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.

2 Responses

  1. says:

    Wow, do I idenify with you……..I am a single woman,69,who has a small(5 acres) ranch in a mountain community,Joshua Tree. Have lived in a 3500 square ft. home for 13 years out here in the boonies.pros-incrediably beautiful peace and close neigbors.3. zero crime4.the best weather in the world.Temperate all year round.5.Cheap to live here as i bought it for cash,no morgage

    Cons-1Hillbilly heaven.Intellectual are disliked.I am a New York liberal and God forgive me, an educated person!!!!This is Bush country and enviorementalists are scoffed at!!2. So I have 2 friends,that’s enough.3. A 200 mile round trip to doctors. Still have my HMO from work…4100 mile round trip for friends, fun and intelligent companionshipwhich I travel 2 or 3 times a week.

    Everyone has said this is paradise, but too far away from medical care and civilization. Yet I am resistant to moving..Have a large art collection which worries me when i will live in the city.Crime, people,noise.Yet closeness to everything..Am fairly isolated here, but my dogs and cats and i are peaceful,yet I am concerned about a knee surgery which is coming.etc.etc.any feeback you and jane can give me will be appreciated.With Best wishes,Carmela




  2. Michael Bav says:

    Hello Brian

    I occasionally look at your site as interested to read some of your comments, don't want to comment about that at the moment though. I was being nosey and read the article about moving and wanted to enter into a light hearted dialogue over some of the comments and to defend our position. It must have been pretty gut wrenching to have seen your house de-constructed, however, hope / believe you are now happy with the end result. Is it too early to tease you over that green colour – it seems your family had the same view!

    Now approaching the mid liffe age of 43 I was pleased to be referred to as a youngster (albeit that was nearly 4 years ago) in the article. The new regime at 10 Melrose does not allow for the accumalation of clutter (much to my own frustration), my only true space has now been reduced to the wine cellar. I will resist making a comment about the national characterstics of my better half and admit that I mostly enjoy living in a de-cluttered way, although it is frustrating when you purposely place an item only for it to be removed! 

    We thoroughly enjoy living in the house and do not have plans to move on anytime soon.  Your bike accident did not sound good, hope you are recovered and now back on the bike.



    P.S. I do now exercise discretion about the postal forward service on the basis that most of it is junk, anything vaguely official or hand written envelopes I will send on.

    Brian replies:  Hello, Michael: good to hear from you — and renewed thanks for continuing to pass on the occasional bits of rogue mail that have ignored our change of address from almost exactly four years ago.  But mainly I wanted to reassure you that nothing in my piece about moving house was intended in any way as a criticism of you as the purchasers of our old home, still less of the incredibly radical and comprehensive refurbishment, almost reconstruction, of the house that you and your wife courageously undertook.  Some of the things you did — especially sand-blasting the green paint off the external walls to reveal the beautiful brickwork underneath — we would have done ourselves if we had (a) been able to afford it, and (b) been planning to stay on in the house for a few more years rather than moving to something smaller.   (I always liked that Mediterranean green and thought it made the house look distinctive, but the rest of my family hated it, as I mentioned in the Moving House article, and even I would have preferred the brickwork.  But the house had already been painted when we bought it, and the cost of removing the paint was beyond our resources.)  For the same reasons we didn't modernise the kitchen and bathrooms, sadly out-dated by the time you took over, although we were very much aware that almost anyone who bought the house from us would lose no time in doing so.  Apparently the avocado green bathroom stuff, which was there when we bought the house, has come to be regarded as especially naff, although it was the height of chic when we inherited it.  We ourselves did some pretty radical things when we bought the house, including extensive work on the roof, and putting in the gas supply, the showers and the central heating — which shows how incredibly old we are, and how incredibly young you both seem to us to be. 

    The purpose of my Moving House piece, in fact, was the opposite of attempting to show your massive modernisation in a bad light:  it was to describe how the radical changes that you undertook to bring the house into the 21st century helped to reconcile us to the move, and to blunt any sentimental nostalgia we might otherwise have felt at moving from the place that had been our home for so long and that had so many family memories embedded in it, by the realisation that it no longer even existed.  So:  far from resenting or regretting the changes you made, we welcomed them — and envied you both the pleasures of living in a beautifully modernised No. 10 (no, not Downing Street).  We are unreservedly glad that you are enjoying the house, and hope you'll long continue to do so.