Home, Sweet Home

A very big thank you to all who posted helpful or supportive comments on the blog after the post about our hideous experience with the estate agents of Sydney.  Some of the suggestions were very useful (Rachel suggesting websites, Nicole suggesting helpful local agents, Jeanie; “miss out the agent and go direct to the owners”). Some of the suggestions were well intentioned but slightly less useful (Catherine;  “why not try camping or sharing with 15 other people and “hot-bedding”” and Andrew reminded us that Douglas Adams wrote way back in the 80’s that all estate agents should be put a rocket and blasted into outer space!) but we know all were meant love and kindness  so a big thank you to all!

Three weeks on we have achieved the seemingly impossible. I found an agent who I don’t want to squash and we have now moved into a three bedroomed house which will be our home for the next six months or so.  It’s not a great place and we have definitely followed general property search advice and rented the worst house in the best neighbourhood but it is ours and we are starting to make it feel like home. Actually,  it’s not a bad place and it is surrounded by great parks and fantastic beaches plus we have a ferry terminal at the end of the road as well as buses, shops and cafes galore right on our doorstep. But I am still struggling to come to terms with how much rents are in these parts. It’s slightly bigger than our place in Nagua but nowhere near the size of the house we left behind in Bournemouth. We are very happy with that choice (albeit Hobson’s!) as it does mean once again we will be much more closely involved in each other’s lives and that is one aspect of our Nagua experience that we definitely want to continue.

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Our place has three bedrooms, a small kitchen/diner leading to a small living room and then 2 small bathrooms with a laundry in between.  We have outdoor space but it stretches the imagination beyond what is reasonable to call it a garden. It has several treacherous concrete steps leading to a few weeds and a garage that our tank of a car won’t fit in!  All this for the princely sum of $700/week which is definitely on a par with central London rents.  But I guess we need to get used to the fact we are not living in a down at heel town in the third world with rats on our doorstep (Nagua) but instead in one of the most fashionable capital cities in the world.  Sydney is basically London with great beaches and great weather so it is pretty hard to top as a place to live (obviously as long as you do not require customer service of any kind!).

We have since learned that Mosman, where we now reside, is the most expensive suburb of Sydney (one of the world’s most expensive capitals) and the second most expensive suburb in the whole of Australia (there is one suburb of Perth that is dizzyingly more expensive). But it’s very near to where Vodafone started us off so it is where we had begun to make friends and the children had started school so here we are! Furthermore, due to its amazing location we are definitely getting the “Sydney” experience which is what we want. (We can still see the bridge from just outside of the house which is quite magnificent when it is illuminated at night).

On the two viewings of this house we had before we leased it, I found the house quite dark and depressing despite its “much sought after northerly aspect”. Now are living here, I have realised why; i) there are no windows in the much coveted north face so it doesn’t offer any benefit and ii) the owner must work as ship painter for the Navy as the whole place is painted in “aircraft carrier grey” (I don’t think it’s a Farrow and Ball shade!) which makes you feel you are starring in an episode of “Prisoner Cell Block H”.  I have bought a pink kettle and pink toaster in defiance – I will not live in depressive surroundings!

The property comes “unfurnished” which basically means you get walls and a roof; the rest you have to provide yourself. We came completely ill-equipped for such a move as we came on the basis of staying for 3-6months in fully furnished place in Neutral Bay. We brought only a couple of suitcases containing several encyclopaedias, the entire Doctor Seuss and Harry Potter collections and two T-shirts and a spare pair of pants for each of us.  Up until our first trip to Ikea last Sunday we didn’t even have a spoon to our name here.

We have had to start from scratch and buy everything from eggcups to beds in less than a week and it has been great fun.  Vodafone gave us some money to get started – not enough to buy priceless antiques and objets d’art but certainly enough to fill a few trolleys at Ikea and Harvey Norman (think Curries/Dixons). It has felt a little like winning the top prize on “Supermarket Sweep” as we have raced around Ikea twice, each time for one hour (the kids can only stay in Ikea’s fantastic kid’s play zone for an hour and we are not yet so masochistic we would contemplate dragging them round with us!) and we now have a nicely (but sparsely) furnished and equipped home which suits our needs and fits in well with our desire to simplify life as much as possible.

We moved in on Monday and I managed to co-ordinate the delivery of a fridge, washing machine and beds for the same day but we have been a chair and table free zone for this week, so our “table” has been the box the fridge came in and chairs have been our bottoms on the floor. It has been a bit like indoor camping and good fun and I shall feel horribly conventional when our sofa, table and chairs arrive from Ikea tomorrow!

Rich is still working 14 hours a day and Matthew, Ben and Katie are at school so it was down to Zach and me to move us from Neutral Bay to Mosman (it didn’t take that long to move 16 encyclopaedias, Dr Suess, Harry Potter, 6 t-shirts and 12 pairs of pants!) but we did want to give Cell Block H a good clean before we moved in (= squirt bleach in the loo and spray a little Mr Sheen into the air!) so we dropped the children at school and came straight over with our mop and duster.  I decided to drive up the drive at the back of the house to make unloading a little easier. I knew it was a tight fit but I had just watched a man in a flatbed truck drive up, turn round at the end and drive back down again. “I can do that”, I confidently thought. But alas no, I had underestimated a) just how enormous the Toyota is and b) just how little spatial awareness I have. I got the Toyota well and truly stuck whilst trying a thousand point turn in the narrow space at the end of the drive and ended up not being able to go forwards or back.  In the end I had to chase the man who had just done the fancy manoeuvring in the flatbed truck and ask if he could help a damsel in distress. Having recently celebrated the halfway point between two significant birthdays, I think my eyelash fluttering short skirt days are well and truly behind me so I resorted to a bit of flattering of the male ego, complementing him on his superior driving skills and telling him that of course men are just generally better at everything than women (apart from knowing when they are being completely manipulated by said women for their own ends of course!) so he kindly turned the Toyota round and drove it safely back onto the nice wide road for me!

Richard thinks this is hilarious and won’t let me live it down.  He came back in tonight beating his chest and boasting proudly of how he had reversed the car into the garage with only an inch to spare on either side (obviously he couldn’t park it there as he couldn’t get out!) so he then said of course he had gallantly driven it back onto the road so I didn’t have to embarrass myself again and ask a passing stranger to do it for me.

Richard is perfect in every way.  He never makes mistakes.

Today we came back from Ikea and in our 1950s style traditional male and female roles, I was busy making the dinner whilst Rich and Ben started to assemble one of our many new purchases.  It is a typical Ikea “storage solution” for the bathroom and consists of a metal frame with runners to put wire or plastic drawers in.  Rich and Ben spent many happy hours outside banging away with a block of wood and a brick (not sure if you remember the airport saga but Rich’s tools are still in Zach’s purple rucksack somewhere between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Santo Domingo!)  And then they proudly came in with their construction and started to try to put the drawers in so I could put the towels away.  I’m not one to criticise but I definitely think the drawers would have had a better chance of sliding on the runners if one of the sides hadn’t been hammered in upside down……….

Tomorrow I shall go to Bunning’s and use my womanly wiles to ask a nice man who sells big drills if he has a tool that can be used for “unhammering”.


  1. Catherine Eden says:

    As a veteran of IKEA erections (guffaw, guffaw), I am staggered that the men in your life are unable to put up an Antonius set of drawers properly. You may have experienced car troubles, but I am sure you would be more than capable of putting these together, one handed in the dark. Think a bit of role reversal may be required.
    Enjoy the location – the Sandbanks of Sydney – and I guess you will try to be outside as much as posisble as summer approaches so the Prisoner Cell Block H experience will be less important. Having also just downsized considerably, my children say they think it is like a hotel (ie, minimalist, all of them in one room, no clutter and very modern). Def something to be said for it even though I am sure the novelty will wear off before too long and they all want their privacy.

  2. LinsFood says:

    Still enjoying life in the inimitable A-Z way, I see! xx

  3. Fiona Clarke says:

    So, now I understand why you were having such a tough time finding a house! Is Nicole Kidman an immediate neighbor or just a couple of blocks down? At least you will have lots of Captains living right on your doorstep that you can direct your complaints to when the next bad service heads your way!!!
    Steve in Brisbane at the moment but can’t wait to show him the picture of the drawers on his return. We have the very same set, purchased in Brisbane and assembled by the Man of the House with the same attention to detail as your set…….I think Steve may have used a bike wrench in the assembly process. Anyway, you will be glad to know they are very durable….the drawers jolt out rather than slide…..very fitting that his one and only piece of OZ DIY now stores various items needed for his cycling……
    Enjoy your weekend….and remember, a house is only four walls……….xxxxxx

  4. Chloe says:

    In an effort to make my life simpler I have never bought a piece of flat pack furniture from Ikea, yet!
    Well done on finding a home and enjoying Zach being at home with you. I wonder if the grey will make the house feel cooler when it gets hot and is a design feature after all? I hope you settle in well and enjoy the Sydney spring.
    Brilliant for having a go parking I would have done the same but probably wiped a wall out too!

    Who or what are the “Captains” one of the previous com enters refers too? Some good old Aussie vernacular to keep us Brits at home on our toes ?

    Big hug and xxx to you all
    Love Chloé

  5. Ted & Liz says:

    Hi All,
    You seem to be having an exciting time downunder, hope you are well settled in by now. Pleased you left the parking to the truck driver, I remember your Dad’s wall.:-)
    Hope you don’t have to move again in six months, presumably you will be able to extend the lease if required.
    We are in Hong Kong at the moment having a lovely holiday :-), off to Macau in a week for 4 nights then back to HK for another 4 then flying home to the COLD……….

  6. james walkden says:

    Congratulations on the new home, great part of town! Take the kids exploring at middle head, great Views, nice walks and fun for them to explore the old gun barracks!
    Wish we were there to be neighbours!
    Enjoy Sydney at its best in the months ahead the fun part still to begin! X

  7. Nana says:

    A house maybe only four walls but when it has children in it creating mayhem sometimes and loving parents tryingto keep order it is so much more. You have some witty friends judging by the above comments and i so enjoying reading what they all have to say .
    I guess by now that you have made it your own and for however long you are in Oz i hope you will be very happy. Hope that the pink toaster and kettle are beingput to good use just in case i pop over for a cuppa and a slice!
    Glad that you found a good samaritan to help you out of difficulty with your tank! their is sometimes one around when you need oneafter all.

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