new house

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Rocket Assisted Waking-Up

My wife and I are both very busy people. So busy, that a full day’s work is not enough for us. So we continue our activities during the night. I, for instance, work on my coming acting career. At the moment I’m learning how to really get into a character. I started with simple things, such as chain-saws and gradually moved to more complex real characters such as grizzly-bears. If I continue at this pace, in a couple of weeks I will be able to play the most perfect ‘snoring man’ that you’ve ever seen (or rather, heared). You can imagine what concentration this demands, it’s really tiring.

Mrs. Bartlog on the other hand ponders. She can lay awake half of the night thinking about things, or rather worrying about things. By the time the sun thinks about lifting its head over the horizon, she has convinced herself that things are getting out of hand and that action should be taken now. So the moment I tentatively open one eye, or just twitch it during my sleep, she gives her analysis of the situation and explains what we have to do right away, in a load and agitated voice.

The effect on me is absolutely startling. It’s like reaching out of bed with a sleepy head for your slippers, only to notice that somehow your feet got strapped to two patriot missiles that blast off in different directions. Normally it takes me an hour or so to really be counted among the living, but every time she does this I cling to the ceiling.

We’re virtually bankrupt’, she shouted this morning in a panicky voice. ‘We have loads of bills to pay, I have to save money to pay my taxes next year and we’ll have to pay the insurance for the car next year in May!

I mumble some calming words, but she’s not nearly finished.

We can’t spend anymore on the house! If we’ve spent all the money for the month, you’ll just have to postpone things until later!

Wait a minute! She was the one that decided that I should refurbish 6 rooms before the end of the year! And I was the one who said a while ago that we should slow things down because we don’t have the necessary time or budget. So why is she yelling at me?

I unfasten the missiles, put on my slippers and stumble down the stairs. Honestly, there should be a law against some female practices so early in the morning. And why is my throat so dry? It feels like I’ve been shouting all night.

Dead Serious

To prevent our social life from really coming to a complete standstill, we visited some friends this Saturday evening. Despite the four of us being very tired – which showed because we couldn’t help yawning and you know how it is when one person starts that game – it was very nice. Of course, since they also bought a house recently, the conversation quickly turned to the various aspects of home-ownership, moving from one place to another and settling in.

- ‘So’, said my friend’s wife, ‘it’s not that far from the cemetery.’

- ‘No’, I replied.

- ‘I always wondered, if you’re sitting in your garden can you smell the crematorium?’

Stunned looks all around. She was dead serious.

- ‘Yes’, I recovered quickly, ‘every time I smell that scent I feel like setting up the barbecue.’

Of Cats and Men

Cats and men/women have been living together for thousands of years. When prehistoric men first took a cat in his home, the cat couldn’t do much wrong since everything was made of stone, including cups and vases – which weighed about a quarter of a tonne, and the cave’s walls. People didn’t move around a lot either, because there were only so many caves around.

Nowadays, moving from one house to another creates a whole new set of problems. Both people and cats want to make themselves at home in the new house. People do this by making everything nice, for instance by putting wallpaper on the walls. Cats do this by marking their new territory, for instance by scratching the new wallpaper of the walls. People use the opportunity to install an impressive audio and video system, including digital TV, surround sound and linking up everything in one giant media centre. Cats make themselves cosy by chewing up every cable they can find.

So this weekend I spent most of my time making everything cat-proof. The computer now has its own room, which is strictly off limits to our feline devils. I tucked away the internet, stereo and telephone cables safely away, even if that meant I had to drill holes in every wall in the house. And in the mean time I kicked their little buts every time I caught them looking at the wallpaper. Not that there is much left of it, especially in the dining room where we put the most expensive wallpaper. Those were also the last rolls available, so reparation will be impossible. I wonder how Macka and Snijeg know all this.

You Move Me

Voila, it’s done. After months of meticulous planning (Where you want that – Erm, dunno. Basement ?) we finally moved to our new house. As with our wedding, the weather gods didn’t exactly help us out. Instead of the cold drizzle and occasional showers we got during our wedding, this time they threw a smouldering heath wave on us. Okay, the wall paper glue and the paint dried quickly, but it made the cement and plaster crack too. And toiling for days on end in 30°C is no fun, even when you’re used to desert heat like I do.

Things were tense until the last minute. Twenty-four hours before moving, the diner room’s walls still needed plastering at places, the ceiling needed to be painted for a second time and then we could finally start decorating it. Friday night I was still taking furniture apart in the apartment, while Mrs. Bartlog was frantically cleaning up the new place. Luckily we managed to sleep that night, by sheer exhaustion and because we threw the cats in the living room so we could open all windows and have a gentle fresh breeze cool us down.

Next morning it was stress-stress-stress from the first second after opening my eyelids. Finish taking apart the furniture before the mercenaries arrived. We had nine friends and family members helping us out, and they were all experienced furniture haulers. I took care of logistical coordination, and before I get any snappy comments: I worked my ass off dragging everything on the van we rented. It was the biggest size we could get with a car’s licence, and I suspect we seriously overloaded it. It made funny noises when I left with my first cargo and it swayed from left to right every time I drove over a manhole cover or a dent in the road.

Just at that point it started to rain. You see, Belgium’s been sweating for weeks on end under a heat wave, praying for just a little rain. And right at the point where we want to offload or stuff and carry it into the house, it starts to pour. But without hesitation, our helpers set out to work, keeping our photo-albums and paintings above their heads for protection. We should’ve thought a bit more about what we were going to set in which room, because some rooms were stuffed with stuff and others are as empty as our bank accounts. But anywhere, there we went for a second run which was thankfully a short one.

I wiped away a single tear when I finally closed the door behind me for a last time, after living in that apartment for almost eight years. Sniff

The troops did a great job in putting the furniture together again, despite the fact that I put the nuts and bolts of different pieces of furniture together in one bag (per room mind you, I’m not completely daft). The next day, my parents in law dropped by to help us load everything in the cupboards and on the shelves, so we have a fully functioning house now.

But there shall be no rest for the wicked, for in my wife’s head plans are brewing. About redecorating the sleeping room, and making her an office, and redoing the hall way and the stair case. And the room for the baby… Oh yes, there is work to be done for old Bart, and not just with a paintbrush.

NO PANIC

Sorry, no time to blog. Busybusybusy. Walls to plaster. Gaps to fill. Ceilings to paint. We're moving on Saturday, and we still got tons to pack. I have to take the furniture apart. Oh, and rent a van. And inform the water/telephone/internet/electricity company. Must run off now, bye...

Forget About Senility (Again)

Sunday was the first time we could work a full day in our brand new vintage villa. I dressed for the occasion, which meant a pair of shorts that are at least 16 years old and a T-shirt that got a very negative review in the 1987 Moth’s Michelin Guide. Yes, it was going to be a long hot day.

Wearing those shorts gave a bit of a logistical problem, because when I put my mobile, my keys and my wallet in my pockets, they tended to slid down to my ankles. I was afraid to damage the good relations we have so far with our neighbours at both sides, so when we arrived I quickly decided to empty my pockets. I put my keys and my cell phone on the chimney in the kitchen, and I put my wallet… I put my wallet… somewhere…

 

We started removing the wall paper in the living room, which was not easy but by noon it was almost completely finished. Then we started on the dining room, where we were faced with a very experimental way of decorating a room. Apparently, the previous owners had put rubber matting against the wall. Because the stuff must have weighed considerably, the used the same glue that NASA uses to stick the heat resistant tiles on the bottom of the Space Shuttle. However, the rubber mats weren’t glued directly on the wall, our predecessors put up a triplex wall that wasn’t too difficult to remove. My wife released the emotional rage she had accumulated over the past couple of months and I hope it wasn’t me that has been nagging her because that room was finished in the blink of an eye.

However, getting back to our main subject, sometime during that process my stuff was moved to another location, and then moved again.

 

So after a hard day’s work, concluded by an excellent T-bone steak of colossal proportions on the barbecue, I gather my stuff to return home. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember where I had put my wallet. I searched everywhere and then started to wonder if I’d taken it there in the first place. Probably not, was my conclusion. It must be at home.

When we returned, there was no wallet to be found. Then I started to get really worried. Did I leave it with my parents-in-law the day before? No, of course not because when we returned I distinctly remembered putting it on the dashboard. Yikes! Did I leave it in the car? No, there was no trace of burglary this morning.

I jumped into the car and drove back to the new house, with much chagrin. I may have killed the odd pedestrian and someone’s dearly missed pet underway, I don’t know. But a very thorough search there didn’t produce the damn wallet either. Now I really broke into a sweat, my train pass was in my wallet and without it I couldn’t go to work the next morning and I had to take a job interview at 10 and send a very extremely important letter that was already urgently overdue…

When I came home again (score: one cyclist, an old lady in a wheel chair and half a busload of Japanese tourists following their guide’s red umbrella), I admitted defeat to my wife. On which she promptly jumped out of the sofa, stepped to the sports bag with our spare clothes and produced the missing wallet.

 

I’d searched that bag three times. In my defence: the inside of it is black, as is my wallet. When she gave it to me I remembered I put my wallet in there so it wouldn’t get lost in the house. I also remembered thinking I mustn’t forget that I put it in there.

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