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A moving story

25 July 2014

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 me?"

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.

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