Moving on: a survivor’s tale John Julius Norwich
After 56 years in the same house, John Julius Norwich and his wife downsized to a flat. It was a traumatic experience
If you are seriously considering moving house, my advice is simple enough: don’t. If on the other hand there is no escape, the following account by a survivor may be of interest. I had lived in our house in Little Venice for 56 years, Mollie very nearly as long; but its four storeys were getting far too much for the two of us, the stairs steeper every day. What we needed was a threebedroom flat – grandchildren come to stay – all on one level with, if possible, a porter to help with the luggage. It nearly killed us, but we’ve got it.
The first point to bear in mind is that there is an incredible amount of paperwork to be done: informing the council, the police, the water, electricity and gas, the Royal Mail (for forwarding of mail, an extremely efficient service) and probably several other offices I have forgotten. Then there are the change-ofaddress cards to be printed – in our case maddeningly delayed because British Telecom refused to reveal our new telephone number.
The next job was to buy hundreds of little coloured labels, for every stick of furniture and a very large number of books. We were dramatically downsizing; a lot would have to go. But where? With the furniture and various objects, the first thing to do was to mark everything that was accompanying us to the new home; then our offspring came round and marked everything they wanted; the rest we subsequently sold by auction, and surprisingly successfully too. Books were a different problem. I knew I should have to get rid of perhaps two-thirds of them. The remainder – which of course included any with authors’ or other people’s dedications – were given a little yellow sticker, then they were safe. What of the rest? Once again it was first choice to the offspring, and then of course the London Library. I had spent some fifty years in the reading room, where I had written every word of nearly all my books and had become part of the furniture; the Library must
Paradise lost and found: John Julius Norwich and his wife, Mollie, in their new flat