Belfast Telegraph

Why finding a new home has just been such a moving experience

By Jane Graham

I am currently halfway through an experience recently ranked the number one most stressful ordeal suffered by British adults. A poll this month put divorce, bankruptcy, becoming a parent and losing a job below moving house in the trauma charts. (It must be said, though, trying to get your lorry out of Calais was not offered as an option; something of an oversight.)

Research shows that the average person will move five times in their lifetime and the accompanying stress will last around three months. Apparently, it's mainly solicitors' faults, with estate agents not being too well-loved either - both are accused of dragging their heels, over-charging for badly-executed services and forgetting to update clients with new information. Yup, sounds familiar.

I must admit, though, I find this survey result rather baffling. I am in the middle of my 18th move (my feet got itchy a lot in my 20s) and though there have certainly been sleepless nights, twisted bellies and moments of holding my tongue so as not to be arrested for breaching the peace of a solicitor, I've generally found that focussing on the promise of a new adventure has tempered the stress quite effectively.

Living around cardboard boxes, waiting for phone calls - sure, it's not pleasant. But one thing I know for sure is that time passes and frustration heals. Comparing estate agent rage to the pain of a divorce, or the fear of ruining your child's life with a few bad choices (watching the Evil Dead while nursing a baby could scar her tiny mind forever, my health visitor opined) sounds melodramatic and rather silly to me.

No, I can handle the practical strains. What I wasn't prepared for this time, being such a seasoned mover, was the emotional tug.

I've changed the view outside my window many times, taking in the bohemian brio of west end Glasgow, the never-ending noise of high street Hackney and the mellow chill of leafy south Belfast along the way. I hold great affection for some of my previous homes - the first studio squeezebox I lived in on my own, the sunshiney top floor I shared with my now-husband, the tiny creaky flat I brought my first baby home to.

But after leaving the family home, I didn't stay in any building for longer than three years and plenty of them I got bored of after six months.

Until this little house. Where I stopped for eight whole years - and my kids had their early childhoods.

My daughter has very foggy memories of living anywhere else and for my son there has only ever been one home. Watching him mournfully place years' worth of tenderly crafted Lego creations into a box (I've warned him they're unlikely to survive the journey intact) gave me an unexpected jolt.

Waving goodbye to the birds he claims to have identified as regular garden visitors might have been over-playing it (he does enjoy a good sympathy hug), but his little outburst when told we couldn't slice off the bit of wall his height has been recorded on for six years was genuine.

Meanwhile, my daughter has spent the week taking photographs of every room from every angle, to make sure she "never forgets what my childhood looked like". She is annoyed that she didn't do the same for each season - "especially Christmas".

No, it isn't solicitors, estate agents, unreliable buyers, or demanding sellers that have made making unexpectedly tougher this time. It's just that now, maybe halfway through my life, I think I know what loss feels like.

The sideshow joke trumps his rivals

It began, many of us casually thought, as a sideshow joke. But Donald Trump is emerging as a real contender for the Republican presidential candidacy. Which is kind of mind-blowing.

After "too intellectual" Obama, we could have the man the New Yorker this week called "an aptly named tub of hot air", whose line on illegal immigrants is, "We have some really bad dudes right here in this country and we're getting them out". Whose lawyer said this week, "You cannot rape your spouse" (he meant legally - and he's wrong).

It's not all bad, heartbreaking, terrifying news, though. As satirist Tina Fay said, it'll be good for comedy.

Mum Kate's got it all figured out

It's hardly radical thinking for an actress to say she's working hard to free her daughter from the psychological straitjacket subliminally imposed by Hollywood body fascism. They all say that.

But I do like the idea of Kate Winslet and her eldest, Mia, standing in front of the mirror together, Kate enthusing, "We're so lucky we're curvy. We're so lucky we've got good bums." And Mia saying, "Mummy, I know, thank God."

There are parents who say they want their kids to be relaxed about their weight, then nag them when they put on a few pounds.

Raving over each other's big bums is a far healthier way to be.

Belfast Telegraph

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