To begin with it feels nothing but alien, its spaces clean and bleak and anodyne. Nothing is intuitive or familiarly located; every task requires conscious navigation. I feel weary beyond the physical, as if the sheer newness of everything takes effort to process; as if the energy of rolling with every minor adjustment and improvisation compounds into serious exertion. I’m a stand-up paddleboarder, making the countless tiny corrections just to stay upright that amount to a full-body workout. Continue reading “Life overboard”
Toaster jug iron vacuum cleaner laundry basket laundry rack towels duvet inners x3 fitted sheets x3 duvet covers x2+ pillows x2 pillowcases mattress protectors mirror coat hangers kitchen bin bucket broom bedside lamp oven mitt tea towels dish rack dinner set cutlery set mugs water glasses salad bowl pasta pot frying pan grater potato peeler colander bread knife paring knife scissors bottle opener tin opener chopping board pepper grinder bread tin roasting tin baking sheet wooden spoons serving spoon fish slice ladle tongs masher.
We manage about half of it on the first trip to Ikea. We get in and out in under four hours, which includes lunch (though not the hour on the bus there), and we only lose one child once, for half an hour. Continue reading “Ready to roll… again”
Stability. Settledness. A mostly predictable order to things.
It lasts about four days.
It’s the first week of my new nannied-up routine and I’m just relaxing into the roomy new shape of my week when the email arrives from the letting agent. The landlords won’t be renewing our lease in June. Continue reading “Unfortunately, fortunately”
Normal summer transmission resumes and London goes back to being grey and warmish and intermittently drizzly. We settle into a routine: Hapless heading off for the daily commute, the rest of us tackling ‘summer school’ – a little daily homeschooling and light masochism. Continue reading “Ball games”
The boys and I arrive at Heathrow at midday on a sweltering Friday in late June. Emerging sweaty and exhausted from the brutal half-hour Customs queue, we spy Hapless waving bashfully from the crowd at the Arrivals barrier. Continue reading “Hello, London”
The Free-Range Writer furiously hammers out the last third of her 103,000-word first novel draft, hands it in half an hour before the final deadline, necks a pint at the Old Government House faculty bar, collapses into exhausted sleep on beanbag on her own back deck. School holidays. The FRW takes a much-needed break from writing, survives Christmas, enjoys a fabulous summer free from deadline pressure, realises her children are actually really quite lovely, even manages to write a short story or two. Hapless, fed up with the poky Auckland job market, leaves for London. The FRW reluctantly re-enters her battery cage and spends three months working at capacity, an experience not enhanced by solo parenting, and remembering why she gave the whole lousy gig up in the first place. Late at night she shops on the internet for London flats and schools; during the weekends she packs up the household box by back-aching nail-breaking box. Four months after his departure, Hapless is reunited in an emotional scene at Heathrow with his family, rendered temporarily more adorable by distance.
“You’ll laugh about soon,” they said. And, “It’ll make a great blog post!”
At the time, writing about it seemed highly unlikely – it felt too quailingly awful even to be grist to the colourful-story mill – though even then I was half-laughing about it, in between the palpitations and the tears. Continue reading “Comedy of ewwww”
Here we go: last despatches from Hawea. The trailer is packed, the surfaces scrubbed, the last anchovy and scraping of margarine eaten. The crap that came with the house is all carefully returned to its original positions, down to the last stained, frayed towel and framed piece of wool art (tableaux of farm scenes made from artfully arranged tufts of unbleached fleece), not to mention the fugly plastic toad clock. Continue reading “Homeward bound”
A whole new year, minus a week. Now that it’s here I find myself impatient to begin, to move through this pleasant, lazy, between-the-years hiatus and on to the next stage of relocating, resettling, reacclimatising, and absorbing the reverse culture shock of the big, bad, beautiful city. Continue reading “Cows vs tigers”
Suddenly, here we are, down to the last week of school and truly free-range writing. Then there’ll be visitors (yay, someone to buy us beer!) and Christmas, and after that just three weeks to pack up the whole household and get myself and the boys on a plane. Continue reading “Exit strategy”