Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Move

Wednesday 17th August 2005 - In mourning

It’s the last day on my own here in this house. Tomorrow, Pickfords arrive to start packing us up.

I’m tired. Avoiding feeling, because it’s easier that way. It is awful thinking about leaving, because it is like mourning. I can’t imagine not having this as a home to come back to. It will be somebody else’s house.

I never looked back to our previous houses – my first flat, then Rick’s house which I shared with him for two years. But his, our first home together …

It occurred to me that the Pickfords team leader will need to have the skills of an undertaker. I can’t imagine how I am going to be able to leave this place.

Thursday 18th August - Packing

We did those final jobs – cutting the lawn, disconnecting the washing machine, switching off and drying out the fridge/freezer - then nipped out to Wetherspoons for a breakfast, returning to wait for Pickfords. And wait … and wait … Meanwhile, on the street outside, an army of builder’s skips and small diggers were gathering. By the time the van arrived (it’s about the size of a double-decker bus) the street was full of building machinery. A skip lorry was busy unloading and loading skips at one side of us. On the other, a builder’s merchant lorry was just leaving. Our van had to wait, then edge its way in bit by bit.

We sat in the lounge, perched on the edge of the sofas while we heard the ripping of parcel tape and the rustling of paper as our possessions were swiftly packed away into boxes. Not knowing quite what to do with myself, I kept checking to see if they were OK, and offering cups of tea and biscuits. In the end, I left them to it (I’m sure they were very relieved about that).

At 5pm, they left, arranging to return at 8am on the Friday morning. They left us our bed, but had taken the rest of the bedroom furniture. Sleep did not come easy.

Friday 19th August – Completion Day


We woke early and prepared for the final push. I cleaned the bathroom after us, and then went round to T&A’s to drop off their keys. Luke and Scarlett were finishing breakfast, toast crumbs round their mouths. I finally dragged myself away, with a gift of two ripe figs from their tree in a pot by the back door.

As rooms were cleared of stuff, I busied myself with the dyson and damp cloth. It is disgusting what gathers on skirting boards behind pieces of furniture. The dyson was soon full, and made a particularly unpleasant grinding noise. I wielded dyson, duster and damp cloth endlessly, rescuing cloths before they got packed – which some did, along with the detergent, by the youngest packer who shoved everything in sight into a box.

Our moving team were fantastic. Welsh Phil, didn’t say much at all, and refused all offers of tea except for one cup in the morning. Alan – a tattooed granddad, self-employed, full of stories. And Steve, clearly less experienced but absolutely game. In his enthusiasm, he packed Rick’s book which Rick had been reading and inadvertently left unattended. As Rick mooched about, bereft without his book, Steve realised this mattered and disappeared into the van, reappearing with the treasured article.

Finally, we were all packed. The lads said cheerio, and the van pulled away. Rick pushed the dyson around the hall and stairs. I carefully arranged the yellow file of handover notes and instructions, the bottle of champagne and card for our buyers. The tears welled up then. I so clearly remembered the day that we moved in, and found a card and flowers left for us from our vendors. I’d left our new dyson in the hall, and raced around to look at every room in our new home. By the time the others started arriving with furniture, I’d only vacuumed the dining room.

Our neighbour, Ginny, dragged me from my recollections, shouting my name from across the road. I ran and gave her a hug, thanking her for looking after our house all those times we’d been away. I smelled of her perfume for ages afterwards – sweet and floral. Then we had to close the door and walk away from the house which - since the solicitor’s call - was no longer ours. We had to get in the car and drive away, trying not to howl in front of all the lads doing building work at the neighbouring property.

To stop myself wallowing, I phoned our buyer. He was enjoying a last drink with his garden while his partner went to fetch the keys.

“We’ve left the building,” I told him heartily. “It’s all yours, mate!”


And so we arrived here. Pickfords beat us to it, managing to negotiate the 13’3” bridge in their 13’1” van with apparent ease. Rick dropped me off, and went to fetch the keys from where we’d been told to collect them. The Pickfords boys sauntered up to the shop for sandwiches. I was left, feeling a fool, standing on the weed-covered drive clutching my handbag and a few files.

While we had been driving over, the letting agent had tried to phone, but the signal kept cutting out. I’d got something about the garage door missing a key, and something about it being in the garden … ?

Rick returned without the keys. “The locksmith took them,” he said. We were mystified. Rick managed to find somewhere with a mobile signal and phoned the letting agent. He found out
a) the keys were under a plant pot (what a cliché)
b) the garage door wouldn’t lock, and couldn’t be fixed until next week. Oh, joy.

However, we had a van full of stuff waiting to be unloaded, and no time to worry about this. Rapidly, we moved into action, finding the key and unlocking the front door; showing the lads the layout, taping signs to the doors of the rooms. I stripped the ivy from around the patio door, located keys and managed to get it open.

We then had the exhausting experience of watching our possessions fill the house, box after box. The lads worked hard and fast, barely stopping to drink the cups of water that I kept replenishing them with, somewhat alarmed by the sweat pouring off them. The stairs were hideous to negotiate, and the wardrobe had to be demolished to go up. This is probably the worst design of house I have ever seen.

At around 5.30, they finally brought the last items in; we filled in the form, said goodbye and watched them drive away. I was quite sorry to see them go. They were a link, somehow, with our old life and it felt like they should be part of our new. But we were on our own now. Exhausted and hungry. We investigated the local pub. It was closed. We weighed up our options, which were to wait until 7 and see if the local opened then, or to walk some distance down to the canal where we knew there was another pub. As I could barely stand, let alone walk, we went for the local option.

Thankfully, it did open at 7. We sat in splendid isolation, in an attractive window niche, admiring the open fire, beams and horse brasses of the typical country pub. And this was just down the road from us! I ordered sausage, chips and onion gravy, and have never enjoyed a meal more. Perhaps, just perhaps, we might like it here.


One of the first things I did was to remove the ivy that was starting to choke the back of the house. I pulled experimentally at a piece, and it came away from the wall, even up to the height of the roof. The whole lot came down bit by bit, as I tugged gently to release its fingers from the brickwork. Spiders and goodness-knows what else cascaded onto my hair and down my neck. Soon, there was a satisfying pile of ivy in the middle of the patio. Next, I started to tug away at the creeping weed that lurks at the foot of the house – only up to where the alpine strawberries have colonised. They can stay.

I started on the brambles, but couldn’t find my gardening gloves. I knew exactly where the gardening bucket that contained my gloves and small tools had been. But as to which box it was in now in the garage, well, who could tell? Rick had a fairly fruitless search, then gave up. The thorns hooked into my skin like cats’ claws, refusing to come unhooked. I gave up pending retrieval of my gardening gloves.

In the evening, Rick roasted a chicken and we opened a bottle of Bollinger, which was very nice indeed. A prince amongst champagnes.


We needed to get out, especially as the weather was gorgeous – hot and sunny. We walked through the village, past the squat, honey coloured stone church. A woman came out of a cottage, whose garden I had been admiring – a riot of pink and red flowers. She told us her husband grew them all from seed, before hurrying on her way to chapel. We carried on, past a large corrugated metal barn (of which there seem to be several round here) and onto field paths. There were black, dried seed pods of some shrivelled crop in the first field. They rattled as we brushed past them. Hedgerows were jewelled with rosehips, blackberries and elderberries. There were very few trees, and those that there were sat together in tight little huddles, all called ‘fox covert’. Stubble stretched into the distance like gleaming cream velvet.

The path took us up to Burton Dassett Country Park. This is rounded and undulating, with wispy pale grass that makes it resemble sand dunes. Climbing up to the viewpoint, the roar of the M40 suddenly hit us. I resented its intrusion, and climbed back down the hill so the sound receded again. Then I tried to imagine it was the roar of the sea, just over the top of the sand dunes.

I was missing the sheep. When we’d been up here the time we first looked at the house, there had been sheep all over the hills. Where were they? Finally, we spotted them, clustered under the shade of the few trees that they could find at the bottom of the hill.

When we got back to the house, I took one look at the garden and then returned to the garage to have another search for my gardening bucket. Finally, I located it, three boxes down. I spend a good hour or so doing my best to salvage the plants that I found, liberating them from choking couch grass and nettles. I made a start, enough to make the garden look as if it had had some care rather than months of neglect. There is little I can do about one side of the garden, which adjoins a farm track. The brambles and grass scramble through the fence merrily, and will always do so. So, that side of the garden will be our patch of ‘wildgarden’, left to grown with little intervention except to rein in the brambles every now and then. Our reward is lots of fruit at brambling time. And lots of happy birds!

Later, we had drinks on the patio and rounded the day off with creamy, comforting roast chicken risotto.


Grey and drizzling. Our first morning getting up for work at a reasonable hour. Then we piled our stuff into the car, and got as far as the end of the drive before Rick said “where are we going?” We’d forgotten to plan our route to work.

Wednesday 24th August 2005

Today is the first day on my own in our new home. It feels very strange. I keep wandering about, feeling lost. I’m sitting in the kitchen at the moment, as it is the lightest, most welcoming room. I’ve cleaned the filthy, smelly washing machine that came with the house (removing lots of black mould and large chunks of what looked like straw and tree bark). The washing is now whirring away to itself – a comforting sound.


Anonymous Beth said...

Right nw I am envying you your luxury of packers! I've never been in the luxurious position of having funds for that service. It must make evrything so easy. Then agaian, I have been packing since I was 10 years old, and have done it 20-odd times.

Odd then, that it seems to get harder as the years go by? Perhaps as we get older (Wealthier?!) we acquire more stuff to move. I don't recall ever suffering sciatica at this stage before!

So much to do - so little time to do it in.

Four more boxes packed in the kitchen this morning. Whever did I acquire all this stuff from? Still more to do before the kitchen is finished.

2:36 pm  
Blogger Carole said...

You are an artist in your kitchen, Beth. You need plenty tools to weave your culinary magic :)

When we moved, Rick ended up trapped in the kitchen behind a wall of boxes. It is astonishing how much stuff we acquire over the years - and that's after the decluttering that we've all been doing lately!

We were lucky to have the packing service. Rick got relocation budget with his move, so we were determined to make proper use of it. The disadvantage is when we came to unpack, we had very little idea where anything was - although the advantage of that was that we had to unpack all the boxes at once, and therefore not have them hanging around for ages.

Hope you're getting there with the packing.

5:19 pm  

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