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Posts tagged ‘Moving house’

Our house is a very fine house

As soon as our offer for the house was accepted time seemed to drag.  Days were darker, longer and colder with the prospect of that fine house ahead of us.  This was made much worse by the lockdown as there was no going anywhere.  We couldn’t even go up to look at “our” house as it was three times further away than the travel limit allowed.  Our days were measured out in domestic tasks enlivened by walks in the small park with the dogs. 

Here we came across an interesting Irish phenomenon.  Meeting a stranger with his young daughter, he greeted us and asked where we were from.  As we explained who we were he asked a series of questions before nodding happily.  Sure, he knew our lovely Irish friends.  In fact he was – complicated in-law and cousin’s relationship followed – so they were family too.  Satisfied he now knew us and had placed us in the web of local relationships he carried on with his walk, waving a cheery goodbye.  It is easy to forget just how small the population of Ireland is and everyone seems to be related to everyone else, however tenuously.  I resolved to dig out my genealogy notes and find my own links to the area if possible.

We were also struggling to advance the necessary paperwork for the car, licences, medical arrangements… Until you leave a country you don’t realise how embedded your life is in that nation’s systems.  I developed a healthy respect for anyone trying to join the UK.  National Insurance numbers appear at birth along with all the other records built up over a lifetime of residence.  Strip that away and health care, many civil rights, financial stability, even the right to buy a mobile phone or connect to electricity can be difficult to establish. 

In the midst of a pandemic all queries and requests were handled remotely, if at all.  We relied on the only computer we had in the cottage, a 20 year old Toshiba laptop I had grabbed at the last minute.  It was running an extremely  out-of-date operating system, the battery was shot and it was unbelievably slow but it did actually work – eventually.  Of course, we had no printer so any letters had to be sent by e-mail or hand written but we kept chipping away at the bureaucratic wall. We were determined to be ready when the house papers came through.  Without our valiant little Toshiba I doubt we would have managed at all so here’s a shout-out for an unbelievably tough (and now happily retired) machine.

Our Little Hero!

We got our completion date, after a few hiccups, just nine weeks after our arrival in Ireland.  Our estate agent/auctioneer, Noel, delivered the keys to us and we rang our storage owner to let them know we were starting the move.  Up the hill about 10 kilometres we pulled into the drive and opened the door to our new house.  It was cold but the log burner was on again and our builder friend appeared with two barrels of oil to keep the boiler going.  Something else to sort out – how did we get fuel?  How did we get the electricity account transferred?  And we really wanted the log-burner on!  Our kind vendors threw the door to the shed open and showed us eight large sacks of wood they were leaving behind.  More kindness from relative strangers.

Jacqui drove to the storage and began to supervise moving some of our goods.  The wonderful Derek and his Merry Men, Will and Anthony, were already waiting, eager to start.  As they levered up the door to one of the lockers Derek’s mouth fell open in shock.

            ‘Ah, they’ve just f**ked that all in there!’ he said.  There was muttering from his lads.  It wasn’t just careless, they decided.  They way they had treated our home contents was abusive.  As carefully as they could they began to disentangle and repack stuff in their van.  Jacqui had made a plan for me as stuff arrived at the house and I directed as best I could.

“Just f**ked in there”

It was a long job, taken slowly over three days and we went back to the cottage overnight. Soon our builder fitted the new gates to secure the garden area. Then security lights were fitted and we were ready to stay overnight.  There were boxes everywhere of course. I couldn’t work out how to fix the beds properly and some vital components were missing for two of them.  Who the hell dismantles a bed and leaves the bolts behind??  The amazing Lynn spotted one set when cleaning the Saltburn house. She posted them on to us but the others were gone for good.  Still, we ran the heating all night to lift two years of chill. That night we camped out with a picnic table and had our first meal in our new house. 

We knew there were a lot of small problems, from wonky taps to loose doors.  Most of the vent covers to the windows were missing so we sealed them up with tape.  Doors could be jiggled.  We just swore at the taps.  We still could not believe our luck in finding what was in the words of our builder friend, a very fine house. 

That evening I watched the sun go down behind the trees in the field behind us.

“That’s a Fairy Fort”, said our friend.  “Ye keep out of there or it brings bad luck.  But stay away and maybe they look out for ya”.

Yes, it is a very fine house, with interesting neighbours from the sound of it.  Despite the proximity to the ‘wee folk’ we slept very, very well that night.

The Fairy Fort at sunset

And so it begins – rather slowly

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.  

A lot of books – but precious little else…

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.