Moving House

Moving House

As I write this blog post I am in the throes of moving house. My study is all packed up, my books in boxes, every shelf, cupboard and wall of the house has been cleared of pictures, ornaments and utensils. Our clothes are in suitcases or vac-packed. Our kitchenware is reduced to the bare minimum of cups, plates and cutlery.

Usually a house-move is a source of pleasure and excitement, something to be looked forward to and relished; a new life in the country, perhaps, or a new, exciting job. Perhaps the new place is better in some way – bigger, in a better location, brand new or filled with characterful charm. Or smaller, easier to manage, closer to family.

I’m not going to go into details but our house move isn’t quite any of these things. When we moved to this house four years ago I never imagined moving out of it, certainly not so soon, and yet, here we are.

It is these slightly ambivalent feelings that have put me in mind of Mrs Dashwood and of Anne Elliot, and of Jane Austen herself.

Jane was born in and lived for 26 years at the vicarage in Steventon until her father retired and moved the family to Bath. Jane’s brother took over the living and the house. What must her feelings have been on leaving that safe and familiar home where she had lived alongside her family? My copy of Claire Tomlin’s excellent biography is in a box somewhere (grrrr!) but I am sure I recall her describing Jane’s feelings of rawness that the whole thing had been arranged while she was away, her sense that her brother and sister-in-law were too eager to appropriate books and furniture and a general anxiety that Bath would not be pleasant. But, as a young, single woman without private means, what could she do but accede to her parents’ wishes?

Anne Elliot found herself in similar circumstances albeit for different reasons. Her father’s extravagant lifestyle resulted in a deficit in their income. He is persuaded to move to Bath, where they can live more cheaply but in equal style. Like Jane, Anne does not like the idea of Bath. Sir Walter and Elizabeth go on ahead to secure lodgings leaving Anne to prepare Kellynch for its new tenant. To her is left the boxing up of the family’s private belongings and the best china.  The scenes of Anne’s childhood – memories, perhaps, of her mother; memories, too, of the brief but wonderful period of Frederick Wentworth’s courtship – must be left behind. How ardently Anne must hope that someday she will return (the house after all, is being let, not sold) and yet how powerless she must feel, not to be able to decide on her own place of domicile.

The situation of Mrs Dashwood is worse. She is bereaved, with three daughters to care for. Remaining at Norland, the family home, is not an option in practice although in theory it could have been. Mrs Dashwood is forced to write to relations near and far begging for a home. The cottage at Barton, though quaint enough in its way, is a far, far cry from the home she has been used to. While the Elliots at least have the appearance of having moved simply for a change of scene, Mrs Dashwood’s fall from plenty to penury is apparent to everyone. The reality of living on virtually no income would have tested a woman of more fibre than Mrs Dashwood, and the prospect of finding suitable matches for her girls must have seemed distant indeed. Add to this the feeling that must have gnawed at the Dashwood women – that it wasn’t fair. They have not been dealt with honourably. The machinations of others have brought them to this pass. I can really relate to that!

Jane remained in Bath only a few years. She was itinerant for a while, but at last she settled at Chawton where she lived happily. We do not know where Captain and Mrs Wentworth made their home but we can be sure that Anne was happy there. I presume that Colonel Brandon found room for Mrs Dashwood and Margaret at Delaford.

They all found and settled in new homes and were happy there. I take comfort in that.

UPDATE: Due to the Corona virus we have STILL not moved! Here we remain, surrounded by boxes. Our home is pretty comfortless but we have remained within it as per government guidelines and in an attempt to protect ourselves and others. I wonder if this has not been worse than actually making the break, painful as it was going to be.

However I have used my time profitably. My new book is almost complete in its first draft. Who knew that I could achieve 100+k words in ten weeks? Not too surprisingly it is about a girl who finds herself transplanted to a strange new house, far from friends and all she has known. In the end, like Jane Austen, Anne and the Dashwoods, she finds peace in her new surroundings.

I’d love to hear your experiences of moving home. Please comment below.


11 Responses to Moving House

  1. Living in limbo has got to be vexing! Good thing you were able to pour your energy into your writing. In my adult life I’ve never lived one place for more than 5 years, some less. I’ve been at my present home 7 years now. I had planned moving to the neighboring state this summer but Covid has made that more complicated. At least I’ve moved mostly at my own choice. Poor Jane having to voice in the matter. And Anne and the Dashwoods. I thought I’d settle into a “manor” house in the country where I could have my horses and live happily ever after. At least my heroines, after some difficulties, do! This was a great topic Allie. Thanks.

  2. Our son moved during this crazy time. Somehow he and his wife managed to get everything in line to purchase a house. I think it helped that the house they moved into was empty and they didn’t need to sell their condo. He said doing all the financial work with the bank through the drive through was very challenging. I moved 5 times in my childhood and went to 4 different grade schools, can’t imagine doing any of it during this time. Best of luck to you!

    • My hat goes off to your son. We tried to get everything through before lock down but we just couldn’t. Thanks for your comment.

  3. We were a military family, so moving every 2 or 3 years was the norm. The advantage of those moves was that we had professional movers to pack everything up. I always unpacked myself. We just retired from the second career and had to pack ourselves out. husband says he’s never moving again!
    All those moves taught me that my home was wherever I was with my family. I’m not sentimental about possessions or places…except Hawaii! Lived there more than once and would love to go back! I
    I hope your situation resolves itself soon, it’s maddening to live in limbo!

    • Hi SueLein. I once had packers pack my stuff. There was no rationale behind it. Toys and books went in with saucepans and garden tools. I vowed never again! Thank you for your comment.

  4. I truly feel for you. My husband and I are in the same boat. But we have just move from a 5 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom apartment. We had lived in our house for nearly 40 years. Have you ever tried to downsize 40 years of stuff. It is impossible unless your son and his family are taking over the house. That way you can leave the stuff you can’t take.

    • How nice that your son and his family will take over your house, and you will be able to revisit all those happy memories.

  5. I have never moved. I have lived in my house all my life. But I am sure it is stressful to have to pack and move and I hope it goes smoothly for you.

  6. Allie, I’m in exactly the same situation! My house went on the market just as the quarantine hit; a buyer submitted a “virtual offer” (based solely on the photos of the house he saw online), which I accepted. But everything stalled then. In the meantime, the majority of my belongings are in boxes in the garage or in a storage unit. Almost every day it seems I need something (staples, a research file, etc.) that has been packed away.

    I hope you’ll soon be able to get out of house limbo and do it safely; and that your new home will be a comfortable haven that inspires you to write another 100k words.

    • Thank you Nancy. It gives me a kind of comfort to know that someone understands all my frustrations. Do you have somewhere nice to move to?

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