Thursday, July 05, 2007


The Goat and I have decided that it is about time we got married. We had been kind of thinking about it for a while and even talking about it a bit now and then, but the catalyst was, I think, a combination of my abandoning him for a long dive trip (absence making the heart grow fonder and all that) and the sudden exodus of a large portion of my university’s population, leaving several villas halfway between his office and mine empty and in need of tenants. Funny how those necessary nudges in life often come from the oddest places.

We were given our choice of three villas. We were nearly seduced by the practically brand new one with a swimming pool next door, but when the previous tenant told me the rental contract was up in January I dismissed it instantly, knowing full well that the landlord would want to jack up the rent astronomically. The other villa also had a pool, but while we were looking it over a plane headed toward the runway got so close we could have lassoed it from the garden, so we opted out of that one too. That left Villa 46a. It’s spacious (good), run down (bad) and out of the flight path altogether (excellent).

Apart from the fact that it had had a family of about ten living in it for the past nine years – and a landlord who did absolutely no maintenance – Villa 46a wasn’t bad. Filthy and down-at-heels, with crumbling, cracked plaster, chipped and warped doors, scribbled walls, a dust bowl garden, subsiding foundations and pigeons living in the light well, it’s nevertheless a house with possibilities.

Except for the kitchen. Someone, probably as a result of a bad acid trip, had decided to cover the entire place – floors, walls, cupboards – in white tile. Now, I’m very fond of white tile on floors where it belongs, but this looks like an operating room at a cheap hospital. The tile I can deal with. But the rest? The Goat and I fumigated the place last weekend just in case (there were no critters, thank goodness). The upper cabinets are too narrow to put dinner plates in (Ikea will sell us new ones), and the damp has rotted away the ugly brown cabinet doors below (now ripped out and chucked). The cleaning crew and I between us managed to scrape all the stickers off the walls and the overflowed caulking from the leaking windows. However, the pièce de horreur is the oven, which is a built-in mess that hasn’t worked in months. No question but that it needed to come out and be replaced by the Goat’s own very nice cooker.

There are great benefits in marrying an engineer. He sized up the problem, came up with a plan, and got that manky stove out without too much grief. Then, braving the 9+ years of accumulated grease on the white tiles behind the oven, he measured the opening. Eighty-nine centimeters. 89 cm? What kind of a moron leaves an 89 cm gap in a counter? Like most ranges, the Goat’s well-beloved Aga is 90 cm wide. After swearing for a few minutes, he decided we should go shopping for something that would fit. After all, it was likely that the ranges sold as 90 cm were actually not that big, even though his was (yes, he had thought to measure it in advance– aren’t engineers great?). There was a chance we'd get lucky if we looked.

We looked at what felt like a million stoves and discovered that, indeed, the standard 90 cm stoves are not necessarily that wide. But none were as narrow as 89 cm, either. We considered the one 85 cm stove we found, but it wasn't ‘full safety’, so we didn’t buy it (Even though it may deserve it, we don’t want to blow up the house). And then he got the idea that if we chiseled off the tiles, we could gain that extra centimeter and his existing cooker would fit. Brilliant.

It is a very good thing that he went to do this without me. I would have stopped him. I saw him several hours after he’d started the job, fingers bound in band aids. From the look of the damage done by the slipped chisel and the amount of blood on the floor, he should have had stitches. Being male, however, he pooh-poohed that idea. Had I known it was going to be so difficult, I’d have suggested we just leave the gaping hole in the counter and cook over an open fire in the backyard.

He finished the chiseling yesterday while the crew cleaned and I took apart cupboard doors, and then I helped him put the sealant over the now-exposed concrete (OK, he sealed; I cleaned up the mess). And lo and behold – the gap is now 90.3 cm.

We go shopping for the new upper cupboards and cupboard doors tonight. We think the standard doors will fit. God help us if they don't.


Blogger Grumpy Goat said...

Of course the standard-width doors don't fit. That would be far too easy.

I'm going to have to be creative. The word engineer derives from ingenious!

12:13 PM  
Blogger J. Edward Tremlett said...

"the sudden exodus of a large portion of my university’s population"

Oh? What happened?

Sorry about the new place woes, but I guess those are endemic. I'm just happy we were able to find a small enough fridge for our house.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Who all left and why?

I do hope you're getting a deal on the place, given the condition it's in! Will the maintainance be better in the future?

How are plans for the wedding going?

2:26 AM  
Blogger Mme Cyn said...

Whoa -- the Exodus! We've lost about 70 profs uni wide here this term. In my department alone... Dwight, Tracey, Marcin, Awil, Jose, Jon, Kathy...have I missed anyone? About 15% of the department, and I'm not sure about ADH's leavers. Most have left for better paying jobs, and indeed that (and the apalling way people think this place is run) is the reason most cited for leaving. Then there are the ones who fell foul of Someone Higher Up and got sayonara'd, but that happens here all the time.

Yes, the Crumbling Villa is actually within my housing allowance for the moment, and we plan on staying at least two years. Now that it's painted, cleaned, and the sagging walls have been shored up, it's going to be very ... OK.

Chris -- plans are going well. I was going to wear my gold dress, but I'm too fat... I will send an email as soon as I've finished moving (which is what I should be doing now).

1:49 PM  

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