648 Moving experiences, part 1

“I’m not putting myself through that again!” We’ve all said that, yet we keep on doing it.

Moving house, that is. Like most addictions, it starts with just a little bit, only a taster, and then it gets progressively bigger until, if you’re both sensible and lucky, you realise that enough is enough and you have to break the habit.

My first taste was when I started University. Considering what was to follow, it’s strange that it seemed such a big operation. I bought a trunk; it was covered in blue cloth, pretty sturdy, nicely designed with rounded corners, and wooden reinforcements, to make it less likely that you’d injure yourself when you stumbled over it.

When I look at it now (it’s still here, upstairs in the spare room) it seems remarkably small, about 70x40x30 cm, and yet I managed to put into it everything that I needed for a ten-week term in Bristol. Three years later, when I finished University, it still held everything.

The first serious move was from Enfield to Palmers Green, by which time there were two of us. One of our wedding presents had been another trunk. This was very Italian; very impressive; a lot bigger than the blue one, with metal bracing on the sharp corners, and metal sides painted a very glossy green; but very flimsily made, hardly supporting its own considerable weight. The slightest scratch revealed the metal under the paint. We’ve only ever been able to pack clothes and bedlinen in it.

This was a fairly easy move as we had very little furniture (it’s the furniture that does the damage) though there was a piano involved. Although we weren’t there very long we managed to acquire a kitchen table, a double bed (whatever became of that?) and various bits and pieces.

So when we advanced to Leyton we weren’t all that pleased to find that all of the previous resident’s furniture and other possessions were still in the house. We now had two each of most of the things that families usually have only one each of. Debora arrived on the scene, and as both girls grew more beds accrued. I bought a computer and bits. There was a television, a stereo, various radios, assorted kitchen equipment, LPs, cassettes and a growing number of books, and, of course, more clothes than ever before. I made something of a clearance by donating all my Esperanto books to the Butler Library. I also started copying the LPs to cassettes which not only prevented deterioration but also saved space.

The house didn’t really seem over-full, but when the time came to move back to Enfield I warned Leonora and Debora, and myself, to set aside three weeks for the packing. The local shops were pillaged for cardboard boxes. Eventually we got everything sorted. A lovely big double wardrobe, probably valuable, had to be left behind because the removal men couldn’t get it out of the room. So far so good…

… but of course when we got to my mother’s house in Enfield it already contained a lifetime’s accumulation of furniture and belongings. Quite reasonably so since my mother was still living there. We now had our own original stuff from Palmers Green, the old lady in Leyton’s stuff, and my mother’s stuff, all in one house. Initially we just piled things up in the front room (which wasn’t used much) and it took several weeks to sort things out, find places for things, and get generally shipshape.

A couple of years later the Esperantist Harry Holmes, who lived in Leytonstone, died. This might not seem too relevant to a house move, but of course his house contained a vast amount of Esperanto material which was to come to the Butler Library. As the Esperanto Association was thinking of moving out of London I agreed to take in all this stuff myself, and the valiant Peter Miles (see p. 920) eventually arrived with a large consignment, about half the total.

After my mother’s death we faced the difficult decision what to do next. The house needed work, which we couldn’t really afford, and in any event it was bigger than we needed and too expensive to run (all of which makes it surprising that I ended up in an even bigger house, as recounted in the last part of page 641), so it was time to go. Leonora wanted to stay in London, for reasons of work and perhaps more importantly to stay near to her friends. Debora was about to start University so she had more options. A parting of the ways was clearly going to happen, which was a big decision after 19 years together. Having chosen the house in Bedfield we initially expected that Leonora would flat-share with a friend and Debora would be based in Bedfield though spending most of her time at University.

With that in mind we started divvying-up the various possessions with the aim of giving Leonora as much as possible of the necessities for independent living. And we started packing. And I started breaking up unwanted furniture, and clearing out my late father’s garage. A local house-clearance man took away a vast amount of stuff for which he charged me £40. For a couple of weeks I was burning unused timber and other stuff from the garage, which was a terrible waste but was the only way I could deal with it. Some of the Harry Holmes stuff still remained; the rest was in Peter Miles’ garage and eventually went direct to Barlaston, which was a mercy.

The plans had changed, with Leonora and Debora sharing a flat and me going up to Bedfield on my own. This made the result of the divvy-up rather lopsided with me distinctly over-provided and Leonora and Debora rather short of equipment.

On the other hand, I had a big house to fill and they hadn’t. The Estate Agent, a very helpful man by the distinctive name of Smith, put us in touch with a local removal firm, which surely saved me a lot of money, and the van duly rolled up in Enfield. Leonora and Debora had already shifted their belongings.

When they had finally crammed everything into the van the removal men voiced the opinion that the firm had surely under-quoted me. Well, I wasn’t complaining.

The goods were going up to Suffolk the next day, and so did I. A mad dash up to Stowmarket, by train, and a taxi ride (with neither of us quite knowing the way) actually got me to Bedfield before the removal men arrived.

Which was just as well as Leo Barnes, the departing resident, was still getting his stuff out. His remover’s big van had broken down and they we having to make two journeys in a smaller one; fortunately only to Framlingham, about 10km. down the road, so not too much time was lost. In the event they were just nearing the end when my own removal men arrived; the two teams exchanged rather frosty greetings and they danced around each other for a while. And I was in; it took me a couple of weeks to unpack and decide where to put things, but just for once I had a previously empty house to do it in. Something of a killer blow was the arrival of at least 80 boxes of books and other items being the property of the Butler Library, which was itself moving house at the time, but by the time Leonora and Debora arrived for Christmas 1998 (about six weeks later) it really did look like home.

But I’m not putting myself through that again…
[to be continued]


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