DOING IT – part 2
Once we were travelling, things settled down – the car was all right and the van was all right, although it was going very slowly. There was that sense of unreality that we were really moving, after all the talking about it. I can’t remember what we talked about once we were actually doing it.
Our first stop was Carlisle services on the M6. We opened the boot to let the dogs stretch their legs. Harris the ginger cat decided he would hop out too, and nipped smartly under a bush, where he sat miaowing at us. Desperate not to lose another cat, especially on a motorway, we spent about twenty minutes coaxing him out where he could be caught and put back in the car.
By the time we were north of Glasgow, it was becoming clear that if we didn’t go any faster, we were going to miss the ferry, which would be leaving Uig at 2pm. We made the decision to drive ahead, and hoped the van would catch up in time.
In the end, we caught the ferry and the van came over the hill just as it was sailing out of port.
The lads stayed behind to find a bed and breakfast for the night, and to catch the early morning ferry the next day. In the evening, they were stopped by a police car for driving a suspicious-looking vehicle. The officers asked where they had come from and where they were going. They explained they had driven from Bradford to help friends move to the Outer Hebrides. The officers were sceptical. They asked them to open the back of the van. Because it was so jammed full of stuff, the door was wedged tight. The officers insisted. Finally, they managed to force the door open. The first thing to fall out was a crowbar.
To the police, it looked like a van full of stolen goods. They asked for the story again. They explained about the inhibitor on the van, the car ahead full of children, dogs, cats and fish. The police began to see the funny side. They asked which village on Lewis they were headed to. One of them grinned eventually and said it was such a good story they couldn’t possibly have made it up. He also reckoned nobody would have even heard of Gravir unless they had been there, or were going. Fortunately, he had a relative there. The van was allowed to go on its way.
Meanwhile, we had landed at Tarbert, picked up some food and driven to Gravir. We arrived at our new home 5.30pm. We climbed the path to our house and went in to find it clean – and stripped. We stared in dismay. There was a cooker, of course, but no pots and pans, not even a kettle, or knives and forks. Everything of ours was in the van. We had a bag of raw mince, a turnip and a bag of potatoes, and no means of cooking them. The kids were hungry and so were the animals – but at least we had food for them.
I don’t remember how we got hold of the cottage owners, but we did. They came round with a kettle, a pan and some cutlery. We ate. We scraped together some old blankets and all four of us climbed into the double bed upstairs and slept.
The next morning we drove back to Tarbert to meet the ferry and guided the van and its drivers back to Gravir. It was a nightmare – everything had to be unpacked in a couple of hours so that the van could make the return journey on the next ferry. Our neighbours up the hill kindly allowed us to store our stuff in their garage so we could ship it up the hill to the house in stages.
It took us two weeks to finish unpacking. The last things we unpacked were two green bin bags full of odds and sods. In one of them was a cloth shopping bag. Folded inside it was an envelope and inside that was the missing £500.
And that was how we did it.