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Stories II

A perspective on houses

by Todd Mandeville

After living in 200 square feet of yacht for years on end, Todd and Ellen Mandeville found themselves lost in the cavernous spaces of someone else’s house in Auckland (New Zealand). The pluses of their house sitting gig were being able to finally scrub out and de-clutter their boat as well as enjoy the luxury of daily baths and citrus fruit off the trees outside. The minuses? Their teddies were suddenly very prone to falling out of the family bed. Cute.

October 2001

‘Ellen…Ellen?’ I called as I wandered around the house after returning from work.

‘I’m in here,’ a voice echoed.

‘Where?’ I asked.

‘The bathtub.’ the voice echoed again.

After a few minutes of searching I found the bathroom that has the bathtub. And then I finally found Ellen taking a bath. This problem of not being able to find each other is new to us. We are house sitting for some friends for a week while they are on vacation to Australia. This works well for all of us. Their cat gets fed and their house is looked after. We get take this opportunity to do a long overdue major spring-cleaning aboard ‘Mandolin’. The first step is to move our belongings into their garage. Then Ellen spends the better part of a week scrubbing the inside of the boat. In the evenings we sort through our belongings into several piles in the corners of the garage:

– The trash pile.
– The go away pile, this includes things that we don’t need anymore, but someone may have a use for.
– The ‘I’m not sure’ pile, things we are pretty sure we don’t need, but can’t quite part with just yet.
– The rest of the piles of items we will keep: clothes, files, biking equipment, sailing gear, food, medical stuff and so on.

Once our belongings are sorted, they go back into boxes and then back to the boat to be unloaded. We are still working on this part. The end result will be a clean organized boat. Something we have been aspiring to have for some time now.

Some of the experiences we didn’t anticipate were how large a house is. Having lived in a space slightly smaller than 20 feet by 10 feet, being in a house adds a new dimension to things. We can’t see each other all the time. Heck, we can’t even hear each other some of the time. There are advantages. If Ellen wants to talk on the phone in the kitchen and I want to get to sleep at a reasonable hour I can do so without being disturbed.

Another problem with so much space was how do you heat it. Fortunately it is spring and we didn’t need too much heat, but we were amazed at the number of heaters required to provide adequate heat. Aboard Mandolin we need one small heater to make things toasty warm.

Even our teddy bears had to learn new survival skills. They sleep with us and when aboard Mandolin in the V-berth they know that as long as they stay away from the head of the bed there is no worry of falling out onto the floor. Not so in a ‘normal’ bed. There are three sides to fall off of and the only safe place to be is near the head of the bed.

The cat we were taking care of was friendly, especially if you might feed it, so it would rub against your leg just to let you know it was there. It has taken us a few mornings of being back aboard the boat to get used to not having a cat rub against you and all the associated magnetic hair that sticks to you.

Ellen tried to make up for not having a bathtub on the boat and took baths almost daily. I cringe to think of the power bill we generated heating all that water.

We managed to miss out on some of the great parts of house ownership such as mowing the lawn and taking care of the garden. However, we were able to partake in some of the benefits such as eating all the oranges, tangerines and grapefruit we could. Most of the neighbours have citrus trees and were only too happy to provide us with large bags, even one wheelbarrow full, of fruit.

Would we housesit again? It depends, but if you have a bathtub Ellen will probably take you up on it. For now we are happy to be back in our small dwelling where we don’t have to look far to find each other.

Copyright © 1997-2001, Todd and Ellen Mandeville

Tags: house sitting |

Todd Mandeville

About the author: Todd Mandeville

American couple, Todd and Ellen Mandeville, are keen yachties and travellers. After sailing around the world in their boat, Mandolin, from 1997 to 2000 they settled in New Zealand and started a family of their own. The Mandevilles are now engaged in the landlocked world of computer consultancy in Hailey, Idaho (USA). This story is only one of many such charming blog excerpts written during their adventures in the South Pacific.