23 Aug Car Full of Boxes
The car is packed full of boxes as we help someone to move house. Moving house is a huge upheaval. It invites the question, what are we moving towards, but also what are the things that we are leaving behind? My memory jolts back to my first move as a child. It was two weeks before my ninth birthday. I remember a leaving ceremony. I felt awkward and shy in my best blue dress and white nylon socks, that wouldn’t pull as far as my knees up my growing legs.
I understood that we were going somewhere new. But this was an abstract concept for me, because I had only lived in this suburban house. I loved the free reign of parish spaces – church steps, church hall, and adjoining cul-de-sacs to roller skate around. With the other kids from these streets, we played outside, free from adult supervision. The ice-cream van reeled in my attention every day. I longed for, and occasionally got a FAB or Strawberry Mivvi, by sneaking coins from my Mum’s purse.
I watched my father unlock the church doors, the coming and goings of cubs and scouts. I waited for the coal delivery truck, and celebrated the nasal chant of the rag and bone man. On the main road, buses clustered. Old ladies wearing headscarves or plastic rain bonnets put out their hands or thumbed them on. It was a place where ordinary Londoners went to work on the train, bought square white bread from the bakery, competed with their neighbours’ front garden.
A car, packed full of the bits and pieces that wouldn’t fit in the removal van, with me squeezed in the back seat was ready to leave. I remember waving goodbye. My life was changing, but I was oblivious. I knew we were going, but I hadn’t understood that we were never coming back. I had no idea of where I was going to.
I would only discover that I was defined by paving slabs, street lamps, a landscape of tarmac and brick, by its absence. Landing in alien territory of country lanes, Forestry Commission pine forest, one village shop full of plum-in-the-mouth accents, came as a profound shock. My old identity had been presented to me, ‘the vicar’s daughter’. Now I would have to begin again, overcome the trauma of dislocation, and re-shape myself.