And so we’ve been in the new house for a couple of weeks now. I’ve positioned and repositioned, and then repositioned again, the rugs that used to cover the bare floors in the old house but that now seem out of place and unnecessary on top of carpet.
I’ve acquired another bookshelf that fits nicely at the bottom of the stairs because, despite my Dad’s sincere and heartfelt warning after moving the 8th box of them (“If I see you buy a new book ever again, young lady, I’ll never help you put up another shelf”), I have brought new books since moving in. Three of them to be precise, and I have another two earmarked for payday. And there will be more, oh yes.
I’ve made the most of living within walking distance of things by, well, walking to them: the arts centre, the cinema, the mayor making (yes, I did just say mayor making – urban living on the edge people, innit), the shops, my sister’s, my nan’s. Work. I’ve managed to be late in on 3 occasions, despite only being 5 minutes down the road. And on Saturday, my sister sent the nephew over to tell us the barbecue was ready, why weren’t we there yet. Which I feel is a little like employing germ warfare to shift a stuck horse.
The dog and I explore alongside the riverbank every morning; we see herons and a solitary swan. Ducks with the tiny fluffy-bobbing heads of their young peeping behind them. Other people and dogs are unfailingly pleased to see us, which is a pleasant surprise after 12 years of having to (uselessly) call my over-happy, over-friendly hound back as the gin-raddled rasping of some third rate Margot Leadbetter wannabe shrieking “keep him away from Popsie, she’s a Pure Breed! She doesn’t like other dogs!” echoed over the shire. Prompting the question: then why the fresh hell is she not muzzled in public? I now don’t need to apologise for his grinning, ever-so-slightly-dim approaches to other dogs as they behave exactly the same way.
And every morning, I look over towards the brooding hulk of the hill I used to live at the bottom of, visible through the dawn haze for a short while before my steps lead down the slope and it disappears from view, and mind. I can see the field boundaries, the yellow splash of crops, the line of trees along the top like look like an elephant and I’m not sure whether I miss it or not.
I miss certain things, certain people. Certain walks. Currently, I feel betwixt and between; no longer able to call the old place home, not yet ready to christen the new place that. I am between homes, emotionally and my heart doesn’t know which one it would rather be treading the pathways of.
It does know that this river is claiming a stronger hold on me every day. I love watching the ripples, the surface reflecting the sky’s mood back up at it; the ‘clop’ and decreasing circles that follow a jumping fish. Rain fracturing its surface held my gaze for minutes. I watch the barges moored up on the opposite bank and wonder what it must to be like to live on one, feeling the ebb and flow of the water rock you to sleep each night. I read Penelope Fitzgerald’s Offshore; a book with a great deal more pragmatism about barge-living than I have: “It was impossible, in any case, to bath her, because they were only allowed to let out the bathwater with the falling tide. By now the flood was making fast. The mist had cleared…The lights dazzled, but on the broad face of the water there were innumerable V-shaped eddies, showing the exact position of whatever the river had not been able to hide. If the old Thames traditions had still persisted, if boatmen still made a living from taking the coins from the pockets of the drowned, then this was the hour for them to watch.”
Yesterday, I stood on an empty fishing platform and watched the water move unhurriedly past me, the rushes whispered and the sound of cars was very far away. Yes, this place will do for now.