This week, spare a thought for the political staffers in Canberra who have been subjected to sudden, dramatic change. Spare a thought for the dozens of Members of Parliament who will be doing the same thing after the forthcoming election, whenever it is. And spare a thought for Julia Gillard, Tim Mathieson and the now-deposed First Cavoodle, Reuben. All of them will be spending the next few weeks and months navigating through one of the most unpleasant, stressful experiences any human will ever have to ensure.
I’m not talking about losing one’s job, as troubling as that must be – I’m talking about moving house. I honestly can’t think of a more cruel humiliation to make somebody endure after what Julia Gillard has just been through than forcing her to move, more or less immediately, out of her formal residence – undoubtedly the most fancy digs she will ever inhabit.
The loss of one’s job is sudden and painful, but moving is a slow, agonising grind, a tedious, miserable, seemingly endless process of packing up every single possession you have, lugging it around, and then unpacking it again. While the sympathy her supporters may feel might perhaps be tempered by the acknowledgement that she forced Kevin Rudd to do exactly the same thing three years ago, the weeks ahead will undoubtedly be enormously challenging for her.
I hope the Prime Ministerial budget extends to movers who will take care of everything, and that she didn’t have many personal effects in the Lodge to begin with. Can you imagine anything more soul-destroying than having to box up all the official presents you’d been given, to carefully wrap the framed photos of your days of triumph (although perhaps not the ones from 2007), and to lug them all out to the dodgy van you’ve borrowed from your mate?
While this is going on at home, at the same time, she will have to change offices in Parliament House, and move her treasured Western Bulldogs paraphernalia back into a regular backbencher’s suite. And then in a few weeks, she’ll have to box all of it up as well, as she leaves politics. And then after the election she’ll be packing up her electorate office. A series of painful series of moves awaits our first female former Prime Minister.
I’m in a position to sympathise with the protracted form of torment that Julia Gillard and her parliamentary supporters and staff will undergo in the weeks to come, because I have been moving this week, and it’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on my most reviled enemy. For various boring reasons, I’ve moved house at least once a year, on average, since 1997, and if I have learned one thing from life, it is this: nobody should ever move house.
Well, perhaps we should move out of the family home at some point after reaching adulthood for reasons of practicality, but I even doubt the wisdom of that, to some degree. Because, in short, it is relentlessly awful.
For me, moving goes like this. First I take all my major items of furniture and all the stuff I use everyday – my favourite clothes, my computer, my TV, my stereo. That’s quick, easy and satisfying, and generally takes only a few hours. Then I set it all up in the new place, and sit back, usually watching a few TV programmes just to “test” whether it “works”.
Sure, the books are a pain, and moving the fragile kitchen stuff is always a bit of a hassle – but most of it is fairly straightforward. After I’ve done that, I’m perfectly happy, and congratulate myself on having created a lovely new environment in which to live.
But then I have to go back, reluctantly, to the old place and contront the utter chaos that remains. Unfortunately, over the years, I have accumulated a literal truckload of junk. Old gadgets that don’t quite work but seem too valuable to throw out, mementos from school and uni, knick knacks, presents that never really found a place in my life but seem callous to discard, and above all, mail that never seemed of any importance. Boxes and boxes of it, unsorted. And then here are the random lamps and old printers and soccer balls and bedlinen and DVDs and – just, stuff. It takes me hours and hours to move all of this stuff, and when I’m done, my new abode is crammed wall to wall with, well, crap.
In short, if anyone ever wants to try another adaptation of Stig of the Dump, you’re most welcome to film in my apartment.
I know I should go through it all, and file, and sort, and above all, throw away – but really, who has the time? I try and spend my weekends relaxing, not doing agonising physical labour. Besides, I did a major purge only last November, and despite this, I still seem have retained roughly half a tonne of stuff that I clearly have absolutely no need of.
I know this, because I’ve just moved approximately a whole uteload of stuff that I literally never touched in the 12 intervening months. It just sat there, reproaching me, and I never even unpacked the boxes. And yet I don’t dare to consign them straight to the tip, because somewhere in there will be an exercise book I wrote stories in when I was in Year Two, and the school magazine I worked on, and above all, lots of photos of family members and friends who are no longer with me. They are worth keeping, I think. At least, I hope.
If I’ve accumulated all of this junk during a relatively short, uneventful life, I can only imagine how much paraphernalia builds up when you’re Prime Minister – and how psychologically troubling every single memento must be when you are forced from office. Perhaps in time, Julia Gillard will come to view her time in the Lodge fondly, but right now, I have no idea how hard it might be to open any of the boxes the movers will soon deposit in that oft-discussed house in Altona.
Right now, I would gladly sign any undertaking never to move again, even if it means someday cramming a family into my tiny apartment. Any hypothetical kids I may have can sleep in loft beds in the living room. And if I am ever Prime Minister, I solemnly undertake never to move a single possession into The Lodge, just because I couldn’t stand the psychological agony of having to move it all out again.