Thursday, November 27, 2014

Learning to Love Again

This flat had a lot to live up to: we weren’t exactly chuffed to be moving in the first place and the flat we left behind held a special place in our hearts. Still, I hoped our inaugural days here might have been filled with the excitement of discovery and the heady promise of a budding relationship. But instead of greeting us like a new lover—giddy and eager to please—the flat remain coy, distant and reluctant to commit.

Our old flat was solid and dependable and we loved its anachronistic quirkiness. This place is a new build, which means everything is smaller, less substantial and more expensive. The building is only ten years old but it is already showing its age and I expect, before another twenty years go by, it will be torn down and replaced with something even more shoddy and doubly expensive.

So, instead of welcoming us unconditionally, our new home pinched around the edges and came with a lot of rules, one being a ban on putting holes in the walls and thereby making it impossible to hang photos or pictures or decorations. When we first viewed the flat, we did notice that the woman living here was residing in a big white box totally devoid of character, but we put it down to the fact that she was only staying here temporarily.

No one's idea of fun.
When I learned the real reason for the pristine walls, I was overcome with despair. If you are not allowed to impose your personality on a room or shape a space to your convenience then, my friend, you are not at home, you are living in a hotel. And I did not relish the notion of living the rest of my days in a hotel.

Fortunately, clever gremlins at the 3M company have been busy these past dozen years working on just this problem, and have—without my noticing it—come up with a whole raft of products designed to hang, hook or otherwise fasten things to other things without doing permanent damage to the thing being attached to.

Now, I admit to being skeptical of some modern innovations, but I am an enthusiastic convert to these nifty and versatile hooks. In addition to what they are supposed to be used for, I have used them to suspend a toy plane from the ceiling (my grandson made it for me) and attach a paper towel dispenser to the wall to free up valuable counter space.

(Incidentally, 3M neither solicited nor paid me for that gushing endorsement. Mores the pity; I could have used the money. Their products might be wonderful but they are substantially more expensive than nails.)

And so, with pictures going up and things slowly being stowed and the mountains of boxes being whittled down to foothills, the flat is, rather tentatively, beginning to feel less foreign. This has also been helped, oddly enough, by the fact that we still have the original flat.

This move wasn’t one of those “get it all done in one day” types. We have a two-week overlap so we still have some stuff at the old place and we have been making repeated trips back there to collect and clean. The first trip was a melancholy affair, filled with regret and tinged with the fear that a bad, and irrevocable, decision had been made.

As the days wore on, however, it began to feel more like bumping into an old girlfriend at a party, where you try to ease the awkwardness by making small talk but you only make it worse and you just know she’s thinking, “I hope his new girlfriend is a right bitch. And I bet she’s not as pretty as me,” and so you cut your conversation short and go back to your new lover and suddenly she seems more comfortable, more compatible, and more like home.

At least they let me put my flag up. Long may she wave.