Last time we moved house, we didn’t quite get to the point of wanting to burn all of our belongings, but it was pretty close. A couple of years ago I decided it would be an awesome idea to get the real-life blue narwhal a piano for his birthday. I think fifty or sixty years ago practically every household must have had a piano: surely the only explanation, anyway, for early- and mid-century pianos being so common that people (probably having inherited them from parents and grandparents) are desperate to get rid of them. So I pulled off a Secret Mission of which I am still extremely proud today: I tracked down a dirt-cheap piano in a nearby town, organised a delivery van to pick it up, received it whilst the blue narwhal was out, single-handedly re-arranged our furniture around it and hefted it into place, polished it, and enjoyed the look of astonishment when he walked through the door.
I neglected to consider that the life of an academic is an itinerant one, and that pianos are heavy.
Moving into our latest flat the piano had to be got up a set of stairs with two 90 degree turns and a door at either end. The people we had engaged to move our worldly goods failed to bring the third person and vital piano-moving equipment that their employer had promised would be present. We spent an agonising 60 minutes stuck outside our house as the piano and the two men lifted it were stuck on the stairs, moving it with nothing but their bare hands inch by creeping inch. I was honestly convinced that at any moment the piano would come tumbling down onto the man at the bottom and that we would have a truly awful situation on our hands and consciences.
Of course, the piano made it, and we gratefully shook our moving people’s hands before collapsing onto a pile of boxes (which turned out to have been soaked overnight thanks to a leak in the moving van) and eating fish and chips straight out of the cardboard.
Anyway, I don’t think the minimalist life would suit us (we love physical books too much, for one thing), but sometimes I think back on the sheer trauma of that hour, and look at the piano, now safely ensconced in the corner of the living room, and think… maybe, that particular piano has had its last move. Because I don’t even want to start thinking about getting it down those stairs.