Farewell to Yesterday

A Wander Down the RoadIt is difficult to predict, but my blog posting may become more sporadic for a time. This is not due to a lack of things to write about; no doubt the worrisome news that is presently streaming out of Whitehall and Westminster will continue to flow unabated. However, I have a lot to do over the coming weeks, especially once graduation is behind me; in particular, I am getting to grips with sorting out my residence and putting it up for sale. On Saturday, I rented a carpet cleaner and used it on the front hall. In order to get the best out of it, I had to clear the area of all the accumulated detritus of 3 and 1/2 years: umbrella stands and plastic shoe boxes, gardening equipment and a stepladder, and a small wooden table upon which the unread post, mostly junk mail, had accumulated. After the carpet was clean and dry, I walked upon it with bare feet. The sun was shining through an open window, a fresh breeze swept in. The dust and cobwebs were gone, replaced by the sharp scent of detergent: this is what it will look like, I thought, once I move out. There is a time to say a final farewell to yesterday, and this day is approaching.

Melancholy adds to the mix. I take no pleasure in saying that I ended my relationship with my long-term girlfriend last week; I do not blame her, nor am I angry. Regret and sadness outweigh any other emotion, but the decision was driven by necessity: not least, it is due to the imperatives resulting from my own mistakes. For her part, she moved to London last autumn due to her work and has not lived with me since. People can grow apart as well as together; this is what has happened in the interim so as far as I am concerned. One wishes it to be otherwise, prays for an alternative to having that most painful of talks, explores other options, but there comes a point when one cannot avoid saying farewell. I hope that nothing but happiness follows her once this period passes, once the pain goes, once the sunlight trickles back into her days.

But not everything is in shadow. I was thinking over the weekend that my task now is to make the house a setting for a much happier owner. Perhaps it will be a young couple, as my ex-girlfriend and I once were. I recall with fondness when we bought the house; we received the keys shortly before Christmas 2006. We celebrated the purchase by opening a bottle of Cava in the cellar and toasting to the new residence. We never managed to make all the changes we desired, but in many respects, the property is better than it was. For example, many of the rooms were painted in lurid colours; the bedroom on the first floor was painted a yellow that was so bright that it was headache-inducing. The study was done up in a nauseating aquamarine, a colour scheme which was “enhanced” by a ceramic fish light-pull. These rough edges were softened. Old carpets were removed, floors were sanded and stained. A new boiler was put in; this was a necessity after a first winter spent unduly shivering thanks to the old one which had been there since Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. A small bedroom was turned into a functional dressing room with well-made, built-in cupboards and closets. Someone else will pick up the task and make the house what it should be, and perhaps inject the consistent joy the place has lacked for a long time.

Also, my final days in my present town will not be entirely absent of sweet recollections. I had a great many errands to do on Saturday, and as a result, I walked a good deal through and around the area. I have lived in my current location since 2004, and now at the end, I can recollect what made it so attractive at the beginning: the pedestrian streets, the medieval monument at the town centre, the Cathedral, the green spaces. I passed by the Indian restaurant which my ex-girlfriend and I used to visit; the owner would greet us warmly every time we crossed his threshold and he always offered us a complimentary after-dinner drink, an amaretto with ice for her, a brandy for me. At other times, we would go to the local Marks & Spencer to buy supplies and to the HMV to see what cheap DVDs were available. In the case of a £3 copy of Twilight, we got what we paid for. The sheer attractiveness of this place made it easy to slip into dreams of a semi-rural idyll: visions which sadly never came to fruition. Time to move on. I know now that there will soon come a day when I go down to the train station for the last time. I will roll a suitcase awkwardly behind me. I’ll buy a one way ticket, board the train, and watch my former home town disappear into the distance. Visits will likely be rare. Eventually, it will probably be a small part of a conversation held among friends and acquaintances: when my town is mentioned, I will say, “Why yes, I used to live there!”

Sometimes tears build up and escape over the walls of reserve. One wonders if things could have been different; I recall the historian Dominic Lieven once saying in a seminar that one should never underestimate the role of contingency. Of course things could have gone an alternative path at an earlier space in time. However, the point had been reached at which no other option was possible for me. Time to put together boxes, separate out items, mark the packaging with the appropriate initials. Take out the trash, sweep the yard. Attack the furniture with lavender-scented polish, wash the towels and the sheets, sweep the floors. At some juncture the next people will arrive: they’ll find the house charming. Deals will be made, money will be transferred, debts will be paid. I will awake in a different bed a year from now, to a bright sunrise in a new town. By then the regrets will have faded; with so much to do, there is a good chance of that they will soon be obscured by lists and labours. Perhaps by then, my ex-girlfriend will have found her way on her road, which has now irrevocably diverged from mine. This farewell to yesterday, as arduous as it is now, should then be consigned to the past, only to slumber gently within the rest of memory.

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  • CDF

    Thanks, Olly.

  • That’s a remarkably lucid window into your current state of mind. The extent to which it is impossible to predict one’s future never ceases to fascinate me.

    It sounds like a time of change for you at the moment. I’m moving from Cambridge to London within a month and a half, hopefully as part of the last big upheaval I make for some time. Beginning my new career in teaching, I have absolutely no idea what my professional and personal lives have in store for me.

    I hope your blog posts don’t become too sporadic. There’s something very human about the posts in which you talk about your life. I think you manage to convey emotions, strengths and vulnerabilities in a very genuine way.

    I digress.

    As ever, I hope it all goes smoothly.

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