Did I tell you the one about my wife, three cats, two fish and a van? (Part one - England)

Ok, so I haven't been posting very regularly in the last few weeks, but the stress levels have been a wee bit high, so forgive me.

We have sold our house in North London, and have packed up our old life into little boxes and transported them (making several journeys) to France in the back of our trusty old Transit, leaving one last van-load for the final push. At the end of a long drive we have unloaded them and filled up the large rooms of our new house. With a cup of tea(ok, lets be honest here - after all most of you do know us,) with a Gin and Tonic we have stood back in wonder, surveying almost all we own, and have asked ourselves how in the world we managed to cram so much in to such a little house.

And I guess we are not just talking about the physical stuff here.

We had a farewell party to the house, and it was great to see so many friends doing what they do best; having a good time. Admittedly it did not make a pretty picture, nor did it leave the house smelling sweet and clean, and the neighbours didn't get much sleep thanks to the banging sounds of Fireman Ross. But it was a beautiful thing, even so.

On reflection we wished we had thought to print out a Frequently Asked Questions sheet we could have handed out at the door. When are you moving? Monday. This Monday? No, next Monday. Where’s all your stuff? In France. Where is the sofa? In the van, we are going to get rid of it. What are you doing with the cats? We are taking them with us (are you at the right party? Do you even know us, that you you need to ask that question?!) What are you doing with the fish? Ditto. And then on to the next person and so we went on.

One or two of our friends even asked us the same questions more than once (I refer the Right Dishonourable Gentleman to the answer I gave a few moments ago), probably due to the death of a few million brain cells which occurred whilst on our premises. You probably don't know who you are. Anymore.

And so, a week after the party, we are down to the final few items, and we realise that the van really is not big enough. This is despite filling Alison's garden with plants and Clive next-door-but-one taking down the fence to take a few more pots. And then taking even more stuff to Alison and then to Fireman Ross'.

There are tears of frustration and hopeless arguements on Saturday, Sunday (not helped by Morris Dancing Rose keeping us up until 4am following Saturdays rugby game - we share irresponsibility with you for that one, and love you for it, but we had a dip, oh my, oh my - what a dip) and on Monday a near breakdown.

At the eleventh hour (probably more like 10am on Monday) we call 999 and Fireman Ross slid down his pole and arrived in a flash to save the day, and what was left of our sanity.

Standing in the street I evaluate the situation. We can’t fit the mattress, the television, the fish tank and several other items (some useful and some that any normal couple would have thrown away 10 years ago, without even thinking about it) into the van, as well as ourselves and the cats. We decide to leave the TV, the mattress and the vaccum cleaner for the new owner, and Mrs H tries to persuade either Fireman Ross or the builders across the road that they want some fish. They don’t.

Eventually we get the fish tank in the back of the van. The water is cloudy and we don’t think they will make it. We are going to be responsible for two needless deaths. We are bad people.

Then, just as we are about to herd the cats into their baskets and get on the road, Mrs H slips on the tiles I loving laid in the porch and slices her knee open. The wound gapes and blood pours. She shouts for help, but my head is in the van and I don’t hear.

True to form Fireman Ross is first on the scene, although he is visibly disappointed there is neither a fire nor a dismembered corpse to deal with.

“I hate dealing with live people,” he says, assessing the damage. “It looks quite deep,” he says, applying pressure on the wound and wrapping a bandage round the wound.

We decide that Mrs H needs to be taken to A&E, for stitches (Fireman Ross to the rescue again).
I am to stay with the cats, and to try to remain calm.

It is mid-day.

My mobile rings. It is the solicitor. The deal is done, this house is no longer ours. We need to be out by 1pm.

We have a 12 hour drive ahead of us in a 16 year old Transit. With 3 unhappy cats, an injured woman who has to sit in the back of a van unable to bend her knee (and who is currently in a hospital which has the dubious honour of being the first hospital to be given a hygiene warning, by the Healthcare Commission, so will probably end up with MRSA, C. dif, or something with even more sinister initials), and 2 dying fish.

Life is sweet.

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