At last, a new place30 October 2021
Ever since I was given notice sometime in September 2019 my accommodation situation has been a mess, and now two years later I am finally in a situation where my living situation is no longer transcient. When I was packing my crates at the start of last year I never thought they would remain sealed for so long, and at the start of this year I was looking at the prospect of 2021 being a complete write-off. Regardless of changing expectations I now have my own place and with it proper stability with a major factor of my life.
A difficult transitionI am pretty certain I had heard of Covid-19 by the time I started renting my ‘temporary’ flat in early-2020, but back then my only real concern was sorting out my whole accomodation situation, both short-term and long-term. However by the time the moving had finished it was pretty clear that it was the end of an era, although at the time I did not fully realise the extent this would be the case. Nevertheless at the time I locked my front door for the last time I made my exit without any regrets of how I had dealt with the circumstances.
However the subsequent living situation was a disaster, in part caused by the complete collapse of any semblance of work-life seperation, and by mid-June it was clear that my mind was in a bad state. I did not know what it was but it felt like my mind was going into shut-down as a coping mechanism, and in turn this would destroy my relationship that because of travel restrictions had become long-distance. Of the year-and-a-half I rented the flat I only spent about half those days staying overnight, and all in the residency was a miserable time. Particulars of the return of my deposit, which happened a whole seven weeks later, is one last frustration I could have done without.
One of the problems with the transient living was holding one's nerve that items are safely packed somewhere rather than going on a frantic dig for them. Helpfully items that I tended to keep in the same place were put into the same box, which greatly helped in (eventually) finding pretty much all the items I actually went looking for, which in turn reinforced my confidence that nothing was missing. Things are bad when there is a need to rely on little pieces of confidence like this.
The new lifeAlthough the idea of making another fresh start was one I had thought about pre-Covid and had de-facto committed to late-2020, the dream of a new life in a new city in another country was the one thing that kept me going in the spring of 2021, and realistically London with its nearby family support and relatively international outlook was my only viable destination. I had access to EU citizenship but the logistics of moving somewhere like Berlin or Amsterdam in the middle of a pandemic would have been too much. The 4th August was my official emigration and although it was a bit of an ordeal and mistakes were made, these things don't ever go perfectly smoothly.
The point where I felt my new life had finally started was two weeks later with that first day-trip to London, although my initial plan was to spend most of the remaining part of 2021 doing overnight trips like the ones I did at the start of September in order to scout the place out better, and leave the decision of where to live for 2022. I had offers of renting somewhere in Canary Wharf for a below-market rate but my general feeling was that I would gravitate towards Chiswick, Hornsey, or Wembley Park. Because of my preference for central living my assumption was that I would rent somewhere even if I owned my own property.
Getting in the furnishingA major problem I have had in the past is excess furniture taking up space that I could have better used for alternative purposes, and around the time I was given notice back in 2019 I was considering asking my then-landlord to get rid of one of my sofas. Even when I was in Bristol much of the furniture only got used two or three times in the decade or so I was over there. As a result I decided to start off with just a bare-bones selection of furniture — a bed, a desk, a table, and some chairs — and then later get more stuff in once I had worked out my routines. Due to the pricing structure of getting belongings shipped from overseas it was economical to have my desk shipped over so that is at least one thing I did not have to worry about, but everything else I would have to buy in.
A major problem is the sheer number of people currently refitting their houses so the lead-time on a lot of furniture is of the order of months, so the nice oak dining table set I found will not be delivered until March next year, and I very quickly resigned myself to having to get some alternative stop-gap furniture in. As it happened I dropped by a local second-hand shop and found a dining table that stylistically was similar to the coffee tables I was at one point considering buying off my then-landlord — complete with chairs it was going for a very reasonable £170 so I bought them on the spot. I also bought a metal double-bed for £85 that seemed to be in pretty good nick, since the only real alternative given the time-frame would have been a cheap IKEA bed. A mattress for the bed was bought new and this turned out to be far more expensive than the other day-one furnishing I bought.
The unpacking archaeologyThere is much I could write about the rights and wrongs of what I packed and how, such as spending at least half a grand on Really Useful Box branded crates, but that is all part of a past life I want to lay to rest. Some of the crates have turned into de-facto time capsules that inevitably bring back memories upon unpacking, especially since many boxes were assigned for the packing of items from specific locations. Some of the boxes are still sealed whereas others had since been unpacked and repacked in order to save space, but either way I never thought it would be two years before the bulk of the items contained would finally be out of storage.
Not all of the memories are welcome though — some items are reminders of the past life I was trying to forget, and there are other items I suspect have gone missing but prefer to assume are still buried somewhere. There are even a few items that were never properly unpacked since coming back from New Zealand, but since that was almost a decade ago I see no point in dogmatically keeping items stored for a future that is distant at best. A significant portion of the stuff I packed should have simply been discarded in the first place but at the time I did not know how circumstances were going to pan out.
First nightsSince the time-slot for delivery of furniture was 8am onwards I needed to stay overnight in the apartment with make-shift bedding, and this would be my first night ‘living’ in my new place. The day itself had been a bit of a panic because other deliveries that were supposed to come the same morning were actually scheduled for the morning before, and I only found out because when I rang to confirm the actual time they told me that the goods had just been loaded onto a truck and were on their way. While the delivery guys were not exactly the sharpest tools in the box things went about as well as they could ever have done, and it was clear that they were being screwed around as much as I was by those further up the food chain.
Anyway having to make a rush trip over one big thing I managed to get sorted was network connectivity. The telephone sockets in the apartment had been wired up with four-pair UTP so I was able to replace the face-plates with Ethernet modules and then have wired network connectivity available without trailing cables across the floor. There were some complications such as having to use a multi-meter to see which UTP cable went to which room and the quality of the wire itself was a little suspect, but as far as I could tell with the equipment I had at hand it was working properly.
Two internet providers had obviously done some deal with the apartment block developers since they already had their hardware wired up ready-and-waiting, and one of these providers was BT Internet. I went for the other one and while they offered giga-bit speeds I went for the somewhat poxy 150 mega-bit on the basis that it was far more than what I needed 99% of the time, and I had doubts about whether the advertised speeds would be available 24/7 — a speed-test came in at 90 mega-bits, which could plausably be due to issues with my laptop rather than the provider.
On the whole the “first night” was relief rather than excitement since it was the back-end of a day of logistics and there was not much happening in the local area that evening. The delivery next day was toward the earlier part of the 8am-10am time-slot and after having another batch of crates dropped off I went back to where I was staying previously and pretty much dozed off. There was much more that needed to be done before I would properly move in.