Thursday, 19 November 2009

Fun with Falling Furniture

So the time has come to share with you my latest Spanish adventure. Let me begin by saying I hope no-one has to repeat it, because it really wasn't fun.

I will set the scene. My little Ikea, almost kids', bedroom here in Madrid has a single bed pushed up against one wall. Over it, standing almost 7 feet tall, is a piece of furniture which has 4 cupboards at the top. It stands on 2 legs, one at either end of my bed, and the legs are probably about a foot across, and maybe an inch and half wide. Since I arrived here, I haven't put much in them, because I am not 7 feet tall and therefore can't reach them easily.

On Sunday evening, I came home with a bagful of goodies from my friend Hannah, who is leaving Madrid and had donated some things to me (thank you, Hannah!). Not being exactly brimming over with spare space, I decided to put just a couple of them in the cupboard over my bed. I can just about reach the cupboard handles so I reached up and opened the end cupboard.

Or at least that's what I tried to do. All I remember is that as I glanced up towards the cupboard to decide what to put in there, I was confused as to why the entire unit appeared to be getting bigger and closer to me. Cue something of a strangled scream as I realised that the whole thing was falling - on top of me. I at least had the presence of mind (I think) to get to the floor as fast as I could, which I'm pretty sure is the only thing that stopped it actually crashing into my head.

A couple of seconds later, and having heard the scream and the crash, my flatmate Kiran appeared in the doorway with a horrified look on her face, to find me in a heap on the floor, surrounded by the contents of the cupboards, most of the things from my table, with the massive unit leaning at a 45-degree angle across the room. Fortunately, my room isn't all that wide and the opposite wall had stopped the unit in its tracks, otherwise it would have continued its downward journey unimpeded and landed on me anyway.

I rather quickly noticed that the opposite wall wasn't the only thing that the unit had ended up crashing into. One of the cupboard door corners was wedged quite firmly straight into the keyboard of my laptop, like a dagger sticking out of a dead body.

In this technological age, as you can imagine, I was actually more concerned about the laptop than about whether or not I was still in one piece. Given the disastrous history of that laptop, I wasn't honestly surprised that it had suffered yet another attempt on its life.

With the help of most of the family in the next flat, I was extricated from underneath the offending piece of furniture, it was pushed upright again and after a lot of pushing, shoving, moving of other furniture, and the ingenuity of Jorge from next door, it stood up without any assistance, albeit still a little wobbly (as was I, by that point).

That's the exciting bits of the story pretty much over with, you'll be pleased to know.

The rest of that evening and most of the next day were taken up with phone calls between me and the landlady, her husband, the landlady and her insurance company and the computer repair centre. Rather surprisingly, we discovered that this flat is not covered for accidental damage to anything by anything. The contents are covered solely for damage due to flood, fire or theft. Now to me, that was a shock. I would have assumed that in order to rent out a flat privately an owner would be obliged to arrange comprehensive insurance cover, particularly in case something belonging to the owner in a furnished flat, somehow damages something belonging to a tenant, or even actually injures a tenant. I'm still staggered to find that it appears not to be the case. Given the hoops that landlords in the UK have to jump through in order to be allowed to rent out a property (electrical inspections, smoke alarm installation, fire extinguishers etc etc), it seems nigh on irresponsible that here someone can pretty much rent out their house/flat to private tenants without any formalities whatsoever to safeguard the health or safety of the tenants.

The laptop is now at the repair centre locally awaiting a decision on its fate (inexplicably, it did actually work after the incident, but 6 of the keys and the space bar were pretty much unuseable) - the landlady is paying for the inspection and the repair if that's possible and if it's not, she is paying for a replacement computer.

The piece of furniture has now been screwed to the wall behind it, which frankly, should have been done when it was installed - both the landlady and her husband have said precisely that. Which does beg the question "Well, if it SHOULD have been screwed to the wall, why wasn't it?" I'm guessing that will be an eternally unanswered question.

The room is finally sorted and things are back where they should be.

The only extra surprise has been the quite startling number of bruises that have appeared on me over the course of the week. I went from thinking I had come away entirely unscathed, to now looking as if I was beaten up. One example is in the photo at the top of the page. The rest of the bruises are on my back, my thighs and (be very grateful for the lack of photographs) my buttocks! I also ache all across my neck, shoulders, back and arms, I think from lifting the damn thing off me and then pushing it back to an upright position. It's a lot heavier than I had ever realised!
November really hasn't been my month all in all!