Posts Tagged ‘apartment’

Weekend Plans

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

It is Friday afternoon. I haven’t achieved anything of any economic worth since I walked into the office six hours ago. I have written a meandering, fruitless piece about ‘Home’ but it isn’t what I want it to be and it severely lacks a conclusion. I went for a walk in the sunshine; that was nice. And I found out a guy I share my office with worked (and danced) with Alison Goldfrapp. Very cool. But that’s about it really. Not the most productive day. Having said that, I don’t think Fridays at work are ever productive. When I worked at Curtin, my co-workers and I would bring out the wine and cheese at 4pm having had an extended lunch break and a lot of general chit-chat throughout the day. At the Co-Op, no one would call and ask for IT support after 2pm on a Friday. So really, I have achieved a lot today. I feel better now.

The weekend is almost upon us which should bring joy to my heart and a spring to my step but this weekend isn’t shaping up to be a great one. I have two main tasks to complete in those 48 hours, neither of which spark much excitement or happiness.

Task #1. Pack everything I own into boxes in preparation to move apartment. Woo. I am trying to lessen the pain by reminding myself that the last time I moved it was much worse. Last time it was from Paris to Manchester and I had to send everything by post plus cart two suitcases and a backpack to Gare du Nord, onto a train to London, then walk to Euston Station, then get onto another train to Manchester, before wedging everything onto the back seat of my cousin’s VW Beetle and carrying it all up a flight of stairs to her spare room. Now that was FUN. This time I am moving two blocks away and my cousin, Caroline, is providing me with the services of herself and her car. And there are lifts.

But who likes packing? I have put a few things in boxes but every evening this week I have returned home with good intentions of packing EVERYTHING but then convinced myself that I may need to use each and every item that I own sometime between now and Monday and if I pack then I will just need to get it back out of a box. So it has come down to this weekend where I will have to take a no-excuses attitude and just get it done. I am gaining some enjoyment from the fact that I am packing my things into boxes branded with Salt ‘n’ Vinegar, Char-Grill Steak, and Sweet Chilli flavoured crisp packets. I asked my local Sainsburys if I could have some boxes and the manager left a note for the unpackers to ‘leave 4-5 crisp boxes for a lady named Jess.’ I’m not sure why crisp boxes are the best for apartment relocations but they are working out well.

Task #2. Run 18 miles. The time has arrived for me to do my longest training run before the marathon and a sports store that is sponsoring the marathon (Up&Running) have organised an 18 mile practise run on Sunday. As running 18 miles on your own is really, really boring, I have decided it is a good opportunity to do the run and not fall asleep in the process. I am actively avoiding converting 18 miles into kilometres because then I will have a far better understanding of how far I will be running and then I might cry. Best to just whack on my shoes and follow the crowd.

So basically my weekend is going to involve a great deal of pain. However, in between all of this I am also going to watch my friend Nat play roller derby (which is probably even more painful than my two activities combined) and eat food. So I guess it isn’t all bad.

Happy weekend, everyone!

What’s Up With Real Estate Agents?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

I am currently experiencing the joy that is ‘dealing with Real Estate agents’ as I have to move out of my apartment next week. When I first moved to Manchester I went into many different Real Estate offices in the hope that at least one of them would be willing to help me find an apartment. It was during this time that I discovered just how alien Real Estate agents are and how good they are at giving you completely blank looks when you suggest you might like to rent an apartment from them. When you look at properties online and press the ‘Request More Information” button (a button that to me says ‘Here is your opportunity to sell me your product. Go crazy! Sell! SELL!), you never hear back and when you call to ask about a property they don’t seem interested in talking about it. I’m not entirely sure why Real Estate agents exist in the rental world because they certainly don’t participate in the process apart from when they make you pay administrative fees.

I am in the middle of organising a new rental contract with a new agency which has been GREAT FUN. Not. This morning I had to go in to the office and hand in paper work and no one knew anything about who I was, why I was there or what I could possibly want from them. This joyful encounter inspired me to write a little story about how much I love Real Estate agents.
*I would like to state that there are nice, normal and approachable real estate agents in this world and I am making some very large generalisations in both my comments above and in the following story. However, I’d say the proportion of weird to normal would be 90%-10%.

 

What is Wrong with Real Estate Agents?

Advertisements for one and two bedroom apartments with river views and stunning wood laminate floors hang in the window. Like personal ads, the photographs depict mutton dressed as lamb – carefully angled shots of the kitchen/dining area from seven years ago when the apartment was first furnished, plus a picture of the exterior of the building and a view from a window. Images are for illustration purposes only and may not depict actual residence. Viewings a must.

You push open the door and enter the shiny floored office. People in shiny suits with shiny hair lounging on shiny vinyl seats look up at you as you step inside. Their desks are positioned sporadically across the office – there is no central point of contact and you look around trying to work out where to go. The shiny faces give you a once over – She’s a renter. Their dull and disinterested eyes turn away, leaving you to hang by the front door in awkward silence. No one welcomes you or acknowledges your presence. Your existence within the room is unnecessary, unwanted and almost confusing.

You pick the person sitting closest to the door – he is the youngest in the team, the new whizz kid who is still growing into his pin stripes. “Hi!” you say with positive intentions of bringing him business. “Yes?” is his response. As you sell your reason for being to him, explaining your need for an apartment and asking if the agency can help, he leans back in his comfortable chair, crosses his legs and looks back blankly. “Have you searched on the internet?” he asks. “We advertise all of our rentals on Rightmove. It’s best if you just look on there.”

In other words, piss off. We don’t want your type in here – when you’re ready to buy a property and act like an adult in the real estate market, let us know. Mark who deals with rentals isn’t in the office today and to be honest, the rest of us don’t care about those properties so we don’t care about you either. Therefore, if you would like to take your subordinate self out of our space, that would be great. Yeah, sure, leave us your details. In three months time when you’ve found somewhere to rent through alternative means we’ll start spamming you with emails detailing our available properties and claiming that we tailored it to suit your requirements. Now please just go – the work experience kid has returned with our Starbucks lattés.

You bustle yourself out onto the busy street outside, your jacket still undone, your bags slung hurriedly over your arm. Walking down the street it dawns on you that a fifteen year old in a polyester suit has just out-cooled you and you are still homeless. Two shops down you see another window patterned with For Sale/Lease advertisements. You peak through the glass and try to guess how many jars of gel the guy perched on the edge of his desk, trouser legs raised to reveal pointy-toed leather shoes with a slight heel, used in his hair that morning. He makes eye contact with you and frowns. Time to go home and search on Gumtree.

Apartment Living

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

The freakish time-warp that appears to have descended over Manchester and that has made time zoom past at never-before-seen speeds has caused it to already be almost the end of August. WHERE DID AUGUST GO? Where did July and the entire first half of this year go for that matter? In six days, I will be celebrating six months in Manchester and then four days after that it’s my birthday. See? Time has gone so fast that I didn’t even notice the approach of my birthday, the most important date in my year. I haven’t been counting down to it and that is just WRONG.

As my six months in Manchester rolls in, this means my apartment lease is coming up for renewal and I have been in negotiations with my landlord as well as looking for new places to live for the past few weeks. The idea of moving isn’t high on my “I Really Want to do This” list as who actually enjoys packing all of their belongings in boxes, carting them to a new location and then unpacking it all again? No one. Plus I really like my apartment – it is significantly larger than my Parisian abode, it has multiple doors (for someone who lived without doors for two years, this is exciting) and amazing views into the lives of my neighbours across the road. I thought I should introduce you to some of the characters I have been spying on for the past six months and the extreme conclusions that I have jumped to about their lives, who they are and what they do.

The Goodlooking Couple

When I first moved in and saw the blonde female and her athletic male companion, I thought they were about my age. It wasn’t until I was  eating breakfast one morning and they were out on their balcony that I realised they are about 10 years older than I had first thought. These two are FIT and are one of those couples that look like they should be together. She plays the violin and he smokes. Occasionally he will wave to me through his window and I will wave back through mine.

Underwear Girl

The ownership of the apartment below the goodlooking couple confuses me. At first I thought it was a single male, then he seemed to get a girlfriend and now she has either kicked him out or he’s on holiday because she is ruling the roost. He did come back for a few days but then he went away again. Anyway, for the past two weeks, I have had the daily pleasure (or not so much) of seeing the girl walking around the apartment in her underwear. Morning and night, she pads around her apartment in just her knickers and a tshirt. Once she went and stood by her front window in a black and white lacy bra. I am a believer that one can wear whatever one wishes when in one’s apartment, however I do wonder if she realises that if she can see into our apartments, we can see into hers.

Lonely TV Man

Every night he sits on his couch watching television. Sometimes he has the lights on, sometimes the blue glow of the screen is the only light in the room. Occasionally he mixes some tunes on his DJ mixing desk, pumping dance beats out into the street. One day he covered his apartment with decorations including a “Happy Birthday!” sign and I was excited that he was finally going to have some friends over. But at 10.30pm no one had come to the party. However, in the last few evenings he has been busy entertaining people, including a slightly drunk lady who danced with great passion next to the window. On Tuesday night as I returned home from waitressing, I saw that he had two friends over. That’s when it dawned on me that I had served him a few weeks ago at the restaurant and hadn’t been able to work out why I recognised him. He and his friends had been eating there again on that Tuesday evening. Manchester is a small world.

windowcleaner

The window cleaners came to visit one day.

Settled.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

On Saturday I officially moved in to my new apartment in Manchester. In the words of the great Darryl Kerrigan – location, location, location. While I may not have impressive electricity poles or an airport next door, I am in one of the ‘up and coming’ areas of Manchester and a five minute walk from the city centre. Behind my apartment are the canals of the Castlefield district and across the road is the Science and Industry Museum. I am contemplating going in to the museum every day and learning about a different wheel or plane or vacuum cleaner, just because I can. It’s free entry! But today there were large groups of screaming school children hanging around outside so I am yet to venture in. My brother is coming to visit tomorrow so I might send him in first to clear the way.

My new view

My new view

My new canal.

My new canal

I am enjoying being in the centre of it all again. I thoroughly enjoyed the suburban, green-tree life of Swinton, but I do enjoy being able to go for a walk and being overwhelmed with ‘stuff’. Sunday was St Patrick’s Day and the city was alive with plenty of green; giant novelty blow-up Guinness pints; and drunkenness. The Royal Exchange Theatre building was open-all-areas for the public so I could explore the inner workings of the theatre and escape the drunk locals.

My first night in Manchester was saved by my particularly friendly real estate agent who took pity on the loner and showed me some cool bars in the hip-n-cool Spinningfields area. We went to a cocktail bar called The Neighbourhood where the staff (all male) were wearing yellow braces to hold up their pants. I mean trousers. Trousers. Trousers. I could have been in one of cocktail bars in Paris except I felt extremely underdressed, under-make-up-ed, and generally not tarty enough. Or drunk enough. I have received an instant reminder of the Anglosaxon drinking habits – lots and loud. On my run this morning I found plenty of evidence of the weekend’s activities splashed all over the footpaths. While I’m not missing Paris’s constant waft of urine, Manchester isn’t all that much cleaner.

I have to wait until after Easter for my internet to be connected in my apartment so I am currently sitting in a cafe/bar/events venue called Gorilla using their internet for the price of a cup of tea and a flapjack. I love flapjacks. Not having the internet is a bit like falling down stairs and hitting your head against a wall at the bottom every time you remember that no, you can’t check your email. Or no, you can’t look that up. Or no, you can’t Skype your Mum and Dad and show them your new apartment. I am trying to remind myself that not having the pesky internet to distract me is a great reason to do lots of writing. So I have no excuses for not having my book completed by Easter. Yep. Definitely. Or I’ll just be very fat from lots of flapjacks.

Tea and flapjack

Tea and flapjack

New Friends

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

It is a glorious morning in Paris today – crisp, cold and clear skies with the sun glistening off the frosty ground and trees. The birds are loving it, and I have just had some delightful visitors on my windowsill. I had to quickly close my window as one stuck his head inside but these little guys have been busy flittering about in the park and on my rather dead plants.

bird

Bonjour petit oiseau!

I hope they come and visit again soon.

 

Scam-Tastic

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

With the date of my departure from my apartment quickly approaching (it isn’t technically until the end of January but Christmas has a tendency to make time go into warp speed) I have started the hunt for new living quarters. Yesterday the weather was grey and drizzling so I stayed inside and risked my life by looking for a sublet on Craig’s List.

Memories of when I first decided to move to Paris and I attempted the apartment hunt flooded back. While I was young and innocent back then, I am now slightly more knowledgable about how to spot a SCAM. Basically ALL of the apartments advertised are put up by someone who will then steal your money and possibly your identity. But the inner hope that the reasonably priced apartment in the ideal location is true overpowers logic and I responded to a few advertisements. Here are some of the great responses I have received:

Greetings!
Thanks for your email.. The apartment is still available. I decided to rent the apartment because we are going to spend more time here in United Kingdom, about 3 years.. Let me start by introducing myself.I must confess that I am very new in this landlord business..However, My name is Thomas Killeen American Red Cross Lutheran Hospital Donor Center, and now he have been transfer to United Kingdom to work in a branch in United Kingdom.

What a great name! Thomas continues on to ask me what my pets’ names are and then in capital letters states:

TAKE NOTE: YOU CAN ONLY DRIVE BY AND SEE MY PLACE FROM THE OUTSIDE, BUT IF DRIVE BY THE HOME YOU MAY SEE A SIGN THERE, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT IT BELONGS TO OUR PREVIOUS AGENT SO YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT AND DON’T HAVE TO CALL  THEM BECAUSE THEY TO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE HOME ANYMORE!

Sounds like a winner to me. This morning Darlene got back to me with this email:

My furnished apartment is much available for rent as you inquire ,  which I want you to know that I’m renting it out to you due to my re-location of job to here in Michigan ,USA. I’m a visible sign instructor/demonstrator, which I do work for church ministration voluntarily and in-dependably. I left the city with hope that I will be coming back soon but right now the work has taken me to stay for another 2yrs under contract agreement, that’s why I have made up my mind to put up my apartment for rent.

The problem is that while these are obviously fake, there are then some other responses that could go either way. I have decided that if they ask me for my pets’ names then it is definitely a scam. It is a very frustrating situation – my lack of paper work means I can’t get an apartment in the normal way and I have to find someone willing to rent me their place without proof that my Aunt’s dog’s sister-in-law earns more than one-tenth of the annual rent. I’m barely exaggerating. My friends have recently managed to rent a new apartment with a 50+ page dossier. I could maybe pull together two pages. This process makes me question whether or not I should stay in Paris or if maybe it would just be easier to move to another country. So anyone who has a great-uncle with a spare apartment in Paris, please let me know!

Don’t Cry Over Spilt Soap

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Today I have had one of those mornings that you would like to fast forward and get over and done with. It all started with me waking up this morning somewhat light-headed and wondering why my apartment smelt so nice. Sure, the floors were cleaned yesterday, but it was an unusually strong, flowery smell generally associated with clothes after my Mum has washed them.

I got up, plonked down stairs to discover a thick, white, sticky puddle oozing out from under the staircase. Uh oh. That would be my laundry soap that was accidentally knocked over yesterday and that has now spread throughout my kitchen and under the stair case.

Soap is hard to clean up because all it wants to do is make more suds and the more soap there is (and the more concentrated) the more suds there are, the stickier the mess and generally the more annoying the clean up. I tried soaking up the excess soap with some paper towels but then had to dash off to meet Becky for our morning run. The soap had gone straight up my nostrils and gave me head spins (fairly certain I saw daisies floating through the air.) Anyway, I then came home and had a soapy floor and some things I had stored under the stairs to deal with. Fun.

It didn’t stop there, of course, because today I also planned on doing my washing and luckily there was still some soap left in the bottle. But as I went to insert my 3 Euros into the money machine to make the communal washing machines work, it just chewed up my first Euro as the machine was full of coins. I went to ask one of the people in charge of the residency if they would mind coming to fix it but apparently that isn’t their job and I have to wait until someone else comes. So I haven’t done my washing, I have a very flowery apartment and I didn’t get to eat breakfast until 9.45am. GRRRR…

Green Fingers

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Look at what I grew!

Hyacinth

Hello.

Two weeks ago, I paid a visit to one of larger plant nurseries in Paris, Truffaut, and purchased a few green things for the apartment. This included a hyacinth bulb that had a small, green bud poking its head out of the leaves. This week exciting things happened and within a day it had transformed from green lumps to bright purple petals. It was truly amazing – I put it on my desk in front of me as I worked and over a two hour period it opened up. I have never stopped to watch plants grow – I should do it more often.

There is a second bud starting to form behind the leaves and I hope it doesn’t do too much over the next week while I am away visiting my brother in England. Unfortunately you can’t stop nature.

While at Truffaut I also bought two leafy green things for me and a cactus for Tom. They are both surviving and actually growing which is some sort of miracle as I have a tendency to kill plants.

Plant

Apparently this plant is dangerous to small children. I have left Magyver in charge.

Maiden hair fern

My maiden hair fern is so soft compared to Tom's spiky cactus.

Christmas is Coming!

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

There’s something about Europe and it turning me into an anti-scrooge – I actually like Christmas here. Weird. As a result, I went and bought a mini Christmas tree and decorations from my favourite store, the Hema. I managed to get a tree, red baubles and lights for a mere 9 Euros! BARGAIN!

Christmas decorations

What a great buy.

Today Tom and I ceremoniously started decorating our apartment, getting into the festive spirit for our first Christmas living together (Nawww! How romantic!)

Christmas decorations

Technically these are stars, not baubles.

This afternoon I am going back to the Hema to buy more baubles because there just isn’t enough bling on our tree. So stay tuned for “Finished tree” photos but for now here is the gang getting ready for Christmas in Paris.

Christmas trees

Everyone is excited about Christmas – particularly Martin

We have hung the fairy lights above the couch because there were too many for the tree. They look so sparkly and provide additional light in a normally dark corner of our apartment!

Christmas lights

Ooh sparkly!

L’eau Chaud

Monday, December 5th, 2011

I am currently hoping that a truck with “Techno Hygiene” written on the side is here to fix the hot water. There is currently none. It’s amazing how much you love hot water when you don’t have it anymore. It stopped working yesterday evening and now a building with 80+ apartments has no hot water. Of course, there are also lots of homeless people on the street who also have no hot water. Who knows how long it will take the French to fix it seeing as everything around here takes so long to do. I think I’ll survive but it isn’t my fault if I stink.