I drop to the floor wearily, mopping my brow with my t-shirt then adjusting my glasses, which are gradually sliding south, towards the tip of my nose. I have just finished taking apart a sofa-bed, and am feeling suitably smug that I had kept both the assembly instructions and the little metal keys which Ikea so thoughtfully provide.
The apartment Tadpole and I are leaving is starting to look rather forlorn. There are yellowed patches on the paintwork, the ghosts of pictures which once hung on these walls. The surface is pitted with screw holes I have filled, a little clumsily, many with rawl plugs still inside. Most glaringly obvious though are the gaps where pieces of furniture once stood. Downsizing has meant bidding a fond farewell to many of the purchases Mr Frog and I made together eight years ago.
My secret weapon is a yahoo group called Freecycle. No sooner have I compiled an email saying “DONNE: meubles ikea, à emporter avant le 29 juillet”, pressed “send” and repaired to the kitchen to fetch a cold drink, without fail, upon my return, my inbox is groaning under the weight of a multitude of clamouring messages. The principle is simple: don’t throw anything away which may be of use to someone else. The real advantage being that the recipient has to take the items off your hands, which means huffing and puffing down five flights of stairs before they have even left the building. Rather them than me.
Tadpole has been watching recent developments with some concern. If another piece of furniture has disappeared while she slept, she bombards me with questions the following morning.
“Mummy, why is the television on that table?”
“Because the other table, where the television was before, has gone now. Mummy didn’t need it any more…”
Tadpole frowns, trying to picture what the old table looked like. Apparently failing.
She takes herself off to the bedroom and I hear the ominous sound of rummaging in her toybox. She returns brandishing a plastic harmonica in one hand, a stethoscope in the other.
“Mummy. I need to take these with me to the new house,” she says, firmly.
“Darling,” I say in my most reassuring tone,”we are going to take all your toys to the new house. Everything. And your clothes, your bed, your furniture…”
I wonder if the poor child imagined she would wake up one morning to find I had given all her toys away?
Tadpole nods, and I feel confident that she has understood.
Five minutes later, she returns, this time clutching Noddy’s red and yellow car.
“Can I take this as well?”