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Posts tagged ‘packing’

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

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

Full speed ahead to nowhere

With new restrictions and rules changing almost weekly it seemed we were moving at full speed but going nowhere. Suddenly time seemed to speed up as the deadline to move came ever closer yet we were still floating in a sea of uncertainty. Moving home was one of the exceptions to the lockdown but only in England. We were hoping to go abroad, a journey through four countries, each with their own rules. And still no-one seemed to know exactly what could be done. Or answer their phone.

The only course of action was to get on with what we could control and hope the rest worked out. After some difficulty we finally managed a (socially distanced and masked) meeting with the estate agent. They liked the house – a lot – but noted it was extremely untidy. Yes, trying to pack up a lifetime whilst not being able to throw out or recycle will do that to a home. We settled on a stratagy for photographs. Do the front of the house one afternoon and move the boxes to the rear. Then do the back one morning and reverse the process. This required several days of “wasted” effort but the results were quite stunning. In fact I was almost tempted to buy the place myself, it looked so good.

Knowing we were hopefully about to get some (socially distanced and masked) visitors, we focussed on tidying and clearing as much as we could, much to the disgust of the dogs who wanted this to all stop and get back to normal. Alas, there was no going back and we were heading for a totally unknown “normal” in an unknown place. As we waited for viewings we began to look for a place to rent in Ireland. This was far more difficult than we had imagined. Ireland was undergoing something of a housing crisis and rental properties were rare and highly prized. This pushed up the price and it was impossible to get anyone to take us seriously. We were English, still in England and with only English bank accounts and no references. We also had three dogs, albeit small dogs, and most landlords didn’t want any pets.

It looked as if we were heading down a slope with nowhere to land when our wonderful friends in Ireland stepped in. Somehow they managed to persuade a holiday cottage owner to let us have an empty cottage for a long term. It was actually the one place we knew, where we had stayed on our visit four years ago. We breathed a huge sigh, sent off the deposit and blessed our friends for a miracle. We turned our attention back to the house and I knew I was falling badly behind. In desperation I began to heave stuff into big boxes, seal them and label them “TBS” – “To Be Sorted”. Even so, I made a total hash of the whole thing. The whole experience was made worse by the fact my other half was already at work on the kitchen and the china. A wonderful friend had cleared the rooms with us for photographs and was busy on the bedding. I felt like an abject failure and the memory of those days still haunts me.

Absolutely the worst packer in the world

Despite the barely concealed chaos most viewers were impressed with the house and after only three weeks we had a number of offers. We accepted one and then waited for the surveyors, the Energy Performance Certificate and then the second survey for the purchaser’s bank. Everyone was fully booked, delays were inevitable and once more time was slipping by. Then came two hammer blows.

We were supposed to be driving to Stranrae to stay overnight before catching the early ferry but there was a change in the rules. We got a phone call from the hotel telling our booking was cancelled as “non-essential”. And then, with no warning, the sale fell through. We were almost out of time, we were heading nowhere and if we tried to go we’d be sleeping in a lay-by with three dogs overnight.

That was not a good day.