Saturday, 30 May 2015


What we should have been doing, just a week after moving house:
We should have been working hard to heave our possessions out of boxes and shove them into cupboards.
We should have been rearranging the bookshelves and kitchen cupboards so that the stuff we need is at the front. (Question to self: if there is stuff we don’t need, why have we still got it?)
We should have been going out and getting one of those wire caddy things to hold your shampoo in the shower.
What we wanted to do:
Flickering in front of our eyes for some months, there had been emails whispering about a camping trip with people who have been our friends for thirty or more years, since university.
The more it seemed that our house-move would make it impossible, the more I wanted to go.  And actually, after the traumas of moving house, and struggling through the last few days at school, the prospect of a little too much red wine in front of a camp fire, surrounded by tolerant friends became irresistible. 
What we actually did:
We acknowledged that even if we worked non-stop all weekend, our house would still not be straight.
Once we had admitted that, it was easy to decide to  go.
And funnily enough, in spite of all the turmoil of moving house, the camping things were easily to hand.

Almost as if I had long-ago decided we would go.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Moving Story

So we are in our new house, and after the long and drawn out parting from our old one, it is amazing how quickly this feels like home.
The main challenge has been to lay hands on all the necessities of life.
I’m sure we brought them with us, so where are they now?
I have mentally been compiling a list of the top items which I was glad to set eyes on again as they emerged from cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. Here they are:
the kettle (apparently the foreman of the removal men deliberately hid it so his guys wouldn’t get too distracted by constant rounds of tea and biscuits)
the iron – one hates to present a crumpled façade
that funny little bit of wood with two wheels on it – we nearly threw it out, but now know what it came off
the key to the medicine cabinet – paracetamol is a must for any house move
the remote control for my mechanised tarantula – not an emergency, but lost it months ago and have been missing it
a glass vase – I had thought this was a non-essential item but it seems that kind friends bring flowers on these occasions

But most of all, the prawn sandwich which we bought a week earlier to eat on removal day.  It promptly vanished and I couldn’t really rest easy knowing it was out there somewhere, like a smelly time bomb.  It was in the bucket of cleaning things.  Of course.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Last Ritual

“Do you think she’s the kind of person who’ll leave her kitchen cupboards dirty?”
That’s the dreaded house-moving question.
Where I live, everybody knows one another.
If I am the kind of person who leaves her kitchen cupboards dirty, then everybody is about to find out.
Tomorrow.  When we move house.
Thus cornered, I trudged in from work and donned rubber gloves.  To be fair, Nigel had already wiped and hoovered everything upstairs.
But I’m glad he left me the kitchen cupboards.
It is the last caring thing that one does for one’s old home, a ritual of farewell.
It is a gesture of hope and welcome for the incoming family.
Eventually we finished our cleaning and then we went out into the garden and listened to the birdsong as the light faded behind the hornbeam.

Tomorrow evening, we’ll be in our new place, discovering whether “she’s the kind of person who….”

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Mediterranean Crumpets

We sold our big family home seven months ago and soon after, we had our offer accepted on a smaller house in the same town.  So far so good.  But then nothing happened. 
The nothing that happened often felt like something.  In fits and starts, our vendors seemed to be about to buy another house, then didn’t.  Thought they might not move at all, but then persisted with the deal. 
But finally, here we are within two days of our move on Thursday.
But there has been a silver lining – I have learnt new skills.
Three or four times now, we have run down our fridge and larder thinking the move was imminent.
So I have invented  cuisine de déménagement.  I think there could be a book in it.  For people undergoing a prolonged removal period like ourselves, possibly even a TV series.
A particular hit was Mediterranean crumpets – feta cheese and cherry tomatoes on a hot crumpet smeared with basil pesto.
Tonight, we shall have red cabbage omelette.
Tomorrow, ris au sauce tomate  avec peut-être
 un saucisse vegetarien.
Mouth watering?

Buy the book.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Vote early and vote often

The election of 2015 will forever be associated in my mind with preparing to move house.
I’ve just got other things on my mind, Messrs Miliband and Cameron, and it’s all a bit confusing this time around. 
Except clearly that UKIP can go back to where they came from: coming over here, trying to steal our votes.
However, our foremothers chained themselves to railings for my right to vote.
So we trekked to the polling booth to make votes perhaps more tactical than heartfelt.
But it is a demonstration of my state of confusion that I was nearly prevented from voting by being unable to operate the double doors (clearly not a “swing” voter then).
And once inside I spotted a booth which was much lower and broader than the others.
“Sweet,” I said to Nigel, “For children to vote.”
“No, love. 
People in wheelchairs.

Children don’t actually have the vote.”


Click here for enactment!

Vintage Dress

In an ancient paper bag I discovered a project which I had both begun and abandoned when a teenager.  
I had bought at a jumble sale a 1950s “New Look” cocktail dress.  I had dismantled it, in order to make a skirt?, a waistcoat?  I can’t even remember now.  And then I had run out of steam. 
 Why hadn’t I thrown the whole thing out? 
Through how many decades, how many house moves should one keep a shredded jumble sale dress?
But as I opened the pack again, I could see why I had held onto it – it was a gorgeous satin brocade of pink cherry blossom and green leaves  on an oyster background. The style recalled those long ago glamorous days in Cambridge in The Theory of Everything.
Could it be restored?
Before I wasted my time, I cajoled Carenza into it to see if it would fit.  Bristling with pins, she looked like a glamorous hedgehog.
After a long evening of work, the dress was once more fabulous. 
“Now all you need is a garden party!”
“My college does have a garden party but it involves a bouncy castle and sumo wrestling.”
o tempora, o mores!
But then she looked through her emails.
“Ah – I’ve been invited to this year’s encaenia - the honorary degrees ceremony and there’s a garden party afterwards.”
It really is The Theory of Everything.  The collision in time and space of a young woman, an event, and a dress.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

But what about the kimono?

At last we have exchanged contracts on our house.  In a fortnight we shall downsize.  During the very long drag while we waited for our vendors to find a house they liked, we had several turn-outs.  But they were half-hearted -  there is much you cannot do until the last minute. 
Due to our on-off relationship with moving, I had even started a sewing project.  During a previous turn-out, I had discovered two pieces of Indonesian fabric brought back as souvenirs by different family members in different eras, but sharing a certain moss green colour.  I had begun to form them into a lined kimono jacket for Perran.
But now we really are about to move house and a new resolve has gripped me.  I spent today turfing out books, DVDs, even a plastic flamingo. 
When I entered the bedroom where I had been making the jacket. I picked up a plastic bag and began rapidly to fold the pattern pieces back into it.
“This is no time to make a kimono!” I announced.

“You know,” said Nigel, "I think that could become a family saying."