Well, it happened. I’ve moved. Again. For the third time in two years. I must admit, the packing up and moving stuff is carrying me down, but I’m hopefully only one move away from a permanent home now – one I own, as opposed to renting or looking after for a friend, like this one. I’m house-sitting for close friends who, the night before the world closed its borders back in March 2020, flew to be with their family in Sydney.
Hedging their bets, they rented out their house in London; two years later, they have decided to sell it. That’s where I come in. Here to lavish their old home with some proper TLC, prepping and primping it back to its former glory. I’m great with a scatter cushion, don’t you know… as for cashmere throws, don’t get me started.
Moving two vans’ worth of belongings after staying out all night (see last week’s marmalade-dropper of a column for details) possibly wasn’t the smartest move of my life, but wasn’t the 8am Sunday walk of shame that almost killed me , it was the following five days that really took their toll.
Unpacking endless boxes, plus those picked up from the former family home full of things I’d not set eyes upon for two years, I had no clue what to do with it all. Boxes clogged doorways like nightclub bouncers, and with endless stuff to deftly shift from huge plastic containers to God only knows where, in order that removal men could come back a couple of days later to reclaim them, I moved quicker than a thief. A random selection of utter rubbish collected – when, how, why?
A few years ago, when Marie Kondo released her tome, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, I drank it all in, cleaning and tidying my home within an inch of its life. Punch-drunk from guzzling all the Marie Kondo Kool-Aid? Yup. Guilty as charged. I even folded my knickers (like a total psycho).
And yet, here I am, a woman who, at the age of 48, owns an assortment of 63 odd socks and jewelery that looks like it exploded from a Christmas cracker bought in the Woolworths sale, and as for the assortment of foreign currency I may never need to work again (if only it were legal tender). I should set up a shop! I mean, how else will I rid myself of 432 silk scarves and 55 bobble hats in every colourway?
After three days, the accumulated crap began to swallow me up like that scene in Star Wars where the walls close in on Princess Leia. She almost drowns in a deep puddle of debris: now I know how she felt. Frustrated, I began chucking bric-a-brac towards a couple of newly anointed “charity” bin bags, fully intending to drop it all off at the charity shop the following day. Except the bags are still in the back of my car, along with two ginormous bales of guinea pig bedding. The car is so packed, the kids can’t fit on the backseat; and as if that wasn’t bad enough, when they saw the guinea pig bedding, they asked when they were “coming home”.
Ah, the bloody guinea pigs… In February 2021, too old to move to my second rental, I decided it was in the best interests of my 14-year-old rescue dog to keep him housed in the familiar family home. I mention this only so you’ll feel sorry for me as I’m about to openly admit to impulse-buying two guinea pigs on a whim from Jumanji Pets (same store I bought the dog collar I wore to the fetish party the other week ). I digress. The kids named the piggies Steve and Deku. Cold outside, I housed them inside and fed them a daily diet of freshly chopped vegetables – bowls of chopped carrots and greenery.
Between feeding time and cleaning up pig poop, my head was never out of their cage. Steve was terrified all the time, Deku didn’t mind an ear rub at night. After four days, the children ignored them completely and, despite my best efforts, the house began to stink. Bored one evening, I let the pigs run across the front-room floor and timed how many poops they did within the space of one minute.
Between the two brothers, they averaged roughly one pellet of poop every two seconds. With no outside space, and after too much wine one night, I placed an advert on Pets4Homes, a website for people looking to rehome/give away unwanted pets. Dear RSPCA, please don’t judge me just yet, but between flicking between online dating apps and the flood of messages from the lunatics who responded to my Pets4Homes ad, in which I’d outlined how my “beloved” guinea pigs could no longer stay with me due to “allergies” (lees, lees, lees). What a wild Wednesday night it was!
Within moments, I received messages from dozens of wacky strangers, all willing to collect my guineas the next day. It was a message read at midnight that almost caused a rodent-related aneurysm. “Hello, do not give away your guinea pig boys on this site!!! People use pet guinea pigs for dog baiting and snake food!!!!!” I shall spare you the tedium of many more conversations had with many more nutters pretending to run guinea pig charities, guinea hospices and rodent rehoming schemes, but their lies were hopeless in the face of my motherly instincts, which kicked in as ferociously as if I ‘d birthed the stinky duo myself. No one’s taking my Steve and Deku for snake food! Jeez, I thought dating apps were full of rats.
Needless to say, when it comes to the responsible rehoming of guinea pigs, I’ve learned everything there is to know. Everything. Eventually, I found someone who, with over 15 years’ experience, has in her time rehomed thousands of guinea pigs to properly vetted homes.
When the day came to say goodbye to Steve and Deku, I popped the lads into a breathable pet carrier box, then gently placed it inside my XXL Dior canvas bag for added chicness. Off we all went to Paddington on the Tube, to take a train to the countryside. I saw with my own eyes the amazing sanctuary where they would be living until they were rehomed, and, when the Doctor Dolittle of guinea pigs suggested I hang around for mealtime because the pigs have “learned how to sing”, it was like being gifted the perfect excuse to head home.
Two days later, when asked by the children where the pigs had gone, I replied, “They’re in the countryside, learning how to sing.” I hadn’t prepped an answer for the next question, which was, “And when are they coming back?” Caught off-guard, I replied, “When we own our own home.”
The crap collected from my ex’s house, which sits alongside two ginormous bags of guinea pig bedding on the backseat of my car, is a staunch reminder that a) my life is one long s—show right now, and b) at some point in the coming months, the house I buy will need a garden big enough to house a ginormous guinea pig pen, where the pretend Steve and Deku (since renamed Gavin) will reside. Really looking forward to adding “find lookalike Steve and Deku (now known as Gavin) male adult sibling guinea pigs without the kids finding out” to my autumn to-do list. Let’s hope I make it to the charity shop before then.