Sunday, October 03, 2010

Settling in...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

I still have no internet, so I can’t see what is going on in the States regarding the ninth anniversary of 9/11, but I expect there are memorial services all across the nation and perhaps even some protests. I hope those morons who are planning a Qur’an burning think better of their scheme, it will do nothing except create more resentment against Americans on the part of Muslims worldwide. How would they feel if a bunch of Iraqis, unhappy over the deaths of their compatriots in George Bush’s personal little vendetta, burned a few barrels of Bibles?

I am sleeping better here in the new house. I am not sure why except, perhaps, I feel more settled. We own the house and, despite the rude surprises we keep finding (newest surprise: the kitchen stove works erratically at best), the house is ours, we decide what to fix and when, and we should not have to pull up stakes and bugger off to parts unknown again, since Eskom now has Hubby in HQ and probably won’t change that anytime soon. They have nearly 20 years of new build projects ahead of them and his expertise is required on them all.

We are largely done with the unpacking. The study is still boxed up as is my sewing stuff, but the boxes are out of the cottage where we had them stored, so I will soon be able to photograph it and put ads on the internet to rent it out. Of course, I’ll need my internet connection back, but that is in the works. The pool guy has spent two days digging and laying pipe but still doesn’t have the pool working, and we are awaiting a quote from the handyman guy for the list of 30+ items that require his attention. The house was not left in the best condition, a victim of studied neglect and less-that-stellar housekeeping. I don’t profess to be the world’s most immaculate housekeeper, but in a country where every middle-class household has a maid and the supermarket bulletin boards are full of ads from women looking for maid work, there’s just no excuse for crusted crap under the stove knobs and on the switches on the wall behind the stove.

My maid, Thandiswe, is working overtime to help get this place in shape. Truth be told, she’s doing a lot more…and harder…work than I am. We are missing some stuff, but I expect it will turn up as we continue opening boxes and distributing their contents. The new dishwasher is here, but not connected yet, as we can’t find the drain connection, but hopefully the handyman will be able to help us with that.

The kitchen stove is a nightmare. First of all, it is one of those ceramic glass things, which I hate even more than I hate the electric plate-type stove. Secondly, it is grimy…I am afraid what we’ll find under it when it is removed. Third, it doesn’t work properly: when I tried to boil water last night to cook some pasta, every time the burner heated up to full heat, it turned itself off. There are no numbers on the knobs to let you know the level of heat you are calling up, but if you turn the knob all the way to the end of its travel, it shuts off the burner. Cooking on this thing is quite the challenge, as you can’t be sure the burner will stay hot or if it will decide it needs a rest and shut itself off. Hubby, however, has solved the problem for me…he bought me a gas stovetop (hob) and the installer is on his way to take a look at the job. This will be a vast improvement!!

Day 12: settling in

Well, nothing is fixed yet…the handyman, despite promises to send us a quote for the 33 items on my list plus a few more things, has not followed through. Nothing with this house seems easy, but somehow it isn’t demoralizing the way it was with Hell House.

To install the gas bottles for the new stove, we are going to have to build a little brick shelter for the bottles. Code requires that the bottles be located at least two meters away from a drain and not near windows, etc., which gives us little leeway for position. Apparently in some of the oldest parts of town underground gas lines still exist, but we aren’t there so we have to use bottled gas. But that’s OK…it’s what Gramma Violet had out on the farm when I was a kid and it is what I used very successfully in Cape Town. They install two 19 litre bottles with a switching mechanism so that when one goes empty, I can switch over to the other one, and have a virtually uninterrupted flow of gas. I still have to struggle with the stove-with-a-mind-of-its-own for the rest of the week, but the oven kinda works (it seems to run hot) so I can roast and broil most things. Cooking scrambled eggs this morning on a stove that shuts itself off when it feels like it was a true-to-life challenge!

Today is Sunday and the weather is lovely. We’ll probably go out for a while later, but Hubby’s gouty foot is still not well, so we’ll need to keep the hiking around to a minimum. We thought we’d go look at some nurseries and get a bead on prices…I need house plants (mine stayed in Cape Town) and we need a few things for the garden for screening along the boundary walls. I also have some outdoor pots that need plants. We live in Sandton, a pricey area, and we assume any nurseries we find here will reflect that fact. Witkoppen Road, near where we used to live, has mile after mile of nurseries, some of them with tea gardens, and we expect not only lower prices, but a welcome for the Yorkie, assuming we keep her in her pram. She hasn’t had an outing with us in ages, so this should excite and delight her.

A strange man came to the door yesterday, a black man with a couple of other men in a yellow bakkie (small pickup). He claimed to have been with the man who picked up a bunch of trash for me the other day…I don’t know what the other men were up to, but they were going to other houses…and asked me for money for petrol, saying he would carry away the compost heap the last owners left us! I didn’t recognize the guy and sent him away, but the experience was odd…do these people really expect complete strangers to just give them money…or even get close enough to the security gate to get grabbed? Crooks sometimes amaze me with their arrogance and stupidity…but I have to shake my head at some of the stuff victims fall for or things they do that make them targets. Do you put your handbag on the passenger seat beside you when you drive? Don’t be surprised when you become the victim of a “smash and grab,” where someone breaks your car window with a brick, rock, or hammer and grabs your handbag and runs while you are stuck at a traffic light. Happens all the time here, and you’d think by now women would know better.

In Cape Town we constantly had “visitors” at the front door with scams and sad stories trying to pry me loose from some cash. And while I am sure some of the people were in desperate straits, a man in new Levis and Nikes doesn’t strike me as a guy whose fortunes have badly floundered. We have a rule in our household…we don’t give money…never. If a person is hungry and asks for food, we give food…always. But we don’t offer it. Seems that one of the common scams is to get money to feed a bad habit…like drugs or alcohol…by concocting a sob story and playing on the sympathies of affluent householders. Many people refuse to give money but offer food, only to find their kind offerings abandoned at the corner near their house, discarded because the drug dealer won’t trade tik for a half a loaf of bread and liquor stores demand cash. So, we don’t give cash and only food when it is requested.

But evidently enough people pass out cash that the scammers are encouraged to continue. This guy apparently observed my refuse removal because he referenced the “white bakkie” that was used and he claimed to have been the helper, but the helper was the brother of the driver, so surely he would know the driver’s name? I am thinking that the guy (or someone he knows) observed the hauling and decided to take a chance that I’d be sympathetic to his “situation” and give him money based on the idea that I should have recognized him and, not being able to, would be a bit ashamed of myself and give money to assuage that shame. I ain’t falling for it. It wasn’t Mike’s brother, he didn’t even know Mike was Kenyan!

We just got the quote from the handyman…Tuesday morning at 7 the work starts and with any luck, Thandiswe will be able to move into her own room no later than Wednesday. Since her satellite TV hookup will be installed Monday, this should make her a happy camper! She values her privacy such that she is bathing and cooking in the cottage rather than in the main house, so having her own private space should make her happy. This house has a really large staff room, bigger than my own bedroom. But, it has to serve as a studio flat, so it needs to be big. Other houses we looked at had a staff room barely big enough for a double bed, a fact Thandiswe discovered to her surprise when she met and visited with the maids on our street when we lived in Hell House. She came home and told me, the shock evident in her face and voice, that the maids she visited had rooms no bigger than my dressing room. I suspect she was subtly checking to see how big her room would be at the new house, and I assured her that her space would be generous and we’d see to it that it was comfortable.

So, Tuesday the handyman puts in her new toilet and will replace some damaged cornice, then she can finish her painting and get moved in. And I hope she is happier there…she’s already using her own wash lines to hang out her laundry, and has moved her dishes and other possessions in…I think she’s anxious to get her own space back, it’s been nearly a year that she’s had to share space with us.

4 PM
We’ve been out and about most of the day, Puddin' riding along in her pram or the baby sling Hubby got for her. It’s the longest outing she’s had since we moved up to Joburg and she had some great fun. Garden centres here often have tea gardens where you can have something to drink and a light snack, and we stopped at one where we had a sandwich and she, from her stroller, had a wonderful time barking at the chickens prowling about the place. Quite funny, considering that she loves chicken so much that if you so much as say the word in her presence, she pricks up her ears and starts looking for her share, and while we doubt she associates the chicken tidbits we feed her with the creatures prowling around the tea garden, she had a great time barking at them. Now, however, she is worn out, sprawled in my lap, her chin on my knee, snoozing it off.

We got the toilet for Thandiswe’s room and the cistern kits for the rest of the malfunctioning toilets, and six star jasmine plants to put in the flower beds in front of the cottage. When the damp-affected wall is repaired, we’ll be putting the cottage up for rent and a filled flower bed shows better than an empty one. So, tomorrow the pool guy returns, the alarm guys return, and the satellite TV guys come back to put in the HDTV decoder and the extra cabling. Tuesday the handyman starts his work and sometime in the undetermined future the phone company should come in and install the phone lines and the ADSL lines. Next Saturday the gas installers should be here to put in the new stove and then I should be able to start unpacking the study and the sewing and put the house finally to rights.

6 PM
Just found out that the lovely Jacuzzi tub doesn’t work. Got water, got plug, got tub…jets do not function. How much you wanna bet the Mr. Seller knew this and failed to mention it??

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