Diary of a move: Part 1 - Departure
10 a.m and ready to set off for Bedford. The left hand drive Landrover Discovery we have bought to take to France won’t start – flat battery. Slightly worrying as the car had a full service at the Landrover garage in Bedford last Friday. Eddie phones the garage and they send someone out who confirms battery is flat (duh), and jump starts it. He thinks the interior light may have been accidentally left on.
Finally set off for Bedford at 11:30. Eddie drops me at the bank while he goes to the tip. Wait in bank to see one of the Personal Bankers. After half an hour am finally introduced to a lad who looks no more than 14. Explain I need to make electronic payment to currency dealers (who also bank with my bank so the transaction should be pretty straightforward). The 14 year old takes the details, which seems to take forever, and assures me the payment will be made today. Am not filled with confidence.
Eddie arrives at bank having parked the car, which we return to to go on to the vets. Car won’t start. Flat battery. Eddie walks to nearest Halfords to buy jump leads then flags down a motorist in the car park to give us a jump start. Decide to go to Landrover garage and get new battery. Wait an hour in garage for new battery to be fitted.
Go to vets. Eddie leaves engine running while I collect the stuff for the dogs.
Arrive home at just before 5 p.m. After seeing to the animals not much time left to pack. Still, we have all day tomorrow.....
Tuesday 24th July – 9:30 a.m. Currency dealers phone to say they haven’t received payment. Try to ring bank but can’t get through. No choice but to go back into bank. After another wait the 14 year old appears. My money appears to have been lost in their system somewhere. An hour and a half later and they have managed to track it down. 14 year old assures us the transfer will be done today but based on his record so far we are not inclined to believe him. Ask to see someone higher up the food chain. 14 year old looks worried but Eddie makes it clear we’re not going anywhere until we do. After another long wait the branch manager appears. She at least has the decency to apologise and then spends the next hour hassling people to get the transfer done. 2:30 p.m transfer is complete. More precious hours wasted, but we do at least get home in time to make a start on the packing.
4 p.m – phone call from vets. They still haven’t received our export licence from DEFRA which we need to take the animals to France. Eddie phones DEFRA. They advise they are still waiting for the route plan from the livestock haulier. Eddie phones livestock haulier. His wife advises he is in Romania, due back this evening, and will fax it to DEFRA as soon as he gets back. Eddie calls DEFRA back to advise them.
Pack until too tired to do anymore.
Wednesday 25th July – The day starts well. DEFRA confirm they have received the route plan and are issuing the export licence to our vet, who will come and inspect the animals on Saturday and complete their part of the paperwork.
Manage to get a lot more of the packing done. No furniture left in the lounge or the bedrooms, and from now until we leave we’ll be sleeping on camp beds in the kitchen, but feel we are at last making progress.
5 p.m – Our estate agent in France, E, calls. She has been trying to get hold of the vendor, Mr S, to arrange for us to go to the house on Monday 30th (the day before we sign the final contract), in the evening, so he can show us things like where the water and electricity meters are, where the water stop cock is, etc etc. Turns out Mr S (who is German and moving back to Germany) is currently in Germany and wasn’t planning to return until Monday 30th. For some bizarre reason he didn’t think that when the sale completed that meant he had to have moved out and we would be moving in – he was planning to move out a week later! E has told him in no uncertain terms that he needs to have all his stuff moved out before contract is signed on the 31st. Another slight problem – Mr S owns a Pyrenean Mountain dog, old and not looking in the best of health. When we first had our offer accepted he asked E to ask us if we wanted the dog as he had spent all his life on the farm. We did think about it seriously but decided that we couldn’t take the risk that he might not get on with our dogs, and felt that the upheaval for our dogs was enough for them to cope with without having a strange dog thrown into the mix, so we had told him that we were sorry but we couldn’t take him. At that time we were told this was not a problem as Mr S would be able to rehome him. E now tells us that Mr S has done nothing about trying to rehome him and is assuming we will take him. Tell E this is not really fair on us and he must find an alternative solution before we get there.
Continue working on the packing until collapse in heap.
Thursday 26th July – my last day in the office before the move, so a relatively calm day for me. Not so for Eddie. He gets a call in the morning from DEFRA who advise that the vet in our practice who is going to do the inspection on Saturday is not on their approved list. The only vets in the practice who are on their list are both out of the country on holiday. A frantic morning of phone calls ensues, and finally the vets manage to find someone in a practice in Wellingborough who is approved and can do the inspection on Saturday.
In the afternoon Eddie gets all the animals into the barn where they will now stay until they are loaded onto the lorry on Sunday morning. He notices that one of the lambs has lost fleece along her back and has some nasty scabs. Could be a simple skin infection, but worst case scenario is that it could be sheep scab, which although no longer a notifiable disease, is nevertheless highly contagious and would scupper our export to France. Eddie arranges for vet to visit on Friday.
Eddie picks me up from the station and fills me in on the day’s events. Thankful a vet has been found, but very worried about the lamb.
Get home and get straight on with the packing. We stop to eat at about 10, and then Eddie starts cleaning all the carpets with the machine he hired for the day. Finally crash out on the camp beds about 2 a.m.
Friday 27th July – Today is our last chance to get the packing finished. I have just a few loose ends to deal with – emails etc, but when I try to connect to the internet am unable to do so. Weird as Eddie has arranged with BT that the phone and internet connection will be switched off at 6 p.m today. Ring BT and spend a frustrating hour being passed from one department to another only to finally discover that they turned off the broadband at midnight on Thursday! Make my feelings known to BT who offer £20 compensation, but really give the impression they could not care less.
Vet arrives to examine lamb. We discuss with her the likelihood that it is sheep scab. As we are a closed flock and there have been no cases in the area in the time we have lived here we all agree it is highly unlikely, but she feels it looks similar enough that she feels she should take a sample for testing. My concern is that even if it isn’t sheep scab, if a vet spots her on one of the various inspections they will go through on their journey they might, like our vet, think it looks similar enough to sheep scab to be a possibility. It could cause huge problems and at worst the animals could all be turned back. The vet agrees this is a risk and after further discussion we come to the sad conclusion that we just can’t take the chance of putting her on the lorry. We can’t risk all the animals being refused entry into France, or turned back at an inspection point. Our only option is to cull her. It’s an awful decision to have to make but the vet agrees it is the wisest course of action under the circumstances. I phone the local hunt who come out straightaway to shoot her. The vet phones later to say the samples she tested were negative for sheep scab. So, as we suspected, we killed a healthy animal. We feel absolutely dreadful about it but we really had no choice.
The house is now empty except for two camp beds, a kettle, a few bits of crockery and a fridge. We go round to our neighbours for a farewell supper – it’s good to get a break from things for a few hours.
Saturday 28th July – Tasks for today: worm all the sheep and goats and drench them for protection against blue tongue (not a problem in England or in the area we are moving to, but they may pass through an area in France that does have it and it is best they are protected) before the vet arrives at 1 p.m. Things going well and we are working our way through the goats when Eddie’s mobile rings. It’s the livestock haulier. The lorry was booked on the Sunday evening ferry but he has just heard that they have been “booted off” (this apparently happens quite a lot – the ferry company gets last minute bookings for more cars or coaches – which pay a lot more than a lorry – and they just cancel the lorry’s booking). The livestock haulier says he will now have to collect the goats and sheep on Monday instead of Sunday. Eddie nearly has heart attack. Explains this isn’t possible as we have to move out on Sunday. Thankfully livestock haulier advises he can collect the animals as originally planned and take them back to his depot which is a DEFRA approved staging post and they can stay there Sunday night and get the ferry on Monday. Originally, if they had got the Sunday ferry they would have arrived at the house on Wednesday, now they won’t arrive until Thursday. Still, once again we have no choice and at least it will give us a bit more time to get the barns ready for them.
Vet arrives at 1 p.m and THANKFULLY the inspection goes without a hitch and he is able to complete the export licence stating the animals are all fit and healthy and can travel.
Spend the afternoon sorting out stuff in the barn, and cleaning house. We’re ready to go.
Sunday 29th July – Early start to get animals fed and dogs walked before removal lorry arrives. Lorry arrives at 8 with the driver Dave and his grandson who is spending his school holidays going on trips with his grandad. Two lads from the village, who’ve been hired to provide much needed muscle, also arrive. We all set to, and everything is packed and ready to go by 1 p.m, just as the livestock lorry arrives. Perfect timing. The removal lorry sets off. We’ll next see them on Tuesday afternoon, after we’ve completed the house purchase.
Livestock haulier gets lorry in position to load the animals. Boy is it posh! Feeders, automatic drinkers, air conditioning (controlled by a computer in the cab which constantly shows the temperature in the lorry). Am feeling much happier about their journey. We chose this firm because they specialise in transporting top quality breeding livestock and have a reputation for looking after them well, and I know we made the right choice. The driver is lovely, and explains that he won’t be taking them to France but the guy that will be is very experienced and will really look after them.
We get them loaded quite easily. A few of them seem a little uneasy but the driver assures me they’ll be fine.
2:30 p.m – the animals have left and now it’s just us and the dogs. It seems really weird, wandering round the empty barns.
We take the dogs for a final walk round the fields. Strange to think we’ll not do this again.
Then it’s time for a quick shower and pack the car. 4:30 pm we leave Langcroft Farm for the last time. Hit the motorway and head south. Arrive at the Eurotunnel port at about 8 p.m. We’re booked on the 9:30 and were hoping we could get on an earlier crossing but they’re running late. We finally board at about 10. How spooky to be sat in a car on a “train” hurtling miles under the sea. 35 minutes later and we reach Calais, local time 11:30 p.m. It’s been a hell of a week, but we are finally on French soil.
Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment......