I always had this vision of moving in with my boyfriend since I was a teenager: a modest but modern apartment and, since we would just be starting out, it would be complete with hand-me down furniture, second-hand appliances (except a new Kitchen Aid mixer) and a small garden for me to kill plants. A realistic achievable dream in my books. While life never matches fantasy, living with Edward couldn’t be farther from what my teenage self originally dreamed it would be.
Living in France sounds romantic. I had visions of sunny bicycle rides and baguettes but when I walked into our new apartment, any way you slice it, there was nothing romantic about an old converted stone cellar. Primarily used as a holiday house, it seemed to be the place where housewares came to die and dust came to retire. The plaster on the walls was falling off and, to complement the patches of mould, it smelled damp and musty, like a cellar!
Last year we lived in a converted abandoned YMCA so I knew it just needed a deep clean, new linen, our own stuff, and some fresh air. Cycling isn’t glamours but, glass half full, we were living in the South of France in small country town surrounded by beautiful training roads…I think I repeated that to myself a thousand times.
Made of stone, it was freezing inside so we started by turning on the heaters. Soon, the musty damp smell was replaced by the smell of burning dust. We boxed up all the items we didn’t want which included some pretty weird things like a potty training seat and a multiple vases of fake flowers. We did score with an awesome toaster oven, a great wooden desk, and a washing machine that worked, even if it was, we eventually figured out, only one cycle.
Armed with bleach, we tackled the mould, cobwebs, and thick layers of dust and we even ventured into some plumbing and came out successful. We replaced the linen, shower curtain, and toilet brush (I never know why “furnished” includes a used toilet brush) and unpacked our clothes and bikes. After a hard day’s work, Ed and I were feeling pretty good that the house would soon be our home.
Eager to freshen up after a day of moving and cleaning, I decided to have a quick shower. Now, our shower is on the small side. While the floor area doesn’t look too restrictive, the shower curtain rod placement means the shower curtain occupies about half the space. A few elbow knocks and intimate moments with shower curtain later, I started to figure out a few things about our shower: hair washing must be done in a horizontal-head fashion, since there is no space to put your arms up; and, to avoid the shower curtain sticking to your butt, leg shaving requires flamingo-like balance on one-leg.
While I was learning the shower ropes, Ed made supper and not long after, it was bedtime. Our mattress, if you can call it a mattress, is the lumpiest soup-bowl in the world. It’s so bad we were in stitches laughing at how bad it was. There are bumps and “pot holes” all over and it resembles more of a canoe than a bed. It was funny that night but waking up to a sore back the next morning, and even during the middle of the night, wasn’t so funny. It’s been a week since that first night and, after switching sides a few times, rebuilding the frame, flipping and rotating the mattress, and even considering sleeping on the box spring, Ed and I have carved out our own dents.
It guess it just takes time (and a good sense of humour) to make a new house your own. A week in and I’ve started to see all the great things about our cellar, even if I mostly appreciate the things outside like the view, the garden, and the funny old French lady who I keep catching peeking in our windows. I do have to laugh though because, according to my teenage dream, even though the aesthetics aren’t what I imagined, the only thing missing is the Kitchen Aid mixer.