This month’s advance extract from The Cure For Sleep (W&N: 20 Jan 2022) is about choice: those rare moments in life when we are brought to a sudden need to decide on something that will alter the course of our days. After reading, do share a short true tale of your own - no more than 300 words – on this theme in the comments section.
The only thing missing for Nye and I now in our mid-twenties (or so we told ourselves) was a home of our own, and this we found soon after marriage on a single day of searching when we looked at just three terraced houses, the last of which had cupboards full of mouldering food left behind by its long-gone tenants.
Despite the stink, the disorder, we found ourselves checking every room, each feature, as if it were a newborn: See the old wood panelling under the stairs! The little lean-to beyond the living-room window – just like his Gran’s! The back door to it was locked, so we lifted the sash and climbed through to the porch.
That hot plastic smell of his childhood, mine!
We had to have it.
Whimsy. Fun. Instinct. Lightness. How some of the best – and worst – decisions of a life are made. Walking over a threshold and seeing a stranger, a set of rooms, and emptying one’s head, one’s pockets. Taking a hand, a key. Exchanging the milk cow for the magic beans. Thinking not of cost or profit. Refusing the call of future possibilities that will fall away when choosing this place, that person. The way it is done: from smell, sound, stomach; all the senses coming together to assay the moment.
Every spare hour we had found for the writing life, we gave over now to the removal of wallpaper, carpets and ceiling tiles, before eating soup cold from tins and reading by candlelight for the months it took to get the electrics made safe. Sleeping happy on a mattress on the floor surrounded by the strange confetti made by all the debris.
Work and home began to balance, and when either of us in a rare empty minute felt the lack of friends or our old literary ambition, we trusted to the future. We were young still; that time would come again.