Wednesday, 20 December 2006

The final day

By 8am, Dig is sitting in the car outside the tip. He's the first customer on opening time. No-one in a yellow jacket helps out. So by 9am our schedule's already delayed. Aunty Dee's stirring but she'll quicken up: I've shouted that Doubtful George is coming with a screwdriver for her bed at 10am. When she gets downstairs she heads off immediately for the garage. As Dig is bundling boxes into the car for the next tip delivery, she's pulling them open, investigating the contents, doing a lot of gasping and a making of declarations. She's wrestled the hostess trolley out and is struggling to make a case for a plastic garden table. Aunty Dee shouts 'You're going too fast!' Dig answers 'We're not going fast enough!' Clearly a small domestic difference is about to emerge. Fortunately Doubtful George arrives with his Clio to unscrew the bed, so I get him upstairs quick before he changes his mind.

When we emerge with the bed, Dig and Aunty Dee have gone; Aunty Dee no doubt still rumaging in the car looking for the OS map of Hexham that someone's turned into a tea tray with the addition of a bit of hardboard and a strip of plastic.

I've just seen Doubtful George off with the mattress scraping along the road from the back of his car when the Scrimvers arrive. I don't recognise them. 'I'm Nigel' he says, without smiling. 'Have you come for the computer desk?' I ask hopefully. He looks blank. Arabella appears, or rather I smell the Eau Dior first. Cordelia follows glumly. Only daughter aged eight and having to slum it in the local primary school after being dragged out of private. It clicks. The revolting Scrimvers.

The sale started about 9 months ago. The crack in the wall had been there for five years and appeared at the same time the neighbours propped up their house with concrete. 'It's heave' said Dig. 'It's subsidence' said the Scrimvers. Next, 270 days with men walking up and down stairs to look at the crack. It generates 182 telephone calls, 89 letters, 5 reports and finally, some bloke with a hat on, saying 'It's heave.' The Scrimvers demand 10k off the price; then 7k, then 12k, then 8k, then 20k. Just as we're about to leave for Aus, Dig caves in and takes 5k off the price. I still don't know on what basis. One thing, I'm not about to be nice. 'I'm busy' I say. 'Has Eff told you we'd like to buy your chest of drawers?' says Nigel. First I could tell him I haven't spoken to Eff for five years, since I spent the first 15 trying to make a conversation with him and it clearly wasn't going to get anywhere. Second I'm tempted to say, 'Yeah, it costs five thousand pounds.' But I try to be polite, and say 'No. It's gone. I'm busy.' 'Oh' says Nigel. 'I did call Eff', he starts. So I say 'I don't care. I'm busy and right now I am Godzilla in charge of a children's tea party, so it's gone.' I'm not sure why Godzilla, but it does the trick and he scarpers, towing Arabella and Cordelia behind him.

And I should just mention that computer desk. Because Uncle Eff lives in a universe which is different from anywhere I've ever lived, when he says 'the desk' it means the desk with a computer on, and he's not taking it with him. And when he says 'the computer desk' he means the desk which does not have a computer on it, and he is taking it with him. Dig arrives, sees two desks, one with a computer on it, one without a computer on it, and makes the obvious connections. So I put Uncle Eff's computer desk up for freecycle, only it's the wrong desk. I'm not repentant.

By night, we've cleared all we can in the part of the house that's ours, so we're all sorted for exchange of contracts later this week. Our rooms are empty, the kids are sleeping on air beds and our bed goes to the tip in the morning. God knows what's still in the attic. We're off tomorrow back home with a white van and a car filled with the stuff that's not been freecycled, tipped, or set on fire by Uncle Eff and Biker Bill when we weren't here to know. The first we knew of that episode was when the Scrimvers wanted 12k off and the garden restocked after he'd burned down the apple tree.

And I guess the last word today should go to Evangelical Vee. When we bought Vee and Aunty Dee out of the family pile, and took over the ownership alongside Uncle Eff, Vee's interests in the house were finished. Unfortunately she retained her key. Periodically she lets herself in and removes items of furniture she fancies. The first item to go missing was the only item of value in the house: a Regency mirror, worth a thousand despite a crack on one side. Next was the revolving bookcase. Then it became a new surprise each time we came up. Last time the gilt shelves on the landing had been unscrewed. This time the elegant table in the front room had gone, along with kitchen shelving. I reflect that thanks to her and Freecycle Elly, we probably had less to dispose of in the end. It's a pity though that she's not an Evangelical Christian with a special interest in fridges.

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