First things first, I am not going to be winning any blogging awards any time soon if all I can manage is one post every month! However, I hope you will forgive me for not writing more often as we have been rather busy organising the move and packing up the house!
A big, big thank you to Veronika (Belle Mere) and Mum and Dad for their help during this frenetic time, and not to forget friends and neighbours for pitching in as the end of our time in the UK rapidly drew to a close. I’d like to thank Martin & Sarah – the best neighbours in the world, and also Allison Brown for all her help. Must be something in the genes!!
I’m not sure where to begin in relating the events of the last month, so I guess chronologically would make the most sense – but that may indicate an organised mind, and to be honest, that is not really my forte, nor that of my lovely wife. However, I suspect that we sell ourselves short mostly through the analysis of others! We are organised, but in our own haphazard and slightly quirky way – only we could have signed the removal contract two days before the company were due to arrive to transport our chattels to live in storage for the next 8 months.
So, to business! Apart from a couple of breaks for Wedding Anniversary (happy 13th mon ange) and of course, Harry Potter VII Part II, the pattern of our weeks since my last post has been one of getting up, making up boxes, filling boxes, making up more boxes, and yes, filling them. Whilst I continued to work 3 days a week, Tania and Veronika shouldered the burden of this seemingly endless task. Taking down flat pack furniture and wrapping it was mostly my job, and all together we assessed items of clothing and shoes in order to determine what we kept and what we chucked. It took me 10 minutes for my part, 30 minutes for the boys, and we are still working through Tania’s!!! Why is it that women always say “I’ve nothing to wear!”???
In an effort to guage the volume of our worldly goods for storage, and for that which we wanted to take with us, we allocated areas in the house. The back of the lounge was designated “Storage” with the part up to the chimney breast measured at around 10 cu metres. Oskar’s room was for “Stuff we take with us”. The idea being that we could be a bit more organised, however it seemed like every other room in the house had boxes or flat pack furniture in it in various stages of disassembly or filling. At least once a day we found ourselves asking the question, “Will we ever be finished?”
Things progressed rapidly, if haphazardly and we found ourselves careering headlong towards our date of departure – 8th August 2011. In an effort to ease the pressure on me and my lovely lady, the parents (or rents as my youngest cousins call theirs) kindly offered to deliver us from our children and give us some space to finalise all the last boxes, bits, books, belongings and beds. Luca went with Veronika to France (meaning we yet again missed his birthday) and Mum and Dad whisked Oskar and Mateo off to a wonderful hotel in Devon for a week of arts, crafts, games and various other activities.
I had arranged to have a week’s break from my contract before we officially left our home of 8 years meaning that we could concentrate fully on finalising all of the things we needed to complete before quitting this sceptred isle for the land of garlic, fromage, vin, saucisson and of course baguettes! Working long into the night to some wonderfully cool and mellow tunes part-taking of various dishes of delight from all corners of the globe accompanied by many bottles of wine, we packed up the things that made our house a home, selling our bed, packing up the boys’ and collapsing each night, exhausted (and rebounding slightly) on our inflatable bed of luxury. Repeat ad nauseum to end of the week when we happily recovered the children (well two of them) and prepared ourselves for the last hurrah.
Saturday 6th August had been designated “Goodbye Party” day. Simple preparations – shout out on Facebook, kind offers of dishes, plates, knives, forks, glasses. Bring some food and drink, and enjoy an afternoon, evening and night of fun. I have to be honest, given our perceived lack of penetration into Didcot society, we were expecting a trickle of people to pop by and say hello, goodbye and then pop off. What we got we,re some of the best friends and neighbours, an ever crescendoing cacaphony of cackling comrades (well the girls at least, we men sought refuge by the heat of the BBQ at the other end of the garden). Here were wonderfully warm and caring people who not only popped by, but brought their kids (friends of our boys) and stayed practically until the death. St Peters Road was terrorised by a dozen children running wild and free, whilst parents talked and yarned away the day. It seemed really special to us, and it was with great regret that we said so long to them, realising that here were people that we had amity with, and had not realised until it was almost too late. I for one hope that those last moments together will last into the future, and that we will see you all again, and that it will seem like only yesterday. Overly sentimental you may cry, but true.
Sunday was clearing up, and loading the car with what we “needed” to take with us. Normally, when we voyage, we have a strategy. Gather all the suitcases etc into the hall so that the dog can see the rabbit and I know that I have this much to put in (plus at least 3 or 4 bags that “materialise” at the last moment – thanks gorgeous). That way I can pack the car in the most efficient way possible.
It is definitely not this simple when you are leaving a house for the last time!!! In popular LA parlance OMG!!! Having started with Luca’s and Mateo’s bicycles – awkward shapes at the best of times, there arrived a plethora of assorted boxes and bags and files and papers and loose items – think 3 or 4 last minute bags multiplied by 10. The estate car bore the brunt, but once full, and capped off with the bike rack with mine, Tania’s and Oskar’s, there was no option but to fill the little MX5 as well. And when they were both stuffed full, we still had more. Thank God Mum and Dad, and Paula and Ben had some room to take things away for us.
Monday – D-Day. Virgin arrived early to disconnect us, the Damp Proof guys and the Removal guys arrived at around the same time. As the house emptied, box by box, flat pack by flat pack into the removal van, what was left was squeezed into any crevice we could find in the two cars, or put in the skip, or off-loaded onto family, friends, or prospective new owners. We had a EuroTunnel to catch at 15:20 so time was against us, as was the chaos in the house – errmmmm Passports?? Any ideas??
There was a tearful goodbye to neighbours, and with Oskar riding with me in the MX5 and Mateo in the Modeo we headed off, about half an hour late, stopping to wave and take a last photo of the bricks and mortars that had gently coddled our little family and watched us grow in age and stature and indeed number. Now I am no real beliver in co-incidence, but it is a little strange that at no. 3 there were 3 boys, at no. 5 there were 3 boys, and at no. 7 there were 3 boys. Something in the water perhaps??
A story of driving from Didcot to Paris will not overly enthrall, but some hightlights…. well we missed out train by half an hour, we couldn’t drive faster than 70 mph because of the bike rack, and on arrival into Paris, the two main routes to Tania’s Dad’s were both closed…. thank goodness that at least one of our SatNavs delivered and we arrived safe and sound in Antony, whereupon family, friends and neighbours lent a hand to unpack the cars, and provide a sumptuous feast for the hungry immigrants.
Et voila. Au revoir Angleterre. The land I’ve known for all of my life, my home. The land of cricket, beer and pubs, of Shakespeare and Chaucer, and bizarely, just as we left, the land of civil disobediance and riots. The momentary madness of that weekend pales into insignificance against your glorious history. And whilst we may no longer be the most intimate of friends, we will at least be able to greet each other as long lost friends when at last we happen upon your hallowed turf once more. Adieu, goodbye, farewell….. for now.