I’m in the process of moving house again. Me, the ball and chain, the two young ones and a couple of tons of accumulated junk. Our fourth house in as many years. One international move — Ireland to Spain — and three local ones within the same neighbourhood in Madrid in search of the Perfect Apartment. And all those moves on top of the dozen or so as a single person or as part of a young, childless couple (two changes of country included). I guess you could say I have some experience in the area of relocating. So. Some advice vis à vis the old moving house malarkey; DO NOT DO IT! It’s a living hell! It does not get any easier with age or experience — twenty years later, it’s the same exhausting, back-breaking and hair-greying process as the first day you picked up a cardboard box and packing tape and grimly set about the task of transferring the contents of abode A to abode B.
Ask yourself do you really need to move house. Is a bigger kitchen or living room or a killer view really worth the endless hours of wrapping mugs up in newspaper or wondering whether to “do” the office or the spare room first. Is your new gaff sufficiently expansive/cheap/snazzy/well-placed/well-served/etcetera to justify the month or so of torment and agony either side of D-day (when you hand in the keys of house A and collect those of house B). Because – do not doubt me – torment it is. At this point in time if you offered me the option of a month in solitary confinement or moving house I’d gleefully opt for the former. Tour de France or moving house? Gimme that bike! El Camino barefoot with only a verbally dysenteric Star Trek fanatic as company or moving house? Beam me up Scotty!
Two weeks into house moving as I am right now, the miserable situation in which I find myself has led me to much philosophizing on the human condition. We are, I’ve come to believe, a restless species. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors never stayed in one place too long. They followed herds of animals on their migratory paths, hit the uplands or lowlands depending on the season and whatever fruits or vegetable were available at various times of the year and generally bummed around the great plains and primeval forests as part of a sort of proto-couchsurfing lifestyle (although unlike me, they didn’t have to actually lug a couch from here to yonder). I think modern humans, in spite of how sophisticated and urban we feel ourselves to be, retain much of this wanderlust and maybe we’re hard-wired to succumb that itch to follow those proverbial bison from time to time. Or maybe we’re just stupid or suckers for punishment or addicted to the sound, amplified by a good-quality cardboard box, of that brown tape skeetching out of its roll and sticking itself down.
Or maybe it’s boredom . . . One of my all-time favourite books is Independence Day by Richard Ford. The book, the hero of which is a realtor called Frank Bascome, understandably contains much wisdom about buying and renting properties — and house removals. It is within a section describing Frank’s purchasing of a root beer stall, however, that I find a real insight into what leads human beings to undertake crazy, hare-brained, disruptive and mostly unnecessary schemes like house moving. The root beer stall had originally belonged to retiree, Karl Bermish, who set it up with his lump sum to keep him ticking over post receipt of gold watch. Initially, the stall was a huge success for Karl — until he grew bored with the tried and trusted root beer stand “model”. Elaborate and expensive catering equipment was bought on hire purchase. Side-lines were developed. Root beer and weeners became marginalized, became less and less what the stall was about. Sure, the odd yuppie customer stopped by for a latté and gourmet crepe, but the hardcore root beer clientele drifted away. Karl was running his business into the ground. One night, Frank happens upon the stand, gets talking to Karl and gets the full sob-story about how the banks are breathing down the latter’s neck and that he’s only a few weeks from absolute ruin. Frank takes pity on the older man and decides, there and then, to rescue the stall. He buys into the business as the major partner, puts Karl on the books as an employee and, after a sermon on back to basics, divests the stall of all the bells and whistles that Karl had accumulated as a result of his Frank Bascome-diagnosed boredom. In no time at all the stall is a little gold-mine once again.
So there you have it. Boredom, dissatisfaction, itchy feet — the root of all evil, and possibly why I’m carting cardboard boxes up and down stairs again. At least I didn’t buy a root beer stand!!