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Home with the cats in Nelson

by Pamela Blalock and John Bayley

Wow. We got back into Nelson and stopped by the attorney's office. We had arranged with the bank to transfer the money, so it was simply a matter of picking up the keys. It's amazing how much simpler it is to buy a house when you don't have a mortgage! We were so excited. We got back in the van and drove up the hill to our new home. I pulled the van into the driveway and began to wonder what an ordeal it was going to be to get out. The driveway is a bit steep, and has a bend to it as well.

We headed inside to see the house completely empty for the first time. It did look a bit different. We unloaded the van and set up our bedroom with thermarests and sleeping bags. We headed back into town and got cat litter, cat litter boxes, and cat food. We also picked up a some plastic plates, bowls, glasses, and cutlery, and well as an inexpensive pot and pan. It would be a few weeks before the rest of our stuff arrives, so we'd need a few things temporarily.

We did a bit more shopping and found a refrigerator and washing machine - and after two nights sleeping on the floor (with thermarest and sleeping bags), I bought a couple of cheap foam mattresses. We decided this would be better for the cats too, since claws would destroy a thermarest. Finally we went for a couple of folding camp chairs. We lived like this until our furniture arrived several weeks later.

We returned the van Tuesday morning, dropping it off at a facility near the airport and then walking home. There are an amazing number of marked walks in town. We found a set of maps at the city council, showing various walks around town. Often there are footpaths or steps that go through places where the roads don't. There are also little markers at many of the places showing it is on a Walk Nelson route. Our walk back from the airport took in one of these. We did a fair amount of walking and exploring in our first weeks and these maps were invaluable.

The cats flew in on Wednesday. I took a taxi out to the airport, collected the cats, and took another taxi back. The cats had a grand time exploring and sniffing the entire house. Of course, it's not that big, so it didn't take that long. And if you are wondering if they have forgiven us, I can tell you that they seem to have missed us just a bit!

In fact, if we didn't have the implanted microchips to prove they are indeed the same cats, I might have wondered if Echo was switched, since he has practically become a cuddly lap kitty since arriving. (Clearly this picture was taken after the arrival of furniture!)

The days just seem to disappear once we moved in. We had so much to do. We found a nearby coffee shop, and became regulars while we awaited the arrival of our own espresso machine, as well as the rest of the furniture. As we tinkered about the empty house I began to realise how much smaller it was than our place in Chelmsford. It was obviously missing the basement, where we had kept all our bikes and skis and camping gear, but the rooms were a bit smaller too.

The day the furniture arrived proved how much smaller. We had the movers put most of the furniture inside, but all the boxes, and bikes and other assorted bits, we simply left of the deck. Fortunately the deck is almost as big as the house, and it's mostly covered, so we were OK for a few days with this arrangement.

I spent a lot of the first day just going through boxes and trying to figure out what was where, and what we should unpack first. I had a couple of sentimental pieces that I needed to find first, and see that they were OK. For the most part, stuff travelled quite well. This in large part was due top the professionalism of the packers at the Boston end. I must say I was not impressed with the folks at this end, and am a bit afraid to move again, if these folks will be doing the packing and loading.

After hours of unpacking, I sent John off to get some takeaway Chinese food, while I continued to unpack the kitchen. We'd locked the cats into one room while the movers were here, but had let them out once the house was closed up again. But since we had so much stuff on the deck, we occasionally had to chase the curious little guys back in when we got distracted and left a door open too long. They have always been indoor only cats, but do slowly find their way out to sniff things out if doors are left open.

Anyway, I was unpacking in the kitchen and Nightshade was watching me. As I finished off a box, I'd break it down and carry it out to the carport. Then I'd retrieve another box from the deck. John came back with dinner and we sat down to relax for a while. Echo came in seemingly to beg for dinner as well, so John took out their treat. But when he called Nightshade she did not come and Echo seemed uninterested. In fact he seemed down right out of sorts. We looked around for Nightshade, but found no sign of her. At this point, we figured she had slipped out unnoticed, and we started scouring the neighbourhood. After an hour, we were in an absolute panic. There are lots of outdoor cats and dogs around, and they are none too friendly to each other. To make a long story short, the search went on for several hours and involved a few neighbours. At some point, we had the neighbours in to see pictures of Nightshade, so they would know what to look for, and we heard a meow. For a while, we were convinced it was under the house, and John crawled around with a flashlight looking for her. Eventually we found her inside in a box at the bottom of a pile of boxes. This pile had been made hours before, so she got in after it was stacked up, and apparently was quite content. John and I were so relieved. I can't tell you how devastated we would have been to lose her.

We spent the next couple of weeks, unpacking and rearranging. We have way too much stuff, and brought far more with us than we should have. In the end, we built a shed to hold the bikes, closed in part of the deck and rented a storage facility to handle the overflow and infrequently used stuff. After about a month, I hung pictures, a sure sign that I'm settling in and want to feel at home.


Hanmer Springs