Displacement activity? What’s that then?


Brainfreeze is a peculiar condition that strikes just as you least need it. Do you have guests arriving, a sick cat, a huge pile of laundry and a newly sprung leak in your plumbing? You are about due for a bout of brainfreeze.

Is your child off to university, your cooker on the blink, your husband in need of help with a major public speaking engagement and your mother-in-law coming to visit? An episode of brainfreeze is more statistically likely to occur now, than at almost any other time.

This morning, after a weekend of getting to bed at four am, a week of house sale-related trauma, and seven months of waiting to be in a position to get on and DO SOMETHING, I awoke to the delightful sound of the dog of the blog chucking up. There should be a more literary way of expressing it, but when she will insist on eating whole avocados, stone included, the resulting chugging and heaving is best described in inelegant terms.

“Well,” I thought, “at least it has woken me up, so I can get on with lots of things!” Not a chance! With the delicate aroma of bleach in my nostrils, I sit amid the chaos of our incipient move and find I cannot even begin to process what I need to do first.

Lest you think I am a drip who cannot cope with upheaval, I should point out that thus far, my preparations have been more thorough than most plans for invading and subsuming an independent state on the Black Sea, for example. Forty odd banana boxes, packed, stacked, labelled with raffle tickets cross-referenced to a list of their contents attest to my evil mastermind proclivities. A garage, sorted into three piles of colour-coded furniture, labelled to match the colour-coded plan of the new house taped to the wall, is a not very subtle clue to my obsessive tendencies and over-zealous control freakery. Poor Geoff has been moving about rapidly and in an unpredictable fashion, in order to avoid being labelled, coded and plonked on top. There are so many pointy, uncomfortable things on top of the pile that I really don’t blame him.

So here I sit, surrounded by the odds and ends that don’t fit into any neat category, and have therefore not been packed. I imagine myself sitting in the middle of a clock face.  At eight o’clock, just in my peripheral vision, we have a lime-green crate, containing a set of cutlery, two toilet rolls, and enough space for a kettle, teabags, etc. This would be commendably organised, if I could only remember where the kettle and teabags are. At eight thirty stands a flat pack coffee table, waiting to replace the one with the dodgy legs we have been putting up with for a couple of years. Broom, long-handled dustpan and phone charger take us to ten, overflowing waste bin and numerous bottles of filtered water occupy the next hour and a half, and then around noon, we have a pile of junk mail and filing, salt cellar, glasses case, empty wine bottle and a plumbing fitting, emergency sewing basket, first aid tub, box of tissues, remote controls and Downton and Doc Martin DVDs all sitting on the aforementioned wobbly coffee table, with my empty tea mug nestled among them.

From twelve thirty to one, we have a stack of cardboard boxes, none of which is the right size for anything we have left to pack. On top of them are a shoebox full of seeds and a pair of secateurs. I do not want to lose these, as I have been told that October is the time to plant winter crops.

The early afternoon is taken up with a new bathroom tap to replace the manky old one we have been tolerating for the last couple of years, (Do I detect a pattern emerging here?) a posh, boxed microphone, a two inch thick package of correspondence regarding a DWP dispute, several almost empty bottles of spirits, my precious, well-travelled cactus that has been with me since 1968, a roll of FRAGILE packing tape and a Stanley knife, and Boggle, noisily making love to his favourite toy.

Three to five are a jumble of dog bedding and toys, some very precious artistic productions from the children – now fully grown, but I can’t bear to part with their infant school masterpieces – the step stool, five empty poster frames and a parrot shaped door stop.

I cannot express my relief that five thirty to eight is the wall behind me!

The point of describing the clutter that surrounds me is to give an idea of a pattern that is repeated in almost every room of the house. The kitchen has empty cupboards, but the work surfaces are piled with the last bits and pieces, for which I cannot find a logical home. The spare bedroom tells a similar, but bedroom-related story. The landing has become an obstacle course, and the office downstairs is almost impassable, because everything that needs to leave the house bottlenecks down there before passing on to the garage, ready for collection.

Every time I have moved house we have come to a similar point. I suspect that everyone who has ever moved house without the benefit of an army of servants has come to a similar point.

Apart from pondering the obvious question of why we acquire so much stuff, and self-flagellation on and around the subject of materialism and sloth, I find myself wondering why there is always this period of rabbit-in-headlights, paralysing inability to process any of the mental or physical chaos that moving house causes.

I know that I have achieved an almost scary amount of ordering and planning thus far. I know that by this time next week, we shall be ensconced in our new surroundings, and I shall have unpacked most of what we have taken. But what about the gap between the two? I would be teetering on the brink of insanity if I could only move myself far enough in any direction to teeter.

This last week, I have been reading about and looking at pictures of the newly restored Caminito del Rey.  This precarious walkway features regularly on Youtube as one of the scariest walks in the world. It was originally a walkway for workers on a hydro-electric power plant to get from one side of a gorge to the other. It was closed after numerous fatalities, caused by its extreme height, decomposition and so forth. I have suggested to the kids that we may like to visit it and walk along it when they are next in the area, but I know that I would be unable to move beyond the first few steps. Vertigo would kick in, and I would stand, unable to go forward or back, tears steaming down my face, stomach clenching, and cursing myself for being a wuss. Years later, someone would find my bleached bones, still clinging to the handrail (I presume there is one!) and would need a jemmy to prise them off.

Moving house is nothing like as terrifying as the Caminito del Rey. I know that, and you know that. My poor, brainfrozen self recognises that I need to get on with it, but in the meantime, I sit here, putting off the evil moment.