It has been a year since I sold my boat, bought a flat, and moved to London.
Do I miss life on the river, or anything at all about Cambridge? In a word: no.
The friends I made in that town were transient, or will stay in touch, and there isn't anything else to lament. I was never much of a boater, because I was hardly ever there - I hated the town so much I took every opportunity to travel, staying on the road more than half of the year, and when I couldn't leave the country I would dash away to London and burrow in borrowed accommodations pondering my next move - and isn't it lucky I said no to Berlin?
This first year after relocating to London has largely been about restoration: gathering up the fragments of my life shattered by immigration and putting them in order, not least in the domestic environs.
My son has grown progressively concerned that I am becoming bourgeoisie, but when my daughter drops in she looks around at the tidy bookshelves and carefully arranged furniture, sighs, and says "No. She is just unleashing the OCD."
True. While I am capable of making wild leaps from one place to another, most of my habits have followed me from infancy to age forty.
No matter where I live, I still have an unhealthy tendency to rub my eyebrows, tap my broken collarbone, assassinate dust bunnies, and keep my shit organised. And, so long as nobody touches my desk, all is well.
The rules I live by are proscriptive and precise. I require ownership of a home that costs no more than 25% of annual combined income to run. I do not cook or clean - except when I wish to do so. I need access to medicine, but I do not like to spend any time at all with doctors. In matters romantic, I don't care, but I don't share. My children are my responsibility and their own property. Lately the universe is complying with these rules, and I am happy. Surprised? Me too.
Except for one thing: after seven years as a pious cyclist I developed an overwhelming urge to own a car.
There are practical reasons - transporting the clan around the country is punishingly expensive. I never get to go to the coast, or even to the next town over, because I can't justify the hassle and money. We often rent cars for ordinary errands. Adding it up? Ownership makes sense.
But honestly, the desire for an automobile felt like bicarbonate of soda had been dropped on my brain.
I was, to be completely honest, obsessed.
Unfortunately the ride of my dreams remains a Volvo 240 (not manufactured since the early 1990's but still superstitiously "safe" in my imagination), and research revealed it to be an impractical choice here in the UK. The car wasn't popular originally because it doesn't have much in the way of acceleration, a feature I love, but regardless: there aren't enough around to warrant even searching.
I was forced - forced! - to choose another model. Looking around, the only thing that really called out was. . . Mercedes embassy cars. Not least because they are cheap: you can find them on ebay for less than some of my acquaintances spend on a pair of shoes!
I was blithely willing to ignore hints that they are cheap to buy because they are massively expensive to run, impossible to park, and, oh, probably have bad karma if not actual bloodstains on the seats.
Because can't you see it? It would be so excellent to lounge around in the back of a bullet proof extra long vehicle, leaning forward occasionally to tap on the glass and insist the chauffeur oh-I-mean-Byron hurry it on up.
Yet, alas, I was denied, because the driver balked at the parking difficulties.
I kept doing research, and months of drama and debate finally narrowed the field to a model that looks right, matches my lipstick, and yes, is extraordinarily cheap because very few people wish to own it. Why? According to many sources, it is one of the most anti-social cars ever sold. Notoriously loved by shady businessmen, drug dealers, the bad guys in action movies, and me!
It took months of scouting before I found one for sale, and dragged my recalcitrant companion to Derbyshire to check it out (£120 train tickets - see how this investment in a vehicle will pay for itself?). I spent half my childhood in a service station, Byron used to earn a living restoring cars. We know how to find a deal, and we know how to negotiate. The car was beautiful, pristine, fully documented. Big enough for my excessively tall offspring. Crazy cheap compared to a new car. Safe.
You can take the girl out of the gas station, but you can't take the gas station out of the girl!