Yes, since you’ve been wondering, I did go down to Gary and Terry’s the week before last. And, yes, I did get horrendously inebriated. “Bolly or Mumm’s?” asked Gary. “Or perhaps the Veuve Cliquot?” “Stop showing off,” growled Terry, heavily pregnant and not able to drink. “Sorry, darlin’. It’s alright, Keith. I’ve got four bottles in the fridge. I walked out with it from a club a few months ago. Haven’t been back since.” We drank the lot. Then we had a few vodka slammers.
Moving house when you are severely hungover is the worst experience in the world. All you want to do is curl up in bed and sleep it off. But that’s not possible because you don’t live either here or there. You don’t live anywhere. God knows what Gary and I found to talk about for all those hours. Maybe that’s why I drank so much. It was easier than talking. “You gotta invite us ter the weddin,” said Gary enthusiastically, “‘Asn’t ‘e, darlin’?” Yeah, sure. Like I could ever get that pissed.
Actually, Gary and Terry were generous hosts and pretty reasonable neighbours, on the whole. As long as we discount the whole parking across my drive business and that thing with the bin on the garden, they were pleasant enough. And if we forget about the leaking pipe episode which I had to pay a plumber the best part of £100 to look at, I can note to his credit that Gary not only helped me with the tree but also never attacked me with a samurai sword. And Terry only ever played the hi-fi loud maybe three times. Two less times than me, in fact.
No, I have no reason to be nasty to them. Terry even cooked up chicken and rice for us which was nice. Well, it was the first time I saw it. I’m just thinking that I won’t be seeing them again as they head for their dream council house on a housing estate fit for heroes. Or something like that.
One of Gary’s bouncer friends turned up at about two in the morning and helped us out with the last bottle of bubbly. I think I went upstairs to bed about three. Four hours later, confused and head spinning, I woke up and looked at the bucket beside the bed. Not good. Then I went to the bathroom and threw up. Veuve Cliquot, Bolinger, Mumm’s. It wasn’t pretty. Drinking. It’s not big and it’s not clever. I was, as we say in the trade, completely fucked. The Garretts were coming and I hadn’t even finished packing.
Fuck. Packing. Fuck. The Garretts. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck. I did my best to shove anything left laying around the flat into cardboard boxes and suitcases, then I crammed them into the back of my car ready to drive round to Pete’s. That’s Pete the photographer who is putting me up in his spare room while I wait for my US visa to come through. My host for a month. By about 9.30am I’d done a reasonable job of stuffing the car and a very poor job of sobering up. I’d almost managed to keep down a mug of hot tea but it was a sorry attempt.
I was stuffed. Everyone was at work and there was no one to call on to help. I tried ringing Pete but he was on a job. His girlfriend, Kerrie, offered to help us unload when I arrived. My brain swam in lazy circles around my skull and I just had to sit quietly and mark time, counting the circuits. You’d think I’d know better at my age. More tea. Yes, that might help.
At 10am, Andy, the director of photography from Fate & Fortune came round to buy my TV and video. “God, Keith, you reek of booze,” he said with his characteristic diplomacy. “Thanks, Andy,” I managed before running to the bathroom again. I reappeared with a pale sheepish grin. “Oh, God. There’s no way you’re driving,” said Mr Martin. “Hold on. I’ll put off what I had to do and help. You are in no fit state to drive.” Oh, God, indeed. As unlikely as it seemed, my saviour had arrived.
Somehow I survived the morning and we got the first carload of stuff over to Pete’s house. Andy took me back to Richard Stagg Close and told me to wait. He had an appointment to keep but would come back. “You definitely shouldn’t drive,” he said. “I can still smell the alcohol on your breath. Go and have a lie down.” “But the Garretts will be here at midday to exchange contracts.” “Sod ’em. A few hours won’t hurt. The world will keep turning. Have a lie down.” It seemed an eminently sensible plan. I lay down on the bare bed and the world indeed kept turning much as I tried to stop the room spinning.
An hour passed. Two hours. Sunshine. Bird song. Traffic sounds. All somewhere nearby, a million miles away. Voices. At the door. “Hello? Mr Jefferies?” Ah, The Garretts. Parents of the new owner, James. “Come in, the door’s open. I’m just packing a few last bits.” I struggled into the living room and started chucking stuff in boxes again. Then I struggled down the stairs with it and filled up the car once more.
“No word from the estate agents yet?” asked Mrs Garrett. She knew I wasn’t handing over the keys until the legal work had been completed. “No. I’ll give them a call shortly.” I tried the phone. BT had already disconnected it. Bastards. Another hour passed while I continued somnabulantly packing and drinking water and the Garretts waited. Still no sign of Andy, I decided to risk driving and puttered round to Peter’s very very slowly. Unloading seemed to take an age. I rested every trip up the stairs. If I’d gone any slower, I’d have been going backwards.
An hour and a half later, the car was empty. I phoned the estate agents. “Oh, your estate agent’s in a meeting,” I was told. I was not best pleased. They had been less than useless throughout the whole sale process. The Garretts had actually found the flat while driving past. “Well, get her out of the fucking meeting and put her on the fucking phone. I’m fucking moving today and I’m paying you fuckers nearly two fucking grand. You’d better start acting like I’m the fucking customer.” I think I said words to that effect. She still didn’t appear on the phone. I puttered back to Garretville, not feeling too perky.
The drive back was not pleasant. I felt every bump and sway. My brain struggled to keep up. Eventually, by sheer force of will, I arrived back on what was still technically my drive and I made a dash for the stairs. “Would you like a cup of tea?” offered Mrs Garrett. I kept my lips sealed and shook my head as I bolted past her into the bathroom to “talk to God on the big white phone” freshly bleached to a reeking new holiness by the would-be owners. I was a sad sad character. God frowned at me. God only knew what the Garretts were thinking. I went to lie down on the bed again.
This was getting insane but after half an hour I felt a bit better and the offer of a cup of tea was taken up. Somehow I kept it down. I called my estate agent again on Mrs Garrett’s mobile phone. “Oh, yes,” said the voice, “It’s been logged as completed two hours ago.” I could have screamed. “Well, don’t you think you should have told us? You know, as I’m paying you?” “Well, er, yes. Your solicitor should have told you too. I can only apologise.” Great. Big deal. Two thousand pounds buys you a lot of muppetry.
I got carload number three packed and ready, then abused Mrs G further by calling Andy on her cellphone. “Hello, Keith. How’s it going? I should be back with you in a bit. There was something else I had to do.” “No worries. I’m almost ready to go again.” “Well, hang on a bit. I’ll try to be there in half an hour.” I went and sat in the chair again, sipping water while out of nowhere a van full of carpet fitters arrived and closed in on the bedroom. Holy shit. I didn’t charge these people enough. They had enough change for carpet!
No sign of Andy, so I do trip three, once more in slow motion. This time I have Mr Garrett in convoy helping me move some small items of furniture. The other bits I’m selling to them as part of the deal. At last my old house is clear. Pete’s spare room is full. So is Pete’s living room and Pete’s hallway. And his shed. Late in the afternoon I get back to the flat and park up to sell Andy the TV. He shakes his head at me and stifles a laugh as I tuck a few more bits of junk in the car.
Mrs Garrett has already started repainting the living room for James, who’s at work. I try to ignore the six shades of magnolia she’s painted as swatches on the orange wall. I thought James actually liked the orange. Poor old James. He may have thought he was leaving home, but his mother clearly has other ideas. Talk about under the thumb.
It’s been a long day. It’s not quite over.
This has got to have been the worst plan ever for house moving but I’m almost there. James shows up just as I’m leaving. “It will feel much more like home the first time you put your key in the door and open it,” I tell him. Then I head off. Pete and I drill holes in the wall and fit a curtain rail. All that’s left to do is buy curtains and cat-proof the spare room. One trip to the hardware store, driving through McDonald’s on the way. Quarter pounder with cheese. Kids run around the cars in line as if dodging vehicles is the funniest game in the world. I try to ignore them. The world has gone mad. Don’t try any of this at home kids.
By 9.30pm the spare room has curtains up and there are latches on the door. I can breathe easy without small furry characters shedding hair in my bed. Time to sleep. It’s been a loooooong day. Too long. But I’m halfway home. Because home is where the heart is. My heart. My Laura.