Written by Lili la Scala


Moving on up

Lili la Scala moved house two days before Christmas, with a toddler and jetlag. Wait, she did WTF now?

hand trapped among boxesOn the list of stressful things to do in life, without fail close to the top are Christmas and moving house.

I can only think that a complete and utter fool would consider it sensible to do those two things together. Who could possibly think that a festive season mashed up with a change of abode would be a clever and resourceful idea?

Me. That’s who. In terms of batshit ideas, I think a long-distance move two days before Christmas with jetlag must be one of the best. Does it work like a triple word score in Scrabble? With extra points awarded for a toddler.

And so it came to pass that my husband and I packed our life into 70 boxes (at least three of which were his), and having just emerged from a 12-hour flight from Hong Kong, filled two removal lorries with our lifelong detritus and drove two-and-a-half hours north.

Our removal men, who arrived at dawn’s crack, were surprised we had so much stuff and if I’m honest, no one was more amazed than me. I mean, I know that I have hoarding tendencies; even when I’d packed the first 20 boxes, I’d made no discernible dent in the mountain of ‘shit we (I) own’.

“We couldn’t (and still can’t) lay hands on anything useful but who needs a potato peeler, anyway?”

It’s never a good sign when a removal chap expresses surprise about the quantity of belongings and exchanges worried looks with his colleagues. I quickly worked out that if I kept them well lubricated with coffee and fed with bacon sandwiches dripping in brown sauce, they worried less and packed more, thereby allaying my collector guilt.

I had designed an ingenious scheme of colour-coded stickers to make the unpacking easier; you know, the kind of system that those endlessly efficient life managers suggest, with blue for the bedroom and red for the kitchen and so forth.

This arrangement didn’t work for me: it all went a bit Pete Tong and we ended up with 70 boxes in our dining room. I can’t help but feel it may have been more successful if I had liberated the stickers from their packets. Thankfully, upon shutting the door of that particular room suddenly the rest of the house became a temple to minimalism, all empty, gleaming surfaces, tidy drawers and echoey rooms.

We couldn’t (and still can’t) lay hands on anything useful but who needs a potato peeler, anyway? On day two – conveniently Christmas Eve – having misplaced all our underwear, we went on a foraging mission to the local Sainsbury’s and furnished ourselves with fresh underwear, socks and several Pot Noodles.

I’m quite a fan of a Pot Noodle, under the right circumstances. I have added moving house to the list of correct circumstances, along with the obvious hangover Pot Noodle and the less obvious but immensely satisfying three-months-pregnancy-cravings Pot Noodle.

I’m not a fan of a supermarket on Christmas Eve. It does tend to reveal the glorious, feral nature of humankind as they grapple for the last cranberry. Thankfully, in most households, there is no call to buy buckets, mops and rubber gloves at that time of year so we had our pick. As we queued at the checkout our trolley contents were quite alien to the identikit Christmases surrounding us.

“Two weeks on, I’m still unsure exactly how the dishwasher works and why we need a Tupperware container with 50,000 keys; we don’t even have that many doors.”

I actually spent the first three days in giddy excitement, wandering around the house, quite unable to believe that this house was ours; each brick, each doorknob, each light switch belonged to us.

Sleep-deprived, drunk on home-ownership and the lifetime of debt into which we had plunged ourselves, I glided naked from room to room, simply revelling in the fact that I could; the only askance looks came from the dog.

As the Lincolnshire chill struck my skin, I couldn’t help but think it would be nice if the outgoing family had left a comprehensive guide to the house. It would have been nice to know that the radiator in the hall was purely decorative and what each of the light switches actually illuminated. Two weeks on, I’m still unsure exactly how the dishwasher works and why we need a Tupperware container with 50,000 keys; we don’t even have that many doors.

Christmas Day arrived and I considered wrapping the house in a huge red bow but, given the inclement weather, I settled for whiteware under the tree. I must be one of the only women in the country who was legitimately thrilled that her husband bought her a washing machine and a tumble dryer, though in the spirit of equality I returned the favour by buying him a Hoover.

I’ll get him a potato peeler for Valentine’s.


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Written by Lili la Scala

Lili la Scala sings a bit, writes a bit and spends more time than is probably necessary discussing the toilet habits of her son. Bona fide vintage addict, though she is sure she sounds less tragic when described as a 'collector'.