THE SALE OF Tulloch Ard.
The fight to keep Tulloch Ard had been long and fraught with difficulty. It was a beautiful home, with a lovely garden, but age and disability had crept stealthily upon both of us. The hours spent in the garden were no longer quite so joyous – they were compulsory. The house itself, at 140 years old, had bags of character but needed more and more maintenance.
We had to face facts. We could not afford to nurse this house any longer. The time had come to bite the bullet, and sell our home and our memories.
With great trepidation, we put the house on the market, and eventually received what we asked for it, and what we believed it was worth. It went to a younger couple who could care for it, and who had the energy and income to deal with a property this size.
There was only one problem: they saw the house in March and wanted us to be out by the 1st of April. It was a mammoth task. There were not only the house contents but four sheds, a loft, a double garage and a sun room to be cleared, sorted, stowed and packed.
My husband had had the foresight to buy a 7.5 ton Renault Midlum three years prior, so we could use this for transporting out furniture, and everything else that we thought was worthwhile keeping.
The first question was : Where to go? We had a very short time to decide and eventually went with our intuition to head North of Inverness. Both my husband and I had fond memories of this area, and my best friend lived there and could perhaps help with accommodation.
Within a matter of days, we had found a place to rent and a container in Inverness to take all our worldly goods.
Part 2.The Lorry’s Tale
It was early in the morning that Stuart left our friends’ house with our fully packed lorry heading for the container base in Inverness.
Our friends stay just outside Contin, on a private road, which is essentially single track, without the passing places. It is perhaps about half a mile long, with fields on one side, where crops are grown or horses graze.
A peaceful setting – and I had no concerns about my husband’s ability.
The crash the day before had been astonishingly unfortunate. He had a bottle of water to drink while driving, and suddenly, as we approached Broxden Roundabout in Perth, this bottle fell from the driver’s seat. We both watched in horror as, in apparent slow motion, it rolled beneath the brake pedal. Neither of us could reach it in time – and we needed to brake because of a little car waiting patiently to enter the traffic.
The little car came off very badly indeed. I went to the driver’s door to ask the lady if she was okay, and she said:
“I just don’t believe it. This is the second time this has happened to me in a fortnight. I’ve just got this new car!”
She was moving all her possessions north to Ullapool.
I offered her water and sympathy – but eventually, her husband arrived with steam pouring from both ears, and my services were very clearly neither wanted nor required.
We were now missing a nearside headlight and left indicator, but the Police advised that we could continue onward travel, as long as we had it fixed at the earliest convenience.
It was my fault, my better half informed me because I had bought the wrong size of water bottle.
However, I digress.
Sometime after he left for the container base, my phone rang. This was Husband, asking me to phone the Storage Company to tell them he would be late because he had driven into a ditch. He was being rescued, and I had not to panic.
Panic!?? This was the funniest thing I had heard in years.
Every time we had watched Ice Road Truckers he had carefully explained to me the hazard of ditches when driving a truck. He had patiently elaborated on how, once you have become embedded in a verge, the weight of the lorry allows you no control. You cannot correct your fault. You are merely a passenger.
I wondered idly what had happened – had there been a car coming the other way, and he had allowed too much room?
Eventually, my friend and I could bear it no longer, and walked down the road to see what had happened. The lorry was gone, but the verge was all torn in a most peculiar place. We could think of no explanation. We looked and looked, but it made no sense.
When he eventually returned, several hours later, he told us the story.
He had been driving down the road when he was aware that there was a large fir tree whose branches might scrape the lorry if he kept strictly to the road. He, therefore, mounted the verge, unaware of how soft the ground was, and how close the ditch was to the road at that point.
And found (surprise!) that he could do nothing to correct the steering. So he didn’t try. He put on the brake and went to get help.
He jogged down to the garage at the foot of the hill, but they couldn’t assist. They pointed him in the direction of Willie, a seventy-year-old who loves tractors. He jogged to Wattie’s house. Willie heard his tale and immediately offered to help. They drove to the site of the stricken lorry, but the pick up that Willie had brought did not have enough oomph. He drove Husband down to a tractor he had in the field.
But now there was a problem. Where were the keys for the tractor?
Willie decided that he must have left them in the tractor, and that, although it hadn’t been started since January, it would be fine. So they both got into the tractor. The keys were there, as he had thought, and it started first turn, as promised.
They drove the tractor up the field that paralleled the road, as there was a gate near the stranded lorry where they could exit. Nearing the gate, Willie tried to change the gears from 4 wheel drive to 2 wheel drive, but the tractor was having none of it. Puzzled at this turn of events, he temporarily halted to see what the problem was, and discovered he was ploughing the field behind him!
“Who put a plough on my tractor?” he asked in wonder and of nobody in particular.
Plough detached, he continued on his way and pulled the lorry out of the ditch. My husband spent the rest of the day in Inverness.
Once in Inverness and unloaded, the headlight and the indicator were the priority. He went to repair outfit in Inverness, who did the sharp intake of breath, and the slow shaking of the head bit.
The Man reckoned he was better to sort it himself.
He managed to find a headlight from an old Honda car in a breaker’s yard and changed the voltage of the bulb to 24 volts so that it would be compatible with an HGV headlight. Bringing his prize home, he worked until 7p.m. installing it, and taping up all the sharp edges at the front of the lorry, where there was damage.
Poor old lorry: she looks a bit plastered – and there is certainly no denying that she has been through the wars.
But what an adventure! This is what life is about – overcoming the obstacles.
© Linda Jane McLean