Changing house is a moving time, in more ways than one

In his weekly column, Michael Patwell talks about moving house and how he never wants to do it again!
Changing house is a moving time, in more ways than one
Stock picture of a couple moving home.

IF I was not retired and back at work, there is no greater punishment that I could impose for a heinous crime than to order somebody to move house.

That is nonsense, of course, but such is my continuing experience that I cannot think of anything else that I never want to do again.

In fairness, the removal firm that I hired were excellent. They moved into the ‘old house’, packed everything into cardboard boxes, marked each with a general description of the contents, loaded the whole lot into trucks and delivered it right on time to my new destination. The owner of the business was excellent and all his staff were top class. In fact, after several days together, I like to think they are my new friends.

“Where do you want this box of books,” I was asked. I stipulated and the job was done.

Then, however, they left. They packed up their hand trucks and ‘dollies’; they tidied away their straps and blankets and they climbed aboard their trucks and were gone. They left me, however, with piles of cardboard boxes; in the kitchen; in each bedroom; in the sitting room and wherever there was space for more cardboard boxes.

Now, several days later, many of the cardboard boxes are emptied, the contents of the ‘old’ kitchen are in their newly allotted space (Thank you D., darling daughter, for your invaluable help.) and the flattened boxes are piling up. Then I look around me and there is still nothing but cardboard boxes, piled four or five high. Everywhere I go I have to negotiate a pile of them. I have tripped over them, I have brushed off them and I have collided with them. Politeness (and the Editor) does not permit me to put into print what I have called them and what I have exclaimed after a joust with some of them.

Clearly marked though they are, I still cannot find particular things. For instance, I still, after five days in the new house, cannot find my slippers and being a habitual visitor in the middle of the night to a certain small room in any house in which I am (my age and a certain …ectomy operation six years ago being a contributory factor), I can be heard clip clopping around the house in my everyday, unlaced shoes.

I carefully packed away the various leads and chargers for my various electronic devices but now I can’t find them. If I had left them to the removers I know, because they were better at labelling the boxes than I was, I’d have them now, but no, I had to do it myself and now I haven’t a clue where they are.

My mobile phone and iPad have to be charged in the car as I continuously shuttle to and fro between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ houses.

My iWatch (a treasured gift from a beloved son who lived in Hong Kong for a while — the home of technology) no longer tells me the time, lets me use any of the many ‘apps’, read my emails or texts with a flick of the wrist, tells me how many steps I have walked in the day or whether there is a weather warning. I know I shall find it – some day — but by then I hope my high-tech watch won’t be out of date and passed out by a multiplicity of ‘updates’.

Then I discover I have too much furniture, too many ornaments and a myriad of mementoes. I have cups, mugs and other delph enough to feed a battalion. I have photographs and pictures enough to cover most of the walls and that was brought home forcibly to me when I looked around my old abode and saw all the picture hooks stuck in the walls. I wonder what the new owners will say when they see the devastation. If they haven’t as many pictures and photos as I have then a pot of ‘fillers’ and some redecoration may be called for.

I mentioned on this page last week that I made a trip to a charity shop with Christmas decorations retrieved from the attic. Now I’ll be going there again as some of the already emptied boxes are slowly filling with ‘stuff’ I cannot recall acquiring and that I no longer want.

I have two teapots of different sizes that I regularly use but I counted nine more of various capacities and materials lined up on a kitchen counter-top the other night as my wonderful daughter emptied the boxes. There is a clear glass one, four in stainless steel and four ceramics — including one lovely one made by Louis Mulcahy, with the beautiful pink fuchsia pattern on a white background, that Mairéad and I bought during one of our many trips to our much loved Corca Dhuibne (my preferred name for The Dingle Peninsula). Whatever about the other ones, that will be staying. As well as teapots there is a somewhat smaller collection of coffee pots, two of them being plunger type cafeterias and another being a regular Louis Mulcahy pot that matches the teapot.

I have a couch, a coffee table, a bedroom chair, as well as other furniture items that don’t fit in the ‘new’ place but, thankfully, I have found a welcoming home for them.

Several months ago, in preparation for the sale of the property, I ‘decluttered’. I rented a storage space near the west side of the city and moved a lot of stuff into it. It mainly consisted of built-in furniture I had installed in what was for us a spare room and converted into a study or office. I wanted the room back as a bedroom so I had the shelves dismantled and stored. More particularly, all the books — hundreds of them — were boxed and stored too. I won’t even try to describe the frustration since when I wanted a particular book and it wasn’t available to hand.

Now the boxes of books are back. They are piled up around me as I write this and even though I did mark them I am still in a position that if I want a certain book the box may be at the bottom of a pile that is six or seven boxes high. My priority now is to get the boxes unpacked but before I do, I have to reassemble the shelves in their new location, and before I do that I have to shift the boxes out of the room I have designated as the new ‘study’. I wonder how my already damaged back will put up with it all. Luckily, my son-in-law is quite handy with a screwdriver and drill and I don’t know if you realise it yet, Dan, but you have a few days of hard work ahead of you.

There is a certain pleasure too in opening the boxes. I never know, despite to markings, what exactly will be inside and I have to admit that some of the unpacking has been a slow process as nostalgia flows when some items are revealed. In fairness, I could not call them Pandora’s boxes because what comes out of them, unlike the box in Greek mythology, is not evil and again, unlike the original, ‘Hope’ is not left inside but is released with each artefact I reacquaint with.

Memories of where we got them come flooding back, I must admit an odd tear is shed and every now and then a smile crosses my face as I recall a particularly good memory. There was a memento of Montauk Point Lighthouse at the tip of Long Island, New York, where we were married in 2003. Then I found a glass-framed photograph of Mairéad and myself taken on board the cruise ship when we honeymooned in the Caribbean.

In another box labelled ‘ornaments/sitting room’ I found a model of a currach I bought well over 20 years ago in Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, on one of my visits there. Inside I found a short length of wood, about 8cm long and 3.5 cm. in diameter, like a piece cut from the handle of a shovel. I knew instantly what this nondescript item was. I got it as a souvenir over 20 years ago. It was the winning ‘cad’ from a tournament played annually on St Patrick’s Day – in Inis Meáin and always referred to as ‘An Cad’. It is played by the young men of the island and involves making that little piece of wood fly into the air by tilting it against a stone and tapping one end of it with a bat and hitting it with the bat.

I don’t believe it is played anywhere else in the world now and is unique to Inis Meáin. I certainly had never heard of it before but some years later I described it to a friend of mine from west Waterford and he told me they played it as children but they called it ‘Chase the Cat’. ‘Cad’ or ‘Cat’; one can see the link.

My abiding thought as I continue to unpack is; Are we, humans, more like jackdaws than we think?

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