Flying Burti Takes Off Again; or, The Ascendancy of Legs McFloof

Flamingo Central

I had a little bit of recovery time and transition there before the all-out chaos of a severe flare-up. Bedridden for much of the last year, I am excited about new possibilities and reinventing myself as a travelling designer, writer and editor. In the midst of this I have overseen a vast interior project as my parents build a future-proof extension (more about my discoveries later) and renovated my own house. As always, tradespeople who are reliable problem-solvers and nice to have around have been key, and I’m happy to be moving in at the moment, getting used to my new organisational systems and being independent again. I wrote a poem for the occasion so that the victims recipients of my new address cards know what’s what.

The lambs are springing up upon the barley fields of Fife,

But I’m scampering to Tayside for the next scene of life

Post my attack of academia I move across the river

The postman seems relieved – no more floor samples to deliver

There’s jute, jam and journalism further from the sea

So it’s farewell to the farm life and hello to Dundee!

A watershed; I have to edit what it says on the census

(I’ve acquired a Lhasa Apso in loco parentis)

Want to see a yellow kitchen door or Jungle Room? Bingo!

My jungle’s antifungal and it’s got a flamingo.

My bathroom’s level-access while my stair lift is exquisite

And my spare room sleeps three, so I look forward to your visit!

This time I own my home, which is an incredible feeling in uncertain times and has allowed me to made adaptations and changes to my taste, which (to my mother’s initial horror) includes a Jungle Room as my main living area. Renting has left a lot of things pent up, apparently, as my first act as a homeowner was not the stairlift or the kitchen renovation but the purchase of a four-foot flamingo that I subsequently named Placido Domingo the Pink Flamingo. Once I found out that the collective noun for the flamingo is a “Flamboyance” – seriously, what could be more perfect? – I decided I needed several to express my inner fabulousness and now we have Prawnelda, the plastic watering can flamingo, and Legs McFloof, a metal garden ornament flamingo, rounding out the mantlepiece display.

The other administrative news is that I’m on the move in more ways than one – come August I’m off to New Zealand and the Cook Islands for a month. Any advice welcomed!

Things They Don’t Tell You About Moving House


Greetings from my new home! It’s my first night and I have all my furniture in place, while piles of stuff sit unsorted at the old house. It will come, but you might guess correctly that I’m not remotely qualified to post as a guru on all things practical for moving (I just have one purely practical tip below) – and there are plenty of great resources for packing hints and beginning to approach the mammoth task of getting everything you own from A to B in one piece (or at least in less than or equal to the number of pieces there were originally). I can, however, tell you ALL about being blindsided by the very normal things that don’t make it onto the lists that are actually helpful.

Disclaimer: it’s possible I’m actually insane. Results may vary.

So you have decided to move house! Congratulations. You are now a basketcase.  

Some of this is a no-brainer. And I have no brain, so I can verify this. I didn’t want to move. Of course there will be conflicted emotions. I miss my flat. But I am also excited about my new home. But it is new. But it is new! But it isn’t home yet. But it has so much better accommodation! This is all natural and normal. I was less prepared for the complete inability to get anything done because my mind was somewhere on a cushion-related Pinterest board, or emailing utility companies about whether their website is working properly and it’s just my details that are wonky, or trying to work out when I can talk to friends and family around all this nothing I seem to be doing.


The sneezing. Oh my goodness, the – ACHOO! – sneezing.

Dust. Dust everywhere. You can be houseproud and keep your shelves and electrical equipment shiny and dust-free, but unless you have a compelling reason to keep your home hospital-fresh those little particles will get everywhere. As soon as you start moving everything around, it will fly up in clouds from surfaces, textiles and your family members. Things you just dusted will be dusty. Things completely hemmed in by other things will be dusty. There may be things you have never unpacked, sealed in plastic and stored in containers; somehow they will be dusty. To add to the emotional trauma, every childhood allergy will cram itself in your face and wriggle around in your sinuses. You will sneeze for no apparent reason. There will be a constant gritty feeling in your eyelashes. Then, when you think the worst is over, your belongings go into a dusty van filled with dust from everyone else’s dusty house and they have a big dust party. You get everything into your new house and suddenly your new house is dusty, too.


It’s exhausting.

So you’re dusty. Let’s add sweaty to the mix, too. And that’s just from the exertion of bossing around your minions. Then you will have to move everything you brought home in individual shopping bags over the past decade. At once. Into boxes, into trucks, out of trucks, out of boxes… Things need to be rationalised, while you live with stuff around you all the time, in piles, in boxes, in huge towers of debris topped by the cat. And this is how it looks even if you’re semi-organised. Packing up takes a while. Planning to pack up takes a while. Then at the very least you have to travel to the new house and make up your bed just so you can recover a bit.


Your past comes back to haunt you.

Remember those awful jumpers you decided really suited you back in 2003, despite the fact that they were hideous to everyone else? No? Well, you will. Shoes with four-inch heels will remind you that your ankles are not what they were. Cringeworthy letters and pictures from long lost friendships that you shoved in a drawer will re-emerge like a Phoenix of Awful, cardigans you swore you would fold properly later wrinkle at you in judgement, and those hideous passport photos will remind you why you used to have such a self-esteem problem. Your old home feels rejected. Spitefully, it is spewing out all of these items just to kick you when you’re down, exhausted and have dust in your nostrils. Hang in there.


It goes on forever. 

I could be projecting here. Clearly, other people move house and don’t spend the rest of their lives unpacking boxes. My parents last moved house twenty-six-and-a-half years ago and I’m fairly confident they have had the past four or five months just to relax. But from where I’m sitting here, tonight, I have just finished a huge move after weeks of planning and a few fairly taxing days, and tomorrow I get to go back to the flat and continue working, except now without the comfy chairs? Le sigh. I am just going to be stoic and make like a Weeping Angel (“We have no need of comfy chairs“)


Finally, a practical tip.

So, you sat through all that nonsense. Well done. I mean that. Reward yourself with an actual hint for moving. Despite the complaints, this move has not been a total nightmare to organise as my mother and I collaborated on a Trello board. I don’t know how the Trello people would describe it, but it’s like Pinterest for organising junkies. We love making lists, and right before I got notice that I had to move, a member of a web team showed the site to a friend and me. She claims she has never seen such a look of joyful contentment as the one on my face when I saw his Trello board. I started playing around with it and when we had to plan the removal it was perfect – we can each access and edit our board with to do lists by theme, moving sets of checklists around and keeping track of what we have still to do. I would definitely recommend it to anyone planning anything with lots of bits, especially collaboratively.

So there we have it. My sole practical contribution. That, and remember to make up your bed right away. Speaking of which…

When You Don’t Want to Move


The estate agent has not been responding to emails since the new year. After seven years of living in the place you now think of as home, you arrive home from a hospital appointment to find  the postman standing on the doorstep with a recorded delivery letter.

“Notice to Quit”. It is, as most estate-agent-speak terms, obscure and confusing. Who’s quitting? Are they quitting the lease or is it because you have to quit the property? Either way it means leaving.

No new lease. The new owner wants to sell. He inherited over a year ago. Surely this decision has not miraculously been made just in time to give the required notice? Could they not have responded to the reasonable question, “Can I renew my lease this year?” before the eight week mark?

And then there’s the tone of the communication. The demands begin immediately. After years of ignoring the property and its desperate need for repair, you must endure a parade of intrusions: impersonal emails, valuations, multi-agency inspections, photos of your personal possessions to be posted online, viewings at inconvenient times, a queue of strangers peering and prodding and judging as you try to sort the formative years of adulthood into boxes.

Leaving this place will be sad. I grew up here, in obvious and profound ways. I survived indescribable physical pain here, while my best friendships grew out of the darkest times. I woke up unable to move in the familiar, reflected light of the public hallway. I learned how to use mobility aids in the bathroom – across which I threw my first walking stick at 3 a.m. out of frustration. I waited for months for my bathroom floor to be repaired, and was worried when I heard the workmen questioning who chose the colour and wondering if wee-Sybil-at-the-office was colourblind. The questionable electrical composition of the property taught me all I needed to know about finding a fuse box in pitch darkness. The walls have collected art brought home from all corners of the globe, from my Klimt posters from a Vienna trip the summer I moved in to a dot-painted lizard from the Australian outback. Out of necessity but later by choice I hosted our family Christmas, as we formed new traditions.

I wrote self-pityingly of the loss, of devastating blows and heartbreak. But then I discovered the farm.

When I moved to my current home, I had been left in the lurch by the same agency after they failed to produce the promised lease and explained that – oops! – they forgot to check with the owner, who was selling. I had missed the rush of new places on the market in this student area and expected to struggle. I made a wishlist (unfurnished, central, parking, solo) and thought that if I could find a place with two out of the four I should jump at the opportunity. After a couple of unpromising viewings I stumbled upon my current flat the day it was re-listed unfurnished, at a significant discount from the initial, furnished price. Realising that it was also a central 1 bedroom with parking, I viewed immediately and was able to sign a lease within a few days. It was not hard to imagine a guardian angel browsing the listings with me.

This angel deserves a raise, or at least a shiny new harp, because I have found my next non-Barbie Dream Home, for the next few months if not beyond. I will be living in a cottage on a farm, with a newly decorated interior, new bathroom, second bedroom (for hosting/writing purposes) and – hallelujah – a dishwasher. I am very close to town but I have all the country trappings, down to the sheep right outside my windows. I hope to work on my first book watching the lambs gambol down a gentle hillside. It is a step towards the next phase in my life and a place to reflect as I discern and decide where that will take me.

Yes, I will miss this flat, my first real home. This home made me. In my next house, I will do the home-making.