My London house contents won’t fit into my Dublin home
Helen O’Rahilly is moving house this morning, but there’s nowhere to put her ‘besk’
I upsized over in London, and now I’m downsizing over here. Photograph: Getty Images
I’m moving into my newly bought Dublin house this morning. As you read this I’ll already be sweaty and grimy, my nerves jangling, my pockets full of euro notes to tip the removal men. I’ll be making numerous cups of tea and coffee and handing out plates of Hobnobs. A mountain of my empty cardboard boxes will be rivalling the Spire on Dublin’s skyline.
I’ve done this twice before in London and both times, as the empty removal vans pulled away, I stood in those houses and cried, out of tiredness, out of relief. Not looking for sympathy here, I’m privileged to be a home-owner and especially, now, one without a mortgage. I’ve moved back from London after 30 years and the sale of a house over there allows me the luxury of buying in Dublin without handing out thousands a month to a bank. This is the beginning of a new chapter back in my beloved home city. This house will be my (re)launch pad.
I rented for seven years in London and lived through the “ice on the inside of the bedroom window” period. I’ve handed over used notes to landlords who made fleeting appearances for the monthly brown envelope and would then disappear off the face of the earth when the pipes broke or mould appeared under the sink. So, I’ve been there and endured some grim conditions.
Bank of Mum and Dad
I saved and saved to get on the property ladder with no big handout from “the bank of Mam and Dad”. I upsized over there, and now I’m downsizing over here. It’s just me and five cats whose noses are already well out of joint, having being carted from their beloved territory of verdant rows of back gardens in north London. I have a lot of making up to do with my feline crew. Although having paid £1,200 (€1,430) for five pet passports and rabies vaccinations (rabies? In Ireland?) maybe they should be making it up to me?
Death and divorce (and a fine sprinkling of Brexit tedium) brought me home to Ireland.
My mother’s death last year and the end of a 19-year relationship are hardly joyous reasons to return but were the kick in the backside I needed. I’d done what I wanted to do over there, enjoyed (almost) every minute of it but Ireland was calling. So, a lot is invested in this bit of Dublin that’s now mine. This house is giving me the fillip I need after a rough year. I can’t wait to decorate, cook, start spring and summer planting in the small but perfectly formed back garden. These flights of fancy have already been curtailed by some late-breaking practicalities of property purchasing. In this, the last hand-wringing week of worry between exchange and completion, I’ve been sideswiped by some last-minute hitches: I’ve discovered that downsizing has its downsides.
I hadn’t fathomed that my London house contents might not fit into this smaller property.
I visited to measure up last week. The modern minimalist kitchen is bespoke: everything fits snugly and is streamlined. My almost brand new enormous Liebherr fridge/freezer won’t fit anywhere. Think of an enormous steel Dalek with LCD touch screen and “Sabbath Mode” (look it up). I’ve now bought a wheeled plinth so at least I can waltz it around the kitchen when it trips me up, the steel hulk emitting “Re-Fridg-Erate!” in true Doctor Who style. It may be on eBay soon. Then there’s where to put 40 boxes of books. There are no shelves. A carpenter is now booked for Monday; a painter too to paint the wall behind where the new shelves will go. Euro notes are flying out of my overheated bank account.
Flahavan’s Progress Oatlets
I may be living on Flahavan’s Progress Oatlets for the foreseeable future.
I have two large John Lewis couches, each two metres long, bought in the Olympic Games Furniture sale after London 2012’s 30th Olympiad ended. From the executive suite at the Stratford stadium, I like to imagine that Usain Bolt or Katie Taylor’s finely toned rear ends once adorned my cushion pads. Again, the two couches won’t fit in my new livingroom. One might, with a bit of manoeuvring; the other will have to stand on one end until I sell it.
Then there’s the hand-crafted “Besk”, a double bed that masquerades as a desk, that weighs as much as a Massey Ferguson Compact. I’d planned on putting it into the new loft/office space but now I fear the weight of it will collapse the entire house. I may have to use it as an ironing board instead. Having spent 17 years doing up a London Victorian house, I’ve collected every tool known to B&Q. I’m now in a completely renovated house so box loads of tile-cutters, sink spanners, grouting tools, power saws and sanders will be going a-begging. There’s just nowhere to store them.
Then there’s my “Alligator Lopper™” , think a mechanical Jaws, but I’ve no trees or bushes to cut in the new garden. I might keep the Lopper plugger in beside my bed as a burglar deterrent or they’ll have to go to a good home, just not my home. I’d failed to plan ahead with this downsizing. On the bright side, there’ll be one hell of a giveaway for my new neighbours. That’ll beat a cup of sugar any day.