Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Learning to Live in England, 2010, Part II

Thursday, 03 June

We woke up to find the carpeting in the bathroom has a large stain - around the toilet.

Furthermore, the coffee pot, refrigerator, and radio are not working. There must be an electrical box somewhere around here, but we can't find it, to reset the breakers. Or replace the fuses, perhaps?

We have the name of the plumber the previous owner used; she very helpfully left us a list of such services. However, we have no, downtown we hiked, to the phone just off the main square by the Post Office.

The plumber wasn't at his phone. No use leaving a message, as there is no way he can return our call.

How to find another plumber? We asked strangers on the street, and were directed to Jackson's, a retail store selling bathroom stuff. The lady there was on lunch break, but unlocked the door to let us look around for fifteen minutes until her break was over. We did find some bathroom cabinets there, but they're very expensive, as in £200-400. Not for us, thank you very much.

After 15 minutes, the lady returned and gave us the name of a plumber who installs sinks and showers and toilets and so forth for Jackson's.

Back at the Post Office, the clerk who had sold us the telephone service let us use his mobile phone (as they're called here, not 'cell phones') to call the plumber. He can't come until tomorrow. But what can we do? At least we have an appointment for tomorrow at 1:00. That's a relief.

We also used his mobile phone to resolve the issue with the water company. They had shut down our (brand-new!) account last October, which is why they no longer have the direct debit from our bank activated. so how is it that, with us gone and the account closed, we accumulated £60 pounds worth of charges? Because the amount they had charged us earlier was only estimated. When they actually read the meter, it was more. For one week's worth of water? Anyway, I had TOLD them what the meter reading was. So I think we are going to dispute the charge, but not today. Not on somebody else's mobile phone minutes. For now, we're re-instating the automatic debit. And arranging never again to be charged on the basis of estimated use, but only actual meter readings.

The feeling of 'I can't believe we own this adorable flat!' has evaporated. We own it, complete with leaks, electrical problems, and bills. There's no manager to call to take care of it all for us, no landlord, no front desk. All the issues are ours to solve.

With with the major ones resolved, however, we began to feel relatively free and easy, and ready to start having some fun. So, as it is another perfect day, wandered through the market. Thursday is market day here, where you can buy everything from shoes to fresh produce to meats from vendors under white tents. We stopped at the Mediterranian stall and bought over-priced kalamata olives, feta cheese, and loukoumi, that sweet, gelatinous, sugar-coated candy Demetrios likes, otherwise known as Turkish Delight. We won't buy any more from that vendor, though, as the supermarket has it all at more reasonable prices. Food here, in general, is quite dear ('dear,' not 'expensive').

We also found some gorgeous rhubarb, which I bought and took home to make into a pie.

We strolled through the park on our way home. It has playground equipment I've never seen before, as well as a place for skateboarding.

At the pond, three or four mallard duck families have ducklings of various ages, some of them no more than two days old. And the swans have seven grey (not gray) cygnets. When I stopped to admire them, Mother Swan (I don't know where Mother Goose was) reared up out of the water, flapping her wings and squawking at me.

'What's she doing?' asked a small child on a nearby bench.

'Greeting me,' I fibbed.

'Warning her away,' said the child's father.

There are gulls here, too, even though we're about 7 miles from the ocean. I think they're herring gulls, because they look the same as our herring gulls in North Carolina. Must acquire a bird book!

In the evening, we encountered our neighbor, Linda, and asked her where the electrical panels are with the circuit breakers.  She said hers were in her coat closet by the front door.  We opened ours, and yes, there was a box with buttons and lights, but it was the security system.  We had already looked there, and everywhere else, earlier.  Still, as I stood there near the front door, I seemed to have a vague memory of having seen those breakers somewhere nearby.  Then I happened to glance up, and there they were above and to the right of the front door.  Sure enough, one of the handles was pointing downward.  We flipped it up like all the rest, and the fridge began to hum.  Another problem solved.  We breathed huge sighs.

Friday, 04 June

The plumber showed up, half an hour late but still most welcome, and did his bit. The good news is that the water was coming from the tank of the toilet, not the bowl. Which means it isn't sewerage ('sewerage', not sewage'). In fact, it was coming from a leak in the pipe leading to the tank. So it's just water! Clean water. Thank heaven. However, the carpet and the rubber underlayment are saturated. Plumber ripped them back for us to help them dry. It will take some days. He charged us £45, not bad.

We found a space heater that had been left for us in one of the bedroom closets. It puts out a prodigious amount of very hot air. So later, at night when electrical rates are lower, we plugged it in and left it on a couple of hours to try to speed the process, to prevent mold and/or mildew.

As soon as the plumber had left, we went out to enjoy the town and the still-perfect weather.

Stores and pubs and automobiles around here are all sporting the English flag. Not the Union Jack, which represents the whole United Kingdom, but the white flag with red cross that represents just England. From this, we have deduced that the World Cup soccer championships are about to be played and that England is in the competition. We inquired, and were told the matches begin Saturday of next week. England is to play the United States. I suppose that means we'd better not show up in any pubs to watch it on their television!

Late in the afternoon took the bus to nearby Burscough, where we had heard there is a shop that rents televisions. We found the shop, but it was already closed. We shall try again early next week.

On our way home, we again spotted the mysterious bird that sits on the chimney across the street from our flat. But again we couldn't see him well enough to tell what he is. He seems bigger than a crow.

There are hours more daylight here than in Richmond! I don't know what time the sun rises because I'm never awake, but it doesn't set until around 9:30, and what I call 'deep dusk' doesn't really set in until 10:00. It's hard to realize when bedtime comes. All this glorious light is the Brits' reward for suffering through the long, dark winters.


GretchenJoanna said...

Oh, goody! More travelogues--or whatever one calls the logs from one's second home in a less-familiar land, as I suppose it to be. A year ago or so, when you wrote about buying this flat, I didn't know that you weren't going to live there all the time. I love all your attention to detail that makes for engaging stories.

Anam Cara said...

1776, 1812, 1950, and, we hope 2010 - all years when America was the underdog, but defeated the English!
(1950 was also a World Cup win)