648 Moving experiences, part 7: June 2014

7th June 2014. The last report was late, and this one is even later. I have a good excuse though; I strained my back dragging my luggage to Barlaston and since then I have only been able to sit at the computer for a few minutes at a time. This does now seem to be on the mend.

The stint at the Esperanto Centre had only one moment of drama, when I was interviewed by a man with a microphone for only the second time ever. The first was in Budapest in 1983 when I was briefly interviewed by Andrzej Pettyn of Polish Radio. This time it was Paul Gubbins, who chairs the Esperanto Association, and who is at least someone I know.

Outside of that I was moving books and magazines around in the usual way, and dealing with a few enquiries. While there I did get agreement in principle on shifting the consignment of large boxes; eight are completely ready to go and by the time I finish there will be about 16 more.

Meanwhile very little is getting done at home. I have yet to try out the new lawnmower and the garden is looking very overgrown. The new vacuum cleaner has seen about 15 minutes of use in the six weeks since I bought it. The Polyfilla Project has not moved on for at least a month, while the under-sink cupboard in the kitchen has not progressed since, I think, March. I had hoped to get most of the library materials out of sight by now but even the clearing of the hallway is not quite done. The rug from the lounge is still out in the garden, though mercifully the heavy bedspread has finally dried while I was away.

It really is hard to understand how so much time goes by with so little achieved, but it will be a while before things improve, as I shall be away from home again quite soon. This week I’ll have four working days (two library, one housework, one office) before I go off to London for a family birthday weekend. A few weeks later I’ll be at Ely for the excellent annual Folk Festival; the line-up so far looks promising. After that it won’t be long before another week at Barlaston for the annual Summer Festival. All of this will of course be enjoyable and entertaining, but it does mean that it will probably be September, or October, or even November, before the house and garden are smart and tidy enough to show to potential purchasers; and autumn going on winter is not a good time to be selling a house; and after last time I wouldn’t really want to move house in the depth of winter. So with the utmost regret I probably have to accept that I shall have to spend another winter here and be on my way in Spring 2015.

Despite all this the usual things have happened; ten more audio cassettes have been binned, and the Freesat recorder is down to 47%. When the bin men come on Tuesday they will find that for the first time since February the rubbish bin is not full to overflowing; but I may yet get somewhere near to filling it.

The cheerful part of all this is that three positive developments are very likely to happen: improvements to the driveway, some work on the house, and the departure of the 24 large parcels. Any or all of these will make me much more optimistic, especially if they happen during one of my fleeting visits to Bedfield.

17th June 2014. When politicians talk about spending more time with their family, it invariably means they’ve either resigned or been sacked. Neither of these things has happened to me, so I’m trying the difficult double-task of spending more time with the family while keeping on with the day job.

So it is that I’ve just spent a weekend with one half of the family, and I hope soon to spend a weekend with the other half. This does of course slow down progress with the day job, but now that I’ve missed the peak house-selling season I can carry on at a brisk but sensible pace and call time when there’s not much more I can do. I have at least been recovering from the journey today and tomorrow I’ll be fighting fit again, and can spend the next ten days getting things done. I might even get out into the garden at last.

This afternoon I had a brief session of looking at web sites; firstly, for obvious reasons, concerning detached houses in Suffolk. As the four bedrooms in my house are quite small I looked at three-bedroom houses hoping to see one a bit like mine. In fact, despite looking at about 30 pages with six or seven houses on each, I didn’t see anything much like mine, which is perhaps a good sign. The ones that were slightly like mine ranged in price from £235,000 to £325,000. This is a big margin of error and doesn’t give me much to go on. It does suggest I should treat any future valuation with a degree of caution.

Then I looked at two-bedroom houses in Letchworth. The big surprise was that whereas there were 100 pages of houses in Suffolk, in Letchworth only ten houses in all were on offer. The most attractive one was actually nearer to Baldock than to Letchworth, a little further out than Willian. Nice house but not a convenient place to live. From this very small sample it does appear that if you want to break even, three or four bedrooms in Suffolk just about get you two bedrooms in or near Letchworth, not counting incidental expenses (legal fees, stamp duty, removal, etc. etc.). This is pretty much what I expected.

Back at home the eight big boxes in the hallway have grown to ten. While at the Esperanto Centre I said that gathering the consignment together might take a month; but that does mean a month at home, which on present performance actually means about six weeks. Even so this will probably be done sooner than the driveway or the house improvements. As I said last time, if any of these things happen within the next few weeks I can go off to Ely with a clear conscience. And if they don’t I’ll go there anyway.

27th June 2014. It was probably inevitable that nothing much would happen, at least as concerns the house move, in the last ten days. Most of the time has been taken up with either sorting out after the weekend away or getting ready for the next weekend away.

Fortunately my neighbour has pitched in and brought his heavy-duty equipment into the back garden. The lawn has been severely shorn and there is talk of major surgery on the bushes and hedges. If it was just for myself I wouldn’t go to these lengths but for potential buyers the house and garden have to look pretty and manageable, and at some point the removal men will need to get in and out. A bonfire is possible; this will need to be managed carefully so as to avoid setting the whole garden/ house/ neighbourhood on fire.

I haven’t been idle, of course. The ten large boxes in the hallway have grown to 18, which means I am more than halfway through that job. I’ve made a very small start on clearing the area at the bottom of the stairs; this raised a great deal of dust and I’ve only recently stopped coughing and sneezing.

The plan is that the vanload of boxes will arrive in Barlaston before I do; we shall see. Other “long slog” jobs are staggering on; the Freesat recorder is now only 46% full, by tomorrow ten more cassettes will have gone in the bin, and I’m only 16 days in arrears with reading e-mails.

The next three weekends are spoken for. This weekend, a vicarious Glastonbury Festival will keep me busy; next weekend will be another family birthday; and the weekend after that will be the trip to the Ely Festival. After that I should just about have time to recover, tidy up, and get ready for the next Barlaston visit.

Some of you may think that the five months that have gone by so far are a sign of procrastination; in other words, that the reason why it is taking so long is that I don’t want to get to the end of it. The truth is that I would be very glad to be at the end of it; the difficult part is getting there. It is particularly disappointing that the deadline has shifted (insofar as it was ever fixed) from early summer 2014 to some time as early as possible in 2015. This takes all the urgency out of the activities, and makes it much harder to maintain a brisk pace.

Fortunately the BBC has come to the rescue by way of a podcast about Freakonomics. If you’ve never heard of this, the large and rapidly growing Freakonomics website will enlighten you, or possibly scramble your brain. The basic ideas are not particularly new, but it’s handy to gather them together.

Let’s imagine you are facing a difficult decision. Or even a trivial one. It could be whether to get divorced, or it could be whether to buy a Mars bar. A very simple online device (link: <http://freakonomics.com/experiments/>)gets you to pose the question then gives you a random “Yes” or “No”. You then have to decide whether to accept or reject this random answer. The thinking behind this is that it gets you to make explicit the thought that was previously hidden at the back of your mind. So it doesn’t decide for you; it leads you to realise what you had in fact decided already. As the podcast explained, people tend to let short-term considerations (such as inconvenience or expense) or excuses (“it really isn’t that bad” or “I can make it work as it is”) outweigh long-term benefits. Faced with the stark yes-or-no “do you really want to do this?” people have to own up to the decision they secretly want to reach.

In the case of the Mars bar, it is short-term gratification versus long-term healthy eating. I’ll let you work out the short-term vs. long-term implications of the divorce dilemma for yourselves.

In my case the question was “Do I really want to move house?”. The random answer was “no”, and I rejected it. So it seems I have once again committed, or condemned, myself to moving house even if it does take a lot of time and effort.

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