Safely Delivered

Moving home is very much like having a baby. You wouldn’t entertain the idea of doing it again until the memory has faded into a distant smudge and is embellished with a liberal dollop of nostalgia. However stressful the build-up [the labour] has been it is as nothing compared to the climax, which is either a smooth, trouble-free relief or a frantic, screeching panic.

We moved one week ago, which means that the pain and the panic are fading but it’s best to remember that in the scale of life’s most stressful events moving house is up there in the top three along with bereavement and divorce.

The day began well, with a removal van turning up at 8.30am prompt and we were ready, everything boxed, everything labelled, everything [almost] cleaned and spruced up for the new occupants. The lorry looked too small but we were assured by the two movers that our belongings would disappear into it and they set to, rejecting offers of tea and biscuits, fitting tables, chairs, beds and mattresses together into the space like some sort of domestic 3D jigsaw.

Then they were gone, with a cheerful ‘call us when you’ve got the keys to the new house’, off for a much deserved full English breakfast somewhere while the van full of our life’s effects languished unloved outside the depot.

We waited, we hoovered, we looked at our phones, we checked that the land line was operating. We had a coffee. I wandered out to the garden to pluck out some stray weeds and tuck in some wayward strands of creeper. We checked again. We ate a sandwich, had another coffee. The phone rang and I jumped in a febrile lather of excitement. It was the removal chap. ‘Had we heard anything?’

I went across to say goodbye to some neighbours, returning to find a car in the driveway. The new occupants had arrived. ‘Come in!’ we told them. But now we were becoming spare parts in our own house-which was still our house until the solicitor deemed it acceptable for us to access our new property. The money was wending its way along the eight-house chain but had yet to reach the top. I rang the solicitor to be told she was having lunch. We stood by our bags of final bits and chatted to the buyers of our house. They were beside themselves with exhilaration as their removal lorry arrived. ‘Get your stuff in!’ we told them and as we stood our space began to fill with their belongings, compounding our feelings of being interlopers.

At last we could stand it no more. We got into the car with our pitiable bits and pieces and made our way to the new house. If nothing else we could sit outside it and anticipate. The day was wearing on [by now it was mid-afternoon].

But all was well, of course. Upon rounding the bend we were greeted with the sight of our lovely removal men, busily heaving our furniture into our new home. The doors, it seemed had been left open. We cast caution to the wind and entered, eventually receiving a call from the estate agent to pick up some keys.

And did we cry bitter tears for our old home? Did we wander the rooms of the new house under a pall of homesickness? Aha! You will have to wait and see…

A Moving Story

In a week that was nothing if not instructive there have been winners and losers. Before I explain I should warn anyone who is without a strong constitution or nerves of tungsten that if you are contemplating any kind of house move you should reconsider.

I have lived in the same house for about twenty years. This is long-extremely so for me, since I have documented before the many, many times I moved up until arriving here, to this house which, it must be said has had everything [or if it didn’t to begin with it does now]. Alas the house became too large to house two people and needed a new, sprawling family who would love it as we do. This has taken two years; so long that we quite forgot that we were selling it and the trauma of having done so is profound.

Still, it is done. Someone new is to reside here and we must de-camp. And here is the problem; there is nowhere to go! There is not a villa, a cottage, a bothy or even a hovel that excites us enough to call it a home.

While we ponder this conundrum we set about distributing the house contents to the world-or at least those who are interested in any of it. This is where the delights of EBAY provide an unending thrill and surprises abound in the throngs of people who are interested enough to want to buy the plethora of tat we have advertised.

For some reason, as time progresses towards leaving we become increasingly gung-ho and uncaring about ‘stuff’, casting our belongings to the wind as if we were emigrants to a desert island. There are several pages of items for sale, prompting a deluge of questions-‘what is the height of it?’ [the dimensions are in the description], ‘what is the buy-it-now price?’ [as it states-there is none], ‘can I post it?’ [NO-hence the well-known phrase, ‘local collection only].

Items get sold. They get collected. Gaps appear around the house, flattened areas of carpet the only sign that something was there. An entire room becomes empty. There is a slight echo-and billowing motes of dust circulating in the light. A tower of boxes starts to rise, then another. People come to view things-then want to see other things. It feels like living in The Old Curiosity Shop’.

At intervals I stop to shred another pile of redundant documents, seeing the narrative of our lives metamorphosing into hamster bedding before my eyes. Does it reduce us, this casting off of possessions? It shouldn’t. We are not composed of personal effects.

More spaces appear as items disappear. It begins to look less like home. This is EBAY’s way of accustoming us to the impending departure. The corner where my tall, luxuriant palm sat is particularly barren, somehow, although the purchaser of this beautiful plant was delighted and will no doubt treasure and enjoy it as I did. Ho hum…

Scotland is another Country

My early holidays as a young child were camping trips taken with my parents and my two brothers to locations around the British Isles, staying at farms-there was no such facility as a camp site-and pitching tents in a corner of a field.

We travelled, all five squeezed into one of the various small vehicles my father procured-starting with a little, old black Ford. Packing was an art form in which only my father amongst us was skilled [apparently]. The tents [ex-army acquisitions] went on to a roof rack together with our ex-army kapok sleeping bags [camouflage design] which had been cut down to child size by my mother on her treadle sewing machine. Then there was a ‘Bluet’ cooking stove in a tin box plus all our enamel plates, cups and dishes. Any leftover space housed our clothing-shorts and T shirts plus one jumper-oh and pyjamas of course.

We would have to get up in the dark, small hours to undertake the journey, since motorways had not been conceived and stop in lay-bys where my father would get out and set up the Bluet to make tea. My mother struggled with the stove, pumping to get the spirit fuel going and famously throwing it over a fence when the flame shot forth terrifyingly. Much later, having reached the destination he had selected [Wales, Devon, The Peak District, The Lake District] we would stop at a likely farm and request a space for our very basic tents-an arctic ‘bell’ tent and a home-made construction from poles and sackcloth he’d cobbled together to be our ‘toilet’ tent. He would dig a neat, square hole and erect a seat made from 4 struts and a timber frame-to sit on and carefully backfill and replace the turf after use.

Once we travelled to Scotland, an intrepid adventure for the time. My memories are dominated by the mist and drizzle that masked every view, the night we slept in a milking parlour due to the inclement weather [I could feel the drainage channels through the thick kapok of my sleeping bag] and the eyrie, plaintive bagpipe melody drifting through the fog over Culloden Field, where a brutal and bloody battle was fought.

We camped in the Highlands with a view of Ben Nevis. My father fulfilled his burning desire to bathe in a mountain stream by moonlight, an event which, for some inexplicable reason we were all taken along to witness but had no appetite to share; the Scottish weather not lending itself to this kind of romance.

We know the outcome of Scotland’s attempt to sever the umbilical. Scotland seemed foreign enough to me then, without the need for independence and still does, in the same way that the USA feels foreign. There is more to unfamiliarity, to foreigness, than a different language.