I heard Slade’s Merry Christmas, Everybody yesterday. Twice.
Two TVs were on in my house in different rooms and each tuned to a different channel (don’t ask; I’m weird like that). I wasn’t watching either as I was working in my office (even weirder, I know), so have no idea whether the song I loathe more than any other in history was being spewed out by the TV that has Sky or the one tuned only to the Mendip signal (again, don’t ask. I have an ongoing electrical nightmare, owing to the wiring in the house – more of that later. I bet you can’t wait).
It certainly wasn’t coming from Alexa, whose idea of Christmas music is a Mexican carnival. I asked her: “Alexa, play Christmas music”, shortly followed by “Alexa, STOP!”
For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, Amazon has brought out a device called the Echo. It’s a tube about eight inches long and it plays music, suggests wine, tells jokes – in fact, it does pretty much everything you ask it do, apart from wash the dishes.
It goes into action from the moment you say “Alexa”, although that causes problems when I’m watching TV in the same room and any character is called Alex, at which point Alexa springs into action with the response: “Hm. I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.” It’s rather spooky.
Still, it’s the best relationship I’ve ever had.
So, back to Christmas. It’s hard to believe we are well over halfway through the year and harder to believe that I have done hardly anything other than move house (again). Having sold Cardiff last year and taken an LA rental, in May I moved out of LA and put my stuff into storage there. I then moved my Cardiff stuff out of storage and into a rented house in Bath, where I once lived for 11 years. I am still predominantly based in New York, but cannot bear the humidity of the summer months.
And so I’m doing a bit of nesting in Bath. I spend one third of my life ordering things on Amazon; another third sending faulty things back to Amazon; and the final third dealing with Sky TV.
Here’s the thing: Sky want to give me their super dooper new system called Q, but they won’t go on the roof to do the relevant work that would enable me to have it with ease in every room (Elf ’n’ Safety blah blah). I said that I would get a third party installer, the brilliant Moss of Bath, who I have used for over 20 years. Oh, no, said Sky, only they can install Q.
Me: “So you are offering me something you won’t install yet won’t allow anyone else to install. You’re not really offering anything at all then, are you?”
Hence my having to stick with Sky Plus, but owing to the bizarre wiring in my new house, is taking forever to install. I don’t know how Moss have the patience to do it, but they are getting through it with the calmness of Trappist monks, while I run around them hysterically, shouting: “ALEXA! PLAY SOMETHING SOOTHING!”
Apart from the wiring, the nest is coming together nicely. Everything I sold at knockdown price or gave away when I left Cardiff, is having to be replaced. Microwave, kettle, toaster, bookshelves, rice cooker, Ninja smoothie maker . . .
Okay, I tell a little lie. I didn’t actually have a rice cooker before, but the Amazon section in which it says “People who bought this item also looked at . . . “ has me buying all sorts of nonsense.
I hardly ever eat rice. I don’t like gardening, either, because I am a person who can kill even plastic plants. But my new herb troughs look very nice filled with the 50 litres of soil and already dead herbs from Tesco.
My garden furniture arrives next week, along with the bay trees. The secateurs arrived yesterday, the leather gardening gloves are coming today, and the fork and trowel tomorrow. I already feel a return label coming on.
I’m giving the barbecue a miss, though, as the one I left in my shed in Cardiff saw the light of day just once in 10 years. Even I have my spending limits.
The Ninja is one of a trio, as I also have one in New York and another in storage in LA, along with the two Kitchen Aid mixers that also belong in those two places.
I’m therefore feeling a bit spread out again, all thanks to Brexit, which made it impossible to remain full time in the US. The rate of exchange is appalling, and whereas when I went to the US in 2008, exclaiming “That’s so cheap” everywhere I went, today I cry into the little wine I can afford during Happy Hour. Instead, I find myself back in Tesco, sobbing with relief that I can get three containers of Quorn for £5.
I’m down to my last six boxes of books to unpack now and I’m feeling very much at home back in Bath. It’s quieter than New York, obviously, and the seagulls are a bit possessive of their territory (the one nurturing her young chick on the roof is adamant that I am not having the top room as my office).
I’ll be back in New York soon and am also heading to LA in time for the Emmys in September. I really miss the US, and New York in particular, but there is no doubt that the Trump presidency has put a dampener on the spirits of the majority who did not vote for him. In the air still, there is a sense of disbelief.
This, for the moment, then, is my new life. I have enough Virgin Atlantic Air Miles to allow me to zip off at anytime; I have lovely neighbors and am thrilled to discover how European Bath has become since I left it in 2005. Service in bars and restaurants leaves a lot to be desired (you could consume a three course meal in a New York hostelry in the time it takes them to bring you the menu in Bath), but I’m doing a lot of home cooking and already feeding my friends. I’ve already had one house-guest, many visitors, and am loving seeing more of family and old friends.
After several difficult years and the chaos of so many moves, I’m taking time to sit back and smell the roses.
Well, I would if I hadn’t already killed them.