DOING IT – part 1
We moved to the Outer Hebrides on September 26th 1994. It took a lot of planning, but when it came to it, what was supposed to be a carefully planned exodus degenerated into a series of mishaps that began to border on the farcical.
After five months on the market, we sold our house just a few weeks before our departure, too close to moving date to be comfortable. We had been to see our bank about organising a mortgage for the house we were moving to, but despite assurances that there would be no problem, we had yet to receive confirmation of a firm offer.I was five months’ pregnant, which further complicated things.
At lunchtime, we had a farewell party with our friends at the pub, and then went home to finish the last stages of the packing. We had hired a van, along with three old friends, Ken, Mark and Chris, who were our moving buddies. The plan was that I would drive the car with the family, animals and a few basics, while the van followed with all our household goods. It was a good old rent-a-wreck model, with a backend that had been bolted on to a front end too small for it, seriously reducing power and creating an interesting effect on stability. It was also laden with our entire worldly goods and an inhibitor, making it impossible to drive it faster than 50mph.
In the evening, I was despatched to bed, as my husband Mike doesn’t drive and it would be up to me to complete the 468 mile journey, scheduled to begin at midnight, so that we would arrive at Uig in time for the afternoon ferry to Tarbert.
I got up at 9pm. Which is when things, having run so smoothly thus far, began to go wrong. Mike was on his way to the local shop for supplies for the journey, and went to retrieve the £500 cash we had stored for the trip.
We couldn’t find it. We spent an hour ransacking the rubbish bins and bags before Mike concluded that he must have packed it in the van. So at 10pm, he decided to unpack the van to find it. In the meantime, he ran up to the shop where the owner kindly cashed a cheque for us so we at least had something.
By midnight, the cash had failed to materialise, our moving buddies had arrived and we were running late. Mike conceded defeat and repacked the van, not as neatly as the first time. Ken had great trouble closing the back door, one of those drop-down shutter things, and ended up jamming it into place.
In the meantime, we loaded the car with our two girls, Harriet aged three and Madeleine aged one. Our two dogs followed - a black Labrador, Jet, and a golden collie cross, Ben. Then came our cats. We had four – Tiddles, black, sleek haired, very serious and a veteran of several holiday trips to the Outer Hebrides, who just hopped in the car and curled up. Then there were our two tabby twins, Seifa and Dennis – both girls – and one of Dennis’s children, Harris. Harris and Seifa got in the car with no complaint. But Dennis wouldn’t join them. She resisted being caught, and repeatedly escaped from the car. The message was very clear. She liked where she was and she wasn’t moving for anyone. She had been on holiday to the Outer Hebrides – perhaps she didn’t want to go back there. We knew several people on the street who would look out for her. We had to let Dennis go.
Last in the car was a polystyrene travel tank filled with 21 freshwater fish – carp and chocolate oranda. With nappies, wet ones, changes of clothes, snacks and drinks, we locked our front door and drove away. We had lost our cat, two hours, and £500.
It was 2am and we had a long way to go.