Up Front by Emma Hart


Walking Through the Ruins

This year I've discovered a sure-fire way to distract myself from less than ideal election results. Well, alright, another one; one that doesn’t involve imbibing flammable liquids. We're moving house.

This is something we haven't done for a while, and while I wasn't looking, our home apparently turned into the Pacific Trash Vortex. Debris has washed up in the quiet cupboards and wardrobes. Sorting it out has been like going on an archaeological dig – except way more interesting, because it's all about me.

The finds have caused much reminiscing. Our children's artwork from kindy. A receipt for a computer from 1998. (Remember when we thought ten gig was unimaginably huge?) One of those old pink Echo Records bags. The photograph of me my partner used to carry with him when we had to be apart. My medical records from my pregnancies. All binned.

Travel light. I can't sleep in a room where I don't have a clear path to the door. You have to throw things out. I learned this valuable lesson from my family, who haven't. Cleaning out my aunt's house was like some weird form of backwards purgatory: my virtuous mother and cousin spent days in there, and I got let off lightly by dint of being heavily pregnant to a man who wasn't my husband. The drawer entirely full of rubber bands was just the tip of the iceberg. It was the bag full of worn-out bras under the bed that finally sent me screaming from the house.

There were, of course, treasured family heirlooms in there. China that had been nursed in my great-grandmother's lap halfway round the world was decorating the shelves in a room no-one was allowed to use. Nothing was lost: most of my aunt's things made their way to my cousin's house, which I estimate being about two years away from complete gravitational collapse. Should a small black hole ever form in Ikamatua, you'll know what’s happened.

Getting rid of all the crap is just a side-effect of moving. The main motivation is a desire to get noise control off the speed-dial and prevent my being incarcerated for a particularly brutal murder involving a meat tenderiser and a large bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce. We’re not sure what the new neighbourhood is like, because we've yet to see another human being on our frequent trips to the house. "It’s quiet," my daughter said. "Too quiet." It's possible our new neighbours are all ninjas, which would, quite frankly, be unbelievably ace.

Yesterday I went over and told our one decent set of old neighbours we were moving. They’re lovely people, in a home-schooling, Purpose Driven Life, American missionary sort of way. (We did briefly experiment with the concept of a porpoise-driven life, where you do whatever the dolphins tell you, but something seemed a bit fishy.) I didn't go tell them earlier because I wanted the dust to settle from that awful U.S. election result. They're charming, really, but the cultural differences can be a minefield. Where I come from, for instance, it's considered rude to repeatedly suggest to someone's daughter that it would be really neat if their mommy had a bunch more babies. My youngest child is eleven: take a freaking hint. Mind you, I swear like a New Zealander, so it goes both ways.

I'd forgotten how stressful moving can be. My partner and daughter have both come down with colds, my auto-immune disorders are going crazy, and my son is undergoing severe Lego: Indiana Jones withdrawal. Our ginga cat is stressed as hell and showing it by leaving the carcasses of his little feathered and furred friends scattered across the lawn with their entrails displayed serial-killer-style. He knows I don’t wear shoes.

I will miss my garden. I'm trying to regard seven years of English Cottage slavery as a gift to the next tenants. It was probably time for an intervention there too, though: I may have more aquilegias than Danielle has pairs of shoes.

What I'll really miss, though, are my cyber-homes, as I go through what could be several actual days without internet access. This will include the day on which Friends in England would otherwise be sending me the QI Children in Need Special. On the other hand, by the time we move in, National should have finished running fibre up the driveway.

Anyway, for the next week or so, I'm offering free therapy. If the election result seemed like the worst thing that could happen, come see me. I've got some walls you can scrub.

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