Home in the Highlands
LIFE @ WHITE GABLES: THE INSIDE STORY
The Flying Carpet
Although I’ve penned hundreds of words about the garden at White Gables, I haven’t written much about the house itself and its interiors. That’s because we’ve been working hard to repair damaged walls and floors and deal with a series of surprises that didn’t appear in the building inspection report. The hard work is mostly over and several rooms are finished, but there are still some mysteries to unravel.
For example, why do the lights cut out whenever it rains? Our trusty electrician has investigated thoroughly but can't find the answer. Are there ghosts at work at White Gables? While we await a solution, we’ve installed night-lights in every room - fortunately the power points still work, no matter how long or hard it rains. Torches have been placed in key positions, and in the kitchen there’s a desk lamp on the counter-top so that if the ceiling lights go, I can cook dinner by lamplight!
But back to the real story. My tale of the first major purchase for White Gables. This is how it happened.
When we moved into the property last December, I found myself with a vast formal living room, 7 metres by 6 metres, with a 5.5 metre (18 foot) vaulted ceiling. Unfurnished, it looked even bigger than it had at the inspections.
How was I going to turn something that looked like an auditorium, complete with echo, into a cosy sitting room? Yes, you guessed it! Add a rug, a very big one!
But where would I find one big enough for this room, without paying a fortune for it?
I spent hours browsing online before coming across a traditional design in muted shades of grey, cream and blue which I hoped would form the perfect backdrop for my existing cream sofas. What’s more, the price was very good indeed.
Fast forward to Monday morning, 9am. After a weekend of vacillating, I decided to buy the rug. Call me old-fashioned but I never place an order online when there's a phone number I can ring. At the top of the home page, there was a one-800 number operating ‘24/7’.
The voice that answered my call was bright and cheery:
‘Hi. This is Brad. How may I help you?’
His American accent caught me off-guard. ‘You’re American!’ I said, forgetting my manners.
‘That’s right, ma’am. You’ve just phoned North Carolina.’
‘Oh!’ I gulped. ‘But I’m in Sydney, Australia.’
‘Don’t worry, it’s a free call. We have a lot of Australians buying our rugs.’
I was on the point of thanking him for his time and hanging up. After all, it would be ridiculous to buy a rug from America – the freight alone would cost a fortune.
‘Which rug are you interested in, ma’am?’ Brad continued.
It couldn't hurt to give him the details.
'Yes, we have that rug in stock,' he replied. Then he told me the price - it was the same as the amount which had appeared on the website.
' Is that Australian dollars,or American?' I asked tentatively.
‘That's Australian dollars, ma'am.'
While I was processing that particular piece of information, he added: 'And delivery is free.’
‘Free delivery to Australia!’ I squeaked, having recently paid forty dollars to have a new fridge delivered from twenty kilometres away.
‘Absolutely, ma’am. And it should arrive within ten days.’
The deal was too good to refuse, but a little voice in my head was saying: perhaps it’s too good to be true. Nevertheless, I supplied my details, paid by credit card and was informed that a tracking number and receipt would be zooming their way to me via email.
As soon as I pressed ‘End’, doubts began to fill my head. Would I ever hear from the company again? Did it really sell rugs, or was it simply an elaborate scam set up to snare gullible home decorators like me?
Later that day I happened to mention the internet purchase to a friend when she phoned for a chat.
‘You bought a rug from America!’ she exclaimed.
‘It’s a reputable company,’ I said, trying to convince myself.
‘I hope you haven’t bought yourself a flying carpet,’ she tittered. ‘The kind that flies away and is never seen again.’
Meanwhile an email had pinged into my inbox, containing the tracking number. When I clicked on the link, an official-looking page appeared on the screen, announcing that my rug had left the North Carolina warehouse and was already in a sorting centre in Cincinatti. If this was a scam, they’d gone to a lot of trouble to make it seem authentic.
On Thursday of that same week I checked the tracking info again, expecting the rug to still be in the USA, if indeed it existed at all. But the information on my computer screen indicated differently:
Parcel arrived Sydney Airport 11pm Wednesday.
Parcel cleared Customs 8am Thursday.
Parcel with courier 8.45am Thursday.
Delivery to purchaser by 4pm Thursday.
Impossible! I thought to myself. After all, I’d only ordered the rug on Monday morning.
At 2pm that day, there was a knock on the front door. Outside, a courier was holding what looked like a dead body wrapped in heavy green plastic.
After the courier left, I dragged the ‘body bag’ inside and set to work with a scissors to cut it open. Finally, the rug emerged, rolled up and folded in half, like a sandwich wrap. I tried to unroll it in the hallway but it was too big.
That night my son and I lugged the rug into the living room, where we unfurled it, stood back and surveyed the purchase.
‘What do you think of it?’ I asked him.
‘It’s perfect!’ he replied.
The sitting room with the furniture in place.
When my credit card bill arrived later that month, the first thing I did was to check the amount I’d paid for the rug. It was exactly as specified. No extras, taxes or customs duty.
Lesson learnt: There are still people left in the world you can trust.
Cody gives the rug his seal of approval.
Postscript: Not long after I purchased my rug, the Australian Government decided to introduce GST for overseas internet purchases under $1000. I’d bought the rug just in time.
And some good news – our trusty electrician solved the blackout problem – it turned out that rats (we like to call them native mice) had gnawed through the insulation around an electrical wire running under the house to the garage. The faulty wire has now been replaced and there are no more blackouts.
24 July 2018
Read more about Life at White Gables: