March in

“What’s… ‘Mach in’?” I asked, reading a text message from the lady employed by the British Embassy who had coordinated our flat-hunting. It was the night before our move, at long last, into the flat that we will be living in for at least three years under contract, the longest time either DD or I have lived in the same place since university.

“She must mean ‘March in,'” DD replied, and then looked a bit sheepish. “I’ve heard it used before, I’m not sure what it is, but it must be a spillover from the old days… Maybe what they called ‘doing the inventory.'”

“Dear god,” I said. I’d been surrounded by old-school lingo at Oxford, where college bills are called ‘battels,’ a party is a ‘bop,’ the weekly cleaner is your ‘scout’ and the academic terms are known as Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity. But I hadn’t known then that I’d be leaving one tradition-laden British institution only to return, a few years later via marriage, to another.

Nevertheless, the next day, we marched in, and marched proud. We even enjoyed unpacking, having been reunited with our ‘heavy baggage,’ our stuff from London that had been shipped out. We also had a new mattress to sleep on, an unnerving novelty after years of renting flats in England where mattresses were invariably battered and, if unlucky, stained. For this we had the Embassy to thank, whose fire safety standards mean that in Beijing, landlords’ sofas and mattresses often have to be replaced. And so the IKEA delivery man brought a new sofa too, as well as a bookcase and a second bed, all of which he, thankfully, built.

Twenty-four hours after the misspelt text message, DD and I celebrated our move over dinner to a weird remix of the Snowman song at a nearby Thai place, one of a group of expat-friendly restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, gyms and schools that this multi-tower apartment complex hosts, which means that its several thousand residents need never cross a real road outside of work. In the afternoon you see the ‘ayi’s, local nannies who also cook, clean and shop for their employers, gathered near some greenery with their small blonde-haired charges, and in the evening neon lights twinkle into our apartment from the skyscrapers outside the complex, complete with a giant green iPhone advert.

“What shall we watch?” DD asked, looking at the collection of new DVDs he had bought in London for Beijing. It was the Saturday of our first weekend in our new flat, we’d had boiled eggs that morning in our own egg cups, and now the beer was in the fridge, the candle was lit, and we’d planned to stay in the next day and make cottage pie.

“Let’s watch The Trip,” DD answered himself, and I nodded. So we settled down to Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan on their road trip around the north of England, bickering and boasting and singing and philosophising, and behind them the narrow country lanes meandered through grey-green fields and snow-capped peaks, and as dusk fell villages turned on their dim orange glow, making me want to fly the 5,000 miles back home and sit by a wood fire or walk over sheep poo under big soft clouds.

We finished the all-too-short series in two sittings.

“What next?” I asked.

“Some Alan Partridge?” DD suggested.

And so the air, chilly but clean thanks to the air purifier shipped over from John Lewis, was filled with Steve Coogan’s desperately annoying “Aha”s. As the night wore on and beer turned to wine, we returned to Rob Brydon to sign off the evening in “Gavin and Stacey,” an all-time favourite of mine. Because, if truth be told, when all’s said and done, and I won’t lie to you, there’s nothing like great British comedy for pure comfort and nostalgia on a lazy weekend.


Copyright © 2013 followingdrdippy

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