Sunday, 27 February 2011

Did six months pass already?

I count the months on my fingers, and can barely believe it's true, but we left England, and the house, in August. Looked after by friends, the house has stayed up under a battering from junk mail, rain, snow, flood. Now Dig is there, saving us from bailiffs probably, mending a boiler, certainly.

He calls on Skype, and I see him, sitting exactly where he sits in the familiar office, ill-slept and time-worn in a grey-soaked England morning, beamed to me by screen; I sit in evening time Hong Kong. There's a strange reversal for you. He has the cold house, and the boiler that rattles and bangs. I have the warm evening, crickets and birdsong.

All I can I think, is how it's true you can tell yourself the same thing, over and over, for years. I can do it, even though it becomes hard work, and some moments it's nigh impossible. Like, that house, where I lived for over twenty years, right until August. The house where I'll live again from April, that is a beautiful house. It is, I'm sure of it.

Even though, on my screen, behind him, I can see the ceiling light in the office. Is it still really there? I forgot. I hate that ceiling light. Now I remember how it upsets me, everytime I see it. I wonder, how can I imagine I missed that room, when I see that light? How can I want to live with that light again, when I dislike it so much? Who would look forward to living with a ceiling light they couldn't change?

It's not as if I haven't tried. I bought a replacement, but then I clumsily dropped a brass curtain rail on it by accident. I smashed it, even before Dig never managed to put it up. Then I resolved to do something about the ceiling light, but now it's too low down on the list of priorities. I have to face it, I might never do anything at all.

Surely more urgent is the paint peel on the ceiling and the place where the plaster fell off thanks to the leaky water pipe in the upstairs neighbour's bathroom. And the pane of Victorian glass that smashed in the beautiful oak door when the ladder fell over. The bookcase door that doesn't close. The decorative wooden lion on the mantelpiece with its chin and bottom teeth dropped off. The piles of papers over the floor that somehow no-one can ever pick up. The exhausted armchair with the straw poking out the arms; the wall lights which don't light; the cellar that's wet and crumbling; the mirror that's cracked; the walls that are grey; the unused, unplugged fax machine, gone into hiding under a yellow towel, occupying the shelf space where the printer should be. The printer sits on the floor, surrounded by boxes.

I look at the whole now. It's falling apart, more than ever. I wonder if I've done what I can do about that house. It's a house I can't realise myself inside. It's a house I want to leave. It's a house I want to live in. I must keep it alive inside my head. Dig, even though he looks crumpled and worn out with travel, he fits this house, surrounded by papers, hidden by piles of mail, sat by a desk spilling with wires, a discarded keyboard, telephones, jottings of things to do.

For six months, I've only imagined that house. Now I see it, I feel powerless to change anything at all, even a light. And it makes me sad, the thought that living with what's there, how it is, how things stand, they'll always stand. It has to be enough.

There's no way out but to tell myself this. Underneath the mess, the chaos, the hopeless prospect, it is a beautiful house. It is. It is.

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