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

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

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

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