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Sunday, February 19

Late to bed, early to rise
Despite my exhausting late night, I managed to get into the shower by 8.30. I think the weight of what was still to do was playing on my mind. So, I had my last shower at my house as its owner/occupier. Sounds a bit final. Then, after a few swigs of diet coke, I set to work. I didn't get anything to eat for some time after that. Probably not sensible.

Running round the house
I needed to have completed rooms. Loads of incomplete rooms were not going to do anybody any good. Stripping the bed and putting some odds and ends in the drawers of the two bedside units I was taking away with me gave me a complete bedroom.

Emptying the airing cupboard and medicine cabinet gave me a complete bathroom.

Rescuing some things from the kitchen gave me a complete one of those. The utility room had also been done.

The front room needed its DVD stripping and then it was done. I'm leaving it furnished and with TV.

And so, I kept going like this. My big black spots became the back bedroom - a bunch of clothes that needed sorting, the study - a shed-load of paperwork and books that needed sorting, the cloakroom (some coats - actually less of a problem than I thought).

Just as I was flagging, came the mid-morning delivery.

The cavalry - filled the loft
The other two tenants arrived to check the place out. After an inspection, they set about helping me. I had a bunch of boxes ready to go up into the loft. So, as I frantically sorted through cupboards, books and paperwork, they started to load things up into the loft.

I had run out of boxes for books that I wanted to keep but didn't want to take away with me. They proposed a cool solution. There are loads of shelves in the study - they reckoned that my books would be a welcome addition to these shelves. On loan to act as shelf-filler/something to read. If I want them back, they're mine, and if they turn out to get in the way, then they can be boxed and lofted. That probably saved me an hour or so. Well, either that, or it saved the effort of trying to find cardboard boxes on a Sunday.

Still, the books weren't the principal problem. I didn't want to lose any important paperwork, but I didn't have a huge box to just dump everything into. So, I had to sort through all the papers quickly and select what I needed.

I wasted some of the guys' time, though they seemed not to be too put out. I was the slow-link in our production line. However, I wanted to take enough control over what we were doing to be able to make sure that I knew where everything would be once they'd left.

They were able to sort out the loading of the bikes into the van and help me with the piano.

The piano - part 1
The piano is quite heavy. Its an electric piano with weighted keys. As a result, the actual electric piano bit (a keyboard unit with a wooden-effect box on it) is pretty heavy. The base is large and not light. Two of us made a fairly challenging job of getting the piano into the van. The piano was so heavy that it had to go on the floor of the van. It was also so large that it took up a fair bit of floor space. I was worried about fitting the boxes and bedside tables into the van. I didn't want to put anything on top of the piano as it was coming out first. Also, I didn't like the idea of any weight on top of it - it wasn't build as the foundations for a stack of stuff.

The piano was covered in a dust sheet and laid on top of a carpet in the van. The carpet was an offcut from the huge piece I used as the set of The Musical! - a lot of the rest of the stuff from that show was preserved in some way too. The more portable piano I bought from that is now in Farnborough, as would be the bass guitar shortly. Other props, including "Mildred", the styrofoam head and wif, were in the bin. "That dress" went into the bin too. The bookshelf, painstakingly made with piano hinges, went into the skip.

Anyway, the piano was going to provide me with some cause for concern, as I was due to arrive at my sister's house to leave it there while everyone was out. I want the piano to be looked after. Storing it in the loft or my garage wasn't an option. More importantly, I wanted my sister and her new daughter to have home-made music to look forward to. It was clear that sis wasn't going to sort herself out with a piano anytime soon, so I got to force the issue with the combined loan/storage agreement.

The cavalry leave - still stuff to do
With the lads gone, there was finishing off stuff to do. The van had yet to be packed with everything except the piano/bikes. I'd chosen to pack it myself so that I knew how it came apart for unpacking. Plus, I could have nobody to blame except myself if something fell, knocked into something else or otherwise caused breakage.

I tackled the loose ends with urgency and managed to get the van packed. It was with deep regret that I ended up having to pack things on top of the piano. Then I started to panic as the pile of boxes never seemed to get any smaller in the house, despite the fact that I had run out of spaces (not space - the volume of the van was fine - this was a tesselation issue) to put things. I just kept going and created a reasonable set of inter-balanced items.

I think the big lesson I've learved is to use boxes bigger than their contents which are definitely stackable or are sealed in cuboids. I hadn't done that. So nothing appeared to want to go on top of anything else. This was a problem.

Clean up
I'm leaving my trusty Dyson for the guys. I couldn't resist one last run through the house with it. I wasn't desperately thorough, but the place was in reasonable condition when I'd finished. I think I did that because people sometimes do clean up a house before leaving it (some sort of instinct there) and because it was partly a sense of responsibility on my part for taking away some of the mess I'd made. I had a skip full of stuff and 15 blag bags on the drive to bear witness to my sense of clearing up my own mess. I think I also did it because there's a sort of "broken windows" effect. If the place was a huge mess when the guys moved in, then it would seem less noticeable if they contributed to that mess.

Hopefully, I've left something of a good template for them to follow. Be messy, but hoover once in a while.

Driving south
So, onto the motorways again. I had to stop for food, well Burger King, at Scotch Corner. It was 4.30 and I was tired and very very hungry. It was not a pleasant experience. The food was badly cooked and there were some unpleasant chavvy-types in there.

The journey wasn't as relaxing as the previous day's. The roads were busier, the van was fuller and more sluggish and the start-stop traffic was challenging its brakes, and also the balance of the stuff precariously stacked in the back. I had to work harder to keep it all under control. Time was also running through my fingers, like sand over the toes of a camel in the Sahara (sorry - just trying to spice up the boring text).

The piano - part 2: One man and his piano
I got to my sister's nearer to 10pm than I would have liked. I had hoped to be there nearer to 5pm in the original plan!

I picked up her keys and went in to have a look at what I had to do. I simply had to get the piano in the front door, through the lounge and into the dining room, without dirtying the brand-new-newly-fitted-carpet, or chipping the freshly painted walls. No pressure, then.

I had to first unpack the van. My original plan of dumping the stuff in her hallway seemed a bad idea. It was wet outside (not raining, thankfully) and all the traipsing in and out was going to create a muddy footprint somewhere. So, I lay a dust-sheet on her driveway (I'd come prepared) and unloaded all my on-the-top-of-the-piano stuff on top of that (in front of the van, so not in easy sight of many passers by). Some precious items went into the driver's seat of the van. I didn't get chance to lock it, though. But they were comfortable, at least.

Then, I tried to remove the base of the piano. I managed to swing it out of the van single-handed. This encouraged me. A lot of what was required here was balance. Balance and grip.

The base went into the house no problem. The stool was a doddle. The suitcase of lego (which had been ours as children and which my neice will grow to enjoy before I get the chance to have children who will want to steal it from her) barely even registered on the scale of difficulty.

Then came the main part of the piano. I'd been given the address of a neighbour who knows my sister and might be prepared and able-bodied enough to help. I thought that I'd see if I could do the job alone. Balance again proved the key. I managed to get the piano into the house where I rested it on the hallway mat. Somehow I managed to get it from there into the dining room and onto its stand in a matter of a further 2 minutes. You don't know high pressure until you have tried to wipe your feet while swinging a piano round a corner in someone else's house.

Still, job done, I had time to play one little bit of tune - the one which had been going round my head since 12th Feb (on and off - one of my own creations) - and then I was into the van.

Oh yeah, I remembered to lock up, return the keys and repack the van. I'd been there about 30 minutes in total. Not bad.

Running late - the North Circular's solution - Virgin FM
I set the Sat Nav for Farnborough and braved London's roads. The North Circular was reduced to 1 lane from 3, causing a huge tailback. The reason for this was some maintenance or other - the guys supposedly doing this maintenance were just standing around chatting. Clearly no respect for the fact that constricting a road is akin to strangling someone. If you have to strangle me, do it quickly so I don't die!

Anyway, my mood was descending, so I radio channel hopped and found Virgin FM. It was playing nothing less than fantastic tunes. I sang alond and avoided caring for a bit. It helped a lot.

Unloading in Farnborough - on the quiet
I spent about 45 minutes emptying the van in Farnborough. This process was further complicated when one of my flatmates admonished me to do it quietly as it was late and some people might want to sleep. In some ways I understood, but in others, I was in a spot - it had to be done and he could have simply offered to help, rather than make it harder. Still, it was my problem. As was the fact that each trip up the stairs was getting harder.

No steam left
Somehow I kept it all going. I was getting very weary and light headed. I'd been up for a long time and done a lot of heavy lifting. You can tell by the length of this post and the one from yesterday that I'd done tons. I'm summarising what I did and there's loads to say.

I only stayed in Farnborough long enough to get clothes together for the following day and set out for the van hire place. I had to return the van before 8am the following day. There was no chance I'd wake before 8am the following day, so returning it late at night was a good move.

Back at the yard - losing it at the last minute
I had my girlfriend's bike in the van, due to be returned to her in Reading. So, I drove to the van place, moved my car, discovered that it felt jet-propelled compared to the van (that was to be short-lived) and then transferred my stuff and the bike into my car.

I was nearly there. Just need to return the key into the slot. Where is the key? NO, NOT NOW? Did I put it in the pocket with a hole in? Oh god!

I'd thrown it into the boot of my car, absent mindedly! Idiot!

So, I filled out the form, which gave me a chance to report the odd flickering of the battery light on the van during cruising on the motorway (dodgy alternator, perhaps). Then, I dropped form and key off and headed to Reading to spend the night.

Reading, bedding and exhaustion
I needed cleaning and a trip to the facilities. I needed sleep. All of these were found in the relative sanctity of my girlfriend's place in Reading. I was exhausted, but managed to stay up for a bit with my girlfriend.

One year on
Despite the fact that I'd spent the weekend swanning around Newcastle and tearing my muscles to shreds lifting heavy things, this weekend commemorated the anniversary of the start of my relationship with my girlfriend - or at least our first date. It's been a hell of a year!

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