The Ides of March

cases“Then, suddenly, the day was at an end, and the house was furnished. Each stick and cup and picture was nailed immovably in place; the beds were sheeted, the windows curtained, the straw mats laid, and the house was home.”

~ Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

 It is two months to the day since we arrived in Luxembourg, and I have been very remiss about keeping you abreast of events. While the One & Only gets to grips with his new job, I have wandered the highways and trudged the by-ways of Luxembourg, with its higgledy-piggledy cobbled lanes, its twists and turns, its tunnels and bridges, its nooks and crannies. Slowly, slowly I am starting to feel familiar with this fascinating little city. Spring has been settling in too. The snow drops are emerging in thick drifts in front gardens, through the woods and across the park lawns. March is as blustery and rambunctious, moody and volatile as cliché would have it, but the days are getting warmer.

And we have been house-hunting.  After a few false starts, we found one. Last weekend we moved into our new home, with little else but echoes. Thanks to IKEA, we now have two fold-up beds, a couple of bar stools and a camping kit of two-plates-two-mugs-two-spoons and we have rediscovered the dubious joys of build-your-own furniture. Everything else is still dog-paddling its way across the oceans from the Philippines…

Without TV or the internet until the end of the month, we have resorted to reading together, to while away the long evenings. It’s something we haven’t done in years, probably not since our last road trip, way back in an earlier decade. One book I have been saving for just such a moment is ‘The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow,’ written by a bloke I knew in Adelaide many years ago. Sandy was at university when I met him. Later, he would move to the UK to teach English and drama, and from there, he would start his Big Adventure. While I was hanging by the pool in Kuala Lumpur with three small children, he was sailing a minuscule mirror dinghy from Shropshire to the Black Sea.

It is a gem of a book, in which he takes us through the waterways of Europe: meandering through the pretty and picturesque English countryside, across Northern France and north east into Germany, then onwards and eastwards through the Danube’s more grandiose scenery. Having walked the Thames path a couple of years ago, and now living a stone’s throw from the Moselle, it is all wonderfully familiar. Sandy shares funny anecdotes about the quirky strangers he meets along the way and tells many droll and self-deprecating tales as he regularly causes mayhem among the boating fraternity on the Thames and regularly avoids death by the skin of his teeth, as he bravely (foolishly?) takes on supersonic cross channel ferries, hunkering French barges and vicious locks.

While I may not fancy rowing the English Channel – and I think I am wiser than he for this – I love rivers, and I love his style of writing. He tells a good story, with plenty of literary references, as an English teacher would and should, although I occasionally get entangled in sticky webs of words and convoluted sentences, threads of thought and poetic prose. Of course, it is not making the minutiae of resettling any easier. All I want now is to clamber aboard anything that floats and sail off into the sunset, although I would prefer something a little larger than a mirror dinghy. Instead, I make up our camp beds and head out through the drizzle and across the city for my French class.

Last week, walking home from class, I came across a busker, warmly wrapped against the chilly afternoon, playing his violin.  When he stopped, I gave him some money (not enough, sadly, my purse being almost empty). He continued with a composition of his own, lyrical and haunting, like a Keats poem. Afterwards, I stayed on to chat, reminded of a recent Facebook post that showed a top-class violinist busking in the London Underground where he was virtually ignored by commuters, despite the superb quality of his performance and the wonderful acoustics of those tiled tunnels. Determined not to appear so plebeian, I was well rewarded by my decision to pause and enjoy the moment, although I don’t think my violinist was any Joshua Bell.

And then, after countless delays, our furniture was suddenly en route from Antwerp and would arrive in Luxembourg on Friday. It was a fascinating process to hang over the balcony and watch the container disgorging. Like a boa constrictor swallowing a pig or a deer, it seemed to have swallowed far more than seemed physically possible.  Our new apartment is located two flights up, with no lift and a narrow staircase. The un-packers needed a cherry picker type machine (I think its formal name is an external elevator) to get our furniture up to the balcony and over the sill into the apartment. Anything I feared might prove too awkward, cumbersome or likely to plummet to the ground from a great height had to be stored in the garage. So much of our life seems to end up in garages!

So I tick off the boxes as they chug up the travelator, and, despite the purge before we left the Philippines, I am, as usual, asking myself with querulous disbelief, when did we accumulate so much stuff? We even sent half a houseful back to the kids in Australia! But at last, the apartment is finally starting to look like home. I have found mugs to make coffee for the workers, replaced light bulbs in the bedside lamps and unearthed a salad bowl so I don’t have to make the salad in a saucepan again. I have even found a pair of crutches and a trumpet. There may still be a mountain of boxes full of books to be unpacked and re-stacked into a phalanx of book cases, but that can wait till next week. Now, we are off to celebrate our wedding anniversary in the Cotswolds…

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