Panama to Hastings – the true and unexpurgated story!

Well, it hardly seems like any time at all since we were picking up James and Mariery from Terminal 2,  Heathrow (well, to be honest only Chris was doing this as I was holding the ‘family fort’ in Barton). So some five weeks later and another 610 mile round trip completed in 36 hours an average of 13.20 miles per hour (almost as fast as London Marathon Winner, Eliud Kipchoge!) Do we get a medal? I expect we deserve one. So, without further digression I shall begin the graphic story of Bodgett and Shifter or as we are known locally Wheels’R’Us.

Essential items to move

As my Mother is wont to remark, “You’ve got to have a list” and as you can see each person’s perspective on what should be taken as an essential item in the  first move proved to be quite variable. I have to add that Mariery’s list also contained ‘various yarns, multi-coloured’ and crochet hooks! Mine additionally had kitchen and toilet rolls!!!

loading the car in Barton 1

Hmmm, well our little garden pest may have been a tad testy but to be sure we did manage to squeeze in as much as was humanly possible into what is as yet, not designated as a pantechnicon of any type or variety, a 1999, Honda Civic Saloon affectionately named The Grampsmobile. Needless to say, being the ace packers that we are and also stupidly optimistic Chris and James managed to squeeze into every corner of the boot and lash onto the sagging roofbars a fair quantity of stuff. We were all mightily proud of ourselves and not a little bit smug when we contemplated our handiwork.

loading the car in Barton 2

Fortunately, my Dad, previous proud (and meticulous) owner of now re-named Grampsmobile was not on hand to witness the sacrilege meted out to his beloved and prized conveyance. Sorry Dad. As Chris’s drawing shows, quite graphically, the poor little Civic was fairly crushed beneath its weighty cargo – and none of us had even got in yet (with extra vital stuff). Gingerly, Chris embarked, fired up the trusty 4 cylinders and with very little resistance the ‘wagons rolled’ and the Oregon wagon train bumped up the unmade road that it is our privilege to live on.  In deference to the undercarriage of the trusty Civic the rest of us walked up to the end of the road before clambering in with bags of food, duvets, jackets and laptops – we all cheered as we crept onto the Barrow Road – we were off!

unloading at Pas and Jen's

First stop Hastings! Not bad time at all as we arrived at Pas and Jen’s home in less than five and a half hours – Leg 1 completed; James and Mariery’s friends (well, they were before we all arrived) had volunteered to let us drop off the first cargo at their home in Hastings. As anyone who has visited the beautiful seaside town of Hastings will know – it is not renowned for its verisimilitude to a tray, or in fact, to any other surface of general flatness and it is fair to say that Pas and Jen’s house has a fair degree of gradient as part of its charm. So on arriving with the overly-laden Grampsmobile we were confronted with what I can only describe as the foothills of the Himalayas – on looking around it was painfully obvious that there were no friendly Sherpas available and we could hardly rope in the bunch of musicians casually parked on their gear next door who watched with not a little amusement, our frantic and puffing exertions as we gradually unloaded the Civic. After a warming and welcome cuppa, we said our farewells to the youngsters and set off on Leg 2. Ashford here we come!

Chris’s brother Peter was pleased to see us and after a whole day of travelling we were even more delighted to see him. We spent a jolly evening being wined and dined (thanks, Pete) – homemade Chicken Chausseur (Indian style) and wine and whiskey to wash it down!

Dinner at Peter's

Of course we were all in reminiscence mode especially as Peter had recently purchased a copy of what Chris kindly described as a B movie (well this might have been a rather generous estimation alphabetically, on his part!) so, we settled down to watch ‘The cars that ate Paris’ – yup, I kid you not, there really is a film called ‘The cars that ate Paris’ ( I had to write it twice as it seems so unreal.) We of course did not show this to the trusty Grampsmobile parked outside as the unsettling dismantling of various automotives might have been too much to bear after the humiliation of being a pack mule! We all went to bed relatively early as Chris and I had another ‘delivery’ day on the Sunday and a rather tight schedule to complete if we were to get home at a reasonable hour plus it was fairly chilly in Ashford as Peter had no heating ….

The cold

Although this was a family visit it was also part of the Round Robin (why is it called that?) to collect household accoutrements that had been offered by people so Peter had donated a great microwave/convection oven to James and Mariery which was duly popped into the now empty boot of the Grampsmobile. Thanks Uncle Peter.

Beatles books and Microwave


……..  as well as a set of books (yes, just what we needed), then we set off for Elham in North Kent to see Renee and Jim and to collect more free things that had already found their way to Jim’s ‘shed’ via Mitcham, Carshalton and Sutton. Thanks to Rita for sofa and sundries and Simon for the bookcase and potentially other redundant homewares. The car and boot were not to remain unsullied for too long ….

loading at Elham

Oh no! Oh yes! Not only did we have to perch a kindly donated sofa bed on the roof rack but also another kind donation of a bookcase – fortunately we had purchased some fluorescent orange ratchet straps from Lidl and so these were used to great effect to lash down the re-cycled, secondhand furnishings; Baden-Powell would have been delighted. Following which we had a great brunch with Renee and Jim, Jen, Andy and Jossie before we loaded up with more useful stuff that Renee had found: curtains, cushions, throws and two plants(???) and off we set on Leg 3 of what we liked to call ‘Suitcase and Ladders’ – a game the whole family can play!

Leg 3 did not involve going straight to Hastings, do not pass go, do not collect £200.00 (oops, not only mixed my metaphors but also my games!). To recap, James and Mariery were at the time at which we were leaving Elham meeting the landlord/lady of the flat they were about to move into, which is unfurnished, and which required a bed and fridge! I had already reserved a new mattress from The Original Factory Shop in Bexhill and I had also found a small fridge freezer for sale in Bexhill on Gumtree. All Chris and I had to do was to set off to purchase these items and pack them into the long-suffering Grampsmobile – job done, then! First stop – The Factory Shop.

Loading the matress and duvet

Hmmm, not quite so much of a bargain as I had anticipated as they could only take one of my vouchers for the mattress and duvet (do not worry gentle reader, I will be writing to Head Office and requesting some sort of recompense). Outside we parked in the loading only bay (well, we were only loading after all) and packed in these items before heading to the Co-op for a few items of shopping for Mariery and James. I must admit it was starting to get a bit of a tight squeeze at this point and we still had the fridge freezer to get into the boot of the car! Oh well, never say never!


James had arranged with the Gumtree seller (no, he was not selling gum trees) that ‘his parents’ would collect the fridge/freezer at about 4pm – so, all to the good we set off from the centre of Bexhill at about 3.55pm and arrived almost to the minute. Now that is what I call planning! The seller was most helpful and he wheeled the fridge out of his garage on a trolley and even helped us put it in the back of the car – no problem! We-eeeell, sort of no problem! The fridge/freezer went in easily as long as we pushed Chris’s seat forward ….. but what were we going to do with all the stuff we had taken out in order to get the aforementioned white good in?


packing the freezer 1

packing the freezer 2

packing the freezer 3

Carefully and slowly we set off on Leg 4 – the final push! So, Hastings here we come for the final unload. The weather forecast had predicted cold winds and intermittent rain – oh good, that will keep people off the streets and aid the unpacking process! Not so! The weather was fairly balmy and bright which meant that as we turned into the street in front of the flat there were people everywhere and not a parking space in sight as well as wall to wall double yellow lines – oh no! Chris with his usual calm headed up a side street to find a place to stop but a bit like Alice down the rabbit hole, the roads became smaller and smaller, and tighter and tighter and further to that we were now heading a slow stream of traffic as it followed us slowly (tortuously slowly) through Old Town Hastings. Finally Chris discovered a way onto the sea front and once again we approached the street where the flat is located – “There” I yelled. “Over there!” gesticulating in a wild and dangerous fashion in front of Chris’s nose to indicate a parking space (well, strictly NOT a parking space but a loading bay – well we were UNloading so I felt that sort of counted, besides I was not to gainsayed I was a woman on a mission).

Parking the car

In an inverted form of the TARDIS – (getting something big into a small space) – Chris squeezed the car with its load into the loading space between two cars that quite obviously were parked illegally (after all couldn’t they read the sign?) and thankfully we heaved a sigh of relief. James appeared and the unloading commenced …

Sofa and door problem

… of course, it couldn’t be that easy! The doorway was the least of the problems as we found out when it came to getting the fridge/freezer into the flat.

sofa upstairs

…. got to hand it to my family they are definitely triers and sometimes achievers and in this instance both! One very narrow door and two sets of narrow and steep stairs later the fridge/freezer found its new home. We were ably assisted in this venture by Junior a neighbour who introduced himself outside and asked if he could help. Lucky man got to help carry the fridge/freezer up stairs!

James and Mariery seemed delighted with their new flat and we were delighted that they seemed settled. Good luck guys in your new home and your new life xxxxx

Chris and I set off at 5.53pm with an empty car but full hearts, home by 10.23pm and in bed not long after – bliss.


One thought on “Panama to Hastings – the true and unexpurgated story!”

  1. Well done Stephanie. I am sorry about the apostrophe error – most unusual – I do’nt usually make mis’take’s like that.

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