Days, Dissected

Thursday. Michelle comes over with this brown Marks & Spencer box large enough to fit a microwave oven. Open it, she giggles, and sets it smack in the middle of my desk, completely messing up the delicate Feng-Shui of my keyboard, hand cream and half eaten salad. Several Look, no water! slogans printed in green curly writing all over the box and I think, these people must be crazy, who’s ever heard of kitchen appliances being delivered with water on the side anyway.

It’s flowers. A bouquet half my size as thanks for helping her out with a project I’ve already forgotten about. You’re crazy, I say, and she smiles. People come over to smell the roses. Some comment on how far science has come. Waterless, can you imagine, soon we’ll be using time machines to go back fifty years and hit on Marilyn Monroe. All I can think about is that I’ll have to carry that tree of flowers home somehow, and strangers on the street will think it’s my birthday or something, and I’ll feel like I have to smile and look super duper happy, so that everyone can then look forward to their own birthdays, and perfect happinesses just like mine.

I leave the flowers under my desk in a Guinness pint filled with tap water, hardly trusting this waterless business. I’ll have to take them home tomorrow, V. and I have plans for the evening. We’re traveling to Sutton to walk the streets of what might or might not be the place where we’ll be buying a flat soon, and I don’t want to be doing it arms full of roses and a dumb, fake birthday-girl grin on my face.

On Thursday afternoons, Sutton looks deserted. V is late. I walk along the streets, past closed shops and packs of shrieking teenagers killing time. I go inside the local Morrisons, and slowly make my way along every aisle, looking at canned beans and fresh pastries. I buy a strawberry scented candle in a large lidded jar, and an Ideal Home magazine. I know I shouldn’t, I mean, I’ve already got a stack of them at home, hopelessly losing their shine and gathering dust on my nightstand. But one of the few things I find comforting these days is to spend my evenings scribbling little hearts next to pieces of furniture I like in the pages of interior design magazines. It’s the closest I get to feeling like I’m working on a home of our own.

V finally gets here and together we head towards the flat development, to have another look at the walls and the windows from the outside. It’s getting dark. He’s tired and doesn’t want to look at a million horrible-in-every-possible-way homes anymore, so he’s decided this is the one, and unless the ever advertised end of the world hits us in the next couple of weeks, we’ll just sign the papers and be done with this craziness already. I’m not convinced, and I say it often. Whenever I do, he looks at me with this heartbroken look and all I can think about is that I actually found myself a man to love, to really love, and somehow I can’t help making him unhappy.

*

Friday. If my mother knew this she’d pretty much disown me, but I don’t own a vase in this country. I have to improvise one out of a tall glass, and set the unstable flower contraption straight on the living room floor, leaning against one of my book shelves. They do brighten up the room, I realise, and vow to get a vase soon and who knows, maybe a bunch of freshly cut daffodils every once in a while from now on.

Once I’m done taking a couple dozen phone photos of the off-handed flower arrangement, I change out of my t-shirt and jeans work combo and into something slightly more dinner date appropriate, and run to meet V for a bite to eat at a nearby Persian restaurant. We’ve been eating out a lot lately which has put my grandiose diet plans on hold, but we’ve been way too tired to even consider opening the fridge in the evenings, never mind turning the hob on and actually attempting any semblance of dinner making normalcy.

The place is packed and we’re sat next to a bunch of heavily made up girls on a hen night out. I’m hardly hungry but V insists on ordering this huge, mixed grill platter for two we’ve never been brave enough to get before, as it looks like it could easily feed a family of four for a couple of weeks at least. We eat slowly, intimidated by the sheer quantity of grilled meats and rice, talking anything but money, houses and baby making, which leaves crazy silly things to chat about, like The Walking Dead, our friends’ innumerable flaws, and the shade of my nail polish.

We barely manage to make a dent in the food mountain, so we ask for a doggy bag. (Nope, we’re not embarrassed to do that, are you kidding me? We’re talking about enough food to last us for the rest of the month here!) The waiter comes back with a couple of empty plastic containers which he leaves in the middle of the table for the two of us to pour our leftovers in. I look at V, he looks back, and we both burst into laughter. Yet another thing we’ll be relieved to talk about from now on, when we don’t feel like discussing our scary future: super duper, do it yourself doggy bag etiquette.

*

Saturday. I’m off to meet M for lunch in Oxford Circus. We got in touch through my blog and it’s the first time we see each other, so as I tread along Oxford Street, silently cursing my way through the endless outpour of weekend shoppers, I wish I had the time to straighten my hair properly and retouch my nail polish. This matters to me for some reason, that I appear somewhat normal on the outside though my inside life is an utter mess these days.

I doubt I’ve ever talked about myself for so long. It scares me, really, that there are people out there who share my anxieties. It makes them feel more real somehow, my fears, more difficult to push to the back of my mind. Leaning over our plates, we talk things over. Unpleasant things, the likes of which V and I try so hard to avoid touching upon, out of a silly sense of relationship preservation. But this particular relationship is only just beginning, it’s good to get the nasty stuff out of the way first. And then we’ll go ahead and build a friendship on top of lipstick brands and celebrity gossip centered conversations. Hard work, this making friends business.

Three hours and a fair amount of giggling later (we’re the kind who laugh in the face of scary stuff, who would have thought), we part in front of Bond Street station. A million disoriented people and all their friends and relatives are still dragging their carrier bags from shop to shop, bumping into each other at every step, as though walking down Oxford Street functions by a totally different set of rules than walking down any other street, and it’s really my fault for not knowing that, and insisting not to disrupt the normal flow of pedestrian traffic. Normally I find it impossible not to absolutely loathe humanity when stuck for ages on a cramped sidewalk, but today is different. I’m actually feeling hopeful for some reason, and when the one inch a minute crowd pushes me past the doors of a Waterstones bookshop, I break free. Just one book, I promise myself, something to remember this day by.

I buy a collection of poetry by Billy Collins, something to keep on my nightstand for months and turn to at times of no new Ideal Home magazines in sight.

*

Sunday. 

Carry

I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.

Just this morning on the shore,
I could hear two people talking quietly in a row
boat on the far side of the lake.

They were talking about fishing,
then one changed the subject,
and, I swear, they began talking about you.

Billy Collins

March This and That: Other People’s Roofs and I Am Not Alone

I didn’t even want tot do a This and That post this month, it having been this horrible I’m-the-ultimate-house-hunting-robot-so-I-barely-have-time-to-pluck-my-eyebrows-nevermind-doing-super-duper-blog-worthy-things month from hell and all.

I’ve written about this soul draining house hunting business way more than any sane person would care to read about, and I’d promised myself I wouldn’t force it upon you again. But this is what I do these days. Looking for a place of our own and pretty much nothing else. This is what’s on my mind. This is what’s been defining this month, the ones before it, and surely the coming ones, so it’s difficult to avoid not only thinking about it, but also yapping about it all day long, however annoying it may be for everybody else.

Long long story short, we are still looking and it’s still the kind of thing I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies. It’s become the most difficult trial our relationship has had to face so far and there’s been a lot of endless, property centered bickering throughout the process in our previously bickering free, loving household. I don’t think we’re parting ways just yet though, as house hunting in London may just be one of those things which suck the love and joy out of your relationship, but surprisingly also tie you to one another in a million painful, unbreakable knots. And what else could a gal like me wish for?

My relationship-killing-house-hunting adventure aside, March has had its good moments as well. Because guess what, humanity? This blog thing is turning out to be kind of wonderful, and I am actually making friends through it.

Yes, you read me right. I was as surprised as you are. And yes, they are real people. I’m not imagining them and they’re definitely not some spamming robots attempting to steal a bit of interwebs stardom from my obviously super relevant online corner. They’re living and breathing human beings, I swear. We’ve exchanged Skype IDs. We’ve been stalking each other on Facebook. I’m even going on a blind date with one lovely lady this weekend, which is a bit intimidating, because I’ve never been on any kind of blind date before (Yup, and I’m almost 30. Talk about lame.). Plus, I’ve painted this I’m-the-image-of-perfection portrait of myself on this blog, and she’ll surely be disappointed by the real life always-on-a-bad-hair-day version. But hey, at least I’ll have a blind date to brag about for a month or two!

This meeting people online thing is tricky business.

First of all, I thought I was way too old and bitter to keep making friends into my thirties. I mean, I’ve already got friends. Sure, you can easily fit them all inside a Mini Cooper, and they’re all thousands of miles away in lovely Romania, but who cares. They’re mine. We’ve got a history. Everything’s easy, comfortable when we’re together.

And making new friends, that’s never easy, right? I mean, you don’t just bump into someone in the middle of the street, have one look at each other and decide, hey, we’re BFFs now! Or at least that’s never happened to me. Instead, there’s that embarrassing, incipient exploration phase, when you talk about your star signs and your favourite colours, and you worry they won’t get your jokes, so you don’t make any jokes, and then you’re sure they’ll think you’re boring, and you start blurting out stupid random things or you just sink into uncomfortable endless silences, all the while desperately wondering what you’d been thinking, as it’s oh so clear you’ve lost all your friend making abilities somewhere along the way. Now imagine all that happening on Skype (perhaps while you’re clicking through the other person’s Facebook photos, and they’re obviously so much cooler than you!), maybe in a foreign language, and to a hopeless antisocial phenomenon like me. No piece of cake, I tell you.

As frightening as this making-friends-or-something-like-it is turning out to be, it’s actually absolutely amazing, and I’m determined to be the friendliest I can possibly be and not scare any of you away anytime soon. It may take a lot of self control work (Do not talk about houses. Do not talk about houses. Do not stalk people on Facebook. Do not swear. Stop talking about the darn houses!), but hey, you’re worth it!

That’s it for now, I hope April is turning out great for everybody!

Specimen Days

I haven’t been writing lately.

There’s little on my mind these days besides floor plans, viewing appointments and mortgage interest rates, so you can imagine I’m no fun to be around. And I figured I’d spare you from what would certainly have become this embarrassing affair where I feel sorry for myself for sixteen posts in a row, and you force yourselves to read on because, oh well, because you’re nice people and you want to fell sorry for me too. But then you inevitably end up utterly sick of me and my endless moaning, and a painful, final virtual breakup ensues.

I can almost hear you, you know. So what if I can’t find/afford a home? Is it really the end of the world? I mean, I can afford rent, can’t I? I can afford soap. Socks. Barbeque flavoured Pringles. It’s high time I put a stop to all the whining and get back to living, even if it looks like I’ll be forever doing it in this tiny dollhouse flat with its tiny dollhouse windows and its tiny dollhouse fridge, and its horrendous, dollhouse zebra patterned rug the previous tenant left behind that I’ve yet to throw out, three years later, because I’m crazy cheap and my feet are always cold.

Anyway. This is about as much as I’ll be writing on the matter of house hunting apocalypse and how I’m really not built for dollhouses (still haven’t lost those darn five pounds!) for now. Instead, I’ll be trying my best to get myself back into a property fever free, functional shape.

What this means these days is that I’m doing a lot of things you normally wouldn’t have caught me dead doing before. I might just be going through a two-months-til-thirty life crisis, so don’t be surprised if you soon hear I’ve spent my house budget on a strawberry pink boat called The Blushing Mermaid. Or a couple of boob jobs.

Until then, I tackle my existential complications by ditching the company bus in the evenings and walking the streets home until I’m half frozen and on the verge of collapse, drowning myself in brain numbing housework, attempting to make friends (Something is definitely wrong with me, I tell you!), and baking.

I know, baking? Me? The world must really be coming to an end.

I mean, take yesterday for instance. With V. out for the evening playing tennis into the night, the plan was to cover my face in a muddy goo meant to restore my former radiating beauty, down half a bottle of wine (I refuse to believe wine and dieting exclude each other; may be why I haven’t lost the infamous five pounds yet but who cares! ), and lie in the tub for an hour, waiting for my skin to wrinkle the worries away. But then I figured that, despite my best intentions and significant amounts of alcohol, all I’d be doing in that tub would be to think about houses and feel miserable again. So instead of pampering/drinking myself deeper into depression, I did the laundry, the vacuuming, the dusting, the ever exciting checking-the-expiration-dates-on-all-our-cans-medicines-and-beauty-products, and, humanity, I baked (BAKED!) two (TWO!) surprisingly edible (!!!) batches of my mother’s Dutch Biscuits, without burning the flat down or losing a limb in the process.

Of course, since there’s really no justice in the world, this super duper housewife phase I’m going through is turning out to work best for V., who actually really liked my biscuits (Is an official marriage proposal finally in order now that I’ve managed to cook something he didn’t absolutely despise? Finger crossed!) and decided it’s all he’ll be having for breakfast from now until the end of days. My arms up to my elbows in dough every other night, I guess I’ll have less opportunities to fall back into my old habits of elaborately planning the demise of all estate agents on the planet, which can only be a good thing.

But until my long term baking therapy effects kick in, I’m looking forward to a couple of days of tech conferences, reconnecting with old friends (Over what I hope will be indecent amounts of diet friendly booze!), and weekend birthday celebrations (It’s always comforting to know I’m not the only one growing old, though it’s obvious I’m experiencing the process in an infinitely more deranged way than everybody else).

Getting back to work now (That baking flour doesn’t pay for itself!), but not before I wish you all a lovely, existential crisis free end of the week!

Boogeyman and All His Friends

I woke up screaming and sobbing in the middle of the night last night.

It’s never happened before, and V. was really nice about it, holding me and patting my back until I finished crying, which took me a while. Then he asked what I’d dreamed about, expecting perhaps some tangled up story of monsters, tsunamis and fashion disasters, the latter being the thing he imagines to be causing most of my nightmares. In fact, this time I’d had a truly horrible, evil dream.

We’d somehow finally gotten a mortgage and, even more surprisingly, found the perfect house (wish I’d at least remember what it looked like, but I can assure you it was absolute perfection). Now, you’d think that my dream version of ourselves couldn’t be happier. And we were. For about half a second. That is, before we found out that for some reason we couldn’t make our monthly mortgage payments and they were going to kick us out. Screams, tears and waking up in terror ensued.

Of course, V. found all this absolutely hilarious, convinced as he is that I’m the only idiot in the world obsessively panic stricken by the thought of buying a house. And of course, he’s using all of it to his advantage, rushing to hold my hand every time we happen to walk past a “particularly dangerous looking” house. Very, very funny. Not.

Anyway, I’ve written about houses and obsessive house hunting way, way too many times already, so I won’t go into it anymore. But please make a note of the fact that I’m an undeniably super duper complex fashionista, and not all my nightmares have to do with crazy expensive, unearthly sexy, one size too small (oh, the horror!) shoes. Ha!

Skies Are Blue

Guess what?

I spend the entirety of my days in this country talking about three bedroom houses I can’t afford.

Ever since we decided we’d be buying in a couple of years, V. and I have slowly but surely been slipping down the slippery slope of suicidal depression. These days, simply mentioning any kind of house related thing makes us want to jump off the roof of the first house in sight, or even worse, jump at eachother’s throats. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of a bit of dangerous madness in my relationship, but this house business will end up killing us.

Now let me walk you through the exciting saga of buying property in London. It’s for sick, hopelessly deranged people who have a death wish.

Even just thinking about it now, I can barely refrain from smashing my head bloody against my computer screen. But I figure, my tough Romanian head will probably survive the ordeal. The screen might not fare so well though, and how will I then browse the interwebs looking at houses for six hours a day? I’m a lost cause.

The thing with London houses is very simple.

1. They are indecently, outrageously, I-want-to-just-strangle-everybody-on-the-market expensive.

2. There aren’t any.

Let’s take these one at a time, shall we?

1.

There are a bunch of brand new 4 bedroom houses I wake up resentfully looking at from my bedroom window every morning. They’re somewhat on the small side, but pretty. They’ve got windows, and doors, and little patches of grass in front. Oh, and they recently sold out for the symbolic sum of £1,350,000 each. Yup, that’s one-million-three-hundred-fifty-thousand-pounds-each.

I rest my case.

OK, OK, I can almost hear the haters stirring. This is London, what do you silly Romanians expect? Move further from the center, get a smaller house, know your place!

I’ll admit it, you are right and I am wrong. Never in a million years will central London be the place for us (though to be fair we currently live on the outskirts of London’s zone 3, and that’s not “central” per se). But guess what, we already knew that. That’s why we were in fact looking for properties well outside of London. Which brings us to the next issue.

2.

We are picky people. We’ve eliminated the areas where you can get mugged three times a day on your way to and from the local Off License. Then we’ve scraped all the nice areas, where everything fits into category number 1 from above. We’ve also had to sadly give up on the places situated so close to the edge of the world, that we’d end up spending half our lives commuting to and from work. I mean, I’m always up for a challenge you know, but traveling to the office for almost 3 hours a day each way will probably not do wonders for my already shaky temper.

Countless case studies and crying in anger later, we’re usually left with about ten houses matching all of our tangled criteria. Out of these, the ones that are part of newly built developments usually come with endless client waiting lists and are gone off the market in half a second. Among the remaining ones, some are invariably completely different from their online photos, in a shitty, who-on-earth-would-live-here kind of way. And here you are, left with one or two house choices you’re not particularly happy with, each at least £50,000 more expensive than what you’re prepared to offer, and growing £20,000 more expensive every six to eight months. We really are having a blast.

If someone were to ask me years ago what I thought I’d be doing in my late twenties, I probably would not have imagined I’d be second guessing every choice I’ve ever made, and dreading checking my bank account balance at the end of the month.

It’s beautiful, this finally-realising-you’re-a-grownup thing.