Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Budapest VIII

A month has passed. The festive season intervened and, as one of my friends put it, “The Budapestian builders have achieved nothing over Christmas.” Indeed they didn’t, having all sodded off to their families in Bulgaristan.

But they’re back now. The plasterboard wall between the sitting room and Bedroom 2 is nearly complete. It needs a second layer of gypsum board for stiffening and to support a wall-mounted telly should one ever be attached. I have specified six (yes six) power points plus data outlets. Telly, DVD player, cable TV decoder, WiFi transmitter, stereo system… It soon mounts up, and it’d be nice not to require a load of power strips. This is similar reasoning behind the excessive number of power outlets in the kitchen.

Speaking of kitchen, plasterboard has appeared here too. The triangular box-out will be the backing to the cooker and the extractor hood will be mounted on it with an exhaust to outside through the real wall behind. I really want to keep things tidy. Naturally, the plasterboard guys buried the cooker and extractor power outlets, and put a metal bracing strut immediately behind where the exhaust duct has to go. I have had a word, and it’s to be fixed.

At last the front door has arrived. Partly because Beloved Wife got burgled when she was staying in an AirBnB where the miscreants jimmied the plastic door open, I have specified a steel security door with multiple locks and shoot bolts that go into the frame on all four sides. This should at least discourage the sticky-fingered oiks and have them looking elsewhere for their drug money.

Meanwhile, I’ve been shopping. The current residence is piling up with lighting, ceramicware, and even kitchen hardware. Better to carry this back from the shop when Beloved Wife is in town than to carry it all myself. On the Metro.

A decision still has to be made regarding lighting for the bathroom and hall. The local DIY megastores carry a bewildering array of light fittings for wildly differing tastes. Looking to match an existing light fitting, I went into an Emporium of Expensive Designer Lighting and showed them the photo. Paraphrasing, I was told that “That’s cheap Chinese shit. We don’t stock cheap Chinese shit.”

Indeed they don’t. I asked where their stuff came from, and was advised that everything comes from China these days. Designed in Germany; made in China; yadda yadda. So they only actually stock expensive Chinese shit. Glad that’s clear.

Anyhoo, back in the flat, the floor tiles are going in from next Monday, to be closely followed by wall tiles and the kitchen, which is designed but I have yet to pay for and arrange delivery and installation.

As for bedroom wardrobes, beds, and other furnishings, these will have to wait. There’s not enough room in the flat for everything in one go.


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Swedish wish

I went and bought a flat in Budapest in Hungary.
It needed bits and pieces, and a little TLC.
The furnishing was Spartan, and I had nowhere to sit;
No sofa, 'cos the previous occupant had taken it.

Cheap seats, cheap beds, the answer's very clear:
It seemed as though I'd need to pay a visit to IKEA.

Well, I jumped upon the Metro, which would take me there, I'd read.
And sure enough, outside the station was a big blue shed.
With notebook and small pencil, and a tape-measure of paper,
I wove my way around the store, emerging some time later.

Cheap TV stands, lots of kitchen gear.
It seems there is no limit to the products in IKEA.

With measurements in hand, I had decided to be wary
I'd check the flat's dimensions to avoid the Fcek-up Fairy.
Today I'd stick to only buying bedding that was cheap;
The choice was that or having nowhere comfortable to sleep

Now the disadvantages were clear:
It's hard to get the stuff home on the Metro from IKEA.

At last I had a shopping list of all the things I'd need
To turn a flat into a home. I went and did the deed.
A sofa and a bookcase, and some things I found good looking,
A lampshade and some lightbulbs, plus some pans to do some cooking.

Bits and bobs, I bought a load, I fear
There's no end to temptation to buy extras in IKEA.

I couldn't get a sofa and a bookcase on the train.
It's really quite impossible; not merely just a pain.
I organised delivery, for which there'd be a fee.
They dropped it off next morning and I paid them COD.

Lots of cardboard boxes did appear
Containing 3D jigsaw puzzles: products from IKEA.

It's really quite straightforward to assemble once you get on.
I started with the BILLY, then moved on to the FRIHETON.
My confidence secure, and having done it without bitchin'
The next day I returned to buy a customised new kitchen.

Design now for delivery next year.
A kitchen's complicated, even if it's from IKEA.

And everything is extra, from the handles to the hinges,
The cupboard fronts, the worktops, even legs, despite my whinges.
I think I'll get the expert fitters in to do the build.
I did one once before, and found I wasn't very skilled.

Started cheap, now I shed a bitter tear...
It seems that my life savings have been eaten by IKEA.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

My Nipples Explode With Delight

There are days when everything goes right. There are other days when things all go wrong. Today was neither of these, yet was immensely frustrating nonetheless.

The irritation started yesterday with my Vodafone Hungary pre-paid account. First, there is no obvious way to top it up, and I have by repeated tries found that handing cash money over the counter at the Lotto shop (of all places!) achieves the required result: an increase in credit of exactly the same amount as the cash handed over. In separate enquiries involving repeated visits to the Vodafone shop, I have learned that connecting to the www.netinfo... website with the device results in a display of the amount of credit and what data remains to be used. Most of the time. Sometimes the website decides to send me through some stupid rigmarole involving registering my phone, and as it's entirely in Hungarian, where my hovercraft is full of eels, the exercise is frustraneous at best.

I discovered that my Budapest bank ATM includes a 'mobile phone top-up' option that I didn't dare use on a machine where "YES" and "NO" are an adventure in alien language. However, I found a similar thing on the bank's English (alhamdulillah :-) ) website, and I decided to avail myself of the facility.

I instructed 5000 to be moved from my bank account to the phone account and this all happened. I got an SMS from Vodafone confirming that my 5000 had become 5202 credit. Imagine my surprise and irritation then, when I received a second SMS stating that my credit balance was now 3048 after fees and charges! It should be noted that all of this SMS info came in Hungarian and had to be put through Google Translate. Blah, blah, hovercraft, eels.

So today, irritated at how most of my phone credit had seemingly been eaten in fees, I dropped into OTP Bank and, after a protracted wait, was kindly informed that the bank makes no charge for card transactions except ATM cash withdrawals.

Vodafone was less than helpful. After another interminable wait in the shop I was reliably informed that nobody had access to my account (lies), that they didn't know what fees were payable (possibly true but unlikely if the staff are competent), and that I had to call the telephone helpdesk because my showing Vodafone employees their own www.netinfo... web page and their own SMS texts merely demonstrated Jon Snowitis.

Wading through the Hungarian call tree eventually got me to the English menu with English speakers to talk to. Or not. "I am no speak English. I will not buy this record; it is scratched." Yes, I know this is Hungary, where they speak Hungarian. But this is the English service.

True to their word, Vodafone did phone me back. It turns out that there wasn't a massive fee deduction, but my particular package has a feature that when the credit exceeds 4000 the system immediately deducts 2000 in exchange for 1GB data. This does not happen when I add credit in the Lotto shop, but I was at this stage past arguing.

In summary: a charging structure that is so complicated that after several months and repeated personal visits to the shop I still get caught out by it suggests that Byzantine, if not Kafkaesque, tariffs are not useful for creating happy customers. Part of the problem is that the website is totally in incomprehensible Hungarian. There is an English version of the website, but clicking on it merely produces pictures of happy smiling people presumably yacking on their Vodafones and a load of marketing garbage. Attempts to navigate from this homepage also navigate away from English.

The icing on this particular cake is that Vodafone sent an SMS soliciting customer feedback, but owing to a 'server error', it is repeatedly impossible to provide any.

So I failed with Vodafone. Perhaps I'd have more success with IKEA.

Well, yes. Except that the bedside table I was interested in is probably a different colour from the one already in the flat. And it weighs 20kg, making it user unfriendly on the Metro and the walk home. I found a vast pile of Swedish Christmas goats in the remainders bin near the checkouts. It would seem that this year's colour is red and is not popular in Budapest. They're heavily discounted.

Unfortunately, the other thing I found near the IKEA checkouts was half the population of Budapest. I refused to queue for maybe an hour for one minor purchase; my next IKEA visit will doubtless be one morning in the middle of the week.

As it happens, the other half of Budapest's enormous population was at the Christmas market in the city centre. The place was a seething sea of shuffling shoppers. Busy is one thing, but the amusement factor of my repeated collisions with people who suddenly stop, reverse, or launch themselves out of shop doorways soon begins to wear very thin. Nose In Phone Syndrome doesn't help either. It is the Season of Goodwill, which is probably what helped me not to accidentally elbow anyone in the face.

Smoking in pubs is forbidden, so you typically get a group of lads standing outside on the narrow footway. Come on, guys. If you stood just slightly further apart you could block the footway entirely. And then at the next pub, the same again. And again. And again. And again. It's impossible to walk in the road because of traffic. Anyone who behaved in this way in a vehicle would be rightly lambasted as an ignorant arsehole. Yet when he's a pedestrian, the same manners are apparently perfectly acceptable.

I guess, because nothing is likely to change in the near future, that no-one should underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups.


Friday, December 09, 2016

Budapest VII

 There has been some significant development over the past couple of weeks. All the electrical conduits and power points have been installed, along with some of the cabling. The water and waste pipes are in and some have been buried in concrete. As plastering requires that the place isn't an ice box, the central heating boiler is installed and working, and all the radiators except the towel rail in the bathroom are warm. The radiators will of course have to come out again for final plastering and painting of the walls behind.

Let's see... Heating out, cold water in, hot water out, heating return, condensate
The boiler itself is a 'high-efficiency, fan-assisted, condensing' type, which means that it should be cheap to run. Exhaust fumes are physically blown up the chimney. There's no hot water tank; the boiler fires up on demand and is supposed to provide instant and practically unlimited hot water. A fresh-air intake was constructed within an existing ventilation duct, but this is going to need some finishing work so that it doesn't provide nesting space for the local avian wildlife.

I queried the rather basic boiler control panel, but the full set of controls are to be remotely attached to the wall in the living area where the main themostat is going.

Last look at the single huge room
 I anticipate the possibility of wall-mounted TV sets, so both sides of the plasterboard will have plywood backing to resist pull-out. I've had previous experience of the questionable strength of 20mm plywood to heavy objects affixed thereto. I'll keep careful record of where the plywood is located.

Those ceiling fans arrived four days after being ordered. These are sitting, boxed, in a different apartment until they can be fitted at the end of the renovation. A full set of bathroom fittings have been procured, except for a small wall-mounted sink for a vanity unit inside the main bedroom wardrobe. This will come from IKEA along with the wardrobes and indeed the kitchen.

The floor and wall tiles have arrived in Budapest and I paid for them. As the flat isn't yet ready for tiling, they're languishing in a warehouse. All the IKEA fixtures are similarly languishing, but these haven't yet been paid for. I'm assured no problem with any of the furniture as it's all definitely in stock, and if there's a sudden rush for SMØRGÅSÞÖERÐ reciprolating fondilators they can be obtained within a couple of working days.

And speaking of flooring, the wood floor for the main bedroom has been ordered. The rutted and wobbly parquet is up, and it turns out that levelling the floor is an easy fix. The floors in the flat consist of 300mm deep steel I beams with precast concrete forming the ceiling in the flat below. The void is filled with lightweight aggregate - slag - and surfaced with wooden planks. All the woodwork can come up and then be relaid at a more sensible single level.

Nasty underfloor planks need levelling
Bathroom with plumbing
I'm still waiting for the new entrance door and the windows; these are due for delivery on 14th December.

There remains an issue with the internal doors, in that no carpenter is interested in refurbishing the existing olde worlde woodwork.

I would prefer doors like this, but without the glass
I have found some 'classic' style modern doors, and await a price. I pointed out to the builder that the additional cost of the new doors should be offset against the time and labour cost of refinishing the old ones.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Budapest VI

 The place is starting to look a little bit tidier, now that most of the rubble has been bagged and taken away. Central heating is in progress, with all the gas piping downstream of the meter completed with new shiny narrow-bore copper pipe instead of the original old and extremely chunky cast iron. 

Bed 1 looks tidier without bin bags full of rubble

New gas pipes. Shame about the obtrusive meter
There's still no boiler beyond a rectangle marked on the wall, but water pipes to the radiators are being installed today. I am told that the radiators themselves will be arriving next week, but before these can be fitted the holes in the walls left by the old gas burners have to be plugged and made good, and the walls behind the radiators painted in a suitable hue.

Central heating pipes
I went around the entire flat today with a red Sharpie and a couple of electricians. We discussed the final locations of all power outlets and switches, not forgetting the electrical supply to the boiler for ignition and fan. I am told that we also need an electric connection to the heated towel rail in the bathroom, otherwise it won't get warm during the summer when the heating's off. And there's also an extractor fan that will need a power supply. Power outlets are also provided above wardrobes and kitchen units so that concealed lighting is exactly 100% concealed and the cupboards aren't filled with plugs and transformers. 

The scrawls on the walls. Loads of power outlets, especially in the kitchen.
 All the light switches will be 1.2m above the floor so within easy reach of an adult human elbow, except for those controlling bedside lights. These are to be lower and within range of a prone person.

Having decided that air conditioning is too much of a fag for one month a year, ceiling fans are to be fitted. I found a nice model with reversible blades (for summer and winter, so the winter heat rising to the top of a 3.6m high room will be circulated down again where it can do some good) and a central light, and I ordered three: bedroom, bedroom, sitting room. The fans are each controlled by a magic wand, which has simplified the bedroom wiring somewhat. There's simply an over-ride master switch for each fan that will be left ON pretty much all the time, and the fan and light will be controlled 100% by the remote.  I got 10% discount for paying in advance, and the fans should arrive by tomorrow... maybe early next week.

I remember being advised to ensure connectivity for digital signals, so in addition to the main incoming cable carrying TV and internet to the sitting room, I've specified LAN and coaxial terminals in both bedrooms. The electricians will start chasing the walls for ducts on Monday.

While I was there, the guy from the window company turned up and finalised the dimensions for the new glassware. I'm told that the windows will be arriving the first week in December along with a new steel high-security door.

Naturally, because nothing is ever simple, three things have gone wrong. So far...

The only remaining existing ceramicware
Having chosen all the ceramicware for the bathroom, plus the shower cubicle and all the taps, I was annoyed to learn that the shower cubicle "has been sold to somebody else, but we do have another similar [but rather more expensive] one." Owing to my allergy to 'Bait and Switch', I have asked that my builder find similar items elsewhere and the previous supplier can go and engage in autofornication. Mucking a customer about over $200 and waving bye-bye to $900 does not strike me as particularly good business practice.

The other thing that has gone awry is the parquet floor. Now that the wall as gone it is obvious that the floor resembles the Rolling Hills of Eastern Europe. I have asked for a quote for skimming the concrete flat and relaying the parquet.

It doesn't look it, but there's about 70mm level difference across the parquet


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