For months I tried to pack and sort our lives while Dadonthebrink worked away during the week and some weekends. I found it impossible. I was tired and found lots of excuses to procrastinate due to my reluctance to move. The whole situation wasn’t helped by my slower than expected recovery from my op and then my dad being taken seriously ill for weeks. It all just piled on.
I’d booked removers, but then realised that I’d still have to have everything they needed to pack sorted. I wasn’t ready! I cancelled them for most part. My heart really wasn’t in the move… till there was no choice.
With Christmas approaching we needed to get on with packing, the kids had said their good byes in school, their school places had been offered to others and filled. There was no way back.
Plans started to come together: We had known our ultimate deadline since September: 11th January when the kids were expected in school.
As part of my slightly insane way of making sense we bought CampyToo and booked a couple of different tickets.
First, came the Christmas surprise.
We’d been very worried for my dad, who’d been in and out of hospital from mid November. Christmas was to be the perfect time to visit. However, last-minute flights were too expensive, so we decided to drive the 2000 kilometres from England to Hungary.
We didn’t tell anyone we were coming.
Along the way we tried to surprise the in-laws in the Netherlands too with an impromptu dinner. They weren’t home, but we caught up with Dadonthebrink’s brother for a quick dinner before we drove off into the night.
We pretty much drove through the night, timing our arrival for Christmas Eve dinner with my family. It was perfect: We stood carolling outside my parents home as they answered the intercom confused as why my sister (who has a very similar voice to mine) was outside. Then the penny dropped for them and there were tears of joy flowing as the gates opened and the kids ran to jump in their grandparents necks.
Our timing was perfect. My parents were just about to start decorating the Christmas tree. The kids and I loved taking over this task with the cousins. All those old decorations that I’ve known since my childhood were being hung on the tree. It was a particularly special treat because we hadn’t bothered with a tree knowing we were moving.
Almost as soon as we’d arrived I dropped the bombshell for my mum, our ulterior motive for driving 20 odd hours:
Mum, we were thinking of leaving the kids here for 2 weeks. Would that be ok?
Oh and can you fly them directly to Stockholm for us?
My mum pondered for a split second:
Yeah that’s fine!
I am so grateful to have parents who are so accommodating of our whims!
Christmas Eve was wonderful! My parents, my sister, her family and the five of us. We’ve never celebrated with all of us together.
Next day the extended family was due for a Christmas party. 30 plus dear relatives and friends. Each delighted at the surprise, but disappointed they couldn’t get any presents for the kids. (This later was one of the reasons we didn’t let ANYONE know; no extra toys and presents to move with us!)
Boxing Day was relaxing, we booked Mum and the kids the flights to Stockholm. They were getting in on the 8th of January.
And then we said our goodbyes and left the following morning.
I was a bit worried… no, I was very worried! It was the first time we were leaving the kids behind not in their own home and we’d never left them as long as were were this time- 2 weeks.
I shouldn’t have worried they had a ball, as we learnt daily through the numerous pictures that arrived on Whatsapp from Mum and through our daily Skype calls.
It was really strange driving away without the kids. I felt a sense of relief – at the fact that I can be selfish on the road, and not have to stop for their loo breaks, meals etc.; and that we can get on with packing, without them unpacking our hard work. The I, of course, felt guilty for feeling the sense of relief and leaving them, till it all faded because life became to hectic to indulge in silly feelings.
Remember to look up! As the daunting task of packing up takes over I have to keep reminding myself not to get bogged down. There is blue sky out there! Perhaps not this one though for me, as this is 1200mi away in #Melk #Austria ? This picture captures a brief time when we saw the sun, blue skies and beautiful buildings on our journey home. Before and after we were driving in thick fog. It really was magical how the fog disappeared and then engulfed us again.
A photo posted by Monika Travels Family and Life (@mumonthebrink) on
We passed via a quick sleep in the Netherlands at the in-laws; this time we let them know a couple of days in advance to make sure we had a bed waiting.
Back in the UK; Packing
Getting home we cracked on with the task at hand. It was slow progress because we were trying to sort things, tidy, as well as pack. It was over-whelming. The only time we really got into the groove was when we had one or another friend over to help. The distraction of friends helped to be more objective, let go of the emotional side of packing.
I had booked a DFDS ferry crossing from the UK to Sweden directly, the Immingham to Gothenburg route. It was going to be a 26 hour crossing, we’d get a cabin and three meals were included. This route is a freight route, but they do take some passengers.
One day, Dadonthebrink said- “We’ll have to strap everything down very well in the van”
Slightly rough seas had occurred to me and had concerned me, as I’m prone to seasickness, but this statement just freaked me out. I was envisaging HUGE wave the fully-loaded van swaying as we crashed over the waves and us arriving with broken suspension in Sweden. Add my fear of seasickness for 24 hours and I cancelled our ferry. (We shall try that route sometime in the summer, when the North Sea is likely to be calmer.)
So we were going to drive. I rebooked DFDS Dover to Dunkirk.
On the 4th evening my cousin arrived: he, a professional builder, was going to help with some DIY on the house once we’d emptied it. As I drove him home from the airport we got chatting about Campy Too and how big it was, how I was in the process of sorting out another set of steal rims for it with some winter tyres. Then it dawned on me: he had a driving licence to drive Campy Too (at the moment it can only be driven a D licence due to how it’s registered). By the time we got home, we’d agreed that he’d be driving with Dadontherbrink instead of me. ( I guess I’m pretty lucky with family and friends: they are amazing at helping when I “organise” ourselves into a hectic muddle.)
The next day was a blur of packing, sorting paperwork for the van, insurance, breakdown cover, finding out about routes to get to Sweden.
The van needed a new set of winter tyres and I bought some steel wheels so we could have the winter tyres on one set and the summer tyres on another set, as is customary in Sweden. Would you believe my purchase didn’t arrive, so there I was on the day before departure hunting around for wheels and winter tyres?!
We watched the weather forecast like hawks too: there was freezing rain in the North of the Netherlands and North Western Germany. All were advised to stay home. Great! Just when we had to drive; We were on a schedule, with the kids and Mum arriving. Someone had to be there at Stockholm Airport to pick them up.
Eventually, my flight was booked to arrive a couple of hours early, before Mum and the kids, at Arlanda.
Packing the van was like playing Tetris
We crammed a lot into the van and left a lot behind. Our objective was to take what was absolutely essential for us and what we would use for sure; some sentimental items made the packing list.
Our priority was the kids: We packed 4-5 boxes of toys for them, two of their toy trunks, their bunk beds and bedding, their Stokke chairs and a small selection of cuddly toys. Clothes, shoes for all.
I had a pretty well stocked larder at home and I really struggled to deplete the stocks, so we packed 4 boxes of larder content. It sounds silly to bring flour, pasta, tins, spices but it has been so nice to be able to discover these things in shops in a leisurely manner instead of walking around the supermarket on Day 1 with google translate.
We brought very little furniture for ourselves, knowing IKEA was just around the corner:
Two armchairs made the journey, because they’ve been with us since we bought our first house and we love them. My lovely Georgian wind-out table almost got vetoed by the boys as they were packing, but I put my foot down, and am so glad I did. It’s perfect for the kitchen, even extended.
In preparing for the move I figured out furniture to buy from IKEA and realised they don’t sell double mattresses here only double mattress toppers. (Odd, I know!) So we brought one of our mattresses. Sadly, as I found out a day or two after we’d started to settle in, it was the mattress that we’d swapped out at home to the guest room because it was so hard that I get backaches from it. Cue: Ikea mattress topper went high on the shopping list.
My Ikea buro, ironically, travelled over. It needs to be updated, painted- a project I’ve had in mind for over a year- but it is so practical and I knew it fit a space in the flat perfectly.
Another curiosity that travelled with us was a freezer full of frozen food. Just as with my larder, I’d struggled to empty my freezer, always finding bargains mostly in the meat section. I knew I wanted to take a spare freezer (the apartment we’re renting comes with washing machine, fridge freezer, dishwasher and microwave, so we didn’t need to take any whitegoods), but I reckoned I might as well fill up the freezer while it travels.
The last items to be squeezed in were our bikes. My goodness that was a challenge! 4 bikes are very awkward to arrange.
Packing done it was time for a quick shut eye.
Travels to Sweden
On the morning the boys were due to leave, they went to start the van and it wouldn’t: the battery was flat. Turns out having the lights on for 8 hours, while playing Tetris with boxes and furniture, drains the battery.
We tried to jumpstart it, but alas it’s a big diesel engine that needs too much omph and nothing around had it in it. The rescue guy arrived some 45 minutes after I called, too late for Campy Too to make the ferry booked (and I’d booked non-flexible ticket being an optimist that there’d be no problem.)
Just as Mr Rescue Guy started Campy Too and both he and the boys were ready to leave, we realised that in the mayhem of the battery saga the passenger window had lowered and we couldn’t get it up. Taking off the door panel the boys discovered the window lowering motor had tangled it’s cables. With time ticking on the quickest way to solve it (though the most expensive in the long run) was to cut the cable. Voila! Up went the window. And off drove Dadonthebrink with my cousin.
Not being sure of the driving conditions we didn’t actually book any ferries till they had a realistic ETA.
On the road they had a Teppy, a wireless router that works all over the world. With the help of that we were able to stay in touch, skype, and decide on routes. They took the ferry from Puttgarten to Rogby, and then decided to take the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmö. (I’d found a much cheaper option with Stenalines, but got vetoed on timings.) I was horrified, when they told me they’d paid 90 Euros toll on the bridge, as they’d fallen under HGV category, instead of campervan or minibus, which would’ve been “only” 49 Euros. 😮
The amazing thing about technology: Dadonthebrink skyped me just as they were crossing the bridge over to Sweden. It was grey, snowing and windscreen wipers were struggling to keep up. Yet, I was there with them in that moment. It was so cool!
I followed their progress as they entered Sweden and encoutered more and more snow on the dark winter roads. They got to our flat at about 2 am on the 8th of January.
…just as I was dragging 2 very heavy bags along the quiet residential streets of Oxford to get to my coach that would transport me to Gatwick.
It’s exhausting travelling with lots of luggage! And I was fully loaded, using my total weight allowance of 40kg plus 10 kg hand luggage on Norwegian Airlines.
I arrived at Arlanda airport mid-morning.
Dadonthebrink was going to pick me up, but plans changed: the neighbours downstairs were moving in too and had blocked them in. I had to take the coach from the airport and then Dadonthebrink would walk home with me. (A mere 10 minute walk.)
I got to our flat just as the last boxes were being unloaded.
A quick snack and it was time to pick up my Mum and the kids. Their flight arrived on time.
The hugs I got from them as they spotted me were phenomenal! I’d missed the little rascals so much and apparently, despite have an excellent time, they’d missed us too.
We had all arrived in Sweden!
The kids, after a quick whizz around our small apartment, headed outside to enjoy the snow.
My cousin left that evening still- he had work to get on with in Oxford- and Mum stayed for the weekend, helping unpack a little.
We’ve been finding our feet since.