When I was thinking about how to get all our “stuff” from London to Edinburgh, I thought with my wallet, not my head. Or my arms or legs or my seriously neglected cardiovascular system. Moving company? Way too expensive. Man with a van? Well he might be a lot cheaper, but it’s not like he could magic his way back to London. He’d probably charge us for a night’s sleep and for his time schlepping all the way back too, wouldn’t he?
Fuck it, I’ll drive us, I proclaimed – me, the girl, the cat, the kitten and a van full of all the ‘stuff’ one seems doomed to amass by staying still for more than a few weeks, like dust on the top of the fridge that you never realise is there until the day you move, or a really tall (and rude) person comes to visit and points it out. I came to London with one large suitcase -albeit bursting at the seems – a few years later and I had to ask for the biggest rental van I could get to accommodate all the accumulated ‘stuff’.
We took the west route, past Birmingham and Manchester and the Lake District, because I read on some crappy forum the east route merges into one lane after Newcastle, and I imagined all sorts of holdups as a consequence. The west route – so says Google Maps – is only about 10 miles longer, something like 414 miles or 7.5 hours’ drive. And not that it should matter, but much more scenic, according to the authoritative voice of FatherFatFingers88 from the forum.
I’d arranged temporary accommodation for us and space in a storage facility for the portion of the stuff we wouldn’t need until we’d found a permanent place. I figured it would be best to go to the storage place the same day to unload the van so I could return it the next morning and only be charged one day’s rental.
Thinking with my wallet again.
The day of the move we were up with the birdies. We needed time to pick up the van (sure to take ages courtesy of London traffic and car rental rigmarole), pack it, do a last once over clean of the flat, plead with the passing policemen to let me keep the beast of a van parked on the footpath and bribe the builders next door with some beer to help us poor, weak females with the heavy stuff. This had to be done by 11am, when the inventory clerk was due. She was coming to make sure we hadn’t left holes in the walls or dead bodies under the floor boards.
That whole check-in/check-out process is amazingly and annoyingly detailed. When we moved in we had a 16 page condition report given to us, with things like “finger marked right hand edge” and “pink marks right hand side of thermostat” written on it. So when she returned, she was comparing this report to what was left before her. The once investment-property-owner me thought “All this detail is super organised and would certainly put a stop to any disputes when tenants leave”, but the Australian in me thought “Are you fucking kidding me? Don’t you think that’s a bit over the top mate?”
So by midday when the check-out was done, we were both knackered. Both of us had barely moved in the last 6 months further than the corner shop for a bottle of JD and some chocolate, so that morning was the equivalent of a triathlon for us… the Norse one.
Two hours later we’d made it to Beaconsfield. Yep, 26 miles from London. 7.5 hours to Scotland hey Google? Has anyone from Google ever actually been in London traffic?
The kitten was petrified and spent an eternity trying to fit her head through the tiny mesh holes in the openings of her cat bag to escape. She’s probably meowed about four times in her life, so the fact that she meowed for half an hour straight made me realise she was more than a little stressed. I know it’s terribly irresponsible, but it was killing me seeing her like that, so the girl took her out of the bag and held her in her lap. I think she somehow realised she had to behave or go back in the bag, so she spent most of the rest of the trip either watching the landscape out the window or asleep in the girl’s lap.
Three hours after that and we were at Preston… half way. Seriously Google, what the fuck? Then the lights disappeared from the roads, everything was pitch black and concentrating on staying in the 2 white lines made me want to slip into a coma.
Three more hours and we made it to Carlisle. Yaaaaaay, Scotland. Only 100 miles to go.
Then the snow began. And the roads became icy. We had to slow right down. The last 40 miles took an hour and a half. At 11pm we made it to our temporary flat.
Obviously we came to the rational decision hours earlier that going to the storage place that night was a dumb idea, so all the ‘stuff’ was to be left in the van behind the flats. I peeled my hands off the steering wheel. I was so nervous driving that huge thing for that long in those conditions, they were tensed so hard round the steering wheel they stayed formed in the shape of a claw for a while. Then the van decided it didn’t want to lock. At that stage I couldn’t care less if someone stole all the ‘stuff’. At least we wouldn’t have to wake up and deal with it the next day.
So, what’s the lessons here? Did we learn anything? Yeah…
1. Surround yourself with people who have a drivers licence, so you don’t have to drive 11 hours by yourself.
2. If you decide on a route for scenic reasons, figure out whether it will actually be light or dark by the time you get to the scenic bit. I’m sure the road through the Lake District is very pretty, but it’s a bit hard to see it through the darkness.
3. Money should have no place in decisions when it comes to moving. Pay someone else do all the hard work for you. That’s what they’re there for.
So here we are, in Edinburgh, freezing our butts off in the unusual late March snow and icy winds. But we made it, nobody died or lost a limb and we’re still talking to each other. I’m sure I can spin that into a success. Pretend I never told you any of the above.