, because the friend who drove over with our things arrived before we even got to the notary and was now waiting.
We showed our friend the house, explaining with heavy emphasis that it will be redecorated. Especially the bathroom, I said three times, earning a bewildered look from my friend. (Maybe she likes purple?) Then, since it was my birthday after all, we invited her for cake and coffee, suggesting that we walk to the café. It was a lovely walk, 20-25 minutes one way, the weather perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, we forgot something. We were already quite tired and after the coffee and apple pie we had to go back. Without the car. Another 25 minutes later our friend thanked us in tired voice, we thanked her back in equally tired voices, then she said her goodbyes and we shut the door.
We were alone with the new house.
We brought mostly tools, some plates and cutlery, clothes, and two foldable chairs, plus firewood. It might sound like we’ve got weird priorities, but the plan was to sit in the garden and have a birthday fire for me in the evening. Spoiler: this didn’t happen, because 1) it was raining by now and 2) in the meantime I decided to get some rest, by which I meant immediately starting on the renovation. Husby followed suit. Both of us kept muttering “we should really take some rest and go do groceries”. Two hours later we became hungry enough to finally actually go. I soon found out I was so tired that I found myself staring at the shelves and not actually seeing what was on them. Neither of us felt ready to cook, so my birthday dinner consisted of tuna salad and microwaved lasagne, both of which were priced down due to the expiry date being imminent. We then sat on our two chairs, admiring the wall pictured above. Every now and then I walked into the garden just to make sure it was still there.
“Can you hear that?” asked Husby.
I listened, then guessed. “Yup,” I said. “Silence.”
He beamed. So did I.
So there was no fire and the birthday dinner was microwaved lasagne, but 1) I had the silence we literally bought this house for, and 2) I have never had a birthday present that would take thirty years to pay in full. I felt perfectly satisfied and decided that this was my favourite birthday party ever, tuna salad and two chairs, a solitary lightbulb dangling from the ceiling, an oil lamp and some candles serving as the only fires, happiness serving as the dessert.
We decided to go to sleep early. Husby pumped the mattress and I turned down the heating since I like sleeping in cool rooms. The mattress was surprisingly comfortable, the idea of sleeping in what used to be somebody else’s bedroom less than 12 hours earlier was oddly exciting, plus we were exhausted. We were gone within minutes.
“Remember your first dream,” said the Old Vumman before departing, “because it will come true.”
I dreamt that I was thrown into some sort of medieval-ish dungeon. I was cold and uncomfortable, placed on a cold stone floor with some straw under my head… then Husby moved and I woke up. I was, in fact, on a cold wooden floor with a pillow under my head. The mattress completely deflated and the bedroom was quite cool indeed. Like, the-inside-of-the-fridge cool. He pumped up the mattress, muttering various special words, I opened the heating, then we went to sleep again.
Two hours later we repeated the procedure.
Two hours later we repeated it again.
I would pay good money that I don’t have for this dream not to become reality.
Friday, Oct 4
Around seven a.m. we gave up and got up, not entirely ready to start the day, but it wasn’t as if the day actually asked. I heard the first SOUND – kids from the neighbourhood were clearly going to school and felt the need to inform everyone about it using the technique of guttural shrieking. Fifteen seconds later, though, they were gone and the blissful silence returned. We sulked over the coffee and breakfast, then moved on with the renovation.
I quickly discovered that once I got rid of the large chunks of the wallpaper, the smaller ones were, uh, glued to the wall. If you’ve ever tried to peel off a paper sticker from a CD booklet, you know what happens. The bits became smaller and thinner, and at this point I decided to brave the equipment Husby borrowed from a colleague – a wallpaper steamer. I was hoping to avoid it, because I got a few steam burns in my life and not once did I enjoy it, but I was feeling the insanity right behind the corner. The device proved to be magical, except the bits where boiling water kept dropping on my hands and working clothes. When the IKEA people arrived with the delivery I didn’t even stop, since the wall was already somewhat wet and I used that to pull off more and more wallpaper, which then glued to my clothes, shoes, hands, the tools I was using, and a bit of it – inexplicably – to my forehead. Once I felt it was a good moment to take a break, I turned and saw the room filled with a sofa. In pieces. Each of them packaged into a huge box.
I have a degree in mathematics, which means I have zero spatial imagination and can’t count, therefore I immediately panicked, unable to imagine both the pieces of the sofa and the sofa itself fitting inside the room. As the work progressed I calmed down, seeing that the empty boxes fit inside our garden shed, but something else made me a bit shaky. We were missing one bolt and four plastic feet for the long sofa.
“Don’t worry,” said my husband, a man who adapts to everything and has a positive outlook. “I’m sure it will hold with two screws if we don’t move it much. And we will just make sure that nobody heavy sits on this part of the sofa.”
This did not satisfy me.
IKEA did something that they probably didn’t find amusing, just easy – they placed the missing parts inside the boxes containing the pouffe. Which we opened as last. We turned the sofa more or less upside down, Husby kept making sure something wouldn’t fold or fall and kill me, I inserted the missing bolt and the four feet, and I could feel all of my muscles relax. (Later in the evening I found out it is possible to have muscle ache in my toes.)
At some point in the meantime the Internet fitter had arrived. He began by informing us that he will install the Internet, but we will not have the Internet, because the company made “a mistake”. As we were still chewing on this piece of information, he continued: the TV cable would have to be dragged from the closet in the hallway.
We did not plan to place the TV inside the closet in the hallway.
“Can’t we use the old sockets…?” cried Husby.
“No,” the man said gloomily. “Everything must go from the modem. You’ll just have to use a longer cable.”
The vision of us using a “longer cable” nearly made me pass out as I imagined wrapping it around doorframes, drilling inside walls, or perhaps through the stairs and the glass door dividing the hallway from the living room… I barely heard the next sentence.
“Or,” he said, “I could connect it to the phone socket there…”
“…for 45 euro,” he finished. I nearly burst out crying in joy anyway and had to stop myself from offering four hundred fifty instead. A few minutes later the cable was installed in a way suggesting that someone took off the phone socket, then replaced it forgetting a cable sticking out underneath. That someone was clearly either too tired or too relaxed (yup, you can buy pot here as well) to fix it. Still, the cable is now near-ish the spot where the TV will eventually be, it’s three meters long rather than fifty, and I am willing to pretend that I can’t see it for the rest of my life if it means not having to wrap half of the apartment with it.
To be continued. Unfortunately.
PS. Please forgive my atrocious grammar. I am currently procrastinating and admiring the fact that I have muscle ache in my fingers, toes, and possibly hair.