Leaving the Burning City

Because of my desire to one day own some stairs, I had to leave London as you cannot get them for under half a million. I saw a house I liked last June, and it has taken me until now, November 21st, to finally buy it and move in.
Delays and extra expense were caused mainly by the solicitors hired by my estate agent, and numerous other bodies who see the house buyer as a vulnerable milch-cow.

Despite their machinations I am now in the new home with disgruntled, bewildered cat. What a truly grisly business is moving, at least in England. The actual physical part began and ended in intense anxiety; a month ago I paid £80 to Ealing council for parking suspension so that the van could pull up outside my flat, without getting a parking ticket. This involved filling in a form and sending money, of course, and when this received no response, I went into the council building to track down the form. It was eventually recovered and I left feeling no more confident. My instincts were correct. I had paid for two days free space outside my flat, but on the first day local drivers parked right across the restricted area.

Standing bleakly in the street at 8am I began the tortuous process of calling the council on their automated phone line. For once in my time in London there were no parking wardens in sight, it was over an hour before one morose trundled up the misty road towards me. For the first time ever I was pleased to see one, but that was short lived. One of my neighbours immediately appeared and moved his car. I asked another neighbour who owned a large Skoda at the end of the road if she could move it so the van could slot in. She refused saying she was too busy going to work and it was not her problem. That was very trying and reminded me why it was a good idea to leave London.

The warden stood by in silence. He was not only the least assiduous one I’d ever seen, and seemed reluctant to give tickets. He said he couldn’t enforce the parking suspension as two of the cars had been there before the notice was put up. More calls by me to the council. A weary Nigerian voice told me that the warden was correct, and I ‘should have read the small print.’

I pointed out that I had to pay the £80 or I’d get a ticket, or several tickets, and if there were parked cars blocking the suspension, they should have let me know in advance. He advised me to apply for a refund. I felt myself becoming tearful and angry.

The Rumanian boys from the removal company had nothing to say about the situation except that it was bad, ‘this is London,’ and they offered no hope of any way out. They packed all my worldly goods into boxes in total silence and disappeared. I was left to worry about parking on the following day, especially as the estate agent in Oxford said I had to collect the keys by 1pm at the latest.

A friend further down the street came up at night and grabbed the space vacated by the hated red van, next to mine, and we managed to save a space, but in the wrong place. I would have to ring the council again if we used it, or get a parking ticket. On the morning of the move a space appeared and the van got in. The move went ahead, but when I arrived at my new home, in the pouring rain, I was told the money from my buyer had not come through so the keys would not be released until 2pm. Then it was 4pm. They expected me to sit in a cafe and pray I suppose that the removal boys would wait. A friend of mine once had her belongings deposited on the pavement.

While I waited for the keys, two friends stood on my new door step in the rain, until the man next door who had some keys came home. He let them in and the unloading started. While that was going on we didn’t know if the money would come through. I was putting my furniture into a house without knowing if it was going to be mine. Not a nice feeling. The money arrived at about 4.30pm. The holdup due to the usual solicitor incompetence, spiced with the estate agent pretending that I had to get the keys early when apparently this kind of delay is very common.

The agent who had bullied and badgered me over the previous months, eventually came to the house with the keys and it was worth it to see the worried look on her face. Her tribe hate people entering a property before the keys are released. The odour of squatters is their worst nightmare.
So I am in, the first night was freezing, but I have now worked out the heating system a bit, no idea how to override the timer. The grill doesn’t seem to work without black smoke billowing out. I came here because I badly wanted to own some stairs, but after two days I find them a bit trying. You have to have everything you need downstairs. A house takes more navigating, more heating and more energy than a small flat.

My little cat has started sitting at the bottom of the stairs at 6am ringing her bell to let me know she wants attention. She has arthritis in her back legs, so at least she has some excuse. A friend has offered to make a cat sized stair-lift out of Meccano. There are so many things that have to be done that I wonder how long the new place will remain a work project before it becomes a home for both of us.

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