One of the most striking things about the house was the number of birds co-habiting our little acreage. We picked our way past piles of boxes to open the back door and the bird song barely hesitated. It was February but there were many birds rarely seen in England until spring or summer. In the first few days I saw Blackbirds, Robins, Great and Blue Tits, Sparrows, Pied Wagtails, and Gold Finches. And the ever-present Rooks of course. Suddenly that first morning they all fell silent and I looked out to see what had happened. Floating over the garden, about twenty feet up, was a large, dark bird of prey. It circled a couple of times, gave an odd burping sound and drifted off towards the Fairy Fort.
“Buzzard,” said our builder when I asked him. “Been reintroduced in the last ten years. You’ll have a couple over there probably.”
I had a moment of panic. The thing was huge – beautiful but huge. Could it maybe attack the dogs?
“No,” he said. “Would carry off a pup perhaps but a grown dog is a bit too big.”
When I calmed down I looked buzzards up in our bird books. They have a wing span of up to four feet and are slow and clumsy on take-off, though elegant and graceful once airborne. A buzzard landing in our garden would struggle to get out again. Reassured about the dogs, I began to worry about the other birds. We wanted to put out food and were debating different types of stands or tables. That would possibly make them handy snacks for a swooping buzzard so we put the idea aside to puzzle over later.
Like the move out, the move in was done in stages with Derek and his Merry Men shifting the bulk of our stuff on the Saturday. We were saved once again by our friends. These lovely people formed our “bubble” and set to with a will, opening the kitchen boxes and putting the china away in what cupboards we had ready. Although we had weeded a lot of possessions there was still a huge amount. The house – large by Irish standards – is about half the size of our Saltburn property and we were grateful for the “shed”. All of the pictures and books went in there, still packed. We focussed on the kitchen, finding bedding and clothes – oh, wonderful clothes!
We had labelled our boxes but the later “packing” done by the movers was rather more random. In one load I found a black bin-liner full of shredded paper. China was shoved into boxes barely wrapped. We had bought mattress bags and sealed up some but those from our beds were not covered at all and needed extensive cleaning. Some items were wrapped around with brown tape that damaged the surfaces and some were very badly scratched. As Derek said on the first day – “They just f@@ked it in there”.
Along with the strange items we didn’t want were a lot of omissions. My lovely writing table was missing, along with half the shelves. Bottles of wine we labelled to leave for our buyer appeared but an equal number we wanted were gone. And I’m not sure I fancy the stuff labelled “Wine from back shelving unit and kitchen bowels”. It was a bit like Christmas – open a box and you didn’t know what you’d find. There were moments where we stopped and looked around in total bewilderment. What was all this stuff? We did find the green boxes from the Pet Crematorium which made me smile – and almost cry with relief. Still, by the end of the day we had a functioning house, somewhere warm to sleep and a safe garden for the dogs.
It felt as if we had actually arrived. There was still a huge amount to do and we were still struggling to keep awake at times. We had no television – not even the seven stations and two in Gaelic – and no internet connection. We also had no radio signal for some reason. Despite the fact we’d unpacked just a fraction of the stuff there was a huge pile of boxes to be flattened, stripped of tape and disposed of somehow. So we waved our wonderful friends off and opened a rare bottle of Cava to go with a simple but delicious meal.
We had made it.