Moving house is an adventure. Moving into a new city is even more so, but switching countries, well, switching countries is perhaps the ultimate adventure in which a person that has lived all its life in a city and is still very fond of being able to flush the toilet can embark on.
New language, new surroundings, new money, new grocery shops, new people, new food (yuck), new prices, new rent policies, new weather, new customs, new everything.
If everything new is not something you might fancy, there are, of course, the perks of the modern life that are just waiting to be summoned by your fingertips. Open a search engine, find a shipment company, pack all your old life in boxes, send everything over to the new place, and enjoy a fair amount of familiarity. It would only take a week, tops. However, even though global mobility is at a historical peak, sending every single little bit of your life over to the new place would still cost an arm and a leg. If you are not some really rich kid just cruising the globe in his/her fancy private jet, you need to decide what is worth sending and what is not.
Your furniture will probably not make the bill so it won’t be sent over (hopefully). An inflatable mattress will do, soon to be replaced with a proper mattress and then a bed. Plates, bowls, cups, glasses and cutlery? That stuff is heavy and breaks in transport. You can start with paper plates, plastic forks, plastic spoons, plastic glasses, plastic everything (just make sure to get those who cost a few pence more, you might end-up needing to use them more than once).
Money will probably be tight at the beginning, so you will need to make a few tough choices – get a frying pan and a cooking pot, or metal cutlery and a proper set of plates, cups and glasses? I’ll tell you what I chose. You can’t boil water and fry a steak in metal cutlery and proper plates. Now, with one set of problems out of the way, would you like hot coffee? Plastic cups melt, you know that, right? Wanna cook something? Good luck flipping those fried eggs with the plastic fork and knife.
Compromise, compromise, compromise.
Compromise is sometimes bearable but, no matter how flexible you might be, you will reach a point in which you will realise that some things can only be compromised up to a point. Take, for example, a knife. Trying to cut anything with a plastic knife is like trying to perform Seppuku with a stick of butter. There’s a reason they hand them out in airplanes. Also, using a shitty, cheap, metal knife you can pick-up for a pound at the supermarket is like trying to fillet a fish with an axe that was previously used to chop some rocks. It will not go smooth. At all.
I’ve had this Victorinox Swiss army knife since high-school, I think. It has a nice heft to it, and it’s one of those nifty things that boys seem to almost genetically like (and, yes, I know, very strongly socially conditioned).
At first, it was largely unused. I believe I was actually keeping it in its own original little cardboard box. At one point in time, I began just carrying it around with me. Sometimes opening a beer bottle. Sometimes fiddling with a stick while I was waiting for my friends that were almost always running late. Sometimes uncorking a wine bottle (of course I was at the legal drinking age… not). One time, though, I managed to bend the tip of the small blade in a more stubborn piece of wood I was trying to fiddle with (being pissed at the always late friends might have helped a bit).
You know, they say the first scuff hurts the most. Sharpening stone, first coarse, then finer. The small blade ended up having a slightly modified point shape, but it was back in business.
Fast forward in time, I had it with me when I went to the mountains and had to cut a small branch and put a point on it to turn it into a walking stick. On my 18th birthday, I was using it to pop beer bottles open in a “I’m of legal age now baby!” frenzy. It was in my pocket and/or hands every single time I went in the woods and needed an extra spike to secure my tent because I always managed to lose/forget the proper ones or had to do some other cutting task. I used it throughout college, as a trusty can opener and lunch and dinner companion to my fork. Used to carry it around with me when I started working, as I was a computer tech and always seemed to forget my screwdriver in some mysterious place every time I needed to pop open a desktop computer case and do dirty things – no, really, those are the best dust magnets people ever invented. Also used to carry it around with me later on, when I switched jobs and I didn’t need to crawl under desks anymore. I was sometimes opening a beer, other times using the small knife and tweezers to remove a splinter from my hand, or cutting open the odd packaging. I was using it as a lever to open up cans of paint when I first painted the walls in my freshly bought apartment and I was also using it to remove insulation from electrical wires when I was playing with my raspi.
It’s that little thing that just always seemed to find a way to my pocket. And it was just.. there, not needing any praise, just doing it pocket knife thing, only needing me to do the usual cleaning, oiling and sharpening. And so it happens I decided to praise the little fucker a bit after I realised that I relied so heavily on it while settling into the new house in the new city from the new country. No, really, it kinda saved my ass.
The title of this long babble you are reading is saying that it’s the little things. Like when you upgrade from an inflatable mattress to a real mattress. And from a real mattress to a fully-blown bed.
During one week, I used it to assemble an entire bed frame (thank you, douchebag IKEA, for not providing a screwdriver in your kit). I opened a fair number of beer and cider bottles, I’ve chopped, peeled and portioned all my food (it’s been brilliant, but, oh, I so miss my chef’s knife), carved a chicken, and (very carefully) flipped some fried eggs. I’ve used it to tighten down a screw on my eye glasses, to fix a power plug that needed a new fuse, and disassemble a toaster I got from freecycle so I can clean it better. I’ve removed the packaging from my bicycle as it was shipped and all the zip ties I used to secure the bike parts to the frame. I opened a hefty amount of cardboard boxes, and then cut the cardboard into small pieces so it neatly fits the rubbish bins.
Now, I’m not going to say that it’s made out from the best steel ever. It’s very good, but not the best. I have knifes that hold an edge way better than this one. It doesn’t have the best finish either, I have seen and handled knifes that are works of art. Best handle material? Nope. Blade locking mechanism? Nah, doesn’t have one (though, behold, I still have all my fingers intact).
It is the best over-all tool, however, and I’m saying this on the grounds that I am a firm believer of the saying that the best tool is the one you have with you. The logo rubbed off, the blades are a bit more difficult to open and close (and it’s not something I could fix with more cleaning and oiling), but it has been and still is exactly what a pocket knife is supposed to be: a versatile tool you can safely carry around without looking like you either want to mug someone or you left home and you forgot to leave your combination pliers in the tool box. Oh, and I’ve been using it for more than 10 years, now, which makes it the oldest knife I own – I’d say it held up nicely, this little thing.
There is one things that bugs me about this pocket knife. I just can’t remember where I have it from.