Ten days ago we had a fabulous leaving party; joyfully drunk in our favorite pub with 40 of our dearest friends. We knew we had to wash our hands pretty regularly and try not to cough in public, but apart from that the world seemed to be very much as it always had been.
Last Monday Helen moved to our new apartment in New York. It was an exciting time, we were starting a new life in the city that never sleeps.
I made sure Helen was safely in the apartment, sorted out the furniture delivery, went for a celebratory dinner with her then headed back to London to wrap up our lives. The plan was I’d return to New York on the 1st April. All good.
Saturday afternoon I was refereeing, both teams were short of players and we were talking about a bit of working from home, but still nothing to worry about.
The next 24 hours….
As I got off the pitch Trump announced a ban on travel from the UK to the US, effective from Monday night. If I didn’t get to Helen in the next 48 hours I didn’t know when I’d next be seeing her; within 24 hours I was on a plane.
I called Helen, she was in tears. By the time I got off the phone with her my amazing friends had already looked that there were seats available on flights the next day. My priority was ensuring all loose ends could be tied up so I could get on that flight.
Top priority: the cats. They were meant to be fly on the Tuesday anyway but now I needed the cat travel people to take them on the Sunday, and UK citizens wouldn’t be able to enter the US from Monday night, so there was a good chance they’d be with them for a few weeks. Luckily Pet Air UK are utterly lovely and incredible. The cat lady who answered her mobile on Saturday night said she would personally come round with the van to pick them up the next morning (Sunday) at 11 as she couldn’t get there any earlier, she actually apologized! They’d look after them for as long as I needed.
I could now book my flight. There were no other living creatures to consider.
So, I booked my flight – it was around 7pm on Saturday evening and I would be flying at 7pm on Sunday evening. I had 24 hours to pack up our entire life and move to another continent. I was literally running for the border. My Dad helpfully likened the situation to Le Carre’s ‘The spy who came in from the cold’; and then reminded me what happened to Leamus when he got to the border.
Next up, make a webuyanycar appointment for the morning. 10am on Sunday I was there and trying not to look too desperate.
Anyway, back to Saturday night. My amazing friends and me were heading to my house to box up. I thought I had 3 weeks to leisurely sort through stuff, pack some, take some to the tip and then store.
For three hours we worked like lunatics packing up my weird books and clearing out kitchen drawers full of spices bought because Helen once needed a pinch in a recipe.
My colleague, who I’d agreed to give a load of our stuff as she’s moving into her first flat arrived half way through with a zip car van. She loaded up and headed off.
And we continued to clear and pack, making two big piles; one of boxes for storage, one of bin liners for the tip. In between Dominoes came and went and we found all sorts of things I had no idea Helen had ever bought. Until, eventually, at around 10.30 we’d had enough and went for last orders at the pub. I bought thank you beers and then my friends headed off to bed
But… I’d still not packed a thing. It was midnight and I needed to leave for the airport at 3 tomorrow. We’d done an ok job with packing up the house but all my clothes and belongings were still all over the place. Around 3am I had three full cases and my mud and kit filled rugby bag as carry on.
The next morning I was up at 6, packing again. There are so many cupboards and nooks to clear in a house; under the stairs was still full. My parents text at 7 to say they were on the way. I hadn’t asked them to do this but they’re amazing like that. Obviously I was a bit worried about dad, but given we’ve not hugged in 30 years I figured he’d be fine.
At 9 my amazing friends returned to help pack the cats up for their trip, and take me to sell the car. Ten minutes stood around a cold Homebase car park, 10 minutes watching a man kick the tyres of my car and we were done. We treated ourselves to Snickers for breakfast.
As we were driving home I got a message to say the cats had gone, a few moments later we saw the PetAir UK van driving away from my home. The cats prefer Helen, but that was pretty heartbreaking
Even more heartbreaking (but in a wonderful way), by the time I got home my parents had loaded up their car and were ready to do the first tip run; they’re brilliant. All of a sudden we were getting somewhere, one of the two big piles had gone. Ok, there was still a load to do but were getting there.
By Sunday morning my phone was going constantly with friends offering to help in any way they could. Our letting agent, The Property Partnership, also stepped up and offered to take on the cleaning of the house and any final management. They didn’t need to do that, and have waived any management fees. Our handyman, and neighbour, was similarly supportive; straight round and offering to pick up anything I didn’t manage to do.
By 2pm we were able to sit for a few minutes with Ginsters Slices, Mini Cheddars and Eccles Cakes (who needs parents who hug you if you can have parents who step up and know exactly what food you want in stressful times). By 3pm I was in my friends car and on my way to Heathrow.
All I had to do now was get through US immigration and start a new life in a shut down country!