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Posts tagged ‘Moving’

The Wonderful Kindness of Strangers

A lot of people have commented on these posts (thank you all!) and many have said how brave we have been.  Well, we don’t feel all that brave.  And we didn’t do it on our own either.  Throughout this whole “adventure” there have been people by our side.  Some are old friends.  Some are unexpectedly kind people who took a bit of time to help us on our way.  And some are strangers who met us and did something kind – just because.

When we left our home behind it was a shambles.  The movers arrived late, with no boxes, obviously expecting us to have packed everything despite us telling them this was not the case.  We drove away full of worries, not trusting these men to do their job.  With good reason as we found out much later.  The mess they made of the packing and the house was mitigated by three lovely friends.  For two whole days they helped sort and pack, throw out and clean.  The house wasn’t as we had wanted to leave it, mainly if not wholly due to the movers, but under the circumstances they performed miracles.  Thank you Lynn, Paul and Su!

One of our big worries had been how to access the house money in Ireland.  On the last day our bank card came through for the Irish account – two short hours before we had to leave.  The post was already slowed to a crawl by a combination of Covid restrictions and Christmas so this was another minor miracle.  Thank you Royal Mail!

The house sale was due to be finalized on the 12th , three days after we left, and we waited anxiously for news.  The move to Saltburn had been blighted when our purchasers in Somerset failed to complete, leaving us with two houses, two mortgages, a bridging loan and only one job between us.  Late in the evening our solicitor called us.  Apologising for the delay she confirmed all was signed and complete.  She added that the delay was down to the firm’s desire to send the funds that day.  The Sterling/Euro exchange rate was exceptionally volatile as a Brexit deal seemed less and less likely and they wanted to get the best deal they could for us.  When we checked the figures the next day they had saved us almost six thousand euro by staying late to complete the transfer.  Thank you Helen!

I know I have mentioned how cold the cottage was several times but this was a big issue for us.  The electric heaters ate power and were unable to heat the rooms to any great degree.  We relied on the open fire in the main room, struggling with bales of logs, pressed peat blocks and heavy sacks of coal from the shop opposite.  After a couple of visits the staff recognised us and asked us how long we were staying.  They were bemused and sympathetic when we said maybe all winter.  The cottages, they said, were rarely let out of season and notoriously chilly.  

They pointed us to special offers in fuel, told us which were the most efficient and helped us load up the car or carry bales across the road.  Over the weeks we told some of our story – cautiously at first – but there was never a trace of anti-English sentiment from anyone.   They were kind, sympathetic and genuinely shocked by some of our experiences.  They also had the best range of cakes I’ve ever come across and cake and a warm fire goes a long way to lifting the spirits. Thank you, Kennedy’s!

“Special Edition” unicorn cakes. Taste even better than they look!

Whilst out walking in the local park behind the cottages we met several local volunteers working on the community garden.  One man, Dennis, was delighted to meet a “real author lady”. He stopped work for twenty minutes to talk, much to the annoyance of his colleagues.  Two days later he turned up at the cottage hauling three huge feed sacks full of raw peat.  We looked at it very doubtfully – it looked like wheels of mud and not anything you could burn.  It was the best and hottest fuel ever, Dennis assured us heaving the bags inside.  And he was right.  The peat threw out amazing amounts of heat and smoldered all night.  He said it was his own authorized cutting, and he wouldn’t accept any payment.  Thank you Dennis!

Raw Peat – looks dubious but burns wonderfully!

And the next week, when the snow came, Patrick the on-site manager brought a sack of coal for us.  It was wrong, he said, what had happened.  Anything he could do – just ask.  Thank you Patrick!

So much kindness from so many people, many from strangers who have become friends.  We would probably have moved from Saltburn anyway without Covid and Brexit.  We had the best of it but needed a change (and outdoor space and fewer stairs) but we would have liked the choice.  A chance to do it properly without the panic and stress and time pressure.  Without taking a leap into the unknown.  In the end we managed it but we couldn’t have done it without the wonderful kindness of strangers.

Thank you all.

Moving from Darkness into Light

It is dark at night in rural Ireland. Very, very dark, especially in the rain – and especially in winter.  As we turned the corner into the village suddenly there were lights from houses by the road.  The shop and pub opposite the entrance to our little enclave had bright windows and outside lamps shone on sacks of fuel.  We staggered from the car and waited in the rain as the dogs sniffed and had a pee on the walls.  The front door was flung open and our friends were waiting with open arms – literally – to greet us.  Inside it was bright, warm and surprisingly crowded considering we were in the main room and there were four adults, three small dogs and one little girl.  A fire roared up the chimney in the ingle nook and we were ushered into chairs as we took off the dogs’ leads and blinked in the light.  It was a wonderful welcome.

After greetings, wine, sandwiches, more wine and a guided tour of the cottage from the little girl we fell into the beds that were already made up, too tired to unpack the car.  The next morning we found supplies for breakfast in the cupboards, provided by our lovely friends. We were able to finally stop and take stock.  We opened the last of the cards and presents from Saltburn and decorated the main room with them.  The fire had gone out and it was cold – very, very cold.  There had been virtually no visitors over the last year and the cottage was in hibernation. Storage heaters in the bedrooms took off some of the chill but we were going to need the fire on constantly to keep warm and wake up our home.

Our cottage and home for the next few months was one of eleven set around two little greens.  Built in the 1960s for tourists they were “traditional” in style.  Deep walls, stone floors, basic furnishings, small windows and very small rooms.  Perfect for a holiday but not perhaps ideal in winter for long-term residence. We unpacked the car and waited for a delivery from the nearest supermarket that Jacqui had ordered before we left.  Apart from unpacking our meagre goods and walking the dogs in the park behind the cottages we were pretty much comatose for a few days. 

We did manage a celebratory dinner on the second night.  Saltburn has a marvellous butcher, Gosnay’s, and we had one final steak from his meat counter along with some excellent wine carried in the boot and wrapped in towels.  We had ordered a large block of special sheep’s cheese from Real Meals before we left.  It and the steak travelled without harm and we raised a glass to all our friends left behind and our friends in Ireland who had made the journey possible.  

Musing on life and strange coincidences I remembered when we moved from Somerset 31 years before.  We had visited Street, the home of shoe making in the west, and I found a pair of painted boots with a picture of a cliff on them.  As we drove into Saltburn we saw Huntcliff – a distinctive shape that matched my boots exactly.  It looked like a sign. 

The week before leaving for Ireland I had packed an unfamiliar tea towel, probably from Jacqui’s great aunt, with a picture of a donkey outside a cottage.  Looking out of the window I saw a rainbow over the green and realised these cottages matched that picture.  Another sign perhaps? 

I looked at the news and saw Scotland and Ireland were both closing their borders to all travellers.  Despite the cold, despite the exhaustion I felt a great rush of relief.  With barely 36 hours to spare we had made it.

December is not a good time to move

December is never a good time to move house.  We should know – all of our moves have taken place in December due to differing circumstances.  This December however was the hardest of the lot. 

We drove off in the car loaded with bedding, three dogs and essentials of life for the first few days.  It was just after 2pm and already getting dark as the rain began to fall.  We had a satnav – something I have resisted for years, and after this journey I felt fully justified in my prejudice.  It assured us our journey was 253 miles to the hotel.  The miles ticked off as we ploughed through what developed into a storm but although we had followed it’s snooty voice without question a glance at a real map showed we were nowhere near Stranrae when it reached a mere 10 miles to go.  By the time we got to the hotel it was almost 7.30 at night and we had driven an extra 80 miles. And the satnav was now telling us we were still 10 miles away.

The hotel was dark, just a faint light in the reception area.  At first glance it could have passed as a set for “The Shining”.  We hauled ourselves up the entrance steps and across the lobby, footsteps and dogs’ claws echoing in the gloom.  I think we must have looked awful as the lovely receptionist persuaded the kitchen staff to stay on and make us something to eat.  We staggered to our rooms and collapsed, feeding the dogs first and covering the bed with a blanket to guard against paw marks.  The food was excellent, delivered to our door, and the dogs seemed happy despite such a disruptive and strange week.  We slept – oh how we slept.

Oh, how we slept!

The next morning we left the echoing, empty hotel that had been so kind and welcome and headed for the port.  The satnav, obviously inhabited by a malicious spirit of some kind, sent us round in circles for ten minutes until we turned it off and navigated ourselves, arriving just in time to load.  The worst part was leaving the dogs in the car.  We had chosen Stranrae to Belfast as it was only two hours.  Two of the dogs are good, experienced travellers but the youngest had never done anything like this before.  We settled them in their crates, left little treats hidden in their blankets and stumbled upstairs just hoping they would settle and sleep. 

Sunrise over Stranrae

On board the staff were lovely, there were coffee, tea and pastries available and excellent seating areas.  We chose a place away from the televisions which was just as well as the BBC was announcing new travel restrictions and an imminent lockdown in Northern Ireland.  If necessary we would claim ignorance – it was too late now and we had nowhere to go back to.  As we pulled away from the dock and set out across the Irish Sea I felt an overwhelming rush of emotion and began to cry.  It was a mixture of relief, exhaustion, fear (mainly for the dogs) and grief for all we were leaving behind.   Looking back now I can still feel that pain, lessened by time but still enough to hurt.  I’m only surprised I didn’t cry earlier but I think we were both hanging on so tightly we didn’t dare relax.

The dogs were, of course, fine when we got back to the car.  The little Trojans had just curled up and slept with no fuss and less worry than I had experienced.  As we drove out of the port we passed a large group of police and customs officials who were setting up cones and signs, the new checkpoint.  We drove on, trying to look suitably respectable which was not easy under the circumstances, not stopping until we reached the service area on the motorway.  Here we grabbed sandwiches and water and walked the dogs before heading for the border and our final destination.

The journey was quite uneventful after that, enlivened only by another storm and the bastard satnav lopping another 80 miles off the journey.  Oh, and a Gardai checkpoint on the motorway outside Dublin.  Although it was rush hour every car was stopped causing a long tailback.  When we got to the front of the queue a very young and very wet officer looking into the car, raising his eyebrows at the contents.  By this time we probably looked more like car residents than respectable travellers.

   “Can I ask you the purpose of yer journey today?” he asked, raising his voice over the barking.

I was very tired and in no mood to be stopped so close to achieving the impossible.

            “We are moving,” I said.  “We have rented a cottage near Nenagh and we are going there.”

There was a pause as he digested this before stepping back and waving us on.

            “You have a safe journey then” he said.

That was when I knew it just might all work out.

A bit of an Adventure

Hello, welcome back and many apologies for my long absence.  As some of you may know I have been on a bit of an adventure – a bit more of an adventure than I anticipated when I began – and many things have changed over the last months.  I want to share this journey with you in all its delight, frustration and near despair and so over the next few months will be adding to my story until we are up to date.

To begin – for many reasons we have considered moving for a while.  More than 30 years ago we rocked up to a very run-down terraced house near the cliffs at Saltburn by Sea.  For those of you who have read the fourth Alex Hastings book, “Smoke and Adders”, this was a move forced on us by events not identical but very similar to those experienced by Alex.  After spending five years in Somerset, not far from the Levels, it took a while to adjust to what was a move diagonally right across the country but Saltburn is a beautiful place, the people were just as friendly as they had been in Somerset and we settled in, doing up the house and slowly making it the home we had always wanted.  Finally however time began to catch up with us.

Victorian terraces are tall and narrow and their staircases are long and steep.  My exciting (and, according to my mother, reckless) youth began to tell as the injuries from several motorcycle accidents made climbing said stairs increasingly difficult, not to mention the shoulder damage caused by bouncing off the road at high speed on occasions.  High ceilings and high shelves were eventually both out of reach.  We also longed for some outside space, especially for the dogs.  We had a small yard they could use but they needed at least one good walk a day and this often meant driving a short distance into the surrounding countryside and keeping them on their leads whenever they were outside.  A garden, we thought, would be heavenly.  It was also out of our price range unless we moved to somewhere smaller, more cramped and outside of Saltburn. 

So – fewer stairs and more garden, and somewhere quiet, within our rather limited budget.  We have a number of friends living in different countries in Europe, an attractive proposition for us as we eyed the uncertainties of Brexit looming ever closer, but most of the possible destinations had potential drawbacks.  In particular we wanted to be in easy reach of the UK in case of a family emergency.  Both of us have Irish ancestors, albeit one generation too far back to allow us to claim an Irish passport.  We have some good friends in Ireland – better friends than we could have imagined, and for someone selling a house in England property was not cheap but at least within reach.

We looked around our large house, took a deep breath and decided to start clearing it out.  Thirty years is a long, long time to live in one place and it is only too easy to acquire a great deal of stuff – our own stuff and some treasured possessions from departed relatives.  Nevertheless, we set to, weeding the books and sorting the china, delighting the local charity shops for a few weeks.

And then we got sick. 

Very sick. 

For weeks.

And everything had to stop.