How long does it take to find home? Odysseus set the bar of a decade: a year and a year and a year and more of overnight stop-offs and short-term enchantment, and love turning milk sour. That regular pack-up of a scoop, an armful, a fistful of stuff into boxes and bin bags. I’ve done it more than ten times in twelve years. Every time is painful and feverish and excited. I always pin my dreams on the new territory. I live for the turn I can’t see around, always. I am a woman of twists and turns. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
I don’t learn any lessons about how to make moving my home more orderly. I’ve got baggage, lots of it. I can never get my head around my living being divisible, and so the things of my everyday life tumble into bags that would upset adherents of categories. A few bits typically break, because I throw caution to the wind to see what smashes. When Odysseus got home he trashed it and then left again after a one-night stand with his home girl, who didn’t recognise him any more. I trash each new home when it becomes homely.
I can never really grasp the magnitude of what moving my home means. Each time I leave, it’s a miniature collapse of civilisation that I have willed to happen. What I lose is: the unrecorded movements that I have forged and repeated until they constitute everyday life; the microgeographies of corner shops that have the freshest mint, of pizza vendors open late, of good trees that smell nice and have life-affirming foliage; familiarity with the strange ways of local characters that make me feel normal; knowledge of how many minutes I can allow myself to remain sitting before I run to catch a train; the way the sink drains and how quickly the kitchen window steams up; the time it takes the washing to dry. When all of this is invisibly commonplace, indeed boring, I begin to twitch. I fear that rituals will squeeze the life out of me. As a generation-rent girl I’ve become addicted to conquering new territory, which terrifies me, but not as much as being stuck still.
I long to feel the measure of my powers again. To witness and value the complex knowledges and body techniques I draw on and extend to make a new home. It begins with a slow remembrance of gestures in the kitchen as I unfurl, and by beating of new paths outside. I tentatively boil an egg, I make tomato sauce: it tastes new here. I map the everyday by finding where I will buy food. Shops and restaurants that I have never visited mean I will fill my cupboards and spend my time slightly differently: here, crustier bread and more appealing meat; there, an infinite variety of ripe tomatoes, and spices I don’t know; here, a lofty space where I spend all of my weekend money on avocado toast; there a caff I visit in the week for a bacon and egg bap and strong tea.
In the first weeks and months I wonder at the textures and surfaces of my new home like a visitor from another planet. I luxuriate in the vanguard sensuality of a new postcode. I collect up the tastes and gestures of homemaking that every move teaches me, each one a new way of being in the world. I cherish it, and pray it won’t be my last.