Moving must surely be one of this short life’s great time and money wasters. All that sifting, sorting, shifting, shredding, scraping, scrubbing, scouring, sweeping and packing - only to do it all in reverse at the other end. And now you can’t find anything.
This particular move of our many was an extra struggle because of my dicky right thumb. Say “painful thumb” to any group of girlfriends and they nod in unison and say, “Join the club”” It amazes me how necessary a thumb is and how often we use it. Sir Isaac Newton once said,
To convince me of the existence of God, all I have to do is look at my thumb!
It really is a very useful instrument - primarily for opening things.
In fact, manufacturers rely on workable thumbs to such an extent that it’s hardly surprising more don’t wear out. I’m wondering whether there isn’t a male conspiracy to disable women’s thumbs, to make men indispensable - for getting into jars, tins, bottles and yogurt pots especially. I suppose I ought to take myself to the doctor’s but hate to admit another bit of me is falling apart, or to be told it’s my age!
When I worked for the NHS I remember hearing that men, once they get to the doctor, are much better served. Peter just has to complain of a tingling in his big toe to get an immediate MRI scan, consultant referral, and physiotherapy, whilst I get stuffed with analgesia. Time to think positively and reflect on who are the thumbs in the body of Christ - the openers of the unopenable, and to thank God for all those I take for granted.
I know, I know - we promised at retirement we would never go on about our health...
At my mother’s bridge club (which provides her at 86 with a much better social life than most of us - if you’re any good at bridge!), there’s a moritorium on talking about your aches, pains and ill health after fifteen minutes. Eminently sensible.
Anyway - some of you are, I know, waiting to hear more about France. We do get there eventually, and it’s worth the wait. I thought, after our first few years, there would be nothing more to write about - but how wrong can you be. Life there just gets better than fiction. But all in good time. First, we had to vacate the vicarage and move into our new home.
Marathon building work had started on our new house in earnest in February last year. Walls came down. A wooden lean-to disappeared overnight to be replaced later with bricks. The roof was opened to the world. In May we were about to speak at a day conference for France Mission’s western central churches when the builder called.
Planning permission for a dormer window in the loft conversion had been rejected because our new home is in hugger-mugger Gillingham’s only “conservation area” - 4 streets of already-much-messed-with Edwardian houses, where the Council itself doesn’t even bother to put the right bulbs in their “conserved” street lights. Sadly, we still have room for a loft bedroom, but not the extra little man-study for Peter we both hoped for.
Dash it! I won’t be able to shut away his man-mess. The work still wasn’t finished by our removal date and we had to postpone it a week - which gave me a little more time to say farewell to my former life. Our last day in our old home was a lovely, mellow autumn day, the sun casting long shadows across the grass of my oasis of a back garden...
The trees burnished gold, auburn, chestnut and the last dark green of a dying summer...
How I had loved looking out from my bedroom window, watching the playing (or is that fighting?) squirrels, unbashful foxes lazing on the grass, the green woodpecker hacking away at a bird box, unaware of the uselessness of his task. How I would miss it. But then, there are compensations in watching the comings and goings of the neighbours in an ordinary street instead.
We have no garage or drive, a source of some anxiety to us both, so the day before the move I tried to deliver a note to them all asking if parking space could be left for a large removal van. It amazed me how many had sealed up their letter box with tape. I recounted my surprise to a young man several doors down washing a very smart sporty white car with one of those high pressure water sprays that soaked me every time I passed.
“Sick of menus from takeaways,” he commented. “But don’t they ever get birthday cards or postcards from their Aunty Gladys in Benidorm?” He shook his head and laughed. He now thinks the new woman at number 56 is completely loopy!
Oh how I hate giving a gang of strange men access to my private world - my foibles, my muck, my smalls - but it has to be done. The last time we moved, to Gillingham 5 years ago, one of the men shouted, as he wrestled in my fridge with a wrinkled nose,
Summat’s gone off in here, missus.
It was only Peter’s Camembert. This time it took four of them to move a rug, as one of them kept standing on it. The chest freezer wouldn’t go down the cellar steps and ended up in the garden shed. A big cane chair wouldn’t go through the front door - which was promptly taken off. And then we were in - a normal house in a normal street.
Amazingly, (though why should it be?) the reflection for the day in a little book of meditations I read called God Calling was entitled “Home-Building.” It said,
Home build in the spirit and the time will be well spent.
Interesting, a direct response to my worries about the wasted time and money in moving.
In his book Falling Upwards, the great spiritual writer Richard Rohr says the second half of life should be a time when we reflect back over the years, take stock of our experiences and make sense of them all. Stripped of our role and status, of all the masks we have worn in our attempts to be the person we think we ought to be, we have the opportunity to become the person we really are.
And (my addition), time to put the same effort into furnishing our inner lives as we do our homes - with all that is beautiful, harmonious, pleasing, comforting, enduring and good. So, retirement, bring it on.