Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Finding Somewhere to Live - Part III

Early in the next week, the delivery company dropped off the sofa and the flat-packed bed and wardrobe as scheduled, and we asked Bernard and Chris’ cousin Stephane (a professional carpenter) to come over the following weekend and give us a hand building the furniture.

The plan was for us to construct the bed, and wardrobe on the Saturday, so that our first night of sleeping in the apartment would be that night. Chris and I were very excited about the prospect of finally spending a night in our own place, having had the keys since the start of the month.

 Above: Photos of our finished living room

The weekend arrived, and the three of us set about constructing the IKEA goods whilst Chris and Nelly busied themselves with some cleaning and shopping. We decided to start with the wardrobe as we would need lots of floor space to build it, so could not fill that space up with the bed first. The wardrobe that Chris and I chose was huge, with sliding glass doors on the front, so the instruction booklet had around thirty pages, and looked fairly daunting. Fortunately, Stephane has plenty of experience in assembling IKEA furniture, combined with his knowledge of woodcraft, so he was able to lead Bernard and me in the construction.

The wardrobe took about six hours to build. That’s six full hours, for three full grown men. Imagine how long it would have taken if Stephane wasn’t there to help? In fairness, the main reason why it took so long was down to the fact that we had ordered the full combination wardrobe from IKEA, including various drawers and shelves for inside, all of which took some time to do.

Once we had finally finished with the wardrobe, we moved onto the bed, which promised to be a much quicker task (especially as Stephane had recently built the exact same bed for him and his wife). We assembled the supportive rails that the mattress would rest on first, as we knew this would be time consuming – having to line up wooden slats with each other and squeeze them into rubbery stoppers. Once we had finished that task, we constructed the frame of the bed, which took less than thirty minutes. Then came time to put the supportive rails onto the bed and put the mattress on top. As we lowered the slats into place, we spotted a problem: they did not fit. The frame was too big, meaning the slats were not securely positioned, and therefore the bed could not be used.

Gutted after all that construction work, it was clear that IKEA had sent us the wrong sized bed frame, and that we would need to contact them to get the right one sent out. Unfortunately, IKEA in Switzerland are only open until 5pm on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays, so we would have to wait until Monday before we could contact them. We were not about to let this ruin our first night in the new apartment, however, so we put the mattress on the floor in the spare room and we slept on that for the night.

We decided to have a relaxing Sunday, after all the hard work and stress from the previous day (and in the previous weeks), and so slept until we didn’t feel like sleeping any more. That turned out to be about 8am, as it is always a struggle to sleep soundly during the first night in a new place. I made best use of the early Sunday start by strolling down to the local bakery and picking up a few croissants and pain au chocolats, and as we enjoyed the baked goods with a nice cup of coffee I couldn’t help thinking, “I could get used to this”.

When Monday rolled round, Chris rang IKEA and gave them a polite earful about the mix up with the size of the bed. They agreed to exchange it, and said the delivery company would come out to us the following Monday to pick up the oversized bed frame and drop off the one we actually wanted. So that meant just one week without a real bed, which didn’t seem too bad. It was kind of like camping, but without the cold or the bugs.

Now that we were out living on our own again, it was time for us to start planning and preparing our meals each day. Whilst living at Chris’ parents’ apartment, Nelly was pretty much in charge of the cooking, so we had not really had to think about what to make for dinner for around five months or so.

I think it would be fair to say we didn’t adapt particularly quickly during our first week of fending for ourselves, as we found ourselves picking up food after work each day, sometimes pizza, sometimes kebabs, and sometimes we would stop at the glorious Golden Arches of McDonalds. None of this was doing any particular good to our bodies, but after such an unorthodox start to married life, I think we deserved to treat ourselves a little bit.

The new bed frame was delivered as promised, and Bernard again popped round to give us a hand with its construction. Having already built the same product before, we made very light work of putting the pieces together, finishing in around 45 minutes. As we picked up the slats and began lowering them into place, I glimpsed Chris in the corner of my eye, and saw her take a deep breath in hope that they would fit properly this time.

Whatever prayer Chris muttered must have worked, as they were a perfect fit this time. We quickly put the mattress on top, made the bed, and paused to look around what was now a complete bedroom. As I sat back and admired our handiwork, I realized that this would be the first night that I slept in a room that had a bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers since I left England last year. It’s funny the things that pop into your mind sometimes.

Our lovely bed, complete with
correctly-sized mattress
And so, finally, after four full months of living with Nelly and Bernard, we were out on our own, really in charge of our lives again. It’s not like we had a curfew whilst living with them, but we also didn’t have the freedom to do what we want and when we wanted to do it.

As gracious and generous as my parents-in-law had been with us, moving into our own apartment meant freedom, it meant independence, and it felt good to move on to the next chapter in our lives, to begin dreaming once again of the great things we can do together.

Only one downside – I’ll have to learn how to be a better gardener than I was in England, where all my plants died through negligence.

Our garden - where we will attempt (and probably fail) to grow vegetables


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