"Please God, don't let that be our removals lorry" I whispered as I watched a very small box van whining up the hill toward the house.
"Have you seen the lorry?" said the Conquering Hero, "it's a bit small".
So there you have it, conclusive proof.... there is no God!
We arrived in France, flush with money from the sale of our house, our worldly goods packed and boxed by an international mover. Nearly 5 years later we are leaving, our house rented out for several years, with hardly a penny to our name and what worldly goods we are taking will be moved by 'Man and Van' sourced from the pages of a Francophile forum (let's just call it Totale Farce to avoid identification!)
We were sharing 'Man and Van' with some people who have a holiday home near us who were using him to bring down materials for their renovation then we were taking the empty van back.
Their e-mail suggesting that 'some may not appreciate his sense of humour' rang alarm bells. We'd already had to put up with him phoning and trying to bring the pick up forward by a day... I mean who on earth is ever ready to move a day early? His opening gambit about us 'costing him a day' set the tone for the shape of things to come.
I had a look at the van... well, I suppose it was bigger than it looked.. but not much.
We'd engaged the help of a few friends to load the heavy stuff but it soon became apparent that it was unlikely all our stuff would fit. It was also becoming apparent that our supposedly experienced remover hadn't got a clue what he was doing. Things were badly and haphazardly loaded... we have our fridge freezer in the UK but the drawers are in France... and his claim that he had to leave 2 cubic metres free for customs sounded fishy. No doubt the advert on Totale Farce saying that he was doing a return trip to France and had space both ways was a mere coincidence!
Things had got off to an iffy start when he agreed a price then e-mailed me to say we were much further south than he thought so the price was going up. Then we were moving further west than he thought so the price was going up, then I had blonde hair so the price was going up (OK, OK, I made the last bit up!)
We soon tired of his Yorkshire repartee and his assertion that he couldn't fit in DD's mattress when he'd already packed her bed fuelled the first fall out. I told him that if he couldn't fit in the mattress he could offload the bed which was inconveniently loaded at the front of the van.
Finally, with the body of the van practically resting on the tyres we had to call a halt. Roughly half our stuff got on the van, the rest is still in France.
He handed me a customs form to fill in, written in the most laughable French.
It went something along the lines of 'I authorise xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with a T of check in of lorry of 308D of Mercedes for to transport our affairs to our in England/France of address'
That shouldn't confuse Customs one bit! In a fit of generosity I offered to translate it properly, free, gratis and for nothing. In hindsight I should have charged the miserable bugger!
We'd agreed half of the money in Euros upfront and the rest on delivery but now he didn't want Euros, he wanted sterling. Quite how we were supposed to find sterling on a Sunday afternoon in the 'trou du cul' of La France Profonde is anyone's guess! So that sparked the next fallout. He threatened to offload our stuff. 'Blow yourself away' I said 'but you're doing it on your own'.
Eventually, we agreed to pay a bit extra (deja vu again here!) to cover the exchange rate but hey, sucker, I calculated it on the interbank rate, not the tourist one so we win!!
So finally the van wobbled off with our wordly goods and I half-expected never to see it again.
Will it arrive in the UK or is that new Roche Bobois corner sofa that was given to us - just about our only bit of good luck in the past few months - be featuring on the pages of E-Bay?
If you want to know the answer, you'll have to keep reading.