A (house) moving experience

Border Removals van

Wow! Well that was one long, tiring and emotional roller-coaster of a week. For the last six days I’ve been in Selkirk (in the Scottish Borders) helping Mum move house; I got back late last night and pretty much went straight to bed.

Here’s how my week has been:

Monday 20 August

I spent all morning, and much of the afternoon cleaning our house (in Anstruther) from top to bottom. I wanted to leave a tidy, clean house for Jane so that she didn’t have much to do this week — I knew that it would be a long, tiring week for her.

So, I arrived in Selkirk at 17:00. Mum had spent the day communicating with lawyers, estate agents and the Halifax building society trying to make sure that the bridging loan would come through in time … it was a nervous wait overnight.

Mum suddenly realised that she needed buildings and contents insurance for her new flat. When I arrived she was on the phone arranging it.

We finished as much as we could in preparation for the removals firm coming in at midday on Tuesday to begin the packing.

Tuesday 21 August

I phoned the removals firm to confirm when they’d be arriving. They confirmed 08:30 … on Wednesday!

The Halifax phoned to say that it was looking unlikely that the bridging loan would go through in time for a move on Wednesday, but they’d do everything they could … the snag was that there were a few things that would need to be looked into by both of Mum’s lawyers (buying and selling).

I telephoned the removals firm and made contingency plans should the loan not come through.

Mum went to a funeral just before 11:00.

During the following 90 minutes the phone rang endlessly: lawyer, Halifax, another lawyer, Halifax again, repeat.

Mum returned a began chasing up one of the lawyers, who still needed to confirm something with the Halifax. If he could do it before 14:00 then there was now a good chance that the loan would go through in time. The Halifax sent them a fax around 11:30.

Mum got through to the lawyer’s office. He was on a call, he’d phone back. He didn’t phone back.

Repeat that last sentence.


Mum eventually spoke with him around 15:00 (too late for the loan to complete). “What fax?” he said. And then laughed, “Oh! Oh! There’s a fax on the fax machine from the Halifax.”

A nervous wait.

The phone rang. It was the lawyer, he’d sent the required information to the Halifax. Oh, and the sale of the house had just been completed. The missives were signed, there was no way that the sale would fall through now. Mum and I both visibly breathed a sigh of relief.

It was doubly good news: now that the sale was completed it meant that Mum’s bridging loan would go through as a closed rather than open bridging loan, because there was a guaranteed limit to the length of time required on the loan. That’s a saving of about £700 for Mum.

The phone rang again. It was the Halifax: Mum would have to go to the local branch of the Halifax Bank of Scotland to sign the papers. The money would be queued for processing the following day, anytime before 17:00.

On Tuesday evening I took Mum out for a meal to celebrate, and then a drive around the Borders countryside. We needed to get out and away.

Wednesday 22 August

Removals day. At 08:30 sharp Border Removals turned up with two lorries and six men. They had most of the house packed and cleared in 90 minutes, when one lorry and three men disappeared to attend to another job.

Mum’s lawyer phoned around 11:00 to say that the money was in. She’d have to write a cheque, deliver it to the estate agents and then she’d call back to say that the flat was Mum’s.

After Mum went up to the lawyer’s office to sign the papers, I went down to the flat with the vacuum cleaner to hoover the carpets only to discover that the floors were up and Mum’s gas supply was being fitted to the living room.

Gas pipe under the floor

The removals men arrived just as the joiner (carpenter) was hammering down the last few nails. The lorry was unloaded and by 14:30 they had gone.

Jane arrived around 17:00 and we set about transferring all the boxes from the guest room to Mum’s room, building the guest bed, and transferring all the boxes back again. Mum went to bed with her room as normal and uncluttered as possible:

Bedroom with orange curtains

Thursday 23 August

On Thursday a couple of men arrived from The Fireplace, Hawick to knock a hole in the wall.

Hole in living room wall

Limited unpacking today: I was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Besides we couldn’t do much until the gas fire was in (Friday) and the carpets down (Monday).

Friday 24 August

The fireplace men came early (08:15) and began to install the gas fire and limestone fireplace …

Jenni and Jane in front of the new fireplace

… which looks fantastic. Roll on Monday when the vinyl (hall and kitchen) and carpet (living room) are laid. Then the unpack-proper can take place.

But already Mum’s new flat is beginning to look like a home.


Praise the Lord for

  • the good weather
  • the masses of love and support that Mum’s had from friends and family
  • the wonderful people at the Halifax Bridging Loan department
  • the diligence of her lawyer
  • a new start for Mum

More photos…

See all my photos of the move on Flickr: Mum moves house (August 2007) collection.

Comments have been disabled due to the amount of comment spam I’m getting from removals firms!

Controlled explosion?

For the last few months (for ‘few’ read ‘six’) we’ve been meaning to get around to driving all the way to Cellardyke (for ‘all the way’ read ‘less than a mile’) to pick up a few boxes that we’d left in the outhouse at Toft Terrace. There were a couple of boxes of gardening tools, a bike rack for the car and a wheel barrow.

Last night, before I went to bed, I quickly checked my e-mail: there was one from my friend Iain, to whom we used to live next door in Cellardyke. He attached this photograph:

Collapsed outhouse

Oh my!

And this brief explanation:

See attached a pic of what appears to have been a controlled explosion in Toft Terrace! The neighbouring outbuilding survived with only the loss of a few bricks.

The disaster struck at 3.00 pm on Saturday. No women, children or animals were hurt, although a bar-be-que was left with mild concussion.

The salvage operation is about to begin, but made all the harder by the uncertainty as to whom this particular outbuilding belongs.

Maybe now would be a good time to recover our belongings.

Heating woes, pt.2

Pipes and gauges

Me: Hello, our central heating boiler is not working and my wife called yesterday to arrange an engineer’s visit, she was told that someone would come out early — and certainly between 08:00 and 13:00 — but it is now past one and no-one has arrived yet. I just wanted to make sure that someone is coming.

Scottish Gas Homecare teleworker: Let me just check, Mr Saunders … [30 seconds later] there is no appointment booked for you today.

Which is strange because Jane spent 30 minutes on the telephone to another Scottish Gas Homecare telephone assistant (also called Jane) doing three things:

  1. moving our contract over to the new address (AGAIN!! She’d already called the day before to do this)
  2. putting me on the contract, and
  3. booking an appointment for “as early as possible” this morning.

To say that I was (and still am) upset and angry would be … well, absolutely spot on! Because not only is it infuriating that, for whatever reason, Scottish Gas haven’t been able to do their job properly and successfully book a visit but it has completely disrupted our plans for today.

My Mum came up to visit last night and the plan was that I would take her back to Edinburgh this afternoon.

Scottish Gas Homecare teleworker: Oh, but that’s okay we could book in the appointment for tomorrow.

Me: No, it’s not okay. We want our heating and hot water. We’ve been without it since Saturday and we were promised that someone would come out to see us EARLY THIS MORNING!!

So Mum in a fit of rash adventure has taken the bus from Anstruther to St Andrews (20 mins) to sit in the cold for 40 mins at St Andrews bus station to wait for the 16:00 bus to Edinburgh. And she has angina, and has spent the last 24 hours in a house with no heating.

And I’m at home still waiting and still upset. Upset that we’ve been let down by Scottish Gas, upset that I’ve let Mum down and she is now suffering badly with her angina (I know that because she’s just called me), and upset because … well, I’m upset and I don’t like being upset.

But at least they had put me on the contract… oh, hang on! No they hadn’t even done that. And now we’re going to have to wait until the weekend before they can call Jane to do that as she is off to Belfast on business for a few days.

They’d better turn up today. Otherwise … actually otherwise what? Otherwise I might write them a stiff letter? Otherwise I might just have to spend my fifth night in the cold and with no hot water? Otherwise I might just blog about my poor experience!

This is just not acceptable. We pay for this cover:

Choose HomeCare 200 and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing we’re caring for your complete central heating system. If anything goes wrong with your boiler and controls or your radiators and hot water you can rely on our engineers for help.

I actually do believe that. My experience of Scottish Gas engineers has been exemplary. It’s just the bureaucracy, the automated telephone systems and the not really knowing whether you have successfully booked someone to come or not that is the really infuriating bit.


17:16 The heating engineer has now visited. It turns out that he’s been here before. A lot. The hot water expansion tank has gone completely and needs replaced. Which will also mean that other parts (naturally) will also have to be replaced.

So, a bucket-load of parts have been ordered and he’ll return sometime on Friday (am or pm) to fit them and then hopefully we’ll have heating and hot water. In the meantime the system is running on minimum which may or may not limp through to Friday.

The good news is that I’ve now managed to get the electric fire in the living room working. Using a pointy stick and a can of WD-40. I kid you not. (Details on request.)

The Move Postmortem

Music room
Our new music room.

The move went well; very well, despite my last minute worries and minor panics. As I get older (and possibly wiser) I’m getting better at trusting that things will work out fine if I give them space. So long as I’ve prepared well and set things up I’m happy. It’s a far less energy consuming way to live!

Our trusty team of friends and family turned up when they could and mucked in with great energy and enthusiasm. We were so blessed to have so many willing people to come along and carry our worldly belongings, and all for the price of a portion of fish and chips and a slice of cake. If only the wider world economy was so simple.

The two van approach clearly worked a treat. As soon as van #1 was filled a team was sent up in it to unpack it at the other end, and van #2 was moved into place (no mean feat on those narrow streets) and packed up and then sent up to the house, while van #1 returned to the beginning. Repeat as required. The house was cleared in only four van loads.

Our heartfelt thanks to Eddie and Rebecca, Pauline and Paul, Soo and Martin, Dorothy, Rich, Ian and Yvonne, and Colin for all their help, fun, laughter and friendship. It was a good, good day. At the end of which I was utterly exhausted.

The following morning Rich, who’d stayed over once we’d made his bed (by which I do mean built), and I built the bunk beds and then a couple of other manly tasks that involved either screwdrivers and hammers or muscle power.

Now, three days later we’re very nearly unpacked. You can see a photograph of the music room above, where I keep my ‘guitarsenal’. The study will take a few days to put together as we’re going to paint it first before stocking it with books … seventeen boxes of them! Clergy are such fun to move!

This afternoon my Mum is travelling up to Edinburgh to be met by Jane and brought up to see the house for the first time. In the meantime I’m waiting for Scottish Gas to send an engineer (any time between 08:00 and 13:00) to fix the heating and hot water, of which we currently have neither.

p.s. the telephone and broadband move went very well. BT was more than helpful and everything switched over on time, as requested. Marvellous! This morning I plugged in the wireless modem/router and — ta-da! — our broadband information super highway was happily gushing down the interweb pipe ready for consumption.

White van man

Renault Master van

This morning Jane and I drove to Cupar to pick up Van #1, which was fine. Enterprise were polite, courteous and very helpful and in no time we were driving off towards St Andrews in a newly cleaned Renault Master similar to the one in the picture above, only our one is a long wheel base (LWB) model with a higher top. It is essentially a giant kite on wheels into which you can pile loads of stuff and transport it to wherever you wish.

We wish to transport it from the harbour area at Cellardyke to somewhere about a mile away. It’s now raining, there are no fewer than 4 vans and 2 cars almost blocking the road from our house to the harbour, and George Street has now been closed to traffic by the council. How convenient!

So the only route in and out is via East Forth Street, which is even narrower than George Street (which would have been the luxurious route). And on my way to the harbour when we arrived back with the van I met two vans, three cars and a bus!

I can tell already that this is going to be an adventurous couple of days, and that my reversing of LWB vans skills are going to improve rapidly. If it is your discipline, a few prayers for wisdom, guidance, safety and good weather would be gratefully received from all concerned in the removals operation. Oh, and energy. Thanks.