So . . . as many boxes as can be hidden away in a storage unit have been stuffed to the brim and tightly sealed. There has not been enough time to go through every single item in this house and say 'yes', 'no' or 'recycle' but a great deal has already gone, never to return, and, in due course, I will liberate one box at a time from the storage unit. And will then be ruthless; at least that is the plan.
Meanwhile, the primary plan, to move to the smaller house that means so much to me, is moving on. Slowly but most definitely moving on. My offer to buy the house has been accepted and the house is off the market. The vendor has yet to find the house that they want to buy and my Dear Old House is about to go on the market. So, in terms of pressure, we are just about equally balanced.
I was doing very, very well until about 10 days ago, after the visit of the first estate agent, who came highly recommended by a good friend who lives nearby and has moved as many times in the past couple of decades as I have in my entire life. I had worked very hard indeed to get the house looking as I understand a house for sale must look these days - very streamlined and as if no-one actually lives here ie fit to appear on Location, Location, Location. It's quite hard to do that to a 300-year-old house that welcomes many guests, human and canine, and has always had resident dogs and cats, but I was determined to do my best. Said agent has been doing his job for over 40 years, still enjoys what he does, and was a fount of knowledge and valuable information - but was in no doubt that 'a great deal more needed to be done' on the decluttering front.
And then, the second half of what turned out to be a double whammy, the valuation was rather less than I had hoped, and would not, after purchasing the smaller house, leave quite such a comfortable financial cushion for me to see out my days. (In case anyone thinks that all we baby boomers are having a life of Riley on our great big fat private pensions, I have news for you: if you were a self-employed baby boomer like me for much of your working life, putting absolutely every last penny you could afford into a pension, you may well have ended up with very little to show for it indeed. Or at least very little by the time the pension companies, pension advisers, and various sundry interested parties had all dipped their mitts into your hard-earned pension pot. I think there are regulations in place to stop this happening now; too late for my modest pension though. Lesson learned, at least for the next generation.)
I went into a bit of a downward spiral; I was exhausted and disappointed and all the packing and lifting and whizzing backwards and forwards to the storage depot and checking on the builders and running up and down the stairs many, many times a day, meant that the sciatica had returned, with a vengeance. And, of course, I do love my home and my garden and the views, and leaving it, after 20 years, almost all of which have been very happy ones, will be a wrench. There were tears. By the time I got to my yoga class, I was a wreck. Please don't anyone say anything nice to me, I thought, or I will start to sob and won't be able to stop. I just about made it through to a very welcome yoga nidra at the end of the class, by which time I barely noticed and no longer cared about the tears flowing onto my yoga mat.
But, 24 hours later, I bounced back and just Got On With The Stuff and even managed to get quite gung-ho about it, with the words of my Friend in Portugal ringing in my ears: 'There will be another garden, other views.' She is right. And, yesterday, after the very last box had been stored away, I was all prepared when agent number two arrived. He loved the house, said I had done a great job of 'preparing it to go on the market' and that the terrace, with its old wooden table and chairs and the bright pink parasol - all bathed in sunshine, with views of the surrounding countryside - reminded him of France . . . and then gave me an even lower valuation than agent number one. (But I have already forgiven him because half way through going round the house, he remarked, 'How wonderful to see so many books. I LOVE books.' And it was not said in irony, which would have been understandable because there are, in fact, far too many in almost every room, but was quite spontaneous - and genuine. At least, I think it was . . . after all, he didn't suggest that I put them all, or even some of them, in storage. And, anyway, who wants to look at empty bookshelves?)
Thank goodness, therefore, that I happened to read Corrie Corfield's recent blogpost about selling up and leaving a much loved home. For those of you unfamiliar with BBC Radio 4, Corrie is one of its best newscasters. She also writes an occasional but always excellent blog. This post says it all and it helped to remind me why I am doing this and how much I am looking forward to life in the smaller house - or another smaller house if things don't quite work out (because we all need a Plan B or even a Plan C or D).
I also needed a reminder of another reason for wanting, needing to move: more time to write - and, ergo, more time to think - as I had almost forgotten how very much I loved writing . . . and all the thinking and reflecting that accompanies the creative process. (Chronic pain for months on end isn't the best stimulus for creativity; well, not for me.) This interview with one of the writers I admire most, Marilynne Robinson, which appeared in Friday's Guardian, was more than timely.
All this has been going on against a backdrop of the best English summer for years; the thrilling performance of the best English soccer team for years - accompanied by a series of hilarious online exchanges with my Dear Old School Friend (one of the funniest people I know and who has only just embraced social media); a long overdue reunion with a very dear friend - and another, equally special, reunion with a close friend to come - and the prospect of going to the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A before the month is out. Unforgettable, all of it, and every moment to be relished. So, if this does turn out to be the last summer at the Dear Old House, it will have been the very best of summers, unlikely to be surpassed - and the provider of enough good memories to see me through whatever lies ahead.