‘Are we nearly there yet?’ is that annoying question all children like to throw at their parents on any journey. Best timed 30 minutes into a several hour journey and then repeated at 5 minute intervals until ceasing abruptly when actually close to the final destination and so denying long-suffering parents even the smallest satisfaction of finally being able to answer ‘yes’.
The same question isn’t asked quite as frequently as an adult but I’m pretty sure people are now starting to wonder this about me. Is she nearly there yet or does her journey have no foreseeable end in sight?
I haven’t lived in the same place for more than two years since I was at school. In the last 12 years I have had 13 different addresses in three different countries and four different UK counties. Not only have I absolutely ruined my aunt’s address book but I’ve begun to wonder whether this constantly moving around isn’t purely related to circumstances, as I’ve always tried to convince myself, but is in fact due to some defect in myself where I just can’t stick in one place for long.
Definitely some of the moves have been circumstantial. I well and truly didn’t want to be evicted from our lovely/dingy little basement flat in Blackheath. The eviction wasn’t because we were horrendous tenants but because our landlord had outstanding debts and legal action had been initiated against him before we even moved in.
The first we realised there was a problem was when the fiancé thought he’d open a letter with the Eversheds logo addressed to ‘The Occupier’. (I had assumed these were from some sort of DIY company and was just another junk-mail flyer offering discounts on a great range of garden sheds but in my defence we did used to get a lot of junk-mail). The notice that we opened advised that we would be evicted in a week.
I called who were very helpful and advised us how to get a stay of execution on the eviction order. The bearded one filed the paperwork at the local magistrates court and a few days later we presented ourselves before the judge to plead our case. The judge was pretty relaxed and allowed us a bit longer to clear out but this nonetheless resulted in a hurried move from Blackheath, a beautiful area of London, to Chislehurst in Kent, primarily chosen as somewhere we could afford and were allowed the cats.
The move from Chislehurst to Greenwich was sort of circumstantial too in that I hated Chislehurst so spent hours trawling property websites dreaming about the day we wouldn’t be subject to the whimsical world of renting. When I spotted a flat in a London borough I loved, that we could actually afford to buy (with a lot of help from various relatives), moving again made sense.
The moves around Warwickshire as a student were also mostly dictated by circumstance, staying in University accommodation for three years wasn’t an option so the move to a house big enough for eight of us, which we did at least stay in for two academic years, wasn’t really a conscious plan.
After Uni a brief stop-over at my parents in Oxfordshire couldn’t be a permanent solution (they wanted me to pay rent!) so London, where I was working at the time, made sense. But I should probably accept responsibility for the constant relocating around London with different friends and then forcing my way into the bearded-man’s flat and then forcing him to move somewhere I liked more.
It occurred to me I might have a problem with settling anywhere when I remained eager to keep going even after we moved into our very own flat in Greenwich. I love Greenwich, it is a great little enclave in it’s own right with good markets, beautiful parks, easy access to the river and a vibrant atmosphere, not to mention the convenient access to central London and work. However, I was there for a year before I applied for the Cambodian internship and it was just a few months after returning from Phnom Penh that I thought applying for a job in Geneva was a good idea.
In a 30th birthday card a friend joked that I kept moving further away and my next stop would be somewhere in Africa where post could only be delivered by parrot. It’s that kind of humour which is tossed around jokingly but may not actually be that funny because it isn’t completely beyond the scope of what’s possible. Not that I’m planning to move to somewhere with parrot postal deliveries (pretty sure my beloved would draw the line at somewhere with lack of internet) but I do find myself thinking what and where is next?
Geneva hasn’t always been the easiest place to live in but now it has started to become normal with a work life balance and weekly routines. This should be, and on some levels is, a good thing, it’s just ‘normal’ sounds decidedly unappealing.
The same friend who sent the card asked me recently where I thought I’d eventually end up and I couldn’t give a straight answer. I don’t know if my future lies in the UK, Switzerland or some distant realm I haven’t even thought of yet, but there is something about that concept of staying still that terrifies me.
Perhaps it is just the thought of a long determined future without surprises that seems alarming, that idea of reaching a single point and thinking ‘this is it’, although I know that life won’t stand still even if I manage to do this for a while.
I’m sure my aunt is hoping that I’ll stay still long enough at some point to lay down some roots that become so enmeshed with a geographical location that I won’t be obliged to invest in a constant succession of guiltily offered address books. Or perhaps I can just get her some sort of electronic planner that will allow her to keep track of me without making such a mess of things?
One thing I am certain of is that I wont be able to tell you if I’m nearly there yet until I’ve already been there for some time without realising.