16 October 2009

Oh, the Cleverness of Me! (Part 2)

Aha, now for the towel rack! Essentially four rectangles of varying sizes of stainless steel, and a bag with six screws, six screw covers, and an allen wrench. My kind of construction. Screw the three into the fourth and - voila - a freestanding rack for three towels, which I popped into the corner of the bathroom. My towels will no longer have to hang precariously on the folding wall of the tub, or sit on the toilet seat, getting soaked as the shower sprays... pretty much everywhere.

I went out to examine the fourth box - my bookcase. I should preface this by the fact that my original dream was to go visiting local charity shops, or secondhand sites like craigslist or gumtree. I wanted to find something old, cheap, but with character. After about a moment of searching, however, I remembered that pretty much none of those options *deliver* and, while I was *close* to the local charity shops, I wasn't "lug a bookshelf home" close. Furthermore, once home, I still had a flight of stairs to deal with, and the hope that it would fit through the door. The Sainsburys one I ordered was only £30 (on sale) and while I had a momentary pang that I wasn't finding something cheaper, in this moment where I contemplated the box now sitting in my front hallway, I quickly realized the joy of having had it delivered and carried up the stairs for me. Namely, I went to move the box into the living room and found that I couldn't actually lift the box. At all. Not only tiny little centimeter. The best I could accomplish was to tilt it onto its side and drag it down to the hallway - I still only made it about three feet before dropping it to the floor and deciding - "I guess I can unload it here".

I pulled the box apart and began unloaded the pieces of wood. I nearly had a heartattack when I couldn't find the instructions, but calmed down when I realized they were sandwiched between two of the boards whose identifying stickers were either missing or had the second half of the sticker ripped off - the half that actually identified what it was supposed to be. The instruction packet came with an independent half sheet paper which read, in very large, bold, red letters: "IMPORTANT! Follow the step by step instructions during the assembly of this product!" And nothing else. I wondered if this sheet was saved on the copywriter's computer as "Catch-22" - anyone anal enough to actually bother to read every last piece of paperwork included in the packaging *would* already be likely to follow the instructions. Those who really required the warning would be the types to rip open the box and start hammering in nails wheresoever they felt like - throwing the instructions (and this *very* helpful tip) right out the window.

I then opened the box that came with the wood pieces - this is when I began to panic. No longer was I dealing with six screws and an allen wrench. This was whole bucketloads of nails, screws, little cappy-type-things, silvery peggy-type-things, weird circular screwy-kind-of-like-things... So, yeah, how about I take a look at that toilet lid, eh?

I discovered very quickly, upon moving in, that the toilet seat lid was not actually attached to the toilet bowl in any way, shape, or form. Now, "discovered" is not the same thing as "kept in the forefront of memory", as I have far too many times to count nearly slid the whole thing off by either sitting or setting onto it. Many, MANY is the time that I have carelessly put my foot up onto the seat, merely to find myself moments later clinging to the flying-away seat in desperation, as my foot sloshes into the bowl. This was not acceptable. What kind of world is this if a lady cannot set her foot on the toilet seat lid in the privacy of her own home? Closer examination revealed two plastic nut and bolt pieces set perfectly into holes in the toilet seat bowl. It was obvious the bolts were meant to connect to the seat, then back through the bowl, then be bolted in at the other end. They were, at present however, only bolted to the bowl itself - working hard at keeping the bowl connected to... itself. Well done on that front, I guess, but I'd prefer they served some greater purpose. I found the grooves in the toilet seat lid, and managed to get one of the nuts slid in and bolted down quick as a wink. The other nut/bolt, however, put up much more of a fight - refusing to loosen its grip. (I also discovered that the nut/bolt combo must've been purchased south of the equator or something, as they did not adhere to the leftie-loosie principle. With the help of my handy-dandy new pliers and some good old fashioned elbow grease, I managed to unscrew the bolt, slide it into the groove, and screw it back up. I then nearly crowed in exultation at my triumph over the toilet seat. Hey, if you can't be joyous over the little things...

Newly rejuvenated and able to take on anything, I returned to the dust and cardboard covered mess of a living room, and took a good long look at the instruction sheet (I had, after all, been warned to do so!). It told me that I should complete the project in one hour, so I set the timer and began sorting the pieces and equipment out. Delightfully, all the pieces were there, all the pilot holes were in the right place, the screws went in easily, everything squared up, and within 35 minutes the bookcase was standing in the corner, while I looked on in utter triumph. True, I didn't use even a third of the nails provided to attach the back board to the bookshelf itself, but the backboard is a thin cardboard-y thing, not exactly load-bearing, and I couldn't bear the noise of nailing wood in a small, wood-floored room. I put in the essential corners and down the sides - there is a bit of bowing, but you have to literally get behind the bookcase to see it - and, frankly, if you're looking behind a bookcase, you've missed the point entirely.

The books fit in perfectly, with just a few empty loose spaces here and there for future acquisitions. I removed the book boxes (into my odd little storage room, which I now desperately wish had a door, as the room is an absolute wreak and not likely to change anytime in the near future. With my floor all cleared out and my books settled in their new home, a wonderful feeling of calm and "home-ness" settled over me. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the books are an extension of myself, but having everything settled in its own little space does so much to calm the nerves and bring peace to the heart. Adding to the delight, I received a call from Joanne (the maintenance woman for the property), who told me that I should hear from a man tomorrow about delivering the wardrobe on Saturday. (Granted, I still haven't heard from him today, but it was a wonderful thing to hear *yesterday*. She also mentioned that the doorknob will be fixed this weekend - which, yes, in British-isms means next March (kind of like how they call an elevator a go-up box, and poofter means tourist), but it was lovely to hear from her without having to call and harass her myself.

The room settled, I wandered into the kitchen and turned on the oven and hob to make dinner. The aforementioned gas goes towards my oven/hob; I've heard many wonderful things about cooking with gas and, while I cannot say that it's amazingly better one way or another, I still get a momentary moment of nostalgia every time I turn it on, getting a momentary sniff reminiscent of the old gas campstove. Now, I should point out, my parents happily got over much of the camping bug before I got too old. We were generally only out "roughing it" while I was still too young to care much about public toilets, forgoing showers, being constantly damp and dirty, undercooked hot dogs, and nature walks. I was too young to remember most of the horrors - happily, by the time I was old enough to start actually etching memories in stone, my parents had wisely switched their ideals of camping to involve actual roofs, warm beds, and nights spent watching the rain OUTSIDE as we enjoyed a homecooked meal and movie or game INDOORS. The vague nostalgic rush calls back a childhood long since gone by, a more innocent and carefree time, rather than the specifics of blue tarps and mosquitos.

I brought my meal out to the lounge, still delighting in how lovely the bookshelf looked; flipping up the computer to turn on something to watch, I saw with delight that my phantom wifi signal had returned! At any given point during the day, and at any given spot within my flat, I can find a half dozen wifi connections, which are - unfortunately - all safely locked up by their owners. Every night, however, around 7-8PM, a new signal appears - one which doesn't appear at any point during the day, but - more to the purpose - is also unlocked. I can access it with a very shaky connection on the futon, but find myself greeted with five whole bars of connectivity if I move the laptop down to the floor in the hallway outside my kitchen. The connection is fast, delightful, although - sadly - only generally sticks around for about an hour, after which it vanishes into the ether once more. I do try to get the majority of online work done at the library during the day, but it's oh-so-lovely to connect at home, checking email, reading my favourite blogs, checking my bank, etc. I've avoided as best I can doing unnecessary down-or-up loads while connected, as many internet companies in the UK offer very cheap connections - with limited amounts of downloads per month. I may be a thief, but a heartless one I am not. This is why my blog has gone photo-less thus far - soon, my dear ones, soon (hopefully) I will have my own connection up and running (the guy is scheduled for Monday, after all) and will be inundating you with all the images you can possibly stand.

I do think the caulking around the windows has done some good, if only from a placebo standpoint (and it probably doesn't hurt that it's been sunny the last few days), but once the internet connection goes down, I do tend to retreat to my cozy little bedroom - this particular evening with microwave popcorn, a big glass of milk, and Joyce, Harris, George, and Montmorency - ready to paddle our way up the Thames.


  1. Ah..how fun to get to spend the day with you, Bonnie. I feel like I am right at home in your flat already1 Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us! Love, Mums

  2. Bonbon, I've found your new blog! Haha, I like this phantom wifi situation-- whom does it belong to? Is there somebody in your building with wifi they only use an hour a day? What is this person doing if not on the internet constantly?

    I'm feeling very nostalgic after reading your blog, I might have to come live with you. Don't worry, I'm really good at fixing toilet seats.