Category Archives: Room and Board

This Old House

So in its final… er, um good riddance… our adorable rental house has decided to fall apart on us, starting  a few weeks ago with the roof.

It was the first time it had rained (and I mean REALLY rained) in several weeks and water was coming through the roof,  into the attic space on the third floor, and down, down, down along the wall into our bedroom below.

I called the property management company as soon the  “drip…. drip… drip” drove me out of my warm, cozy bed. Since it was Saturday, I didn’t expect a whole lot of help and approached it from the attitude of…

“Look, I know London is hundreds and thousands of years old and it rains A LOT, so I’m not sure if a leaky roof is necessarily a BIG DEAL around here. In my world, it is so I figured I’d report it anyway and let YOU decide how to handle it…”

(Read: This isn’t my house, I’m leaving in a month, and I don’t care. Besides, the leak hasn’t actually affected our daily life. Just the paint on the walls…)

bucketI received a call back sometime later. I hoped it was a repair person, but instead it was the property manager again.

She says, “I’ve been sitting here for the past 45 minutes thinking about your issue with the roof and trying to decided whether or not it’s an emergency…”

(If you have to spend 45 minutes deciding whether or not to do something, it’s probably easier to just do it…)

“… and I decided that it is an emergency. I’ll have the engineer pop ’round at 1pm, yeah?”

(oh phew… I was hoping they wouldn’t let wood rot and mold win this round!)

So when the engineer finally arrived at… ahem 3:45, he determined that the roof was indeed  leaking. (Duh!) He put in a temporary fix (bubble gum?), advised us to keep a bucket around for a “rainy day”, and promised to return with tools on Monday.

That was about a month ago and there’s still no word. Of course, it also hasn’t rained much since then… and oh yes, it’s still not my house and I still don’t care.

After that, the shower door started leaking again. The exterior doors and windows stopped closing properly, and we found gaps where there really ought to be weather stripping.

The doorbell, which has been out of order since the day we moved in, mysteriously started working again at Christmas, then promptly stopped.

A light socket burned out, more paint started chipping, and last week, in its final encore, the oven stopped working for no particular reason…

A very jolly repairman looked at it and after an hour of disassembling the whole thing  and some very colorful British phrases, he couldn’t figure it out either.

Instead, he learned that whoever put together our kitchen did it wrong. The oven was installed first with the cabinets and counters built around it. Now, the only person small enough to reach for the oven’s plug underneath and behind the cabinets is…well, Avery and umm, NO!

In spite of all of these quirks, I still think we lucked out in terms of London housing First of all, we were fortunate to have found a  house and NOT a flat.

We may not live in the liveliest part of town, but we are in London proper with easy access to transport and a high street, a park across the street, a back garden, and best of all, no upstairs-downstairs neighbors to irritate.

That and I’ve seen a whole lot worse. Can you say “out-house style bathroom”?

For all this, I’m willing to overlook certain things. That is, until I have to explain them to other people… like say, visiting relatives…

All right. So we get hot water all the time in the kitchen, but only twice a day in the bathroom… and only for an hour each time. If you need to take a shower any other time, you have to open this rickety cabinet, reach past the water heater, and press this button that says “boost”.

“Boost” will give you more hot water, but only for one shower and you have to wait at least half an hour for it to heat up… Oh and it makes this scary churning noise anytime any water in running, cold or hot. Got it?

I also had to explain that insulation and clothes dryers don’t come standard in homes and any technology beyond wood burning stoves qualifies as “central heating”.

While our radiators do a crap job at warming the house, they have proven to be a useful place to dry laundry…

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… provided you only wash five articles of clothing at a time.

We’re going to miss you, you crazy, frigid, old house.

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Filed under Daily Life, Family, Room and Board

The Longest Day… ever

For us, “moving day” has been sprawled over eight (yes, EIGHT) very, very long weeks!

It was “moving day” at the end of May when the furniture from our house in Dallas was put into storage.

The next day, my husband departed for London taking with him as much as he could carry. Meanwhile, my son and I moved in with my parents with the rest of it.

It was “moving day” yet again a month later when I had an address where I could ship the rest of our belonging…

My dad and I filled his Suburban to the brim with boxes and brought them to the shipping company’s warehouse. We watched as workmen compactly sealed it all together with industrial saran wrap (probably NOT its technical name) and sent it along its way. By the end of the week, it would be crated and aboard a ship crossing the ocean.

We hadn’t packed anything that could be deemed “irreplaceable”, but I still prayed that we would see our stuff again one day… like in about 6 to 8 weeks as was promised.

Finally, “moving day” comes once more as my son and I board our one-way flight to our new HOME this morning. Strangely, I’ve never had a one-way ticket anywhere. It just feels so… final.

Wish us luck. It will be his first flight ever, and of course, it’s overseas and about 15 hours long…

It will take a few days for us to get settled and who knows how long to get Internet service, but I’ll be sure to post again as soon as I can!

Home, Sweet Home

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Filed under Packing Up and Moving, Room and Board

The Thrill of the Hunt

I recently returned from a short visit to London for some house-hunting and Hubby-visiting.

Hear that British Embassy? I said VI-SIT, as in I returned to my home country and I did NOT stay illegally. In fact, I am patiently awaiting our dependent visas and would very much like them quite soon please (batting eyelashes)…

So yes, we signed for an adorable three-story town home in west London. It’s in a family-friendly, “greener” (read: suburban) part of the city with easy access to plenty of parks, cafes, and shopping. It’s about a third of the size of our home in Dallas (and double our mortgage), but that was expected…

Gorgeous kitchen, spacious bedrooms, and fully furnished, it truly is an incredible find, but I can hardly take all of the credit for finding it. Mike had spent every available moment since arriving in the UK visiting towns and contacting agents, which is A LOT of work.

In the US, we’re a bit… how you say… SPOILED when it comes to real estate. In fact, to find our house in Dallas, I simply logged on to ZipRealty.com to access to every house presently on the market- photos included. I could search by price, square footage, pool/no pool, hardwood, tile… the options seemed endless.

Once I found something “good on paper”, I could then look at the area school data, local education level, crime stats, and find the nearest pizza place… all in one place.

I would blissfully search for hours, never having to leave the comfort of my office where no one ever suspected I was pouring over real estate listing instead of spreadsheets. (Shh!)

Looking for a place to live in London, however… not so easy.

They are a few websites, but you can only limit your search by zip code, which is great if you know where the heck everything is… and we didn’t.

We also found that most of them are rather outdated, with agents remarking about our inquiries with, “Oh, Wow! Is THAT still listed? That was taken off the market months ago?”

Then, we discovered that lettings (rentals) for each part of town are actually handled by a single agency or two, and they probably don’t have any information on what is being let on the other part of the same town. It’s basically like having one real estate agent for each unique subdivision in your city.

So, just imagine having to go to each of them one by one to find a house and that they all close their offices at around four in the afternoon…

After one particularly exhaustive day of this, Mike just started stopping families on the street to ask where they lived and how they liked it. For those of you that do not personally know my husband, this is totally something that only Mike, as likable and nice as he is, would be able to pull off and not come off as sketchy… and it worked.

He found a wonderful part of town and the great agent. I merely swooped in to negotiate the deal. We make a pretty great team, if I do say so myself.

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Filed under Life In The States, Packing Up and Moving, Room and Board