So we’re back, although still without anywhere of our own to live. Instead, we find ourselves a couple of houses down the road from the studio flat I used to have – albeit with significantly more space.
At first it was good to be back in the general vicinity of home and with summer aggressively deciding it had time to catch up on, an afternoon hanging out on Hilly Fields, nestled between our old home and our future one, was welcome. Due to good fortune we have this flat for several weeks and for a week or so we, mistakenly, stopped worrying.
The previous weeks had been wracked with tension and me sidling off to make harassing phone calls while at work. For a few days we eased up and got on with life.
But the date when everything was expected to be finally sorted out had inched closer and suddenly I re-engaged.
It immediately became apparent that we were, yet again, going to fail to get everyone in line and the right time. While things had been dragging out down our end of the chain, the top had become disengaged. It had more or less reattached itself, but there were issues outstanding.
The summer heat ratcheted up and the first floor flat, where not all the windows opened, became stiflingly claustrophobic. Again, despite being back where I knew how the world worked, I found myself pining for my own space. My fiancé tells me that she hasn’t missed any of our stuff. I have. I pine for my books, for the records that I haven’t added to my computer, for my bread maker, for more than one good knife.
The anxiety returned, the nervousness that it might not all come together after all. We were advised to consider our options, which given our situation essentially amounted to bugger all. If everything collapsed we’d have no choice other than to go back into a rented flat. A quick look around the market confirmed our suspicions that not only had the costs accelerated away in the past two years, but no-one seemed particularly keen to take on a cat. Or at least not in a flat which was nice. We remembered the battle it had been to find Tyrwhitt Road and going through that again, after the previous eight months, felt like a serious step backwards in life.
And yet, we might not have any choice.
I was beginning to bore myself. It felt as though I’d done nothing other than look for property for the past three quarters of a year; my conversation seemed utterly stilted unless I was explaining whatever escapade we’d found ourselves in that week.
Then suddenly, just as the despair was mounting, the pressure appeared to break. Everyone, finally, seemed to be a position to do the necessary, according to the solicitors.
‘Do it,’ I said.
‘Okay,’ he replied. ‘I just need to make sure all the other solicitors have spoken to their clients.’
‘That sounds fairly straightforward.’
‘I’ll call you back before the end of the day.’
Of course, I rang him well before then, only to be told that he’d let me know when he had any news. The third time, he sounded mildly irritated. I understood. I had been getting rather impatient, but he should be thankful: I thought about ringing him far more often than I actually did.
‘There’s a problem,’ he said just after five, although it felt like a month had passed.
It appeared that someone had, unexpectedly, gone to Canada and not left word of how they could be contacted.
‘So what do we do now?’ I asked as the sand draining from the hour glass in my head sped up. We were running out of time. Our friend would be back in a couple of weeks and want her flat back. After which, we were back to where we were in April: a couple of surprisingly well paid hobos.
‘We try again tomorrow,’ he said with what didn’t sound like swathes of confidence.
Tomorrow came and went and neither phone calls nor emails had breached the Rocky Mountains or the frozen northern wastes or the cool corridors of Toronto or whether it was they were.
‘I feel like I’m living in a Kafka novel,’ I sighed.
‘Not the one where he turns into a fly?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I shook my head, ‘not that one.’
Bureaucracy and futile repetitiveness in the face of a system that seems both antiquated nor makes any sense for another age, as though designed solely to infuriate and no matter how much you try to reassure yourself that there must be a logical grounding, that it must all be for reason, none ever presents itself. Instead, I feel like we’re the only ones caring that it’s all so wrong, that we’re the only ones actually trying to do something. Everyone else just seems resigned to that being how the world works and that the illogical mess of contradictions don’t matter for they are empirically true.
It’s been a long time since I spent any time with K, the Land Surveyor in Franz Kafka’s the Castle. K spends the duration of the novel trying to persuade the shadowy oblique administrators that he has a right to be in their village. It’s not as though he even wants to be there. He seems to have been sent there by mistake, by some administrative error which is impossible in the flawless system and so how can it be corrected?
Frustrations like that, they’ll kill you. That’s what Kafka knew. The world is sent to waste our time, to throw up seemingly meaningless obstacles that you have to find a way around when you’d rather be doing something else. K never quite made it, either of them. Franz died far too young having never got to grips with his talent and leaving a small collection of unfinished novels – including the Castle which I’ve, coincidentally, been carrying around for the past two months, intending to reread and putting it off for easier stuff I find on other people’s bookshelves. K the Land Surveyor, had the novel ever been finished it is believed, would have met his end just as the administrators cede to let him live, as an interim solution, in the village until his long-term residency is sorted.
Death or repetitive failures were the only options on offer.
That one. That was where it felt like I was living.
Then, by some miracle of modern technology - which would have seemed beyond this whole farcical process - word came from Canada. We are, against all the odds, on.
We have a date. The 19th of July. By the time you read this, by the time these poorly thought out words reach you, we’ll be almost there.
I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting my stuff back. I’m looking forward to having space that feels like mine, that I spread out in and think. Somewhere I can write better stuff than these quickly scribbled postcards thrown out into the internet, imperfect scrawls put together on the move.
It seems like it has taken forever, like we have been on the move for an age. I barely remember what the cat looks like. Muswell Hill and Brixton both feel slightly faded, as though they’re disappearing over the horizon of memory. That’s kind of how travelling holidays are too. You keep on the move, always caught up in the now or where you have to be next. One eye is on what’s in front of you, the other on your watch and the train times. It’s only when you’re on the final stretch that a sense of nostalgia sneaks up and you fondly reminisce about event barely two weeks previous at the start of your trip.
That’s kind of where we are. We’re in the departure lounge, at the railway station, getting rid of our last few coins on coffee, trying to remember what an ordinary life feels like. We’re going home.
I mean, what could possibly go wrong now?