So, there we were, both more than slightly incapacitated. I don’t know what we had caught or where we had caught it, but I never want to get it again. It began a bit like the ‘flu with a high temperature, shaking – you know what it’s like. Then there was the cough, and that was the real problem. A harsh, dry cough that went on…and on…and on. I finally went to see a doctor after two weeks and came back with various syrups, then some antibiotics the second time, then some codeine cough syrup on week five. That, by the way, was so utterly foul I was sure it would cure my cough, just to avoid a second dose. It didn’t.
On the fourth visit to the poor young intern admitted there was a great deal of it around, something I had surmised from the hacking and choking in the waiting room, and it was some sort of virus that no-one could identify.
“Don’t come back unless you start to cough up blood,” he said, adding with a disarming honesty I have rarely encountered, “We can’t do anything”.
This was way back in November 2019 and, like a lot of people, I wonder if it was an early form of Covid but there was no hint of what was around the corner, people were still merrily buying Corona beer and most of the population were mixing to share their coughs and viruses without any facemasks. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?
When the dust settled from the 2019 election in December it was obvious nothing would stop the loss of our citizenship in just three short weeks and our freedom of movement in a year so despite being desperately tired we hauled ourselves to our feet and started on the house again. With Christmas coming there were not many places to send our unwanted chattels so we put one room aside, emptied it and promptly began to fill it with boxes and bags for charity shops once they re-opened in the New Year. Alas, the best opportunity was gone as by the time they did re-open for donations the edge of the pandemic was creeping over the horizon and before much of our stuff was distributed the country was under a lockdown.
There is so much involved with moving house, let alone relocating to another country, whether on a permanent or a temporary basis. The sheer mechanics of selling a property at the same time as packing it up and sorting out what is to go, what is wanted and where it will be in the interim are complex enough without being confined to said house without access to professional advice, helpers and tall people who can get stuff down from shelves. And strong friends who can lift boxes and move furniture.
Everything moved at a snail’s pace and the likelihood of actually being able to move became vanishingly remote as the weeks wore on. We put off telling anyone of our plans as they seemed to be hopelessly unrealistic and plodded through the days doing what we could. Occasionally we stopped to stare at a dusty space, wondering for a moment why we were dismantling our home. The first task was to tackle our (roughly) three thousand books, putting over a thousand aside to give away and wrapping the others in lined fruit boxes from a local store. It takes a long, long time to pack that number of books and I was certainly guilty of squandering the space lockdown offered to get ready. In the end the books were packed, many of the pictures were safe in specially purchased boxes but precious little else.
When the lockdown eased a bit we had a bit more energy and a sense of grim determination began to drive us forwards. We managed to get appointments for the dogs to get their passports, though we were then entering a world ruled by two deeply frustrating attitudes.
Around this time there was an advert for insurance where a customer was harangued over the type of door locks on his house “I don’t know – nobody knows”, he said sobs in despair. We felt the truth of this and finally took to looking at one another, shrugging and saying, “It’s a door locks thing”. “We don’t know – nobody knows”, especially relating to anything to do with regulations, new rules and possible disruption when the Transition Period ended. Would we need pet passports – and would UK versions be valid? No-one knew, even the vets. What about transferring money overseas (without using some money-laundering scheme, obviously). Nothing in place yet, said the banks. It might be alright but then again… nobody knows. Queries about the exchange rate were met with shrugs and the occasional bitter laugh. We decided to plan on the absolute worst scenario we could think of and just travel hopefully.
And then there was “Computer says No.” With so many people working remotely many “help lines” were jammed, unobtainable or replaced by web pages that did not have any access to a real person. Using pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit algorithms, decisions, especially financial decisions, were made by machines covering a limited range of options. From insurance to a possible bridging loan, computers took one look at us and went “no”.
And absolutely NO-ONE answered their phone anymore!
It was already May, we had no firm escape plan, the house wasn’t close to going on the market and we began to feel time was running out.