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Friday, December 4, 2015

Moving House

By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

It is often said moving house is as traumatic as a divorce.  Having done both I wouldn’t disagree. We moved into our present house 33 years ago from busy London. I recall the day with such great clarity it seems just like yesterday. It was a warm sunny autumn afternoon with hardly a breeze. A couple of chirping  robin redbreasts perched in a window sill welcomed us to our new home.

With a stable job and a happy family it seemed like the beginning of paradise. The hard grind of training and exams was over. I created a little “Walauwwa” in a leafy suburb in rural Hertfordshire far from the madding crowd as I could manage.

My professional career and the boys education took precedence. My wife gave up her career to care for the kids. Ferrying them to school and back and for the myriad of their activities usurped our time and energy. Their success was our joy which we recall with great delight.

As I look back what amazes me most is how rapidly time has gone. The children have now flown the nest leaving empty rooms , empty chairs and a void that cannot be filled. Every corner of every room brings back a store of memories of times past.

Wherever we went on holiday it was our ritual to bring back a momento. A collection of those adorn the mantelpiece and the windowsills. Reading has been my joy since I was a kid, a habit which has been passed on to my sons. The resultant collection is a fine library. Computers have been my hobby and Apple Macs whirr away deep into the night. Their detritus and wires fill every corner of my study.

A “Walauwwa” ,  however magical it may sound is not the place for an aging couple in their retirement. Keeping such a place in good shape even with help is tiring and time consuming. We have now taken the hard decision to move to a small flat just enough for the two of us.

Downsizing is a heart rending business. Losing personal possessions specially those attached to important events in our lives is not easy. Throughout our lives we took photos which are a priceless reminder of times past. They were real paper photos that need space and care. It is impossible to retain them all. Discarding them broke our hearts. Much of the books, clothing and furniture have been given away to charity.

Downsizing helps to concentrate ones mind to what is important in life. We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. What happens in between is a journey and its memory evaporates into thin air as it ends. After all the next move will be our final rest.

Although I will be moving just 50 miles down south it will be harder to keep friendships with my close pals and former colleagues of 33 years.  As adults we grew up together and have much in common. Meeting them now will need planning and effort. The all important ingredient and social lubricant called alcohol will not be at the table as they must drive back.

Getting used to a new apartment takes time. Living in a new environment with brand new neighbours will be a challenge. But it will not be harder than what I have done in the past to move 5000 miles to a new life in England.

Buying and selling a house is fraught with problems. Estate Agents are in a cutthroat business as are the solicitors who like scavengers live on other people’s misery.

Moving house is not the end of life but the beginning of a new phase in my lifes journey. I look forward to the peaks and dread the troughs as I have always done. London is a place of fun, which we can still enjoy. The museums, galleries, concerts and the theatre will fill our time with joy. It is the culinary capital of the world and a gourmets’ paradise. I will drink a toast in anticipation - no more moving house again.


  1. As I usually do, I read ND's latest contribution only after posting it. Such is the confidence that I have in the guy's literary skills.

    However, we have often differed in the ways we have looked at life. I always wanted to come back to my place of birth to spend the evening of my life and to bury (or cremate) my remains. ND on the other hand decided otherwise.

    We have gone in different directions. But let's not forget that we had the same opportunities to choose the direction at the crossroads. Patriotism has nothing to do with this. All of us were well aware that we owed a lot to our mother country for the free education (forgetting everything else) we got.

    Having lived on either side of the divide, we know how much it takes to qualify as a medical doctor. The cost to our parents was almost negligible, whereas the cost of medical education today to today's parents is enormous. But what tilted the scale for some of us was the love and care bestowed on us by our parents.

    Speaking (or rather writing) entirely on my behalf, I must confess that what swayed me was the thought that I had to be with my parents in their hour of need. I am proud to say that I was fortunate enough to be able to take three of my parents (my own and my wife's) in my own private vehicle for medical care. They breathed their last in my presence (Mangala's father had passed away before I got married).

    I myself have moved many times. As a child, it was because my father was a government servant. Even as an adult, I have moved a few times, built two houses of my own, but now I think I have finally settled down in one place. Unless circumstances go beyond my control, I wish to live the rest of my life at 60/9, 8th Lane, Kandawatte Road, Battaramulla in good old Sri Lanka.

  2. As a person with a similar life experience I can endorse what ND said about the agony of managing the twin challenges which he had to face. From his comments, I can see that the house move will be seen in the light of experience as one of the best things they did! It is good to look back and admire the scenery but looking ahead and charting the territory is even more important I think, after all, the past is gone and the future is yet to come

    The term patriotism has been used many times in our Blog and various viewpoints have been articulated which superficially seem to be contradictory but in reality, I would suggest that there is broad agreement. I am of course mainly concerned with the objectionable notion (held by some who for example suggest that some of us who try to help in ways that we can are doing it because we have a "guilty conscience"), that the choice to live abroad indicates a lack of patriotism. Lucky has pointed out that in his case, the decision to come back and spend the rest of his life had nothing to do with patriotism and was a choice he made because that was what he wanted to do, i.e., he enjoyed living in the country of his birth and had duties to his family. This implies comfort in the way of life in Sri Lanka, acceptable climate, and opportunities to indulge in what he and his wife enjoy or get satisfaction from. It was also driven by the very noble act of wanting to be there when his parents (and his wife’s) needed them most and I am sure many of us have been in that position and taken similar though not necessarily the same action. He points out quite correctly in his own words,“All of us were well aware that we owed a lot to our mother country for the free education (forgetting everything else) we got”.

    I am pleased that what is emerging is a recognition of the need to appreciate the fact that we got a free education, and that personal factors featured in the decision taken on where to live and that “patriotism” in reality had little to do with it.

    Patriotism broadly means “love for your country” and in that sense I am sure the vast majority of us have that quality.

    Some define Patriotism with a wider scope, such as
    1. Special affection for one's own country
    2. A sense of personal identification with the country
    3. Special concern for the well-being of the country
    4. Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country's good

    I am sure that all these aspects are covered when "love of country" is used.

    Then there is the confusion with Nationalism, which is not the same as patriotism. A Nation is not always a Country, many Nations can be within one Country and Nationalism can at times be in conflict with Patriotism. Nationalism could be quite divisive but that is another story!

    Suffice it to say that all of us chose different destinations to spend the rest of our lives and as I repeatedly suggested in these columns, there were good personal reasons why the choice was made. I am sure we all have a special affection for Sri Lanka and I hope all of us will do whatever we can to help our Country of birth.

  3. Thank you Lucky and Mahen for taking the trouble to comment. As an “exile” I fully endorse Mahen’s view point about patriotism. I feel immensely grateful to my adopted country for what it has given me. I too have a tremendous inherent love for the country of birth. A discussion of the vexed question of patriotism of those living abroad is an interesting one but I am intrigued how and why it arose on my piece on “Moving House”. Perhaps it is my desire to end my days in England that brought on 2 learned discussions. I feel glad it has been aired and would be happier still with further comments and opinion.

  4. Thanks ND. The very fact that we care for and love this blog is an indication of our acceptance of our heritage and the high regard we have for our medical roots. The future we do care for but the past we never forget!

  5. ND, your article on "Moving House" took the words out of my mouth, as they say, because I've been going through the same experience myself. I moved about a year ago, but the process is still ongoing, because there are boxes of letters and papers yet to be sorted, and more books to be donated to the library. I had reached a stage in my life, when I felt that I was a slave to my house, although I loved living there. I couldn't sit down to enjoy the back yard for 15 minutes before noticing that a particular flower bed needed weeding. I had moved several times before because of work, but this time I moved back to the town where my daughters grew up, and where I have many old friends. Other people take care of the yard now, but I am allowed to plant flowers if I please, which is ideal. I wish you the best of luck in your new digs with plenty to do and many new friends with whom to imbibe the Amber Nectar!
    I think at every stage of our lives we make decisions which are based mostly on our personal circumstances. When we left for the U.S. we had every intention of returning to Sri Lanka, but circumstances changed, including the JVP insurgency, the Tigers up north and my own family getting more and more comfortable with the American way of life. As we age, I think we come to other forks in the road and have to decide whether it is wise to stay put or move to a smaller place. I am contented with the decision that I've made, especially because it gives me the freedom to spend most of the winter in Sri Lanka. Who knows, I may decide to stay there for the rest of my days, but that is another decision, to be made at another time...

  6. Moving house..... we are well versed with it. Since leaving home at Wattala, following employment I have moved 16 times at the last count in four countries in three Continents, crossing three oceans(bar Arctic & Antarctic!!),criss-crossing umpteen Time Zones and crossing the Date Line many times -- thus gaining and losing time (back &forth to the past and future!!!). .
    We have lived in our present dwelling since 1990. It is a large 7-bedded terraced house, circa 1860 with all the Victorian period trimmings intact-- cornicing and ceiling roses etc... We love this place and even after the 'fledge lings' have flown the nest we do not wish to down-size and the two of us are just 'rattling on' -- not sure if it 's the floor - boards that are creaking or our bones or maybe both!!!Dundee is in a very central spot in Bonnie Scotland and in touching distance of the Distilleries for the Amber Nectar!! More importantly the kids are all living in Scotland --- all in Aberdeen, only 65 miles away.
    Chees,...... Slangiva -- one for the road ( As you are aware I am a lapsed Muslim and apostate -- not A-PROSTRATE yet!!) .


  7. Thank you Razaque and Srianee for your comments.