648 Moving experiences, part 4: March 2014

7th March 2014.  So here I am, and, six days on, more or less recovered. The visit to Barlaston was a complete success; the journeys all ran to time, the six boxes were unpacked, all the books were put away, and I made substantial inroads into the catalogue cards. Some other routine things got done, and I achieved the objective which I always have on these visits, of leaving the place looking as if no-one had been there.

Things went less well when I got home, as I had brought a cold home with me; this has now almost gone. The rest day, the kitchen day, and the day off were all mostly taken up with catch-up for the time I had been away, in other words routine household stuff. Two afternoons were taken up with reading six days’ worth of e-mails. Sooner or later I’ll spend a whole kitchen day in the kitchen, but this time it only got about half an hour. The library days were more of the same as previously. Before I went away I had a message to say that the Salvation Army would be collecting unwanted items of clothing, bedding, etc. on the following Tuesday. So I had filled their bag and put it outside in plain view. When I came home it was still there, so most of the contents, now rather soggy, have gone in the bin.

Today being a housework day, I was strongly tempted to get out the lawnmower, but the spring flowers in the lawn were too pretty for that, so I contented myself with filling the rubbish bin.

Yes, Spring is definitely here. There were a few foretastes in February, but this is the real thing. Using any garden time in a way that advances the house move will need some thought; some of the junk in the garden would make a pretty good bonfire, and other things might be useful for the ongoing project of building up the banks of the pond. We shall see.

Meanwhile indoors a few things have happened. Ten more audio cassettes have been binned, with two more ready to go. An eighth parcel of Esperanto books is done and a ninth is in progress. The blue trunk has been joined by two suitcases containing mostly bedding. I’ve disconnected the Freeview set-up and this is now in a box along with other electrical bits. I’ve gathered together all the electrical, audio, TV and computer leads, plugs, parts and connectors with a view to sorting through them to see what I still actually need. This is part of the work I mentioned a long time ago, of dealing with the time-consuming things that shouldn’t be done in the last-moment panic.

And by way of getting back into the routine, I should perhaps return to the box count. This is complicated by the arrival of the two suitcases (not counted) and the departure of the seven parcels.

In all I can now account for the contents of 143 boxes (the extra 13 being odd things that were previously scattered around the house). Of these 7 have already departed, 19 are ready to go, and 117 await attention. Having been away I can count this as 52 days’ output so far, rather than 60; so that brings us down to 2 days per parcel; but, as I said a month ago in similar circumstances, I’ve been doing a lot else as well.

The next stint will include four library days, one each of office, house, and kitchen, two days off and, a rare event, a music day. As a sort of postscript, here’s

The tale of the box that wasn’t ready. I may have mentioned some boxes of who-knows-what that seemed to be ready to go. One afternoon, probably Wednesday, I got hold of one of those and put it down very quickly. It was clearly in poor shape with the bottom in danger of falling out. I decided I couldn’t leave it just like that and had better re-pack the contents.

Having found a replacement box I looked inside the ailing one. I found it was full of sheet music. Now I always find it hard to resist looking at Esperanto antiquities, and when they’re music I’m completely overcome. These were old, very old, songs that a veteran Esperantist had translated; songs that had been popular in the 1920s and 1930s, most of which I had heard as a child, twenty-plus years later, on the radio; the BBC Light Programme, more or less the predecessor of the present Radio 2. Or some may have been ones that my aunt sang me to sleep with. For a very long time I was lost in these nostalgic relics as I slowly sorted through them, bringing together detached pages that had gone astray in the course of packing, removing some duplicates, and doing such librarianly things while also reliving some of my childhood. So it was that what should have taken less than a minute, moving a box from one side of the room to the other, ended up taking a couple of hours; and that is possibly why only one item has accrued to the count of boxes ready to go.

17th March 2014. Just lately songs keep coming into my head; very old songs, some of them older than I am. The latest is called The sun has got his hat on. (1931). If you follow the YouTube link you’ll also see a ferocious debate about the words, which are not as I learned them.

Anyway, the song is appropriate, though a little strange, and in view of the weather we can perhaps suspend the usual stuff and take a walk around the house and garden to see the state of play.

The front garden is unremarkable, apart from the Spring flowers, so let’s get inside. The first thing you will see is the long narrow hallway. All down one side of this there is a row of books awaiting attention. A few more library days should shift them, which is just as well as they are blocking the exit of the piano.

But before going further turn 180 degrees left and enter the Snuggery. This is named after a splendid room in my uncle Harry Selby’s luxurious house in Surrey. My version is less splendid as it contains about half the remaining library material; but a lot of that has gone and I can now see roughly half of the carpet. This is a big change. The room is home to the eight big boxes of “Letchworth or Barlaston” items, as well as things awaiting attention equivalent to 38 boxes. Also the clavichord, which probably needs too much work to be kept, and the big desk which my father made for me to use for doing homework. I know there’s a lot of something in the drawers, but I’ve no idea what.

The kitchen holds fewer mysteries. So far I’ve only packed a small amount of glassware and there will have to be a lot of sorting, selecting and discarding. Thanks to the last Kitchen Day the under-sink cupboard is starting to look better and the larder cupboard is almost empty.

All sorts of things have congregated on the worktop; not just the usual kettle, toaster and suchlike, but a saw, a mallet, a bicycle pump, various screwdrivers and spanners, an MP3 player, four bottles of Apple Tango (Tesco special offer), items of incoming and outgoing post, and a box of Esperanto music scores awaiting scanning.

If the kitchen is, as in most homes, the Post Room, the lounge is the packing room. I have at last cleared the round dining table for the purpose, while the long coffee table has two Esperanto Library parcels ready and another nearly so, as well as some empty boxes. Several months’ worth of ash and dust have gone from the woodburner and fireplace and some of the small items on the shelf above have been packed. Nearby, almost half of my own books have been packed, leaving one of the bookshelves empty. Also packed is the DVD player; and the Freesat recorder has shot down to only 60% full. The ailing VCR awaits its inevitable fate. At the other end of the room the piano now looks presentable, nearly all of the music scores have been packed, and a lot of stationery has been either packed or discarded. I’ve packed the photo printer, but most of the computer stuff will have to wait until the last moment. Likewise the row of CDs and cassettes on the window ledges, awaiting listening, copying or discarding. Nine cassettes are currently ready to go.

So now we can go upstairs, but not without first noting the eight big boxes, two suitcases and blue trunk, all definitely for Letchworth, which are nestling under the stairs. Also, shelved on the half-landing, about 1000 each of cassettes and CDs, as well as a few DVDs and video cassettes, which will all need packing at the last minute.

To match its downstairs cousin, the top corridor is lined with Esperanto books, but these are duplicates being offered for sale; I am reducing these by removing unneeded extra copies. They take up 20 smallish boxes. The extra copies are keeping me company in Bedroom 1, which is also the upstairs sorting and packing room. Where the books are in poor condition they can be binned or recycled; others will go for sale in the Esperanto Centre. Surplus bedding is also there awaiting disposal.

Bedrooms 2 and 3 are more or less empty. There are several unwanted pieces of furniture; also overflows of duplicate Esperanto books, which can easily be cleared. Bedroom 4, which is the biggest, has only ever been used for storage, mostly Esperanto library items. Here too about half the contents have gone; the only delay in clearing this is the infrequent collecting of recycling items.

Returning downstairs we can now exit the back door and take a look at the back garden.

There isn’t much unfinished business here. The oil tank has been replaced and is now the only thing on the patio. There is a small pile of junk items too big for the bin; this will grow as I discard unwanted furniture. Some of it may be useful for the one ongoing project, which is to build up and reinforce the banks of the pond. I shall only work on this insofar as it reduces the pile of rubbish. Later on, when I’m sure nothing else will be added, I’ll have to get it taken away.

So now we can go back indoors and consider the position. All in all, as you can see from the frequent appearance of the word “half” in this review, some 50% of the work has been done. It may well be that the other 50% will be harder to achieve. The main aim, not an easy one, is to get the house looking lived-in and in working order, but less cluttered and untidy than it is at present.

Shortly after I wrote the above, the local TV news included a short feature on Letchworth; it looks quite a nice place. It also revealed that the Letchworth Foundation Trust is led by a man called John Lewis; very appropriate.

27th March 2014. In any long-running job there’s a period which I can only call “the bit in the middle”. You’ve long since forgotten the beginning, and the end is nowhere in sight. This is a time when it’s easy to lose heart, or lose concentration, or get distracted by irrelevant things that suddenly become irresistibly interesting.
If there’s a song to go with this, it might be Half Man Half Biscuit reminding us that the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train. But that’s too negative. In this, possibly very long, “bit in the middle” the only thing to do is more of the same; in other words not to look too far forward but just to carry on, head down, with the work that has been producing results up to now.
And in fact some differences can be seen. In the Snuggery the 21 big boxes ready to go to either Letchworth or Barlaston already contain more than the 30 smaller boxes which await attention. The unwanted books in Bedroom 1 have reduced noticeably. The most notable improvement is in Bedroom 4, where there are now no books of any kind. Plenty of other stuff, but no books. A disused bedspring, formerly in Bedroom 3, has joined the pile of big junk in the garden.
I’ve begun to make inroads into the row of books in the downstairs corridor; only about 30cm. cleared so far, but it’s a start.
The Kitchen Days continue to disappoint, but next time around I should be able to do the long-postponed Polyfilla Day instead. Small things have moved on in the lounge, such as the discarding of ten more audio cassettes. Three parcels are ready to go off to the Esperanto Centre with a fourth one in progress.
Without looking too far forward, whether to the light at the end of the tunnel or to the oncoming train, I can do some planning for the next few weeks. There will be a need to do some very thorough cleaning around the house. The packing activities have raised a lot of dust; bedrooms 2 and 4 are full of cobwebs; and manhandling a lot of old books has left tiny shards of paper all through the house. Cleaning the carpets properly will require clearing whole floors; in the past I’ve taken carpets out to the patio in order to drench them with bucketfuls of water, and I may well do the same again, as hoovering alone will probably not be enough.
If at all possible I’d prefer the “Letchworth or Barlaston” packages to go to Barlaston; this will mean strengthening the packaging and heaving these very heavy items to a place where they can reasonably be collected.
So that’s the plan. There’s no risk of losing sight of the ultimate objective; Letchworth pursues me everywhere. This afternoon I catalogued a couple of books; one of them was printed in Letchworth. There’s just no getting away from the place.

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