This week I am a bachelor. I live in a bachelor pad, I eat cold pizza for breakfast, and I even had my electricity cut off last night for [the bachelor] forgetting to pay a bill. I love it. I live in the heart of the city, it’s quicker to buy food than cook it, and to blow out any cobwebs you just crank up the amazing sound system. When I arrived there was half a bin bag forgetfully left on the kitchen counter and a warning note to not even consider opening the microwave door. The kitchen table is piled high with fish oil capsules, whey powder, and soy milk, and the corridor is a filing system for piles of esoteric papers on design and new media. There is also, of course, an enormous TV screen. I love it so much I want to become it, to live it. For the two weeks that I’m here at least.
Last week I was a grand dame. Proprietress of a large Wellington villa, enormous rambling gardens, four double bedrooms (each with en suite) plus a billiard room, lounge, dining hall, extensive kitchen with polished stainless steel double sink and draining area, mannequins, portraits, signed photos, budgies, cockateels and fruit trees multiple (lemon, lime, apple, feijoa and grapefruit). The winding staircase has an opulent red carpet that provides inspiration for flouncing down in long petticoats or inviting guests over just so that I can nonchalantly call down “come on in – I’m upstairs” in order to enjoy their wide eyes upon approach.
Previous to that, we had a gorgeous wee spot right on the beach. Right On The Beach. We’d wake up and jump in the sea before work, or even a cup of tea, and go to sleep to the sound of the ocean lapping. It was summer perfection. I caught the ferry to work and went for delicious coastal bike rides in the long summer evenings. It was a neighbourhood: the ferry driver knew my name and I borrowed a cooking pan from the house next door when they were out. The garage was full of bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, and wetsuits. Up the hill behind us was New Zealand bush that you could walk in for days without hitting a road.
In each place I’ve lived, I’ve lived it, I’ve loved it, and I’ve imagined making a life just like that. Until the next place comes along.
Since the end of 2011, I have lived in eleven different places and moved more than that (I returned to some of those locations a few times). Terms of condition varied from house-sitter to tenant, with several variations on house-guest/ lodger/ freeloader in between. In all cases the payment was more likely to be in the form of stories (Andy’s where? He’s doing what? You’re now working with who?!) than cash. We have many people to thank for keeping a roof over my head – and a base for Andy to return to when he was in town. Often returning to a different location each time. Home, we have always said, is where the other is, and sometimes where we sleep, but rarely restricted to one location. For the last year I’ve kept a range of clothes in the filing cabinet of my office mostly to pretend that I have an element of consistency and stability in my work-life at least. No-one appears to believe the myth.
There is a joy and freedom to being itinerant. The only burden is related to possessions: Buddhists have it right there. Packing, moving, cleaning, unpacking, never knowing where that thing is, losing crucial bits of paper, having a PO Box on the other side of town and two different storage units (one for the business, one for the boat). These things are boring and tiresome. Very. After a while they wear you down and then you’re Trapped. Trapped by your trappings. The trappings we’ve been trying to escape, to avoid, to be free of. The trappings of boring and conventional. But if you cave, they’ll grow. They’ll take over. Suddenly you will not only need a shelf, a table, a filing cabinet… but also a bed, a pan to cook with, some art for the walls, space for those things you love that have no purpose, a spare room, a shed…. And once you have those, then you can have anything you want: a rice cooker and a juicer, sharp knives, books, hundreds of books, music, more art, plates and chairs for lots of guests, glasses, bags, boxes, clothes, shoes…. hell, you might as well throw a pet in the mix. And the next thing you know, you have a house. So you might as well call it a home, make it a home. Enjoy having a home. Grow carrots and receive mail. Invite friends to stay – indefinitely. Fill cupboards with food and cook delicious meals. Know where you’re coming home to every day.
I have enjoyed living in other people’s spaces, especially when they’re away. And I’ve learnt a lot about how to keep a house. We think we know but really, where does that information come from? Like parenting – parents have no training, they just do what they think is right largely based on what their own parents did or did not do. So it is with houses. When I live in someone else’s house, I follow their rules. Some people rinse dishes before they go in the dishwasher, others don’t. Some people have special cleaning regimes and cloths for particular surfaces. Some just care about the plants being watered and pets being fed. Most like to have their bills paid on time.
So, the time has come. We’ve reached the end of this particular road. I have one more move left in me, for now. We’re buying a house. It will be my first somewhat long-term, non-parental, address since 2001 (a house in Canada that I lived in for almost three years). I don’t think Andy’s ever had one of those.
Surprisingly, the initiative for this came from Andy. Andy the itinerant. Andy the sailor. But if you look a bit deeper, there is a logic to that. I love living on our boat. I love it, genuinely. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass, but I still love it. I like what it says about us, and how it makes us live. Unfortunately, a boat can’t really be a boat if it’s also a house. I live and work in Wellington and, not unreasonably I feel, I like my home to be where I left it when I return at the end of a day. However, if your home is a boat, that puts huge restrictions on a boat’s inherent boatiness. And we don’t want to do that, so I say “no problem – the boat must be a boat, I’ll house-sit….” And somehow, not deliberately, I’ve ended up living more in other people’s houses, than in our own home. Our lovely boat.
Don’t get me wrong now: boats make wonderful homes if you can move with them. But now, while we’re committed to a single location, we’re going to see what it’s like to have a house. To have a base. And to release our boat to be a boat. And maybe, one day, we might even go sailing again…
Great description and nice denouement. I lived like this in 2010, between London and New York: one of the most liberating and exciting things I have ever done. A year was about right. After that those little pieces of paper start demanding a home.