“I’ve backed the Land Rover right up,” says Short Tony, as I stand in the old kitchen, my bent finger covering my mouth in that particular way that has been scientifically proven to help you think. I decide that if I stare at the washing machine for long enough then it will become a bit lighter.

I have already expertly unplumbed it, removing the hot and cold water inlets and unscrewing the waste pipe from the sink outlet. I make a mental note to seal up the subsequent gap in the pipework and not to forget, which would be foolish and potentially wet. Fortunately I have an excellent memory and never forget anything ever.

We lift the washing machine.

I don’t know why some people are good at lifting things and some people aren’t. It must be a technique thing. It cannot be anything to do with strength. We stagger around the kitchen in the general direction of the door. I have my hands underneath it and am stooped like a fairytale character to compensate for the three-foot difference in height (estimate) between me and Short Tony.

By the time we reach the Land Rover we have given up all pretence of being careful with the appliance, and sort of hurl the thing in the back. I do some exercises to try to return my arms to their previous length.

“Ready to go?” asks Short Tony. I am as ready as I will ever be. Normally I approach a journey in his Land Rover with the same sort of confidence as I’d book up a scenic light aircraft trip with, say, Buddy Holly and Richard Reid the Shoe Bomber. But I am comforted by the thought that if the worst does happen and we break down miles from anywhere then at least I will be able to have clean clothes.

We set off at a steady 32 mph. In the event the engine only stops working once and we reach our destination without incident, if you don’t classify alarming rattly and bangy noises from both engine and domestic appliance as ‘incident’.

We lift the washing machine.

My new cottage is on a bit of a hill, and the extra altitude makes everything appear even heavier. Zigzagging up the path, we sort of fall in to the front room, bashing it against the doorframe as we attempt to manoeuvre it around. Of course the new kitchen is the furthest room away, and access is via a convenient step, but sweating and swearing we get it there in the end, and I do some lightning plumbing and electrical connection.

The washing machine does not work.

This is disappointing.

We methodically instigate a troubleshooting procedure – trying a different socket, checking the plug, changing the fuse etc. An hour later, this has all gone out of the window, and we are shouting and swearing at the machine whilst punching and kicking it. At this point it decides to work after all, which is wonderful, but the waste pipe is not connected up and it starts pumping dirty water into the kitchen cupboard.

Deciding that this would be best cleared up at a later date, I thank Short Tony for his help. At times like these it is good to have neighbours who one can rely on.

We return to the old cottage without event. Absentmindedly, I empty the washing-up bowl down the sink.

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