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The rest of the move, and of the year - The Lyorn's Den

Mon Dec. 31st, 2012

12:42 pm - The rest of the move, and of the year

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Now the year is as good as over, the end of my long vacation has appeared on my horizon, the flat is in a functional state, and the bills are paid.

Next year: Order the new place. Get everything where it should be. If it should be "not here", get rid of it. If it should be "here" but isn't, consider carefully the benefits vs. the cost, before getting it. Read more. Write more. Don't waste so much time on the internet. Try to regain some balance and peace of mind. Play with the cats a lot. Keep cool.

Get internet service and a land line somehow. Or would that be counterproductive? (*is considering carefully*)

Anyway, here's the tale of the rest of the move, chronicled for my own need of memory.

Fri Dec 7th to Tue Dec 11th

That was the "hot phase" of the move. Those five days which were too busy to be horrible, filled with rain, noise, running around, and nightmares. After getting the kitchen and the cat net on Friday, and packaging 75 boxes with my friends on Saturday and Sunday, I spent most of Monday in a home improvement store with Utto.

The first things we wanted to do was to put shelves in the junk room, and create space for coats and bags in the niche in the hall. We didn't yet know exactly how we would do that, as it would depend on what we could get in the store, and at what price.

Home improvement stores, like art supply stores, are places where I just love to walk around and imagine all the shiny possibilities that I, for lack of skill and dexterity, will never be able to implement. But, all that potential! All those things that could be! All that belief in the future and our ability to build it! Those stores are the perfect antidote to despair and nihilism. (Plus, all those power tools that look like guns in a SciFi-movie!)

It's good that I feel that way, because we spent about four hours in the home improvement store, until the plans in our heads had become itemised lists of materials, and all the materials had found their way to our cart, were paid for, and loaded into Utto's car. With one thing after another, it was dusk when we were at the new flat, and we still had to build those darned things. Utto estimated that it would take an hour. I estimated about twelve hours. The truth was in the middle: Around 10 at night we had finished with the junk room. It looked great, and we were both bone tired, and funny in the head from he noise of the drill.

Tuesday, the movers came.

Whatever is said about the pleasure of watching other people work usually fails to mention that this pleasure strongly depends on having a nice place to sit, a hot drink, warm socks, and maybe something to read. Without these, watching other people is boring, cold, uncomfortable, and tiring. I didn't lift a single box, because I know better than to interfere with people who know what they are doing, so there was no relief from cold and boredom. (I like carrying boxes. I enjoy being strong, and moving things, and not thinking.) Instead, thinking and worrying was all I did until noon, when the movers left with the first car load.

Utto had gone to the new flat by mid-morning, and was giving reports from the site. Four good-sized lorries, he said, were crowding the narrow and soggy road, and it was a good thing that the movers had a smaller car, so they would be able to reach the house by back road.

I left it to Utto to tell the movers what should go where, and sat down in the kitchen with my laptop, turned on the heating, and ate cake. Cake makes everything better. Nothing, however, could make it better for the cats, who had been locked in the kitchen since 8 am and had been listening to strangers tromping around "their" place, doing gods know what. Probably looking for kittens to eat. Both cats were hiding in the empty cupboards, and did not show as much as a whisker. And their day would get only worse.

It took the movers about three hours to unload and get back. The afternoon's work seemed to proceed very slowly. When the big items are done, there is always small fry and clutter left, which looks like nothing much and takes forever to handle. Another common trait of moving and software projects!

Around dusk, the movers left with the second and final load, and I followed, still without cats. By the time I got to the new flat, things were mostly over. Everything was in, Utto had put up some shelves in the library, the movers had re-assembled the bed and the wardrobe in the bedroom, all that was left to do was pay the bill and...

... I would like to say, "drink tea", but we still had the niche in the hall to take care off.

Which took another three hours. After that, we ordered take-out pizza, finally picked up the cats (who were looking as miserable as I was starting to feel), drove over a last time, ate pizza, and then it was midnight quite suddenly, and I spent the first night in the new place. The cats were hiding under the blankets with me. I did not sleep well.

Wed Dec 12th to Sat Dec 15th

Wednesday, things returned to normal, kind of.

I had a appointment with the tax aid company to hand in my paperwork for 2011, and that was a refreshingly simple task. After that, I went to the old place because the cable company was changing the sockets in the whole house. Waiting for the technician, I got a broom and swept all the rooms. They did not look too bad. The technician was on time and quickly done, and I was back around three to find Utto asleep on the sofa. I unpacked a few boxes which held kitchen gear and clothes, in search for something clean to put on, then we went for an early dinner at a place that served large chunks of meat. Afterwards, Utto left and I went to choir practise. I had not expected to make it through three hours of it, but somehow I did, and that was also a calming return to normal.

The cats did not feel calmed. I found them still hiding under the bedcovers when I returned. Jerry looked at me with eyes that said, "When are we going to go home?"

I had no idea where "home" might be. They say home is where the heart is, but I seem to have mislaid my heart. I think I last saw it on some vacation, might have been in Cornwall, or in San Francisco. Or it got put into one of those 75 boxes and I have not found it yet. I never wanted to come to this town. I never wanted to own 75 boxes of stuff. I wanted to be tramp when I grew up.

I unpacked a few more boxes. The cats stayed hidden.

Thursday I went shopping.

I did not actually buy much: Mostly Christmas presents and a new microwave, because I suspected that whatever I needed would be in one of the boxes (along with a whole lot of stuff I did not need, and what does one need, anyway?)

But I spent six hours in town, in a refreshing dry icy wind under a sky that sometimes even showed patches of blue. I got my papers changed to the new address, had coffee and enjoyed the day.

When I came home, I installed the new microwave, microwaved some food (hot food! from my own new kitchen!), and settled on the sofa to read. Encouraged, the cats joined me on the sofa, purred when I rubbed their stomachs, and all was right with the world.

Friday I got my old kitchen to a loving new home.

"All right" lasted until half past five the next day. Because I had offered to drive Snow to an early doctor's appointment, and "early" meant, she had to be there at seven. Of course, that very morning, it started to rain on the frozen ground, and the weather and traffic forecasters fell over each other to threaten doom, destruction and despair on the roads.

Well, there wasn't, at least not more than can be expected at six-mumble in the morning. I got Snow to the clinic, and then drove to office. Not because I was homesick for my desk, but my work computer had been behaving oddly, and I hoped that spending some quality time in his home network would most likely fix anything wrong with it.

I then unpacked boxes, did phone calls, went for lunch in the nearest company cafeteria, and at two in the afternoon I was at the old place to meet with a friend's son, who would disassemble and carry away the kitchen.

Now, that old kitchen was really something. Large fitted solid-wood cupboards from the early 60s, glossy finish, and after forty years of use looking only slightly worn at the edges. Most of the appliances had been replaced by tenants over time -- newest was the fridge that I put in in 2005. And every new tenant had kept the kitchen, never mind that the owners had wanted to put in "something modern" for twenty years now.

But now the owners had enough and definitively wanted to modernise the whole flat, and that meant, the kitchen had to go, and that nearly made me cry, because it was the best kitchen I ever had. I could not bear the thought of having it trashed, and having to pay to have it demolished would have been adding injury to insult.

However, I'm lucky. Luck, in this case, was said son of a friend leaving home for university, and his shared flat had a large room labelled "kitchen", with absolutely nothing in it. So I offered, "you take everything out, you can have it all for free", and he was quite happy with that.

It took him, and his father and brother, two hours to disassemble the kitchen. In the meantime, the painter who would fix the damage the cats had done to the wallpaper and re-paint the walls, dropped by to get a key. He mentioned that the owners also wanted to have the doors and the radiators painted. Which annoyed me, because that wasn't the agreement, I did not want to pay for it, and I saw an annoying argument with the owners coming up. So, when we found that the hanging cupboards in the kitchen had been resting on steel girders which in turn were fixed into the walls, I was filled with warm, fuzzy Schadenfreude. And to think I had worried about putting cast iron pots into those cupboards!

Around four, Snow called and asked to be picked up. I had successfully removed cat net, cat carpets and cat shelves, the others had equally successfully disassembled the kitchen but found that they would need two trips to get it home. We agreed to meet again at half past five.

Which we did. I must have looked a lot worse for the wear then, because the guys offered to finish by themselves. I gladly took them up on it, went home, had a hot (and very careful, because, no shower stall yet) shower, and was fast asleep before nine.

Saturday I took a day off.

After all that I felt that I really deserved a day off. It had been ten days since the last one. Also, we had ensemble practise scheduled for 10:30 am. I slept in (what has become of me, that getting up at 9:30 is "sleeping in"?) and took forever to get ready, because nothing was where I expected it to be. It's amazing how much efficiency in daily tasks depends on mindless routines. Getting lost in my own flat, I wondered if this was how the people who take forever to get ready feel all the time.

Two hours or more we practised our very hard Christmas song, but could not get it together, and agreed that it would not be ready for this Christmas. We are going to work on it in-depth on the choir workshop in January, get some outside opinion and expert advice, maybe attempt a performance. However, as not everyone will be at the workshop, we needed to switch a few voices. Ceridwen and I haggled about who got to sing the high part and I kind of won. It is really funny: When I sing with Gwydion and Ceridwen, I always get the high part, because while Ceridwen and I are both mezzos, I am stronger and more versatile in the upper half of my range, while Ceridwen has all that power in the lower half of hers. But when we sing in the choir or ensemble, I feel wooden in the high notes, and Ceridwen can sing up to an effortless high c with the voice of someone 20 years younger, a light and flowing lyric soprano, yet with that mezzo earthiness grounding it.

But the very hard Christmas song has five voices, and the middle one is a little low for me and needs more power than I have in that range, while the high voice can do with my clean, straight style.

After practise we had lunch, and then I went into town and enjoyed the Christmas markets, and being far away from boxes in need of unpacking. Later, at home, I read some fan fiction, which I have not done for, well, ages, and felt, if not like myself again, so at least like someone who once knew her.

Sun Dec 16th

Because my friends are the best ever, they did not only help me put all my gear into boxes, but also get it out again. Which is what we did on Sunday. Unpacking takes longer than packing, because when packing, no matter where the stuff comes from, it is clear where it goes to. When unpacking, this is a lot less clear. Fortunately, I was already done with the kitchen and the wardrobe, so what was left was books, comics, (physical) files, CDs, LPs, DVDs and the odd cassette tape which had sneaked into a box.

Everything went well (also, there was cake), but I had to make a lot of decisions, and it wore me out, emotionally.

After dark, we drove three cars back to the old flat to pick up the living room carpet and the final stuff from the junk room (cleaning gear, and the "give away" boxes) and I broke down. The desolation of the place got at me, the stink of an open drain in the kitchen, the dirt of twelve years of life and the dirt carried in carelessly from the street, the dark and the cold. When I was a teen, we used to call this a "moralischen" -- the sudden feel that everything is wrong with you and the world, that nothing in your life makes sense or ever will. I cried the whole drive back. Nothing is right with my life. I am nothing I ever wanted to be. I have no stories, I have no dreams, I don't read books and I don't write stories, I am not fannish, I don't play the piano and I don't practise the guitar, I am five hundred miles and twenty-five years from my home, I am skinny and rich and I can be functional at half past five in the morning, and everything I was or ever wanted to be is gone. And to regain even a bit of what I should, I need to get rid of last few things that remind me of myself, old books, old stories, old records, old tapes, and then I will not be anyone I ever knew or ever wanted to know. Also, I will never be able to clean the old flat before the holidays.

Fortunately, the drive back was short.

Even more fortunately, Ceridwen, Snow and I had tickets for "The Hobbit" at half past seven. Tolkien is my bedrock fandom, the measure of my dreams, the image I made myself in, thirty years ago. When I was seventeen and woke up amnesiac in a hospital bed, hardly knowing my own name, it was the names of the Valar, and the Elvish genealogies from the Silmarillion that came back to me first and told me that everything would be all right. I don't mind the re-tellings, the edits, the changes in the movie(s) -- it's a living story, it can be adapted to the narrative patterns of its medium without losing its appeal to me. I enjoyed the Bakshi movie, for goodness' sake. I am a great believer in applicability, and in the power of a story to shape itself to the needs of both narrator and audience.

I actually liked the way the dwarves were portrayed. They were wild and strange and foreign, as they must have appeared to Bilbo ("Klingon", Ceridwen said). Had they been stolid and dignified and clad in coloured hoods with tassels... I don't think that would have worked. Also, IMO it was a good idea to change the book's kind-of-random sequence of "and then they encountered..." into the effects of enemy action. I could have done with less things tumbling through space, though. (I was lucky, the movie was shown in 2D. But it was obvious that the director wanted to brag about his 3D powers.)

I came out of the movie with my head pasted on at least halfway straight, and that night I slept without dreams.

Mon Dec 17th to Sat Dec 22nd

In the morning, there were no cats. Thinking back, there hadn't been cats during the night, either. I got up, filled the food bowls, and still there were no cats. That was very, very wrong. I started looking, and finally from the cat cave on the balcony, a very pitiable tabby, his face all eyes, was looking back at me. When I opened the door, he came inside very carefully. Jerome came in even slower. They had gone exploring the balcony the night before, when I was airing the place, and I had locked the door on them. Good thing it had been a mild night, that there was a cat cave on the balcony, and that I had locked out both cats.

After that, the day got better. A lot better. I called the owners of my old flat, and they said a) that I did not have to pay for any additional work done, and b) that I did not have to clean the place, as they would have painters and plumbers and carpenters and carpet layers and god knows who else in, so any cleaning I might do would be futile anyway.

Life was good suddenly.

Over the week, I did useful things with good results. Some problems with the new flat got fixed, the old flat got signed off as OK by the caretaker, bills were paid, our choir had a short gig where there were too many talks, which meant a) we got bored, cold and hungry, waiting for our second set, and b) everyone else also got bored, cold and hungry, and ran for the food tables in the hall while we were doing our second set. Some you win, some you lose.

The only thing I could not make work was the ISP/land line issue, and the pot situation. I borrowed a pot from Snow without her knowledge (Hi Snow! *waves*. If you read this: It will be back before you are!), so that I could at least make soup, and ordered food from the deli for the holidays.

Thursday I went to IKEA to replace some things which had got lost or broken or which did not fit, I sorted several shelves of books and files, did a lot of washing, and filed a lot of papers which had accumulated during the move. I got tired of the silence and found an old radio. In the old flat, you could hear the neighbours breathe, and I never was comfortable playing music. Here? It's silent. It reminds me of the high-rise, where we held Shire Meetings and singalongs, and played all-night role playing games, without any thought of the noise we were making: Those walls kept it all in. The thought of being able to do that again both thrills and saddens me, because while it would be great if we could... I wonder if we would. (I hope Flederkatz will be moving here soon.)

Friday I got a scratching post for the cats, which they loved, and a surf stick from I___ which I loved. Even though I have decided to spend less time on the internet. Maybe I should get a pay-per-minute deal instead of a flat rate.

After all the work, effort and chaos of the previous weeks, I would have been extremely miffed if the world had ended on Friday, because then I would have missed the opportunity to stay in bed for four weeks and live on Sachertorte. But, as expected, the world did not end. If a new era began, I did not notice.

Saturday, I made pumpkin soup in the borrowed pot, and on Sunday, my mother and stepfather came to visit for the holidays.

Sun Dec 23rd to Thu Dec 27th

My mother can be a complete menace about any small thing she considers insufferable. There is a dust bunny on the floor, the milk is in the wrong jar, the warm water from the tab is not warm enough: Do something about it right now. Or I am going to whinge and snark and complain until you do!

She is, however, very determined not to make an issue of the big things. We are going to stay at a hotel, and have breakfast there, so you do not have to make beds and can sleep in. As long as there is bread, cheese, tea and chocolate, the food situation is perfectly fine. We can go look at stuff, but we can also just sit on the sofa and talk, or read.

And so we spend (mostly) very calm and relaxing holidays. On the 24th we made a short trip around the Christmas market, where a Dixie band was playing. The 25th, in weather that would have been considered good even in late March, we took a short walk in a nearby nature preserve where wild horses are living on a pasture the size of a small town. We even saw the horses. The 26th was gloomy and icy, and we walked around the neighbourhood.

It is not a pretty neighbourhood: This is an old industrial estate, with council housing from the eighties on the edges, an office block slowly falling to ruin, a train station that was shabby 25 years ago and has not been prettied up since, lots of car dealerships, some fringe churches, and wasteland. I actually like it a lot. The other part of town I had considered buying a flat in is all nice and new and shiny and full of parks and cool Noughts-architecture, small posh food places, expensive office space, and organic drug stores. It is also a lot more expensive, and in my mind it is haunted by the ghost of the Army post and the barracks where we founded our shire, and had the worst beer in town.

Not saying I wouldn't have bought there if I had had more money. Maybe I would have. But it would still not have been an easy decision.

Apart from those short walks, we sat around on the sofa and talked about this and that and mostly about what to do next to the place. Lights and cupboards and paint and plants and what-have-you, the catalogues from furniture stores were forming precarious heaps on the coffee table.

One day, Ceridwen was in the neighbourhood to look at a flat to rent. I would like it if she moved here. We could send signals between our windows, something I dreamt of being able to do since I was a kid living 10 km away from all my friends.

On Christmas Eve, we exchanged presents. I got a new woollen blanket (the old one which I have had for 43 years is getting a little worn), and a handbag.

The evening of the 26th we went for dinner in town. I had made reservations in our favourite place three weeks earlier, which was a good idea. The food was excellent, as usual. Still, when I got home, I went for the biscuits as if I had been starving. This can mean one of two things, and as I had not been unusually active physically, I could only conclude that the outside calmness and harmony of having family around involved hard (mental) work and an unusual exertion of willpower. Little wonder I needed three bars of chocolate a day to make it through my teenage years!

The morning of the 27th, we had breakfast at the hotel, and then my mother and step-father left. I strolled through town, looked at pots (the 14 litre pot will be hard to replace) bought a kettle for the new stove (this is faster than the electric kettles I had been using), and enjoyed being on my own again. I did not repeat the raid on the biscuit tin.

Fri Dec 28th to Mon Dec 31st

Friday was errands again. I started with driving to the junkyard to get rid of some paint and oil which had appeared from the junk room. Then, electronics store to selected lamps: One for the hall (a very simple one of opaque glass to put right under the ceiling), one for the bedroom (three spots, one to point at the wardrobe, one in front of the to-be-put-there mirror, one... don't know yet), one for the dinner table (a band of five strong LED lights with a dimmer switch). The store has to order two of them, and will send an electrician to install all three. Next was a carpentry/furniture store, then IKEA, for lunch. IKEA was crowded and I did not even attempt to buy something (other than lunch). Finally, an upscale furniture shop, to get some possible designs for a cupboard in the living room.

Saturday, I spend mostly writing up the rest of the move. It's probably boring, but I am obsessed with the past the way a chronicler or archivist (or a Lyorn) is, the thought of not being able to remember scares me more than the thought of being boring.

And Sunday I slept until noon, and managed to re-arrange enough old notes and papers to free up about 80 centimetres of shelf space.

So, here we are. New flat. Year's about to end. World didn't. Eleven people will come over for a party on New Years Eve. I'm looking forward to it.

2012, in retrospective

I feel, deep inside, that 2012 was empty. I lifted heavy weights and I regained my ability to swim more than two kilometres. I got new teeth and was in mostly perfect health. I have a new flat that is owned and paid for. I have a job that is new in everything but contract: New team, new tools, new department, new location, new project. New stuff to learn. My old department got closed, and I am still angry about it. I travelled to Kosice twice, for business, and to Stockholm and Frankfurt for a music festivals. I became a mod on a large forum.

I did not write or publish any story, I did not practise playing any instrument, I did not refresh my math skills, I did not watch TV, did not read fan fiction, and I read very few books. It seems to me that I did not dream, that I did not have meaningful talks with friends, that I did not feel anything, learn anything, understand anything, that all my thoughts have been grey and brittle and banal. I have become so much less of me that it scares me. I do not know what I shall become next year.

Stupid mid-life crisis.

This entry was originally posted at http://lyorn.dreamwidth.org/19590.html. Please comment whereever suits you.

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