“The bigger boxes are massive. I’d be surprised if we use them all.”
“Can you hide in one? We can build dens.”
Having agreed to renewing the lease on our flat, the landlord quickly changed his mind after our clearly outrageous request that he inspect and treat the severe damp, rot and mould scattered throughout his otherwise beautiful Victorian investment/nest-egg.
Landlords, however, are bastards. As are ‘managing’ estate agents. And so, as a result of politely asking to not have our clothes, health and the structural integrity of the building suffer any further damage, we were given a month to vacate the premisses. Which, as I am certain most other London renters in their early 30s with only acceptably-paying jobs will agree, is not enough time to scrape together the ‘spare’ cash for a deposit, new agent fees, van hire charges, packing materials, or to arrange time off from work.
And so, my younger brother and his fiancée, who recently bought a warm, dry, newly built flat (in Barking of all places), kindly and sweetly offered us the use of their spare room. The plan is simple: Tidy up after ourselves, use 1 shelf in the fridge, get some curtains up, and move on in the summer, once we’ve saved up a bit. We’ll pay what by London terms can only really (amazingly – thank you, family) be referred to as a gesture of rent, which in turn will help my brother pay for the food at his wedding next year. In fact, we’ve timed this so well that we now get to help with the menu choices for their big day, which is particularly nice, seeing as we’ll be the only guests who would have paid for their dinner.
Apart from the mould rotting our lungs and dusting itself over the contents of the built-in wardrobe, I love our flat. There are stained glass windows here and there. A huge, towering plant that has grown so far up the very high living room ceiling that it may well now be load-bearing, and the bed is cabin-style, built in to a sort of bulkhead sandwich, above one stairwell and below another. It’s a bit like what I imagine sleeping in a boat would be like, which incidentally was very almost our other option before moving here, and one of the reasons we knew this was The Place For Us, despite having never set foot in Muswell Hill even once before coming to view it.
Home is where you make it, not where you come from, and for whatever reason, I find it pretty easy to feel at home almost anywhere. Pretty much any place I visit on holiday I’ll catch myself saying at least once “yeah I could see myself living here” – France, Budapest, Barking… And although it’s terribly materialistic of me to think that as long as I have all of my Stuff around me – records, photos, plants, nick-nacks, letters from lost lovers, postcards from friends, handmade gifts from sweet baby cousins, then anywhere will feel like home. Stuff helps me feel settled.
The spare room at my brother’s place isn’t big. It will be perfect for us, and will have everything we need (a place to sleep and store clothes, and wash – turns out we don’t actually “need” much else, really), but it’s somewhat smaller than a split-level one-bedroom flat in N10. And so, unable to part with so much of our Stuff, we are putting quite a lot of boxes and bits of furniture in to a storage unit. Or ‘The Lockup’ as my mum brilliantly seems to have taken to calling it in her most born-in-the-sound-of-Bow-bells accent.
I now find myself packing up our books, our combined collected nicknacks, our Stuff, without the slightest idea of where we might unpack it all.
We don’t know where we’ll be living, what day of which month it will be, or even, like some sort of ridiculous precursor to waking from a coma, who the Prime Minister will be. Where will I be working then? What will my hair look like by then? (amazing and massive, obviously). What might I have done or seen or eaten or made or read or written by then? Will I even still want the bright red coffee pot I just bubble-wrapped? What if I don’t even like coffee any more then? Is it even possible to change that much in less than a year?