Moving house, like Hemingway’s description of bankruptcy, happened in two ways: gradually, and then suddenly.
Months of clearing and cleaning, trawling through listings and u-turning on unfamiliar roads, offering eye-watering amounts of money for houses of dubious charm and utility and then being rejected eventually gave way to the dim purgatory of conveyancing. People earning more in an hour than I do in a week endlessly requesting paperwork already sent, chivvying calls from Estate Agents, buyers fretting deadlines. After a small ice-age of it, with failure a constant possibility, we had six days to sift and pack fifteen years worth of stuff, frantically sign up removals and cattery, scrape and scrub until our hands were raw, make so many trips to the dump they knew us by name.
The last frenetic two days moving in resembled nothing more that some harrowing incident in a packaging factory, and twenty miles worth of climbing stairs; and now we live somewhere we have never been before, among strangers. A month in and the smartly-painted old house has revealed a rotten window-frame , plumbing with faulty valves and the demise of the washing machine.
I still can’t get the muscle memory to turn off the right lights in the kitchen, or reliably not stumble on the random steps and stairs. The cats roam their unfamiliar territory, fascinated by the fireplaces and odd corners; fighting on the stairs at night. My eldest has gone to university hundreds of miles away, a crash course in adulting after eighteen months of confinement and shrunken opportunities. The other goes pragmatically to a new school, and we go on working at home, although thankfully no longer rammed elbow to elbow at the same table. In the shed at the bottom of the garden, in a tangle of bikes and camping chairs and tools sit boxes of all my paints and brushes, waiting for the Spring.