Published: June 15th 2008June 13th 2008 June 7th to June 13th
No Place Like Home !
Not even unpacked and the Kirby's have taken root.
After celebrating the end of my first week in the employ of Faithful and Gould at the foot of Belmont Memorial Pier taking in a quiet intimate meal and a bellyfull of beer and wine with the boss courtesy of the Belmont Brewing Company I was all set for a Saturday morning lie in. Instead I was woken at 8am by the clattering shrill of the doorbell. It was Lisa and Marisa, today celebrating her eleventh birthday round to open her prezzies in the presence of her hungover father and when all was done I settled down and waited for delivery of my first major purchase, an Ikea Ektorp corner sofa in a sumptuous blood red cordoruy covering.
Phil and I met up again around oneish with Lisa and Marisa who had been joined by Marisa's BFF (Best friend forever for those of you not familiar with eleven year old talk) for a birthday lunch where I assembled the waiters and waitresses to sing happy birthday and later that afternoon the five of us made our way over to Naples Island for the main treat of the day, the hiring of a self drive boat
No Place Like Home !
Peg lag examines my new telly.
to spend two hours cruising (maximum speed 3mph!) around the canals of Naples armed solely with the essentials of life, a freshly made compilation CD and a cool box brimming with snacks, wine and more beer. Properties on Naples Island are served by roadway to the front and canal to the rear and each place has the obligatory sea going cruiser moored out back ready to hit the ocean. The word canal has always conjured up visions of long narrow stretches of shallow, reed and litter ridden murky water but things here are not surprisingly very different. For one they are salty , two they're clean and three they're wide and inviting. Each property is individually designed and of those on the market it is virtually impossible to find even the smallest ones listed for sale at under one million dollars.
When I'd hired a kayak in my first week here the waterproof map of the canals handed to me showed one particular stretch of water to be inhabited by something you'd expect to find in an Arthur C.Clarke novel, the Aurelia Aurita, otherwise known as the moon jellyfish, a sting free transparent relative of those ugly things we
No Place Like Home !
Here comes the couch.
find washed up and stranded on Ffrith Beach. When we arrived in their neighbourhood the Califonian Merlot I'd consumed meant I needed nothing more than a second dare from the girls to plunge myself headfirst overboard into the water. To pick up one of these creatures of the deep was similar to handling a greased up water filled balloon as they had the consistency of a huge dollop of phlegm but to feel them pulsate as you cupped them gently was quite unique. And not so much of a sting.
On Sunday morning Phil told me big Jerry, my dear brother who had moved into Dunkirk the previous week had rung so I called him back and he informed me that the water tank in the bathroom had sprung a leak and was soaking through the dining room ceiling. I looked out of the window, saw the sunlight catching the water as a lone paddle boarder passed by and felt as though I really didn't care. Of course I did but also knew that any problems of that nature couldn't be in better hands than him, Keith and the British Gas maintenance plan I was enrolled in. He'd had
No Place Like Home !
saturday morning sofa delivery.
his girls, Erin and Faye over to stay the night before and they had been alarmed at the extent of the wildlife that called the place home to the point of being scared to go to bed and I'd just like to take this opportunity to assure them that Sid the spider and all his multi legged friends are really nice guys and under special instruction not to alarm anybody.
Later that morning I headed south to the nearest branch of Sit'n'Sleep, a bed and mattress retailer recommended to me by Phil, not I hope because he was sick to death of waking to find me sprawled out on his sofa but because he knew I was keen to move into my new abode. Within seconds of entering I was greeted by David, an overweight, bespectacled, sweat drenched, coke drinking bed salesman keen on his first kill of the day who had made a hurried beeline straight for me as soon as he saw me parking up to ensure he got my custom before any of his commission hungry colleagues. I explained I was looking for something a little on the firm side and he told me he had
No Place Like Home!
8am Saturday. An unearthly hour to open prezzies.
just the thing and scuttled off urging me to follow and led me across the store to something that looked like just about every other bed in the building. Aesthetics where beds are concerned are completely irrelevant to me, a bed is a bed and when you're in it it is usually dark anyway but unfortunately for him price did. I asked him how much and he told me he could let me have this one for $2,400. I coughed, spluttered and quickly told him that that I was working on a considerably smaller budget, asked if he had anything a little cheaper and five minutes later settled on a monstrously large thing having bartered him down from $1250 to $900 including taxes. He spent what seemed an age explaining the sixty day return policy but I was keen to get back home to enjoy the sun so interrupted him and told him not to worry and that I wouldn't be back. I'd just spent three weeks alternating between a sofa and a waffer thin mattressed child's bunk so this thing would be just fine. I had requested a king but Davey boy recommended I go for a California king
No Place Like Home !
Land lubbers set to sail.
(typical of the yanks to have their own size), slighly shorter but a few inches wider than a regular king size and wide enough to lay three pillows side by side. It would be with me on Tuesday night.
With my Scandinavian flat pack furniture waiting patiently to come to life on my journey home I stopped off at a Target and purchased a sixty four piece tool kit which included what was soon to become a priceless electric screwdriver all for $19.99 (ten quid). Ikea furniture never ceases to amaze me. Spread out on the floor it is inconceivable to imagine how these cheap pieces of laminated chipboard fastened only by a few wooden pegs and a handful of screws can transform into sturdy pieces of attractive furniture but they do and on Monday evening after spending the previous night mentally preparing myself I climbed the stairs from Phil's to begin construction later to be joined by Olivia and Marisa, two willing helpers. I'd opted for the fresh looking Beech finish much like my diner back home and thought I'd start with the Besta Jaga TV trolley which came packaged in two large boxes. Even if the room
was basically unfurnished it would still look more impressive and homely with a huge TV on show. After half an hour interpretting mensa level instructions the first box was empty. I was getting totally into the groove and sliced through package two with what seemed like the skill and neatness of an eskimo skinning a seal but as I pulled back the wrapping my heart sank to the floor. In the stressful rush to purchase and get to the airport to collect Phil the previous Friday I had hurriedly loaded stuff onto the stolen trolley and box two of the Besta Jaga revealed itself to be not beech but a rich dark chocolate colour.
The bed arrived after 10pm on Tuesday and was so big it had to be loaded by the two heavily tattooed Mexican's through rear the fire escape and on Wednesday lunchtime I returned to Ikea, purchased bedding and swapped the tv stand, another stressful occasion in itself. I was ready to move and there was a rather spooky lack of occasion and certain sense of sadness when at 11pm on Wednesday night I wished Phil goodnight and climbed the stairs to my new pad for
No Place Like Home !
One of the places that lines the shore. This one is a full block in depth and probably retails around $ 5 million.
the first time. All the stresses and frustrations I'd gone through in the previous three weeks would have been multiplied twenty fold if it wasn't for big bad Baz, he'd been a shoulder to whinge to as well as a source of useful information and tips that had I been alone would have made everything unbearable. I was indebted to him.
On Thursday morning I couldn't wait to get back downstairs for my cup of tea that was waiting in it's usual place and realised then that the move was going to take some adjustment. The stairwell to the flats once you leave ground floor level serves just our two apartments so I can see them becoming like one where the doors to both are left wide open when we are home open.
Wednesday through Friday (I can't believe I'm sounding American already) the Seal Beach office had been the venue of a regional management meeting and on Thursday afternoon hosted a seminar for all it's staff demoing an incredible Google earth based GIS system which made me realise just how far behind Cheshire County Council and the public sector (myself included) is in the UK with regards
to computer technology. When it had finished some staff retired to one of the local hostelry's and I was introduced to several senior members who'd flown in for the meeting. All ex pats and all friendly it went some way to explaining the eerie atmosphere of the office where most occupants are non-Brits. Amongst them was Nick, a likeable Geordie lad in his early thirties who I'd met at Christmas. Phil had told me when I arrived that everyone who comes over puts on twenty pounds in weight in the first few months, a statement that had forced me to live on salads for the first two weeks and Nick appeared to be a case in point. When I first bumped into him again I thought he was wearing a false Gazza belly under his shirt.
As Friday arrived I was all set for more stress. After what seemed like hours of conversation with Lauren from International Autos my new vehicle was getting ready for collection although it felt like it was no real thanks to her. She was based in Houston and although I'd only spoken with her on the phone her voice, a mix of Texan drawl
and and horizontally laid back negress charm, along with the painfully slow way she did things had drawn a picture in my mind of a big fat black lady more interested in painting her fingernails than doing her job. Strange I know. Anyway, the tale of the car is a story in itself that'll have to wait.
There are more photos below