So I ended my last house move story with a cliffhanger, and then in the meantime I wrote a totally different post about something else (noodles and an incinerated crotch). I’m aware this is not how cliffhangers work but this is the multi-layered McCannecdotes Cinematic Universe and anything goes.
I had beds and mattresses ordered, and thanks to some exhausting online shopping, various other bits and pieces timed to arrive alongside, and paying a second delivery charge even though they were almost certainly arriving in the same fucking van. A coffee table I wasn’t sure I needed, a desk I would never use, some bedside tables I would pile dangerous levels of junk onto.
But all of this IKEA stuff was a sideshow. I honestly didn’t give a shit if I had a bed or a designated table for coffee/large books. I cared about only one purchase, and truth-be-told 90% of the reason I bought a house was to enable me to independently buy this one item, and escape the ordeal of this item being provided as-is by an absentee landlord.
You don’t know how important this appliance is until you’ve had to deal with the one me and Andrea had in our Tooting flat.
It was perfectly suitable … for one person … who never ate. Not as the primary chilling and icing destination for a three-bedroom flat. It used to be slightly bigger in the old days, but not by much, and that one broke. The landlord took this opportunity to replace it with an even smaller one. I think the thought process was this “well, even though it’s a three-bed, only two of them live there and I’m going to assume they live on a diet entirely consisting of Pot Noodles (him) and home-grown vegetables (her), so I will supply them with the smallest appliance that can be legally defined as a fridge under UK tenancy laws. Obviously although I’m reducing the fridge size as only two of them are living there, I’m not going to reduce the rent accordingly.”
It wasn’t delivered by a couple of burly installation engineers, Laura the letting agent dropped by with it in her handbag. It was THAT SMALL.
For almost eight years, me and Andrea had to take turns with the freezer. Pizza night? We buy them on the day. If we did need to keep two in the freezer we’d need to plan ahead so there were no other items in there. Ice cubes wanted for drinks? Well that’s pizza night cancelled.
In this climate, the concept of the outside fridge was born. The outside fridge was a garden table outside the back door. In winter, if too much fridge stuff had been purchased (i.e. north of three things) or if we hadn’t coordinated each other’s chilled shops, the outside fridge came into play.
The chilled items were then taken outside, often in their original Sainsbury’s bag, and left on the table to be kept fresh by mother nature.
Just a reminder, I was a full-time working professional who got paid actual money to do a job, in London of all places; and I was routinely storing my food on the patio.
Admittedly it worked very well, and for a time enabled us to live like normal people who don’t have to eat everything on the day. Until one night, I was lying in bed and I heard rustling outside my window. Outside fridge raiders? I leapt out of bed, removed the padlock from my gun locker and prepared to tackle the burglars (this bit isn’t true but I did leap out of bed – I had a lovely Reggae Reggae sauce pizza out there I was looking forward to trying).
I got to my window and a myriad of sights awaited me. Although some of them were just eerie reflections of things in my room in the window. Peering closer I saw the figure of Whacky tucking into my pizza. She’d opened the box, dragged out the pizza, clawed through the film, and was helping herself to the spicy uncooked toppings.
I rushed to get my camera; in the morning when I told Andrea, she wouldn’t believe me and butter-wouldn’t-melt Whacky would deny it, I needed evidence.
In case it’s not immediately clear what/who/why is going on, I’ve had my graphics department create this chilling true crime visual:
I couldn’t figure out how to make them all chalky, but I’m very pleased with how Whacky’s ears turned out and the curvature around the pizza.
That was it. The outside fridge had been busted, and it was a return to fucking fridge frugality.
It was shortly after this that I began to dream of a life where I was able to buy my own fridge, using that job money I mentioned earlier. And be able to go shopping for food without a tape measure. But like it is for many, such a dream felt out of reach. So it is in this context that you see, as the house purchase was finalised, I was primarily and almost exclusively concerned with how I was to find myself my “forever fridge”.
I was straight on AO.com. I’d actually been visiting AO’s offices in Manchester on the day I first went house-hunting, so it felt fitting. They’d also heard about my house-moving and mentioned to me to tap them up for a discount when the time came. Great huh. Unfortunately I completely forgot about that bit, I was too excited. I’d been busy measuring the space in the kitchen, and scoping out the best fridge I could get for the space.
Unfortunately an American-style one was out – the layout of the kitchen just couldn’t accommodate it. As was the one I had seen advertised many times during the Aussie netball coverage, which had a tablet on the front of the door, cameras inside, downloadable games and all kinds of stuff. It was $4000, and quite frankly I didn’t need any of that. I wasn’t too disappointed at the de-Americanisation of my fridge freezer. I would still be able to get one which was so much larger than I was used to, I’d struggle to fill it.
I settled on a £1000 Samsung – you might remember this detail as at the same time I spunked £200 on an ill-fated Samsung microwave, for netball-sponsorship related reasons as recounted in The South Korean Shenanigans. And it was timed to arrive on the same day as all my IKEA crap. Both were due to arrive in a morning slot – between 7am and 1pm. I was to travel from Tooting to the currently empty house (I would be moving the following weekend), and wait in all morning for everything to arrive – no doubt at 12.59pm, you know how this shit works.
Getting one of the earliest trains, I’d arrive in Gravesend at about 7.30am. Any earlier was madness. Exhausted and sleep-deprived I sat on the train from St Pancras. When we came out the first tunnel, my phone flashed that I had four missed calls. The fuck? I tried calling back but into another tunnel we went. And back out, more missed calls, and then a text. It was the IKEA delivery driver. He’d arrived at 7. I shat myself. And cursed my stupid luck.
I texted back and said I was on the train there and would be 15 mins. I expected him to say “get fucked mate I’ve got other deliveries, unlike SOME PEOPLE, I’m on a clock.” But he just said “OK”. It was vague enough that I didn’t truly know if he was going to be there or not.
I arrived at the end of my street panting and wheezing after sprinting from the station. Outside my new house there was indeed a big white van. And two guys outside my gate chatting … to two other guys – who were from the big AO van parked opposite. Both my deliveries had arrived at the earliest possible moment, and whether through goodwill or collective empathy, they’d all decided to wait.
As I gushed apologies and explanations and pleasantries I felt the unsaid response was “yeah mate can you just hurry up and open your front door so we can unload this shit”.
No sooner was the door opened than long boxes of bed and sofa parts were being ferried hurriedly across the threshold. During the first break in traffic, I invited the AO guys in with the microwave (which was unspeakably heavy) and explained to them where the kitchen appliances were going – the kitchen is downstairs. I got from the AO delivery men a look I would describe as the “fuck’s sake” look.
I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty positive they both said “it won’t fit down the stairs” before actually looking at the stairs. Suffice to say it was not a decision they reached after deliberation, measurements, or careful forethought. In fairness it looked like a tight squeeze, but I was sure this was covered within the £20 installation fee I had paid extra to AO – “room of your choosing” was the exact text used. My mental list of “things to kick myself for later”, which had begun with “don’t be late for the deliveries” now extended to “you should have measured the WAY TO THE KITCHEN not just the space in the kitchen, you fucking muppet”.
While I negotiated with the pair from AO, the IKEA crew had been in and out like ninjas, leaving about 18 boxes in my living room and vanishing into the night (I class anything pre-9am as the night). “Could we remove the packaging?” Nope, they’re not allowed. “Could we try getting it down the stairs?” Nope, they’re not allowed in case they damage my walls. “Could I sign something (a post-it, a receipt, a forearm) which said I assume all liability?” Nope, they’re not allowed and neither am I. “Are there any other options?” Yes, they could take it back and I could buy a smaller fridge, or they…
“OH WAIT WAIT WAIT, no no no, get that idea right out of your head Sunny Jim,” I interrupted. Neither of them was called Jim, but I’m actually sure the Indian chap introduced himself as Sunny. “That’s crazy talk. A smaller fridge? No, there is no way that is even potentially on the table,” I pointed to three of the IKEA boxes in the corner, which were all parts of tables. “What’s the OR?”
“Or,” Sunny sighed and said, “We leave it in the living room and you decide what you’re going to do with it.”
Difficult choices were ahead. Some people do have open plan living rooms with the kitchen sort of just there. But then not many people have a living room where the fridge-freezer is right next to the tv. I say there were difficult choices; they weren’t difficult at all. “Leave it.” Under no circumstances was I trading down to a smaller fridge, and if having a decent-sized fridge mean it had to go in the living room, then so be it. Maybe it would be noisy, maybe it would be inconvenient when the rest of my kitchen appliances, and indeed my kitchen, were in a different room (the kitchen). But on the plus side, I’d be able to reach over and grab chilled drinks, cheesecake, ice cream or cocktail sausages without even pausing a film or game.
I’ve been a trail-blazer many times in my life (see my collection of smart watches from about ten years before anyone used them, my Orange SPV – a ludicrous device which was essentially the first smart phone, or the fact I was into comics and superhero movies back when it was a bullyable offence rather than a mandatory societal norm). Could this be another time? Was I shaping the living space of the future, where interior design was centred around monolithic freon-filled appliances.
If you think I’m giving too much importance to this fridge, may I remind you I spent hundreds of thousands of pounds getting to a point where I could have my own fridge, it was non-negotiable.
Sunny and his mate had left before I even had a chance to notice that they HADN’T EVEN TAKEN THE MICROWAVE DOWNSTAIRS. A £20 installation fee well spent.
So some new things had arrived, it was now back to the exhausting task of getting all my old things from Tooting to Gravesend. I was off work for two weeks, and was officially moving the Saturday bang in-between. The first week would be spent packing and visiting Gravy to take receipt of any fridges, tables, beds or sofas, and the second week would be unpacking, settling in, organising and relaxing.
This was no normal Saturday – not only was I embarking on a life-changing house move, it was the netball league final (which I had just had to utterly write off) and in the evening, Eurovision. Somehow I’d ended up moving on the day when all my things were happening. But Eurovision would be a nice reward for what would be a stressful day.
My sister Gillian had given me a gem of advice, having moved many times herself. Get a removals company that packs as well. I did not even know this was an option, I always thought packing was the one bit I definitely had to do. But then I’d never used an official removals company before. Moving from Scotland to Birmingham had been my brother/sister-in-law in a van, moving from Birmingham to London had been my friend’s sister/brother-in-law in a van – it had been very beneficial on that occasion to already live on the same street as the people I was moving to London to houseshare with.
Since “she was the expert” I then somehow managed to offload the collection of quotes to Gillian, who contacted a bunch of removals places and booked me some appointments. It cost me about the same as the fridge but was to be worth it. In one week off work, I had managed to pack three boxes, one of which just had a carefully-placed LEGO Tower Bridge in it. Or roughly 4% of my boxable belongings. Rest-assured the professionals would be coming to sort the rest, thankfully.
The big day came, and while my support staff of Gillian, Andrea and her boyfriend Daniel, were helping with the major removals focus which was coaxing Whacky into a cat box for her first car journey, the two removals men arrived and set about boxing my life with fucking staggering efficiency. I was pointing at a corner of my bedroom, “yeah all that junk needs to go somehow”, remembering that one summer I’d taken a week off work with the sole purpose of tidying that area, and barely scratched the surface. “And then,” before I even turned around to point at something else, that whole corner had been emptied boxed labelled and was in the fucking van.
These guys could box faster than I could speak. The first, a muscular Polish-type, was sellotaping boxes one-handedly in the blink of an eye. His crewmate, a much older Rastafarian-type (who told me later came out of retirement because he was bored and he found this interesting rewarding work) was zipping everything to the van. “Just remember when you take this big LEGO here, just be careful in case any pieces… oh it’s gone.”
I’ve never seen anything like it. I have a LOT of stuff and was expecting this to be an arduous drawn-out process. Rooms were being cleared during kettle boilings. I went to the kitchen to pour some teas and coffees, the cupboards were bare. The mugs were gone, the tea and coffee were gone, the spoons were gone. I leant out the kitchen doorway to say to Andrea “this is unbelievable” and when I turned back there was boiling hot water trickling down the plughole and the kettle was gone.
I went outside and with a “ta-daaah” Andrea revealed a kitty in a kitty box, ready for the trip. I’d been pretty useless that day. The removals guys came in and asked me to do one thing – check every room to make sure they hadn’t missed anything, which I did. At least there was one important job I couldn’t fuck up.
(I discovered a week later, when cleaning the old flat to hand the keys back to the landlord, that I had actually fucked that up, somehow missing an entire wardrobe of books and memorabilia, which I then had to Uber to Gravesend…)
We piled in Gillian’s car and followed the streak of smoke and occasional tasmanian devil shapes that was the removals van’s wake. Despite all my worrying, Whacky was absolutely fine in the car, her only expression seemed to be curiosity as to whether an in-transit meal would be provided.
We arrived in Gravesend, a large white van and two men waiting outside my door, very reminiscent of the IKEA and fridge delivery panic.
Cigarettes were finished and the lads set about decanting my crap into a new dwelling, whilst the rest of us went upstairs to the spare room (technically at the moment they were all spare), shut the door behind us and let Whacky loose in her new home. I had already learned that the best thing to do was leave the removals team to it. I asked them to put obvious standalone things in their rightful place (e.g. the tv in the living room – next to the fridge-freezer) and all the boxes downstairs in the other spare room by the kitchen. This was genuinely because I was going to use that room for storage and junk-sorting and try to make a fresh start in the main rooms. I admit though partly it was for the novelty of actually having people deliver stuff downstairs like they were paid to, it was a nice change.
Only one item caused a problem, and solving that problem was my first genius idea of the day. My netball post. Taken to the van via the patio doors of the old ground floor flat, through the straight hallway and out the front door. My new terraced house was going to be an issue. The ten-foot post was going to have to navigate my pokey hall, and then the same fridge-denying pokey stairs, then round a pokey corner and a sharp turn to the back door. Impossible.
“It’s nice and bright in here,” Andrea said of the living room, although it may have been helped by the chrome fridge reflecting natural light.
“Yes,” I agreed, “It’s nice the way these two windows…. WAIT!” I skipped and jumped excitedly to the van, but unfortunately the lads weren’t there so I stopped skipping and waited for them to come back out from the basement. “Guys!” I shouted enthusiastically, “Lads! Chaps! Boys! Men!” I really should have asked their names when they first arrived.
(By accident I’ve just noticed I’ve written 199,969 words on McCannecdotes. It would probably make sense to gibber for a moment until it reaches the milestone of … wait for it … 200,000! Woo-hoo! Now might be a good time to ask anyone still reading if they know anyone who can get me a book deal? Or a cartoonist who could help me turn the blog into a children’s book. I’d be open to *ing out some of the f***ing swearing, and maybe renaming some of the chapters.)
Anyway, the removals men arrived back outside, and I was eagerly waiting. “What’s up?” they said, mildly intolerant of my interruption.
“Two hundred thousand, guys! Can you believe it?”
“Oh, um, never mind, hey I had the best idea about the netball post!” I pointed at the window and then proceeded to do what looked like that old “mime pulling a rope” motion. They were none the wiser; so I took them inside, pointed at the front window, swivelled and pointed at the back. They’d be able to open both windows of my dinky house and feed the ten foot pole straight through. And they did it, and without smashing any windows or scraping the tv, although the last one was a close shave. All in all, a victory for lateral thinking, and lateral carrying.
In no time, the move was done. They invited me outside to check the van for LEGO pieces, but actually I’d been shocked at how carefully and expertly the LEGO had been transported. I found a small flag in the van, nothing in the street, and only a collection of securely strapped and boxed sets in the house. They had a smoke while I checked everything was in order.
“They’ve done such a good job,” Gillian said from the top of the stairs – everyone was still up there looking after Whacky in the spare room until doors were shut.
“Those guys were impressive!” Andrea called out.
“Those two gentlemen are extremely good at getting bulky items from one place to another, that’s for sure,” Whacky’s miaow seemed to say.
Wait…. No I couldn’t. What if…. Nah it’s too much. Could we try…. It’s unfair to ask surely.
I ran upstairs to Gillian. “How much cash do you have? I only have £10.”
She handed over £40 and I was gone before she could ask what it was for. Back downstairs, I made a bit of smalltalk with the exhausted removals men, before swiftly moving to my second genius idea of the day. “I’m sorry to ask, it feels really cheeky after all your hard work, but if I give you £50 could you try to take that fridge freezer to the kitchen?” They looked at each other. They might have been thinking ‘this fucking cunt’, but I rather hoped they were thinking ‘£25 each for five minutes work, that’s £300 an hour, £2400 a day, even accounting for weekends off and 25 days holiday per year that’s over £500,000 annual salary. We’d be mad to turn down that. Think of the lifestyle we could have.’
I added “If it doesn’t work and can’t be done, it’s fine, you can still have the money, it’s just to try.” In fleeting moments while they were furiously unloading items into the house, the fridge had been noticed and they’d found out bit by bit of my predicament due to the fridge installers’ lack of ambition. There had even been rumblings from one of them that he thought it would go, if it could be levered over the bannister – something that would require inhuman strength. I was hoping this pitching of the situation as a battle of polar work ethics might encourage them to help, to show how a real professional handles a fridge and a staircase.
In the end, I think it was the money and while it wasn’t quite going to be the half a million salary projected, it was still cash money they could spend on drinks and doobies as soon as they’d finished sorting my shit.
“Don’t worry if you scratch the paint or anything, it’s fine I just want it downstairs,” I then ran upstairs to hide in the spare room pacing around until they were done (only popping my head out after hearing ungodly moans and grunts which turned out to be just the older chap almost being flattened mid-stairs).
After ten minutes (still a £250k salary), it was done.
IT WAS FUCKING DONE! MY FRIDGE WAS IN THE KITCHEN! WITHOUT A SCRATCH!
These guys were absolute legends. I was gushing praise and thank yous like never before in my whole life. After about 5 seconds of that they were like “No problem, BYE” and they were off. It was OK, they had thoroughly deserved to be out of there, and never have to look at me or my stupid stuff ever again. I imagined their chat in the van: “Can’t believe that cunt had a netball post. Can’t believe that cunt had a fridge in his living room. Can’t believe that cunt’s LEGO collection, how old was that cunt, like 40?” That too was OK. Time for a bit of furniture building, touring the house with Whacky, and getting ready for Eurovision.
I had no internet. I thought this was going to be a temporary thing, but it actually wasn’t fixed until after a full month in my new house. So we hooked up the tv to the tv aerial socket in the corner, and I used ‘sorting the tv’ as an excuse to leave building the sofa to Andrea and Daniel.
I’d had my luck that day though. In having a kitchen with a fridge in it, something else had to give. And that was the tv reception. I don’t know what was on the other end of the two tv aerial sockets in the house, but it certainly wasn’t a device capable of receiving terrestrial television. (more recently I had to have my roof fixed and while they were showing me pictures of the job I saw the tv aerial mangled and broken on the rooftop).
With no aerial and no internet, we had to get creative, hooking the tv up to various phones (in order of who had the most data) – something that worked surprisingly well, until we realised that the Eurovision Song Contest uses about 600GB of data per hour (I think because of all the lights and awesomeness) so in the end I had to take over, and spend a fridge-mover’s salary on buying enough data for the night. Every time I went to the kitchen to get something out of the fridge (the fucking inconvenience having to go all the way downstairs) or go to the toilet, there would be an almighty scream. In a new house you panic and think someone’s fallen down the wonky stairs or slipped out a second storey window. But it was always just that the picture had frozen and I had to come up and reset the connection to my phone. Pizza was had, and a song I hated won, it was classic Eurovision.
The house was a mess of boxes, furniture and furniture boxes, but it started to come together. Gillian built my bed so she could sleep in it (I was on the sofa); a trick I repeated shortly after when Thomas visited and had to build the STÖRAGETHÖMAS bed he had recommended I get from IKEA. I built up the little things, bedside tables, a desk (which I had no use for but which came into its own when COVID hit six months later) and the other bits and pieces.
Over the course of, let’s face it years, boxes were unpacked, and despite the volume and awkwardness of the acres of crap I brought from Tooting, there were only ever two casualties.
The first was Tower Bridge, the one LEGO I had packed – it would be easy to blame this on my shoddy boxing, but the LEGO Tower Bridge is flimsy and falls down if you sneeze near it. A quick fetching of the instruction manual from my archives in the STÖRAGETHÖMAS bed and it was rebuilt.
More significantly my piano had “popped a key” – so one of the keys was sticking up a little. I thought this would take me mere moments to fix. It didn’t, it took an entire weekend. To just GET to the bit of the keys that fixes such a thing you have to take the entire fucking piano apart. Which I did, with no instructions, and then put the whole piano back together again, with only four screws left over (pretty good huh?)
It was thirsty work – maybe a fridge in the living room would have been a good idea after all…