As a frequent traveller I have often found myself leafing through in-flight magazines in those periods of electronic prohibition between doors closing or opening and cruising altitude, and wrestling briefly with the MENSA quizzes that purport to confirm that one really should have gone to MIT, written a novel, run for president, but is actually too smart to be concerned with such mundane things. A frequent test of our intellect involves a boat trip and a selection of dangerously incompatible passengers one must accompany across in careful combinations. Needless to say I tend to cheat or assume a bridge, but I found myself perfecting such a convoluted plan as I moved myself from temporary housing near Farringdon to our flat in Southwark: the challenge was to move three suitcases of clothes and toiletries, a bicycle and its travel case, two computers, and a box of food and kitchen detritus using a weekend car rental while maintaining the ability to dress, wash, eat and ride the aforementioned bicycle for the three days following the weekend and before the flat became available.
Once the exercise is no longer academic the challenge is oddly enthralling – assessing the number of trips, the items that one can easily move back and forth, the items one can live without briefly; enthralling that is for the protagonist and no one else! So the short and short of it is that I have moved back into our London flat and it is uncanny, unheimlich or unhomely as Freud described it; in fact as it is perfectly familiar and yet exactly not what one remembered it to be: things are not where they are supposed to be – they are exactly where they used to be but somehow one’s mind expects them to be somewhere else as it wrestles to map a familiar space of the past with the less familiar but predominant space of the present; I am not sure in this case if that present space is our house in DC or my Farringdon flat, but the effect is the same. And it is much smaller than I remember and hard to imagine how Nancy and I shared this space as comfortably as we did for so many years. The simple truth is that, while the space has not changed, I have and return to it as a very different person.