Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lowering the Flag

The flag has come down.

No, it’s nothing political—not me getting steamed up over Brexit, Chairman May or the village idiot in the White House—and I’m still as patriotic as ever. The reason is, we’re moving.

It seems strange to be moving again so soon. We haven’t been in our new flat long enough to stop calling it “our new flat,” and now we’re going to an even newer flat. There are various reasons for this move—cost, noise, 68 steps up to the door, rubbish managing agent—but overall, I think the main reason I decided to move was to make my wife stop looking at listings for flats.

Since we moved in here, she has been scrolling through listings for flats with all the enthusiasm and glee of a 13-year-old boy perusing porn. Now this wouldn’t be an issue (hey, I’ve been there) except, unlike that 13-year-old, her obsession demands an audience.

“Look at this one,” she says, setting her laptop down on the balcony table, “it’s really nice. And this one is expensive, but look how awful it is. We couldn’t live there.”

I nod and relight my pipe.

“And, oh, I found a good one in Southwater. Look at that! It has communal gardens, and it’s on a bus line…”

The good thing was, when we finally decided the reasons for staying did not outweigh the reasons for leaving, my wife had the lowdown on every available flat within a 10-mile radius.

And so, with our criteria firmly in mind—quiet neighborhood, ample parking, big enough for our stuff, close to town, in our price range, and on the ground floor—and a perky lettings agent leading the way, we set out to view flats.

It didn’t go as easy as in the past. The first four we looked at were all either too far away and/or too expensive and/or lacking in any parking (it still amazes me how, in Britain, there are properties with absolutely no place to put a car). But then we came to a ground-floor flat that was located in a quiet cul-de-sac with on-street parking (but there were lots of empty spaces) that was within our price range and just a short walk away from town. It even had a balcony. (Yes, a ground-floor flat with a balcony. Go figure.)
Our new flat is just off of the graphic. Not too far from the town centre.
It ticked every box, and so we took it. Then we realized we hadn’t actually checked that it was big enough for our stuff, but we figured it had to be about the same size as where we are living now so we didn’t worry about it. Until I went back with a tape measure.

Our future flat, it transpires, is way smaller than our current flat.

To get some perspective on how my life is shrinking: the one-bedroom flat I lived in before moving to Britain had 800 square feet of living space. Both two-bedroom flats we have lived in here have been around 720 square feet. Our future flat has only 600 square feet—an area an American wouldn’t raise veal in.
US 1 Bedroom, UK 2 Bedroom, our future flat
Consequently, we are now on a mission to jettison as much stuff as we possibly can. We downsized when we moved into this flat, but now we have to downsize in spades.

Will we manage to fit all our stuff in? Can we dispose of enough of our lives to allow us to live in such a small space and still have room to practice Limbo Dancing (if we ever want to take it up, I mean.)?

All that remains to be seen. In the meantime, I have forbidden my wife from looking at any more flats, lest she suddenly find “the perfect property” and leave us forever regretting this rash decision. (I’m pretty sure she still scrolls through the listings when I’m not looking, though.)

Oh, and the flag. Well, there’s really nothing to stop me from putting it up—no regulation that I know of—but a flag flying from a ground floor balcony will simply make me a target. And you just know some little oik will steal it.

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