Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Thursday, 1st March

Caroline gets up at 2.30 in order to start packing. I'm going to need a proper nights sleep if I'm to drive for seven hours so she lets me sleep on, but I pass an uneasy night nevertheless.

There's no time to think about the flat, or lack of one, in Venice. Caroline packs, and repacks, then repacks again. I shuttle back and forth, taking stuff down to the car for a final run to the charity shop, or just to throw directly into the building's communal bins. I completely fill one and half of the other and start to worry if I might actually be done for tipping. How is there still so much left?

Everything seems that little bit more difficult than it ought to be. I have a bag full of kitchen knives. Charity shops, in Leith at least, do not take bags full of knives, and we've been told to take them to the police station. So along I go, press the intercom outside, and inform them that I'm standing there with a bag full of knives that I'd like them to dispose of. Two young policemen come out. They seem a bit confused. I ( slowly) hold up the bag, through which sharp pointed objects are already ripping holes, and explain the situation. They tell me that they only dispose of actual weapons, and these don't count. I point out a wicked six-inch blade that, I imagine, could be used quite successfully as a weapon but no - it's not a samurai sword or a machete, so they won't take it. One helpfully says that I should just take it to recycling or even put it in the bin. I look around me. A skip is conveniently, enticingly, placed on the street only twenty yards away. It's enormously tempting. I shake my head. I am not putting a bag of knives into a skip. In Leith. I drive out to the recycling depot, chuck them in the metals bin, and then back home again.

Caroline is still repacking, but we can almost see an end to it now. Slowly, but surely, I load the car. Amazingly, everything (well, everything that now meets the definition of essential) fits. Every square inch of free space is used. Not a chink of light can be seen in the rear view mirror. Technically, I think, this probably counts as overloading. It almost certainly isn't very safe. If I have to do an emergency stop, Peter Howson's painting “Figure kneeling in graveyard” is likely to hurtle forward and decapitate me.

We should have left the flat at 10am. It's now 2.00 in the afternoon. Caroline has been working, non-stop, for twelve hours. I now have to drive to Sheffield for the first stop on our farewell tour. Both of us are shattered. This has easily been the grimmest day so far but surely – surely – this must be the worst over now?

“Let's go to Venice”, I say, and we leave Edinburgh, and Scotland, for perhaps the last time.

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