Jungly abundance

I’ll just type. I have no internet connection at the moment, but if I type fast and keep this on screen the marvels of technology might return to this part of the house where the wifi connection goes to die.

The chaos of the internet merely compounds all the other chaos swirling around at the moment.

House moving.

The dread two words. But fear not! The farm is going nowhere. But our London life gets a big shakeup.

We are leaving the wonderful house we have rented for almost five years (I won’t miss the wisteria) in Hampstead and are heading back to where we began. Primrose Hill.

So down the hill. Not far at all. A mere two stops on the Tube. Or a good brisk 40 minute walk down through Hampstead, Belsize Park and then in you go to the quiet and incredible Primrose Hill.

The place I started when I left Moscow thirty years ago.

Geography is one thing. And we are excited to be going back. But the whole concept is to downsize. To leave behind a four storey house with all its possessions and move back to our little one bedroom apartment. 60 square metres. And live happily ever after.

So guess what I was doing ‘on my holidays’ last week?


Daily and sometimes twice daily trips to the Oxfam charity bookshop with a trolley of books that really don’t need to move. (I treat the wonderful Oxfam bookshop in Hampstead as a lending library with a charitable glow. If I miss the books I have given away, I can always buy them back.)

I don’t have a large wardrobe of clothes (thank goodness) nor am I a shoe fetishist. But other stuff accumulates. So thank goodness for the other charity shops which don’t baulk at all the detritus we are shedding.

Why do two people ‘need’ twenty mugs? I opened a cupboard above the fridge and reeled back appalled. A nest of mugs! And I had completely forgotten they were there.

I have actually found a self storage facility within walking distance of the flat to place some furniture which won’t fit in the new old home. Because who are we kidding? Downsizing is darn hard. Space for more bicycles, spare wheels, cycling kit (three or maybe four bikes will make the move), the clothes and bed linen the won’t be needed in the winter season. The camping gear, the climbing gear….

It is reassuringly expensive, so we won’t just fling things in and hope. It has to be considered and really, really necessary for a far off decision on a future home with a teensy bit more space.

That was the easy stuff. The hard part was sitting on the carpet in my large office just looking at piles and piles and piles of papers and files and wondering where to start.

Well, of course the first thing I did was to cover one of my (zillions) of blank notebooks in fancy paper and create a Moving Book.

But that was the only fun bit. The rest was just feeling appalled by the accumulations.

We lived in the beautiful small Primrose Hill apartment for almost four years. Why on earth did our possessions expand so much in the intervening time?

We all know the answer to that.

But of course you aren’t here to read about house moving and gaze lovingly on shots of shredded tax returns that seem to drift back to 2003.

Three months of wet London summer and this happens to wisteria.

Did I mention I won’t miss the wisteria?

And, oh yes, the allotment is also undergoing an adventure.

We have to clear it all and start again.

Were I able to scroll back through my London allotment posts I might be able to see if I told you. But the land was found to be contaminated and the poor council is obliged to put it right. We lease the land. It was a walled garden willed to the residents of the surrounding area by an amazing benefactor.

Sadly it was leased briefly in the 1950s as a market garden to people who were very keen to dispose of pesky wasps with a quick spray of arsenic, to a generation of people more than happy to dump pots of lead paint in the corners, and generally fling the chemicals about.

So once the results were in (and another council owned allotment in the borough also failed the soil tests) cue the most tremendous summer of teeth gnashing and wailing on the part of the potholders in our tiny allotment site. 39 gardeners, most with Opinions. Loudly shared.

I don’t have any lovingly grown fruit trees on my plot. So I won’t feel too devastated by the purge. I’m miffed that my carefully created permaculture beds will go. But I can make those again.

This whole year has been a pause up at the garden. We are all waiting for the planning permission to put the site right.

So visiting last week was a bit of a gasp at the jungle. No one is bothering to garden as it will all go.

And the whole site is not only contaminated by higher than normal levels of lead, arsenic and some other nasty I have forgotten, but weeds. Pernicious relentless bindweed, alkinet, brambles.

Who wouldn’t want to start with a blank canvas of clean topsoil and considered planting? I’m in a minority there. But excited to start.

So I have dug up the hundreds and hundreds of London bricks I used to line the little paths. Those are hiding under the giant mound of white rubble bags in the middle of the plot. And all the shrubs I want to keep have been garlanded with ribbons.

Just to show the bulldozer drivers which need lifting and storing, and all the rest – and believe me I will happily say farewell to some of the ghastlier parts can be carried away.

Oh, and some of the roses will also remain.

But the upheaval in my London life is just going to be tremendous over the next few months.

I promise to be relaxed and less shrill by Christmas. House move. Garden move. Ugh.