Thursday, 5 May 2011

The perils of dishwasher maintenance

Recent events that have transpired as a result of my limited German vocabulary are as follows:

1. Buying beeswax instead of wood oil to use on our unsealed Oak furniture. All the tins are labelled in German, and have pictures of wood furniture on them, which is surprisingly unhelpful.

2. Buying and putting dishwasher powder in the dishwasher salt compartment. I didn't realise until I had poured in almost the entire bag, when the lemony smell and copious frothing finally alerted me to my error.

3. Bought a chicken with giblets in it rather than without and then roasted it without removing them. Did not realise until Greg disassembled it to make stock, when the reason for the mysterious bleeding from the supposedly cooked bird became clear.

DIY know-how show-how triumph

Since moving in, it has been my great delight to get stuck into some DIY. It's normal for tenants to provide and fit their own light fittings in Switzerland, so we went to IKEA (IKEA here is just like IKEA everywhere else), and we bought some ceiling roses and lampshades. The first one that I fitted, in the living room, went extremely smoothly. It was a simple case of hooking up the ceiling rose, wiring in the wires, and then hanging the shade from the wire.

The second one in the dining room threw up a problem. The wires were poking out of the ceiling as expected, but there was no hook to attach the ceiling rose to. A quick rifle through our Dorling Kindersly 'DIY Know-how with Show-how' book (highly recommended in general) was not especially helpful on the matter, so armed with optimism and a map, (but fatefully not a dictionary), I set off in search of a hardware store to purchase an appropriate hook widget. I found an extremely helpful and good humoured shop assistant whose English was about equal to my German. Much miming and confusion ensued as we rifled through the shelves of light fittings and fixtures in an elaborate process of elimination. Eventually we agreed that I needed one of these:

As eventually explained by the DIY shop lady's English-speaking teenage son, this terrifying beast must be installed so that the entire clamp part is inserted into a slot in the ceiling. It is then expanded to grip the edges of the hole. One must then fill in the entire hole with polyfiller to create a smooth(ish) finish and leave the hook sticking out of the wall.

I rummaged about a bit in our toolkit, found my electric drill and discovered the plaster saw that we bought to repair the huge hole that Greg knocked into the wall of our last flat in London. It is an ugly-looking piece of equipment and not one to wave about carelessly at head height. I scuttled up the step ladder, donned a makeshift mask and safety glasses (I am all about the safety), and then scuttled down again to switch off the electricity before proceeding.

I drilled, hacked and chiselled a hole about 2 inches by half an inch into the ceiling, bringing down about a kilogram of filthy black plaster dust and ceiling matter. There was a moment when I lost my nerve a bit and had to have a sit down and a cup of tea, but then I got stuck back in again and finished the job. I wedged the hook in, slathered on the poly filler, crossed my fingers and went to have a shower (serious amounts of dust went absolutely everywhere). The result was triumphant, if a bit lumpy:

And three weeks later the light fitting is still up :)

The joys of a flat that isn't mouldy

We have been in our new flat for over a month and it is a dream. It's huge, it's very light and airy and it's nicely finished. Nothing is broken or missing or shoddily done. For all of the following reasons, it is nicer to live in than any of our previous flats in London.

  1. The structure and fittings are sound. The window frames aren't rotten, the bathroom doesn't leak into the flat below, and the bannisters haven't come off the wall. 
  2. The flat is not a biohazard - we don't have wasp, bee, moth or ladybird infestations, it doesn't smell, it isn't damp and the washing machine isn't mouldy. In fact, the washing machine is startlingly clean, thanks to the very particular rules about disassembling and cleaning all its parts at the end of every washing day. 
  3. We have actually spoken to some of our neighbours, and none of them seem to be running businesses from their homes. So, in order of ascending annoyance, no drug dealers, car dealers or dog groomers to contend with.
  4. We can't see (or hear) the West London flyover from our bedroom window. On a clear day, we can see the Alps from the bus stop on the main road.

I have only found two things that I don't like about it.

Firstly, we have so much space that our modest amount of furniture floats about looking lonely in the middle of the rooms. We got rid of quite a few things before we left the UK, and this has been aggravated by the incompetence of our removal company. In exchange for a shockingly large fee, they distinguished themselves by losing an entire bookcase, the shelves for a second bookcase, and a box of crockery. They also broke our third bookcase, and one of our office storage units. To add insult to injury, they managed to misplace the widgets that hold together our double bed and our futon sofa. So we are sleeping on our mattress on the floor. More widgets are in the post, lost in the interminable confusion caused by all the UK bank holidays.

Secondly, the light in the loo is on a movement sensor and a timer. In this way, it is an interesting barometer of digestive health. If you need to wave at it to switch the light back on, then you know that things are not quite as they should be...

Catching up - April 1st

NB - I wrote the below first impressions of our new flat on April 1st but we didn't get our internet connection sorted until mid April, and then I got a bit distracted by various things and neglected the blog for a bit...

Today is April 1st, which as far as I can tell (and much to my relief given my limited German) is not a day of pranks and nonsense here in Switzerland, or at least I have so far avoided being the butt of any jokes. We are still in Lent after all. But it is very sunny and warm and extremely spring-like. The city has been coming alive in the last fortnight, and getting itself spruced up for the summer. Verdant swathes of colourful patio furniture have been springing up outside cafes like daffodils and crocuses. What I took to be storage sheds along the riverbanks have suddenly unfolded into bars and riverside swimming pools, with their attendants seemingly emerging from hibernation within, and blinking at the sunshine. And as in spring the first flies and insects start to appear, so the first coach loads of tourists are beginning to roll in.

Today is also our first full day in our new apartment, which we took possession of yesterday, a much anticipated and exciting event. Spending 3 months together in one room of less than 20m2 has been a true test of our sapling marriage, but I am pleased to report that a divorce is not on the cards. Our new flat is nearly 4 times that size, and we have been rattling about in it not knowing what to do with all the space, and getting separation anxiety when we can’t see each other.  It’s in a quiet and pretty spot near to the University, far enough up on the hill to the west of the city to be scenic, and not far enough round towards the lake to have a lake view or to be pricey. It does however have a mountain view, in that if I lean right out over the balcony railing and twist my head back around I can see a tiny sliver of tree tops and the tip of the radio antennae on the Z├╝richberg.

The flat has been extremely well kept and is (currently) unbelievably clean. I think it was professionally cleaned before we moved in, but the previous tenants must also have taken very good care of it, because there are none of the usual signs of long-term occupation. No hint of limescale in the kitchen sink, no spot of mildew on the bathroom grout, not a single mucky mark on the skirting boards or definitely no smudges on the flooring. There is also no dust down the back of any of the radiators – something that I didn’t know was physically possible until now. Those of you who are reading this who are prone to cleanliness will probably be reeling with horror, but the flats that we lived in in London have ranged from generally-a-bit grubby to downright biohazard when we have moved into them.