SO1, Episode1: The Move
Emma & the kids move house
"Mummy. Mummy. Mummy. Mummy"
"Mummy, why is there a talking tree at the front door?"
"What? Oh shit, damn! OW!!" The 'ow' is me hitting my head on the low beam in the smallest electricity meter cupboard in the known universe.
"Oh, crap!" That is the torch extinguishing as I drop it.
Ok, two things: yes, I swear in front of my kids. Secondly, I've moved into the coldest, darkest house and the electricity has blown. I don't hang around in cupboards for the hell of it, you know.
Moving house is always a challenge but I imagined four days before Christmas was the opportune moment. Or that moving 500 hundred miles from the south of England to Aberdeen was going to be a breeze? With two small children and no partner/husband or even a butler? Because this time, I had sold myself on being organised, relaxed and in control.
This house move would go like this:
1 Month Before Moving Day (BMD): Calmly sit my children down and explain to their innocent 10 and 6 years old selves that we are moving to a new and exciting home. Delight in their beaming smiles and joyous hugs. Together, I say we shall have an Awfully Big Adventure.
3 Weeks BMD: Order sensibly sized packing crates, bubble wrap, labels and rolls of packing tape. Book the removal truck. Inform landlord, electricity, telephone and postal service of an imminent change of address. Tell the children exciting stories of my own childhood growing up near our new home.
2 Weeks BMD: Pack in carefully organised boxes, clearly marked for each room - document in a colour-coded chart. Engage the children in packing their own toys and laugh together at the fun to be had! Ensure everything is cleaned, polished and ironed ready for easy unpacking in our beautiful new home. Host farewell dinner party for friends and neighbours. Finalise details for new home.
Final Week BMD: Clean old house to its previous sparkling standard. Say fond farewells to the shopkeepers, postman and thanks to the garbage collectors. Double-check all arrangements.
Moving Day: Wake the children with a sustaining healthy breakfast, let them have a generous half-hour screen time and dress them in sensible travelling clothes. Offer the removal chaps coffee and homemade biscuits. Wave them off and hand over the keys to our old home to the landlord. Hop in a taxi to the airport have a fun, comfortable flight north.
Arrival & Unpacking Day 1: Pull up in a taxi to new our house to be met by the removal truck. Perfect timing. Unpack the first box off the truck labelled: Kitchen Essentials. Make tea and biscuits for everyone. Watch as the children excitedly choose their bedrooms. Unpack (colour-coded) boxes marked for the appropriate rooms. Bedding for the bedrooms and so forth. End day with a nutritious meal - the first in our new home. Tuck the children to bed and sing them gently to sleep.
Unpacking Day 2: Wake refreshed and ready to make our house a Home. Hang pictures, fill bookcases and arrange flowers.
Unpacking Day 3: Repeat yesterday. Pop over to the neighbours with flowers and introduce ourselves. My children play sweetly with theirs and the beginning of friendships form. Decorate the house for Christmas from the carefully packed boxes. Hide the pre-ordered, pre-wrapped presents for the children. Collect the Christmas dinner food and drink.
Unpacking Day 4: Decorate the Christmas tree, delivered that morning, whilst singing carols as a family. Prepare the food and take the children to the Christmas market festivities. Sigh at what a wonderful move it has been and delight in the joys of the season.
In reality, it went like this:
1 Month Before Moving Day (BMD): Calmly sit my children down and explain to their innocent 10 and 6 years old selves that we are moving to a new and exciting home. Endure two hours of yelling, crying and a million "It's NOT fair!" I crack, bribe them to stop yelling with sweets and ice cream, let screens do the babysitting for the next four hours. Pour a large glass of wine.
3 Weeks BMD: Forget to order packing stuff. Get cut off too early by telephone company resulting in no internet to book flights, trucks or cancel other services. Children are mutinous about having no internet. Go over my data and cell phone contract. Have to renew to an eye-wateringly expensive tariff. Drink more wine.
2 Weeks BMD: Attempt to order boxes etc only to find I've left it too late. Ditto removal company. Scrounge old boxes from the supermarket and begin packing. Try to engage children who start fighting over who owns what toy. "Just pack the bloody thing!!" No! Don't gouge your sister's eye out with Lego!" For God's Sake!! I'll do it." Throw things randomly in boxes. Wine.
Final Week BMD: Panic and book a White-Van-Man whom I hope isn't as dodgy as he sounds. Book flights. End up hosting an impromptu farewell party for all the village. Get to bed at 4 am.
Moving Day: The landlord wakes me by banging on the window he wants his keys. I move everything onto the driveway. Feed the kids some leftover chocolate cake. Have a massive fight with the youngest as she insists on wearing an Ironman costume complete with fairy wings. Instead of the clothes I had laid out, you know, sensible travelling clothes. White-Van-Man shows up late, leave him to it as I have to get a taxi to the airport. Make the flight by skin of our teeth.
Arrival & Unpacking Day 1: Order take-a-way and sit in an empty house while I hope beyond hope that the van will appear - he does three hours late. Hastily, I unpack everything to try and find bedding, clothes... toothbrushes anyone?! Kids fight over rooms. I forgot to buy wine.
Unpacking Day 2: After a terrible night's sleep - the supermarket boxes have a 'smell' that has permeated the bedding, clothes, cushions. I do piles of washing. Realise how bloody freezing it is and crank up the heating. New house is more like a laundrette, steamy and humid than the gracious home I was aiming for.
Unpacking Day 3: Get into trouble for using the 'wrong' washing line from the neighbour. Pop round later with biscuits by way of an apology. Trip over a very elderly dog, slip on something slimy and land on my bottom in the middle of their kitchen. They do not approve. The 'slimy' stuff was in fact crow pooh. Yes, they have a pet crow. Oh, Christ.
Unpacking Day 4: Wake to find texts from White-Van-Man, he has a box of mine in his truck. The one with all the Christmas presents in it. Oh shit. No, he can't get it to me until after the New Year as he is in Spain now. (I am not a fan of a certain online provider of every-item-you-can-think-of but...they saved my skin that Christmas!) Start putting up decorations only to remember the tree. It should be here. I call and they tell me they have run out. Even though I bloody ordered one! I want to cry. Then the power goes off.
"Ok, ok I'm COMING!" I extricate myself from the cupboard only to be met with a talking tree.
"Hello, darling." The 'tree' emits a masculine voice. "Thought this might come in handy."
And there he is. All 6 ft 4 of him holding a bushy, pine-scented tree and a large hamper of festive food and wine.
"Is it too soon to wish you Merry Christmas and welcome to your new home?"
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Apart from Emma and Ross. All other names are changed for privacy. This memoir is set in the city of Aberdeen, UK but I have altered some of the place and business names.