Travelling cats


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Bob mewed every 6 seconds for the first hour in the car. He panted and climbed mercilessly over his sister, sitting on her, aware only of his own distress. Gizmo sat in silence for the most part hoping it would all go away soon!
On arrival they were locked in the downstairs cloakroom while the removal men unloaded our home. Eventually the cats graduated to the run of the kitchen, where Bob explored every cupboard and Gizmo grabbed some well earned sleep.
Gradually Bob seemed to settle but unusually he chose to sleep tucked closely next to Gizmo!
By day three Bob was scratching in his litter tray every few minutes. The litter tray remained dry. Bob was in trouble.
We made enquiries of our lovely new neighbours and took him to a wonderful vet in Puddletown. The name seemed very appropriate!
David showed great care, explained that distressed cats cannot produce the hormone which protects the bladder from urine, thus causing cystitis. He gave Bob an injection, which he hardly noticed, prescribed some pills, looked Giz over and pronounced her fine. In contrast to vets I have visited in London, David took his time, gave me loads of information and had a great way of relaxing both cats.
Within a few days Bob was clearly better and back to his confident self.
Gizmo assures me that this is a better kitchen than the one in London because there is more space, an indoor toilet and an Aga.
Bob is busy persuading me he is ready to face the big outdoors. We will see, Bob!

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Never Ending Boxes


How strange things look when out of context!
As we unpack the essentials and the oddments from our life, I get the strangest sensations of disbelief!
Sometimes I pick up the most familiar of objects in wonder. Suddenly, here in this new house they seem quite bizarre. On occasion they take on a new elegance I have never seen before. Other times, well loved objects seem dowdy or ugly.
There seems no logic in this. It is just seeing thing with new eyes. Now they are out of the house I have known for 24 years, they take on a new shape or meaning.
This is perhaps what I have been longing for. The chance to truly gain a fresh perspective. Another way to consider my values now I am retired.
The dimensions of each new room are different to our old home. The front of the house is quite grand with square rooms and tall ceilings. The back is older and as a consequence is more cramped and has an unexpected wave to the floor. If you unpack a box in the front of the house things either seem to take on the mantle of grandeur or shrink from this elegance. The same things unpacked in the back of the house may well match the cosy quirkiness or seems oversized!
Well, to be honest there are things I look at and simply throw out, no matter which part of the house I am in!
Box after box is opened. Some everyday things don’t reappear for ages. Where are the tea towels? I’m sure we had some shampoo! Sometimes we open a box and caress the contents because we haven’t seen it for a while. The professional packers did a great job but they mix your things about, which can be confusing.
Slowly some kind of order emerges. First priority is the kitchen: there is a need for food but it is more than that, it seems the heart of the home. The Aga is constantly alight and fills the room with dense heat which is overpowering during this warm weather. I HAVE to ask a neighbour how to turn it down!
Our bedroom and the bathroom also come high on my priority.
There are moments when I can’t bear to unwrap another thing. Empty boxes swamp us and clean wrapping paper smothers the floor.
Thank goodness there is a great pub nearly opposite which has a takeout service with pizza!

Packed and waiting


That’s it then!
We’ve done it!
Around ten o’clock this morning, whilst we had five men and two vans packing us away, we heard that the exchange had taken place and the completion on the house deal will be Friday!

Woohoo!

It all worked out after all!
We move tomorrow.

There may be radio silence for a while. The new place has no broadband, no 3G signal and no mobile phone signal. So if you don’t hear from us for a short while- don’t worry. We made it to Dorset.

I promise photos and news as soon as possible.
Thanks to everyone who sent their support and messages of hope. You have all been wonderful.

Oh! I am so excited!

Pre-packing


Tomorrow, we are going to take our furniture on holiday!
Six men are coming to pack it all in boxes, with loving care, we hope, and plenty of bubble wrap. Our cats are going to be confined in a room, which they will not appreciate.
There will be nothing to do and there is everything to do.

It feels like a holiday because we are only staying in this new house for six or seven months, so we cannot get rooted in it. It feels like a holiday because we still have not exchanged contracts with the buyers, although everyone tell us this will happen tomorrow. As I have been hearing this for over a week, I am a little dubious.

On Friday, John and I sat down for a crisis management talk.
What if it all falls through?

After copious lists of possibilities and calculations on how much money we might lose over this, we made several phone calls to check our facts. The probability of it all working out as planned rose as a consequence to the phone calls. It reminded me of my role as head teacher. “If someone does not do something to resolve this situation, heads will roll!” Someone did something.

If all is not going to go well, we have plan B and C. They are, loosely, renting out out current home or returning home with the furniture after a short holiday.

The pre-packing continues with increased frenzy. The washing machine is disconnected: this proves more difficult that it sounds. Assorted wood is pulled from dark corners in the attic where John has been storing it, in case he ever wanted to make something. Now, wood is something that I remember from my last move 24 years ago. So that must have made quite an impression! For years after the last move John bemoaned the loss of a specific piece of wood that would have been perfect for whatever job was in hand. So I am keeping out of the woodpile.

There’s cleaning, and gathering things we will need over the moving days, along with packing or gathering the myriad of small things we have no use for but cannot throw away. Oh! So that is how junk is born!

At one point I can stand it no more and grab my bike for a tour of our lovely local park. That’s where my elder daughter lost her Wellington boot in mud: over there our kite got stuck in the tree about 20 years ago: here is the playground where both daughters loved to play and recently Keoni enjoyed. The list of loved places grew as I pedalled.

But I do not want to go back. Much as I love it. I want new adventures, new friends to join old ones, new decorations and styles to try out in new houses. A life full of visitors and fun and friendship.

I am hot, exhausted, unable to rest, fiddling with things which do not belong together and refuse to find their way into the rubbish bin.

What am I doing?
I am taking my furniture on holiday tomorrow!

Age difference


My wedding anniversary, yesterday, brought me to pondering how my dad must have felt.

My father was born in 1901. A different era to ours. He remembered the first cars, which had men carrying a flag to warn the pedestrians it was coming. He did not have to pass the driving test, none had been invented! Early planes: the First World War; telephones with live telephonists to handle your call and phone numbers which named your town and a simple two or three digit number.

He was a gent of a peculiar kind. He had slight difficulty saying a breathy ‘h’, but was well spoken. He always wore a suit, usually with a waistcoat, even when sitting on the sands at Scarborough, where we went on our annual holiday.

He rarely played with us as children, read stories with no expression at all and we knocked to enter his bedroom. I remember asking for a raise in pocket money about 10 years old.
“Why do you need it?” he asked quietly.
“I’d like to buy a weekly magazine and this will mean I can.”
Having explained my need there was no question about the raise!

A gentle formality! Lovingly remote!

Dad was a publican in London, mostly around the East End. He did not marry until he was in his forties. My mum was only in her twenties. What must people have thought?

I had never realised the age gap until I was a young teen and he had his seventieth birthday. I knew other friends had parents in their fifties and I was horrified! He did not look that old!

I never considered the age gap of twenty years anything other than normal. They seemed perfectly matched.
“Age is a quality of Mind,” he declared, quoting the title of a poem by an unknown poet.
If you left your dreams behind,
If hope is lost. If you no longer look ahead,
If your ambitious fires are dead –
Then you are old.
But if from life you take the best
And if in life you keep the jest,
If love you hold –
No matter how the years go by,
No matter how the birthdays fly,
You are not old!

All the family plans led to him dying before my mother. So it was inconceivable that she should die first- but she did!

My dad was a sentimental man, with such love for her. A shrewd businessman with a head for figures. Whilst a product of his age, he seemed happy to be in a world with younger people. I wonder how much he coloured my own attitude to age?

Wedding anniversary


Thirty-nine years ago today! I married, at the age of 19, a man I had known for eleven months!

My dad was not very happy about it but he did us proud! There seemed so many factors against us and dad gently shared some with me, yet he still supported me in my decision, once I had listened.
John must have come across badly. He had left university to be a steel work crane driver in Sheffield. When they made him redundant he had come to London to enjoy his redundancy money and eventually ended up on the dole. Then he met me.

None of us looked good in the 70s. My dad found it hard to overcome the long hair and beard. “You hardly know him!”

My mum had died just a fortnight before I met John; my dad was still in trauma, but we went ahead.
A simple registry office. My aunt picking roses from her garden at the last minute and wrapping the stems in silver foil for a bouquet.

My best friend couldn’t make it through illness, so we had to find another witness. My brother missed it, but made it in time for the photos. We had smoked salmon for our first course, and John had never eaten it before, but it was dad’s favourite. I guess about thirty people attended at most, but I felt like a queen. When the champagne ran out, the waiter came discretely to inform my dad. “Don’t you have any more?” he asked. The shamefaced man nodded and we drank nothing else.

The whole thing was organised in about a month. A week before the wedding John and I went to camp in Paris, just to wait out the arrangements! No wedding list, so we got three toasters and a whole heap of hideous stainless steel serving dishes.

My geography was so poor, I had no idea that a honeymoon in Windsor meant a simple commuter ride from Waterloo. Me all dolled us in my special going away outfit.

Most years we go back to Windsor Great Park to drink champagne and eat smoked salmon. Wherever we are in the world, we find the same key ingredients. Today we sat beneath a canopy of trees sipping champagne, waiting for the phone to ring, with news of the exchange, which never came. My elder daughter came over for a meal in the evening to say goodbye to the house.

Thirty-nine years! I neither feel it nor believe it. I am not old enough!

Oh yes, now I remember, this blog is all about being retired, so perhaps I am!

Turned out all right though, Dad!

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Exchange frustration and others lives


Aaah!

This is so frustrating!

There is a tension in my stomach and a mix of pure excitement and horror.

Since Friday we have had a daily question about our exchange. Everyone will tell you that buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can do. It is up there with divorce and death.

Our house move has gone so very quickly in comparison with other people. We have been very lucky to achieve a record price for our street, and the whole thing has gone from first view to offer in a matter of weeks really.

We have chosen to be the top of the chain of buyers. We thought this might make us more ‘appealing’! Ultimately it will also makes cash buyers; a strong position I’m told.

Our chain of buyers is only three long, but the people at the bottom, I’m told are in the process of divorce. There are additional papers for them to sign, and they chose to go on holiday just last week.

For three working days, the estate agents have been saying, ‘today’! But each day passes. I feel so sorry for the couple and their relationship. No one would want to be in their position.

But we have tried to go with our own buyers who are disparate to move in so their children can get places in local schools. To this end we have found our rental house and told removal firms and letting agency that e hope to move on Tuesday. Yes, that’s the one! Six days away!

Fellow bloggers have been so kind with their wishes for our future. I am heartened by these virtual friends!

It will happen. Just not sure when!

So nothing to report. Everything in place like dominoes lined up for a small push.

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Space to think?


Yesterday was so hectic! As soon as my daughter had packed up and moved out, our buyers turned up to measure for new furniture.

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In one way, it was great timing. With three tons of belongings shipped out of our house, we suddenly think we have room to breathe!

Today our thoughts turn to our own future. We have still not exchanged on this deal. Until we do there is no legal binding on either party to go ahead with the sale. A little lower down the chain, someone has taken a short holiday and was not able to sign a vital paper about their part in the deal. So we all wait!

It gives us time to trawl through our attic, now mercifully un jammed, so we can actually move things and see what we own. There is a large quantity of paint, which the removal men will not touch. I stare at the rainbow of muted colours that map our decorating history. All to go! Packed into the car for the dump.

There are lengths of pipes from plumbing jobs we have undertaken, bits of wood, old handbags that have now fallen apart and are not even suitable for the charity shop. Alongside these are old clothes, boxed games, ornaments which are taken down for others to buy from Oxfam.

If this all goes ahead as planned we have booked packers for next Monday and will move on Tuesday to our new rented house in Dorset. It is in the heart of a small village, opposite a pub, not far from the only shop. I guess about 200 years old, it is a double fronted detached. Down it’s centre a flagstone corridor, the stones smooth and shiny from age. The large square kitchen has room for a central table, loads of wood cupboards and an oil fired Aga cooker. I have often coveted such a cooker, always hot with a hint of constant baking.

Behind the house is a large hilly garden running up to the woods on the brow of the hill. The garden is double the width of the house. Our cats should love it, once the shock of country life has evaporated. Bob is a good hunter and already clears out any nest of mice he might find. Two or three in a day sometimes, until the whole family have been presented on the kitchen floor. Often he brings them in live and I pick them up to give them a second chance back in the garden, but he is relentless. I wonder what he might find in Dorset?

As I fold clothes for the charity shop, I visualise my new life.
These are exciting times: the stress rises and falls but the sense of movement it definitely in the right direction!

A Knife Edge between Joy and Sorrow


Less than a week ago, we went down to Dorset in a “let’s see what it has to offer” mood. We had arranged viewing for three properties to buy: a mill, a barn and the wing of a Dower House. All so different, but exciting properties. Could I see myself living the stately life with antiques and the faded beauty which the Dower House offered? Did I prefer the massive spread of exposed cogs and beams in the mill, which happened to be right up against the road? Or would I like the finish of the barn; all done to a high spec, down a tiny road next to a farm?

I guess, the reality was more…did I like the area? And we did! Very much. So we stopped all efforts to live on the South Downs and focused on Dorset. Time has run out to buy. We need to rent for six months or so.

Within a week of hard work and constant viewings or phone calls, we have found the property.
A four bedroomed house with steep garden up to a wood. This house must be centuries old, with the first floor to prove it; all uneven, sloping and higgledy-piggeldy.
The basic structure is a dolls’ house with a central hall, flagged in stone polished over the years and four rooms per floor. The kitchen has an oil fired Aga and quarry tiling. It is located in the middle of a tiny village, opposite a pub and some 100 metres from the village shop.

We agree to take it immediately because it is vastly more characterful, cosy and spacious than any other we have seen.

But we have not yet exchanged. We trawl through quotes from four removal companies and choose one who, promptly say, “ah, yes! But that is the Bank Holiday!”. So we agree to pull the whole thing forward to next Monday for packing and Tuesday we move.

That is 9 days!

And we have not yet exchanged! So we had no legal way of knowing our buyers will buy and it will really go ahead.

Hey! I have taken risks before. This will be alright.

So today, we hold a family meal. Both my daughters have grown up in this house. It is a simple farewell! A meal, a trawl through a handful of old photos, laughing at our hairstyles from the 80s, and a ritual story for our grandson. All of us in the room together.

Laughing through silent tears, that this can never be replicated.

For the girls, their childhood is disappearing. Of course, they can always come back to us, but never back to this, their childhood home. Of course they are both past 30 years old. But we are a tight knit family, our bonds are strong.

I can hardly come to terms with the constant waves of emotion. This is it! A really big move. I have never lived out of London. It has been years since we rented a place. I am so excited to be learning about a new community. So why was it only today, that I ran into at least four neighbours, while shopping?

How can I so willingly let my grandson leave my house, where I have the total privilege of seeing him every day?

How fantastic will it be for the girls to come to see me, rather than use the house as a base to visit their old school friends.

24 years, I have been here. Before that, we lived just around the corner for 8 years.

This is a BIG move.

I am looking forward to it with tears in my eyes!

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Organisation


Gradually, I begin to think this will pan out ok.

Today, we had a relay of removal firms coming to assess our clutter and estimate the cubic capacity of everything we have gathered over the past 24 years. They seem to be coping with our vagaries about the next location and date of moving house.

I walk round the house with them, ignoring the piles of boxes which belong to my daughter who moves out at the weekend.
“Are we taking the birdbath?”
It is a dawning of the realisation of the finality of this move.

Earlier in the day, we took Keoni to the playground to give his mum a break as she battles to squeeze thirty years of growing up into a three ton truck. Well, the boxes which will eventually be loaded into such a truck. Keoni is oblivious to the chaos. His train set runs merrily over the floor, with diggers and cranes and he is perfectly happy.

But as I walk him down the all too familiar roads, I realise there are only a few more opportunities to do this. Sights and sounds I have known for over thirty years (the last move was a simple one, round the corner!) will fade from my routines. A whole new world of friends and environment lies ahead.

I shiver with excitement, mixed with a tingle of fear. Retirement offers such freedom. Good friends will always travel the two hours to visit us. This can only deliver a host of new experiences.

The uncertainty only adds a delicious taste of danger, of risk. As a younger person, I was a control freak. Many teachers are, I think! As a head teacher, I began to see that risk was worth it. A young teacher given the chance; a creative twist in the curriculum; a brave announcement that “if it benefited the children, we can do this.”. All these paid off. I am sure this risk will too.

Tomorrow we will drive back to Dorset and see four potential rental properties, with the hope that their availability, price and amenities are acceptable. If so, we are ready to go.

A new life! Wow!