Whilst we try and find a house, car, other essential ingredients for living, we are very much aware that we will be having to collect our stuff from kent very soon. We have thought about how we are going to manage logistically, collecting the stuff with the the two girls, and had to face the reality that Edwin would have to do the trip alone.
Luckily, he has some amazing friends and one of them, Mael, has agreed to go on the 2000 km (1250 mile) road trip with Ed to the UK. Ed spent hours trawling French van hire sites and at the last minute he phoned a local hire company. They had a van that that was unlikely to be hired before the French bank holiday on Tuesday and so they offered it to him at a lower rate than the other places he found – bonus!
Ed sets off early Monday morning and I set the day aside to be on call for him, as I am going to need to book the ferry and hotel, when he gets nearer to the North coast of France.
While I wait for his return, let me fill you in some little anecdotes about the container. So, when we were looking for quotes for our container, we were quoted a door-to-door service by the shipping company. A long story short – they quoted us few thousand and when they had our belongings, they then requoted us $11,000!! We fought and fought (and fought), which was uber stressful, but managed to get the cost down to $6000. However, they would only deliver it to the port. Fair enough. We would be happy to get a van over to Southampton to collect our stuff, if it saved us around $4000.
‘Southampton?’, I hear you say. Yes, Southampton. Most companies ship to the port local to the Isle of Wight, but not this company. They would be sending our stuff to Kent. Having had a mini melt down about this, when we thought we would be living on the Isle of Wight, it actually turned out to be at our advantage when we realised we would be moving to France. Kent is much closer to Dover. Dover is the cheapest route from UK to France. Win win.
Anyone having experienced imports will be familiar with all of the paperwork. Standard for any business transaction. Now, this is always a little bit more difficult to do when you are dealing with morons. Bring in Sophie. Sophie is dealing with our container at the destination port. She messes up our invoice, causes me about 2 hours of extra work trying to figure out where she got her figures from and then relaying it all back to her, so she can correct it. She apologises and then tells me she has noticed we are importing an alligator head, which may be a problem when it comes to HM Revenue and Customs.
The story is that we had some lovely friends in Slidell, who had a lovely friend called Mark. Mark is a typical, indigenous Louisiana local. He loves nature, sweet iced tea and hunting. His friend gave him some alligator heads and he generously offered us one, as a souvenir of the Louisiana experience. I don’t believe I ever would have bought one, but we were touched by his generosity and we accepted.
We packed it and agreed to declare it on our import paperwork; if it got through, it would be a bonus. I don’t like being caught out and I’ve seen enough Border Patrol to know that it’s not pleasant being stopped by Customs.
So, Sophie tells me this maybe a problem and tells me to call customs for advice. They in turn, tell me that I may need a vet’s certificate (hang on, it’s definitely dead); they also ask me to call CITES and DEFRA (which scares me a little bit, as I am beginning to feel now have become little more than an unlicensed poacher); oh and just to be sure the tax man doesn’t miss out, they tell me to call the VAT helpline too.
I spend a whole morning on this calling all the numbers. it appears that everybody is clueless and as per, with these types of things, I am transferred, put on hold, transferred again, asked to wait, given a few more numbers and then, voila, a lovely man from CITES in Bristol gives me the code that says my alligator head is definitely legal, definitely dead and I am not a Safari Game Poacher, about to be lynched by Border patrol. Oh, and I’m not voluntarily calling VAT to pay tax on anything, especially not the head of a long dead alligator.
I call Sophie back to give her the code. She tells me she knows that code and if she were me, she would never have declared it in the first place. Excellent legal advice from a shipping agent.
So, back to Edwin and Mael’s trip. I book them onto a ferry, book them a cheap and reasonable hotel near the pick up warehouse. I send booking references, phone numbers and addresses to them throughout the day. Once they reach the UK, I start to feel relieved for them, until they drive to the wrong hotel! Same hotel chain, different hotel. They get to the right one eventually about 11 pm.
It has been a little bit of a tough day for me, trying to book everything as cheap as possible, with a little baby clambering all over me all day bored out of her brain. I’d rather have had my day than theirs though. It’s been an epic day for them and they have covered over 1000km. I go to bed praying that the next day will pass without a hitch…