Monday, 17 March 2008


We have new neighbours. The young Chinese professional couple living on one side of us quietly moved out at the end of last year and after a period of non-occupancy have now let out the flat.

This involved a sequence of gathering boxes, then moving out the stuff they wanted, then finally calling a clean-up company to dispose of the rest and spring clean the flat. You might have thought professional house cleaners would be well prepared but this lot were more like scavengers with mops. Everything being thrown away was picked over for residual value and the rest thrown into whatever box or bag they could find to be dragged along the corridor, down the lifts and dumped in the void deck.

Then the estate agents turned up. Cue difficulties with keys and much malarkey on the mobile to owners. I think it was badly cut key copies but it took 4 people to sort out.

Then the stream of rag-tag families traipsing to viewings. It was at this point we moseyed over to have a nose about. Their place is a rough mirror of ours, a 4 room flat, i.e. 3 bedrooms plus living room and kitchen. It's being let semi-furnished (sofa, tables) but no white goods or beds.

A new family has now moved in but I've no idea of how many or what relation everyone is. It's the cast of War and Peace over there with untold relations, friends and kids visiting. Moving in the main furniture was done by a removal company. I say company, but it's a gaffer, a flat-bed trunk and 2 lifters. Imagine the 3 Stooges with mattresses. These basic removal services are very common here and provide a reasonably cheap way to move things around, but it's best to keep an eye on them and your stuff to avoid bumps, breakage or even loss. In this case, the confusion peaked when they tried to manoeuvre a mattress into my living room.

Next day, a guy arrived with a bottle of gas for the cooker. These flats are plumbed with city gas but there's a monthly standing charge so many people use bottled propane instead because it's as cheap to eat out or buy back (da bao) than to cook. Our landlord left a bottle with a couple of inches of gas sloshing in it. That was 18 months ago and we are still using it.

Then the new furniture arrived (matresses and some cupboards), delivered with a bit more care. and since then, a never ending stream of junk, carried each day by the returning hoard. Now, you may think that a pejorative description, but you haven't see it. 8 stacked plastic stools? broken mops, odd lamp shades, a busted window air con unit, countless unidentified bags. The place must be nearly full after a week of these ad hoc deliveries.

They seem pretty quiet (significant praise coming from me) and for the most part, the only visible difference is the clothes horse and so called shoe rack outside the door. As usual, it's full of tatty sandals, flip-flips and smelly trainers that absolutely no-one will ever steal. These ex-shoe collections are a common sight on landings. I would have taken the opportunity during a house move to whittle them down to the ones with a chance of being worn at some point. Alas not.