This house, it’s too small and it doesn’t have enough storage space and everything’s a wee bit wonky. We really need to move somewhere more practical. We’ve tried. Twice we have put everything on hold following natural disasters. Several times we’ve found a perfectly good house and dithered until its been too late to make an offer.

Every time we’ve stopped trying to leave I have felt myself relax. Some of this is because moving is hell but there’s a lot more to it than that. When we were forced out of our house by floods and earthquakes I faced the possibility that we would be unable to return and found the idea almost unbearable. Being able to move home, to a damaged house that we’d previously been set on selling, felt like a reward.

We’ve lived in this house for eight years, half the time we’ve been a couple. When we moved in I was 36 weeks pregnant with my second child. A month later Ferdi was born beside the fire in the dining room (in almost the exact spot I am sitting to type this, in fact). Two cats are buried in the garden. The years we’ve lived here haven’t always been easy (some have been very hard indeed) but I feel that this has been a happy home, somewhere we have sheltered from life’s storms and kept each other safe. I don’t know how I will learn to leave here.

Over the last few weeks we have been helping Jamie’s father and his wife pack up their house for sale. They have lived on their lifestyle block for around the same amount of time we have been here. The house they had shared for the first year of their marriage sold the day Ferdi was born. John’s cancer diagnosis has precipitated a rush to sell up and move somewhere smaller. The move is sensible, given the circumstances, but the toll of moving from a beloved home is heavy.

I wonder when we, as humans, came to tie ourselves so closely to the places we dwell? Did our nomadic ancestors feel this pang whenever it was time to move on?

The question of how to hold our memories close when the places we remember are gone is one which will plague Christchurch for a long time. I don’t think rebuilding everything the way it was is the answer (and, even if it were, so much cannot be rebuilt) but there are places whose leaving brings remarkable sorrow.