Half my life has been in storage for 17 months. The US part of my life that, on April 1st 2009, I put into motion when I moved to Los Angeles.
True, during the latter part of my stay before relocating to the UK in November 2011, I had been travelling a lot between the two countries; but I thought that 17 months being back in my homeland would be enough to make me realise that LA had been but a Hollywood dream – my Hollybubble - that would eventually burst and make me see sense.
It didn’t help that on the first New Year’s Day I was back in my house in Cardiff, I was burgled – when I was there at 4am. The robbery had, and continues to have, a devastating effect. I am far more nervous than I once was, both in and outside the home; I trust few people; I am paranoid about leaving my belongings out of my sight (and when I did so, in Miami earlier this year, guess what – someone nicked my bag, complete with iPad).
But tonight I went to the LA storage unit, where my stuff has been languishing, and I felt incredibly moved – not upset, just very emotional. All the things I chose so carefully when I transported them from Wales to LA, four years ago: the collection of D.H. Lawrence letters that were the first books I packed when I left (Delia Smith’s Cookery Course shares the same box); the IKEA cupboards that were my pride and joy when I moved to Paris just after 9/11 (the devastating event that made me do the thing I knew I would always regret never having done if I knew death was imminent); the identical Maskreys furniture I have in my house in Cardiff that also made the move from Paris.
I open each of the LA storage units and feel as if I am greeting long lost relatives. So much cardboard and cellophane. A life in limbo, wrapped up, ready to be opened once more. The mattress, squashed and bent double in the smaller unit, is a wide smile of fabric as I push past it to rescue the airbed I must sleep on until I move everything out. When I get the airbed back to my new apartment, I discover it has a puncture, and I repair it with the glue and patches I have carefully kept, as I do every instruction booklet and button that is an accessory to each new thing I buy.
Monday will be Christmas morning in West Hollywood, when the wrappings are is ripped off and I experience, as if for the first time, the things from which I have been parted for so long.
The pasta dishes I bought in Williams Sonoma – a store that, when I moved here, made me realise how much I needed that previously I never knew existed, let alone wanted (I wonder which box that Pumpkin Carving Kit is in?); the dozens of herbal teas from Wholefoods that seemed like such a good idea at the time; the thousands of vitamin supplements (two shelves down from the herbal teas) that will rattle their way up my new stairs.
People always ask me why I move so much and why I don’t “settle”. It is, of course, a question I ask myself. But while being someone who is resistant to most change, when it comes to environment, I relish the new.
That first wiping down of the cupboards before I re-stock with spices I will never use; the first shower that gives me second degree burns because I don’t understand the new dial; the new people in bars and restaurants that I will quickly come to loathe because they eat their crisps too loudly.
It’s the same every time – only different.
I was reminded of that phrase today – it was something that Blake Snyder, the writer who first encouraged me to come to LA and who sadly died in August 2009, said that people in the industry demanded from screenplays: give me the same – only different.
As I survey the two rooms of cardboard, cellophane and slices of history, both new and old, I realise why I feel so moved. It is the same. Only different.
Because, moving it out of its dark warren on Monday, it faces a new start: new light and new angles in a new place.
Doubtless new shadows, too.
But there are few punctures that can’t be mended, given the right tools.