Final night30 March 2020
Tonight is the final night I will be spending in the flat I have resided in since November 2013 and I will be returning the keys tomorrow evening. When I moved in it was about looking at the future, but due to circumstances moving out feels like looking at the past. The place is now empty of anything I consider sentimental but the place is still full of sentiment. For better or worse I am enjoying the last hours of it while I can. The six years and a half years I was living in this flat, although shorter than the 12 years which I had the flat in Bristol, I feel has had a much greater effect on my life. Living in this flat was the first time in my life I was truly self-sufficient and cash-flow positive, and I dogmatically stuck to the principle of not dipping into pots of money other than what I earned locally. However much like when I moved out of Bristol and Wellington it has been a time of much thinking.
The rebuildWhen I first set foot into the flat it marked the point when I started rebuilding my life in the aftermath of my time in New Zealand. Leaving New Zealand was a process of accepting objective failure and the travelling I did in the meantime I will merely describe as “emotional” and “difficult”. As well as contending with bureaucracy resultant of the European financial crisis that made getting a Euro-denominated bank account an ordeal, I had been living in temporary accommodation and without access to cooking facilities had a diet that by any measure was a health disaster.
With nothing else to do my thoughts of the time I documented well, and pretty much everything I am willing to publish about the time based on these notes I have already done so. It would be roughly this time back in 2014 when I had stabilised my finances, and it would be the summer before I had got round to getting my social life back on track. For better or worse I decided that this, alongside local issues in general, would be something I would not write publicly about — hence why my previously steady stream of Misc articles tailed off after I left New Zealand. I had a large back-log of topics in mind, but by 2015 I had become both out-of-date and disinterested in what often as not was thinly-veiled UK-bashing.
Finally sortedWhen I left Bristol I knew I was trading in a lot and I feel that it was only the latter part of 2015 that things were going well all-round. I had got my career back on track and the effects of my rather brutal fitness regime actually gave me a massive self-confidence boost, although in the process I left very little time for much else. I spent a few months in Shanghai which at the time I knew was the type of opportunity that I should grab with both hands — I compared it to my trips to Oman five years previously, and in five years time I could well be in a position of not being able to do such a trip.
In hindsight the latter part of 2016 was the peak of all the years I had the flat when both professional and personal life are considered in parallel. It was the one time in my life when it felt like everything was going right and there was nothing significant I wanted to change. Although there were certainly happenings I would have preferred to have done without, one or two of which are contenders for worst decisions I have made over my entire life, 2016 was the year that everything seemed to be happen.
Rocky path aheadIn 2016 and early-2017 I looked into buying my own place but in the end I gave up on this, in short because I thought that the conduct of estate agents sub-standard. This is turn did give me a minor confidence crisis, as owning a place was supposed to be a major step to making long-term commitments and settling down. In hindsight my mindset was wrong and as a result I have regrets but that is life. The latter part of 2017 would turn out to be a very difficult time, and the less said the better.
My uptake of electronics was something I had prior thoughts about, but ultimately it was sparked off to take my mind off personal trouble I was having at the time. It would turn out to be a major pivoting point in my life, although I decided against going as far as doing a masters degree related to the area. One clear effect is that space within the flat started to become a little short so I finally put into action my half-joking plan to build a shed on my balcony for storage.
I had considered asking my landlord to remove some of the furniture I was not actually using but I never got round to it. For almost three years one of the sofas had a pile of boxes on it, and even before then I am not sure if there was ever a significant amount of time that both sofas had nothing on them.
Getting turfed outFor all its faults rent control meant I had a very good deal and my guess was that what I was paying was around 50-75% of market price — a dysfunctional market but a market nevertheless. However like many other landlords mine had finally decided to sell up, which meant me getting ejected from the place. I had previously feared this might happen but instead my contract was rolled-over and with a rent increase posted I had assumed things would continue as before. The news came when I was overseas for a conference and for me this basically ruined my whole trip — I had partially written up an article about this trip but I decided against publishing it.
From conversations I had with both fellow property-hunters and property agents, which ironically included the property editor of a newspaper, such turfing outs were very common. Many of us had decided to buy rather than rent again, and ironically we ended up viewing properties that in short were worn-out ex-rental places. I did go sale agreed on an inner-suburb property but reading between the lines of the due-diligence by my solicitor the message was clear: Run for the hills. I do have another property on my radar but property conveyance at the moment is completely frozen up.
The clear-outCompared to moving out of Bristol this move out was not about closure in preparation for a new life. Back then I was taking a leap into the unknown on the other side of the planet, whereas this time I was going a mere one stop along the tram line, and took six weeks rather than on-off for five months. When I moved out of Bristol the clear-up was an archaeological dig that included things almost untouched for close to a decade, but this time round things like that I had already decamped into boxes which I simply moved to the new flat unopened. One drawer had coins from New Zealand but otherwise there was little that had been untouched since 2013.
In practice most of what I threw out was damaged clothes and even then I ended up throwing out less of then than I expected. There were a few shirts for which the cycle of repeated sweaty workouts and washing had taken their toll, which I used for a bleach-wash experiment and as a result ended up keeping. There is plenty of stuff I probably should have disposed of on the basis that it would not be a big deal to buy replacements, but I did not see the need to be ruthless in the same way I was in 2012. Nevertheless I foresee doing a filter of the stuff in the near future.
EpilogueHalfway through my moving out was when the Coronavirus epidemic started to kick off in Europe, but by the time a lock-down and other restrictions came in that I could have used as a context for staying longer, I had already done the most difficult parts of my plan to move into new accommodation. If anything the outbreak accelerated my plans, as the relative lack of restrictions compared to elsewhere in Europe made me think I was on borrowed time. My last haircut was pretty much getting it in before the barber had to close, and I did notice with the people ahead of me he was going a lot quicker than usual.
As much as I would have liked to stay longer in this soon to be ex-flat, being the tenant of two places at once bring with it a lot of costs and liabilities that I am better off doing without. In February my total expenditure was something around the €8,500 mark which even after accounting for income is a money burn-rate far higher than at any time in New Zealand. I basically have no plans beyond today as what I originally thought was going to be a stop-gap of maybe only a few months may now well take me into the new-year.