Monthly Archives: January 2012

Musings: the r-word

Field and I are in a relationship.

We don’t fuck.

It’s a relationship where we split the bills and squabble over what kind of cheese to buy; where I get away with picking the bacon I want, and she has all the salt-and-vinegar chips her little heart desires; where we have long sprawling conversations at eleven o’clock at night about Books We’ve Read and Why Television Is Hard; where we email each other from our respective workplaces about what we want to eat for dinner, what we’ve read on the internet news that day, why four hours sleep is not enough, whether it’s a good idea to buy more wine (yes). But at the end of the day, we go to our separate beds in our separate rooms and close the doors.

And it’s invisible.

*

A few nights ago we had a conversation about how we want to refer to each other: we flatted with each other (and with Nish) for six years, but this is something new. We’re hiring plumbers now. In the end we decided that “co-owner” fit the best, but that’s not quite right either: too much business in the front, not enough party at the back. “Partners” has connotations that I in no way disapprove of, but which just aren’t accurate; it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if people thought that Field and I were a couple, but we’re not. I toyed with “lady-wife”, mostly as a joke, but while that kind of shit is fun with friends it’s difficult to say with a straight face to your lawyer, your electrician, your bank-manager, your mum.

So co-owners it is for now, and we’ll change it if it stops being the closest match for what we are.

*

But we’re invisible, this thing. When I talk about buying a house with Field, I’m talking about my long-term life plan. I’m talking about planning a garden, about where we’re planting the fuschia (me) and the hebes (me) and the carpet roses (Field) and the agapanthus (over my dead body). I’m talking about the six-month conversation we’ll have about whether we’re going to wallpaper or paint the lounge, and what shade it should be, and what the curtains should be made of. I’m talking about how we run the kitchen, how we cook together, how we make plans to go to the supermarket and what our budget there will be. I’m in charge – always and forever – of making electronics Go; she’s in charge of the alphabet because my god how I hate reshelving books.

I’m talking about the two or three years of planning that went into this. I’m talking about how I researched suburbs and public transport routes; about how grateful I am that Field got her full licence and a car, and how much easier that made the house-hunting process. I’m talking about the gin-and-tonics she made us tonight for dinner, before she went to lie down on her bed in the summer evening sun and I came online to watch comedy routines on youtube and write this post. I’m talking about the expression of my hopes and dreams, my plans and schemes, how I’ve wanted to do up a house for forever (as long as Nish has known me, and that’s a bloody long time).

I’m talking about how we started having conversations about how we wanted this to work 18 months ago, how we set up a joint savings account over a year ago, how we now have 2 joint accounts plus the mortgage, insurance in both our names and shared household goods. I know where she was born, her date of birth, what her passport photograph looked like when she was thirteen. I chat to her mum sometimes on the phone a bit. She knows these things about me.

And so I have conversations with people about buying a house with Field, and what they hear is of two good friends buying a house together, and what they say is:

That’s sensible.

and

Have you thought about what would happen if you didn’t want to live together anymore?

*

And.

No. No, it isn’t sensible, you utter moron, do you know how much it would devastate me if it all turned to pot, how difficult it would be to disentangle our lives? Our finances are complicated and not wholly governed by standard law, but that’s the least of it when we have mostly shared friends and I can’t remember exactly how to cook dinner on my own anymore, when the kitchen seems strange when she’s not there to navigate around and pass me spoons and pepper.

and

Yes, what, you think we set up a joint savings account and talked to banks and lawyers and looked at houses and put in an offer and went unconditional and settled and moved without ever thinking about what we were doing? Without ever talking to each other about it?

*

This wasn’t an accident, this house in this street. It wasn’t the easy or the simple choice; it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t a calculated financial decision. My life isn’t good financial planning – single girls without options, women on the shelf looking to get on the property ladder. I may be a spinster with a cat, but by god I have done it with intent.

Garden: on rage

I am a bit of a rage-gardener. By that I mean that I really enjoy the destructive parts of gardening: taking out that shrub! Cutting that tree-branch so it’s not interfering with the washing machine! Clipping back the wild fennel on the road-edge of our property (our property is up a council-owned bank from the road, and nobody has given it any love in a very long time – not the bank nor the house, in fact)! So far Field and I have clipped back maybe 1.5 cubic metres of random things from around the section, and there’s a lot more to go.

For one thing, we have a Hedge of Doom. The Hedge of Doom is in the back left corner of the property, and takes up about as much space as a single garage. I strongly suspect that when it’s gone the whole backyard will be much sunnier (which will be very good for the washing line). It’s a twiggy, brittle thing, really only green on one side (and presumably on top, but I can’t see that), and hollowed-out in the centre. If we had kids, it’d be a good play area, but as it is we want that spot for the eventual vegetable garden we’re planning, so the Hedge of Doom must go.

And it’s sunny in Tawa today, and I’ve got awesome hedgeclippers and long-handled, sharp, heavy secateurs, and if I had anywhere to put the giant pile of green waste that would result, I’d be out there right now, hacking away while listening to Elvis Costello or maybe Neko Case. Or Apocalyptica; a girl has to have options, after all.

But instead I am very determindly restraining myself until I’ve organised a trailer or a skip (probably a skip; trailers are way cheaper in terms of tip fees, but we’d need to hire a trailer and find someone to drive it, so) and therefore have dates upon which the pile of Doom Hedge can leave the place. I wonder how pohutukawa take to being pruned? Probably I should consult an arborist with that; the pohutukawa in the back yard is a good 2 stories high.

house: plumbing, part i

… I had not entirely realised just how much noise the constant running of the leaky toilet was making until it had been fixed. 15 minutes ago. My house is SILENT. This is AWESOME.

Also getting fixed today:
– the pipe that drains the wastewater from the shower, which was, like, not attached
– the thermostat on the hot water tank (WAY too hot)
– the leaky showerhead

And I’ve asked about:
– why the hot water pressure in the shower is SO SHIT (apparently because we’re on low pressure hot water, and changing it would mean re-plumbing everything? IDK.)
– how I find out whether we can have gas hot water (find out if there are connections on the street, get gas company to put a pipe and meter in, then get infinity hot water installed and everything re-plumbed. BIG JOB, apparently)

We can’t have the cold tap on the washing machine fixed today, because neither I nor the plumber can find the water mains (I would be entirely unsurprised if nobody has touched a single bit of plumbing in this house for 15 years. It’s probably under a bush somewhere, who the fuck knows). So the plumber will ring the council; the council will come out and find it and spray around it with spraypaint; and then the plumber will come back and fix our washing machine tap. This is frustrating (I’m back at work next week, so things’ll be that much harder to arrange; I’ve used up all of my Need Random Time Off To Deal With Things goodwill at work over this whole house-buying experience) but, y’know, not the fault of me or the plumber, so. Because the mains can’t be turned off, we also can’t get the leak on the roof fixed (it’s leaking on to the roof, not through it, thank fuck).

The plumber has gone off to get some gear – replacement showerhead, replacement trap for the shower – and then is coming back to sort out things.

House: all the tradespeople ever OMG

We moved in a week ago, and since then I have been occupied by organising tradespeople – one each working day this week. We’ve had the cat door installed, and one of the cats left through it a couple of days ago and has not been seen since (this happened the last time we moved too, so I’m not very concerned yet); the locksmith came to change all the locks because we were provided with one key for the back door when we took possession (all the keys to the front doors having been lost somewhere in the mists of time); and today the electrician came.

And we need to rewire.

This is not exactly a surprise: all the powerpoints here are ANCIENT and the lights are on pull-cord switches because we could afford Tawa or wall switches but not both. Nevertheless, it’s a bit disconcerting to hear an electrician tell you that the main fuse is corroding.

So I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the Big Project for this year, as soon as we can get the money together.

Other stuff we need to do is:
– getting a few minor plumbing things sorted (which is hopefully getting done tomorrow – at least, a plumber is booked, but we might get bumped for an emergency)
– getting all the windows that open rehung, and a couple of them rebuilt because they’re currently held together with braces and screws
– getting a few of the windowpanes reglazed, because they’re cracked
– getting the shed roof, door frame, and door replaced (the door frame is completely fucked; the door is in the shed but not currently attached to it; and the shed roof has visible holes)

And then we move on to exciting but non-urgent things like:
– investigating the cost/possibility of moving onto gas hot water, which would mean that the existing hot water cupboard could be turned into an awesome pantry – and that in turn would mean the existing food cupboards above the bench could be pulled out, giving us much more useable bench space
– investigating the cost/possibility of turning the existing shed (which is concrete block) into a laundry, thus meaning in time we could completely redo the kitchen and make it AWESOME
– insulating and regibbing the entire motherfucking house because, like, panels in the living room ceiling are visibly bowed from back when the roof was leaking badly
– replacing the cracked-as-all-hell concrete path/carpad outside the front door, for great justice (and also because it’s one of those things that would REALLY improve the look of the house)
– all the gardening ever

Welcome to home ownership, I guess!

house: further salutary lessons

Settlement date has been moved up from the 27th of January to the 18th, because our landlords stuffed up EPICALLY in giving us our notice period (their letter said mid-February. They meant mid-January. We found this out last Friday). Field, Nish, and I have therefore spent the last week frantically trying to rearrange our lives: not because the landlords have a leg to stand on, legally, but because we appreciate that it was an honest mistake and we are (thankfully) in a position to bring settlement forward for Field and I and therefore can not be dicks about it.

But. Ugh.

Field and I went to see the house on Monday after work, mainly to take measurements of all the rooms (mostly for the purpose of figuring out where all the bookcases will go) but also to wander round the gardens and let Field’s mum identify various shrubs and trees. There’s a pear tree, and what Field and her mum are pretty sure is a feijoa tree (which Field likes and I despise), and a winter rose; and also nettles, and many many weeds, and holly, and a bunch of overgrown things. There are also a few cracked windows which we’ll need to have replaced, and the bit of the sunroom window that opens needs completely replacing, frame and all.

We’re getting through the packing: all my fiction is boxed, along with a bunch of linen. Field and I will aim to get all the crystal done tonight, along with some more of the linen (maybe even going so far as to pack the Suitcase Of Crap We’ll Need For The First Night), and also get started on kitchenware.

… I am so so thankful that after this move I probably won’t have to do it again for at least a decade.

House: a salutary lesson about the perils of renting

Nish, Field, and I have been living in this house for just over three years now. It’s a nice place: big, sunny, close(ish) to transport and close to town. My room is enormous (and I’m going to miss that A LOT). It has a woodburner and a heatpump and a dishwasher, all signs of a Proper Adult Residence (as opposed to our collective dodgy student flats, which instead featured things like mould, missing cat-door flaps, scarily illegal wiring, and/or no direct sunlight)

But the plumbing here has always been a little bit… dodgy. Temperamental. Cantankerous. Prone to fits of uncooperation.

It’s in another one of those fits now, and there is now quite a bit of soggy toilet paper and standing water on the main path to the front door. Nish blocked off that bit of path with a bit of rope and a note (because walking through raw sewerage: nobody’s idea of a good time), and so to get in to the house we now have to walk up one of the staircases to the back terrace, across the lawn under the washing line (which is shorter than I am, goddamn), and down the other staircase.

These aren’t well-constructed or well-maintained staircases, oh no. They’re built out of concrete, river stones, and paua shells (in what I can only assume was a misguided attempt at style). The steps are really uneven.

There’s movers coming tomorrow to pick up the lounge suite that friends are buying off us, and since clearly the lounge suite will not be able to be manouvered through the staircase-lawn-washing line-dodgy bit of terraced lawn-staircase-lawn-main path route, Field and Nish are going to get to spend a bit of time tomorrow morning attempting to clear out the loo paper. I won’t be doing that, because I have to go back to work.

The whole thing—and our property managers are being pretty good about it, and I do appreciate that it’s difficult to find plumbers in early January in Wellington—has been a bit of a salutary reminder of the downside of renting. I don’t necessarily think that I’d be able to get a plumber any faster than our property managers, but this has happened a couple of times before, and we’ve told them in our last three or so maintenance emails that the plumbing was making ominous gurgling noises again and would probably need looking at. As a homeowner, I’ll be able to get someone in to take a look on my own schedule, and in this case it would’ve happened several months ago.

Our property managers are good, as these things go, and there are good reasons why the property owner doesn’t want to do several thousand dollars worth of work while he’s got tenants (for one thing, I suspect the pipes need replacing, and they run directly under the only access to the house). But it’s still not my timeframe, and the lack of control is really frustrating.

house: the move

The thing about moving is that—there’s a lot of things about moving. It is horridly hard work. I left home 8 years ago and have only moved twice since then, mostly because all my flatmates have been lovely (I’ve flatted with the same two women for the last 6 years; one of them is Field and the other, who I shall call Nish, is leaving the country soon to have adventures in Europe) but also because moving is a fucking pain in the ass.

We’re not moving for thirty days, and I’ve done a reasonable job so far of sorting out my shit, and in fact I’ve had a lot more time to get organised this time round—house settlements taking much longer than the “three weeks’ notice” required by standard NZ tenancy law—but I still hate the process. At some point before settlement we’re hoping we can get access to the new place so that we can take detailed measurements of every room and note where the powerpoints are and suchlike; doing that will help a lot.

So far I’ve sorted out the power, phone, and internet; got the cats a vet appointment and booked them into the cattery (they’ll have a much better time away from the two houses during the Great Move); and booked the movers. Apart from packing, we’re in a pretty good state to actually move, and Field and I haven’t started really packing yet because Nish is taking all her stuff away in a week and we want to make sure nothing gets mixed up. But it’s still a grand adventure, and I find myself wondering how I’m ever going to know whether, for example, a plumber we hire is decent. Luckily, Field has a builder uncle who will probably be a rich source of contacts, and her mum lives in Tawa too.

At the moment I’m sorting through the piles of miscellaneous crap that lives on the top of my dresser, and chucking out makeup I don’t wear and, like, random receipts that have probably been there since 2009 (the problem with not moving much, and not being a particularly tidy person, is that this kind of thing accumulates and then has to be dealt with when a move is impending). I’m trying to be fairly ruthless about it, mainly because we’re probably not moving again for another decade, and so far that’s working well.

After that, I’ve got one shelf of one of my bookcases to go through (which will be really fast); all the other shelves have books on them and I’ve culled already, but this shelf I’d reserved to Put Things On, and so now it’s got a collection of law texts, hankerchiefs, old diaries, and sellotape on it. I don’t know what’s with the sellotape. Then there’s the top of my tall bookcases—home of the curtains that originally went with this room, some old soft toys, and a hat that doesn’t fit, and under my bed.

Then—the rest of the house awaits. The kitchen can’t really be done until much closer to moving, but I’m planning on boxing all of my books and surviving on the internet and ebooks pretty soon after Nish’s stuff leaves, since books are easy to pack and I think I’ll feel much more organised once that’s done.

There’s a few other things to sort out: cancelling my old insurance, and organising a plumber to install the washing machine that we need to buy for the new place, but that can all wait until I’m back at work on the 4th.

Sigh.

I guess once the next couple of months are over I won’t have to do this again for years and years—which is indeed a comfort.