A little history. Almost three years ago now, I moved up to Fife to take over the farm, leaving the Horse Doctor behind. This wasn't some callous act on my part, it was just that she had a good job there and we had a house that needed selling. The plan was for her to apply for work up here, continue to live in the house and show prospective purchasers around, and then move north once the sale was done. Six months, we thought. Ten, tops.
How wrong we were.
The Horse Doctor worked for the Welsh Assembly Government at the time, and we hoped there might be the possibility for an internal civil service transfer to something similar in Scotland. This would have been easy before devolution, but now doesn't happen. Jobs in this austerity time are few and far between for someone with the Horse Doctor's unique set of skills. She's had a few interviews, but nothing materialised.
No one wanted to buy the house either, it would seem. I'd have put it down to us asking too much - although we pitched it at the average of several Estate Agents' recommendations - were it not for the fact that all the other houses for sale in the area have been sticking like chewing gum to the bottom of your shoe. Our lovely part of Wales is just too far outside the ever-shrinking Aberystwyth commuter circle, and the downsizers from England have all but disappeared. In the three years the house has been on the market it's been viewed five times. None of those have been in the last eighteen months.
What has happened in the last eighteen months is my going from unpublished to self published to best selling author. This awesome (and very tiring) roller coaster ride has had many plus points to it, one of the better being enough money to employ the Horse Doctor as my PA. Technically she's going to be running the farm, but she'll also be managing the house build and generally making it so that I can write, write and write some more, freed from the endless hassles and worries that have been plaguing me.
At least that's the idea. It will probably work out differently.
It does mean that finally, after almost three years of living four hundred miles apart and only seeing each other for a few days each month or so, we're going to be back together. Hooray!
And so to the point of this post, the troubles coming in threes.
The house in Wales is being let for the timebeing, so I hired a 7.5 tonne truck and drove it down there on Monday. On Tuesday a couple of very good friends helped me load it up, and that's when the first bad luck struck. Stepping aside as a heavy item was carried past me, my foot slipped off a wet concrete step and something inside it went crack. It wasn't too painful at first, so I carried on loading. There wasn't much else I could do. When I looked at it later in the evening, there wasn't much swelling and it hadn't turned black, so I thought all was well. It was painful to walk on, but lying down was fine.
Not so good the next morning. As soon as I tried to put weight on it I knew there was a problem. Fortunately it was my clutch foot, so to speak. I could, with some help from my old friend Ibuprofen and Codeine, operate the clutch to change gear on the truck. Had it been the other foot, the accelerator foot, then I would have been stuck in Wales.
I set off yesterday at half past eight. It was uncomfortable, but by the time I reached Chester and the dual carriageway, I was getting used to the pain. I was trying not to think too hard about the fact that I had to unload everything that night once I arrived back at the farm. My brother was there to help, after all.
|Make Room! Make Room!|
The next thing to go wrong was small, really. I stopped at Westmoreland for a pee and something to eat. This was the first time I'd had internet access for a couple of days too, so I checked my email and did a few other things. I bought myself a large latte, and sat in the cab tweeting about my sore foot. Then the truck parked next to me tried to move off, but couldn't turn without hitting me. Being a helpful fellow, I immediately went to reverse a bit and give him enough room. In doing so, I knocked the coffee over, spreading milky goodness all over the floor of the cab. Ah well, at least it was a rental...
I couldn't be bothered buying another coffee after that. I was tired and sore and grumpy and just wanted to get home. So I set off perhaps twenty minutes earlier than if I hadn't made the mess. Note that twenty minutes, dear reader. It's important.
The journey was uneventful between Westmoreland and Carlisle. It was intermittently windy and wet, but the truck drove well. Then just as I was heading towards Todhills on south bank of the Eden, a VOSA Inspector's car pulled over in front of me and flashed on it's little rooftop sign, the LED lights telling me to follow.
I'm a law-abiding fellow, so I did as I was told. We went into the HGV inspection centre nearby and I was made to drive the truck over the weighbridge. It had looked 'a little heavy at the back end' according to the man.
This truck is rated to a gross weight of 7.5 tonnes. It was actually 8.64 tonnes. Oops.
At first I thought it was all the Horse Doctor's trees - about fifteen of them in big pots, probably weighing upwards of 70 kilos each. They were all at the back of the truck - put in after we'd fitted all the house stuff in. The nice man from VOSA gave me the number of a local haulier who would, for a fee, take my excess weight off me and deliver it to Fife. Unfortunately removing the trees still left us 350 kilos overweight, and worse the weight was now all on the front of the vehicle.
Another round of dieting shaved things down to 7.45 tonnes, but again there was too much to the front. I had to unpack stuff that had been very carefully arranged so as not to tumble everywhere when going around roundabouts, and move it into a big pile at the back of the truck. Still, eventually I passed the test and was allowed onwards. The whole fiasco took over three hours and has cost me, so far, £250.
If I'd not knocked over that coffee, I'd have been twenty minutes later past the spot where the VOSA Inspector noticed me. Chances are he wouldn't have been there then, and I'd have gone on oblivious to the motoring laws I was breaking. I'd probably have made it home safely - the truck was driving fine and whilst it felt heavier than when empty it was nothing like as bad as my mother's old horse box. Such is life, I guess. It was my fault, so I can't blame anyone else. I could have been fined £1 for every excess kilo, but was let off with a caution.
I didn't get back to Fife until half past nine last night, fully thirteen hours after leaving the house in Wales. Between Stirling and home there were three separate diversions in operation - I dread to think what it all did to my blood pressure. At least my brother was there to help unload, as was the very helpful driver who'd brought the trees and a few other things up for me. Unfortunately we had to leave some stuff in Carlisle, so soon someone's going to have to go down and get that.
Not me though. After the stress of the drive and studiously ignoring my foot, today it's agony with every step. No obvious swelling or bruising, which makes me suspect something really is broken within. There are many, many little bones in the foot and I've broken them before now. An X-ray will tell me whether that's the case, but I need to go and see the doctor first. Joy.
At least they didn't seem to notice the overpowering smell of coffee permeating the cab of the truck when they took it away first thing this morning. That, of course, was the reason everything had to be unloaded last night.
Back in the summer, when I made it, the plan to go and fetch all our stuff from the house in Wales seemed like a perfectly reasonable one. The days were long and dry, and I didn't have a deadline for one novel closing in whilst trying to do page proofs for another.
If I could go back in time a few months I think I would slap myself for being such an idiot.