Tomorrow, my husband and I will leave the house we’ve lived in for nearly four years, ever since we first moved to Melbourne. With the exception of the few clothes, books and things we’ll be taking with us to the UK, everything we own is in boxes, ready to go into storage for the next six months. Our bookshelves are bare, the daybed is stacked on its side, and thanks to Toby’s overzealous packing of the kitchen utensils, we’ve been living on tinned soup, frozen pizza and takeaway for the better part of a week. The cats have been in Bowral for nearly a fortnight. I find myself lying awake in bed, staring at the shadow-tinged walls and wondering how we’ll remember the place in a year, two years, five, ten. Physically, it’s a skinny terrace that feels like a train station. The bathroom is the size of a postage stamp with barely enough room to turn around. Leaky pipes have caused the paint on several walls to flake. There’s mould on the ceilings and not enough powerpoints. The ceilings are high enough that changing lightbulbs is a royal pain, even with a stepladder – the bedroom has stayed unlit for over a year, and only half the hall and lounge bulbs work. Even if we had one, there’s no space for a dining room table. The rent has increased 30% since we first moved in. Like hermit crabs in a too-small shell, we’ve gradually outgrown the place, accumulating more books, films and possessions than comfortably fit the interior, so that we’re constantly living amidst our own clutter.
But for nearly four years, it’s been ours. It’s the first house we picked together, the place we lived while engaged and to which we returned after our honeymoon. Toby’s parents and sister all ended up living in Albert Park because we were there, sliding down from Queensland in the space of three years. I’ve lived in other places since starting university, but this is the first house that’s felt like home. And small though it is, cramped as the bedside tables are and as much as the dodgy washing-line makes me grumble, I’ll miss that about it.
Between tomorrow and the 20th, we’ll be staying with my parents-in-law, whose current house is just up the road. Despite all the preparations for our five months in the UK, I didn’t quite believe we were going until earlier today, because I hadn’t really processed that we were leaving our little house forever. Whenever I think about getting on the plane, I feel a rush of exhiliration: we’re nearly there. We’ll be overseas until January 2010 – just two months before Solace & Grief is published. Next year is already significant. But 2009 is the year its all been built on: the year I signed a contract, went to my first convention, (hopefully) finished the sequal, spent my first New Year’s Eve in another country, visisted Scotland, celebrated my second wedding anniversary – and there’s so much still to look forward to.
But until then, I’m taking a moment to remember our funny, thin, impractical house. We’ve loved it, and now we’re leaving. Chances are, it won’t remember us, unless it turns out that walls have memories as well as ears. But we’ll remember it.