I haven’t been very good at  writing recently, mostly because the Tuesday before last was D-day: the Flatmate’s final exit, heralding the end of squatting in the living room and a room of my own at last.

Well, it wasn’t to be quite that simple. This was a 3-stage initiative, beginning with Operation Flatmate, followed by Operation Flatmate’s Boyfriend, followed by Operation Shurgard to retrieve nearly all my worldly belongings. 3 buildings with 3 architecturally different obstacle courses, all in 24 hours. (This is beginning to sound like the Three Peaks Challenge.)

The plan which D and the Flatmate had concocted involved sharing the hire of a van for 1 day to allow us to: move Flatmate’s belongings out of her room and into the new flat; drive to Flatmate’s boyfriend’s flat, move his belongings into the new flat; drive to IKEA and But to allow us all to acquire new furniture; drive to Shurgard, retrieve all my boxes and return to our flat.  Without wanting to sound churlish, before the day was up I was left distinctly feeling that we had drawn the short straw…

…and that was before becoming acquainted with the ‘original period features’ in Flatmate’s Boyfriend’s flat.  Stage 1 had been relatively straightforward: getting Flatmate’s boxes and some of D’s old furniture we had donated into the lift in our 1970’s building was a relatively straightforward undertaking, even if the lift was only designed to hold 4 people. Parisian buildings are notorious for having extremely tiny lifts, if indeed they are lucky enough to have a lift at all.  Nevertheless, starting after work at 6pm, we didn’t finish till 9pm, when each couple took a quick dinner break.

Flatmate had already warned me that moving her boyfriend’s stuff would be ‘chiant‘, as there wasn’t a lift. What she neglected to mention, however, was that the flat was accessed via a pedestrianised street with 19th century wooden portal opening onto not one, but two, cobbled courtyards, before reaching the entrance hall and going up two flights of the narrowest stairwell you can imagine. From 10 till midnight we loaded the ‘easy’ stuff and returned the next morning at 9 to tackle the double bed, wardrobe, sofa, dinner table and a few other things. I was spared the hardest part of the labour, which fell to the boys, but was on the receiving end of complaints from the disgruntled shopkeeper next door, who was appalled to find that our van was obscuring one third of her shopfront. “Will you be much longer?” (at 9.45am) “I saw you last night… you’ve started too late! You should have requested permission from the mairie to park there…. come on, hurry up!” or “Accelerez, accelerez!” as she actually said.  Somewhat dumbfounded by such rudeness from a complete stranger, I was relieved by the appearance of D, whose conciliatory smiles (and no doubt his commanding male presence) succeeded in sending her away without much ado.

 We left at 1pm and reached the most contemporary of the three buildings shortly after. It featured smart, marble coated interiors and a large lift with door on both sides! Unloading Flatmate’s Boyfriend’s stuff here was a comparative piece of cake, even if they did lead us on a wild goose chase to find their ‘cave’ in the network of underground corridors linking several buildings on the development. Another feature of the Parisian Flat is that it often comes with a ‘cave’ or tiny cellar, underground. These can be somewhat intimidating places to negotiate, usually involving long, narrow, dimly-lit concrete corridors with hundreds of doors to left and right. We have one at the bottom of our building, and you just have to pray that the timer-operated lighting won’t run out before you get to the rubbish bins and back.

By 2.20pm we had achieved stages 1 and 2 and were back on the road, heading to Shurgard. Except that D then recalled that we didn’t have the key to the padlock on our door. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that we had had to buy a padlock in the first place. So straight on to But and IKEA. At the latter, we arrived just as the kitchens were closing and were made to feel grateful for meatballs and soggy veg. We made it out of the IKEA labyrinth just in time to deposit Flatmate’s purchases and return the van by 6pm that evening.  Without my boxes. Net gains over 24 hour period: multiple packages to be made into 2 Besta cupboards.

Since then, we have been living in various stages of chaos, with the items filling the old cupboards covering all the kitchen workspaces, and IKEA packaging covering most of the floor. To be fair to Flatmate and her Boyfriend, they did borrow a car this week to enable us to complete Stage 3 in only two car journeys. And brought us a present from Gilles Cresno Chocolatier. So now at last the Besta cupboards are up and with only my kitchenware and books still in boxes, I can sit at my desk to write, savouring a basil-flavoured ganache.