Thursday, 21 December 2006

Endings and beginnings

Yesterday, I saw Uncle Eff for the last time. Hope so. He materialised just as Dig arrived with the take-away curries and nan breads. We 'd set up house in the front room, put the kids on their fold away plastic garden furniture and cleared off the ancient dining table Eff's taking with him. Over dinner, Dig tells Eff that contracts get exchanged in less than 48 hours so anything left in the attic is his problem. Uncle Eff doesn't answer. It's difficult having a one-sided conversation for nearly 15 years, and thank God it's nearly over. The meal didn't last too long. The kids managed to knock all their food off their garden furniture at least three times, so I spent most of our last night in the family pile on my hands and knees sweeping up basmati rice soaked in orange juice. This morning there's an orange coloured pool and a funny smell coming from the carpet. I hope the Scrimvers think it's deliberate.

The final runs to the tip were this morning. Dig's in a panic already because the van's due back at 5pm tonight and it's a five hour journey. The bed goes, without dignity, followed by the Swivel King that no-one wanted, even though everyone's had such a good time on it. The fridge goes too. Somewhere in England, a fridge historian will be kicking themselves. Aunty Dee has a mountain of stuff she's dragged out of our pile for the tip, and it's all stacked up, back in the hall. It's her problem now, I reckon. While Dig's out I take a last peek at Uncle Eff's attic rooms. The floor is strewn with stuff: old photographs, papers, faded prints in broken wooden frames, computer printers, glass vases, tin boxes, cables, plastic bags with receipts inside. I pick up one piece of paper: it's the receipt from Bainbridges for the blue carpet that runs up the stairs. It's come away from the grippers and slides dangerously about underneath your feet on the bottom three steps. The receipt dates from 1953. I bet Uncle Eff could have put his hands on that receipt in under five minutes, if I'd ever felt the need to ask him.

We barely have time to wave goodbye to the house about midday. Dig's already gone red in the face, so the prognosis isn't good. And I'm right. The journey home turns out to be probably the worst I've ever taken. It's so raw that I'm going to have to write about it later, or when I'm sober.

By the end of it, I'm having to do the M1 at 90 with Tiger chanting 'I hate Mummy'. We get back at 4.55. Dig is now in full panic. We have five minutes to unload, in the dark, and drive the van back to the hire company. Fortunately Dig's had a rare bit of far sighted planning and has emptied the garage of the rusting two-seater that's a remnant of our pre-kids years. That's now falling apart at the bottom of the garden, but has left garage space enough to throw into it the great mahogany bookcase, the Edwardian hall stand, the doll's house and a pile of desirable books we managed to keep from Evangelical Vee by hiding them under the beds. It all takes 20 minutes.

By the time Dig screeches off round the corner without his lights on, I'm exhausted and can't believe the whole ordeal is over. My first action is to go inside, step over Tiger, now lying on the floor in a full blown screaming fit, and put into the bin a pair of torn trousers with 50 year old dirt crawling about them. I've worn the same clothes for three days and most nights, knickers, socks, the lot, while clearing out the house, and I never want to see them again.

Then in walks Dig. He's looking sheepish. 'What date is it?' he asks. I know it. He's booked the van for four days, not three. And we actually have another 24 hours to drive back from Northumberland. In fact we have a leisurely 23 hours 35 minutes, in which we could drive back from Northumberland, park the van in eight different positions, unload it while we drink coffee, and take a photo of it, in the daylight, if we wish, just for the fun of it and the family album. As if I could forget.

Dig takes it off anyway, a bit slower this time. We could leave it outside overnight, but the local dodger would break in. While Dig's gone, I go for a shower. And when I get back, I'm sorting out Tiger, opening the second bottle of the day, and paying some attention to the kids. And then I want a good sleep, because tomorrow's another beginning. And I need a plan for the next event on my horizon: How To Get Past Christmas While Living With This Family.

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