Flitting from his flat, taking flight from Fal,
the author feather-pusher feels free as he flees.
In Swedish the word for move is flytt and the word for escape is flykt. I've been mixing them up recently as my wife and I have been moving me from my commuter flat in the hinterland, home to Gothenburg. After three years of weekly train journeys up to Falköping, after three years of living in a weekday state of divorce, I’m coming home, and in some ways it feels like an escape.
The Swedish flytt and the English (really Scots) word flit, which means both to move home and to fly (or flee) like a bird on the wing, both come from the same Old Norse origin. Those Vikings; they knew a thing or two about moving.
Though perhaps I should have resurrected that other Viking practice and gone through all my junk with fire and a sword.
To shoehorn into our already well-filled home in Gothenburg all the gear I’ve amassed over the last three years was no easy task. In fact it’s a moot point whether it done yet. For weeks I’d been sorting out and throwing or giving away stuff. I went through the attic and the cellar. I bought a mass of archive boxes and filled them all. I collected paper shopping bags (very good for books, especially if you double them up and don’t get them wet). But none of it was enough, and a week after the grand flit, “home” still looks less homely and more like the backroom of some particularly disorganised charity shop.
The day of the move was set in stone – we’d booked a van and there was no flexibility over the date – so when the morning dawned with lowering clouds roiling in a strong westerly wind, we knew we had to do it anyway. All the way up to Falköping we felt how the wind buffeted the van. When we arrived there was nowhere to park close to the door of the building, so we parked around the corner. On cue, the rain started to fall.
We packed the van in about four hours, carrying everything, furniture, boxes, bags, down three flights of stairs, half way around the building and across the street. Sweat, rain and condensation mixing and running down our glasses. Then it was time to drive again, and still the gusts of wind punched at us.
Well home, we had to unload the van. Fortunately, we could park right outside the door and use the lift. Nine flights of stairs would have just about finished us off. As it was, when the van was empty and parked, and we’d showered and eaten something, we fell into bed and we slept the sleep of the just.
The next morning we loaded up the van again, this time with things for the tip. We threw away a sofa, a table and sideboard, but you wouldn’t know it for all the space it gave us. The slaughter of the sofa is a tale in itself. (It fought back – I have the scars to prove it!)
And it was still not over. Here in Sweden you can be fined if you have not cleaned the place you are leaving satisfactorily. Most people ask the landlord to recommend a firm of cleaners, but we were trying to save money. So the next day saw us back in Falköping (with the car this time), to spend the day dusting and scrubbing and rubbing and spraying and washing and polishing. I swear the place was cleaner when I handed the keys over to the landlord than when I took possession three years before. He seemed happy, anyway.
It’s been eight days since the big move, six since I handed over the keys. Home is still not quite home yet (and my room even less so), but it feels good nevertheless. A new life – a new stage rather – just beginning. In the coming year I’m going to be on sabbatical from teaching, I’m going to be writing a book and maintaining a home page and I’m sure home will become more home-like as time goes by.
Just a word about the illustrations. Taking photographs while we were packing the van was not an option, and after, in the van driving down to Gothenburg, it was all I could do (sitting in the passenger seat) to keep my eyes open. So the pictures are all taken in Gothenburg. Not desperately interesting, so I’ve been playing around with them in Photoshop. The one with clouds of dust is an effect – the dust wasn’t really that bad. It just felt as if it was. You would think we’d not done any cleaning at home for five years!