The trouble with being given a month to do things is that, invariably, you will do it all in the last two days. I was supposed to sort out all those bits of paper in my office and throw away the contents of my out of date files. I was supposed to organise the move and work out what was needed at the other end. Mostly though what I did was actually step back and live in the house.
Then one day the doorbell rang and three young men stood there. I had already taken down most of the curtains and many there had already been many trips to the tip and I'd even discovered a computer recycler. The bloke in charge asked me to them on a tour. I explained that room a was going to go to room b. Room b to room c and d and room e to a and f to g and all that sort of stuff.
“It's a large house” said one of the men.
“It's a vicarage” I replied.
“My Dad's a vicar” he told me.
So the rest of the day was taken up with me disassembling furniture and watching other people work. Mostly I made the tea. And sat and thought I now had space, there was nothing else to do.
When I had resigned I had asked the Bishop of Winchester to allow me not to work my notice but rather to leave as soon as possible. Not surprisingly he had agreed. He asked me to try to do all I could to make freshers week in Southampton went as smoothly as possible. I was told by the students and the other chaplain that I was going to have not one but two successors both of whom were going to be unpaid. Of course when I had asked the Area Dean about this he refused to be drawn. I was going to be kept in the dark until the end. I didn't mind, we talked about other things and then he shook my hand and wished me well and left.
It was going to take three days to move after the first day the men left at 4 o' clock and I had a house full of boxes. I had a cooker and a tele so I made dinner in one and ate it in front of the other. The house now seemed soulless. 24 was very much my home, it was full of memories for me. The life I had led off campus. Friends and family.
The second day was gloriously sunny. I watched the guys load all my possessions into their lorry. It took till lunchtime and they nearly got it all in. They finished about 2pm. The driver was going to take the stuff back to the depo overnight and would meet me outside my new house the following afternoon. And with a shake of my hand they all bundled into the cab and flinging aside the branches of one of the garden trees the contents of my house zoomed off down the road.
Leaving me with a suitcase on the bedroom floor, a kettle, some tea bags, milk powder and a cup. I paused to make myself a cupper in my empty house. 5 years almost to the day that I had moved in.
I visited the University campus one last time. I went for a walk on Southampton Common. I got out my yellophone and updated my status on facebook. 'Going' I wrote. I'd liked Southampton. I was less happy in the Deanery. My only real dealings with the deanery were a constant stream of requests, to cover vicars who wanted a holiday. The year long silence from colleagues in the deanery, following my redundancy, had been near deafening.
I dropped round at the Catholic Chaplain's house and put my keys through the letter box. I entered the word “Going” once more into my status. As instructed I had left a key with a neighbour, and so I put my set in the kitchen drawer. They were going to pop round the next day to get the house ready to rent out. It was a strange feeling not having any keys in my pocket. I was going to have to start again somewhere else. I'm not the world's best Christian* but I do try to live in a way that is an offering to God. There was always going to be an element of giving up in that
I had one final look round. I was a terrible decorator, really.
I put my suitcase and the rest in the boot. Closed the door and got in my car.
I entered the word 'Gone' into my facebook status, started my engine and headed north.
*see last blog entry for details