Moving yet again

11 December 2020
I wrote this article in sections over the last year which makes it a bit disjointed but due to the way things panned out over this time I do not have the motivation to do a more coherent rewrite. In short I have all but committed to moving back to the UK. Today the shippers picked up most of my remaining belongings and a large portion of what is left will have to be disposed of &mdash still far from living out of a suit-case like I did when I first came to the city, but that is a living situation that one way or another I will have to trend towards over the coming weeks and months.

Moving in

When I vacated my prior flat I knew I was doing much more than changing accommodation — after six and a half years living there I was laying memories to rest in a way comparable to when I left Bristol. It did not turn out the way I had hoped when I put my moving plans into motion, and in hindsight maybe only a week or so delay would have instead seen me stay in my old place, but the all important part of having no regrets with what I did given the circumstances was fulfilled. It is not about using time wisely; it is about not using it foolishly. With the working assumption of needing to move and still having other commitments, the scope for one last recreation of the fondest memories is limited.

Last(ish) night in old flat

While I had drafted a significant amount of material for a follow-up article focusing on things such as what I was right to keep and what I should have disposed of, the whole process was a strain that I now have very little incentive to look back on. At least back then I had future plans and the associated assumptions were baked into what I had drafted, but now I just see it as the start of a bad period of my life. Even before I finished moving it was clear that what was supposed to be a stop-gap bolt-hole I would only sleep in would actually be somewhere I would be virtually 24/7, but I did not know how miserable the whole experience would be.

The stay

Of the first seven months I rented the flat I only actually stayed in the place for a sum total of four of them — while moving in I think I only stayed overnight twice, and then there is circa six weeks I spent over in the UK. Within the just over three months between handing back the keys for my prior flat and flying over to the UK I would have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with anything I would consider to be good within this time, but there is no shortage of things that had a varying magnitude of negative effects on my whole outlook. From what I remember it was only two or three weeks after formally moving in and I was starting to develop a goldfish mentality where I felt it best not to really think about anything as doing so would just mean thinking about bad things. This coping strategy in hindsight caused more problems than it avoided.

Mindless goldfish in bowl

I think it was barely over twelve hours since getting back from the UK that I started making phone calls for a new place to live, because in short things needed to change and change fast. Anything else would have been a repeat of the conditions of before I left. While away I also came to the conclusion that post-Covid I want/need the sort of all-up-in-the-air change like that I felt that was required back in 2012, and that I ought to start having a comparable clear-out. I certainly feel less sentimental about stuff I have here than I was in the earlier part of the year. Like when I left both Bristol and New Zealand there is a certain amount of calmness that comes with preparing to leave somewhere in the expectation of never returning, and I had been wondering whether it is time to once again go through such a transition.

“shed” on balcony

I did find a place but I decided not to take on the new lease because I felt that getting everything moved would be another ordeal I could do without. At the time there were also questions over whether I would actually still be around long enough to see out the 6 or 12 months the land-lord wanted as a minimum. The shed was disposed of and it was surprising how the little extra space this freed up allowed me to re-jig things so that I could reassemble my desk, and this in turn allowed me to do stuff and hence was a huge improvement in my quality of life. I was no longer in gold-fish mode but I was now counting the cost of the earlier months.

The hard choice

When I thought about the future over the summer all the signs were pointed in the general direction of starting over with a clear deck, as it was pretty clear that whatever happened I would be rebuilding a significant amount of my life. Being stuck in limbo with most things closed meant the place had become a graveyard of memories much like Bristol had, but this time round rather than stagnation things had gone backwards and I would likely end up wanting to recreate the high water mark, which in turn appeared not far off the limit of what the place had to offer. With so much disruption I was already half-uprooted and the effort required if I was to stay put long-term did not seem worth it. It was time to move on but that still left the question of where to.

Sunset

When I consider the reasons I left the UK there is one thing that is clear and that is the place has become significantly worse on all these counts, and has become bad on several others as well — for me the single biggest sign of the rot is practically every supermarket having a permanent food bank collection point, and relatives just brushed it off as it having been that way for years. However as things were and still are with the world my home-town area — where I can tap on family support at a time when socialising is pretty much illegal — was the only place I could realistically relocate to.

The moving out process

Moving out ended up being a self-fulfilling process because it gave me a longer-term purpose. In order to reclaim more space I sent a shipment of personal items back to the UK in September, with most of the boxes still as they were when I packed them earlier in the year, and this was combined with a trap back to the UK during which the shipment arrived. I was not sure whether I should make such a trip but as it turned out i was just ahead of a load of tightening up and by any measure i was better off getting away. The majority of my personal stuff was still packed from when I moved in and in order to reclaim some space in the flat I sent a shipment of twenty boxes to the UK in September, and at the same time I decided to spend a week over there during which the shipment arrived. However due to the Covid “second wave” this ended up being a two-month stay due to another round of lock-downs, so in sum total I spent over 60% of the second-half of 2019 over there. When I finally returned I booked a second shipment which is the one that was picked up today and having decided to spend my first Christmas in the UK in five or so years I took the opportunity to also shuttle back some luggage. I had considered taking a car over but decided doing so was simply not worth the hassle.

Shipment of boxes

Much like when I left New Zealand it looks like only a relatively small proportion of stuff will end up being abandoned, the most notable item being a mini-fridge I purchased back in 2014 and was simply not worth its transport cost. I really should have disposed far more stuff than I have and done so by now, but events are mostly out of my control. Having been away for all but two weeks in the last quarter of 2020 sorting out the second shipment felt more like collecting stuff from long-term storage than actually moving out, so I wanted to get it over and done with as little thinking as possible.

The future

Right up to publication I was unsure whether the works-in-progress that became this article would be something I would actually want to release, but re-reading stuff I published in the past reminded me of the thought-process that went into life events that I would otherwise would have forgotten. I left it in its draft state because doing a proper rewrite would mean raking over the memories of a bad year which for now I personally prefer to simply forget, and in practice I doubt there would be much detail that is not already mentioned. Holding back publication until I have actually left the country would just result in an even more tangled mess, and this is at a time when I want to close things off even if it means cutting them short.

As for the future I can only react rather than plan. Like most of my colleagues I am taking almost all of December off as annual leave and in all honesty just forgetting about work for several weeks is something I need to do. The new-year for now is a time I do not want to even contemplate.