I like to think, lovely readers, that I am a 21st century woman perfectly capable of building flat packed chairs myself. I went and picked them up from the store, drove home, and carried them from my car up to my gorgeous new first floor flat all alone and just fine whilst Dale was at the cinema this afternoon.
And I cannot emphasise enough that these things are really heavy. I certainly won't be bothering with any other kind of exercise today. By the time I fell- sweaty, bruised, and bleeding ever so slightly- into the flat with the fourth and final outrageously heavy and awkward-sized box, I thought I might sleep for a week.
But I didn't. I opened the boxes, took out the parts, and had just begun to build when I had a message from Dale to say that the film had finished and he was ready for me to meet him and do some errands in town.
Now we're home and, thanks to one teeny, tiny mistake of putting a screw in the wrong way up (I did still manage to build it), I am banned from all building duties and am only to contribute when absolutely necessary.
The upside of all this, of course, is that I am finally able to write to you to tell you all about my latest adventure: Living With a Boy.
I have lived with boys before. I've got two brothers. I naively thought that meant that I didn't have much to learn from moving in with Dale. I was wrong.
I have learnt so much.
About Dale. About relationships. About flat packed furniture, council tax, delivery companies, home scents, toilet ducks, kitchen appliances, and more.
And here I am going to tell you all about it.
So whether you are somebody who has experienced this all yourself, is about to, or is looking forward to doing so one day, please make a cup of tea, sit back, and enjoy my Guide to Moving Into Your First Home...
Chapter 1: What I have learnt about my boyfriend, and possibly boys everywhere:
1) Size does matter.
At least when it comes to the television.
Dale chose the television, and has since told anyone and everyone who will listen what size it is. And every single male that has crossed into this flat since we moved in two weeks ago has immediately commented on how big it is, and asked for its exact measurements.
I could not be less bothered.
This morning, Dale came into the kitchen as I was washing up, kissed me on the cheek and said 'I think I'm going to buy you a special treat.' I immediately- and somewhat stupidly- thought he was going to say a creme egg. (I have serious creme egg issues, but more on that later.)
'Yes?' I replied hopefully, already thinking we could get three for a pound if we go to the right place.
"I'm going to buy you a bigger television for the spare bedroom."
We definitely do not need a bigger television for the spare bedroom.
But apparently it's important.
2) His ideas about storage are vastly different from mine.
Paint a picture in your mind. We're unpacking everything, excitedly deciding what to put where. I'm immediately reminded of a story that my parents regularly told me as a child- that the first day they lived together Mum went through all the food that she had bought and Dad was so excited to hear about it.
Dale casually points up to what we have decided is the Hot Drinks Shelf, and says 'if there's not enough room for all that coffee we could always put it in the airing cupboard.'
Now, please, please tell me if I have got this wrong. But I always thought the airing cupboard was for clean bath towels and bedding. The occasional beach towel, maybe.
Have I been missing something all these years by not keeping my tea and coffee in there?!
Answers on a postcard.
Or in a comment below.
Either is fine.
3) As hard as he tries, chores are a battle...
To my absolute delight, on our first full day in the house, I was working and Dale was at home when I received the following text message:
"You know that kind of nappy thing that you put on the mattress? I found one. Is it a single one? I couldn't get it on."
By nappy thing, he means bottom sheet.
And yes, it was a double one.
Chapter 2: What I have learnt about moving:
1) I don't want to do it again.
I was warned that if we were going to buy, we needed to make sure it was absolutely the right choice because moving is expensive.
So we went with renting.
What I have learnt is that even moving into a rented flat costs a lot physically and emotionally.
Obviously I wasn't going in completely blind. I have moved out of my mum's plenty of times to live in all kinds of places. In an interview I once had I confidently said that I don't think any living situation could surprise me now, I've done them all.
Which is true.
But I've never moved out totally before.
And I've never moved anywhere unfurnished.
Which, it turns out, makes a big difference to unpacking, and to upsetting the neighbours by needing to get rid of enough cardboard to build a fort bigger than the whole block of flats put together.
Equally, we were warned that buying a house together is a bigger commitment than marriage.
Honestly? I think that filling a rented flat with flipping-hard-to-put-together flat pack furniture is a bigger commitment than marriage. Dale pointed out the other day that we can never move out because we're not taking the bed down so that we can get it through the front door again. So this is it. We're growing old here in a two bedroom, first floor flat in central Chelmsford.
2) It takes ages.
I quite regularly meet people at work who say that they can't book an appointment because they are moving house.
For a year and a half that has bothered me. Moving takes a day. What's all the fuss about?
Now it's two weeks since moving day- moving day for two adults into a relatively small flat- and from where I am sitting I can see boxes, upside down chairs, screws, a couple of lamps with no bulbs, and approximately eight instruction manuals.
And I'm wondering whether going to the cinema later will be an irresponsible waste of time.
3) Chapter 3: What I have learnt about living as a grown up.
As I said above, I have moved out plenty of times before. I have rented, and I have had various homes- apartments, hotels, even tents on several occasions- provided as part of my employment- and so I thought I had lived like a grown up before.
But I have never been totally responsible for the upkeep of the entire property before. Okay, I had to keep my tent tidy (and did a great job- the team used to make fun of my tent for looking like a Guest one. Something I'm very proud of), but that didn't exactly leave me with plenty of rooms to keep on top of.
So here is what I have learnt now that I am well and truly living as an adult (disclaimer: I've no doubt I will eat my words once I am paying a mortgage.)
1) We will argue.
We were warned that we would argue. We have been together for just over two and a half years. Of course we have argued. But we were warned that moving in together heightens that.
Now I am aware that we are only two weeks in, and am sure that we will argue about lots more things than this.
But so far, here are the wonderful arguments that we have had:
*Moving is stressful vs No it isn't.
*Delivery companies are stupid vs No they aren't.
*Recycling is worth it vs Just chuck it all in the same place.
*Hollywood Studios isn't worth going to now vs YES IT STILL IS.
*Home scents matter vs They are a stupid waste of money.
*Here is everything that's happening in my work right now vs Stop talking about work. It's the weekend.
*Craig David is on the radio, nice treat! vs Where have you been? He's everywhere right now.
*Making the bed is worth it vs It's a stupid waste of time.
2) There are more home scent options than homes in the whole of the UK.
I have found myself tearing my hair out in the supermarket, watching as other women have confidently marched up to the shelf and taken the one they are sure is going to make their house smell beautiful. Absolutely no hesitation.
Who do I trust? Febreze? AmbiPur? Airwick? Does a brand name matter? Can I get one I've never heard of? Do I want a plug in? A ball? A stand alone? Then what scent? Is it really going to smell like Fresh Linen? What on earth does Frost Pine smell like? Will apple cinnamon be overpowering?
Do there need to be so many options?
I've spent an absolute fortune.
On Saturday evening I was in the lounge and Dale heard- from the kitchen- a click so familiar that he immediately shouted 'please do not tell me you have bought another scent?'
To save you any research I would highly recommend Ambi Pur 3volution in Cotton Fresh.
The same applies to Toilet Duck and Toilet Bleach, but I haven't done the research yet. Any wisdom you can pass on would be highly appreciated.
3) You're expected to Just Know.
On day three we put our rubbish where it seemed obvious it should go, only to get a rather snotty note put on the wall for all residents to read. (Nobody will ever know it was us, but still.)
We don't know how or when to start paying council tax (we have now registered- don't panic), who or when we start paying for electricity and water (we only know there are two companies involved because Pumbaa and Baloo were unlucky enough to have water issues over Christmas and told us as part of that story), how and where we recycle (I am not exaggerating about the amount of cardboard we have), or where we supposed to park.
Why does nobody tell you this stuff?
Why wasn't this a part of General Studies at college?
Okay, they couldn't have told me specifically where to park outside my future house but I could have done with a lesson or two on which questions to ask the Estate Agent.
Chapter Four: What I have learnt about buying furniture.
1) It turns you into your mother.
I am now fascinated by the inside of other people's houses. I take a moment to appreciate everything from the shade of the wood that they chose for their side tables to the type of lighting they went for, all the way down to their soap dispenser and scent. Because it will cost a lot of thought and a lot of money, and I want to decide which ideas I want to steal for my own home.
I also find myself saying things like 'has that got a coaster underneath it?' and 'I've just hoovered in there! Shoes off!'
Exactly in her voice.
2) There is a huge gap in the market for a delivery company that can arrive on the day that they say they will.
I understand that they are travelling far and wide and I am fiercely passionate about lorries not being on such tight schedules that they risk lives, but at the same time, people have things to do beside wait for a towel delivery.
Don't tell me I have to book the day off work Tuesday because that's the day you can deliver, and then tell me at 9pm on Tuesday that you won't make it until Thursday.
Does anybody else feel an uncontrollable wave of rage that this happens every single day across the country?! How do these companies function? How do people ever have things delivered?
We had to just cancel one order in the end because three separate days they said they had 'attempted a delivery' but failed, despite the fact that we had been in all day.
Dale doesn't mind.
"They do function. They function and make money because this is how it has worked for years," is what he says calmly as I pull out my laptop just a little bit too aggressively and begin vigorously typing another complaint email.
Despite his complacency, we as a household have decided to boycott online shopping. Haven't we Dale?
*He's looking at me blankly.*
3) Flat Pack Furniture is not as fun as it sounds.
Over the years I have quite often heard radio shout outs for people staying in on a Saturday night to build their new bed/wardrobe/chest of drawers, and I have always thought 'what a lovely excuse for a night in. It sounds quite fun.'
I do like having a to do list, and I like working hard and being able to look at something I have produced (hence the creation of my blog), so you'd think it would be right up my street.
In my head I always imagined having a takeaway, the radio on, following instructions and proudly watching as the results come together.
Actually what happens is that everything is delivered so far apart, and everything takes so long to build, that if we had a takeaway every time we built something we wouldn't fit through the front door anymore, let alone afford the rent.
So, genuinely, last night we had a building furniture snack of carrots and broccoli.
The instructions don't really make any sense.
You're not sure that you want to risk interpreting the coded diagrams wrongly in stage one in case you get to stage four before you realise your mistake, but unless you decide something you can't get anything done.
The second person also rarely has much to do, so I found myself staring absent mindedly and chewing on carrots for at least half of the time that I was 'helping' build the bed.
And it's never ending.
Also, this might be just us, but has anyone else ever had to add in an additional step to their DIY involving super glue?
Chapter Five: What I have learnt about myself.
1) I do have a Cadbury's Creme Egg problem.
It's something that I was always vaguely aware of- but it's not until you live with one person and one person only, who is providing you with almost permanent attention, that you realise which of your habits are issues.
It was when Dale eventually mentioned that he had found some receipts lying around that he was concerned about that I realised my struggle is real. I am addicted to Cadbury's Creme Eggs.
Be kind, please. This is always a tricky time of year for those of us belonging to CCE Anonymous.
2) It turns out my dream was always achievable.
For the past few months I have insisted that this is all too good to be true. Dale and I? Living together? In a beautiful flat that we can afford? Near my friends and family? Near the job I love? No way, something is going to go drastically wrong.
Except, (and I hate to curse it here), it hasn't.
This is it, this is life now.
I wake up to that gorgeous face every single day, and I feel so overwhelmed with happiness at every tiny thing- at being able to moan about building furniture and stupid delivery companies, at being able to go to work knowing that no matter what goes wrong I will be back at home with the best person in the world this evening, at seeing his toothbrush in the little white cup that we chose together, and the Toy Story mugs that he so proudly chose sitting in the cupboard.
And the world hasn't stopped.
The Earth is still turning and allowing me to enjoy every second.
Three years ago I wrote:
"Maybe in three years time I'll be wishing I could come back to this day- right now. The day that I spent making an Ugly Bug Ball with the gorgeous two year old that I Nanny for. Maybe I'll be wishing I could go back and live in Florida again. (I'm quite sure I'll be wishing that one.) Or maybe I'll have learnt to just be grateful for where I am.
After all....I'll be twenty-six by then. And that's really grown up :)"
I vaguely remembered that I had written something about being more grown up by twenty six, so a few weeks ago I opened up this post to read it to Dale.
I got as far as the first word of the last sentence before tears started streaming down my cheeks and my voice cracked so that I couldn't read it any more. Because somehow, without even realising...
3) My prediction about myself had come true.
I had forgotten that I used to desperately wish that I could go back to every part of my life and live it again.
Not long before I re-read that post I had said to someone at work that I actually don't find myself wishing desperately that I could go and live in Florida again. It was so wonderful, but so is now.
Last week, I was just about to go to bed when Dale burst into the bedroom: "DisneyParksBlog are live streaming Fantasmic! It's on at 7pm in Orlando which is twenty minutes. Think you can stay up?"
Fantasmic is my absolute favourite show in the entire world. It's just amazing, and I have actively avoided the music since I left because if anything is going to make me desperate to go back, it's that. So my first thoughts here were- 1) How did I ever find a boyfriend as enthusiastic and more knowledgeable about Disney than me? and 2) Am I going to face the music (so to speak) and watch it again?
Obviously I did.
And it brought back so many Florida memories.
One of which was the constant fear I had that the magic would disappear the second I landed back on UK soil, and would take Dale with it.
Watching it with Dale in our bed in our (albeit rented) flat almost three years after the adventure started brought it home to me: the adventure is never going to end because I brought the souvenir holding all that magic home with me- all five foot ten of it.
And so finally, age twenty-six, I have learnt to just be grateful for where I am...and that's really grown up :)