Goodbye Christchurch

A candle burns gently on the table, the flame bending and stretching through the fugged glass.  In the kitchen, clothes turn in the washing machine; the rhythmic thump of wet, balled up sheets and pillows as the drum rotates.  Somewhere in the distance a blackbird tweets a half-hearted whistle as he sits on a fencepost in the drizzle.  From my seat in the living room I can see out into the garden – a string of wet bunting, the apple tree (beneath which Bodhi likes to scour for fallen apples – as do the wasps in the summer), the first small signs of life in the vegetable patch where the strawberry plants were planted some years before.  We have lived in this house for five years and two months, but on Friday, someone else will live here.  Another couple will sit amongst the silence and listen out for the blackbird, will burn candles and laugh, and love and live in this house.

I remember the day we moved in (the 15th March – ‘beware the ides of March!’ my mother said, but no tragedies did befall us in this house, luckily).  I remember standing by the back door and looking out into the garden; the smell of cleaning fluid as we wiped down the kitchen, those big empty rooms that were ours to fill.  Tom and I bought the house in our first year of being together and so we’ve lived our formative years as a couple in this house.  This is the house where we celebrated getting engaged (when we returned from our trip to Wales where Tom proposed), this is the bedroom where I slept the night before we got married, and this is the kitchen where we opened a bottle of champagne on our first wedding anniversary in April.  I like to think of life as seasons, and I feel as if we are moving into a new season of our lives; stripping the walls back and starting anew, but with everything different.  I wonder what season we are moving into – or if we have moved and grown through them all and are beginning a new cycle of growth and rebirth.  Maybe you don’t know what season you’re moving into until it arrives; a hot, impulsive, slick Summer, a Spring of change and newness, an Autumn of winding down, a Winter of rest and solitude (and awaiting the eventual Spring).  There is no calendar, only constant movement forward, one foot in front of the other.

In the loft I find remnants of past lives.  Old CDs with songs carefully selected by people I no longer know.  Hundreds of photographs in cardboard sleeves or albums; smiling faces frozen in time.  My own face, younger, hopeful, awkward, inquisitive.  I was a different person then.  Trinkets and mementos, some that I bought for this house all those years ago and then hastily cleared away when they didn’t quite fit.  Dusty cameras, crumpled letters,  thick sweaters that were sent away in the summer and never made it out of storage.  The artefacts and ephemera from other seasons.  Some things that can be saved, and some that must be abandoned.

It’s impossible to account for how much you change and grow over time.  You evolve and shed skin.  The removal man looked at a dusty corner in our house today and said “You lose a million skin cells every day.  That’s pretty much what dust is.  It’s a shock you even still have the same DNA.”  I think of that for a little while.  It’s impossible to avoid change.  Not even your body stays the same.  You couldn’t be the same person even if you wanted to.

And now everything has been packed into the removal van ready for tomorrow.  The house is mostly empty.  The clutter of every day life cleared away, the slate wiped clean.  In a few days it will be refilled with the contents of other people’s lives – a stray sock at the top of the stairs, keys hanging on the hook by the door, washing hanging on the line.  Different lives breathed into its walls.  And us in our new house, doing the same.