Do you believe in fairytales? I would say that I am too gritty and realistic to buy into the whole "fairy-tale-scene," but I will be honest. I love a happy ending. I love a great crescendo and a story that gets tied up in a neat bow. It satisfies my need to see something completed. This was not at all what it was like the day we got our keys to the cottage. If you like fairytales or a neat happy ending... I'd maybe consider waiting for our next post, this one was messy.
So, as we last left off, we had so much to get done to be ready to vacate Baker Street and reach our final destination, Uxbridge. If you are keeping track, we have been without a house for almost 3 months, meaning we have reached the point of no return. We are ready to be in a house. Beyond ready to be in a house. Per our contract, the house was set for turn-over by September 4th. The plan was to get the keys in the morning, do our final inventory walk through with our real estate agent, and then receive our express shipment I cleverly scheduled for the first day in our new house. I was ready to ride off into my English fairytale, plans and timelines were aligning and it was all within my grasp.
We wake up and most things go according to plan. We get the luggage downstairs and I depart to pick up my car from our friend's house. They are vacationing in Greece because they are young and fun and very generous with their garage. As I walk across the city, I am alive with positivity. I am so elated to be here, my mind is racing with all of the adventures that await me at this "Gateway to Europe." I am practically levitating when I reach my friend's place. She has given me a set of skeleton keys that are a little daunting but I manage to get in the front door and navigate my way to their garage where my precious Stevie is waiting to carry me off to my happy ending. Once I make my way into their garage, I maneuver myself against the wall to make it to the front end of the car where the latches are located on the door. Garages are narrow here, I am regretting the bagel I ate for breakfast as I shimmy down the side wall. When I reach the garage door I am trying to remember what my friend Claire, instructed me to do. I pull on levers, I pull on springs and I push like hell but nothing opens. I find a lock on either side of the door and I make sure they are in an open position. I push again, nothing. I push and grunt some more, nothing. Shit, I am going to have to call my cool, hip friend in Greece and ask how to open a door? When she picks up I tell her my plight, she is kind and willing to face time me in order to help me get out of the garage. I reassure her I can figure it out, maybe I just need to push harder? Maybe I need a hernia surgery tomorrow? At this point my phone is pinging with another call from the real estate agent. She sounds a bit like Snow White, all cheery and ready to summon birds from the forest. However, her musical tone does not match her message. She says, " Baileigh, I have just left the house and there are so many work man there, I can hardly do a walk through. I do not know how you are going to stay there tonight." I am a little discouraged but hanging onto hope. I say, "Maryanne, I am currently stuck in my friend's garage but as soon as I get unstuck I will be at the cottage and I am sure we can work it out." She comes back with, "I'm sorry, did you say you are stuck in a garage? Should I send help?' I plainly state, "Maryanne, this is my life, I will figure it out." She has no idea that she is dealing with a Marine spouse and mother of three, and I will take this damn door off it's hinges and put it back together again before I declare defeat. I hang up. I have now been in this garage a solid 30 minutes, putting me far behind the carrier that has picked up my luggage. I lean my back against the side wall of the garage and I look up to the ceiling. As I say a little prayer my eyes begin to follow the trail of pulleys, sprockets and levers and it is then I realize that if I push at just the right spot this door will push forward and up versus straight up as I was pulling before. I am pretty sure my friend told me this but in a panic I went brain dead. I take a breath, pinch the lever and push. The door springs forward and up over my head. Yahtzee, I am a free woman again.
After securing my friend's house, I drive to pick up Asher and Zac at the Baker Street flat. Zac asks me what took so long and I give him a quick run down as we cruise out of the city. He never looks shocked when I tell him these things, I think being married to me has prepared him for just about every crazy harebrained story. We arrive at the cottage to a scene of TOTAL chaos. Maybe he will reach his crazy max today? There are workman, vans, ladders, and cords running every which way as we step onto the property. I am taken aback. The house is in shambles. I know in my head there is no way we could stay here tonight, but I am still hoping this crew has a trick up their sleeve. As we walk the property with our new landlord, "H" as he is referred to, he gives us a review of the work to be done. The ole' King Pin and former tenant of the Guinea Pig Palace did not vacate the property on time, thus setting all the renovations behind. The guy that was housing a guinea pig mecca didn't seem to bother with a schedule. Shocker! So, we will have to find a hotel, oh, and a place to store our express shipment that is set to arrive in no less than 30 minutes. I am realizing my fairytale has "gone to pot."
Our express delivery arrives and we dump it all in the carport to be unpacked when we can actually get in the house. Just about that time, the girls also arrive from school and are both slightly underwhelmed by their new digs. I cannot blame them as it looks like I have chosen a "Squatter's Paradise" for their English home. Zac and I cleverly distracted them with a trip to the village and a side of ice cream. Because my kids are so good natured, they fall for it, and forget the dire state of our place.
In the late afternoon we finally succumb to the realization that there is no miraculous renovation to be had. We need to move on and find a place to stay for the night. I whip out my phone and pick a quaint little B&B just up the road. It's perfect. Its' English charm is sure to make up for this shit show. I spend an hour trying to marry together one suitcase of clothes for everyone because it is all that will fit in my Mini. We drive to the hotel, and the kids and I excitedly bound up the stairs. As I walk through the front door, I am almost knocked over by the shear force of the "rubber-necking" that is happening. Everyone has turned to see me and the motley crew of kids that flank my luggage. The lady looks displeased with my presence, "Are you here to stay," she says with thick accent. I reply, "Yes, we booked online." She looks down at her book to find my surname. Her head bounds up, "Are these kids staying with you?" I say, a little stunned, "Well yes, these are my kids, they have to stay with me." She pounces, "Sorry, we don't allow kids, it has to do with insurance, they can't stay with you or stay here. It says it on the website" I feel like this lady is both relishing in my dilemma and finding immense enjoyment at the 20 sets of eyes that are blazing holes in my back. I am an outsider here. I bite the inside of my cheek and remember what my mother said, "be nice, even when it is undeserved, you never know the hell they may be living in." I politely smile, say "thank-you" as I turn on my heel and grab my kids hand's on the way out. When I reappear outside Zac is standing there dumb founded. I give him a recap and tell him I just want to leave. The woman comes bounding out after me, she sees Zac and her tune has suddenly changed. I'm onto you lady. She is apologetic and gives us suggestions on where to go. It is at this time, (because my timing is impeccable), that I have to take a work call. A video conference call of all things. So I set up in my car, purchase two hour's worth of internet and pretend my co-workers do not see my kids buckled up in the background. Meanwhile, in the driver's seat, Zac frantically looks for more hotel options. We are all growing hungry and tired and ready to be out of the car. For the next hour Zac researches hotels that have rooms and accept children. Who knew that would be hard to find... but it was. Fun fact, if you have 3 kids they require you to get 2 rooms. He finally finds a place that gets a good rating and accepts children. He silently mouths to me that we are ready for take off, as I am still on my work call. He puts the address into the GPS and it quickly responds, "Starting route to Holiday Inn," it is an hour and a half away. We look at each other and start deliriously laughing because we cannot seem to catch a break today. My fairytale is a dumpster fire at this moment, I just need a place to take a bath and lay my head. Our kids that look like a team of sardines buckled in my back seat are not finding any of it funny. Zac decides to let them out to play in what looks sort of like a park, but is really a grassy median, we aren't picky today, while he continues the search for a closer hotel. After another forty-five minutes he finds one. I wrap up my call and we take off for another Holiday Inn that is only twenty-five minutes away. At least we know the company chain and it is bound to be clean. As we near this hotel I feel like we have entered an industrial park. It's all metal buildings, gravel lots and parking garages. I am getting a little uneasy thinking that maybe this hotel will be less than ideal, but I say nothing to Zac who has given his best effort at pulling it all together. The GPS sounds off, "Arrived." I look around. We are all silent in the car. Where in the hell are we now? This place is murdery. Zac looks at me and says, "Im going to go in and see what the deal is, maybe we are in the wrong entrance." Sure, I think, we are at the entrance of our untimely disappearance and death. I answer, "I'll wait here babe." We sit, and we wait.
Zac returns with a shit-eating grin, "You wont believe this babe," he says, "but this is the Holiday Inn Headquarters, it hasn't been a hotel in years and they don't know how I made a reservation." One, I can totally believe it. Two, what the hell! He gets back in the mini that seems to be closing in on us. The kids are a mix of relief that they don't have to stay here and aggravated that their parents are fumbling this mission. This time, we both sit and work the google machine to find a hotel option. I get the first ping, a pit stop motel with no bells and whistles but a high score on cleanliness and location to the motorway. I try to make a reservation but it will not let me with my three kids. What is the UK's beef with kids? So I have to call. A nice young gentleman answers and tries to guide me to the site as it is slightly cheaper than booking over the phone. I expressively tell him, "Sir, we have just spent almost a thousand pounds on rooms we can't stay in, saving a few bucks at this point is laughable, I just need a room." He tells me they have one family room but it will take a while to get ready, it is almost 8pm, why it isn't ready yet is beyond me. I tell him to brace for impact, we are on our way.
When we pull in, it is just as I expected. There is no continental breakfast, just a vending machine and a metal box nailed to the wall for a key return. My, my, how the mighty have fallen! When I was in my twenties, this would have been my scene. In my thirties, the thought of sleeping on sheets that feel like a paper towel make my eyes twitch. I must find dinner and cocktails or I will be the most unpleasant roommate. While Zac checks us in, I race to the only restaurant on the property and try to grab a table for dinner. The guy looks me over. I am not at my best nor in my most personable head space. He tells me, "Im sorry, we close in thirty minutes." I look at him, deadpan. Not today Bob! "Sir, I will order right now and inhale my food if you will seat us, I will take my gin and tonic to-go if need be." He looks over his shoulder at the kitchen staff who are going to hate him for this. He hands me menus and walks me to our table. We order our food like auctioneers at a cattle sale. Zac and I are both on our phones undoing all the reservations we made a few hours prior. It proves to be easier than we expect as every customer service representative cannot believe our bad luck. After we are finished our calls we take a moment to cheers each other. He clinks his Jack & Coke to my Bombay & Tonic while our kids laugh at how crazy this day became. We are out of the restaurant before it closes and we make our way up to our little room to finally get some rest. We all lay out across the two roll-in cots,a double bed and single mattress that extend wall to wall in our suite. We watch British television and doze off one by one. It was a fitting end to the day. (No white horse, no sunset, no cottage.)
So... I love a happy ending. I love a great crescendo and a story that gets tied up in a neat bow.
I also love, that my life is far from a fairytale and more resembles a slap stick comedy most days. Through it all, we laughed, and are still laughing when our days unravel as they often do in a new place. (Thank you alcohol.) From the early morning garage debacle to discovering the Holiday Inn Headquarters, I don't think we will ever forget our first night out of the city. It's what legendary Thanksgiving table talks are made of...
Stay tuned. We get the keys, but not the heat...someone send sweaters!
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Just a video of the nonsense... got to keep it interesting.