Having plied the removal men with two rounds of tea (and the best chocolate biscuits) we had restored a reasonable level of composure but still not solved the knotty problem of how, exactly, to get the furniture down the hill to the house.
The country roads around here are single track and barely that in summer before the hedges have been trimmed back. The pantechnicon was now parked in the village square, about a mile up the road. The original plan had been to offload our stuff into the Sprinter and then use that smaller vehicle for the lane and onwards down the drive. It was this last bit that was now the subject of intense debate.
Clearly, a ‘Plan B’ was going to be needed. After much scratching of heads and pacing about it was decided that the Sprinter would go only as far as our gate. The guys would then carry every sofa, wardrobe, table and divan down the 84 steps to the house. It seemed a bit optimistic to me, but they were determined.
And, unsurprisingly, it didn’t last. One of their number had worked out how long it would take to complete the job at the current rate of progress: well past knocking off time was the answer and with them still to make the journey back to Oxford after that. Plus, the day was turning out quite warm…
More tea was offered and a further conference held part way up the drive. Just before the troublesome hairpin bend there is a relatively flat and wider section of tarmac. The Sprinter driver was persuaded by his mates to try reversing the van down to it. From this point, ran the theory, they could unload on to a footpath leading back to the house and would reduce the ‘carry’ by half.
Everyone chose a safe vantage point from which to watch the inaugural attempt. No pressure then.
He took it slowly, foot constantly on the brake and it was fine. And it continued that way for the rest of the day. Each uphill return journey (our goods unloaded, mercifully) required rapid acceleration from the standing start to overcome the slope. Then a sharp right turn, without braking, to maintain momentum at the top. Rally driving skills were developed and honed.
By 5.00p.m. they had it done. The Sprinter took off up the hill for the last time, surrounded by a cloud of dust that left an odd tang in the air. Clutch? Brakes? Both?