There are some advantages that come with age and one is a wealth of experience. My remarkable partner Jacqui had, in another life, been in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Refusing to panic she rang the Stranrae hotel and explained – several times, using increasingly small words – we were not travelling for “Leisure or Pleasure”. This was an essential trip, allowed under the regulations and we had no choice but to leave our home on the 8th of December. A subtext, not articulated but lurking just around the corner, was the threat to camp out in their car park overnight if necessary. It worked.
Now we had the problem of the sale. There was not enough time to begin the whole process again, with viewings, surveyors, mortgage assessors, solicitors… But a number of our previous viewers had expressed a keen interest in the house and sent in offers, so we sent out messages. “If you can guarantee to complete in less than four weeks the house is yours”. Much to our astonishment that worked too. All we had to do was finish packing and get ready to go.
We had found a removals firm in Ireland who claimed to be expert packers and experienced in handling antiques and fragile goods. If I do not name them you will have an inkling that these claims fell somewhat short of the truth, but more of that later. The move was planned for 2 trips, a week apart. A storage room was already arranged some seven miles from the cottage in Ireland. We had done a lot of packing ourselves but there were still large areas of the house needing an efficient and professional hand. When the mover arrived he took everything we had got ready, filling half the van. Then he walked around the house and said he’d be back to finish the job on the 8th. We were not sure how he planned to do it but he was confident and drove off after barely four hours.
The next part of the move still gives me bad dreams. When we looked around we found there were several items missing. Two green boxes from the Pet Crematorium were gone. We had lost Trevor, our cat and Saffron our oldest dog during the year and had not had time to find suitable urns for them. And a red folder had gone from the table – containing the papers and passports for two of the dogs. We were frantic, distraught and close to despair as without the papers we could not take our dogs abroad. Already ill and exhausted from stress and overwork Jacqui had a relapse and was unable to do anything for most of the next week. Sensibly she slept and recovered in time to drive to the vets where the wonderful Len issued two new, replacement passports. We could only hope the green boxes were safe in the first load.
We would not have managed as much as we did without our wonderful friends. Always a tower of strength, Lynn turned up every day to help us pack, sort and manage the dogs. As the final deadline loomed and it was obvious I would not get everything done two other saviours materialized. Paul and Su offered some much needed muscle (Paul) and organization (Su). Together they helped us salvage something from the disaster of the house and we were thankful we would have a professional packer to clear the china cupboards and take down some of the furniture. Ha!
When he arrived, four hours late, it became obvious he was not expecting to pack anything even though I had phoned and warned him we were way behind. Also we and hadn’t been able to get any more boxes. After he threw a hissy fit we walked him round and showed what was needed. We had been due to leave at the time he finally arrived. Four hours to help and answer questions built in to the day had seemed enough and we had a long journey ahead. Instead we had to rush through what was left, trusting him to make proper notes.
As we set off, late, shaking with fatigue and sick with worry we were buoyed up by the unexpected rush of kindness shown by friends and neighbours. We had cards, wrapped gifts, kind words and people waving from doors and windows as we finally left our home in the north-east. It was two days short of thirty one years since we had arrived and as we set off through the increasingly dark and stormy weather the enormity of the whole enterprise finally hit home.