The other week the good people at Find My Man and Van call me direct. Now this is not the usual order of things - as a registered removals driver with them I normally get the "you’ve been booked" text which I accept online and voila - moving van booked. So I wonder if I've forgotten to attend a job, not accepted a well paid job offer, surely not - we drivers get reminders for all those things directly by text as well.
The ever polite, ever patient, operations manager reassures me, "No you haven’t forgot anything, we were wondering if you'd fancy a little furniture removals run to Paris?"
"Oui, my little petite that would be fabulous," I say in my best (or possibly worst) 'allo 'allo accent.
"Good man," comes the reply, "and back as soon as possible please, we've a couple more jobs lined up for you."
So after a brief conversation the job appears on my phone, I accept and we are good to go. The job remit is to collect a very fancy table, pootle over to Paris to an equally fancy shop in a very well to do part of Paris and then back home in time for bacon sarnies and a cup of coffee.
A furniture removals job from London to Paris and back in a day, no pressure there then!
I give Mover Mike a call - being my favourite and most amusing co-driver. If we are to be in the van all day, I need someone who makes me laugh. Yes he says, he'd be delighted. So I collect him in the van and we are ready.
Let's go get that table!
We arrive at the pick-up point. A unlikely garbed fellow (for an antiques dealer anyway) emerges and greets us,
"Ah man, that table, it’s not ready. In fact we broke it. No worries, we’ll fix it. Chill blood, no sweat, just hang, and when it’s done you can bounce?"
I consult my hipster-to-english dictionary and deduce that the fellow is asking us 'would you mind waiting a while whilst we repair the table and then you can leave for Paris, so sorry for the delay, I know you have a big drive in front of you' or something of the kind.
From within the shop comes much hammering and sawing, all of which lasts quite a while. So long in fact that I soon wish that I'd have brought a picnic basket, razor and a very big book. Finally, after six hours, the masterpiece is finished, wrapped and ready to go. The table was in the van, surrounded by more blankets auntie Doris down the beach, tied down with more straps than a normal parachute would need. This table was going nowhere, except where the van was moving it!
Paris here we come! And what of passports, washing materials, change of clothes, vittles and the like? No problem, the van is well stocked - a Find My Man and Van driver is always prepared.
Camden Town to Folkestone, the first leg. We crawl slowly along the lovely narrow roads of North London; many times have we driven these roads, we are 'cool with this' (yes the hipster lingo can rub off on us all). Onwards to that bastion of vehicular transport, The glorious Blackwall Tunnel, again no problem :)
Our tickets are duly purchased over the phone, the Sat Nav says 229 miles, passports unearthed from the glove compartment, French – English dictionary at the ready. It's as if the Wine supermarkets at Calais are calling, the fresh bread and cheeses we will bring home are ready, what could possibly go wrong?
The drive is....uneventful. And slow. I won’t inflict upon you with details, suffice to say it takes five hours to travel the 68 miles to Channel Tunnel. This is a sample of the unbridled pleasure to be had driving the South East of England. We finally arrive at the Tunnel, a mere 11 hours after setting off!
At the Tunnel the excitement builds, sniffer dogs both English and French circle the van. Seemingly to spite us the French mutts take an intense interest in the rear of our van. I look to the stars, what now.
"Could you pull over sir, and open the back sir," the guard asks, almost as if we had an option.
"Of course officer."
We open the door to reveal a mountain of blankets and straps and release a wash of the strangest of smells. A very pungent, eye watering solvent smell. The men from the Customs gather round to see the source of this odour. Blankets are removed, straps loosened, noses twitched. Swabs are taken, machines whirl, and very strange results appear. Customs men look baffled, machines are changed, readings taken again, head scratched, chins rubbed. Much bafflement is in evidence.
We give the hipster a call at the officials behest, discussions ensue as to what chemicals were used to clean, construct etc. until finally we all agree that the table isn’t made of some weird explosive. Relief, we can proceed, so we set off to the train.
(to be continued....)