'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Friday, March 09, 2007

All Over Battersea Some Hope & Some Despair

Returning to a place in which you have lived after a substantial absence to find it transformed by others and no longer your own is a jarring, discomfiting experience. To do so in that period of non-time immediately after New Year when London has not yet returned to reality, the streets are deserted, the bars full of inauthentic bonhomie and the only sign of purposeful life is in the hypnotised gaze of hard-partying bargain-hunters makes it even more of a floating, dislodged experience.
But that was what I did at the beginning of the year - camping out for a week in an old sleeping bag while I systematically tore apart and put back together the fixtures, fittings, decorative details and soft furnishings of the place I had once called home - with a very considerable amount of help from my partner's sister and brother-in-law, without whose enthusiasm, insight, sense and inventiveness the whole enterprise would have been doomed.
At first the flat was completely unfamiliar, the colour schemes and furnishings the choice of someone I no longer recognised. This was not my place, not my street, not my town. Camping out among the re-arranged furniture, tins of paint, dust sheets and toolboxes, I truly felt like a journeyman. Then memory began to assert itself: the way that you turn at the corner of the hallway, the creaking of the bedroom door; the reaching up to the shelf to the left of the cooker; actions long unfamiliar became unconsidered and automatic as my body began to remember the place it occupied. The flat became mine again, as I set about making it fit for others.


Blogger Gill said...

Ah-once you come to live in Cumbria everywhere else becomes a phantasm! You can never leave though- unless you can get someone of equal value to take your place

10/3/07 11:45 am  
Blogger Nick said...

Gill - why would anybody want to leave Cumbria? (I mean, OK, I couldn't wait to at the age of 18, but I came back . . .

15/3/07 5:04 pm  
Blogger Gill said...

I was desperate to leave at age 17 too and I went to live in London and then was desperate to get back. But amazingly some people don't like it here!!

19/3/07 3:16 pm  

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