The trauma of moving
Jane and I have been busy moving house, a traumatic experience which has engulfed the past three or four months to the exclusion of virtually anything else, including periodic additions to the web site. In my former job we used to move around every three or four years from country to country and home to temporary home, but always with a certain amount of support and help from our official colleagues (sometimes but not usually counter-productive, and always well meant), and always with the knowledge that we would be returning in due course to our real and permanent home in Putney, where we had lived since 1977, where our children had grown up and lived with many of their friends and partners, where Jane’s mother had lived after her husband died until her own death, and where we had for many years deposited the accumulated detritus of a gypsy life, despite Jane’s mounting apprehension and thanks to my own inability ever to throw anything away. So the move to a significantly smaller house entailed kissing goodbye to many of these accumulated possessions: almost half of our precious books; a mountain of clothes which had unaccountably shrunk so as no longer to accommodate my present waist; pictures and ornaments that had value only as reminders, none as objects of beauty or interest; videos that we knew we would never watch again, but whose titles on their spines were strangely enjoyable to look at now and then; crates of ancient files and papers, letters, bills and bank statements, kept in case we needed to look them up one day but which we knew we would never be able to find in the improbable event of actually needing to. This should have been a liberating experience, but in practice was just a painful wrench. However, we have somehow squeezed the surviving residue into the new house and it begins to look as if we, and no others, live here. It’s undeniably more convenient and cosier. Its fewer stairs pose less of a threat to our ageing knees. And we don’t miss our old home so much now that its young purchasers have had its innards comprehensively ripped out down to the bare bricks, its exterior paint (in a controversial colour chosen by me over my entire family’s frenzied objections) pressure-steamed off to reveal beautiful dark red bricks, our kitchen and bathroom fittings chucked into the front yard and relegated to the dump, whole walls dismantled, rooms re-aligned, floor-boards taken up, the whole place encased in scaffolding and green canvas. It doesn’t look anything like the house we left only a few weeks ago, so there’s nothing there to miss. But we’re determined that this is the last time we’re going to move house. The next time we move it will be either organised entirely by men in white coats, or feet first.