Couple days ago: <spooky child’s voice> They’re hee-eeere…..
We finally called our construction guy. Yes for various tinkerings around the apartment, we have A Guy. Mr Lam supervised the construction on our last apartment purchase – for investment purposes, but then we had to move in hurriedly after we got kicked out of the original unit couple weeks before CNY (Mainland landlady also held our two month deposit til the absolute last day, explaining that she did it because it was within her “legal right” to do so – too bad we’d always paid our rent early).
Our Guy is an unlikely angel with a pot belly, salt-and-pepper hair, booming voice and incongruous rimless glasses. He’s why I totally get that in Hong Kong people call them sifu. He put in the lights, wiring etc to make our last empty shell of a place livable just a few days after CNY, facilitating our move in a city that sleeps just the once a year. The whole apartment block was empty. Yes it was a little weird.
Mr Lam also seals our windows – and for the last 3+ years we’ve lived without curtains/ blinds as well.
The latter is my fault. I yearn for a place we can call our own, and therefore resist any renovation works on rental units, preferring instead to drool regularly at the sumptuously decorated spaces featured in the South China Morning Post weekend edition. Kings and I bought our first condo, Changi Rise in East Coast Park Singapore, when we were just a couple years in the market. For investment purposes and because we couldn’t afford freehold – we’d just met and both wanted to put some money in property so that condo was split down the middle. But it didn’t stop me from going to bed every night with the floor plans on the cardboard box I used for a night stand, dreaming of how I would lovingly decorate it, stick by stick of furniture. I never got to do it. Living in HK where prices for space border on the insane if you were previously from Southeast Asia, I harbor serious Homespace Envy.
The former is Kings’ fault. Having always lived 20-40 storeys above the ground in HK – when we first got here we would look out the window and literally feel giddy at the haphazard way all the high-rises rush up in your face – a combination of bay windows and relatively cramped rooms necessitating beds and other furniture to be close enough for a toddler to climb on, helpers who come and go and can exhibit almost pathological carelessness, and a morbid fear of living in a high-rise with young children have led to us sealing the windows in each apartment we live in.
Frankly Rockstar is so used to having not ventured on the balcony as a toddler that he doesn’t do it much even now. He’ll go out for brief looks, accompanied by one of us, then find something else indoors to do. I can live with a relative lack of curiosity about The Great High Rise Outdoors. And “windowless” apartments to deal with the hot husband’s freaky.
(I believe in training the child him/herself whenever one can – for e.g. Rockstar has read and measured out his own medicines for some time now. Always under supervision, but we trust him more than we trust our blur helper re meds – he’s never got it wrong, on the other hand I’m pretty sure my helper would. And why be half safe, it’s been drummed in umpteen times that specific medicines in specific doses are for specific ailments – not sweets (can’t imagine there might still be people who tell kids meds are sweets to get them to take them – just asking for a home accident), not as cure-alls, definitely not to be taken lightly. We also tell Rockstar the wrong dosage/ meds can make him feel much worse than simply being sick).
So anyway we were supposed to get round to putting up blinds when I was in hospital having the baby (Kings “pantang” the hammering of nails before the baby is out), but Ms Rockstar threw that plan out the window (sorry) , coming early. After that I really didn’t care if “they” came or not – no wait, I did – I didn’t want construction dust near the newborn baby. But then Kings said he’d already paid in full for everything. And in summer our apartment is blindingly bright each morning. Ms Rockstar is now 5 weeks, and starting to wake more.
Anyway I’d been dreading these guys coming. Suddenly it looks like Rockstar has a gadzillion Lego pieces all over our apartment, each a Potential Dust Collector sidelining as Possible Nasal/ Throat Irritant. All the bedroom sheets will have to be washed, because of the dust. And we already have heaps of baby laundry – we finish off about one standard bottle of baby laundry detergent a week. Ms Rockstar is in training for the London Olympics Projectile Launching Event.
(Still to be determined: whether her competition onesie shall be made in China.)
And of course, the noise of the drilling, how could I forget.
I don’t want anyone to start coughing because of the dust in every room to install blinds and the built in cabinets/ little shelves for Rockstar’s “Lego Headquarters.” Both my parents already got sick in turn, my mum requiring antibiotics, and had been wearing a face mask when near the children.
So here we go – 2 hours before the workmen arrive, we start moving loose bits out of the rooms and covering the rest with giant trash bags and last-use-before-laundry bedsheets. The lone workman Mr Lam sends over arrives an hour early. It’s blistering hot outdoors at 11 am, so we give him Rockstar’s Ikea built-in cabinets to assemble, before moving the baby several blocks (under a batik sarong, no less) thru the hot sun and into the club house nearest Rockstar’s bus stop at the last minute – the drilling starts literally the moment our apartment door closes as sleeping Ms Rockstar is wheeled into the lift. Rockstar arrives on the bus maybe 10mins later and we all go for a snack in air-conditioned comfort while waiting for the call telling me drilling’s done.
If Ms Rockstar told the tale it would be Had A Nap. Woke Up…….. What?
Per instructions, our helper keeps all the room doors closed and vacuums, mops and wipes down each room as the workman does the next. Ms Rockstar has been sleeping in the living room anyway, because Rockstar’s new loft bed in the children’s room arrived positively reeking of new paint smells – for weeks. We moved the baby cot to the other end of the living room covered in our bed sheet. (The pediatrician told us to keep Ms Rockstar out of any rooms with drilling for 2-3 days because of the dust, but we had nowhere else to put her.)
Total installation time for cabinets, little shelves and 3 different sets of blinds: 75 mins. Not a cough among us from the dust, over the weekend. Touch wood…
ps: Those cabinets are about HKD 400 each from Ikea and were actually in the bath section – we had them installed upside down so the doors would open into table tops for Rockstar, and I hope to eventually replace the glass shelves inside with something more child-friendly… Meantime I’m not unwrapping the glass, which is tightly enclosed in plastic – thought it was a bit safer in case it breaks…