Thursday, 27 December 2012

Crossing the Rubicon

It's been over a month now since we moved and my blogging has fallen well behind as we've struggled to combine two houses into one.  The move from No 7 began at one o'clock on Friday 26th October.  We knew from our solicitor that we would be first off the blocks that morning but didn't expect to get the call until after lunch.  As it happened, it all worked like clockwork and the estate agent rang at about 11 o'clock to say that the money had changed hands and that we could collect the key.

The first thing that I did was to move the cat.  Getting him into his cat basket is usually no mean feat.  However, he was very obliging, followed a trail of tuna and he was in.  I prepared the lobby at the back of the Old Rectory for him to settle in for the day, covering the floor with strips of the two foot wide sellotape roll that I'd got to save the newly cleaned carpets from the removal men's boots, then covering that with tarpaulin.  With the cat safely moved, the rest could follow.

I'd had quotes from two removal companies that were practically the same as the quotes for the removal from Staverton, which is a round trip of three hours.  And this was a move of fifty yards.  So I decided to do it myself.  Well, at least with the help of the builder's apprentice and three of his chums.  Then, of course, I had to buy boxes.  I had begun packing on about Tuesday but had run out of boxes and the plan was to empty them, then refill them on the day.  The removal boys had the builder's van but decided that it was easier to just walk things over the road instead of loading, driving and unloading.

I joined in and we worked until about five o'clock when we were all completely exhausted.  They'd moved the piano and some really heavy pots from the garden.  The kitchen was yet to be done but I decided to call it a day and finish that off myself.  The idea of repacking the boxes had obviously completely failed.  I was far too busy moving stuff and trying to direct the boys to the right rooms.  Of course, finding the rooms was no mean feat and it took some time for them to get their bearings.

I can't complain about those boys as they worked their socks off but I have now remembered why, when I left my last house, I swore that I would never move myself again.  Must remember that next time.  It took about ten trips in a packed car along with numerous walks across the road with boxes to finally clear the house and I was still moving stuff out on the Tuesday.  And, for anyone else about to move and thinking of doing it in this way, just paying some people to help out, it is a real false economy.  If I had paid up, it would have been done in a day and I would have had a cleared house.

Of course, with his usual immaculate timing, S arrived when it was just about over.  He had to be at work that day.  (Sorry, do I sound cynical?  Not intentionally, obviously.)  We then spent time sorting out my mum's sitting room and getting her settled.  Then making her bedroom comfortable.

Then it was fish and chips all round before bed, reflecting that we had indeed just passed a point of no return.  One house moved and one to go before then turning our attention to moving S's mum.

(Except, of course, one house hadn't been moved at all and, by the time it had been, I was too exhausted to clean it myself and ended up paying an extortionate amount to have it cleaned to a standard that wasn't anywhere near what I would have achieved.  And, despite all that moving of stuff,  the cleaners still found a kitchen cupboard that had not been emptied.  On top of which, I am still trying to find certain key belongings, not least the library book that has been recalled but is sitting somewhere in a box that is yet to be found.  See note above about the benefits of paying for a professional removal company.)

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down...

It was the Saturday evening before Christmas and a scene of domestic bliss.  I was making mince pies in the kitchen at the back of the house.  (Paul Hollywood's recipe using an enriched sweet pastry and adding chopped apples and satsumas to the mince meat mix, which came out well - lovely pastry, if I say so myself!  See:  I'm not sure my effort does the recipe justice though!).

The Finished Product
S was in his study.  Grandma was reminding H how to knit in the sitting room in front of a roaring log fire.  I didn't hear it in the kitchen, which is at the back of the house but, according to those at the front, there was a noise that sounded like my friend, B, doing a handbrake turn in her Mercedes on the gravel drive.  I think S knew what it was instantly.  We had been warned of it in the survey.

The garden wall on the church yard side had fallen down.  It was dark.  But from what we could see by the light of the torch, it was bad.

We went out first thing next morning to witness the worst.  An area of about eight square feet (Or is it more than that?  Answers on a postcard please!) had fallen.  A double skinned wall that retains the churchyard, it left a jumble of stones, of rubble that had been thrown inbetween the two walls - and, yes, a gravestone!  Luckily, there were no bodies and the wall to the side of the house, which encloses the gate and which is not too secure itself, seems to be acting as a brace on one side of the gaping hole and, on the other, the ivy appears to be holding the rest of the wall up.  However, we are very nervous as the church shed is about ten feet away and we certainly don't want that tumbling into the garden.  With the rain still pouring down, we aren't sure how much further the wall will be weakened and how much more might collapse.

The Damage - A View From Our Garden

Of course, Saturday evening and the Saturday before  Christmas on a Tuesday is no time for something like this to happen.  We tried to contact the insurance company on the Sunday with no joy.  They may, of course, have been tied up with the flooding that was going on in most of the rest of the country.  We tried to contact builders.  However, we all know that it is never a good time to contact builders but this is especially true on a Sunday before Christmas on a Tuesday.  In the end, our neighbour rallied round and we raided our other neighbour's garden (with his permission, I should add, for those thinking of trying this at home!) where his builders had left some planks, which we used to shore up the remaining wall.  The result is not exactly acro props but so far so good.  There has been no further landslide.

The View From the Church

In the meantime, we're waiting to see what the insurance company has to say.  I don't mean to be pessimistic or unkind to insurance companies but I've never yet managed to claim for anything from my buildings and contents insurance so I'm not entirely sure that this will be very different.  And the cost?  We suspect thousands.  Looks like my makeshift kitchen (see the first picture above for evidence) will have to do for just a little bit longer.

Finally, yes, it's been ages since I wrote my blog.  We moved on Friday, 26th October and it's been chaos ever since.  It took two weeks to get the internet sorted out.  More on that in a later blog as I still have plenty of spleen to vent about BT.  Then I couldn't find the camera.  Then it was Christmas.  Thank you to my one reader, who was worried about what might have happened - had we already forestalled on the mortgage?  No, not yet - but the heating bill might end our dreams of living in an Old Rectory.  So, apologies to my devoted reader (you know who you are, NL!) and I will try to get back on track.  I had thought about trying to write up what has happened over the past few weeks in chronological order but my memory is so useless that I think it will be easier to simply reflect back as appropriate as we forge onwards with this 'project'.  Perhaps just one last picture to inspire us all...