Wednesday was the day I reoccupied my house. So many bits and pieces buzzing round my mind it's difficult to know where to begin!
Of course, moving means telling a large number of agencies - letting agent who has been looking after the house in my absence, storage facility, electricity, gas, water, council tax, television licence, telephone, bank, and doubtless a whole number I've missed, if there's anything glaring please do tell me! Oh yes - registering to vote, that's quite important right now! This all takes considerable time, in general I prefer doing things online but not infrequently find myself waiting for large amounts of time on hold being assured by an electronic voice that, 'Your call is important to us.'
A few irritations here. Quite often in doing things online a request pops up for me to fill out a questionnaire as to how my experience has been with the website. Fair enough, I suppose, it's just that it repeatedly happens, making me feel that it's not so much genuine customer satisfaction which is the issue, but the compilation of customer evaluation statistics. This has some resonance with student satisfaction evaluations of which I have some experience.
And one other thing here. To simplify the process of obtaining a gas and electricity supply I asked the letting agent whom the tenants had been using, to discover that the answer for both is British Gas. So, British Gas is supplying both my gas AND my electricity? Doesn't the name 'British Gas' imply that it should be supplying just one of those things? One of my early observations in Jamaica that was things are more separated out, so for example the supermarkets have only food and very immediate household items eg. cleaning stuff. Tanzania is much the same in this regard. So I'm now getting used to the idea that supermarkets also sell clothes, televisions and goodness knows what else, I go to a petrol station to find that I can get my dry cleaning done, keys cut, eyes examined by an optician, I can have a freshly made sandwich or hot food - or maybe both if I spend long enough doing all the other things. And British Gas supplies both gas and electricity. Simple once you know but it takes a bit of getting used to (again).
(Parenthetical thought: whilst on the issue of gas and electricity supplies, how does it make sense to have a choice of provider? I mean, there is only one set of electricity cables and gas pipes, what exactly is it that the different suppliers are doing? I suppose all countries have their peculiarities, I never understood in Dar es Salaam why police would suddenly take over from the traffic lights, but there we are...)
On the actual day of the move very pleased to have the help of my nephew Michael, currently an undergraduate at the University of Reading so living quite close by, and by far the strongest person I know, let alone am related to. So pleased that he was willing to help with the moving, he made lifting of heavy boxes look entirely effortless. Although his help didn't stop there, he was able to use his phone as a sat nav which was jolly useful, I'm still on pay as you go so data to my phone is prohibitively expensive. And he gave me my second much needed driving lesson since I've been back (I mentioned the first in last week's post). On hiring a Transit van to take stuff from storage to my house the handling is very different to my car, with the clutch much faster to engage the engine. So on starting to drive away there was a horrible jerking forward. Have to say, working at a van hire place must take nerves of steel, it can't only be me who struggles to control the vehicle on first sitting behind the wheel. Didn't have the van very long, was still in the process of getting used to it when I gave it back - then to wonder why my car didn't move when I took my foot off the clutch, the process of getting used to it starting all over again.
So stuff out of storage and back in the house. Had I known for definite back in August 2012 that I was going to be away for nearly 5 years I would have thrown all the stuff away, the value of it is considerably less than the rent I've paid over that time. But I did store it, the kettle and vacuum cleaner are still working even though the TV is now defunct. Useful to have kitchen equipment immediately to hand. And in some respects getting things out of storage is a bit like being reunited with old friends. So, in looking for pictures to put up, I came across a pair coming from a 1999 church trip to Peru (long story I'm happy to tell) which involved a visit to a zoo. At one stage I was slightly separated from the rest of the group and found an al paca (upmarket version of a llama) standing very still and majestically against the skyline. So I took some pictures, it was only when I went to speak with the rest of the group that the al paca chased after me, I ran away and then tripped over, at the time it was extremely frightening. So now on my bedroom wall I have the photograph I took plus also a cartoon kindly drawn by another member of the team showing the al paca running after me. Happy days....
In other respects I'm looking at stuff with a certain amount of despair - why on earth did I put THAT in storage only to throw it away as soon as it comes out? Slightly bemused to find exercise books from when I was 11 years old - no point in keeping them, of course, but really can't bear to throw them away after all this time.
Just one other thing to share at this stage. Went to my local doctor to ask for an appointment re: repeat prescriptions. The good news - I was still registered on the system and so could see the doctor I consulted before going away. Bad news - the first available appointment was 19th May. Really? This seems a bit difficult to believe. Although on reflection, it does make sense, once life is a bit more organised then I will be able to anticipate the need to see a doctor to renew the prescriptions (or not) well in advance, and there is the need, of course, to allow plenty of space for urgent appointments. Apparently the solution is to have a telephone appointment - although it's not quite clear to me why this takes less time than actually seeing someone. Having got used to being able to see a doctor pretty well without an appointment, this again takes a little getting used to in reverse.
So, starting to make the house into a home. Have re-established my herb garden outside the front door with two hanging baskets which were supposed to be matching but it hasn't quite worked out like that. Gradually working out what furnishings I'm wanting. Have met my new neighbours, there was a change whlist I was away, very kindly they're letting me use their wifi connection whilst I'm sorting my own out. Ready to start working this coming week, so a revamp on my professional website pending. More to report soon, I'm sure!