Monday, 18 December 2006

Go North

The journey to Northumberland goes quite well. I can't quite believe it but the code for the radio is found, the FM transmitter works, the portable CD player has batteries inside, and the Roald Dahl CDs are to hand. Most astonishingly, the kids are good natured. We stop at Woolley Edge service station where they scream in the toilets, run about, look under the doors, and pretend to be kookaburras (so apologies if you were in the loo at that time). And when we get to our remote pile in Northumberland, Dig is there, waiting for us, with his white van. So everything is perfect.

And then I see the house. This is Dig's family home for over fifty years. And in that fifty years it's seen birth, marriages, and deaths, and been involved in a couple of conceptions. Dig and his brother, who we call Uncle Eff, inherited the house with their sisters, Dee and Vee, after Mummy G died. Vee wanted to sell the house immediately; Uncle Eff looked like a man who'd been in a car crash. He'd lived in the attic for over fifty years and we thought it a bit unkind if he was shunted off for Vee's financial gain. So Dig came up with a plan. Buy Dee and Vee out with a little help from a man in a bowler hat. Push Vee off with a pile of money. Keep the house in the family. And give Uncle Eff a bit of time to discover what he wanted to do.

We discovered that what Uncle Eff really wanted to do was come out the attic, find a boyfriend, and announce at 1 am that he was going to the massage parlour, so please don't bolt the door. This was fine by us, until he moved the boyfriend in. Now this was tricky. The house is on three storeys; the ground floor is split up between us; on one side is Uncle Eff's parlour where he keeps his 17 chairs, and on the other are our family rooms where we keep a blow-up Ikea schlumpher, treated like a trampoline. The middle floor is ours, for our delightful growing family, and the top storey, the attic rooms, are Uncle Eff's, because they always have been. But then the boyfriend moved in on our territory. We didn't discover this until we arrived one night at midnight, exhausted from the long drive, longing for sleep, and discovered a hairy biker, dressed in leather and wearing a provocative pose, pinned to our bedroom wall. The house was drenched in smoke, the ladders were back in our schlumphing room, something horrible had happened in the kitchen, and then there's Uncle Eff, suggesting we might have told him we were coming. To us it rather looks like we are paying an enormous mortgage for biker boyfriend to live in the pile and then we have to ask for permission to come and visit. The 'For Sale' sign went up that weekend.

So this is what we have twenty-four hours to clear out, ready for exchange of contracts: Uncle Eff's piles and peelings from living in the attic for half his life, the detritus of Edwardian furniture accumulated over the family years, a collection of family growing-up items from baby seats to Sindy dolls, and a blow-up Ikea schlumpher. I have a list of freecyclers and their telephone numbers. Tomorrow I am a woman of purpose.

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