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2004-12-15 Call from Bono's office upstages fridge delivery

Having recently become a first-time home-owner, I am finally coming to terms with the fact that a sizeable percentage of my bank balance is going to be withdrawn once a month by A.N.Other for the foreseeable future.

 

The time had arrived to make my little Wicklow cottage my own, to give it its individual stamp, and to set up home. I began by introducing myself to my incredibly affable neighbours, then tracking down all the essential local services, even managing to employ the expertise of a local handyman - you know, for all those jobs which are just too difficult for a - virgin decorator -, which in my case is pretty much everything.

 

I had a house alarm fitted immediately, to protect what I was not sure, there was as yet very little within it's walls, although I am sure the wood lice and spiders were grateful for the added security. One night, as I awaited the delivery of all my electrical appliances, a call came from Bono's office to ask us to sing "Happy Birthday" and a few other numbers for Nana Annan - wife of Kofi - at the Phoenix Park, in an hour! A delivery of a fridge-freezer, washer-dryer and television had rapidly been upstaged by a rare chance to perform for the UN Secretary-General and his lovely Swedish wife. Luckily, the delivery man was one of life's saints, and more than understanding. With the alarm off and the back-door on the latch, all my major appliances were safely delivered. And Nana was elated with her Tenor-gram.

 

I excelled at domestic-device-unpacking, and thankfully, they required little or no assembly. My furniture was another story. Why, oh why, is everything flat-pack these days? I chose a beautiful king-size bed, but when it was delivered it was in 30 pieces, in a cardboard box looking not even prince-size, accompanied by a few packets of screws (one missing of course), a couple of allen keys, and a wordless diagram with pictures drawn by a 4 year-old. I was never much good at Airfix.

 

Front and Back stickers are sometimes added for DIY-virgins like me, but on several occasions I still found myself having to go right back to the beginning again, due to a brief lapse in concentration or an ambiguous drawing. My palm was bruised and purple, caused by days of screwdriver pressure, until someone drew my attention to the obvious advantages of an electric screwdriver. The hundreds of tiny components which were supposed to transform themselves miraculously into a computer desk, along with 82 illustrated steps proved the final straw, and help was called. By then, even chocolate was no longer a comfort. But the beds, tables, chairs, wardrobes, chests of drawers and drinks cabinets which I had painstakingly assembled from scratch are still standing. When colouring, as a child, I prided myself in never going over the lines, and so painting has been a piece of cake, although the shocking-pink kitchen walls with giant white bubbles took at least four coats to eradicate. Even sanding and staining floors is now second nature to me. However, despite a glowing surveyor's report, there are still leaks, draughty windows, and an incredible amount to do to my little valley abode.

 

When purchasing a sofa, I was informed by the first four shops that it would take 6 to 8 weeks for delivery, and that the display sofas were display, irreplacable and not for sale. In the 5th shop, I lounged on a sofa I liked, asking the assistant if any of the sofas in stock could be delivered within the week. "About half of them, including the one you're on", he replied. I'll take it. It arrived the following day. When I viewed the house in August, the garden could have been from House and Garden pretty country borders, and apple-trees in blossom, about to bear their first fruit. Two foreign tours later, my garden had become a cider-pond, surrounded by staggering inebriated wasps. The borders were waste-land. And yet, what do people give me as house-warming gifts?

 

That's right - plants and bulbs. The house is barely habitable, and they want me to work on the garden? But, never let it be said, I planted them all. They may never be seen again, or may serve as a tasty vegetarian meal for nocturnal creatures, but they are in the ground -just next to my flat-pack diagrams.