I was in the supermarket the other night on my way home, picking up some last minute stuff. It was quiet. Almost closing time. Two men behind me at the only open check-out knew each other, and began chatting as acquaintances do who haven’t seen each other for a little while. One told the other they’d just moved house and bemoaned some of the things that go along with it. The other responded with “I moved house, once. Never again”
Once???? I’ve recently moved for the 27th time.
Just for clarity, I’m counting any address where I lived, made my own beds, bought my own food, (unless too young and my mum was doing said things for me) received mail – so that it doesn’t count as a ‘holiday’ (or vacation if you want to be mutli-national about it).
There’s no one set reason. I wasn’t an ‘army brat’ whose parent or parents were in the military and so we moved bases regularly. I wasn’t born into a tribe of Romany travellers or some nomadic tribe in Timbuctu. There were (are?) all sorts of reasons.
The first was that my mum & dad grew up in different parts of the country. They bought their first married home in *his* region; but when his job took him away a lot and mum found herself alone for long periods with a baby, it made more sense for the family home to be near to *her* family; so when I was 2 we moved house back to her home town.
I count being at sea as being “somewhere I lived”, so that’s one of the 27 places. Even though we went back and forth a LOT of times, and on different ships; I can’t really separate the memories of different voyages, but they all lasted for months. Besides, any mail we received (and this is why I’ve counted it…I remember a helicopter landing on board out at sea once, near Christmas, and “Santa” getting off and handing a sack to the crew member who’d gone out to meet him) would have been addressed to the same shipping office address and then forwarded on.
We moved house again, after my little sister was born, so I would have been 7; and as a family of 5, with a nanny, we were outgrowing our 3-bed terrace; besides, Dad had ‘made Captain’ so I’m assuming the income was better.
After that…well, it’s difficult to track the amount of time spent in each place. My parents divorced and we left the bigger house. We moved in with mum’s boyfriend. Then we moved in with her next boyfriend….and so it went for a while. Rentals, with or without boyfriends. Then after a few years she remarried and I thought, finally…a bit of stability…
Alas, that was not to be. They decided to go into business as a pub-management couple and so we lived above various pubs, moving around a few as the tenancies ended or whatever other reasons we were moved. Then it was convenience stores…we lived above/behind two of those.
Then I went to university; and so I moved…this time into a house share with 3 other students. And eventually my dog – but dog-tales is probably another post…
My next ‘move’ was Camp America. My first time abroad on my own and first visit to the USA. OK so it wasn’t *technically* a move, since I was on a student/temp work visa to work in the USA for the summer; but I did receive mail there during the few months I spent in Iowa. (Mum, and a friend, both sent ‘care packages’ – a collection of sweets/foods from home! remember, these were days before everything was global; there were far more brands that remained local and hadn’t yet breached human borders. Although one bag of jelly sweets mum sent had congealed – the package must have been left in a warm place, maybe out in the sun at the cargo depot in between flights, but they’d then gelled back together into one big lump of multicoloured jelly sweet. it was quite amusing. And difficult to eat!!). and if it counts, I then traveled down to Brazil to stay with Dad for a few weeks, although I’ve included that in this whole summer experience as 1 move.
After that, mum left husband#2 and we moved to a small rented terrace; which was quite sweet, really. And a nice location. It was close to where I ended up working for the next 10+ years and I cycled to work regularly. Also accessible to nightlife and shopping and public transport. And my grandparents – they were in walking/cycling distance so I could pop round when I felt like it. Mum eventually moved back with husband#2 and I took over the rental of the little terrace. And I was so happy to finally have a place of my own, I was there for a good few years. I hadn’t learned to drive up until that point and didn’t see the need to living there either. I was dispatching airplanes for a living, and completing loadsheets, and even had a couple of flying lessons but couldn’t drive a car!
Then I met my husband-to-be. Once it seemed we were to ‘settle down’ together he brought up the idea of buying our own place. We searched around and even though my preference was to stay in my home town, we found a new build (His preference…I’ve always prefered older houses), up in the valleys, that was still to be built but the plot looked amazing and the showhome was a similar style…we bought it off plan the same day and it transpired that I would need to drive in order to get to work, so the driving lessons began in earnest.
And I kept saying, over and over, I was only moving again because this would be the last time I moved. We would put our stamp on this new home and stay there. It was sizeable, bigger than we would have been able to afford down in my home town (houses in the valleys invariably are at the lower end of the house-price range), and there was a playpark, and a school nearby…we figured, not that we had set plans, but if children of our own came along, we would grow into the house and the area.
And then…one strange evening, he got a phone call in the middle of the night from a company in New Zealand asking if he’d like to come and work for them…
It wasn’t a decision we took lightly. I mean, who gets a call like that out of the blue from a country you’ve never been let alone ever considered living in? It took us a while, but we thought, hey why not? And once again…I promised my self: last-time…
Of course, then there were a few address changes when we first got there. He went out first as he had to start work; I followed after I had worked my notice and packed up the house to be shipped over (since the new company had given him a relocation allowance…otherwise it’s a very expensive undertaking! Even then, it pretty much ate up anything we had – which wasn’t much.). They had put him up in a city waterfront apartment to begin with for his first 4 weeks, to get a foothold while he started work and had a chance to look around. Then he found a small bedsit in the city for when I arrived. To be honest, it was a nice little place. Very basic, and all our own stuff was in storage. But it was nice, kind of freeing, to be living with very few belongings for a while. But we had a container of stuff arriving, so we needed to think about renting an actual house. So we found one. And moved in. And the stuff arrived. And then he heard from someone in work about other ex-pats on the same visa as us (work-to-residency) who had managed to get mortgages. So, we found a nice place and bought again. So we moved. Luckily before having unpacked the boxes of stuff!
And we got a dog. And I found out I was pregnant. And I looked out at the view from our balcony regularly and told myself, again, that this was the last time, that I would stay here and settle down…
After I had the second child, Other half was getting itchy feet again and was browsing jobs…and was really taken by an ad he’d seen for his role…but in The Bahamas. I rolled my eyes. Thinking it was a long shot I just nodded and said ‘go for it’ when he asked if he should apply. Not such a long shot as it turned out; he was offered the job…and after that there was very little chance of him being persuaded to turn it down. It was a 2-year contract ‘with a view to extend’.
There had been a suggestion discussed that I would stay in NZ with the children and he could send money back, at least to begin with. But I didn’t really have that much fight left in me by this point, and couldn’t see myself being here alone with children. And I asked for reassurance that there was little chance of this actually only being a 2-year contract and a high possibility that it WOULD be extended? Yes, of course! Why would they let him go after spending all that on relocation and so on and so forth…
So, just short of 5 years after arriving in New Zealand, we all went. We packed up…again….with another relocation allowance. We flew to LA. Stayed there a couple of nights to wait for the dog (She wasn’t allowed to fly Air NZ so we had to collect her off a Qantas flight at LAX). Then we used a little of the relocation allowance to take a 2-week road trip across the States from LA to Huston, from where we could get a short hopper-flight to The Bahamas with the dog in the cabin. I’d investigated different routes and options and this seemed the best option to lessen the stress of shipping and flight-changes and different cargo handlers the dog would have to endure in order to get straight to Nassau. Plus it gave us a bit of a holiday. And it was pretty long and involved a lot of sleeping. And we did normal regular life things like visiting vets (The dog had 2 separate import events – NZ to USA then exported US to Bahamas as there was no direct route; so we had to get vet checks and certificates from a US vet to OK her travel to the Bahamas for them to issue an import certificate and registration…)
And then…Again, the company had secured us accommodation to begin with so we could settle in while we looked around. Then Hubby got talking to a guy…who struck me as dodgy immediately, but he assured hubby all was above board, and we rented a rather stylish penthouse apartment from him. At about 30% the price he’d originally been advertising it for…
…a few months later after we’d moved to an actual house in a gated community, hubby got talking to someone who had been a neighbour in the swish apartment block…turned out the building was stolen and the guy had no business renting out apartments to anyone!!
Taught me to trust my gut instincts again…
I became pregnant again. Now, considering we’d gone 5-6 years of, well, not necessarily ‘trying’ but then, not really taking any preventative measures, before moving to NZ, and nothing happened, (well, there was that one miscarriage but let’s not get into that), before no1 came along we’d kind of resigned to the fact that they never were. And now, here was the third… Maybe it was the environments we were living in? The local foods? And so, no3 was born in The Bahamas.
And then…his contract wasn’t extended. There had been a general election while we were there. The opposition got in, and immediately started making changes, as new governments are wont to do. One of their policies was to strengthen the ‘jobs for Bahamians’ policies. So, although it was nigh-on impossible for a foreigner to get a work-permit for Bahamas (I was allowed to live there as a spouse of a worker but only on a non-working resident visa), in cases where technical specialists, or highly skilled workers were required, then exceptions were made. Now, it was even harder for those exceptions to get passed. The company CEO was a Canadian. His 2-year visa was up 6 months before hubby’s. The company were having so much trouble trying to get a visa for their C.E.O that they took one look at hubby and thought they couldn’t even be bothered trying to apply for his…and so, we were off again. Except, not sure where to…
Hubby had been chatting to an engineer on the other end of his cable network…in Miami, Florida. He was invited to interview, and was given reason to believe a job was being offered to him. He was emailed advice on which US visa to apply for and so on and so forth (they were very careful about the wordings of their emails and contacts…) and we started looking for homes and schools and details on living in Florida… and two weeks before we were due to go over; the company in Miami turned around and said, in basic terms: ‘actually, we’re not offering you a job…’.
So, we ditched the US visa application. (We were going to get it anyway having already paid the non-refundable application fee; y’know, just in case it came in handy coz one of us was going to need a job before long and it couldn’t hurt to have it; but when we went in for our appointment, the snooty, self-important embassy staff were so rude and condescending – our photos were the wrong colour or the wording of something was wrong – I just took one look at hubby, and having had far too much stress and experiences of international visa applications and jumping through other people’s hoops over the years, I said, “let’s go, I can’t be bothered with this, we don’t need it.” and walked out, leaving a stunned desk clerk. As though she’d not witnessed anyone turning down a US visa before?! Come to think of it, she probably hadn’t…coz everyone’s desperate to be American, right?)
We couldn’t go back the NZ because we’d left just shy of being able to convert our ‘returning resident’ visas into ‘permanent resident’ visas. (The children were born as UK citizens as we weren’t ‘returning or permanent residents’ when they were born so didn’t qualify to be Kiwi…more money we didn’t have being poured away trying to get NZ birth certificates to get UK passports to get NZ visas put in them…Oh, and they charge you more for a UK passport if you’re not in the UK applying for them.)
There was nothing for it than to return to the UK. Although with nowhere to live (having sold up and emigrated…remember?!) we were at the mercy of family and friends. Hubby cashed in some pension fund he had to see us through for the first few weeks. We lived in his mum’s 1 bedroom flat with her for a short while. We moved in with my mum for a short while but needed to get out. By this time no1 was nearing 5 years of age and I’d already searched info and found that legally in the UK children must be enrolled in full-time education at age 5 (even though they *can* start younger in a lot of areas, it’s not compulsory until age 5. just thought I’d clarify because a friend was adamant that because her daughter had started school age 3 that it was compulsory. It’s not.)
So, we rented a house from a friend of a friend, and I found the nearest Welsh-medium primary school and no1 & no2 started there. Mainly because, despite moving school countless times myself, growing up, I went through school in Welsh and this is what I know. So I was more comfortable with them having that education, knowing I could help as much as I could. (Plus it’s giving me a LOT of practice speaking Welsh!). In fact, had we stayed in NZ and they’re grown up there, that would have been my one regret, that they couldn’t have a Welsh educational background.
Speaking of moving schools; now that they’re there (no3 started there in January too) I am ADAMANT that they will not change schools. Of all the memories of my childhood, good and bad, one of the experiences I hate the most is being made to change schools. Multiple times. I refuse to subject my own children to that. So for now, at least, while they’re in school, we will stay in the same area. Having said that….we’re now on our 3rd rented property in the same area since we were moved on from mum’s.
Although we’d eventually like to buy this one, and stay for ever (so much so that I’ve started tending the garden with a vigour for gardening I’ve not had since that first new-build we bought over in the other valley…purely because I haven’t felt like investing the time and hard work in the other places thinking I wouldn’t be around long enough to reap the benefits) … we (as in hubby & I) have said that before…and for various reasons we’ve had to move on. And I’m losing more of my resolve to put up a fight each and every time.
What would be REALLY nice, though, is if the universe & its powers-that-be, can agree with me, and realise that 27 really is a good number to finish on. So, Stop now. Let me be settled.