Monday, 22 September 2014

Moving 500 miles - the good, the bad & the ugly

by Bex

I've been trying to start this post for days now.  I'm just not sure where to start.  I should warn you now, it's ended up ridiculously long as I just started writing what happened over the 3 moving days.

Everyone knows that moving house is one of the most stressful life changes you can go through.  Doing it at the same time as being 6 months pregnant with twins just adds to this, not to mention the fact that Nik had already moved down to Brighton to live in the hospital as his new job started a month before we could get in the house.  Pregnancy obviously limits what I can do when it comes to lifting, organising and just having energy at times!  For this reason we decided to book a removal company which would also take care of the packing for us.  This actually didn't add as much extra cost as we thought it might, although it was still pricey considering all the stuff we have and how far we needed to get it!  The story about removals ended up being the most epic part of this post so I was going to split that off into a separate post but the story probably just makes more sense all in one go with the pictures too so apologies for this long, boring post!

After a number of quotes, we had chosen to go with Britannia who had provided the most competitive yet realistic quote (a couple of really cheap ones didn't fill us with confidence when moving our precious belongings such a long way, especially since one of those didn't even come to assess our property despite us explaining we had a lot of stuff in our 3 bed flat!)

Unfortunately as a result of various delays, not helped by poor communication and a number of mistakes made by our English solicitor (including spelling Nik's name wrong on the contract!) our exchange didn't take place until 10 days before our planned moving date.  I'd thought our removals were booked anyway (the sellers weren't able to confirm theirs until exchange had taken place and were very concerned the move date might have to change - leaving us homeless as our Scottish sale was binding for that date already!) but when we tried to confirm it, they informed us they were now fully booked and not available until the week after!  With only a week and a half to go I was in a bit of a panic as we made our way through the rest of the list - our next 4 choices were all unavailable!

On a particularly stressful day, Roz came over to provide hugs and company and rang her removal guy (we'd had a quote booked with them before but had to cancel as they were running late and Nik had been on nights so needed to sleep) and he squeezed us in for a quote that day, phew!  When he came round early that evening, he was lovely and reassuring saying he should be able to give us the dates we needed.  I was quite surprised as he was only there for a few minutes as opposed to around 15-30 minutes for all the other quotes we'd had and thinking back, he didn't really look in any cupboards except the ones I showed him explaining my shoes were in the boiler cupboard (our bedroom used to be the kitchen!) and the big kitchen cupboard full of random stuff and ladders but we'd already emptied the attic so he was able to see that all piled up in the spare room.  I was a bit concerned the quote might be quite high as he knew we'd lost our previous company and were moving so soon.  Luckily it was very reasonable and although more than the one we'd initially chosen to go with, it still included everything we needed (including dismantling and rebuilding of our wardrobes) and he could do our dates.  It also wasn't the highest quote we'd had and given they'd been recommended by both Roz and Ali, we felt happy that they'd be worth the cost.  Of course, we did ask if there was any chance they could knock £100 off and he agreed that if we paid cash that would be fine.  Job done - tick!

When the day came for them to start packing (the day before they were due to load up and leave), it became apparent about half way through that they had definitely underestimated just how much stuff we had in our flat.  We were lucky in our flat having a lot of storage, especially in our kitchen and our 4 big wardrobes in the spare room and bedroom.  Unfortunately despite coming to assess all this, when Nik had previously explained that our flat was not an average 3 bed flat and we had more stuff than the average person, they didn't expect all of the cupboards and drawers to be full.  This meant that they were going to need a lot more boxes than they thought and I was VERY concerned they might not fit it all in their two trucks (they don't have big lorries - another reason we never rescheduled the quote before as we weren't sure they could do such a big job).  It also meant that it was taking a lot longer than they thought.  This was mentioned to me by the supervisor on the day and he said the boss would be in touch to discuss it.  Cue panic, what was going to happen?  Did they want to charge us more?  Were they going to get all our stuff down south?  Were they even able to finish the job?  Stress!!!  Not ideal given my current situation.

Luckily by this point Nik's Mum & Dad were there to help me with anything else (taking heavy bins out, any last minute hooks or screws to come out of walls, etc.) and to drive my car down for me so I was able to fly on the Friday and avoid a massive and what would basically turn out to be impossibly uncomfortable journey of 462 miles in my car!  Being like Nik, they helped keep me calm, explained not to worry, it was up to the company to sort it out, we were paying them a large sum and they'd quoted us based on what they assessed when they came to the flat.  It wasn't my fault they had underestimated the job and they were sure it would all be fine.  Anyway, the guys all left around 6pm and we went out for dinner with Roz and Aaron and I never heard from the boss.  I planned to ask him to just speak to Nik anyway as it was Nik who had the contract and had discussed our flat with him previously and I just wanted to be left out of it so it didn't stress me out anymore.

I hardly slept that night and eventually got up at 3am after I had a nosebleed so I dealt with it and then packed a box of shoes.  The guys all came back early at 8am to finish packing and start loading.  I have to hand it to the packers - they were really nice and worked really hard.  They seemed to be doing a great job of packing everything well and were still cheerful with me despite obviously being so busy.

Unfortunately I did get all stressed again as the boss turned up and was saying how he had underestimated the amount of stuff in our flat.  I didn't really know what to say but I started feeling a bit uncomfortable as they were frantically trying to finish everything off to get on the road.  We eventually left to deal with some solicitor stuff and to get some lunch.  When we arrived back they were just about done and asked me to check round the flat.  There were little bits in each room which I piled in the hall to be packed and I found a drawer and a shelf in a cupboard in the kitchen which had been missed so they quickly packed them up.

Once everything was in (literally 2 trucks to the brim) it was 4.30pm.  (They'd planned on leaving about lunchtime.)  The boss then took me aside and said he wanted to sit down and have a chat with Nik and I when we were all at the other end.  He was perfectly nice about it but said how busy the job was, the overtime the packers had had to do, they'd worked through lunch to try and get finished as they obviously still had a long drive ahead of them.  He also mentioned the fact they would be staying off the M25 and therefore having to wait at the other end before unloading since I'd told him a few days before that we wouldn't get the keys until lunchtime when he mentioned that they'd arrive at 10am!  At the time he said this wasn't an issue, they would just leave their hotel later to arrive around 12pm instead so we wouldn't get charged for waiting time and it meant they'd miss traffic anyway.  I got the impression this was now more of an issue as they were concerned how long it would take to unload at the other end.  Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing I can do about when we get the keys - it's all down to the solicitors and banks!

This discussion was stressful and worrying as I wasn't sure what outcome he was expecting from this chat with Nik and I but he obviously just wanted to get things off his chest as he was worrying about it (having clearly miscalculated our job).  He wasn't unpleasant and just wanted to point out all these things and I didn't respond as I didn't want to get into any discussion as I felt none of this was our fault.  Yes we have A LOT of stuff but we have a big flat with a lot of storage (and I have a lot of hobbies as well as far too many clothes!) and he did come round to assess it for himself so I felt it was a bit unfair that it felt like we were almost being blamed for the fact we ended up with a lot more boxes than he'd expected (94 instead of 50 apparently).  It didn't actually surprise me that there were 94 as the other quotes we'd had had estimated 100 boxes.  Also, the quote from this company was the same or similar to others we'd had and wasn't even the cheapest so we weren't expecting any issues like this.

I'd already made the decision to leave any issues up to Nik and after they'd left with all our stuff, we got the last few bits & bobs (and Bertie, our fish) together in the car, cleaned the flat (we booked our cleaner to come that last day and borrowed a neighbour's hoover (just as well as 6 years worth of dust behind wardrobes and drawers was pretty minging!) and I said goodbye to our lovely (spookily empty) home for the last time.  I left a note for the new owner with some flowers and a bottle of wine and we dropped off the keys at the estate agent.  Then me and my little suitcase were dropped off at Sarah's for me to spend the night and MIL & FIL & Bertie drove off in my car down to Durham.

Leaving behind my gorgeous, beloved kitchen!

Crikey, what a day!  It was nice to just sit and chill for a bit while Sarah put her kids to bed and then Claire (another of my bridesmaids) turned up as a lovely surprise to say goodbye!  We all had fajitas and chatted for a bit before an early night for me as I was up at 5am for my flight!

It was so nice to be able to get up and take a quick flight down with minimal luggage knowing I didn't have to worry about driving all that way which would have been tough, even as a passenger with this twin pregnancy.  My taxi driver was lovely and it turned out he had 2 year old twins so we chatted all the way to the airport about various things.  He even drove right into the collection point (rather than free drop off) so I didn't have to walk so far and he walked me into the airport as he wanted a coffee anyway.  The flight, too, was great and went so quickly as I was sat next to a lovely lady from California (married to a Scot so lived in Scotland) who was also pregnant and heading off on a delayed honeymoon.  We obviously chatted too about all sorts and suddenly I was at Gatwick!

A quick train & bus ride later and I was in Brighton at Nik's hospital meeting the nurse on his clinic.  I had to wait for him to finish so went next door for a coffee and cake and was soon stressed again!  It was 10:51 and I had a text from the removals boss to say they were outside our property!  I just had to text back to say I would let them know once we had the keys.  As soon as Nik was relieved (they managed to get him cover from 11am as he couldn't get the day off!) we headed to Uckfield with the stuff from his hospital room to await the call to say we could get the keys!!!

We stopped into Waitrose for a sandwich and as soon as we got back to the car, the call came!  The estate agent was just up the road and we let the removals know we would be there soon (we knew they'd gone for lunch now as we spotted one of the trucks in town).  Arriving at the house was so exciting, there were horses in the field across the road and lots of woodland and fields round about.  Plus we couldn't see the trucks so it meant I could go in and see the house for the first time without them biting at my heels to get in and unloaded!  You probably already know that I had never seen the house before as Nik spent a couple of weeks down house hunting without me as I was working as well as still feeling quite sick, it was just too much to try and squeeze in time all the way down south at that time.  Nik did take a very good video for me (following my strict instructions to look in all the cupboards and out of the windows, etc) but obviously I was excited to wander around the empty house myself (and take lots of before pictures to share of course!!).  Of course, I love it!  It wouldn't be worth all the moaning if Nik had thought I wouldn't since we're obviously stuck with it now and it would be a pretty expensive mistake!  Luckily he knows me well and having seen the video, I had a pretty good idea anyway and I wasn't disappointed.  :)

View of the horses from the guest bathroom window :)
Just for Liz ;)

When the removals still hadn't turned up after I was done exploring the new house, we texted again and they were sat outside the wrong property as they'd followed the sat nav rather than our instructions on how to find it.  I sat on the big windowsill in the living room and Nik went to fetch them and we were soon busy directing which boxes were to go where as some were being reallocated as we have different rooms now.

I think they loved it every time I said "that one can just go in the garage", luckily we have a huge garage!  I found this day MUCH less stressful as everyone seemed in a good mood and the unloading took hardly any time at all in comparison to loading (helped by the fact we were no longer up 2 flights of stairs and there was no packing left to be done of course).

All the boxes in our much smaller kitchen!

It was quite chilled out, chatting with the guys and picking and munching brambles off the bushes over the road.  We even got to meet some of our neighbours throughout the unloading.  We spotted next door first so went over to say hi, then met a woman from the cottages round the corner and later her husband.  They were all lovely, stopping to chat and introduce themselves.  That afternoon we also received a visit from a new friend, Justine, who I was introduced to by Siobhan via facebook when she found out we were moving down here.  We'd been chatting on Facebook for a few months and she'd been giving us lots of advice on areas, etc when we were house hunting as well as pointing me in the direction of a local twin group.  Not only is she lovely and super helpful online, she turned up with her family (we had arranged this in advance, she's not a stalker!) on moving day and brought us an amazing food parcel to help us out which was even more wonderful as we had no fridge!

She even brought us milk in a cool bag with ice packs around it as she knew we had no fridge yet!

Enjoying the yummy chicken pasta salad from Justine :)
(with the only cutlery I could find - a serving spoon!)

Anyway, I better just sum this day up now as it's already become a bit epic and possibly very dull!

Nik had the discussion with the removals boss and it turned out all he wanted was for us to pay back the discount he'd given us (although he thought this was £165, we didn't argue) and we just agreed to this as we felt they'd done a good job and we could see they had worked extremely hard.  What we didn't know at this point was that in their panic to get everything on the truck and save time, they had stopped packing our stuff carefully and just took our furniture to the trucks with our stuff still inside.  My dressing table was stored upside down in order to fit everything in the best way but with stuff still in the drawers, everything was tossed upside down leaving a complete mess, chains tangled, nail varnishes, etc dropping out the back of the drawers when they carried it in across the drive.  Luckily nothing was broken which sadly can't be said for one of my favourite pieces of wall art, the big, unusual and irreplaceable candle holder which used to be on the kitchen wall.  Instead of packing the 11 glass tealight holders carefully in paper as they had all of our kitchen glassware, they'd been placed loose in a canvas bag which was tied shut.  I actually saw them drop this when the trucks were opened but had no idea what was inside.  Unfortunately 3 of the tealight holders were smashed to smithereens leaving me with the challenge of trying to find 3 identical replacements or 11 new ones which will fit in the wire holders!  I would have actually preferred they broke all our drinking glasses - much easier to replace!!

I still haven't had a chance to go through my craft drawers to check for breakages yet after they were carried down full but our spare bed (a divan with 4 drawers) also received similar treatment with the 2 sections being stored on their sides and being put back together with all of the old photos, wedding memories, various trinkets I'd received from my late grandmother and various other irregularly used items such as diving gear basically strewn around the insides of the bed and no longer neatly organised in the drawers.  Literally hundreds of photos and negatives all needed to be scooped out of the bed insides and placed back in boxes.  Not easy for a pregnant lady but I spent a good couple of hours (in phases as it was too sore) fishing everything out from the bed and reorganizing it!  Not fun.

Overall, I would probably recommend the company but would definitely advise you make sure they have fully assessed your belongings properly to avoid any similar stress and unpleasant surprises!  They were actually very careful in our new house and made sure to watch the walls and banister when carrying large items up stairs.  They also put everything where we wanted it in each room and were happy to move bits of furniture to where we wanted them.  They also did a great job of rebuilding our wardrobes after dismantling them for me in Glasgow.

Other little good & bad things about our move include Mum & Dad arriving just 5 days after we moved in (they brought my car the rest of the way as my brother lives in Darlington, very handy for the in-laws) - could be stressful to have visitors so soon but they obviously knew we'd be a bit chaotic, especially as I am limited in what and how much I can do each day - but they were actually lifesavers!  It was SO helpful to have people who could help lift things, do little jobs, build flat pack furniture, move boxes around, etc. so we managed to get SO much done in the few days they were both here (and they're both great at DIY!).  Also, rather than fly home just to fly back again in another month just in case the babies come early, Mum decided to stay as she planned to come for a couple of months anyway to help out with the twins.  She's now here until January which has turned out to be a godsend as I've been getting more and more tired and uncomfortable so having someone else around while Nik's working has been a great help!  We're also having fun planning craft projects for the nursery too so we'll hopefully get started on some of those as soon as we get the garage organised after our next Ikea trip!

We've also headed to the pub for dinner on more than one occasion (and a couple of yummy Sunday roasts already), especially handy when we didn't have a fridge (we used a cool bag with bags of ice for about a week but have a small temporary fridge now until our new big fancy one arrives!) and the food has been lovely, not to mention what is apparently the best beer ever keeping Nik and Dad happy!

My first selfie in the new house - ready for our 2nd meal out at the pub (1st with Mum & Dad)

As for other things we've been doing without - we've discovered that it's apparently the done thing in England to really strip the house when you move!  Our vendors took all the curtains & blinds (we were offered these at a cost of £2000 including the poles but they weren't to our taste so we weren't willing to spend that much for things we'd want to replace anyway), all toilet roll holders and towel rails, even those attached to tiles - very annoying!  We managed to negotiate that they leave the soap racks attached to tiles in the showers and the toilet roll holder in the main bathroom although they took this in the end as well.  Again, we were given the option to buy them but they were very expensive and we felt as fixtures (especially in tiles) they should have been included as they weren't mentioned at the time of viewing whereas we always knew the fridge/freezer wasn't included.  Where they have removed curtain poles and things from walls, they have done a very good job of filling and painting over any holes at least.  It seems we were actually quite lucky as my uncle recently informed us he once bought a house and even the bulbs were taken!  Ridiculous!

THE most annoying, inconvenient and inconsiderate thing, however, was the oil.  As we're in a much more rural area, there is no mains gas so we have our own oil tank for our hot water and central heating.  We are responsible for filling it up and the previous owners did leave us a note saying we should order more asap as it was very low.  Moving in on the Friday afternoon gave us no time to get this organised before Monday, when the oil ran out!  Seriously, they left us 3 days of oil!  This not only meant no hot water (until we discovered the electric immersion heater which was way too hot and left us with scalding hot water (not ideal as our shower was also stuck on one super high temperature) but also meant once we did get the tank filled up, having to pay extra for emergency fast delivery, the boiler wouldn't start again as air had gotten in the line so we also had to pay for a restart and service as soon as we moved in!  Thanks very much for that!  It also turned out they had left the hot water on full all day every day (in summer!)  We can only assume they wanted to use up all the oil they'd paid for.

Our oil tank is strategically disguised by the cube of bushes in the corner of the back garden

Right, just one last thing to mention as I really must end this post at some point!  The spiders.  Literally dozens of them, inside and outside the house - webs all over the windows, up in the attic and corners of the rooms and showers.  Something I will just have to get used to now I'm living in the country again.  At least they're not like the big old Glasgow hairy monsters!  Luckily I don't have an actual phobia, they just creep me out and I don't like the thought of the bigger ones crawling over me in the night!  *shudder*


Another Bun said...

I'm exhausted just reading about the process of the move - what a stress. You have coped admirably considering that would have been bad enough without a twin bump in tow!

Unknown said...

Oh gosh that sounds stressful. So glad you got to meet Justine, she is lovely x

Amanda M said...

I am EXTREMELY English and it certainly is not customary to strip a house before leaving it. They're weird, mean and tight.

And spiders? Eeeeeek! Hmm, I'll be letting you settle in for a good long while before I visit!


Camilla said...

What an ordeal! But with a happy ending. But those spiders! EWWWW! This actually works and is perfectly natural and not poisonous

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