Life Is A Chess Game Living In A Flat (part 2) – Nothing is Ever Simple or Straightforward

Having described some of the trials of “small flat living” in part one, let me put our “chess game” into context. We live in a 1960s built two bedroom rented flat on Keele University campus. By modern standards our living room and main bedroom are quite large, and I thank God on a regular basis for this blessing. The spare bedroom, bathroom and kitchen are compact and bijoux. Nowadays when people move into these rented campus properties the whole infrastructure is renovated, new fitted kitchens, bathrooms, pipes, woodwork, new decor, appliances and windows. With a high turnaround of people, we reckon some flats have effectively been rebuilt multiple times. But when Rob moved into our flat over three decades ago no such renovations took place at all. As a result our kitchen still has the original fitted units and the bathroom, pipes, and woodwork have never been renewed during Rob’s tenancy. Any decorating (with one exception) or appliances have been down to us, and we were the last property to have our wooden framework windows replaced, after multiple invasions of wood ants!

As I researched new washing machines I realised the technological abilities of these things had sky rocketed, since we got our last machine 15-18 years ago. The size of them had gone positively “steroidal” as well. I wanted to take as much advantage of these technology advances as I could, but was aware the space for the machine was limited by the location it would NEED to be in, between the gas boiler and kitchen sink unit. So that was a limiting factor in the decision making. I was acutely aware that the new machine would effectively be a 21st century star wars gadget being fitted into an infrastructure from the Apollo 60s era. What could possibly go wrong? A nightmare scenario crossed my mind but I pushed it to one side.

Instead I concentrated on the preparation for the newbie, because I knew the flooring would have to be removed. So when Rob was away for his birthday conference I spent four hours lifting vinyl tiles. Who needs a gym? I had hoped my steam cleaner would ease the task but it broke down, so it was a knife, scrubbing brush and mop job. Next day I could hardly walk (squats for 4 hours!) and the kitchen floor without vinyl flooring but with a lovely layer of thick very sticky glue on it. The kind that makes your shoes want to detach from your feet! A Google search led me to using two solvent sprays I had at home (isopropyl alcohol & WD40) with a wallpaper scraper to remove the offending gunk. The floor became so smooth appliances positively “skated” over the surface. At least moving them wouldn’t be a problem anymore. So for the moment the ancient floor covering with paint spatter and speckles of glue remains a work in progress.

My nightmare scenario came to fruition when the first delivery attempt of the washing machine was made. Our old machine hot/water connected pipes couldn’t be disconnected because the valves weren’t working to turn the water off. And we can’t switch the water off at all because the task involves a mystery valve behind an access panel in the kitchen. There was nothing for it but take the machine away and bring it back when something could be worked out. My emotions were running high and I just wanted to cry, I had done everything I could think of, and this was totally out of my control. Rob would have to get on the phone next day to Keele Estates/the delivery company and thrash something out. His contribution until now to the buying process was both economic and purely “electronic”, arranging a temporary Which Guide subscription and ordering/purchasing online. He would have to do some negotiating now. During the evening as he pondered an “office issue” I seethed. In my heightened state as some of his comments to the situation seemed “glib” at best, I remembered he had not lifted a single finger at home, spilt one drop of sweat, measured one centimetre, or spent a minute doing research into what to buy. The hard graft in this chess game had all been me.

With a new delivery date set for five days later, I decided to move stuff back into the kitchen, and not leave it as Rob suggested. The back room was totally inaccessible and I wanted to work on a project in there over the weekend. With my project successfully completed, I once again moved things in preparation for the arrival of our new Bosch washing machine. Having two machines in the flat overnight was a challenge, and the only extra non kitchen item I needed to move was the narrow bookcase from the hall, which holds our cookbooks. The scene was set for the removal of our faithful Hotpoint machine and the installation of the new Bosch boy. But that’s another tale to be told.


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