|From another (very interesting) blog|
Monday, April 8, 2013
A MOVING EXPERIENCE
We have moved.
Again, do I hear you say?
Yes, again, after only two years.
The reasons are too many and too personal to go into, but, as always, we hope for better things. A better view, more garden space, a house of character and unfulfilled potential, affordable heating, quieter neighbours; though it is fair to say we have been very happy in this house. I will be happy in the new one - when I find the cat.
When I was a kid, we never moved, except for the move to the country at the beginning of WWII and the return at the end of it. That was a very different kind of move, one occasioned by the demands of wartime. For a number of years we lived in accommodation in the country provided by my father’s employers with other people’s furniture and our moves were a matter of packing bedding and clothing, books and toys and some household utensils of my mother’s. At the end of the War, we were ‘dismantled’, the need for safe homes and schools for East End children, evacuated from the hell of the London Blitz was at and end. Many of those children found no homes left to return to, sometimes no parents. We were lucky – we had grandparents and a safe house in the suburbs to return to as a family.
I once witnessed a major move, however, with teams of burly men in beige cotton coats, tweed caps and white aprons. The foreman wore a bowler hat as befitted his status and which was a common badge of authority in those days. Wearing cotton gloves, they packed the possessions of a lifetime into huge tea chests, and I was fascinated to find that such chests really did once carry tea from India, China and Ceylon, across the seas aboard great sailing ships called clippers to the insatiable markets of London. Far more glamorous than any plain cardboard or wooden box, tea chests became collectors’ items long ago.
The moving men worked swiftly and with practice, rolling carpets and packing china and glass into tissue paper. Everything was stowed and stacked with scientific precision, into huge vans called pantechnicons, bearing the name Pickfords on the side.
My own first real move was from England to Greece, and involved no furniture, only clothing, books and wedding presents, some still in their original packing. We sent two steamer trunks and a large suitcase via land and sea to Athens. Weeks later, they arrived, with half the contents of the suitcase missing, presumed stolen, and certain items from the steamer trunks mysteriously absent. Deep in the bowels of one of the trunks, however, wrapped in layers of soft clothing and tissues, two tiny Elizabethan wine glasses, fragile antiques, a precious gift from a beloved friend, survived and continued to survive until an earthquake smashed them one day in 1992.
At about the same time, my sister was emigrating to Canada. Everything she owned was packed and made ready for shipping to Canada by sea, aboard a ship called the Stefan Batory,
On arrival, days later, some of the crates carrying her things fell from the unloading net and sank out of reach, out of sight and out of her life, into the waters of the port of Montreal. After that, though she has moved many times, it has always been from one part of Ontario to another and despite the vast number of streams, lakes, rivers, ponds and waterfalls in that Province, she has always managed to carry out her moves over dry land.
My next major move was from Athens (Piraeus) to Corfu, and involved a large lorry that was most definitely not used only for the purpose of moving precious cargo like house contents. It was coated in brick and cement dust and the sides had at some time been dented by angry and frightened hooves. But – friends of friends, as is so often the rule in Greece, not too many questions asked and no quibble with the quote.
We had loaded it up outside my mother-in-law’s home, where we had lived for a while, with some of our Greek wedding presents, the others being too hideous to take with us. At that time, people’s homes were not generally the comfortable retreats that they now are, and home decoration was still in the future. Wedding presents were inevitably either furnishings not of the bride’s choice but ostentatiously expensive, bed linen and tablecloths that would never see the inside of a washing machine – firstly because washing machines were not yet available in Greece and when they were, these lace and embroidery trimmed items would never survive. China gifts would be more ornamental than useful and horribly ornate.
Our rejects included a vase gilded to within an inch of its life and a lamp made by my father-in-law from shells and too frightful to contemplate (it also played a tinny tune…). We had barely driven twenty metres down the road when my mother-in-law’s voice called us back.
‘You forgot this!’ she shrieked breathlessly and held the unloved vase aloft. I don’t think she was so concerned about the lamp.
It amused me to think how little time she had wasted on tears and how swiftly she had started examining our waste bins. Thank God I hadn’t had the courage to throw out the large crucifix she had given us.
Back in the twenty-first century and still living on Corfu, and we were on the move again and people were making appointments to view the home we were vacating.
If this had been a TV programme, I would have been sent to a hotel for a weekend while a team of eager and muscular New Zealanders, boys and girls, transformed my home into something attractively bland and completely lacking in any trace of my personality. This is supposed to encourage a prospective renter/purchaser to feel the desire to put his/her own stamp on my place.
But this was not TV, and my house was upside down with half-emptied cupboards and half-packed boxes and the cat was paranoid and hiding in dark places. What could I do to present my home in the best possible light for the prospective renters arriving in ten minutes (the amount of notice my landlord had given me – and in the middle of my routine daily siesta, which is a sacred time as any fool knows?)
All I could do was squirt some room freshener around and put Leonard Cohen to warble away agreeably on iTunes. I’ve heard that you can put a sheet of aluminium foil in a hot oven and it will give off a fresh baking aroma – very attractive to would-be purchasers.
Our consideration for the ‘visitors’ is rarely reciprocated however. They leave muddy footprints, leave windows open that they found closed, drop cigarette ends in your plant pots, smirk at your book selection, snigger at your photos and certainly throw up their hands in horror at any sign of a pet in residence..
I’ve checked the auspicious dates for moving according to the Chinese calendar – quite a selection in March. But will it rain? Not even the Chinese can tell me that.
Moving an entire house, rather than just its contents, is not as far-fetched as it sounds. It is a fairly common occurrence in North America, from small and simple relocations to more ostentatious moves.
I have seen it happen in the UK, when a very rich man decided to move his recently purchased Elizabethan manor house from its position at the bottom of a sloping Suffolk field to a site a little higher up in order to gain a view. The move was achieved without the breakage of one window pane, without the loss of one brick or tile. (Something like this..)
We accomplished our move with the help of a couple of cheerful, willing friends, and our own trusty pick-up truck of the kind to be found parked outside most houses in Corfu and probably most other parts of the world.
Perhaps not quite like this though!
Back in the nineteenth century in Corfu, when the island was a British Protectorate and there was a large garrison here, there was a great deal of work for removal men. Army families were arriving and departing regularly, and all their baggage to be carried laboriously up the many flights of narrow stairs in the tenements of the town, some built specially by the British to cater for the demands of the garrison. A number of gentlemen travellers,too, found their way here, for their health, though who would have chosen to spend a winter In then malaria-ridden. damp Corfu I cannot imagine. Cheap and ill-informed advice I fear, handed over on receipt of a none-too-cheap fee by a Harley Street specialist who envisaged the isles of Greece as being permanently bathed in balmy sunshine, much like a badly trained travel clerk of our own times. Such gentleman travellers would arrive laden with the tools of their profession, writers and artists, and inevitably on a budget requiring the renting of cheap rooms up the inevitable banks of damp stairs.
At that time there was a considerable Jewish population in Corfu, but far from being the rich merchants of other great trading centres, they were the poor porters and furniture removers of the time.
Today, in a strange twist of history, it seems to be the British themselves who are now the porters, removal men and general handymen of the island.
Ah, the romance of moving! Are we the new nomads? I just wish we could have squeezed all we need into a rolled up carpet tied to a camel, with a cooking pot clanking against the saddle. So much easier.
Oh well, mission accomplished, here we are, has anyone seen my black Crocs? The cat? Anyone?