A moving story: If at first you don’t succeed. . . cede

LEGS AKIMBO: Lynne finds it a challenge to complete the simple task of sitting on the floor

LEGS AKIMBO: Lynne finds it a challenge to complete the simple task of sitting on the floor - Credit: Archant

There comes a time when you have to acknowledge your limitations.

It’s a shock when you find out you have them. Who knew?

As children we are encouraged to adopt the idea that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.

“There’s no such thing as can’t, there’s such a word as try,” grown-ups would tell us... and I may be guilty of frightening my own children with this one.

It is clearly one of those adult conspiracies aimed at lulling their impressionable child into believing all things are possible.


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I considered this as I stood in the small hallway of Mark and Caitlin’s second-floor flat with a large sofa wedged in the doorway. We had (gamely, I thought) volunteered to help them and baby George move into a new semi-detached home in Saffron Walden.

Brandishing a cleaning cloth and working in a mainly supervisory role was what I’d had in mind. My husband and Caitlin’s dad, Ian, did the “to me, to you; to you to me,” Chuckle Brothers stuff while I advised, sagely: “Mind you don’t trap your fingers.”

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In the end the wooden feet had to be taken off... not from Ian and my husband, from the sofa. No such word as can’t. I found a phillips screwdriver and managed to sit on the floor.

Once upon a time sitting on the floor would have required only one, simple movement of my lithe, young body. Now it involves four or five quite complicated operations to minimise the use of my poor knees. One: bend knees (ouch) and put hand to floor; two: sit down on bottom; three: swivel round on to knees (ouch ouch); four: shuffle into position; five: swivel round to sit, legs akimbo.

Having successfully manoeuvred myself in front of a sofa foot, I did not succeed in my attempt to take out the screws. “Here, let me,” sighed Mark, relieving me of the one physically taxing task I had undertaken.

It took him no time at all. And I decided that bringing up a child to be capable is probably as good as try, try, trying again. Meanwhile, I languished on the floor until my husband took pity on me and helped me up. This is the trouble when all the furniture has gone; there’s nothing left to cling to. And it’s never a good idea to haul oneself up on fittings such as radiators or shelving (unless you have a camcorder handy for a You’ve Been Framed clip).

Having failed to pass muster as a removal woman, I contented to make myself useful (another childhood adage: “Make yourself useful, Lynne”) by making a cup of tea and assembling everything in the airing cupboard neatly into a bin bag. George alone had about four bin bags full of clothes and toys. My son had a small corner of a large suitcase.

Soon, I was alone in the flat with four cups of tea as the sturdy menfolk set off to transfer a hire van-ful of stuff to the new premises. It was a two-minute journey to the new place. I calculate it is about 30 metres nearer to where we live, taking maybe five seconds off our one hour 20 minute journey to the Essex town. At that rate it will take about a millennium before they live next door.

As I drank tea, I pondered (the television was disconnected) the way moving house tends to accentuate the difference between men and women. And, for house removals only, vive la difference. There’s something rather macho and pleasing about watching men lug furniture. It brings out the cavewoman in me... as you may or may not know, I do have troglodyte ancestry.

I once had my DNA tested to ascertain my origins. Any hopes of finding out I was the undiscovered heir to a title and fortune were soon dashed. They told me nothing of my recent (ie last 19,000 years) past.

No, it seems my earth mother was “Helena” and she and her descendants trooped to Britain, probably from the caves in the Dordogne or thereabouts.

I have no idea why they chose to head north from warmer climes but it may explain why I have to wear a thermal vest for six months of the year.

Helena’s clan, according to Oxford Ancestors, “is by far the largest and most successful of the seven native clans with 41% of Europeans belonging to one of its many branches”.

I also seem to recall this means I have some Celt in me which is surprising as I am not big on valleys, tartan or Riverdance.

But I am rather partial to strong, hairy men who lift mattresses as if they were feather... if you see what I mean. The sight of a bulging bicep gives me an urge to brew tea in large mugs and mop the glistening perspiration from their brows.

But I manage to suppress it.

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