Saturday, July 15, 2006

Movin’, movin’, movin’

(New desk, click for bigger image)

I’ve often blogged about how often I move. However, the last two years in Cambridge I managed to stay in the same building and just upgrade rooms. Easiest move ever: just prop two doors open and carry everything up a flight of stairs.

Now, though, I’ve finally done it. Private accommodation, outside the sheltering womb of college and onto the UK rental market. After looking at some total dives, I got lucky. There’s a flat just behind the law faculty that’s been handed down through a few generations of Trinity Hall PhD students now. The location is ideal, the rent is very good and the carpets … well, let’s not talk about the carpets.

The flat is, a rarity for Britain, let without furniture. The system that’s evolved is incoming flatmates pay the out-goer for their room furnishing and the communal bits and bobs, then add and subtract as they see fit.

I immediately wanted to subtract a desk (huge, government issue, ugly with heavy metal filing drawers), a small wardrobe with vanity (less than 30 centimetres rail space) and a chest of drawers. The drawers were amusing. You could open three of four on any given day, but with few guarantees as to which. (“Right, I’m just about ready to go out … but it seems my socks and underwear are not. Hmm …”)

So I hit the local Salvation Army store where the finest in Cambridge’s veteran and slightly scarred furniture turns up. I found a big sturdy wardrobe, an impulse-buy armchair and a mock-Edwardian, seven-drawer writing desk. The nice people there even said they’d take away my old furniture as a donation (and, frankly, a kindness) when they delivered.

I paid up and turned to leave when I saw the fateful sign: “It is your responsibility to check furniture will fit through your doors.”

I measured the width of my new desk. About 80 centimetres and thought of the narrow front door to the new flat. “It’ll be fine,” I thought.

Getting home, I measured the back of the door, 81 cm, and sighed with relief.

Then realised the door has a thickness. Opened, the thickness of the door would have to be subtracted from the width of the frame. I measured the door's thickness, 4 cm.

“It’ll be fine!” I thought, not very convinced.

Next day the Salvo’s arrived and genially hauled my first piece up the stairs: the desk. Lining it up with door, it just wouldn’t go through. It couldn’t be angled around as the stairway was too tight, the door opened into a tiny vestibule and the desk’s sides were solid.

“Um,” I said in desperation, “if you lend me a screwdriver, I’ll take the front door off its hinges.”

So, they schlepped to and fro with furniture old and new(er), while I removed the front door and parked it inside.

The desk was heaved up again, rotated on its side and gently eased towards the door frame. And stopped.

“Just needs another quarter of an inch,” one of the deliverers said. “Tell you what. Take the screwdriver and see if you can get the top off.”

Fortunately, it looked like this had been done before: a variety of screws secured the writing surface on only three sides. With the top off, it slid through. Just.

“You like this because it had character, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I answered sheepishly, “I guess I just didn’t realise how much.”

“Hmm. Do you want us to stay while you reassemble that, or are you going to buy a screwdriver?”