5 The power of tea
The men eye each other up. No one told us, says Andy. No one told us about the narrow lanes, the tight turns and the overhanging branches. They look sullen and M says brilliant, this isn’t a good start. They glower and say the removal lorry is parked down the road. M scoffs and says that’s just what we need. I say I’ll make tea as they’ve had a long drive from Bristol.
Andy reverses the lorry down the drive. Pat guides him, halting the vehicle when they hit the branches of the oak tree and there is debate about the best way to overcome the obstacle. A neighbour offers a chain saw but M thinks a hand saw is safer and Pat climbs the tree. It’s man’s work and soon the men are working together, mugs of tea are poured, sausage rolls consumed and a spirit of camaraderie develops.
By the end of the first day they have wrapped and packed glass and china, taken down pictures and mirrors, rolled rugs and whisked away chairs, until two whole rooms are completely empty and the lorry is half full. Fuelled by mugs of tea, glasses of orange squash, rounds of cheese and tomato sandwiches and chocolate doughnuts, they work at top speed.
In the evening they walk to the village pub with their £30 per head meal allowance, while M and I peer in the half empty fridge and wonder whether the hamburgers left from the party will be edible, then settle for egg and chips. We wonder if we will hear the men reel back late at night to sleep in the cab of the lorry, but all is silent and in the morning I am washed and dressed before they stir and I make them egg and bacon sandwiches, apologising for the lack of ketchup.
On a diet of tea, ham sandwiches and bananas, the men keep up their steady pace till late afternoon when the lorry is completely full. Heaving the last box out of the sitting room I hear tinkling music. “Edelweiss” , halting but still audible, is being played by the imprisoned music box and I imagine it will play as the load is transported down the motorway to Bristol.
The following day Andy returns with two fresh helpers, Simon and Dave. No they haven’t had breakfast on the journey. Yes, bacon and egg sandwiches would be awesome, thanks. With an extra pair of hands, the packing continues apace and becomes so swift that M and I have to check we still have all we need for the weekend. Suddenly the bathroom is empty and I halt the flow of boxes going downstairs to retrieve toothbrushes, towels and shampoo. I set up a minimal range of kitchen equipment, only to find later that we have packed the tin opener. And by Friday evening M discovers he has no warm clothes to beat the chill evening air; they have all been sent to Bristol.
The lorry leaves and will be back after the weekend. Andy will return, but we don’t know if he’ll bring Pat, Simon or Dave. I think they liked us in the end, M says, over a drink that evening. I think they liked the tea and sandwiches more, I say.