THE process of moving house is a little like the Passion of
Christ: you are handed over to the varied intentions and
competences of others in a state of some powerlessness. You may
even, on occasion, scream "My God, my God, why have you abandoned
I moved house recently. After more than 30 years in London, I
have moved to Sussex-by-the-Sea - Seaford, to be exact. It was
important enough to be pillaged endlessly by the French until the
14th century, when it lost its harbour to Newhaven, two miles down
the road. There is still some resentment, 600 years later.
We nearly bought another house. I formed a great attachment to
it, and the owner even gave us a set of keys, in case we wanted to
visit when they were not around. But the survey valued the property
at £100,000 less than the selling price, and we could not bridge
the gap. A difficult phone call, one Tuesday evening, brought my
love affair to an end, and I returned the keys in the post.
It was a sort of bereavement; for, as with any relationship, its
reality had grown large inside me, and would not easily be
dismissed. And then there was the anger. There had been a lot of
car journeys, the cost of a full survey (£1200), and much emotional
involvement. And for what? We were back at square one in the
chronicles of wasted time.
But we were not back at square one. When you fall in love, you
realise what you are looking for - which, strangely, you may not
have known before. And this was how it was with our search for a
home. We felt the force to move, without being able to explain why,
or exactly what, we were looking for.
And this lost love - this expensive failure - showed us what we
did and did not want. With every step, you learn, and, having
brushed ourselves down, we started the search again, with clearer
eyes; and here we are with the seagulls, starting life again.
People talk of the trauma of moving, and this is so; it is like
a plant pulled from the soil, each root wrenched from its place in
the nurturing soil. But perhaps less considered is the trauma for
those around you.
I remember the anger in others when I decided to leave the
priesthood; this was not in their script. And it can be similar
among family and friends when you move: it is the ripping up of
something, a physical space and known pattern of relating; and that
is disturbing until a new way is found. The swirling emotions
around moving house are not confined to those moving.
People talk about fresh starts, and, in one sense, this is so.
Central London is different from Seaford in a number of ways. But I
have brought myself, which means that much stays the same. A change
in geography is not the same as renewal.