A place to call my own… thanks to Sweden.

They say two of the most stressful things you’ll do in life are public speaking and moving house. Clearly ‘they’ never talked to John McClane. Now that guy knows stress! If these are the biggest stresses in our lives, a little sweating, some careful planning and some heavy lifting (not unlike Lenny Henry’s sex life up until this year) then lucky us and long may it continue. From the list of things that are stressing the author of this blog out, I can almost scratch ‘moving house’ off. Well half off. Like ‘moving house’.

When I moved out to this side of the world in October of 2009 (I completely missed the chance to write an intended ‘HongKongniversary’ post) I managed to pack everything I would need and nearly everything I owned into one single suitcase and a shoulder bag… and it was easy. A suit, toiletries and my laptop were really the only things I had to worry about. After a year and two different dwellings I had amassed an array of additional papers, bags, paper bags, cables (oh so many cables), books and electronics and yet still moving all my worldly possessions took one taxi ride and one extra pair of hands. It was startling and sort of depressing to see my girlfriend storm through all my stuff in the Nest like a hurricane in eyeliner. Within 10 minutes it all been packed away in tight little bundles. Within 10 minutes it was as if I had never been there. 4 months of my life and not a mark left behind. If I keep going through my life like this I worry the cleaning of my house after I die will take something like half an hour. Sure there’d be a brief and courteous discussion about where to dispose of my Spider-man suit but what would I leave behind? If it was up to the eyeliner’d whirlwind nothing except ‘that bag that may have been nice like 5 years ago’.

Now I have the space to spread out and leave crap I don’t need lying around to create headaches when I leave. This week I moved into a nice little (very little – this is Hong Kong remember) two-bedroom apartment in Hung Hom in Kowloon district. I’d give you the address to look me up on Google’s spy network but that’s creepy. Don’t do it. It’s up on the 21st floor, it has a view of a mountain out one side and the sea of Victoria Bay out the other. The first time I see the apartment I see none of this however. It’s night. All I can see is dust and grit. I say ‘see’, I mean ‘feel’. It lay so thick it made an almost audible crunch as I walked in. Also the door handle fell off as I left. I couldn’t help but hear a comedic tuba playing in the background.

But I loved it! So I took it. It and it’s lower rent, it’s weird Hong Kong shower which is just a showerhead sticking out of the wall in a tiled bathroom. That last one had me a little apprehensive until it dawned on me I could take a shower AND a shit at the same time! Truly, I would be living the dream. One minor point I should mention is the total lack of furniture. It was naked, just tiles and wood paneling. Not even a kettle. I ask you, what is an Englishman, more to the point a Yorkshireman, doing in a flat without a sodding kettle? As much as it physically pained me to admit it however, tea was not the most important item on the agenda. Something to sleep on would be nice. There was only one thing for it, one option, one destination where I could find all the home things I would need for a relatively cheap price, one… oh wait I put a picture up there didn’t I? Yeah it’s Ikea, shall we get on with it?

Ikea, it’s important to mention, is hellish. It fucks up more friendships/relationships than a 7 hour car ride when neither of you are sure of the exact route. It guides through every circle of furnishing hell, past all the multi-coloured tat you can’t bring yourself to care about, the thousands of different mattresses each with their own nonsensical and deeply perplexing name, through the tunnels of flat-packed terror. They have a monopoly on you as a first time flat renter because everything is right there and at quite a drop in the usual cost as well. They suck you in, give you no other option and then torture you for their own sick Swedish pleasure. Don’t believe me? The night we went there they were playing a non-stop selection of children’s playschool songs sung by ear-bleed-inducingly high-pitched American sprogs. You could almost see the pudding bowl haircuts, the ironed on grin of the soulless prick plucking his poxy guitar. So saccharine was this, so sugary sweet, I fully expected the cashiers to be handing out Ikea branded packs of Insulin to combat the diabetes their sound system has just given you. Was this a twisted ploy to make me buy something as quick as possible just to get the hell out? I asked one of the girl who worked there how she could put up with this level of torture surely banned under the Geneva Convention. She laughed but her eyes said ‘For the love of god help me! Get me out of here!’ The decision I made to walk away and not bust her out of that horrible place will keep me awake at night for the rest of my days. But I’ll be awake in a really super comfy bed!

A really super comfy bed that doesn’t fit really super well in my bedroom. It has been rendered a literal bed room seeing as the frame is such a size that the door won’t close. I was sure there was more than enough room but hey ho, no one else lives there, screw it! I love that bed, it’ll stay exactly how it is thanks very much. The other room (which is actually even smaller) currently houses the previously mentioned suitcase of worldly belongings so I will henceforth refer to it solely as my walk-in closet.

Now I wait. Wait for the internet to be connected. Wait for a sofa and a coffee table to join my fridge, TV and single chair. Wait for the couple next door to shut the hell up. Wait for it to sink in that I finally have what I wanted since I finished university in the middle of 2008, a place all of my own, to make a home in and a job to back it all up. Every so often I have to take stock and realise what I have these days. I may be so busy I feel like my head is spinning 13 hours out of the day but this is a life I have wanted for years. Once the apartment is fleshed out the way I want it to be I will have everything I wanted two years ago. Could it be that I actually am close to ‘sorting my life out’? I have no idea. All I can say is I can stop living in limbo now, things will be more focused, more settled, there will be time to breath and a place to relax.

Once I get the floor cleaned. And buy some extension cords. And a kettle.

(with ridiculous amounts of gratitude to John Ma.)


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