Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sofa, So Good

I've got some catching up to do...

First, let's go back in time an entire week to last Wednesday.  I got an email at 3:15 pm from the relocation company informing me that our shipment of goods from the US would be delivered on Wednesday, May 4 and could I please make arrangements with the local authorities to reserve 4 parking spots in front of the house for the delivery truck.  I pulled up the website of the Merton Council (we live in the London borough of Merton), and after some digging around, found the appropriate page and called the parking office -- who informed me that parking suspensions require a minimum of 4 working days' notice and cost £42 per spot.  Since both Friday and Monday were holidays, that only gave me 2 days' notice, so I emailed the relocation company back to see if the delivery date could be pushed back a day or two.  I got a response at 3:50 pm that they could change the delivery date to Thursday, May 5.  I tried calling the parking office again, and they told me I needed to submit a form, which could be downloaded from their web site.  I tried to explain that I didn't have a printer, but my cell phone ran out of credit and ended the call.

At this point it was 4 pm and the office closed at 5, so I looked up the address, pulled up my handy London Travel Deluxe iPhone app, and figured out how to get there on the bus.  I grabbed my purse and ran to the bus stop.  I reached the council office at 4:35, withdrew £200 in cash from the ATM across the street, and asked the girl with the pierced tongue at the front desk to direct me to the parking office.  She told me I couldn't go to the office, they only interact with the public by phone, and directed me to (seriously!) a white courtesy phone.  There was no answer.  I went back to the front desk and tried to explain what I needed.  After some hemming and hawing, she finally agreed to print out the form for me.  I quickly filled it out and then asked if I could submit payment in cash, since I didn't have a UK debit or credit card.  That finally convinced her to summon someone with a little more authority, who then managed to get someone in the parking office on the phone.  He assured me that my form would be submitted, and that someone would be contacting me the next morning to arrange payment.

I heaved a sigh of relief, and hopped on the bus to head home -- only to discover that I didn't have enough credit on my Oyster card to cover the bus fare.  Gah!  Fortunately, I had exact change and was able to pay cash for that, at least.  As soon as I got back to Wimbledon, I made a beeline for the Vodaphone shop to add credit to my mobile, and then to the tube station to do the same for my Oyster card.  If I had a credit or debit card, I could do all these things online, but until that happens, I have to do everything in person with cash.

Thursday morning at 10:15 am, I got another email from the relocation company saying the soonest our shipment could be delivered would be Friday, May 6 at 1 pm.  What?!  I was glad I had topped up my phone, because it took multiple calls to the parking office before someone answered the phone.  The nice lady there found my application form and changed the date for me, but said they could not accept payment in cash, so I had to get Josh to call them back and provide his debit card info.  Whew!
I was glad I had extended our stay in the furnished apartment through May 6.

So, fast-forward to Monday morning...  After we had processed the news about Osama bin Laden and Josh went for his bike ride, we sat down and made a list of all the things we'll need to buy for the house.  Some of our furniture was just too big to fit in this tiny Victorian-era rowhouse, so we didn't bring a sofa, dining table, coffee table, or desk.  And since nothing that plugs into the wall will work here (except computers and phone chargers), we'll need a TV, lamps, kitchen appliances, and a vacuum cleaner.  We decided to start at IKEA to look at furniture, so we hopped on the tram and headed out to Croyden.

It's nice to know that if you ever need to shop for inexpensive household items, there's almost always an IKEA nearby. My friend Michael moved to China last year with his wife and 3 kids, and they furnished their apartment with IKEA furniture, too.  He had promised his two sons that if they moved to China they would get to have bunk beds (a clever way of getting them excited about sharing a room), but that was the one thing they couldn't find at IKEA there.  Apparently, there's not much demand for them, since you are only allowed to have one child.

IKEA here is exactly the same as it is back home.  Even the prices are the same, in that they seem to have simply replaced the $ with a £ -- which seems to be true of prices here in general.  Since £1 = $1.60, everything costs approximately 60% more than it does back home.  Ouch! 

We didn't see any dining or coffee tables that we liked, and we decided to hold off on buying a desk until we figure out where we'll have space for one, but we did buy a sofa.  It's the KIVIK 2-seat sofa with attached chaise with a blue slipcover.  We liked the fact that the chaise was wide enough that we could both fit on it side-by-side when we're watching TV.  It's not a sofabed, but it's plenty big enough for an adult or two small kids to sleep on if we needed extra guest space.  We also bought the UK version of the bedside table lamps we have at home.  I really like them because they don't take up much space, are easy to turn on and off with the pullchain, and were only $20 each, so I was happy to see that they had the same lamps here.  Sure enough, they cost £20 here, which is $33!

The one feature of this IKEA that I hadn't seen before is the rampulator (I made that word up). 
IKEA's rampulator
It's a moving walkway that goes from the first floor down to the ground floor so you can take your shopping cart with you rather than having to wait for the lift/elevator.  I don't know if I'd want to take a full shopping cart down that thing, but it's pretty cool.  They also subcontract out to a delivery company so you can have your stuff delivered.  That makes sense.  Even if you are one of the few people who owns a car, it's unlikely to be big enough to take anything bigger than a breadbox home, and there was no way we would have been able to wrestle a sofa onto the tram, especially since it came in 5 different boxes.  We were able to arrange for them to deliver our items to our rental house the next day, which was handy, since that was the day we were getting the keys to the house.

Tuesday morning we got a call from the delivery company saying they'd be at the house on Florence Road between 1 and 5 pm.  I was hoping it would be earlier in the day, since we had to meet the inventory clerk from the letting agent and a representative of the property search company there at 10 am to get the keys and do a walk-through of the house.  Oh well.  Good thing I'm unemployed.  This was the first chance we had to really take a good look at the house, since the owners (and all their stuff) were there on our previous two visits.  This time we were able to open kitchen cabinets and drawers, peek inside closets, and make sure the toilets flushed properly.  After seeing how narrow the halls, stairs, and doorways are, I'm convinced it will take nothing short of a miracle for all our stuff to fit.  I hope the movers have lots of experience working in tight spaces.

We finished the walk-through in time for me to walk back to the apartment, eat lunch, grab a book, and then walk back to the house by 1:00 to wait for the IKEA delivery -- while Josh quickly packed up and rushed to the office for a 1:00 phone meeting.  During that time, someone from the council office came by and put up signs and cones warning of the parking suspension in front of our house on Friday.  That was quick! 
Very easy to read the details of the time/date...
...which is why most of the spots were empty
Since there is no furniture in the house, I sat on the stairs and read, periodically getting up to walk around and keep my butt from going numb.  (Not very comfy stairs)  The delivery truck finally showed up at 4:15, and for a few brief moments, it looked like one of the boxes wasn't going to make it through the doorway between the front hall and the kitchen.   It took several tried, but they persevered, and eventually wrestled all the boxes into the living room.  Whew!

Since Josh was taking an overnight trip to Barrow to tour BAE's submarine-building facility, I stopped at the supermarket and the library to pick up dinner and a movie.   I checked out The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which I was surprised to find there since it's a fairly recent release.  I have read all the books and seen the first movie, and figured there was no harm in skipping the second movie since I already know what happens.  Like the first movie, they condensed the plot so much that it left a few holes in the story, but at least it kept me entertained for most of the evening.

On Wednesday I went into town to pick up my new Citibank debit card, which had finally been located and sent back to the branch office.  On the way, I thought I'd stop at Westminster Abbey, as I had learned they were keeping all the Royal Wedding decorations and flowers in place until Friday.  As I was walking there from the tube station, I took this photo, which includes the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, AND a double-decker bus.  I'm definitely in London!
Even though it was 5 days after the wedding, there were quite a few people who seemed to have the same idea.  There was even a line to get into the gift shop!
But that was nothing compared to the line to get into the Abbey, which went all the way out the gate and along the sidewalk.  A staff member informed me that it would be an hour wait from where I was standing when I took this picture.
Since I had a more important mission to accomplish, and didn't want to spend an hour in line and £16 just to peek inside and run off to the bank, I bailed on that plan and hoofed it the rest of the way to the bank.  If it's any consolation, they don't allow photos inside, so these are the only pictures I would have ended up with anyway.

St. James' Park was bustling with a lunchtime crowd enjoying the sunshine.  It's been unusually pleasant here since we arrived.  In fact, it was the warmest April on record, with temperatures averaging 5ºC/9ºF above normal.  At least the beautiful weather helped make up for many of the frustrating issues we've had to deal with...
Across from the park is the Horse Guards Parade, where Wills & Kate made their grand entrance into the grounds of Buckingham Palace on Friday.  They were just dismantling the bleachers around the square.
And this is the street that the procession traveled on.  You can tell by the crown-topped flagpoles and the carpet of horse poop.
I made it to the bank, and 20 minutes and 2 forms later, withdrew a ceremonial £20 from the ATM with my new debit card.  Yay!  I was very excited to be equipped with a card that allowed me to perform cash-free transactions, shop online, and set up payment for things like utilities, cable TV, mobile phone contracts, and magazine subscriptions.

Before I headed home to start using it, I stopped at John Lewis a couple blocks away to look at furniture.  This is a HUGE department store that sells EVERYTHING.  In fact, on this visit I discovered an entire sewing/craft section with fabric, patterns, yarn, books and other supplies.  I saw a couple dining tables that might work, and jotted down the model names and prices.  Then I came across this thing:
I'm not entirely sure what it is, or how much it costs, but how cool would it be to have this in your back yard?!  Of course, it would take up fully half of the yard of our Wimbledon house (and possibly cost more), but can't you picture James Bond having a seductive liaison in something like this?

I picked up some steak and asparagus on the way home -- at least the food here is reasonably priced -- and waited for Josh to get home.  The first thing I did with my new debit card is sign up for a £1 trial subscription to Which? magazine, which is the UK equivalent to Consumer Reports.  Since we need to buy a lot of new things (TV, small appliances, vacuum) and services (utilities, mobile phone), I was hoping their website would help steer us in the right direction.  It's not as easy to navigate or to find actual recommendations, but it's better than nothing.  I was a little mystified that their review of mobile phone carriers did not mention anything about the actual phone service (coverage, dropped calls, clarity) -- only their customer service and the variety of phones offered.  Not so helpful...

When Josh finally showed up at 8:45, his right elbow and knee were scraped up and bleeding from a nasty tumble he'd taken on his bike on the way home from the train station.  Fortunately, he was otherwise unhurt, so he hopped in the shower and cleaned himself up.  We realized we did not have any bandages (or plasters, as the call them here), our local Boots was probably already closed, and I had dinner in the oven, so we looked around the apartment for something we could improvise with.  And thus we invented the paper towel and plastic wrap bandage:
Necessity is the mother of invention
It actually worked pretty well, and kept Josh from bleeding all over the sheets last night.  Hopefully he was able to stop at Boots on the way into work this morning and buy some proper bandages.

No comments:

Post a Comment

To prevent spam and other inappropriate messages, all comments are moderated before being posted.