Tim Dowling: ‘I take one last look around the house we’ve lived in for 24 years’ | Life and style

The packing takes two days. At the end of the first day, my office has been stripped of everything except the desk. I carry a kitchen chair up the stairs, and I sit there, pretending everything is normal.

That night, my wife, the oldest one and I go to the Thai restaurant over the road. The conversation is dominated by last things: nearby places we might not happen across for years to come; people we might see again as soon as next week, or as late as never. We over-order, just in case.

“I don’t want to move,” my wife says.

“It was your idea,” I say.

“I know,” she says. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“You talked the rest of us into this,” the oldest one says.

“I’m freaking out,” my wife says.

“It’s exciting,” I say. “I’m excited.”

“Shut up,” she says.

When we wake up the next morning in an empty bedroom, its former furniture indicated only by indentations in the carpet, the removal van is already outside.

“I’m not leaving,” my wife says.

“What you’re going through is normal,” I say. “Irritating, but normal.”

I have work to do, but no place to do it. I end up sitting on the floor of the youngest one’s room, hunched over a keyboard, while he sleeps. When I next look up, he’s gone, along with the bed.

As more stuff gets carted away, we gravitate to the kitchen, standing because there is nowhere to sit. The middle one bounces a tennis ball against the bare white wall, while the dog and the cat mill about anxiously. My wife and I are wearing rucksacks containing essentials, in my case an iPad, my diary, a phone charger, spare socks and a clean pair of pants. I was too late to rescue my toothbrush, which is in the van, somewhere.

The table goes. The enormous kitchen dresser I collected from Aldershot last week disappears while my back is turned. The men work around us, occasionally stopping to consult.

“Is this going or staying?” one says, pointing to a bookcase.

“Going,” I say.

“Staying,” my wife…

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