Charmed life

Moving house is an emotional time. I know this now. Mood swings just seem to gather momentum.

It goes something like this: 1) view prospective flat - love vendor for showing you somewhere you actually want to live. 2) exchange of contracts. Speak to your lawyer 15 times a day - hate vendor. 3) completion! It's yours - love vendor, all is forgiven. 4) move in - really hate vendor now.

I am currently at stage 4 - the high level loathing plateau. Once in my new abode I realised that I had purchased it from a couple who were into a rather kinky practice, namely blindfold DIY. Either that, or they only felt the urge for a bit of painting and decorating when they were completely plastered themselves. It's a scream - endless laughs for the first hour or so, until it dawned on me that I would have to unbotch this little lot. Soon I began to recognise a recurring theme throughout the flat. So much so, that I am fully expecting Clint Eastwood to come striding in and hang up his gun. No - I do not have saloon-style doors, but the words "bunch of cowboys" have been uttered by every tradesman I have been forced to call out in the last 24 hours.

Big whiff of gas in the kitchen at midnight - think I am going to be found asphyxiated on the floor before I have even unpacked my pots and pans. Call gasman - lots of head-shaking and tut-tutting . He slaps a great big "Unsafe! Illegal! Do not use!" sticker on my cooker. "It's rubber pipes, innit love. Bleedin' illegal. Been done by a bunch of cowboys, innit?"

This band of gun-slinging roughnecks have obviously called round here often. I imagine them, riding into town to the theme music from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, turning menacingly into my street, before strutting into my flat to variously cock up the cooker, the plumbing, the TV aerial and the burglar alarm.

I phone hated vendor, but she, now safely installed in suburbia, denies all knowledge of having created what can only be described as the Ponderosa Ranch of East London. The day before we moved I, as a nice friendly gesture (still in stage 3 joy) brought them round a bottle of bubbly. What well- wishing token did they leave me? About 10 large pieces of broken glass, two broken lamps, one broken fire, one old mattress and a shoulder pad. Last, but not least, 10 years of dust. So, voila, stage 4.

Meanwhile I've just got to get on with unbotching - there's a man coming to give me an estimate next week. If he's wearing cowboy boots and sucking a cigarillo, then he's got five minutes to get outa town.

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