There are many words I could say about Dublin. However, they would all - at this point - be tinged by the fact that for the last 18 months or so, we have been trying to sell our flat. We've ended up selling it for less than we bought it for, and fully expect it to recover in value over the next couple of years. This is all not good.
We stood in the flat on Sunday morning, having cleaned it thoroughly on the Saturday before. It is, it has to be said, a stunning flat to look at.
There are things about any flat that get you down, though. We had some great neighbours. We had some hellish neighbours. We got some evicted, once. Ah, happy happy memories.
We drove back. The coast road up from Stranraer to Glasgow was stunning, partly due to the season and the weather, and partly due to the preponderance of shirtless chavs taking their feral children for a paddle. We held hands a lot.
It wasn't the dream ending to a life of international travel. It was the end of an era, though.
Dublin: See you again soon.
One of the odd things about moving house is that it forces you to revisit all the good things. Like this place.
Let's start with the obvious. It's a really, really lovely flat. The space is great, and although there's some stuff that we'd change, we've really enjoyed it as a living space.
Then there's the location. Ten minutes walk from the centre of town. Even when Mr Twinky was working in hell, it only took him twenty minutes to get there on foot. We are strangers to public transport, axcept for the occasional tram trip to the netherworld.
And then there's the sheer potential of the area. It was "up and coming" when we moved here, and still is - but we're handy for one of the best Asian supermarkets in the country, we've got an organic market just up the road, and although we've gone from one dodgy convenience stores to two larger dodgy convenience stores in the area, it turns out that in a little side street just up the road and round the corner a little bit is a little Italian sandwich cafe, which does excellent toasted sandwiches. I really should have tried the coffee.
All of which should make it easier to sell the place - problem is, looking around it, I am reminded of all the happiness we've had here, and it makes it harder to leave and move back to The Future.
The downside of living in our luxurious new apartment is the fact that it's not quite finished.
Oh, it's perfectly habitable if you like using boxes as furniture, if you like the fact that there are no curtains, and if you like the fact that the floor is not quite finished. It's got heating and hot water and lots of potential. And it's vaguely fit for human life.
The living room is empty, apart from the sofa and the television. It looks pretty good like that.
The main bedroom contains a lot of boxes. Some of these are builder's leftovers, some are furniture, some are architecture books and some are empty. The floor is varnished woodwork and needs cleaned.
The second bedroom is probably the most homely at the moment - it's the one I am sleeping in. On a matress. On the floor. The floor is varnished wood - and is probably the nicest floor in the flat at the moment.
The third bedroom is floored in underlay and contains boxes, boxes and boxes.
But now, within the next week or so, the carpets will arrive. The furniture can start to be assembled. Comfort can be created. Finally.
All I need to do first is move all the boxes.
It seems that every day, I smell fresh paint.
I went to site this morning, wondering what new delights would await me. After all, I was very good yesterday - I did nothing, didn't go to site to check up on the guys, but just waited. I thought they'd be doing something. But what they've done is repainted the white bits. They're now white.
In some ways this is a good thing - after all, we want the white bits to be a pure, brilliant white and they do certainly seem to be pure and brilliant now. On the other hand, so are some bits of the skirting board, and the floor. So there's going to be some more painting. Fortunately, the guys doing the work for us are painters, so painting is what they do.
On the downside, this means that the changes that are being made are small and un-noticeable. The white gets a little more pure, a little more brilliant. A single power socket, discovered abandoned behind a radiator is exposed, and covered over. Some plaster dust settles. There is more cleaning to be done.
By the end of the week, I'm told, all this will be over. I can get my deliveries on Thursday, I can probably walk in some of the rooms without my boots on by Saturday. I'm spending the weekend cleaning. Maybe, by Monday, it will be fit for a queen to see.
I get the keys tomorrow - four sets.
The last ten weeks have been somewhat chaotic, really. Any attempts to impose order on the many, many lists of things to do have been somewhat futile - I've missed things left, right and centre and in many ways it is a miracle that it's all ended up going so relatively smoothly.
The next couple of weeks will be the real test - redecoration, buying and building furniture, accepting delivery of a huge number of boxes and generally moving in. There will be some days where military precision is needed, and on most days a good stiff drink both for myself and for Mr Twinky (without whom none of this would be possible, despite the fact that he is, of course, a cat). Hopefully there will be no more surprises, though.
The latest curve ball arrived today. Apparently a search against my name has come up with some issues. I don't know what sort of search, precisely, but it threw up problems; something to do with owning a pub in East Kilbride and owing money to the child support agency. As a result, at some point I have to prove that this isn't really me, and I obviously don't have any bits of paper to prove that it's not me.
I do, however, have a huge amount of paper. I don't think I've ever generated quite so much paper in such a short period of time. I will be sellotaping it all together on Saturday to make temporary curtains.
My life is ruled by lists.
I've got lists of work, lists of stuff to sort out with banks, lists of stuff to sort out about buying the flat, about redecorating, and about moving in to it. Mr Twinky has the same - we swap lists sometimes, just for the amusement of it all.
I now just want it all to be over - not because I am hating it, far from it. Because I can visualise what the end result is, and from here it looks very enticing.
I can't wait to start ticking off some final items. Yes, the flat is decorated and everyone is paid. Yes, we have sofas and curtains and knives and plates. Yes, I have my computer back, my study set out, my telephone connected.
I know there will always be plans for what to do next, but at this stage, I'm starting to think that maybe, by August, things will have settled down and started being the way I thought they would be when I started all of this madness.
Of course, the chap who is sorting out my mortgage thinks I'm mad. Brave and crazy, but mad. The chap I met at lunch time today thinks I am setting myself up for a lifetime of pain. I think of it as keeping busy.
Plan A was, of course, to write about it as I was doing it. I was going to turn this site in to a useful guide to how to move from Foreign to Here, with a useful list of tips and contact numbers. Plan A was, of course, nonsense.
Let's just say that things are moving along nicely, and I am managing to stay one step ahead of disaster.
My ever-increasing number of to-do-lists fall nicely in to a number of categories.
There's the stuff to do with money, which is my current worry. Not the costs involved, but the fun business of moving it from one account to another, and making sure that nobody thinks that I am an international money launderer.
There's the legal stuff, which is happily burbling along and under control.
As is the insurance stuff.
Then there's the tax stuff - trying to sort out my taxes Here and in Foreign, where both tax authorities owe me money, money which I intend to blow on sweeties.
Once we get the keys to the flat, we'll be getting it redecorated. This is Mr Twinky's main area of expertise, and he's organising it remotely with minimal chunks of help as required from his army of foot soldiers on the ground. By which I mean my long-suffering parents, who are both being fantastic although they probably don't think they're doing much apart from keeping me sane and keeping me company.
I'm whiling away my idle hours by planning what electronic gizmos I am going to buy, and working out the order of various calls that I have to make two weeks from now (in order - electric, gas, phone and broadband, ordering electronics, getting a television licence, getting satellite television).
And only after that do I think about getting a regular vegetable box delivered, or those lessons I've been talking about for years, or sorting out my National Insurance.
Through a combination of luck and more luck, I've not managed to screw anything up yet, but I know I'm just keeping one step ahead of disaster and I couldn't do it any other way.
A few months ago, I was scared and nervous about the Big Move(tm). After all, it meant a change of job, a change of country, a complete lifestyle overhaul - and all of this is not good. But it brought with it opportunity, excitement, and an escape from the increasingly toxic environment where I had found myself working. As ever, the reality proved smooth and straightforward, and I am now four weeks in to regular commuting between here and there with no ill effects except two days a week of feeling dislocated and jet lagged.
One of the features of Big Move(tm) has been living with my parents again. This is how living with my parents goes.
- I get up in the morning, shower and shave, leave the house, check my e-mail, get dressed, go downstairs, brush my teeth, have breakfast. Not in that order. Sometimes I'll see my mum, sometimes I won't. This morning, she worried that I would be late for work. I wasn't.
- I take a bus in to work. It takes about 20 minutes, and I've got enough in the way of podcasts and audio books to keep me going and keep me awake so I don't fall asleep and end up in Glasgow. Then I do a full day's work.
- I call up a solicitor and arrange a viewing for a property or two. I trudge around the properties and get another bus home.
- I have dinner with my parents, and we then do whatever it is we're doing that evening. Often it's simply watching television. Last night we played cards. Wine was involved. I call Mr Twinky to hear him purr and thereby assuage any feelings of homesickness.
- I go to bed, fall asleep, check my e-mail and brush my teeth. Again, not in that order.
This is all very pleasant, actually. So, obviously it has to change.
I have stopped traipsing around other people's houses, and in about six weeks I will move in to one of them.
There is a secret war going on in the streets of Scotland.
This isn't the obvious war, the one between the evil forces of roadworks and the evil forces of trying to get from a to b in a bus. This is a war for the hearts and minds of the Scottish people. A war that, perhaps can never be won. This is the secret war between estate agents and their mortal enemies - solicitors.
On the one hand, estate agents will sell your property for you. They'll do you a glossy brochure, and they will hire an attractive young philosophy post-grad to go and stand in it for a couple of hours on demand, louching against the split level grill and twiddling the knobs on the combi until the numbering wears off. You can have an interesting conversation with these people, like "the carpets aren't really my taste", or "how much do you think it's going to sell for" or "it's a bit handy for the knocking shop, isn't it?". On the other hand, they don't know who cleans the communal stairs or when the recycling day is or how long ago the roof was replaced. Estate agents are great if you're trying to sell a property that you don't live in, particularly if you live a long way away from it.
In the other corner, however, are the cut price cousins. Solicitors. Solicitors will tell you that you don't need an estate agent, because they are the spawn of the devil. They'll undercut their costs, and they won't send out a hot rugby player to stand in the property and do things with knobs like an estate agent will - you're expected to provide that service yourself. It changes the conversations you have. "Have you enjoyed living here?" or "What are the neighbours like" or "Is the knocking shop any good?". In general, they don't have anything like the numbers of staff behind them that the estate agents do, and they handle fewer properties.
However, solicitors have struck upon a genius plan, and seem to be winning the war at the moment. By joining forces, they present a united front - in Edinburgh this is called "ESPC", which stands for something. Like a cat, ESPC lets solicitors get their hackles up and look really big. They've got a shop and a website and a magazine and to be honest you could be forgiven for thinking that they're the only place to buy property from in Edinburgh.
But they're not.
And bizarrely, this makes estate agents the bloated underdogs, waddling slowly, lumbered with high costs and fees, and a lower visibility, fading into the shadow of solicitors with their fancy wigs and quills and stuff. I almost feel sorry for them.
So, I came out of the rotten job and I have left Foreign and I'm now working up to starting a new job in a new country.
I've left Mr Twinky behind in Foreign - not because I wanted to, you understand. We did talk about smuggling him out of the country in my luggage, but it would have been easier to buy him a ticket. Someone has to stay in Foreign to manage our diverse and random interests in business and property. Someone has to make sure that any evil plans are set out correctly and submitted on time to the Evil Planning Department for approval. So he's doing valuable and stalwart work.
I, on the other hand, have the equally tough job of finding a place to stay, getting my finances back in order, getting my bank to stop giving me a ring every time I try to spend money, and learning a whole new way of working. Ideally a better one than I had back in rotten.
Seems like a fair division of labour.
The tough part is the sleeping arrangements, obviously. I'm back in my parents' home for a few weeks - on the one hand that's great, as it means I'm comfortable. On the other hand, it would be very easy to get too comfortable here and not make enough effort to move on. I'm well known for that in our family, it seems.
In the mean time, as my sister and her kids are here too, I'm in the sparest of the spare bedrooms. I'm living out of my suitcase until this evening when I move in to the room which will be "mine" in the longer term. But for now I'm in a single bed. It's a nice transition - I don't have to pick a side to sleep on, I can sleep on both sides.
Somewhere overseas, I suspect that Mr Twinky is doing the same.
I left work early yesterday.
At four o'clock in the afternoon, I was walking home. The sky was clear, it was nice and warm and there was a definite feeling that spring was in the air. But there was more - it felt like a weight had been lifted from me. I felt like I was seventeen again, finishing my exams and never having to worry about them again. After all, I'd left my pass at security, given my laptop and my credit card back, and I'd handed over my last file of work to one of my colleagues.
I've worked for the same company for most of my adult life, and now I am changing company, changing career and moving to work in a different country again. It's going to be an interesting few months - but today I am taking it easy, knowing that I won't be back there on Monday.
Only got four days left at the job, and today was marked by a power cut which left us without computers all afternoon. So we went home.
It's a good start to the last week, and certainly better than the faint disappointment of my leaving present and card. Someone I've known for eighteen years gave me "best wishes" and the daughter of Satan left "I'm sure we'll meet again" written in her own dark blood. At least she called to ruin my night out by suggesting we meet for a drink this week. Like that's going to happen. Given that the sick atmosphere in our office is largely due to her, the reasons for me to spend any time with her are rapidly diminishing.
I have thirty hours left. Thirty hours of working for this company which has been wonderful and hellish in roughly equal measures at different times.
Shortly after the power went down, I heard that the project I had been working on for most of the last year and finally passed on to someone else three weeks ago had been - pretty much - canned. A great result, I think, and not before time. The week's started well. Only thirty hours left to avoid the daughter of Satan with her cold dead heart.
There's this junction that I cross every day. Traffic coming in to it has to do a little wiggle and cross over the tram tracks before carrying on. There's no way that the cars about to do the wiggling can see if the road ahead is clear, and there's no real way for them to notice that there's a second set of lights that is supposed to stop them from crossing on to the tram tracks when there's a tram a-coming. The result is pure chaos.
Essentially, it's possible for traffic coming in both directions to believe it has the right of way, and more often than not, this leaves a tram stuck for a minute or two while the whole knot tries to untie itself. Add to that a few cyclists and the bizarre urge that some pedestrians have to cross roads, and you're looking at a little pocket of stress for all involved.
It doesn't have to be this way.
The situation only arose a couple of years ago, when they built the trams, changed the contraflow, and vastly ramped up the amount of traffic struggling through this chicane. I can imagine what the 3d imagery looked like - a mother and a push chair on the traffic island, a couple of cars, and a tram full of smiling tourists - rather than sardine-frazzled commuters. It probably looked deadly.
It was never going to be like that, but it could be a damn sight better.
Almost every traffic junction in the city has some sort of problem. Pedestrian traffic lights that don't change unless there's no traffic. Junctions where both pedestrians and cars are stopped at the same time, when one or other could move without risk. A one-way system that drives cyclists and, recently, motorbikes on to the pavement. And this is in a city which acknowledges that it has traffic problems - some of the blame for those problems must lie with those responsible for planning the traffic system. or maybe it's deliberate - maybe they want to force people out of the centre of the city by making it impossible to drive there safely and in comfort?
I'm gradually beginning not to care.
I've booked my first batch of flights.
I wish I had some sort of feeling of satisfaction about this, but I don't. It's the first really serious thing that I've had to do with the impending move, something of a milestone, I suppose. And that's the moment of truth, isn't it? The "no going back" moment. Eight flights in a month, all at crazy hours of the morning. I should be excited.
So what am I thinking about? I'm thinking about the workshop that I'm running on Wednesday that I've not done any preparation for. I'm thinking about the party our upstairs neighbours had, and the lovely vomit that they left on the pavement outside. I'm thinking about the horrendous situation at work where half of the office is at each other's throats, so much so that I don't expect to be the only resignation before too long. I'm going to miss Mr Twinky, and I'm going to worry about him and I want to smuggle him out of the country in my luggage.
I've got all these flights booked, I hate my job, and I should be looking forward to the change and to something new. And yes, there are good things about the future. But I'm nervous, and I think I'm happy about that.
It was on the train, somewhere between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
I was sitting there, as you do, looking out of the window at the grey world whizzing drably past with the sort of enthusiasm that only Croy can really generate, and I thought I could just withdraw my resignation, stay here in foreign, and just carry on as things are.
It was just... the amount of stuff that needs to be done, and the fact that it's pretty much me that needs to do it. The next few months are going to be phenomenally busy. There's paperwork to do, a whole bucketload of work to tell other people about here, a whole load of stuff to learn in New Job, somewhere to live to find, and a slew of flights to book. I'm going to become an airport jockey again, sitting in cramped departure lounges with my laptop and my Vuitton, and I'm going to be spending hours and hours alone. Again.
There's a huge amount to do. I know that. But Mr Twinky and I knew that when we made the decision. We did our agonising, and it was just a moment, just a single moment of doubt.
Besides, Mr Twinky tells me that I'm not allowed to change my mind now.
What is afoot?
At the moment, not an awful lot is afoot, if you must know. I have remembered - from ten years ago when I decided to leave Scotland - that deciding to emigrate a month before Christmas is never a sensible idea.
Work is pretty mad. After all, it's the run up to the end of the year, there's a push to get sales in, and the joy of early afternoon murk means that nobody actually wants to be helpful as they're all far too busy, and in many cases slightly narky.
The Christmas party season is upon us - a time when we go out and watch some of our married colleagues making inappropriate moves on some of our other married colleagues. A time when we laugh and cringe and take photos on our telephones and it just makes the atmosphere in the office a little more tetchy.
Free time is devoted to Christmas - making sure that the right presents are in the right places to be opened by the right fingers on Christmas morning, before they are abandoned as the next best new toy comes along. The city is a cacophony of multilingual shrieks as rumours go round the crowds that someone on the other side of the river has seen a Wii. The curse of crowds in the western world - take me back to Japan.
And work is more stressful than ever. If I hadn't already resigned, I would be thinking about it.
So how are my plans for relocation going? They're not. But they have to kick off soon. Oh yes, soon something will be afoot.
Be vewwy quiet.
We're hunting property.
Mr Twinky and I are channelling Phil and Kirstie and learning as much as possible about the Edinburgh property market before we take the plunge and buy ourselves a second home in Scotland early next year. Fortunately we're both thinking along the same lines - as it'll be me there most of the time, and I am something of a lazy bastard, we need something that is in walk in condition, and doesn't need anything knocking through or even a lick of paint.
However, on the topic of furnishing, we differ.
I favour the retro bachelor pad look - a few cardboard boxes, a microwave oven, a takeaway menu and a Playstation.
Mr Twinky likes furniture.
So, the games begin... I'm trying to find somewhere right at the top of our price range, and that way there's no money left over for any of these frippery luxury nonsenses.
Like Elmer Fudd, I don't really expect to win this one.
Some key events in my life.
I was born in 1968.
I started working in 1989.
In 1997, I was living in Scotland, in a relatively small town. Two major things happened within a couple of months - I came out, and I got a job in Hong Kong.
In 1999, I adopted a stray evil cat - Mr Twinky, who now owns me. Through a chain of coincidences and comical escapades, we ended up in Dublin, where we remain to this day.
In early 2008, I will be leaving the company I have been working for since 1989. I will be taking up a new position in Scotland, where I will be living most of the time, flying back to Dublin for weekends. It's a good job, working with people I know and respect and I'm somewhat excited by it. It has its scary side - a change of country, a change of career and a change of domestic circumstances. But it feels good (and scary)
Edinburgh here I come.
One of the things that I was doing this weekend was de-cluttering. It really doesn't feel like it, but that's what I was doing. With my mum leading, and prompting, I went through my parents' house, and looked at every one of my posessions there. I sorted and filed, and many of the precious accumulations of the last ten years went into black plastic bags that then went on to the tip. And that purging felt good. Even when my mum stumbled across a couple of videos that she really didn't want to stumble across.
But there's more clutter there now. All of Mr Twinky's stuff arrived in the afternoon. I think that we brought in less stuff than we took away, but it's a fine, fine distinction. And frankly, I feel awful about it.
So, hopefully, the removal men will come soon, and bring all of the boxes to Dublin. We can build a fort with them.
Well, the phone's connected now, and it works. All that we need to do this weekend is get the television connected, the table delivered, the cleaning supplies purchased and everything else unpacked. And I intend to achieve this all without any major domestic disturbances, loss of limbs, gnashing of teeth, or hitting people with sticks.
In other, unrelated news, the universe turns out to be the same colour that we're talking about as our base colour for the flat, and I am not normal. Also, six elderly men aren't really pregnant.
The frantic period has begun. And while there are conflicting reports about some of the little leprechauns who are running around making our house purchase work, one thing has fallen through. Delivery of all our worldly goods and chattels.
I've used words on the phone today that sound suspiciously like 'I am very angry indeed', which is quite unlike me. But I should be getting the extra costs of the hotel reimbursed. It's a small compensation for a surprisingly large inconvenience. So I've now got unfocussed anger that I can't take out on anyone.
Now part of growing up is accepting that shit happens, living with it, and moving on. Part of it is knowing when to kick up a fuss and make a scene, and who to kick up the fuss with. Part of growing up is not running away from things. And part of growing up is knowing that the world is flawed - indeed, that service industries just don't provide service around 80% of the time when it's tricky things. That makes you angry, frustrated, powerless. It makes you want to find someone to take out your anger on.
I'm hoping to put up some pictures of the new flat this weekend. To summarise it; it's a one bedroom place, in a dodgy backstreet just off Clanbrassil Street - in Dublin, naturally. There's a really nice kitchen in there, that we are deciding how best to rip out, and a decent sized bathroom with a separate bath and walk in shower.
There's another thing about the flat. Something that I've been itching to say. It's HUGE.
Room to swing several cats, not that I would want to do such a thing. So much space that we don't know what we're going to do yet. There'll certainly be something clever with partitioning and a spare bed, so that we can have people over to stay. That's got to be a priority.
Property ladder my arse. It's more like a property roundabout. You leap on board the whirling platform of other people's whims, hang on for dear life for as long as it takes, and then get flung mercilessly into the bushes, bruised and battered.
Yesterday, we had an offer in on a flat. It had been the highest offer on the flat for a week, but there had been no word from the vendor. Today he took the flat off the market.
The word "fuck" springs to mind.
We looked at houses on Saturday. Proper, two floor, honest-to-goodness houses. This was in the picturesque village of Chapelizod, and the first one was absolutely bogging. The second one was beautiful - but for sale by auction, and we'd have problems raising the capital quickly for that. And it was too small and it didn't have a bath. But it had a great pub next door, which is almost as good.
Mr Twinky is carrying out the flat hunting, even as I sip coffee and write this note. He is trudging the streets of Dublin, no doubt grateful for the continuing sunny weather, and he is flat hunting in a manner that is almost scarily efficient. Mind you, I always knew that he would do this well.
He has a range of criteria that he adopts, though. He refuses to live in anywhere called Fenian street. I told him it was something to do with Cambridge, and Fens. I don't think that he believed me. He's told me that he reckons that the flat above the Sinn Fein office is probably the place to be.
In about 14 hours, I'm emigrating again. Not back to the UK as originally planned, but probably to the Republic of Ireland.
One of the greatest fears that comes from moving country is the loss of confidence caused by not knowing enough about how the infrastructure works. Hong Kong may be a complete mess at times, but it's a complete mess that I understand, and that gives me the confidence to navigate my way through it. Who knows what's coming next?
Mind you, I am still more blase about this move than I was about coming here in the first place, and I was pretty blase about that... we'll see what happens next.
Most of the packing is done. The computer is dismantled. We need to pack some suitcases, redirect the mail, and work out how to get at my address book so I know what people's e-mail addresses are. That said, I can at least get e-mail, so that's nice.
I'm waiting now for a telephone interview that I didn't ask for, for a job I don't want. They're supposed to call me, and it's fifteen minutes overdue. I'm sitting in the office, and the air conditioning is off. Not the most comfortable place in the world. I am, however, the only person IN the office, so I guess I could take my shirt off. Which would leave me interviewing topless, which probably wouldn't help with getting the job.
"And this one's only five minutes walk from the Holloway Road. That's where Joe Orton used to go cottaging"
I've been invited to go for an interview in Stuttgart at some point in the next two weeks. [All my stored passwords have disappeared from my laptop. My shift key still doesn't work properly.] There are three things you should never try to do at once. Moving country, taking a long holiday, and getting a job in another country.
I'm currently looking at five jobs in theory. In Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany and Switzerland. In practice, I only really know anything about one of them. And I want to make a decision like yesterday. Gosh.
There are all sorts of reasons for not relocating to Europe. They're all selfish, and all to do with me and my career. If I was single, I would move to Bangkok tomorrow. But I'm not single, and I'm very happy not to be single, and Mr Twinky would hate Bangkok, so it's not an option. No matter how tempting it may be.
There are other reasons for wanting to leave, one of which is having a permanent home again, a flat or house that I own, and that I can tear down walls in. Somewhere that I can be bothered to invest in, for things like a second telephone line, or cable television, or somewhere to put the dogs. More than that, I have a yearning to be somewhere that's "freeze your bollocks off" cold, so that when I come home to warmth, I have a home that is welcoming.