The doorbell rings somewhere above me, on the first floor (it’s a design fault). Outside, between the pub and the wheelie-bin stands a smartly-dressed estate agent, with the look of someone who has come to claim a prize, or is here to sell me something I don’t yet realize I don’t want.
I take him around the house, or rather up and down the house. It’s a sunny day and it looks nice; everything looks nice on a day like today. We tramp up the staircase, exchanging pleasantries, inasmuch as a smartly-dressed businessman and a hairy childcarer can trade their thoughts. We soon find ourselves standing in uncomfortable proximity at the top of the house.
“This is the room with the damp” I say, not adding that it was the room in which I rocked my daughter to sleep through her first dark winter. We move downstairs. “There’s a crack in this wall some people might notice” I point out, not mentioning the Boxing Day we once spent here giggling through games of charades with family and friends, during our only ever London Christmas.
I end up apologetically pointing out deficiencies all around the house. It’s lucky he’s not here on a viewing. At the end of our small journey together he sits me down. Suddenly he looks as if he’s going to give me bad news about a relative. I grip the table.
Instead he gives me a valuation which seems faintly ridiculous and I release my hold on the corner. I had been wavering over selling but this helps with the decision. Let someone younger than us enjoy the house and its charms. I’m sure they will come to love the damp patches, peeling wallpaper, cracking paint and dirty carpets as much as we do. More likely they will rip out our life and insert a shiny new one of their own.
He leaves me with all sorts of promises and an information pack. I decide to sit my daughter down in turn and talk her through moving. She sits silently for a moment then says quietly “I don’t want to leave my toys…” I tell her we can take them with us. She looks unconvinced. “But how do we carry them?” I tell her about the big lorry. “But we can’t take the toaster or the clock can we?” I tell her we can. “But who’s going to water the plants?” They come with us too, I say. I explain that it’s only big things that are left behind. “But what about the stairs?” she asks. “How will we go up if we don’t take the stairs with us?”
That’s not the least of our problems, it turns out. We also won’t know the way to various people’s houses if we move somewhere else. We will have a new address to remember. There are other complications. I enjoy her growing appreciation of the concept and talking her through it all find myself more and more convinced about what we are doing. I feel almost as if we have moved to our new life already.