Well I remember that day in early 2012. I was sitting with a cup of Swiss bank coffee in front of me, informing my allocated financial consultant that I was proposing to sell our family home and buy one of the nice new flats about to be built in town.
‘Oh je oh je Frau Huber!’ he said. ‘A old house with such a big garden – and a lane cutting off one corner! That will take a VERY LONG TIME to sell. You’d better reckon with a year and a half at least.’
So we put it on the market straightaway and started showing people round. Just three and a half DAYS later our buyers were standing there with big smiles and all the right paperwork. (They did have a head start because they didn’t get a house they’d been after previously.)
All of which explains why home, at the moment, is a rented flat on the edge of town, with an interesting view towards the building site where our next flat is growing daily. But living in temporary accommodation isn’t as easy as I’d anticipated. When you know you’ll be leaving a place after just a year, you don’t settle down and do homey things like put up shelves, hang pictures, and screw all your bathroom accessories into the newly-tiled wall. Here in Switzerland we’d need to undo it all again before we left and pay for the damage incurred to the walls. So:
‘No posters, no blue-tack, nothing taped on the walls – or ceilings,’ I said to my sons. They were very cooperative, though the older one did sneak up a mirror, a clock and a sword (don’t ask…) before I noticed what he was up to.
You get used to bare walls, and we bought a lot of plants to scatter about the place. I thought I was doing quite well until last week when I was looking for something, and opened one of the many boxes we haven’t unpacked here.
And there it was. My stuff. Knick-knacks, mostly – we don’t go in for valuable antiques in this flat. The wooden box from the Maldives, with its memories of honeymoon hot beaches and the noisy, crowded market on Male. The picture frames the kids painted at primary school, with snaps from an outing to the monkey-park over the border in Germany. Just looking at them invoked memories of happy little boys giggling at serious monkey faces. My collection of Hundertwasser postcards, the ones that are going to provide a real splash of colour on our new living room walls.
And the pictures. The poster of Glasgow’s famous buildings. More Hundertwasser. A trio of Charles Rennie Mackintosh cards from Glasgow Art Gallery, visited dozens of times now. Not to mention the wooden elephants we’ve collected over the years, each with its own holiday story.
For the rest of the afternoon I walked around in our minimalistic temporary flat with a lump in my throat, feeling silly. I was homesick about a box of trinkets. But it holds a whole lifetime of memories, and it’s true what they say – it’s the little things…
But hey, onwards and upwards. Just think what fun we’ll have in January, unpacking them all again! There’s a bit to go yet, mind you…