I move again

0

I’ve been sick for the last two weeks – ebola, bubonic plague mixed with the common flu – no biggie. It’s the sickest I’ve been in at least 5 years. At one point (or… uhm… many points) I even considered seeing a doctor – what a novel idea. However, my pride got in the way. I haven’t been to a doctor in many years and I ain’t going to no doctor now.

The other minor complication was that I don’t have a GP (general practitioner) here in the UK. I’ve never bothered to register with a surgery. I once tried to get it done… back when I was still living in Chelmsford. Unfortunately it didn’t get anywhere because they asked me for proof of address, which I didn’t have as I don’t pay any bills (my bills were always included in my rent). Also, at that time I had moved recently and the address on my bank statement was incorrect – I even went to an HSBC branch to get this sorted – but they didn’t want to co-operate and sent me home. They said I need to wait until the end of the month to get a new statement with the correct address in the post. And that’s the story how I almost got a GP. Why can’t this be easy? England is like that – ridiculously stupid, full of red tape and regulation.

One other thing: I’m moving house again. The landlady is moving in and everybody needs to move out by the 4th April. My ebola was pretty bad and I managed to outsource the majority of the flathunting responsibility to my housemate Romario.

Believe me, flathunting when sick is a very miserable experience. For example I went to one address and I was there at 6:15 PM – bang on the money. Romario was nowhere to be seen and my battery ran out on my phone. I wasn’t going to wait around in the cold hoping for Romario to show up, so I went home and proceeded with coughing my lungs out. Later my housemate said that the flat wasn’t that great.

Another day, we had a second viewing. Well… “had” is a strong word. This time the two of us were outside the building waiting but the real estate agent didn’t even bother to show up. Romario called him and demanded justice, but the fucker didn’t care and said he can’t make it. Real estate agents are scum.

Luckily we had a second viewing that day. This viewing was for me really as Romario already checked that flat out a bit earlier. The new place was amazing and we decided to rent it. It’s right between the Holborn and Chancery Lane tube stations i.e. only 950 meters from where I work.

Later that day I got home and my ebola took on a turn for the worse. I had a massive fever and I was very cold. I ran a hot bath and stayed in it until the skin on my fingers got all wrinkly and gross. Then I put on 3 pairs of trousers and 6 layers of T-shirts and sweaters because I was still cold. I tried to get some sleep under my duvet but that proved to be difficult because of a massive headache.

It’s a strange sensation to be cold and shivering with so many clothes on… I survived and now (about a week later) I’m a lot better – I think I’ll even go for a run tomorrow.

Coming back to the flat. Our real estate agent told us a bunch of lies about the property i.e. “the council tax here is one of the lowest in London” and that we could have four people in that three-bed apartment no problem.

The next day the agency called me and tried to increase the rent and they were successful. I foolishly agreed to a slightly higher price to make sure we got the flat. Agents are full of shit and will tell you anything to get more money out of you. Later on they tried to get even more money out of us (i.e. a 10% increase if there’s 4 people in the flat because of more “wear and tear”). We would also need to apply for some kind of license (which costs £500 or so) as three tenants is the maximum in that flat because of some “health and safety” regulation. None of this was mentioned to us when we first saw the property.

Later on we had to get our references done by a third company. This was such a headache – I had to send bank statements, payslips, proof of my savings etc. Then it turned out one of my bank statements wasn’t up to their standards because it didn’t show a salary being paid into my account (this is because my statements are generated on the 24th each month but I get paid on the 26th). In addition I had to sign stuff and scan and email to my company’s HR team and to the agency and the whole process made me feel like a criminal. To add insult to injury, I’m the one who’s paying for this referencing “service”. It was such a bad experience that at one point I didn’t even care whether I pass the referencing credit and whatever other checks they did. I just wanted this ordeal to end.

I sent an angry email to the referencing company and after that they became much more civil. The whole thing was stupid, unnecessary, unpleasant and a proper pain in the ass but we got there in the end.

MyButtHurts

We’ve signed the contract, paid a ton of money for one month’s rent and 6 weeks deposit and various agency fees. It feels wrong to pay more than £6.5K and receive nothing in return – all we have is a contract which is only signed by me and Romario at this time.

I hope it all turns out well. We are still looking for a third tenant as Pilar will not join us – she’s moving to Spain in May and will stay at a friend’s place in between I think. Anywho, we’ve had plenty of interest in the room we advertised on Spareroom and tomorrow will probably have a new housemate sorted out.

I’m not sure if I mentioned previously but I was supposed to run a half marathon race in Silverstone (it’s a bit north west from London) about two weeks ago. I didn’t because of my ebola. I haven’t done any running in the last two weeks and now I have less than four weeks to train for the London marathon. Things are not looking good.

On the bright side, I won’t be homeless going forward. We will move to the new place on the 1st April. I’m really looking forward to it as I’m confident in the new flat I won’t feel rain droplets falling on me through the bedroom window when the weather gets nasty outside.

I hope you had a good Easter holiday,

Ivar the Salacious

Advertisements

Passat comfort, crying babies and eating snow

1

Day 1 – Getting to Bulgaria

It’s the end of tax year here in the UK and work is busier than ever. I’ve found myself working late – something I’ve never done before.

One of my colleagues here used to say that ‘you never stay late, what is wrong with you? I don’t know… maybe I started to care about work and what I do. Sadly it’s to the detriment of my happiness and job satisfaction. The latter has significantly deteriorated since February.

Keeping all the above in mind, it’s no surprise that I needed to get away, somewhere far-far away from London – the further, the better.

Luckily I had already booked some annual leave. This was for ZoukFest – a zouk festival here in London near the Heathrow Airport. However, I got a message on Facebook from Benn (my old Australian housemate) who said he was snowboarding in Bulgaria and invited me over.

I had a quick think, looked at flights, went for a run to clear my mind and decided to go for it. ZoukFest happens every year but how often do you get to see old friends from the other side of the planet? Besides it’ll cost me roughly the same. Following my cost-benefit analysis I booked my flights to Sofia, Bulgaria. I figured it would feel more like a vacation if I was overseas as well. I’m a smart little man, aren’t I?

Fast forward to Wednesday. My flight was from Luton at 9 PM and I had to catch my EasyBus shuttle from Commercial Street (near Liverpool St station) after work. However, work being super busy meant that I had to rush to the pick-up point. My colleagues thought it would be a 20 minute walk from the office. I decided not to trust them and ran the whole distance. It took me 20 minutes to get there. Google Maps says that it was a 36 minute walk. Trust is a fragile thing you know…I will never trust my colleagues again.
Everything went smoothly once I got on the bus. The flight was on time and I landed on time.

I had some trouble booking a transfer from Sofia to Bansko (the ski-resort town). Everything was booked out. One guy from a taxi/shuttle company said they’re all booked out but he’ll look into it. He referred me to Svetlio, who in turn said that he could give me a ‘private’ transfer for £48. I said forget it because I’m poor.

Then he came back quoting £20 instead. I said that’s reasonable and agreed. I think this is how Bulgaria works. They try to skin you alive and then if they find out they can’t get away with it, they’ll reconsider their offering.

So. My flight landed at 2:15 AM local time and Svetlio promised to pick me up from the airport. I was quite impressed that he was actually at the airport with a sign with my name on it and everything. For a moment I felt important.

That didn’t last long.

Svetlio (a man in his late 30s with long dark hair who didn’t speak much English) walked me to his car. It was an old Volkswagen Passat from 1989 I think. This all reminded me of the beginning scene of a horror movie. It was late at night, I got into a dodgy car (which had no logos or anything identifying it as a proper transfer vehicle) with a stranger who barely spoke English. Oh well, I thought… I have no kids nor dependants and nobody will miss me anyway… Let’s be less racist for a moment and give this suspicious man a chance.

We didn’t talk much. I was tired and tried to get some sleep however the thought of being murdered kept me awake.
We stopped at 3 petrol stations and I managed to get Wifi to message Benn to let him know that I was on my way (they don’t sell SIM cards at gas stations for some reason and my crappy T-mobile contract doesn’t function overseas).

I got to Bansko in one piece and have to admit that all my fears were a fiction of my imagination.

It was good to see my kids again. Benn hasn’t changed at all – he still looks like Jesus with his massive hobo beard. Em hadn’t changed either.

We had some tea and a bit of a catch-up before going to sleep.

Day 2 – A day of pain and suffering

I have never snowboarded. Nor have I ever skied downhill with those heavy wide skis. I’ve done a bit of cross country skiing about 10 years or so ago. We put together a plan and decided that skiing was lame. Therefore, I was going to be snowboarding with Benn and Em on my first day.

I had a lot of trouble standing up on the board even on a small incline. Falling down was painful because everything was covered in icy snow. I’m no quitter and we thought that I need a real hill to learn.

Naturally, we went to the tippy-top of the mountain. It was cold. Not renting proper clothes was a mistake. I was shaking from the cold as we went up on the chairlift. The top is about 2.5km high. The views from above were breath-taking.

Bansko (179)

Benn helped me to get the feel for the board as we tried to get downhill together. We were holding on to each other as I needed someone to hold on to for balance. Again, falling was painful.

At one time we decided I should go solo. It was OK for a few seconds until I face-planted and hurt my left arm. It’s been 10 days and the arm still hurts. It probably needs to be amputated.

Side note, completely unrelated to the above. Today I helped out a colleague with a case and she gave me a quick overview: this is a very old client who fell and had to wait almost an entire day until his son found him. I know tragic… but I couldn’t stop laughing once I heard this. And she laughed along. Oh well, I’m going to hell. 😀

Ok, back to the top of the mountain. Benn figured that the only way for me to learn snowboarding was to actually go do some snowboarding. Before he managed to kick me downhill ‘this is Sparta!’-style my whole life flashed before my eyes. A lot of things were already hurting and I decided I’d rather take the chairlift down because this was a very long and icy slope, I was miserable and my ass was wet and I just wanted to go home.

By the way the chairlift was scary as hell. I was trembling most of the way down – 10% because of the cold, 89% fear and 1% sheer horror. The wobbly chairlift didn’t help things either. I was proper shitting myself. Man, I’m such a pussy.

Our trio met at the mid base and decided to try a different slope. Now things improved. A lot. Here the snow was mushy and softer. After a few falls I started to lose my fear of acquainting my face with the ground. My way towards backflips and 360’s was no longer paved with tears and pain but it was more of a sure thing – I could see myself winning the next X-games and slalom Olympics.

I improved a lot and managed to stay on the board like a pro – a very slow one though but still. The highlight was when I crashed into the hottest girl on the hill – this was totally planned of course.

Instead of the gondola, we took the ski-road down the hill. This was a very nice beginner friendly road. However, it was a tad bit too long. I remember my quads and thighs were feeling the burn as I was coming down the mountain. I’m probably doing it wrong because Benn said his thighs don’t ache after snowboarding.

My low-point was when I face-planted with a bit of speed behind me. It hurt and I needed a few moments to bring myself back up to face the rest of the way. Whilst I was on my back begging for a miracle and dreaming of a nice warm place anywhere but here I heard babies crying in the distance. The cries got closer and closer until I saw that some mothers had their kids on their backs as they skied past me. I’m way to cool to call this child abuse but hey… I’m not a parent and therefore can’t judge.

Bansko (171)

Anywho, I was in lots of pain but eventually got up and boarded the rest of the way back to the very end of the road. I congratulated myself on a job well done for surviving this ordeal.

Day 3 – Luxury day

All of my muscles were sore. There was no way I was going anywhere near the mountain. I needed to lick my wounds and some luxury.

Luckily our crib was just three houses down road from a hotel which had a pool and a sauna. That’s where we headed for some easy swimming and chillaxing. It wasn’t anything special. However it was Benn’s (and I think Emily’s as well) first time in a sauna. These kids only lasted about five minutes and it was only 80 degrees in there. Australia has made them soft.

Day 4 – Pro day

I remember feeling sore and watching my videos from Poland in bed. I figured that I could be at ZoukFest and dancing and having a good time. But no, here I am, all broken and nostalgic.

Bansko is not a nice city. It’s got a lot of empty unfinished buildings. We think that the real estate boom crashed spectacularly here and that’s why it looks the way it does. It was quite creepy. I call the street we stayed on Murder Lane because every time we walked past anybody we were scared of getting stabbed by the locals. They did not seem friendly.

The customer service here has lots of room for improvement. I was trying to buy a lift pass for the gondola. The woman sold the ticket to the person in front of me and then just closed her little window and started to count the money in the till and what not. Then she proceeded to have her lunch. I think it would’ve been nice if they kept one of the windows open whilst the rest were on their lunch break. However, out of solidarity all windows were closed at the same time and they didn’t seem to mind that there were people queuing up at every window.

I finally got my ticket and was on my way to the mountain. Since I had already mastered the snowboard I decided to apply my marathon running legs to skis. I also invested in proper pants, gloves and the fastest jacket they had. I was well prepared for backflips and 360s.

The good news is that I was much better on the skis and managed to enjoy the whole thing much more than the snowboard. I ate considerably less snow that day. It was wonderful!

Bansko (185)

Moments before I turned around and dropped all our gear

Benn and Em both managed to injure themselves. Benn fell and stabbed himself in his back with one of his skis and Em hurt her leg when she face-planted on our way back home. Their injuries weren’t serious, they walked it off. However, I was injury free the entire day and didn’t want to leave… but they closed the mountain (i.e. stopped the chairlifts) and we had to go.

On day five I had to head back to Sofia airport and then back to London.

I think this was one of the best short holidays I’ve ever had. Seeing Benn and Em was good, mastering the snowboard/skis was a plus and getting away from London was well worth the trip. I’m definitely going on a ski holiday again.

Peace,
Ivar the future X-games champion

Bansko (203)