This page written circa 6 August, 2006.
Do you ever wish you could close your eyes and open them up some time in the future? I thought this when I was a kid approaching my birthday or Christmas and I was busting to get to the exciting day. I still get those feelings, when I want to skip over a horrible task or a boring period to get to the exciting bits. I decided decades ago that unless one did not age, it must be better to live every moment, so get on with it and don't miss anything, but still the thought tempts me every now and again.
Kay and I stood in our new house yesterday, feeling rather useless, and staring at the appliances we bought locally... the only things in the place not bolted down. I looked at the rather sexy Russell Hobbs electric jug, and asked Kay "Does Russell work well?". "Yes." came the answer, and after a pause "It's like a gay sharehouse isn't it?". We have a new planetary food mixer, a Kenwood, "Russell" the jug, a Samsung fridge-freezer, and the rather wonderful Stanley stove that heats house and water and is also a cooker with an oven that we are assured does wonderful pizzas. Together the skeleton crew were "Ken, Russell, Stanley and Sam", a distinctly gay-sounding crew indeed. Thank goodness Herr & Frau Bosche, the washer and dryer, live downstairs, they sound very straight. It will be at least another day or two before we get to use our "gay kitchen".
As I type this, I am stuck in this dreadful rental house instead of our "gay" farm kitchen because our possessions are still in transit. It is raining and miserable, and I have to prepare a lecture for Monday on something with which I am not very familiar. Do I wish it was Tuesday!
So why hate this house? It is a sturdy brick house, interesting in its layout and with a marvellous folly, a circular tower-shaped front corner. The problem is that it is costing us $500/month to heat (yep, that is not a typo) and yet as I type this it is 4PM and I am fully dressed and in bed with the electric blanket on to keep warm. Perched on a Mediterranean cliff as a vacation house this would be an excellent design, in Hamilton in Winter it is wickedly impractical. The only shower is outside the "heated" part of the house. In fact, the shower is in the laundry in the base of the circular tower. If you owned this house and wanted to live in it you would start by replacing every window and door with decent, modern, airtight, double-glazed affairs, and then you would renovate the upstairs bathroom, renew the ancient appliances, and fix the leak in the pool. The owner is a lady who apparently does not want to be here in Winter, nor can she bring herself to sell the house her husband built, so she rents it out furnished, complete with family photos and myriad nicknacks, for as much of Winter as she can, to unsuspecting tenants. A true Saxon mother, and who can blame her if she can get away with it? The lease sets a period of 2 to 6 months, and thank goodness we will be out in less than 2. Just.
We would have been out a week earlier, save for Crown Relocations. If you were the complaints officer there, you might be starting a witch hunt for the person responsible for the cock-up. The witch hunt would end with the lady from the SF office who first quoted packing our stuff. The quote was too close to the bone. Not a large error, but it snowballed. It usually takes more than one mistake to make a disaster. Due care in cleaning things was apparently bypassed by the hard working Latino crew in order to pack everything in the inadequate time allowed. Here at the receiving end in New Zealand they trusted the despatch office and failed to check that all was well far enough in advance. They requested and got from us at least 1 week of notice for delivery date, but gave us less than 1 business day of notice when they could not deliver. We might have been in dire straights! Especially dopey given the warning emails we sent from CA regarding the quote, and the knowledge that Aus & NZ customs guys do a tight job of protecting these countries against invading pests. If you are considering using Crown Relocations and a search engine has turned up this page, my advice is that you shop elsewhere. I did a search before we left CA but I could find no independent reviews on the web. A more detailed conversation with Mr Google in this wasted weekend found reports of bad experiences but also personal email of apology and promise of compensation from a high-level Crown manager. (PS: The delivery crew are thoroughly nice guys, and they outnumber the packing crew more than two to one. Things are turning up.)
This brings me to Sam's Tale. He got delivered, but they left him on the landing because he would not fit through the door. This divided the house in two, Kay being unable to get past him from the lower part of the house to the upper. Good thing she had keys to external doors on both sides. It seems she felt sorry for the delivery crew, a woman and her two teenage sons, so she let them leave with this situation. In the end Kay got the door to the lounge off its hinges and with Merinda's and Edwin's help she wheeled Sam into position. If you saw this acted out in a TV sitcom you would not believe that it could actually happen. Remember you heard it here first.
The whole world may be appalled by American politicians and their global antics, but the world has a lot it can learn about service from American-managed businesses. Ken & Russell & Stanley & Sam and our old retainers will have lots to tell each other.