ILR Application at Birmingham (Solihull)

A rather dry topic for my second blog! But my readers might realise that marriage does squeeze out everything interesting about you and in turn leaves you with limited interests. So forgive me and read no further if you are never going to be applying for an ILR or will never have to seek the government’s permission to sleep with your wife daily (as if asking her dad wasn’t hard enough already!!)

Being a Londoner one gets spoilt for choices. On the other hand queues are a part of life. Two very different things, I know. But although we live in a first world developed country, when it comes to showing foreigners how developed the UK is, the Border Agency leaves no stone unturned in proving otherwise. Since you are still reading you are familiar with (or rather should be) what a monumental task it is to get a (supposedly) premium appointment for applying for a visa in person (if you need a date urgently, that is). You have a slot between 12am and 1215am when the dates for new appointments open. Only a single day opens each day -this day being 42 days in the future. So if you try booking an appointment on 1st Jan, expect to see available dates only for 12th Feb. Everything upto 11th Feb is already booked and 13th Feb won’t open until tomorrow!! The 12th Feb dates will be gobbled up in 15 mins by people trying to stay awake at midnight like hungry scavengers waiting for the butcher to throw the leftover skin and wastes out at night. Either be a scavenger or apply by post and wait for at least 6 months for your passport. I had travel plans so…..

Anyway, a friend suggested that getting an appointment in Birmingham was easier. I immediately took the advice and managed to snap up a nice 9am Friday slot for myself and a1pm slot for my wife. I must say that the whole experience was very good, contrary to everything I had heard about the Croydon visa office. I was taken in at 0830. First in the queue. Documents submitted by 9:05. That’s when I mentioned about my wife waiting outside. The case officer was kind to ask me to get her in as well so her slot got bumped up immediately. However once all documents were submitted, the case officer started questioning whether we have filled the right form!

CO: Who asked you to fill the FLR(O) form?

Me: (without batting an eyelid) The UKBA website.

CO: Its the wrong form. You need to fill the FLR(M) form.

Me: (wanting to kill the guy who made the questionnaire based form suggestion tool). Ok, that’s not what the website said but I’m happy to fill the other form if you can give us some time.

At this point, I was in no mood to create a scene. I wanted to be simply done with it and went into crisis resolution mode. To my surprise, the CO was so friendly and even gave us directions of the local library where we could print a copy of the form and fill it. He did give us a 3 hour deadline to come back which was more than generous.

After printing and filling the form carefully and taking a much deserved sandwich and coke break, we headed back to the visa centre after about 2 hours. Our forms and biometrics were taken and then started the awful 2 hour wait when they deliberate over every little detail mentioned in the form and do the necessary checks.

Finally a lady came out and handed us our approval letters and we heaved a sigh of relief. The drive back home to London didn’t feel long at all !

How to fit an IKEA kitchen island

This Christmas I thought of a very loving gift for the missus. Something she has been asking for a long time and I have never gotten to doing. So I trot off to IKEA to bring all the things necessary to build an island for an already existing open plan kitchen but little do I know that fitting an IKEA kitchen island is not as straight forward and simple as a wardrobe or dining table or anything else from IKEA for that matter.

If you are reading this blog then you probably know what I am talking about. The idiots at IKEA who help you design your kitchen have no clue about how to fit one of these and if you dont agree, you probably will by the time you read this whole tutorial.

Step 1: Build the METOD (or SEKTION as they are called in the US) base cabinets. No surprises there. Just follow the instructions and you will be fine so I wont bore you with the details.

Step 2: Fit the METOD legs. Again no surprises here. Simple and easy.

Step 3: Now it gets tricky. IKEA have stopped selling the assembly that fits the island to the floor. I was advised you could get a similar setting from B&Q or Wickes. But that doesn’t work for various reasons. So then how do you fit the island into the floor so that it doesn’t move?

I have a wooden laminate flooring. My island consisted of 3 base units each being 40cm, 60cm and 40cm wide. The width had to be quite small so we went with the 37cm option. You will agree that the overall weight of the unit wouldnt be significant so there was always a risk of the island moving.

After speaking to a few people, I went back to B&Q to buy a few supplies. The plan was to cut out squares in the flooring such that the legs would go down. This would ensure that the whole unit wouldnt move although it could possibly shake – something I would need to solve later. But making these small squares is not easy. I started off by placing the unit where you want it to stand. then using some masking tape mark the squares you want to cut. Now you can take the unit away and work on the square cutting.

Start off by drilling small holes in the flooring along the outline of the squares.  After drilling a few holes, we found that we had a foam layer under it (thank God!). Make sure you dont have any any underfloor heating or wiring where you are drilling. Most places will either have wood, foam or concrete and this solution would work in all  those cases. I also found out the hard way that its easier to make more smaller holes than using a bigger drill bit to make bigger holes. Keep checking with one of the METOD legs that it fits exactly within the square otherwise you will need to improvise. Once the holes are made, use either a half inch or one inch chisel along with a hammer or mallet and make small cracks along the holes. You will find that the whole square just comes off as it is then. Finish off by scraping the sides and making it look neat.

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Holes are drilled, now cutting through with a chisel
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The small square block comes off quite easily
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Scrape off excess chips of wood and clean with a handheld vaccum (if you have one)
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That’s how it looked in the end.

Step 4: Now its time to test your workmanship! Carefully lift the unit with all its legs and place in the small holes. Fingers crossed, if you have done a good job, it fits in perfectly and snugly too. You will have to adjust the height of the individual legs to ensure its all levelled up.

Step 5: We were now debating what to fit next. What remained were the doors, the worktop and the cover panels. Common sense prevailed and it was the cover panels. But how? This is another thing that IKEA don’t tell you. The base cabinets work fine if you are hanging them on the wall (since no cover panels are needed). But the thin cardboard at the back of the cabinet can not support the heavy RINGHULT cover panel. Also there is a gap between the cardboard and the cover panel ! So no way you can screw them together even if that would be a stupid thing to do. Also the instruction manual that comes with it only tells you how to do the side cover panels, not the ones on the back. Some Swedish brilliance! After screwing in the side panels and thinking a bit about the rest, I went back to B&Q to get some L-plates.

First you need to cut squares in the cardboards where the L-plates will go through. We found that the top part had rectangles cut already. So we needed to just cut them at the bottom. We marked the places where we wanted them so that they dont interfere with the shelves and once again got the drill out. This time use a small drill bit and make holes around the square you want to cut out. Ensure you cut a bigger square than needed as that will help manoeuvring the L-plate while adding the screws. Next take a cutter or a thin blade and simply cut the square. Once thats done, you will need to sand the side where the L-plate sticks to the cabinet. Otherwise you wont get a strong hold on the base cabinet.

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After drilling small holes in the cardboard
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Sanding the side where the cardboard touches the cabinet wall

Once the holes are cut out, place one cover panel at a time onto the base cabinet as it will be placed in the end. Ensure you take care of the sides too – you could either cover the side panel with your back cover panel to have a square effect like I did (see the finished product at the end) or you could just stick it exactly behind your base cabinet but that would give an edgy look which might be undesirable for some. Once you have placed a cover panel in its final position, you will need some clamps to keep it in place. Place the L-plate and mark holes where the screws will go.

Now take the panel down and screw the L-plate onto the cover panel. Do it for all L-plates that go onto that panel. Once done, try and place the panel back again and you will see that it fits quite snugly onto the base cabinet. All that is left is now to screw the L-plate to the base cabinet as well. (Yes, you need a lot of screws here and you will need to get different sizes. The ones that go in the panel have to be small (or else they will come out the other side!)

Once you have fit one of the panels, the rest seems like an easier ride.

Step 6: Next comes the worktop. If you have planned such that the standard size KARLSBY or SALJAN or any other worktop fits exactly onto your island then you are lucky. Otherwise you have the same problem that I did. You want a fine cut and no normal fine-cut saw will give you that. After exhausting all DIY options that didn’t involve buying an expensive machine saw like a router, jigsaw or a multi tool to just make 2 cuts in this lifetime, I finally took marked the places I wanted the cut and took it to a joinery. A good decision I must add. They have powerful machinery which does the job in less than 10 secs and gives a finish you just can’t get even after buying that expensive machine saw and using it for the first time.

Step 7: Stick the laminate strips onto the unfinished (cut) sides. Again IKEA assume that you will only shorten the length and not the width. They give you an extra laminate strip for the shorter side but nothing for the longer side. (I was lucky the guy at the joinery gave me some matching one he had spare but otherwise you need to purchase it separately). You can stick it using any wood adhesive and allowing to properly dry for about 4-5 hours before attempting to cut the extra sides off with a paper cutter or sharp knife.

Step 8: Almost done. Screwing the worktop and adding the doors are no rocket science at all. Nothing that a drill driver can’t do quickly for you.

Here is how it looked once it was complete. The missus loved it and also gave it a ladies touch for this photograph 🙂
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I still need to add a plinth and some door handles but today is Christmas and I deserve a break now! Merry Xmas everyone!