Source: Time Online

Linda James

This summer will be the 45th time I’ll be bubble-wrapping and packing up my most important possessions. Moving house is said to be as stressful as divorce — so why am I facing yet another change of address, when people these days up sticks on average only once every 16 or 17 years?

It could be insanity, but perhaps the reason lies in my childhood. My father welcomed new challenges and was ready to go anywhere, but my mother wanted to stay near her large family in Swansea. My father’s compromise? To move within Swansea — a lot. By the age of 16, I had changed houses and schools six times.

As a student in Cardiff, I went from damp basement rooms to arctic attics, often to escape ex-boyfriends. The shortest stay — two weeks — was after a drunken admirer climbed the drainpipe to my garret and fell through the landlord’s glass conservatory. I was homeless within the hour.

This nomadic existence continued after I married in the late 1960s. My (now ex-) husband got a job teaching at a services school in Malta. We rented a flat, only to discover it was on a rat-infested street, so we decamped to a villa inland. It was home for only two months as, along with all service personnel on the island, we were given two weeks to leave because Britain wouldn’t pay Dom Mintoff, the prime minister, enough money. I was eight months pregnant.

We ended up renting a tiny cottage in Warwickshire, with a dodgy Aga and leaking pipes. Then, just after my second son was born, the government paid up and we flew back to Malta and rented another beautiful villa.

Four years later, we were posted to Hohne — a bleak army outpost in northern Germany, overlooking the site of Belsen concentration camp. I discovered that infirm Jews had been billeted in our army quarters after the camp was evacuated. I was appalled to meet people who had found skin lamp shades and bone chairs in their attics. It was a place full of ghosts.

After that horror, it was wonderful to move to the beauty of East Sussex. But following my divorce — which, along with the other two Ds, death and debt, is cited by agents as a main reason for moving — I was off again. First to Essex, and three different rented flats. Then I made a life-changing decision: I bought a flat in St Leonards-on-Sea, near Hastings, resigned from my lecturing job and wrote two novels.

When David, my boyfriend, found a job in Vienna, he asked me to go too. I followed him there to find he’d signed a contract on a hideous flat he hadn’t seen, with zebra-striped walls and fur-covered cupboards. I roamed the streets until I found an elegant old flat in the 3rd district. Our neighbour was an unhinged Austrian opera singer who rehearsed stridently on the communal stone stairs, cradling a poodle in her arms. I loved the place. Eight months later, however, David’s contract ended, so we sold the flat and bought a cottage back in Lamberhurst, Kent.

You’d think, when we bought our present home in Tunbridge Wells five years later, all would have gone smoothly. Not so. The day we were due to exchange, we learnt that the people selling had fallen out with the agent; it was only thanks to our intervention the deal got back on track. Maybe it would have been better if it hadn’t: the vendors were Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple kidnapped last October by Somali pirates. They used the money to pay for their voyage. That move, 5½ years ago, should have been our last, but David has a new job in Canterbury, so, at the age of 65, I’m off again.

Linda’s home is for sale for £620,000; 01892 515670, www.ibbettmosely.co.uk. writingunderwater.co.uk

Get into the move

* Start packing at least a month before you move. Invest in bubble wrap and pack up your contents yourself — it’s cheaper than employing a removals company, and you’ll know where everything is at the other end. You can save even more by hiring a van and a strong man to transport it all.

* Never fill boxes all the way to the top, and label each one with an indelible pen.

* Make sure specialist insurance is included in your home contents or take out a one-off policy.

* Get to your new house before the van arrives to ensure the vendors have moved out. Then you can clean everything they’ve left (mainly dirt) and replace any light bulbs they’ve removed.

* Don’t pack your celebratory bottle of bubbly, wineglasses, kettle, light bulbs or the cat. Take them in the car.

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