blurry self-portrait in the mirror of our old bedroom at Shenstone Road

We are relocated and somewhat set up in St. Leonards, Hastings! There’s much to share, but today I want to make time to say goodbye to everything we left when we packed up our previous home of nineteen years in order to come here.

Mark in our old, empty bedroom, grinning; he is wearing a T-shirt that says so fly

Every home is full of memories. I can’t believe it has been eighteen years since I first visited Mark at home in 2005; in the house that became my home too, in time.

Views from our old bedroom, through the curtains

views from the window of the bricks of Reading on our street

The beautiful polychromatic brickwork of our street that brought to my attention its distinctive role in the aesthetic identity of Reading. Brickwork I have gone on to celebrate in my work.

More of Reading's brickwork as viewed from our old bedroom window

The apple tree in our old garden

The apple tree that was in the garden long before we came, and whose apples provided the base for many crumbles, ciders, juices, pies and cakes.

The mulberry tree outside my studio

The mulberry tree that was just a stick in the ground in 2012, and that has grown so big and tall and beautiful in the intervening years… and the walnut tree, a gift from a coworker of Mark’s in maybe 2005/2006; now a towering canopy of leaves and branches, and a haven to ravenous and relentless fat grey squirrels.

the enormous walnut tree

The damson we planted in 2007 after I lived briefly with a friend who grew damsons on his allotment, and we tasted the jam for the first time and realised that we must make it ourselves, every year.

Damsons hanging in the foreground with a glimpse of the house behind

Blue dining room with white fireplace and packing station built to the right hand side

The dining room that became a warehouse and packing station as the KNITSONIK books – inspired and fuelled by all the everyday treasures and textures of this place – took over the room, and required their own dedicated space for shipping and fulfilment.

The new kitchen with its brick fireplace and beautiful warm white design

The kitchen we lovingly redesigned together; a place of laughter, sourdough, crumbles, pies, salads, soups, stews, roasts, sandwiches, omelettes and joy.

The kitchen sink

The living room, in which all my knitting over many years has mostly been done; sitting in the corner of the sofa, watching the TV. When Mark and I first met, he commissioned me to help redesign his house with my creative/artistic skills. I have such happy memories of us choosing all the pinks and reds for the room; and of coming home one time to discover that, deciding the red ceiling was too oppressive, Mark had painted it the colour of the sky.

red and pink living room

The studio that Mark organised when I first moved in with him, realising – and wanting to support the fact – that as an artist I would need my own workspace. That studio was the creative space in which I made all my work over the last sixteen years or so. It was a palace of dreams. Always cluttered and chaotic; filled with inviting things; sometimes unusably messy – a deep well of creative nourishment that I loved.

I loved looking out from it, in winter, to the warm lights of the kitchen window.

view of the kitchen from the studio

And I loved looking through its other window into the gorgeous world of the mulberry tree with its many inhabitants.

view from the studio window

It is very difficult to summarise how much love and gratitude I feel to this red brick building that was such a warm and happy shelter to us for so long; the place where Jack and Sam grew up; the place where we planned, and baked the cakes for, our wedding; the place where I wrote my books, finished my PhD and established KNITSONIK. Where Mark got his MBA with the Open University; worked on too many project-management contracts to mention; discovered his love of community-led IoT projects; and founded Thingitude. The place where we planned our future, had a million conversations, watched TV series both sublime and ridiculous; listened to music; packed up orders; wrote Christmas cards; and made each other laugh. A home we shared with a dear and much treasured little cat called Joey Muffkins; with ducks; and with chickens.

red room with corkboards with sunmarks on them - Sam's old bedroom

pins on the corkboard in Sam's red room

looking up at the back of the house from the garden

I have a special fondness for this view of the house that would always greet me on days when I’d pottered in the garden too long and gotten cold and hungry. On such days the house would seem to beckon and smile like a big warm friend, welcoming me in; I’d go indoors and warm up with a cup of tea, happy with that smell of soil on me – and often covered in it, too.

What a lovely house it was, and how happy we were there.

On the morning of the move it was raining slightly, but the amazing team of movers who came to take our boxes to St. Leonards were undeterred, enthusiastically loading many boxes into their two Luton vans, and talking to our hens as we prepared to load them into the van that we had rented for the move.

The movers who moved our house!

The hens in the back of our van

Well-organised packaging up and labelling of boxes gave way to a more improvised style of scooping up the bits and pieces still not yet packed.

plants, lanterns and general mess shoved into a shelving unit, being deployed as a container with compartments for house moving purposes

We followed the movers from room to room, vacuuming and cleaning as each one emptied of our stuff, and I took photos because I didn’t want to forget this momentous day, nor the comforting everyday textures of the place that was home to us for so long.

an old bit of border paper on the stairway that we never got around to changing

our bedroom and the light coming through the curtains

self-portrait in the mirror of our old bedroom

It felt hard to leave.

I have no regrets and know we’re going to love it here by the sea… but perhaps it felt especially hard because we were not just leaving the house, but also our dear feline companion of many years – Joey Muffkins – who died just a few days before the move.

I can’t write about it yet because I’m still too sad.

I will say, though, that it’s kind of fitting; he had his whole life on Shenstone Road and it would have been hard for him to adjust to a new place while feeling unwell and not as spry and adventurous as he once was.


Joey Muffkins lying on Mark's lap, being cute with his paw over his eye

In a weird series of coinciding events my car has also totally stopped working. For whatever reason, it feels like this leaving – this moving – must be a totally fresh start. So far, it has been, and it’s been really good. But it has also still felt hard.

Writing this has made me think about how deeply my home is interwoven with my work. The Things, Places and Plants of that old life in Reading laid the foundations for everything I wrote about in my Sourcebook and my Playbook; those books are a celebration of everyday life. They provide a template for creativity that I’ll apply in new ways as St. Leonards-on-sea becomes our home, in time. But I’ll never forget the amazing place where they were originally written and made.

Goodbye dear old Red House on Shenstone Road; goodbye Joey Muffkins.
Thank you for everything you gave us.
Thank you for being our home.

The Red House, from the front

12 thoughts on “Leavings

  1. I loved reading this. It reminded me of the week we spent moving my mama from 7227 the house our family lived in since I was in kindergarten 52 years earlier. I did what you did, taking photos of doorknobs, porches, backyard, views out the windows and of the many many items we gave away for charity resale. It helped remind me of all the memories and love the house held for us.

  2. I must confess this lovely tribute made me cry. And the big muscles of the moving men made me smile. My last move in 2004 I had an Armenian company and the movers were Russian. By sheer coincidence I had moving boxes from a friend who spent several years working in Armenia before returning to Washington DC The movers were very concerned and seemed a bit upset when they saw my boxes. Their boss, the Armenian, had to reassure them, and gave them my innocent explanation. Only in Washington DC ! This tribute to your home for so many years is so beautiful. Thank you. I am looking forward to seeing your new home by the sea.

  3. Made me a little misty eyed. Lovely memories of scrumping your mulberries and trying to get the stains off a white shirt. And the after dinner rendition of “Smells like teen spirit” on harp. And of course the LEGENDARY Joey Muffkins. It’s hard isn’t it, we worry about Mr Jazz paws who has never left the valley, but most of the boxes are packed an we are looking forward to unpacking them in the stone cottage, not long to go now.

  4. Congratulations on getting everything into boxes. (I know that’s hard work.) I hope the making of your new home can be a joyful experience.

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Joey Muffkins. May his memory be a blessing.

  5. This is such a beautiful tribute to your lovely, red-bricked wee home, all it has witnessed, all the love and care you and Mark brought to the place, and all you both have shared. I have been thinking about you a lot, dear friend: I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of Joey Muffkins. He was such a complete local character that it does seem fitting he saw out his days at Shenstone Road. Love to you xx

  6. What a beautiful piece about your lovely home in Reading, but so sad to hear about Joey Muffkins. Wishing you so much happiness in your new home as you build it slowly and with love.

  7. Thank you for such a beautiful essay of a well-beloved home and the mixed feelings that go along with moving out and moving in. So sorry about Joey; as Terry above said, his passing had to add an unearned sorrow at a hard time. I know you’ll make another beautiful life with Mark et al because that’s just your nature. Best of luck near the sea!

  8. This is so beautiful and sad, and good for you Felix for making sure you say such a proper and loving good-bye to your home…. and all it’s held for you over such important years. Thank you for letting us see it like this, and hear about it — the life, the leaving, and everything in between — in such a personal, exquisite way. Well done.

  9. Wow, so many things happening! I am so sorry about sweet Joey, what a special companion and light of your life. A whole new fresh start is exciting and, potentially, overwhelming. I hope your new house feels like home soon and I look forward to hearing all about it on your blog. I am so happy for you that this change was able to happen!

  10. Felix, I’m so sorry for your loss of Joey Muffkins, and at such a difficult time, too. It’s hard enough to lose a furry family member but with the upheaval and leaving-sorrow and new home-excitement, it must be especially wrenching. Thank you for sharing pictures of your home. It hit me hard because at 73, I’m trying to realistically face the possibility that someday I’ll have to move out of my own home of 30 years, the only home I’ve ever owned. My late husband Bob and I bought it and I expected to live out our old age together here, but alas, in 2006 he passed away. I love this place so much. My hope is to be carried out of here having gone to sleep permanently, peacefully. But we don’t get to dictate that! Anyway, I hope your move and installation in the new home goes smoothly and I look forward to your bright and creative embracing of the new place, and new adventures. Be easy on yourselves. Moving, especially from a beloved place, is a major life change.

  11. My eyes are wet as I write this, sitting in my dismantled creative space surrounded by boxes, bookshelves 90% empty now. We’re downsizing from a beloved home of 24 years, 2 beloved dogs long buried. Our furry friend is curled up on the rug, he’s as anxious and stressed as I am and he still doesn’t seem to believe me when I tell him that in a few weeks he will have his very own garden. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make my rooms as empty as yours, but we still have a good few weeks to go. Thanks for this post, best wishes for your new home. xx

    1. 24 years is a wonderfully long time to be somewhere and yes it will be a mixed thing to move away and downsize – exciting to start the new chapter, but also bittersweet to leave an old one behind. Love to your dear furry friends, past and present, and yes – in a few weeks (quicker than you can dream, probably) you will be in the next place! The boxes and the emptying of the rooms feels like an interminable job and at the end it really does just turn into anything into any nearby box, but that’s the way of it. You will get there! Thanks for your kind wishes and best wishes to you for your new home as well xx

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