Stripped and bare, patches on the walls where my pictures once hung, the bookcases bereft of their well-thumbed tenants, my old house, always vivid with light and warmth and comfort, suddenly seems full of shadows.
“Goodbye” I say aloud, “Goodbye and thank you. I’ve been happy here.” No answer. Well… naturally not. The house, witness to my successes (limited) to my failures (many) and to the countless endeavours that had fallen somewhere in between, acknowledges my farewell with a cool (and silent) indifference. If it is true that a house bears the imprint of all those lives that have been played out within its walls… well then mine, clearly, had meant very little at all. I’ve been shrugged off. The house was already waiting for its next inhabitant. Perhaps, I thought, we never truly own a house we just temporarily colonise it. And I have a new home silently preparing to welcome me. The thought cheers me.
“Goodbye” I say again, only to hear the word echo through the bare hallway as I lock the door behind me. I don’t look back. My London days have drawn to a close. A fresh start beckons. A new life awaits me and I’m ready to cast-off. It’s time to follow the van.
Following a van is not as easy as one would think. There are sudden lurches and experimental forays into outer lanes and then brake-slamming checks and stuttering retreats. Hands gripping the wheel, my journey down the motorway is a series of staggers like those of a drunk trying but failing to walk in a straight line. After a torturous two hours, a thought occurs to me. Why was I even trying to keep pace with the van? The removal men had the address. I knew where I was going. I could go at my own speed. Just because all that I owned, everything that I had accumulated… not just the furniture and the clothes but the old letters, the photographs of my dead parents, of my friends, of my younger more hopeful self… were all in that van, it didn’t mean that I had to trail anxiously in its wake like an expectant chef following his signature dish to the table. What a lot of holding-on-tight we do, I need to be more Zen I tell myself as the van bucks its way around a corner and disappears out of sight. Now I’ve never been sure exactly what Zen means but it’s something to do with not letting stress get to you, thereby becoming a serene and delightful person apparently. Which does sound like rather a lot of work. And perhaps delightful might be pushing it but what better place to start than by letting go of petty anxieties? Like worrying about my belongings for example. This will be my first test. And after all, the New Me says aloud, It’s just stuff. Ah, says the Old Me reasserting herself, but it’s your stuff… and define petty.
And so, Old and New Me continue to slug it out until I swing a left on to a zig-zagging stretch of road bearing the sign Deceptive Bends and both are silenced. I blink. Is this some kind of a warning? Are these bends truly deceptive? Have I taken a wrong turn? Will this move prove to be everything that I hope? Is a fresh start ever possible? I force myself to relax. This was no time to whip myself up into a fit of anxiety and self-doubt.
Now with the rise and curve of the hills appearing on my right, a light mist begins to gather in the gloom of this early spring evening. The thinnest of veils at first, it thickens quickly and I flick on my lights. Suddenly I’m reminded of an old film that I’d watched with my grandmother, Brigadoon with Gene Kelly about a village in the Highlands. A Hollywood fantasy of a rustic Scottish village in glorious if garish technicolour, complete with clashing tartans and accents of dubious authenticity. A village that is trapped in time and where nothing ever changes. An enchanted village where on just one day a year… or is it one day a century? The mist parts and Brigadoon materialises. For only one day it becomes visible and can be accessed by the outside world. But stay too long and the enchantment breaks, the mist descends and the visitor finds himself trapped within its narrow confines. Uh-oh I think, struggling to see more than a few feet ahead of me, I’m sure this mist is getting thicker. Does this place have its own weather system? Is this to be my personal Brigadoon?
It’s when I reach the outskirts of town that my lights pick up the bulky form of a large container lorry beached on its side in the bus lane. Oh, that doesn’t look good I think when something about it seems disturbingly familiar. “No… It can’t be” I say aloud. “Can it?”
As I make my way up the High Street the mists of Brigadoon seem to swirl and close about me.
TO BE CONTINUED