When I was asked if I would help a friend emigrate in exchange for a holiday in France, I accepted straight away. I really didn’t know what I had let myself in for. As the date approached I began to get a bit more of an inkling. Still, they say that a change is as good as a rest, plus it is always good to help out friends so I was still glad that I said that I would lend a hand.
The main challenge was the sheer amount of stuff that had to be moved. In addition to furniture and so on, my friend was taking his entire business with him. His business is books, and books are heavy. It rapidly became clear that this move would be a major operation, and that we would have to take a lot of care to stop something going wrong.
There were between ten and half a dozen of us working loading the stock into the truck at any one time. This involved moving a seemingly endless procession of heavy boxes down two flights of stairs and then into the back of the lorry’s trailer. If this had been a commercial operation then somebody would certainly have had something to say about the safety of all this!
In total the lorry that had been hired could weigh no more than 40 tons when it went to the ferry. The driver was beginning to get concerned that this limit would be breached – certainly we all felt like we had moved many tons as London’s passersby looked at us sweaty men huffing and puffing in the August sunshine.
When the truck was loaded, that was far from being the end of the story. The next part was to be the workforce piling into a minibus and driving down to the south of France to convert the barn to take the books in preparation for the lorry’s arrival.
After the tunnel, the signs of tiredness began to show in my bookselling friend as we drove. Up and working hard for many hours, the danger of him nodding off at the wheel seemed very real. Even as a passenger I was terrified of shutting my eyes in case I was asleep and could not keep the driver awake. Needless to say we were all very stiff when we finally arrived in our destination, so it was a happy coincidence one of this temporary workforce was a yoga teacher, and could lead us in some stretches.
Everything managed to pass of without any major kind of hitch. The most important thing was that nobody had got hurt. Sure we were taking care, and looking out for each other, but if I were doing this sort of work every day there is no doubt that I would have had to have had a long hard look at the working practices and conditions. Should I ever ditch my desk and take up cross continental removals as a career I think getting NEBOSH training or some other kind of health and safety expertise would be high up on my list of priorities.