Sunday, 1 May 2016

Everything must Go

The Manic Street Preachers (MSP) are in Brussels tonight on their ‘Everything must go’ tour.   I sat looking at the poster for eight hours last weekend while engaged on my own ‘Everything must go’ odyssey.  I’ve spent five years building a beautiful space here in the centre of the ‘jihadi capital’ of the world. Now, its time to leave.  It means losing a lot of ‘stuff’.

The decision to go was made long before Paris 13/11/15 and before the Brussels bombings in February.  I decided some time ago that I need more trees, more open space, better weather, more outdoor swimming opportunities and less 0430 outbound flights over the city centre than Brussels offers.   The Machelet plan was the deal breaker for me and Brussls.  Two years ago air control starting sending out flights over the city centre every five minutes, from 0600 onwards, and twice as frequently at weekends.  For the last two summers it has not been possible to have the windows of the flat open in the summer months.

This winter, after two years of searching, I stumbled across ‘the place’: where the mountains meet the sea (to quote Neil Young), where people on the street meet your eye, say hello and start a conversation, where there is a ‘border mentality’. It’s like Wales but with palm trees, oranges, lemons and banana plants. I spent five months checking out if it could really be my future home. I decided, as sure as I could, that it could be.

The consequence of this is that I somehow have to get the contents of a 70m flat square into a 2 m square ‘truck’: shipping costs are extortionate and certainly exceed the value of the furniture that I own.  So I am shrinking back to almost the size of possessions that I bought with me when I came to live in ‘Europa’ 15 years ago.  It involves some difficult decisions. 

I was fortunate enough that there was a brocante (an urban car boot sale) taking place around the corner from my flat last weekend, fortunate enough that my lodger took me to an event in the local community centre where the organiser happened to be, fortunate that the pitch closest to my flat was still available.  And from that pitch I stared at the ‘Everything must go poster all day.  Everything? Well except 2 square metres.  That means losing a lot of books, a lot of knick knacks, tools and things that might ‘come in useful one day’.      I started stripping the cellar and hidden cupboards of all the stuff I haven’t even used since I moved here.  That bit was easy. One van load straight down to the tip.   Preparing for the sale itself involved a week of making decisions about what is of value to me NOW, and what is just memories, It took week of stripping out cupboards and shelves and putting things in 3 categories ‘keep’, ‘maybe’, ‘lose’.  I started getting stricter with myself about the second two categories.  I took almost a van load of stuff across the road, and sold almost as much (about half) as I anticipated, but for half the price.  The early morning trade was brisk and people didn’t haggle too much.  Late morning through lunchtime the trade went slack and the real penny pinchers came out to insult me.  Mid afternoon I just dropped my prices to Mickey Mouse levels. What’s leftover goes to Belgian equivalent of Oxfam.  Since then three van loads of furniture have gone out the door.  There are probably another eight loads left.   At this rate I will be virtually camping in my flat when I get there next month. As John said ‘It’ll be like starting over’.

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