I‘m never moving house again.
As a young-and in-love naive Army wife-to-be, I’d fallen hard for my handsome officer, all soave and shiny, and either didn’t hear him say we’d have to move house every two years, or I simply smiled, blushed coquettishly and said yes, another glass of Champagne would be lovely thank you.
Ten years, three children, three dogs and five houses on, Bloke is a little less shiny and the ‘Champagne’ more Prosecco than Piper but we’re still here and happy.
And, finally, we’d decided to make the big move out of Army life and into the real world. Where those civilians live.
Having moved twice while he was on operational tour and I was alone and pregnant, this one had to be easier. It would be the last time someone with white gloves would check I’d cleaned the inside of my window recesses, scrubbed my wheelie bin, and clipped my hedges to the prescribed 4ft 6ins height.
I could say goodbye to magnolia walls and woodchip. Goodbye to traybakes and twinsets.
Bloke was around, we had paid for removal men and the dogs were at Grandma’s.
Except I’d forgotten one small, crucial thing – BOYS.
Three of them: small, excitable and runny of nose.
Number Two had been really helpful packing my undies (it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve moved, no stranger is fumbling my bras, well not since those halcyon teen clubbing days in Essex anyway, so I always pack my embarrassing bits). With much vigour, Number Two had twanged them, worn them hilariously fly-style over his eyes and, with Bloke’s encouragement, used them to launch plastic parachute men over the banister.
Number Three had been even more helpful, putting some in the charity shop bag.
Luckily, it was only the two La Perla sets and the Victoria’s Secret two piece, so nice and cheap then……
Bloke’s job was to ‘entertain’ the small people while I barked menacingly at the removal men in the hope this would run like the smooth, military operation it had been each time Bloke was away.
By ‘entertain’ I meant perhaps some colouring or some (not-so-Jolly) Phonics practice. What I didn’t have in mind was building a den.
We’re supposed to be moving crap out of the house, not piling it up.
Better still, Bloke reckons building it on the landing would be a “good place out of the way”.
Seething removal types are now ‘smiling’ through gritted teeth as they shimmy past a sofa cushion tower (the den’s ‘lookout’), a bed headboard (the ‘door’) and inexplicably, three crates of suspiciously opened Stella (‘fortifications’ – reeeeally Daddy?).
It’s at this point I have a word.
Now, Bloke’s a rufty tufty soldier but frankly, scared of me, especially when I do that talk-very-calmly thing. The calmer, the scarier.
He gets the message. Quickly and clearly.
Boys now scurry about removing lookouts and fortifications with that all-lads-together sulky, girls-don’t-get-it look on their face.
All’s running well for a couple of hours until we lose one of them. You’re assuming it’s a child, dear reader, aren’t you?
No, Bloke is missing.
He’s not said he’s going anywhere and if he’d left me, I think he would’ve done it when I locked him out naked last winter, not now.
He’s not in the house, the car, garden, garage or at the neighbour’s. To say I was worried …. would be a lie. I was just plain, old fashioned furious.
By now, Numbers Two and Three have managed to Mummify two dogs with bubble wrap, stick parcel tape across both loos, and almost take out three removal men in one go in a Home Alone-style prank involving three dozen marbles and the lorry’s ramp. (By now, I soooo know my cream sofas ain’t gonna arrive stain-free the other end and I’m willing to bet, clocking the look on their faces, that a mirror or two might get ‘accidently’ dropped).
And so to Bloke.
It’s been almost three hours and hey, I do love him, so I’m starting to get a bit concerned (see, I can do touchy feely). I wonder if he’s gone to the new house to plug the kettle in and make it all lovely for his lovely wife. Nah.
I wonder if he’s gone to Waitrose to buy his lovely wife some lovely flowers for being so lovely. Nah.
I’m even starting to wonder if he’s in one of the larger boxes? Nah.
It’s OK – he’s watching the first of the Six Nations’ rugby clashes in the pub.
Really, dear reader, that’s what he had thought would be the right thing to do. Wrong, Bloke, wrong.
Apparently, I’d been “doing moving so efficiently alone for so many years” that he was “simply in the way”.
He got the simple bit right.
Smiling (I’m always much scarier when I smile) I ask him if he wouldn’t mind finishing his pint and joining me with the three children, two dogs, six angry removal men and 279 boxes back at home.
His mates giggle nervously, scared I might turn my ‘smile’ on them.
By the time we’ve walked the 600m from the pub to home, he’s learnt the error of his ways and is unwrapping a pair of gasping dogs.
The rest of the packing goes smoothly and I lighten up, the boys are angels and, as the removal men load the last of our worldly goods onto the back of the lorry, we have a group hug and giggle about our ‘romantic’ last night student-style in an empty house, on air beds, as our stuff wings its way to Forever Home ready for tomorrow’s unload.
We’d got five air beds – and I’d splashed out on the pricey ones that don’t sit two inches above the floor, but are like proper beds. Well…. it was the last night in the home two of my three boys were born in, where we’d lived the longest time together since we’d married, where we’d made some great friends, and even greater memories – it was worth it.
I’d made labels for them all, laminated, naturally (Bloke reckons he’d be encased in hot plastic if he sat still for too long. I say, what’s not to love about a laminator? Plastic fantastic). Each hot pink label read “DO NOT PACK” in big bold, black, underlined letters.
I’d asked Bloke clearly to stick one sign on each bed when he’d finished with the Sellotape. Then I checked five nanoseconds later, as normal, to ensure he’d not forgotten. He hadn’t.
You’re one step ahead of me, dear reader, aren’t you?
Yup, as we head upstairs to ‘bed’ we find five hot pink, laminated signs on the bedroom floor.
Oh don’t worry – me and the boys were fine.
Bloke’s credit card bought us a lovely night at the nearby manor house. Gorgeous massage.
I hear the threadbare Army carpet wasn’t that hard.