I must be getting old. I have moved many times in my life but never found it as exhausting as this move to Kew. The selling of Hampshire, the decluttering and then moving in to a house with a conservatory in 30 degrees of heat has been somewhat demanding, to say the least. But we have landed here and are adjusting to our new life and it feels good.
There is a reality to be accepted when one ages and that is that one simply doesn’t have the energy one had when one was younger. We resent the fact, of course. We try to deny it and soldier on but, when we do, our body just packs up and shouts “STOP unpacking those cases and sit down!”.
And as we move in, we hear of friends who are ill and dying and that’s another reminder of our age. But it’s also a reminder of why we are pleased to be here in Kew, where we find neighbours of exceptional kindness and friendliness. That feels so good.
And so we have found our way from Hampshire and are now busy finding our way around the new area, which brings us into contact with plumbers, carpenters, wardrobe fitters and more. And in this we learn much about customer service and those who care and those who don’t. We were truly disappointed by our experience of shopping for beds in the major department stores of Oxford Street. There were plenty of assistants but none of them seemed in the slightest bit interested in selling us anything or helping us find our way to a department. They were much more interested in talking to one another.
Even when we were willing to spend £800 on a bed the somewhat grumpy assistant suggested we go home and order it on line. Why? Surely there must be some added value offered in bothering to go into the store? Surely the assistants should smile and offer to help? Surely they should know what they are talking about and not say “I don’t know how that guest bed works”. Perhaps I am just old fashioned in my expectations of service. Perhaps I am turning into Victor Meldrew. Either way, sadly it’s not surprising that these retail stores are struggling to make a profit. We won’t be going back there any time soon.
Customer service is about serving another person and looking after their needs, not your own. I was horrified when an older family member came up to London from Sussex and asked a black cab driver to take her to Pall Mall, only to be told he couldn’t/wouldn’t do so because of the Pride march. He told her to go by tube. Just disgraceful! The rest of the family took Uber cabs and had no problem at all in reaching the destination. That cabbie just couldn’t be bothered and he doesn’t deserve to be in business.
The move keeps reminding us how hard small businesses have to work to maintain their standards and their customers. We have experienced some excellent service from many nationalities, including British. It has made us aware of the effort, energy and long hours it takes to keep a company and service going amidst fierce competition. We have been bullied by some estate agents more interested in their own agenda than ours but also experienced excellent and personal service from other agents who looked after us in ways beyond the call of duty. I am left with great respect for those who juggle small companies and make them work.
We still need to declutter more and that has been tough, emotionally. At this stage of life we are letting go of furniture, books, CDs, family heirlooms that represent both our personal life and our careers. Our sons have taken some items but we have given much to charity and chucked a great deal into the tip. But there’s more to go and it isn’t easy as there isn’t now a single book on the bookshelf that I want to part with. I had the brainwave of creating a photobook capturing my life and times running Positiveworks. This is a fun reminder of those wonderful years but has also enabled me to throw away a whole four-drawer filing cabinet of papers, as the nuggets are now safely recorded in the album.
And so, step by step, the house becomes a home as our numerous paintings get placed on the walls and curtains get hung. It takes a little while to ‘land’ in a house and make it one’s own but it can be fun and we are loving having Kew Village and Kew Gardens on our doorstep. We are enjoying visits from friends, family and grandchildren. How lucky we are.
And meanwhile, with the years, we realize that our time with friends shifts to a deeper, more poignant and honest level where we accept that age or illness means that visits are not always just about having fun or going to the movies but often about empathy, shared grief, compassion and moral support. There is something very meaningful about this as one sheds the more ego-full identity of one’s earlier life in the workplace and moves into accepting one’s mortality and humanity. And so, as with the new home and environment, there is much still to be discovered about life and living. We are still seeking. Still finding our way.