Issue 16
Volume 4 Number 4
November 1999

In This Issue

 • Contents
 • Cover Illustration
 • Editorial
 • Announcing <plokta.con>
 • Have You been Abducted By Aliens?
 • Marching Up and Down Again
 • Losing a Hugo in Five Easy Lessons
 • Lokta Plokta
 • With the Vacuum on, No-one can hear you Scream

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[Plokta Online]

With the Vacuum on, No-one can hear you Scream

ONE day I was on my way to work, late as usual, browsing estate agents' windows as usual, and I spotted a house. It was expensive, but it was in the bit of Walthamstow we wanted to live in. I wandered in, on a whim. "What's it like?" "Gorgeous!" enthused the agent, who knew his job. "It's not finished, but it's being done up very well. Do you want to come and see it? I've got the keys. We can go right now."

So off we went. There was dust and plaster and paint everywhere. But beneath it was a house, with arches and bay windows and skylights and, well, all manner of nice things. And more importantly, a layout that would suit the way we live, with space for our computers to live downstairs while still leaving space for a computer-free sitting room. Well, computer free apart from a network hub for the laptops.

I rang Steven in a state of high excitement and told him to go and view the house and tell me that he liked it. Knowing what's good for him, he did just that. Meanwhile, with the help of a friendly bank, I worked out that we could afford to buy it, for limited values of the word afford.

I'll draw a veil over the business of sale and purchase; like childbirth, even when these things go smoothly they're messy and painful. And rather undignified. But eventually the day was set, and we booked the movers. "Right," said Fred.

I rang the phone company. "No problem. We have a record of service at that address, so it will all be sorted out at the exchange. You don't need to do anything and it costs nothing," they said. I was sceptical. The house has brand new phone points. Surely BT would need to visit and fit the line? Certainly not, they explained. In the end it took three engineers, two and a half hours, and the Giant Crane of Doom. And they're compensating us for not sorting it out quicker.

Assiduous readers will remember that I once wrote about IKEA, and in particular, the way that all the upstairs furniture at our previous house had been brought home in flatpacks, taken up the twisty, narrow staircase, and assembled in situ. Fred sucked in his breath sharply. "Ain't no way any of that stuff's going down the stairs. But we can take it apart for you. For a fee."

So all our stuff got moved to the new house, in bits. As is traditional, I kept back the hoover. When you remove all the furniture from floors, they look really filthy. You'd thought for all those years that you were managing a reasonable job of keeping the place, well, if not tidy, exactly, then at least not actively unhygienic. How very wrong we were. Odd toys and articles of clothing mingled with dust puppies and something, well, something. I think it may have been a cherry tomato in a former life.

At this point the hoover died. "What's wrong?" asked Marianne as I stared, aghast, at the bits of broken vacuum cleaner. "It's not working, Marianne." "Why?" said Marianne. She says that a lot. I looked at the dirty carpet. "It was a very old hoover, Marianne. It was 92 in hoover years."

We abandoned the carpet, and the house; having left a note for the cleaner, coming the following day to clean the place up so we could sell it. And we, our furniture, and an infinite quantity of kipple, moved to a large, empty, house. We had boxes everywhere. There was a very large pile of bits of pine and odd fixings in various sizes; sort of IKEA Roulette. We knew where the screwdrivers were. Unfortunately, the movers had packed the Allen keys.

Photo of Marianne sleeping in cupboard
Marianne forced to sleep in the liquor cabinet

Marianne was delighted to have a room of her own at last. But she still doesn't have a bed. We found that IKEA sell one we like. We rang them to ask how large the package was. Quite small. We were surprised; it's a full size bed. After a lengthy expedition to darkest Thurrock we picked it up, and found that the measurements we'd been given were wrong by a factor of two. A detailed furniture/car interface analysis had us heading, disgruntled, to the delivery people.

The next day the cleaner rang in an agitated state. She'd gone to the old house, as requested, and cleaned it up, as requested. Except that she'd used acid limescale remover on our bath. She treated it as if it was bath cleaner; smearing it all over the enamel bath and leaving it to sink in. When she returned, she found a ravaged, piebald landscape that used to be our green bath. If it was bigger you could film Dr Who in it.

Meanwhile, I'd been trying out our new dishwasher and washing machine. The dishwasher didn't fill with water and went through an entire cycle baking the dirty food onto the plates. Novel, but useless. The washing machine, on the other hand, loaded up fine, but didn't drain at all, and instead of spinning, just sort of sloshed the water around. And wasn't the house beginning to get rather cold? The window locks didn't and Steven "I don't know my own strength" broke the key to the patio doors.

I have a strong belief in the concept of karmic balance. After a few bad things happen, something good is bound to come along soon. I checked my e-mail and discovered I'd won a snazzy new computer desk from the nice people at And we bought a new hoover, which is much better than the old one.

You can spend anything from £39.99 to £299.99 on a vacuum cleaner, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted. "Are you looking for any particular features," asked the salesman. "I want it to suck up dirt off the floor," I replied.

The problem with the central heating turned out to be that we'd left a critical switch set to zero, and the dishwasher just needed a tap turning on. The bath at the old house looks a little better now, but we still haven't come clean to our buyers. And we got the washing machine working, after dragging it out, putting it back, dragging it out again, putting it back again, a quick visit from the builder (who dragged it out and put it back again) and a slight water all over the kitchen floor experience.

IKEA rang us to say that they couldn't deliver the bed on any day when we might actually be in to receive it. I spent several hours being outraged and ballistic, and I now believe it's coming tomorrow and the delivery charge has been refunded.

So on the whole, the swings of karmic balance seemed to be going our way, as the Plokta cabal arrived to help us warm the house with a shiny new fanzine. Until Sunday morning, of course, when Steven discovered that the car had been broken into and his mobile phone stolen.

--Alison Scott

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