Don’t Try This At Home

(February 2021)

This is the story of how we moved from the place where we had lived for ten years to a new place that better suits our needs. It is not a pleasant tale so if you are averse to stress and unhappiness turn away now.

            At the end of 2018 we decided to reassess our finances and, as a result, found that we would be better off selling our second house out in the countryside at Springbank, selling the place where we were living and buying a new place that more suited our needs.  We found that place in the second week of January 2019 and took possession of it in April.  Selling our Springbank place was not pretty and ended up with us threatening the tenants with legal action.  That was not resolved until the end of June at which time we moved all our stuff from Springank into our new place where it sat patiently waiting for our immanent arrival.

            We wanted some additions and remodelling done to the new place and wanted to avoid the hassle of living in a building site so we stayed in our old place and sought a builder to do the work, but nailing down a builder was like trying to nail down smoke with a nail gun.  After that we thought an architect might be a good idea, found a couple of likely candidates and engaged them both to do some initial design work for us.  One was solid but unimaginative and the other was not so solid but much more imaginative.  We chose the latter.  So we came to the end of 2019 with some initial ideas sketched out with the architect and us unmoved.

            By April 2020 we had some good – exciting one might almost say – ideas and drawings ready to go out to tender.  By then, of course, the virus had upset everything so when the tenders were due we had nothing and had to wait a few more weeks until we finally had a couple.  One was on the high side and the other probably a bit on the low side but acceptable.  The catch was that the builder of the low tender could not start until towards the end of the year but, with so much uncertainty about what effect the virus would have in society and how widespread it would be, we were happy to stay in isolation at our old place and wait.

            Waiting was not entirely a bad thing.  It gave me plenty of time to work on a couple of projects and part of the projected additions to our new place began evolving into something that should be rather spiffy as Valma and the architect discussed it.  At the same time the builder kept on putting off his projected start date and delayed signing the contract.  The architect kept up pressure for the builder to sign and in the second half of October he withdrew entirely.  Inspired partly by the government’s offer of a free $25,000 for building work contracted for by the end of the year the architect sent out another request but received only one response with a price that was too high for us.

            Even before our builder abandoned us we had decided that we could wait no longer.  It was partly because, in this part of the world at least, the virus has not been as bad as had been expected, it was partly because owning two houses – one of them empty – was running down our resources faster than anticipated and partly sheer frustration at waiting.  Doubtless, moving in would cause problems when it came to doing the additions and other improvements, but we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.  I sat down and wrote a plan for moving with the M-date of 1 December 2020 and fifteen things that had to be accomplished for the move to happen.  Most of them were quite minor in themselves but took time and mental effort to get done.  I won’t bore you with the details, but gradually they got crossed off.

            I had expected that our moving date of 1 December 2020 would slip but I reckoned that if I didn’t set the goal the whole project might drift on for endless weeks.  Very quickly the moving date began pushing back into December and eventually ran into the Christmas and New Year break, but finally the removalist settled on the date of 13 January 2021 for our big move.

            Our new place is only about ten minutes drive from our old place, by car.  But that implies that we had one of those, which we didn’t.  Since I killed our old Ford Falcon station wagon earlier in 2019 we’d borrowed Robin Johnson’s car whenever we needed to go out, which wasn’t often at the height of the virus lockdown.  I was particularly keen to get another station wagon because of all the stuff we needed to move but when I went cruising the interweb looking for one of the type we’d already had there weren’t any (later I learned they stopped making Ford station wagons in 2009 or thereabouts).  Eventually I gave in and started looking at other makes of car and quickly found a couple of 2011 Holden Sportswagons that would probably do the job.  One was $2000 more expensive than the other so I emailed the dealer offering the cheaper one and he brought it around for us to try out.  We took it for a drive from our old place to our new place and back again, Valma was comfortable in it and I quite liked the response of the six-cylinder engine at the many round-abouts that litter Ballarat, so we bought it and the dealer delivered it that afternoon.  (It turned out it was cheaper because it had been owned by Telstra which had made a couple of non-standard modifications, which doesn’t stop the car from doing what we need it to do.)  After that I probably made the trip between our new places once a day on one errand or another.

            Looking after the cats promised to be a challenge.  They would have to be sent to a cattery for a few days during the move and normally this would have been a problem in the period between Christmas and Australia Day which is the main holiday season.  Fortunately for us the virus was working in our favour for a change and there was no problem finding a place for them because very few people were putting their pets in while they went on their accustomed annual summer holiday.  There was also the problem of keeping them indoors at our new place but the architect tracked down a company that installed cat-netting which enclosed the front verandah and the back patio – not until a couple of days after our move but we managed and they did not escape.

            There was also the discovery that the space in the laundry for the washing machine was not as wide as our existing machine (by 20mm), and it was simpler and easier to go out and buy a new, slimmer, machine than get the laundry remodeled to accommodate our old, fat machine.

            The most fun – if any of this process can be called fun – was getting a pad of A3 sized graph paper, measuring all the rooms in the new place and then drawing plans of each room on the paper.  Then I measured up all the furniture already at our new place and that at our old place and made little cardboard cutouts of each piece to the same scale as the plans.  What followed was the process of trying to fit all the little cardboard cutouts into the space available on the drawings, which wasn’t too difficult because it is a big house.  However, I’d be doing something mundane like cleaning my teeth and it would suddenly occur to me that if I moved one piece from here to there then that other piece would fit in the space better and might even appear more suitable too.  This process went on until the day before we moved and it didn’t turn out too bad apart from the fact that I got the length of the garage wrong by 70cm, which caused more trouble than you might expect.

            Come the beginning of the new year I started the process of relocating all our moveable stuff like books, records and goodness knows what else, two or three trips a day filling up the back of the car with about ten boxes of stuff.  There was room for more but I found that if I tried to move anymore than that I didn’t have the will to make another trip.  The real trick was finding places to stash it all so it would not get in the way when the removalists turned up.  A lot of it went into the back shed and more of it into the garage, leaving an aisle for the removalists to come and go with their loads when the time arrived.  I tried my best to keep some kind of order to the books but I think I failed miserably.  We will see when time comes to shelve them properly, which doesn’t seem likely to be in the immediate future.

            Other stuff was going on at the same time but frankly it’s all a blur when I try to piece it together.  The main thing was that the new big bed got installed in the master bedroom, done by a man in an hour which would have taken me all day.  Finally, on Sunday afternoon I took Tristan and Isolde to the cattery.  ‘Were are you going for your holiday?’ the owner asked.  ‘Oh no’, I replied, ‘We’re moving to a new place.’  He looked at me quizzically.  ‘We’re in a retirement village but we’re not very good at downsizing, so we’re moving to a bigger place.’  ‘Upsizing,’ he offered.  It turned out that some time earlier he and his wife had decided to retire and bought a little place in the ranges but were at each others’ throats in two years.  They decided that retirement didn’t suit them so they bought the cattery and they’ve never been happier.

            Finally, we were as ready as we’d ever be to move.  The removalist is a family company, son and his mates do the moving and mum does the packing.  Mum was supposed to arrive at 8.30 on Monday morning to start but only arrived around 11 because she was stuck at hospital for some undisclosed reason.  This set everything behind but she was the original human dynamo and got a lot done.  However, we beat her because we had much more stuff than she expected so she had to come back the following day to finish the job.  The fact that we have so much stuff is not surprising, Valma and I have been together for coming on for 49 years and we’re not very good at throwing stuff out, but when somebody shoves it all in boxes it makes you think.  (And that was only the stuff that I hadn’t already moved.)

            At our new place they’d pull another piece of furniture out of their van and expect me to be able to tell them where to put it.  This was made somewhat challenging because mum, the human dynamo, has packed away my carefully prepared plan of where everything was to go in one of her many boxes.  Fortunately I’d looked at it so much over the previous weeks that I had more or less memorized it and there were only a few things that needed to be relocated to get it right.

            The following morning I returned to our old place to make sure that we had everything.  I started at the far end of the house and closed doors as I emptied rooms and  moved back towards the door.  There were bits and pieces strewn all over the place which I piled in the car when I found them.  Gradually rooms were devoid of our stuff and the car filled up.  Finally I had only the laundry to go but when I opened the cupboard door under the sink I found it stuffed with cleaning products that must had time expired years ago.  Into the car they went, to be sorted out later.  Then, one cupboard to go, the linen cupboard.  I opened the door and it was full.  That was the closest I came to crying during this whole process.

            Completely surrounded by fabric I next drove over to the Optus shop to see what they could do about my mobile phone.  It turned out that while moving all those boxes of books with the mobile in my shirt pocket I had accidentally changed some of the settings, including resetting the keyboard to Chinese.  The young woman there smiled at me indulgently (I’d like to think so anyhow because she was wearing a mask, of course) and reset everything back to normal in a couple of minutes.  Next a phone call to a tv repair man to come and look at our tv.  I was supposed to do some shopping too but there was no room in the car for anything more.

            After that a series of people arrived to fix or instal things.  The TV repair man found the ‘on’ button for the set in about two minutes and then, taking pity on us, tuned the set for us.  The next day a man from Telstra came and installed our internet connection (our house was built before the Liberal government stuffed up the NBN so we have fiber connected to our place) and made sure all our stuff that depended on wi-fi worked properly, except my computer which, I learned, doesn’t have a wi-fi connection in it.  ‘Go to JB Hi-Fi and ask them for a wi-fi dongle,’ he said, ‘it more or less instals itself’.  I was dubious but for once my distrust of new bits of technology proved unfounded and it worked after I followed the simple – even for me – instructions.

            Next on the agenda was reclaiming Tristan and Isolde from the cattery.  We had been worried that they would object to their new home but they don’t seem to think it’s anything special, only a bit bigger than before.  They wandered around taking in all the sights and smells of the new place and decided that our company was best so we had two clingy cats for a couple of days.  They soon discovered where their water and food came from, and their toilet too – we had been worried that they would show their displeasure at being relocated to unsuitable surroundings in the usual cat way, but no trouble on that account.  We kept the door to the garage closed for the first three days while they got used to the house (and so I didn’t have to do any more unpacking of all the boxes behind that door for a while).

            On the third day I got on with the unpacking and the cats came in to the garage to supervise.  They think it’s a wonderful playground and either lounge around on the boxes watching me slave away or come down to help by frolicking in the wrapping paper.  It’s got to the stage now that if the garage door is closed little Tristan stands there and complain until I open it and he only emerges for a bit of company when he runs out of new things to explore.  He would prefer that we came into his new playground and has begun standing at the open door yelling for somebody to come into the garage to play with him.  Fortunately this house is big enough that we can ignore him, most of the time.

            And finally, here we are.  The business of additions and changes lies ahead of us and after months of inactivity two different builders who are planning to tender for the work came through a couple of days ago to look at the place.  So things might now move on that front.  Frankly, after all the stuffing around and effort of moving I don’t care if nothing happens for another year while we settle in.  Looking at all those boxes in the garage I expect that we might be fully unpacked after this move by about 2027, and young Tristan is delighted at the prospect.


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