Frustrations in Bristol

Posted on Aug 25, 2011 in stories | 4 comments

August 25, 2011


Well, this housesitting opportunity is shaping up to be…interesting. Dare I even disclose the details of our time here in Bristol?

First, to be fair, the location of the house we are staying in is superb. In both directions down our street, there are loads of little shops to explore–including supermarkets and bakeries that make shopping a breeze. The bus for the rail station comes right by the house–which means we have cheap and easy transport to just about anywherae. (Cardiff, Bath, and the Cotswolds are only a few minutes away by train.) The rooms in the house are spacious, and the decorative crown moulding is beautiful. The people have a piano. And hey, I already mentioned how easy a rabbit is to care for, right?

That is the optimist’s story. Now for the realist’s story.

The house is extremely cluttered, and dirty, and just plain uncomfortable. The large rooms seem a lot smaller because every wall is lined with plastic bins full of stuff. (My skin was crawling for the first 48 hours after we arrived because I wanted to take everything and toss. it. out.)

I understand the concept of keeping junk, as long as there is some kind of purpose and organization involved. I haven’t seen much organization here. I’m talking kitchen cupboards and drawers with spices, vitamins, sauces, pans, hot pads–all strewn together in one space. All the weird stuff–essence of rose water, sesame oil, pickled pears, wasabi, chick peas–is reachable, but where is all the normal stuff? If it exists, good luck finding it. (It took us 2 days to find the peanut butter.)

The broom is missing. I’ve no idea where to get any additional kitchen/bathroom towels or toilet paper. I’ve searched all the “normal” places for these things and wound up empty-handed. (Did these people take pains at hiding the essentials from us, or do they really live like this?)

There is also this drawer in the kitchen that, when opened, releases a smell so potent, so nauseatingly toxic, it’s faint-inducing. I think the smell is just a really disgusting flavor of tea, but I can’t say for sure because Ryan and I swore we would not open the drawer again during our stay. The smell permeates the house and lingers for about 5 hours. (P.S. If you want to keep anything safe in your space, create a drawer like this. It’s a very effective weapon against intruders.)

These people are new to the whole housesitting concept, but I thought it was a given that they would clean their house in preparation for our arrival. The dirt and grime is slowly revealing itself to us. We walk around with our shoes on–socks at the very least. I found a huge toenail clipping on the living room floor today and very nearly gagged. I later went upstairs in hopes of finding some nail polish remover and found head lice remover instead. (Ryan about flipped a lid at that one.)

And did I mention that the rabbit’s litter box is in the kitchen? Yeah, it is. That makes the whole indoor rabbit thing so not okay. Because you’ve got the dusty hay tracked all over the floor. You’ve got the fur floating in the air and riding over the hardwood. And the best part: you’ve got bits of poopy newspaper and straw and, well, poop that the rabbit tracks out of his litter box every time he goes. A desperate search finally revealed a hand broom and dust pan, and I’ve been following the rabbit around with it ever since.

All of this would perhaps be bearable if there were a cozy room with a plump couch and reliable wi-fi to hide in, but alas, no such thing exists here. We’ve tried many areas, and I can report that there is no comfortable place to hang out during the day. (Except maybe our bed, but who wants to stay in bed all day?)

All the couches are angular, low-backed things that contort your body in strange ways. The sinks in the bathrooms are miniscule. You can fit a toothbrush and a contact case on them but nothing else.

The shower in the one working bathroom is composed of an attractive glass wall and a flat slab of stone, but the stone’s grading is all wrong. Instead of keeping the water in, the stone holds the water to a breaking point and then releases it flash-flood-style–over the shower’s edge, onto the tile floor, out the door, down the hallway. (This experience comes with lots of yelling and a few strategically placed towels–because, as I mentioned, I can’t find other towels beyond the few we’ve got. Good thing we’ve got access to a washer and dryer.)

Before she left, the homeowner mentioned that the house can get a bit breezy. The walls are thick brick but the windows are very old and thin and let in drafts. A couple of days ago, it had to have been 40 degrees fahrenheit indoors. I was turning blue. Before bed, we scrounged around the house and finally located another huge down comforter to put over us. We didn’t toss it off once in the night.

And the wi-fi–don’t even get me started on the wi-fi. It only works in three rooms of the house: the nasty kitchen, the cluttered game room in the basement, and this random tiny guest bedroom across from the TV room upstairs. This has probably been the one thing that keeps me upset half the time. (When you’ve got work to do, projects to start, and travel legs to plan, wi-fi becomes as much a necessity as anything else.)

Maybe Ryan and I were just spoiled by our last housesitting opportunity. It was pretty nice in that brand new house with the simple, clean, organized rooms and the high-tech gadgets. But I don’t think we are being ridiculous. I’d give any normal, (even somewhat) clean person 24 hours to live here and see if they don’t run screaming from the vicinity.

So for now, Ryan and I are hiding together on the least uncomfortable couch in the house, with the door to the backyard open. We can’t cook in this environment–we can barely live in this environment–but at least we have wi-fi (however limited), a decent bed, and a free place to stay while we explore the area. That’s the optimistic attitude we’re trying to focus on.

In terms of the long haul: we are more aware than ever of how much we value a clean, organized, clutter-free home. That will be put to good use in the future, I’m sure.

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  1. Good heavens child! We simply can’t have you living in that.

  2. I know, right? lol The good thing is, we now have something to compare our houses to. It’s always nice to have perspective. (“Is it as uncomfortable as Bristol? Okay, then. Let’s just be happy.”)

  3. Oh the adventures you and Ryan are having! I feel kind of bad for laughing while reading this because that sounds like a nightmare! How does anybody function in a “home” like that? Did you check your hair for nits before you left? (I’m half kidding.)

  4. Laugh away, Rebecca! It’s becoming more funny to me as time goes by. I don’t know that anyone can function normally in a place like that. Your life ends up revolving around your stuff, and I hate to think how your health might be affected. And yes, I’m paranoid now. I check my hair about once every other day, but it’s a needless worry. There hasn’t been any sign of li’l critters. (Thank goodness!)

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