Joni Mitchell once sang “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” and I can vouch for the truth of that statement. We finished our packing in a mad scramble and the car was mainly filled by us, the dogs and our bedding. How Jacqui got a couple of cases, some books and a very old laptop in I don’t know but she did. Oh and the gifts and cards from friends, some food for the next day and two bags containing a few things for Christmas. Fortunately the car has extra strong suspension. Otherwise we may have been stopped on suspicion of smuggling.
I had divided my clothes up into summer and winter, carefully labelling the winter box “This one first!” I’d been wearing very old, raggedy clothes that I intended to discard on arrival so had a couple of pairs of jeans, three shirts with frayed collars and holes in them and two very sad jumpers. Jacqui was much more organised and had (bless her) seen to the other essentials. When we unpacked on the first morning I was so relieved to see socks and underwear in abundance.
The plan was to arrange a very socially distanced trip to the storage facility and get our clothes and a few supplies when we felt strong enough. The next few days were spent trying to keep warm as the cottage gradually thawed out a bit and sleeping but we were rather dismayed by the television. Freeview in Ireland is a bit – limited. Nine stations in all, two of them +1s so basically repeats. One of them showing how to get something better with a satellite dish. And two in Gaelic.
We had a small box of DVDs – 12 in total. We had chosen 6 each and fortunately we approved of one another’s picks. Unfortunately there was no DVD player in the television or anywhere else in the cottage. We were very, very thankful for e-books which we had carefully downloaded onto our readers before leaving. Doesn’t that show our sense of priorities?
After clearing our visit with Noel and Sheila at the storage place we loaded the dogs into the car and set off to find some clothes for me and the store cupboard for Jacqui. We were greeted by a most distressed Sheila and a furious Noel who led us down the dim corridors to our locker – one of four, we were told. Shocked by this news we tried to lift the shutter but it was jammed. This was the cause of Noel’s anger – he was upset about damage to his lockers but also furious for us. After struggling for nearly half an hour I managed to wriggle under the door and tried to free the shutter. There were boxes thrown in seemingly at random with everything piled up and tipping over. Furniture was wedged in at odd angles and boxes were split, spilling their contents across the heap. Across the top were wedged the pictures, all packed and labelled “Keep Upright” “Do not stack”. It was a car crash.
Of course, most of the boxes we did want were nowhere to be seen, in any of the lockers. We found the store cupboard for the kitchen – boxes of baking essentials and spices, pasta, rice… We were still mentally stuck in Covid Land where these goods were hard to find. In fact there was no panic buying in Ireland and no evidence of any shortages. We took the store cupboard boxes anyway.
One locker was less than half full and we began to mine it for anything useful starting with a box of cables and – joy – a very old DVD player I thought I had left behind to be recycled. The whole move seemed totally random with stuff we needed nowhere to be seen and stuff we didn’t want standing in plain view. There were a few bits of furniture too, including a chest of drawers from our hall. As I carried the boxes to the car Jacqui gave a shout of triumph behind me. I turned and saw her flourish something black and something grey. A hat, I realized. A hat and a pair of gloves! Oh I was so happy. It was extremely cold and I had nothing but my dog-walking jacket to keep me warm. Shoving my hands into the gloves and pulling on my woolly hat I felt better than I had for days.
We rode back to the cottage and unpacked, looking at the motley collection of spoils. They included a five litre tub of olive oil, the DVD player (but no controller, of course), a fish kettle full of cutlery, some extra rugs to cover the chairs and beds and my wonderful hat and gloves. Oh, and two plastic boxes filled with Christmas decorations. I know it was Lynn who had made sure they were in the last load. She had been determined that whatever happened, we would have Christmas. So we set to and started to make our cold little cottage just a bit more homely. It’s amazing what you can do with very little and you begin to appreciate every tiny thing. Yes, Joni was right.
You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
By the way, if anyone would like to follow the audio version, the first two episodes are available now (free of charge) on