July 31, 2012

Deliveries are... What they are

So the past 10 days have been long and gruelling, but I finally have time to sit down for a bit and update everyone...
Last Friday is where I left you, and we were about to meet our landlord, get our Sky TV sorted and receive all our things from Gibraltar.
The first 2 went smoothly, and even though we still can't figure out why Sky makes you do every step with a different contractor and in a different time, we had our TV all set up and now instead of not-watching regular freeview TV, we can not-watch all of Sky digital TV channels with HD :).
Our landlord turned out to be a nice man who does this for a living and was quite agreeable to everything we wanted, including taking everything we didn't want from the apartment, replacing our mattress etc. He also introduced us to Hulio, a very nice Spanish guy from the building's cleaning crew, who will be happy to assist us in taking everything we have and don't want. We immediately took his phone number, and did indeed give him everything we had that couldn't find a suitable place or use for. The only unfortunate thing is that he tends to just appear after you text him...
Our delivery from Gibraltar, however, did not go as planned...
We were supposed to get our things in the morning. Then it was midday, then afternoon... Our main point of contact in Eastgate, Collin, took a vacation in the USA, and did not organize things well before he left. Instead of him we got some Seamus that was as unhelpful as they come, and a lot of mixed explanations that amounted to nothing much. Instead of detailing here what happened, because it is such a long story, I am enclosing the mail we sent to Collin about what happened, 5 days ago (had not received an answer yet though...)

Hi Colin,

I hope all is well.

I don't know how much of what happened with our delivery you are aware of, so I am writing to you now that we have unpacked and checked the condition of all our belongings. The bottom line is that we  received an unacceptable delivery on Friday, which was in direct contrast to our agreement and what we paid for, caused us distress, and was handled very badly by Eastgate. Therefore we demand an apology and a partial refund of 1,000 GBP.

These are all the details of the case:
  1. Late delivery - when we talked in Gibraltar, you said that it will be better for the palettes to stay in Gibraltar until we have our exact address in the N5 area, and then it should take maximum of a week to get it to London (you never mentioned any specific day of the week that we should contact you). However, when we contacted you with the address on Monday July 9, you said it can only be there on Friday July 20, almost 2 weeks later. We had to buy things in order to compensate for our belongings being late. 
  2. Unacceptable delivery to London on Friday the 20th:
    1. We paid for a full delivery of the belongings from our flat in Gibraltar into our flat in London.
    2. Seamus called me a few days before Friday to say that all is well and our belongings will arrive until mid-day. I asked for it to be delivered in the morning so we will have time to unpack during the day, but he said that it's not possible and that it will happen by mid-day.
    3. Following that I took a day off work to be available for the delivery.
    4. I called Seamus on Friday morning to check on the status, and then he said that it will be delayed and that he didn't know the estimated time or reason for the delay, and did not provide any details.
      A couple of hours and a few phone calls later I learnt from him that the palettes are on a lorry that went to Birmingham, and because a truck this size can not go into London, a smaller truck will take the palettes from it outside London so it will be possible to get to our flat. That was not what we agreed on, as we discussed one truck leaving Gibraltar and getting our belongings to the new flat in London, without making any stops on the way and without unloading our belongings numerous times. nevertheless I told him (as I told you) that indeed there is no problem for a home removal truck to get very close to our flat in this building.
      After a few hours I called again and he said that it will arrive not before 17:00-18:00, and that the smaller truck didn't make it for some reason.
    5. Eventually around 19:00 he called me and said that the driver is near but can't find the place, so I went outside to look for him. To my surprise it wasn't a removal truck, that has no problem navigating around our neighborhood, but a very large lorry that can hardly drive anywhere inside London. The driver was unaware of the fact that he was supposed to go in to a residential area, as he can't do that, so he was stuck with the lorry 2 streets away and couldn't make the turn to our street since it's too narrow and the lorry is over the weight limit which is 7.5 Ton. The driver also said that his time on the drivers clock is running out and soon he needs to stop the truck and he cannot make it here.
    6. The lorry driver and I talked to Seamus and he said that the smaller truck is supposed to arrive there and move the palettes to it in the middle of the street - when I asked who will do it, he said that the driver of the truck will do it, and that there was never any team that was supposed to unload everything even though I paid for it, and that "I was lucky to get a driver at this time on Friday at all".
      The truck driver didn't arrive and the lorry driver said that we must go to a place where he can park since he was blocking the road, and that London Gateway is the only place he saw on the way where he can go, so he agreed with Seamus that we will go there and the truck will meet us there.
      When I went to get my wallet from the flat in order to come with him, I accidentally met the truck driver on my way, who was looking for a 7.5 Ton truck in my street, not a lorry.
      We all talked and agreed that I will go with the lorry to London Gateway and that the smaller truck will follow the lorry there, and we will transfer the palettes somehow there and take them back to my apartment. The lorry driver's instructions were not to help with unloading and the truck driver said that his instructions were to drop the palettes near the flat and that's it.
    7. When we got to London gateway (around half an hour drive) the drivers parked the truck back to back (see 1st picture attached) and since indeed there was no removal team to unload it, we all tried to move the palettes. Since the lorry was higher than the truck, it was very hard and we could only use a hand truck pump trolley that the truck driver had. In addition, the palettes were too high for the truck so we had to open the shrink, take things out and then try to fit the palettes in the truck. Eventually we managed to fit 5 palettes in the truck, so we agreed that I will go with the truck to the flat and see what we can do, and the driver will come back for the remaining 2 palettes.
    8. When we got to my building it was already 22:30 so the concierge could not let the truck in, so I had to ask him to at least open the gates so we can use the palett trolley to get into the lobby, which is the furthest we can go since the elevator is big but not enough for a whole palett to fit in. So the truck driver and I unloaded the palettes and got them to the lobby by ourselves, making a lot of noise in the process to the entire building. Eventually we were able to do it and everything was in the lobby - see 2nd picture.
    9. Then the driver drove back to London gateway and I started to open the palettes and load the boxes and all the other things in batches to the elevator, and carry them to my flat. I was very lucky that a neighbor who saw me doing it alone came and helped me with it.
    10. In the meantime the truck driver and the lorry driver unloaded the last 2 palettes and the truck driver returned with them, and we unloaded them from the truck to the lobby with the trolley. Then the truck driver went away and I continue to load the things to the flat with the neighbor. 
    11. To make it clear, I have to say that the lorry driver and especially the truck driver did all they could do to help me in the limitations of the instructions they were given - this is not their fault in any way.
    12. The neighbor and I finally got all the things in the flat at 2:30 AM.
  3. Unprofessional packing:
    1. During the opening of the shrink, we saw that one of the wooden cupboards has a big hall in its front door. It was the thinest cupboard and it had no wrap at all, making it exposed to such harm.
    2. The kitchen equipment which was packed by your team in GIbraltar was packed without even the basic treatment - boxes were thrown upside down, cutlery was not wrapped in any way, electrical equipment like coffee machine and a special toaster were thrown with not even a basic bubble-wrap (see 3rd picture) - all of those made the equipment come in a very bad condition without a reason.
Following all of the above, we demand and apology, and a partial refund of 1,000 GBP to compensate us for:
  1. The fact that I paid for my belongings to be delivered into my flat. There was bo team to do that, only a driver that was told by Seamus to "dump the things near the building and go". So I had to assist in transferring and unloading of the palettes.
  2. The fact that I had to load all the boxes and other belongings by myself to the flat from the lobby, even though, again, I payed in full and in advance for a team to do that, exactly as it was done in Gibraltar.  
  3. The fact that I took a day off from work for nothing since the removal truck was supposed to arrive until mid-day but ended up being a lorry that arrived at 19:00.
  4. The fact that packing was unprofessional and unrespectful to our belonging, resulting in breakage, dirt and denting. 
  5. The distress caused to me and my family through the whole day of Friday the 20th as a result of the way the removal's plan and execution was handled by Eastgate. 
I am sure that as a professional company you understand my arguments and will take responsibility.

Please call me if needed to discuss it further.


So this is what happened, we did make a new friend - Mark our downstairs neighbour - out of it, but it was nerve and back wrecking and to get everything here.
After that our goal was to finish the unpacking until the end of the weekend, and we managed to do that, but it took the whole 2 days, and in the end we were left with 2 boxes containing things that needed new housing, things that needed to go and all the pictures to hang on the walls. It took us until this Monday to actually finish EVERYTHING - buy new storage, hang pictures, give Hulio what we don't need etc.
It is a negative record for us, as we usually try to finish everything within 3 days, but the fact that we started a day late,combined with me having the kids to entertain and that Hidai's work is getting more hectic and the fact that we moved from a 3 bedroom flat into a smaller 2 bedroom one, all made it impossible to move any faster, and that in it's turn made it impossible for me to feel at home. Yesterday was the first day since we moved in that everything was in it's place. It is only now that we can start checking to see how it feels to live here...

In the meantime we also had to deal with some other things like -
1. entertaining kids on break (it is called summer break, but I think it's also a mental break this year), we explored all 3 of our nearest parks. After 2.5 uears in Gibraltar you forget you can have all this green around you. And that grass does not have to be artificial :), so the first, Gillespie Park is kind of a wild life reserve that Yon enjoyed tremendously, the second is Highbury Fields, that has a football pitch in which Ron found a boy to play with and Yon was busy being angry, and the third one is Clissold Park where we thought we found Ron a football team, but it turned out to be their last practice for the year, but we did find a pond with ducks for Yon, and a play area with slides and things for both kids.
2. Find an accountant. We went to one before we moved in here, but she was expensive and her office is situated nowhere near here. So Hidai stood in the bus stop one day and suddenly he noticed that the building in front of him is... An accountants firm... So we gave them a call and met with them and they were nicer, cheaper, bigger, and closer than the first one. Mission accomplish. Now all I am missing is the actual opening of the self-employment, and you know, a small thing of actually doing some work... Nothing really :)
3. Get a National Insurance number. As it turned out, everyone needs one. And as it turned out, you need to make an appointment with something called "JobCenter Plus" and they do an interview in which you explain why you are entitled to one, and they give you one. Sounds simple enough. Not. We did set the appointment, but because the office in north London was too busy and we did not want to wait, we went to the one in south London. One bus, 2 tubes and a total of more than an hour in driving time. To each direction. And 2 hours total time for waiting and a 20 minutes "interview" in which the children hating woman that we were assigned to made us sit separately so she wont have to see the kids, filled in forms by hand without taking the relevant documents from Hidai, and then the form was reviewed by another very unprofessional woman (who actually liked kids) and again without taking the relevant documentation that proved Hidai is indeed entitled to a National Insurance number. Then we went to McDonalds (just a short 45 minutes by 2 tubes) to eat lunch, and the forms went to Glasgow for review. The lack of documentation led to 3 phone calls to Hidai to make sure he is entitled to the NI number, and an email containing the documents, and hopefully by Friday he will have a number. Nobody know what's happening with mine...
4. Return to WeightWatchers. Unfortunately and due to an increasing amount of chocolate, pizzas and McDonald's and decreasing amount of Physical exercise of any sort, combined with a visit to Israel (oh the food, the food) and an elevated stress level, all caused me to gain 4 kg in the last 4 month... So like I told Ron (in connection to this, He did nothing wrong) - it's a simple matter of - You did the crime, now you're going to do the time... So WeightWatchers it is. I already lost 1 of my 4 kg, and it's going slowly and driving me crazy(er)...
I see flying cakes.
5. Go to the gym. Yes the unthinkable had happened. We now have a gym membership. for the price of 60 pounds per person per month we have all the fun activities a gym has to offer and we love so much. The truth is, everyone goes to the gym here. All day long you see people going to and from the gym. The gym is in the front of the building so you have no excuse and, well, we're fat and out of shape. And it has a pool. And Pilates lessons. And we figured if we pay this much money for it, we will feel guilty if we don't use it. So I did a Pilates class, my first one in English, ever. The instructor was a Chinese guy with an ununderstandable accent, but it was great doing Pilates again. Hidai went swimming and enjoyed it also. Tomorrow is our real test, as it's our second time (always harder than the first one for me, cause it actually says that you're serious...).
6. Buy clothes for Hidai and the kids, and get the handle on online shopping with lots of orders from everywhere... We especially needed shoes for Yon, since he was walking around in his Crocs, nice if you are anywhere other than here... And long trousers for Ron... Not things you ever thought you'll say in August :)
7. Find a laundry service for Hidai's clothes. Seriously, ironing? Not for everyone. So we found a place, they charged 7.5 pounds for 5 shirts, and it was done superbly. I on the other hand, tried to iron lightly the 3 new shirts that arrived from Next yesterday. It took me 2 hours, and was done substandard. Never again.
8. Watch the Olympics. Well, first of all we are in London so it's kind of a must, second of all we have HD TV so it's kind of a must, and third the Football season didn't start yet so Ron is bored and sports deprived, and this way he can introduce himself to other kinds of sports. We saw the opening ceremony (until they got to Israel, then we fell asleep) while eating Domino's Pizza in the living room (that is our version of a picnic). 
9. Register with the building's 2 Facebook groups (actually there are 3, but thekfully I am no longer in the families with babies group). I managed to get into the closed one, which required me to prove that we actually live here, but now I am part of the community! I did not get in to the "open for everyone" group for some reason, and so I can not take part in the all important discussion regarding who is better - waitrose or Ocado (I actually shop at Sainsbury's but you know, that is apparently not posh enough). 
10. Get our phone-line, phone and internet sorted and working. It took us a few hours of work to understand how to work with the house cabling, since they are all controlled from a box in the storage room, and the router sits there and the computers connects to it through the walls. It is very neat cause it means that now the TV in the bedroom connects directly to the computer in the living room and we can watch downloaded materials without strimmers and such. The problem is that all the connections in the walls are for data, and we had no phone sockets. It took me awhile to understand how to hook everything up, it took the technician awhile to get everything working (not because of that, because... Well, he didn't actually say why, just that they didn't activate us for some reason). It also took us awhile to understand the fact that Sky did all the work for us, and set-up the wireless network by themselves... 
Our new home phone number is - 0203 6527595

What's left? Find a cleaner, find a GP and an eye doctor for Yon, register the business, enrol the kids in swimming lessons...
And start living in the house, in the neighbourhood, in London...
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July 20, 2012

Hello London

New House, New country, New Blog.

Note to all those who hate me because of the English: The combination between Hebrew, Blogger interface, my Mac and the fact that we now have readers who can't really read Hebrew (you know who you are... :) ), led to... Me writing in English :) So, this is the way it's gonna be from now on...

So where to begin? 

We got to London from our very short time in Israel with grandparents on July 1st on an El-Al flight that felt like Israeli Flying Summer Camp, but at least we got to meet Kofiko and Ron went (for his second time) to visit the pilots and even got a signed postcard... In Heathrow we were met by what looked like a very high driver, but turned out to be a really nice Caribbean guy who really likes to talk and has opinion about all London neighborhoods. Grandparents organized a short-let house in Islington  so it would be easy for all of us first of all to be together and second to move around. The house looked really nice at first glance, like something out of a romantic fantasy about London living. It is an old house that was something that was converted to something and so on and so forth until it became a 2 story, 3 bedrooms - 2 bathrooms house that its owners left the UK and are now short letting it. After a while though it became more and more creepy, until by our last night there we were sure that the house has ghosts, and when the power went out around 3 in the morning - that we are about to be killed either by the ghosts or by the friendly serial killer walking past. We survived, but the photo of the headless dog will stay with us forever. 
Anyway, we spent our first week or so looking for an apartment and a school for the kids. We concentrated around Highbury because of some very good reasons like good schools, safety, nearness to Jewish communities, good commute to work etc, but also because we promised Ron he could live next to the Arsenal stadium. Our search started when we were in Israel, but by the time we got to London, all those houses were off the market. We took it well. Sure. Why would we care if we are going to be homeless? But apparently the market moves very fast and we were able to find new places to check out. We started in a basement apartment the size of a shoebox, with no light, and a very strange layout. After that we moved to some old traditional houses that were... Well... Old. And dirty. And expensive. And dirty. And facing the street, without bars on the windows or alarm systems or locks that were manufactured this century. And dirty. So from that we moved on to what is called "new build" or how we called it - clean houses. we saw a few all around the Arsenal stadium, and in the end chose one in the old Arsenal stadium. It is a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment on the first floor (not ground floor) facing the communal area so it has great views. One side of the flat is windows so there is a lot of light (so important) and it is a gated community which means everywhere there are electronic gates (very important). It only has 2 bedrooms because a) it is hard to find 3 bedrooms apartments here, b) when you do find one it is SO expensive, and 3) the kids asked to sleep together. Repeatedly. In the beginning Hidai and I were against it, but because of reasons a & b and because they insisted, we took the 2 bedrooms. 
We saw the flat on Wednesday, it took us until the following Tuesday to close all the bureaucracy - getting the reference letter from Yell, a recommendation letter saying that we are nice reliable people, pay the deposit, sign the contract, etc, and we were unsure that everything was well and truly fine until, I don't know, a day after we moved in :). 

The school issue was much easier than the home one, and after some on-line research, 3 viewings and a  conversation with the Islington council, we chose Ambler Primary School, that has a place for both Ron and Yon, puts a very big emphasis on math and football, has a Jewish head-teacher (but no other Jewish or Israeli students) that really wants to make this the best school in Islington (or London. Or the world), and is, as the head-teacher put it "very diverse", with students from 52 states. Ron enjoyed meeting her and the fact that they have players and coaches from Arsenal regularly coming to the school, and was proud to represent both Israel and Gibraltar in the school. We have to admit that we were a bit unsure about the school because of our own prejudices and unease about the level of diversity in the school (ok, that was the politicly correct thing to say. The truth is, we are racist and don't like anyone different from us). But since Ron does not share our narrow minded look at the world, and that is the world he is living in, and he really wanted to go to the school, and the school really wanted him, he is now enrolled and so is Yon.
Hidai found out that even though we thought he was going to go into Reading every day he is actually going to work in London, 25 minutes from home by 1 bus (on Uri & Ev's st.) which was a really great surprise, and he started working officially on July 1st, and actually on the 10th, with a few days in between. He says it is going well (knock on wood, tfu-tfu-tfu, etc.) and he is enjoying himself very much. That is all I am going to write about that, since, let's be honest, nobody cares (kidding. kidding. kidding. it's just the beginning and there is not a lot to tell).  
Grandparents stayed with us for almost a week longer than they originally intended, until Friday the 13th (and left us on that date in the ghosts filled house...) and had the pleasure of seeing us in all our glory when everything did not go as planned (because, you know, nothing ever goes as planned, and Hidai and I are always so cool under pressure :) ), when it kept on raining and the weather and kids were miserable, etc. From our side of things, it was actually great having them - first of all, because we didn't have to call them all the time and fill them in, and mainly because it was a very very hard 2 weeks, filled with so much uncertainty and fears and troubles, and having someone else to talk to, and to share with helped tremendously. 
So that brings us to moving in the apartment day - Sunday the 15th. We packed everything after we survived our last night in the horror house, and divided our belongings to 2 parts - the "small" bags pile and the "big" bags pile. The big pile were the suitcases which we decided Hidai will bring later on his own. The "small" bags pile was everything else. It was not small. But we made it to the new place to discover that, a) there is no-one from the letting agency here (despite their saying otherwise), b) there is one guy doing the inventory for the tenant that left the day before, c) the landlord was not here, and d) the apartment is dirty. Really dirty. Really really dirty. It was horrible. We made sure the inventory guy sees that also, so we will have a witness, and then we tried calling the letting agency, that informed us in return that it's our problem since they already took their money and don't give a f&*^%k anymore. We then managed to get the landlord's details from them (until that moment "they were handling the apartment") and called him, but of course he did not answer. Since we were unable and unwilling to go back to the haunted house, we decided to find our own cleaning company to come clean everything, scrub one toilet for the meantime and not touch anything. 
And so, the next morning some very nice Russian people (2 women, 1 man) came and for almost 3 hours cleaned everything so the house became livable. We managed to get a hold of the landlord who apologized, paid for the cleaning, and promised to come and pickup whatever we don't want in the apartment (that basically includes photos and kitchen things) since the letting agency did not tell him we don't want those things here... He is coming tomorrow morning. 
After the cleaning company left, Hidai went to work and the carpets dried out, I took everything out of the suitcases and bags, got my first groceries delivery from Sainsbury's, and started on the hard work of turning a flat into a home. 
2 side notes - all our things will only arrive tomorrow, that is Friday the 20th, that is almost a week after we moved in. That is because apparently they can only load the truck on Fridays, and it takes them a week to get here... So we have been living without our things. That meant buying bare minimum of very cheap things for the time being. Like plastic dishes, and Argos bed linen... Not a big help with the whole "house into a home" thing.
And second - we have no TV or internet. Well that is not really true, the thing is, the flat doesn't come with a TV set, and we have the one we bought for the living room coming from Gib, so we decided to buy a smaller one for the bedroom and have it delivered to us on Monday. It did not arrive. It took 3 angry phone calls, 2 mails and 1 chat to get it here on Tuesday. Amazon still have not apologized. But at least as of Tuesday at noon we have a TV and a DVD set. We do not, however have the Sky TV yet, just the Freeview channels, because apparently England still believes we are in the middle ages in all things TV related. It amazes me how they can be so ahead of the times and behind the times at the same time... So after we talked to them for hours, arranged everything, waited to get our viewing card in the post (seriously), they will come and put in the TV box on Friday (tomorrow). They will not, however, put in the internet. That is a different story. We will have to wait until the 30th so that someone will come to - listen to this - install a phone line (????) and 24 hours after that (if we got our router in the post in the meantime) we can install, by ourselves, the internet. Seriously?! So now we have 3G on our mobiles, and we payed for BTOpenZone, that is a WiFi connection on one device for a specific period of time, that works great but is rather expensive and is only good for one computer... Really not helping the "life in London is good" thing...
On the other hand, internet shopping is so much fun! We already bought through Argos, Tesco, Amazon and Sainsbury's, and we even used the Shutl service which is - the things you ordered gets to you within 90 minutes of your order! It is great! a few problems occurred when the delivery guys left things with the concierge instead of coming to the door (including the 32 inch TV I had to carry inside. It is not as easy as it sounds, since the concierge is at the other building and I had to take the kids with me), but seriously, shopping without leaving the house, and everything gets delivered the next day! Amazing! (You have NO idea how backward Gib is).

So how is it? How is London? 
I actually don't know... We anticipated hard. It's been harder. 
It is harder than we remembered all this moving country thing. The kids are older, they understand more, they suffer more, miss their things more, they are aware of what they lost (I want to say what we took from them, but Hidai will not like me saying that). The weather has been shit. They have no friends, and they are stuck with me in the house all day, and their father disappeared also because he is working. I know what you will say, it's London. It is going to rain all the time, get used to it and leave the house. And I would say the same thing if someone were to ask me, and I do say the same thing to myself. But for some reason it is not as simple as that. It takes courage and strength to leave the house with 2 kids in a strange city, a strange neighborhood. It is not the language thing. It is the scary thing. It is the "I don't know where I am and where I am going" thing... I don't know how to put it into words exactly, and it might sound silly, but being in charge of 2 other tiny people that looks at you like you know everything, including where we are going, why and how to get back, and knowing that you don't, that all you know and recognize is no longer there, it's hard. It's scary. And add to that the rain, the fact that delivery companies here tend to give you time frames of "8:00-18:00" and that Hidai is busy and I am all alone... 
So right now, we are in the "we are bad bad bad parents, everything is ruined, and it is too damm hard" part of moving. It will get better, I know it will, it just takes time and courage and baby steps, and some sunshine... Today there was no rain so I took the kids outside to the main street in Highbury to buy some rolls, muffins, magazines and Italien coffee and cookies. After that we played in the communal area. Baby steps.

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