In an ideal world, we’d have all the time we needed to prepare for moving house. We’d draw up our moving plan no less than three months before the big day and nothing would get left to chance. Our preferred moving company would be available at the exact date and time we needed them and the whole thing would be pulled off without so much as breaking a sweat or chipping a fingernail. But sometimes life forces us to be realists – a completely unforeseeable event throws our best-laid plans into the air and we’re left flustered, running here and there trying to pick up the pieces. We could be manoeuvred into a short-notice house move for any number of reasons, from bereavement to an unanticipated work posting or from change in financial circumstances to plain, old-fashioned inefficiency on our own parts. If you’ve been at the receiving end of such an upheaval, then you know how important it is to know the basics of short-notice moving. Here’s our Master Remover guide to moving house at the last minute.
If your plans are coming together to venture beyond the M25, and Oxford is calling, here is a Master Removers Guide to help you consider the ease of this passage. In the last few years in the race for space, people have been leaving London in increasing numbers. The soaring house prices and inflated rental costs are a factor. Additionally, many people now work from home and there is no need to be unwillingly betrothed to the capital. With London close to Oxford, and with great transport links, it is not a hard and dry separation, just a simple relocation. As Oxford has perennial appeal to visitors and locals alike, it is unsurprising that many people have chosen to move there in the last years. The City of the Dreaming Spires has caught many people’s imaginations through time and has so much to offer in terms of history and culture. As an international name denoting quintessential Englishness and scholastic prestige, Oxford will continue to draw residents and visitors into the centre of its cultural heart. Overwhelmed by the changing face of London, many people seek to find urban culture but on a smaller scale. Proximity to the countryside and larger gardens are also high on the aspiration lists of those interested to move to Oxford and the surrounding areas.
Some people shudder at the thought of living in anything more modern than a Victorian property and have quite strong views about new builds, regardless of whether they’re designed to mimic period styles. But there are plenty of others who can’t wait to leave behind their old, creaking, repair-prone home and move into a place where everything’s likely to run smoothly. There are communities that are 100 per cent new build, most famously Prince Charles’s Dorset concept, Poundbury, which is just outside Dorchester. And then there are old towns and villages that contain a sprinkling of new builds. Further to that, an array of architectural styles awaits anyone thinking of buying a new build. Find out more with our Master Removers Guide To New Builds.
With hundreds of thousands more new builds coming on to the market each year, it’s almost certain that when you got house or flat-hunting, whether as a prospective buyer or a tenant, you’ll come across one. Let’s take a look at the advantages of new builds.
What are the Advantages of New Builds?
Plug and Play
Firstly, new builds are the ‘plug and play’ of properties. You buy it from the developer and in you go, with everything ready for living. You’ll find spotless paintwork and bright, shiny new tiles in the bathroom. All you have to do is unpack your boxes (or have them unpacked for you if you’re using the full packing/unpacking service that so many removals companies offer). A huge chunk of post-move stress is removed in one fell swoop. Once you’ve moved in, you can relax.
And that relaxation should prove pretty durable because another advantage of a new build is fewer repairs. This is not only because everything in the property is new but also because it’s all usually of a high standard. With any luck, the boiler repairman won’t be a regular fixture in your life.
First-time Buyer Schemes
You’ll also potentially benefit from the kinds of schemes that are exclusive to new builds, whether that’s Shared Ownership or Help To Buy . These make it easier for first-timers to get on the property ladder and you can’t access them when you buy an older property.
Developers of new build complexes also sometimes sweeten the deal with little extras. In fact, they’re not so little; they even extend to settling up your stamp duty or covering additional costs, such as carpeting.
One of the most popular advantages of new builds is the fact that many of them are constructed with the most up-to-date technology and are perfect if you’re planning on having a smart home that you can operate from afar using a digital assistant such as Alexa or Siri. You’ll find other modern touches like open-plan layouts and sometimes additional facilities like gyms and security perks such as concierges.
Get in there early, before the new build company has started working in earnest, and you can have an even greater say in the layout and finish of your new home. This is called buying off-plan and extends to you a degree of control and influence you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Lower Bills, Greater Safety
Once you’ve moved in, another benefit kicks in; you should notice lower utility bills. That’s because new builds are obliged to comply with the very latest energy-efficiency regulations. The vast majority of new builds are extremely efficient at, for example, retaining heat. New builds are, with few exceptions, far cheaper to maintain than old properties. And they’re safer, too, because they’re built to modern standards in terms of fire-resistance and wiring. You may also find that your new build has the latest windows, door locks and alarms, which translates to lower insurance premiums and the comfort of knowing you’re a harder target for burglars.
New Build living is also good eco-living; toilets and showers will have been installed that make it easier to minimise water use and, as we’ve already discovered, you won’t need to blast the heating the way you might in an old home.
Another notoriously aggravating factor of a house move is that you’re at the mercy of a buying chain. One thing goes wrong and it throws everyone into miserable uncertainty. When you buy a new build, you’re most likely to be at the end of a selling chain. The developer may well offer you a part-exchange transaction – they’ll buy your old property and sell it themselves. Another horror of standard moving, being gazumped, can be happily forgotten; as soon as you reserve your new build, it’s taken off the market.
You’ll also discover that your new build comes with a guarantee. It’s by no means all-encompassing, but having a ten-year structural warranty is still a bit of protection you wouldn’t get with an old home.
The ongoing changes and restrictions placed on our lives by coronavirus have been accompanied by a trickle of news stories about more and more people wanting to leave London and build new lives in the countryside. At the peak of lockdown, people’s love of London life waned a bit as they contended with life inside a few rooms with no garden. Of course, suburbia has always provided a third option – retaining some aspects of city life but in a quieter, more spacious setting. The whole notion of a London sunburn has changed over the last few decades. Areas once considered suburban, such as Fulham (SW6), are now regarded as part of highly coveted central London, with prices to match. So where should you look if you’re interested in today’s London suburbs? Here’s the Master Removers guide to our favourite five.
Chiswick is a leafy idyll with an array of things in its favour. It’s well-connected in terms of Tubes and buses, with three underground stations connecting to you to several Tube lines. Chiswick Park is on the District Line, Turnham Green is on the District and Piccadilly Lines and Gunnersbury is on the District as well as the Overground Network. It’s prettier than nearby Acton and benefits from a main drag, Chiswick High Road, that’s constructed like a broad, airy boulevard and is sophisticated enough to make you feel like you’re somewhere reasonably near the West End.
Boutiques, designer coffee shops, restaurants and green spaces are abundant in this London village. Unfortunately, its popularity started soaring more than twenty years ago, so there’s no such thing as a bargain when it comes to homes and the average family-sized one comes in at more than a million.
Crystal Palace homes are half the price of those in Chiswick. It’s an area south of the river, covering postcodes SE19, SE20 and SE26 and is about seven miles from the centre, compared to Chiswick’s six. It was named after the exhibition space built in 1854, which succumbed to fire in 1936. As is the case in Hampstead, you’ll notice that the air feels unmistakably fresher when you’re here; that’s because it’s higher up – high enough, in fact, that in some places there are sweeping views across the city. Prior to the 19th Century, the area was forest. Today, the forest is long gone but beautiful Crystal Palace Park gives residents ample relaxation space, a boating park and one of Britain’s largest mazes. Other local amenities include Weston Park, Stambourne Woods and the National Sports Stadium. Crystal Palace has a reassuringly low crime rate and is ideal for young families. Average house prices are a little over £410,000. As for connectivity, there’s an overland train on the Southern network and an array of bus routes.
When first-timers come to Blackheath, this charming enclave feels like a quaint county town. In fact, you’re no more than 25 minutes (six-and-a-half miles) away by public transport from the middle of London. It falls within two boroughs – Greenwich and Lewisham – and is notable for the way it feels less like a suburb and more like a completely out-of-town retreat. Average properties are just under £550,000 and it’s home to many young families. The main thoroughfare is Tranquil Vale – a high street with florists, greengrocers, butchers and bakers. The rugged, windswept heath provides all the outdoor space any Londoner could possibly need. But if you do need more, then you’re also suitably placed for enjoying Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory.
Weighing in at the expensive end, Richmond, in South West London, scores well in terms of the quality of its schools and the fact that it’s home to one of the finest parks in the city, with almost ten square kilometres of space where deer roam freely. Richmond is at one end of the District Line and also has overland links. It’s a relatively low-crime area, but it’s homes cost, on average, almost a million.
Situated between Brixton and Dulwich and a mere five miles from Charing Cross (the standard central point from which the distance away of other areas is measured), Herne Hill combines (comparative) affordability with (comparative) centrality. The area is blessed with quiet, residential streets and hubs of activity comprising museums, shops, restaurants and pubs. Best of all, it has lovely Brockwell Park, a glorious stretch of National Heritage-listed land with tennis courts, a bowling green, cricket nets, football and its well-known lido for outdoor summing swimming. The park provides residents with wonderful views of the city skyline and is home to prominent music festivals. Herne Hill’s popularity is on the up, so its property prices are rising, but – at a little under £450,000 – they’re still affordable (using the Lon
You and your family, along with the rest of the country, are in lock-down. And while this measure dramatically improves everyone’s chances of prospering and staying well, it doesn’t entirely eliminate risks. That’s because, when we go out for exercise, shopping or to help someone vulnerable, we come into contact with a variety of people and we may well inadvertently touch surfaces, including plastic and metal, both of which are thought to retain the virus for some time. Then we return to our homes and unless we’re careful, we can bring the virus back with us. There’s only one thing for it; it’s time to virus-proof your home. It’s all very well self-isolating, but to make the undertaking as effective as possible, there’s much more we can do. But just what are the best things to do to keep your living space free from the threat of Covid-19?
- Identify the germ hotspots of your home
- Shop online wherever possible
- Choose ‘no-contact’ deliveries so that delivery drivers don’t have to come into your property
- Wash your hands
- Keep soap and hand sanitiser
- Prepare a pandemic kit
Identifying germ hotspots
These are door handles, food preparation and eating areas, incorrectly disposed-of tissues (throw tissues straight into the bin and wash your hands afterwards, otherwise the tissues can disperse air-borne germs), sponges, bathroom fixtures and fittings, remote controls, toothbrush holders, touch-screen devices and keyboards.
Shopping online instead of in-store
Although the government guidelines allow for shopping trips, they are potentially hazardous. Not only is it extremely difficult to maintain social distancing when you’re navigating narrow aisles, you also have to touch products, with no idea how many other people have touched the same surface. Even wearing gloves, taking hand sanitiser and donning a mask can’t give you complete protection. The safest option is to order your groceries and products online. Yes, it’s harder than usual to get a delivery slot at the moment, but persistence, forward planning and being prepared to try more than one online supermarket can result in success. You’ll dramatically reduce the odds of bringing the virus into your home.
Choosing ‘no-contact’ deliveries
All your conscientiousness and hard-work keeping your home virus-free can come to nothing if someone walks through the front door and hands you packages. Not only might they touch a surface, but they can disperse the virus with their breath/coughing/sneezing. Fortunately, the vast majority of delivery services, including the supermarket chains, takeaway companies and courier firms will give you the option of a ‘no-contact’ delivery. Your food/goods can be left on your front door and you can collect them once the deliverer has gone. Just remember to discard packaging and wash your hands for 20 seconds afterwards.
Washing your hands
It was the first bit of coronavirus advice we were given and it remains among the most important – wash your hands. And then wash them again. While many of us washed our hands as a matter of course anyway, for others it’s a novelty, and one they’re having to learn how to do properly. A cursory five-second splash with cold water isn’t good enough. Hot water and soap are required and it’s vital to remember to do it after every trip to the loo, before and after, every meal, before and after every excursion and before and after coughing, touching your face, blowing your nose and sneezing. If in doubt, wash them again.
It’s become the gold bullion of the Covid-19 era, but if you can get hold of some (or already have it), hand sanitiser can make all the difference. Ideally, opt for a variety with a minimum 60% alcohol content – this kills the virus stone dead. Keep some in the car and in any bag(s) you regularly take with you when you go for exercise or shopping.
An emergency kit, stocked with several-weeks-worth of provisions, is as much for peace of mind as for anything else. Just remember to try to build your kit gradually, rather than bulk-buying in one fell swoop. In the event that coronavirus does breach the walls of your home, your kit gives you and your family ample time to completely self-isolate and forgo all trips outside. You should stock your kit with a one- or two-month supply of any medicines you’re on, a month’s worth of non-perishable foods (e.g. tinned soup, beans, rice, pasta, tinned vegetables, tinned fruit); an up-to-date first-aid kit (e.g. compresses, bandages, latex gloves); bottled water; over-the-counter painkillers (but consider not using ibuprofen because some reports suggest that this anti-inflammatory makes the virus worse); a non-mercury thermometer; bleach and disinfectant spray; slow-perishing snacks (e.g. nuts, health bars); a one- or two-month supply of pet food; novels, puzzle-books and board games;
It’s the word on everyone’s lips at the moment: coronavirus. This health hazard, with its deceptively innocuous name, is rampaging through the world, causing lock-down in some territories and flight bans in others. And the advice changes from region to region, as do the attitudes. While some are breezily dismissive of the threat, casually referring to it as being no worse than a standard bout of flu, others are rightfully concerned about the danger it poses to the elderly and those with underlying conditions and impaired immune systems. In some parts of the country, mass gatherings (concerts, the races etc) go on as usual, while in others, these events are being cancelled. But what about moving house? Is it foolhardy to press on with a planned house-move, or is it, in fact, more foolhardy still to cancel? Here’s our Master Removers guide to moving during the coronavirus outbreak.
First, some good news, especially if you’re at the very outset of moving and have put a house on the market; prices are currently withstanding coronavirus, holding up as if nothing had happened or even improving. Although it’s possible that there might be a downturn, possibly severe, further down the line, for now the virus is having the effect of making buyers all the more determined to push through and get things done, so prices are actually higher than the forecasted average.
But what about the physical nuts and bolts of the moving process? As most of us know by now, the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 will experience little more than a mild infection, with coughing and possibly at the outset a temperature. But the advice for people with symptoms (and those at increased risk, such a the elderly and those already with suppressed immune systems) is to self-isolate for at least a week (14 days for people known to have come into contact with a confirmed case), which is depleting some sections of the work-force. If your move is already booked in, it’s worth checking in with your moving company, to make sure they will be working as usual (which in all likelihood will be the case).
In the run-up to the move you can, of course, control your contact with other people. You may have the option of driving rather than using mass transport, and you can decide whether or not to go ahead with any events likely to bring you into close contact with large numbers of people (e.g. concerts). But on moving day, it’ll be worth bearing a few things in mind to keep yourself at a diminished risk.
When the moving personnel arrive at your old home to start loading vehicles, remember to keep at least three steps (two metres) away from each of them when in the confines of the home. In between tasks, wash your hands for twenty seconds with soap and water (sanitising gel is another option, but the use of hot water is thought to have a good impact on the virus).
Obviously, the general day-to-day advice applies when you’re moving house. Not only the hand-washing, but using tissues for coughs (if you’re caught short without a tissue, cough into your sleeve or the crook of your elbow) and only touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth especially) directly after cleaning your hands. You may well have thought ahead sufficiently that you’ve arranged for provisions (especially frozen foods and dry goods) to be delivered to your new home. This is often forms part of a standard move but applies especially given the current circumstances.
If you’re tempted to make a physical gesture of appreciation to your moving team, don’t go for handshakes (let alone hugs) but, as absurd as it may feel, extend your elbow. You could be protecting yourself, but you may also be protecting them.
And there’s always a silver lining; if, just after moving, you fall into the category of people encouraged to self-isolate, then think of all the time you’ll have to get to know your new place, exploring every out-of-the-way cranny. It’ll be far less tedious than if you had to self-isolate in a house with which you already have years, even decades, of familiarity.
With the adoption of these easy-to-follow bits of advice and guidance, there’s no reason why your move should be any harder or more complicated than at any other time. If you’ve booked a move with any of the Master Removers network of companies, then coronavirus or no coronavirus, we are here to answer any Master Removers network of companies, then coronavirus or no coronavirus, we are here to answer any additional questions you might have.
The situation is changing and what applied at the time of publishing may not apply at the time of reading, please check the UK government advice at www.gov.uk/coronavirus
It’s that time in a loved one’s life to which no one’s particularly looking forward. And, short of premature death, it’s almost inevitable. Lucky and few are those who stay sprightly and fully independent into their nineties. Sometimes, looking into housing options that allow for independence while also ensuring that someone is always on site and able to help in the event of a medical (or other) emergency, is the most sensible way forward. Of course, received wisdom dictates that all of us want to spend as much time in our original homes as possible, free of outside interference. Some of us may even be resistant to basic adaptations such as wearing a medical alarm, let alone having a seat fitted in our showers.
Having the ‘Sheltered Housing/Assisted Living’ Conversation
No matter how much we may protest, sometimes it’s simply not safe for us to keep living in our homes. The first challenge, before any thoughts of moving can gain traction, is to convince an ailing family member that sheltered housing and assisted living are good options. How do we go about telling such a person that there will be physical and psychological benefits to this, especially when we’re dealing with, say, a father whose health is faltering but who remains doggedly stubborn about independence at all costs?
A family member’s reluctance to countenance such a change of housing can sometimes be based on the fact that he or she has never seen inside a facility. As a consequence, they imagine a stereotypical ‘old people’s home’. All kinds of awful visions may be conjured in their imaginations – enforced sing-a-longs of ‘(There’ll Be Bluebird Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover’, sadistic Nurse Ratched-style care-workers, endless games of gin rummy, mandatory socialising, strange odours, soul-deadening institutional decor. The obvious solution is to talk about visiting some sheltered housing complexes where such fears can be allayed.
Another source of reluctance can be the way in which sheltered housing is perceived as one more dispiriting step towards death. This can be countered with information about the many ways in which sheltered housing can enhance someone’s life. For one, he or she will no longer be responsible for the maintenance of a property. There’s ample evidence that senior citizens thrive in such a situation, with the stress and pressure of hiring plumbers, electricians, IT installers and repair personnel completely lifted off their shoulders.
WHAT IS SHELTERED HOUSING?
Usually restricted to people aged 55 and above, sheltered housing is generally a complex of units of varying size (from studio to multiple bedroom, with their own front doors), with support staff, including at least one who lives on site (e.g. a warden). Round-the-clock emergency help is available via an alarm system. There will be communal areas, including gardens, and although properties may well have their own sitting rooms, there may also be a shared one for people who want to socialise. Social activities, by no means enforced, will also be available. Of course, each sheltered housing scheme is different and some may have features which others lack. There will also be disparities in the levels of care provided. What won’t be on offer at most sheltered housing complexes are domestic help (ie cleaning), meals and extra care services (e.g. help with having a bath). Sheltered housing is not subject to inspections so, unlike care homes, it is not part of a ratings system.
WHAT IS ASSISTED LIVING?
If the level of support and care provided by a sheltered housing scheme is insufficient but your frail relation does not want to consider care homes, then assisted living is the in-between option. When you move to assisted living housing, you get a self-contained flat and your own front door, but there’s a greater level of personal care and more services. The additional services will usually be tailored to the occupant and can range from help with dressing, to washing, using the toilet, taking prescriptions, shopping and laundry. Sometimes, assisted living also entails the provision of meals and there will more than likely be several staff living on site rather than just the manager/warden. As with sheltered housing, a 24-hour emergency system will be in place, there’ll be social activities and a minus age requirement of 55 or 60. Similarly, the combination of personal sitting rooms and communal sitting rooms, means that inhabitants can socialise or fly solo as the mood takes them. Another significant difference when it comes to assisted living is that the Quality Care Commission inspects facilities and issues ratings.
RENTING OR BUYING
Both sheltered housing and assisted living can be sought via renting or buying. Prices will vary depending on the scheme you choose, the amount of care you need and, naturally, the location. Service charges and utilities will also play a part in determining costs and, if you buy, there will still be ongoing charges in the form of bills for care and assistance.
Visit Age UK: ] and the government website: ] to find out more.
The move is over and your can breathe a sigh of relief. All that stress, tension, overexertion and worry melts away and it’s all about moving forwards with renewed vigour and energy. But at the same time it would be foolhardy to think that just because your boxes are unpacked and your furniture’s arranged, that’s the end of the story. Moving house leaves other issues in its wake, which is why removals companies sometimes have after-care services. Here’s the Master Remover guide to what to do after your move.
You’ve crossed the threshold of your new home, fully unpacked and settled in. All those moving checklists can be forgotten. No longer do you have to fuss over which removals firm to use and what time of year will suit you best for getting the job done. The pondering over what to pack and what to discard, what to take to charity shops and what to auction off need no longer concern you. And then the Herculean undertaking over getting everything together and ready to be loaded into a moving vehicle… that’s all, thankfully, far in the past. You can draw breath and start to enjoy your new surrounds. And that may be when it hits you; everything is new. New neighbours, new area, maybe even new county or new country. There’s a kind of post-move delayed reaction that swiftly engulfs you. But with a bit of guidance, you can navigate these choppy waters and soon they’ll settle. It just takes a bit of conscious acclimatising so that the unfamiliar becomes familiar.
What To Do After Moving into a new Home
First things first. Dip your toe into the local scene by looking up local newspapers (so much easier now that so many of them are online) and finding out if there’s a residents’ association for your street or area. Community magazines are another good option. Your can wrench your focus from the past to the present by delving into what’s going on in your new neighbourhood.
Really explore your home. Prior to moving into it, your only experience of it will have been during formal viewings when it’s never really possible to relax and engage with the space in a normal way. It may now be your home, but it’s still virgin territory as far as you’re concerned. Doing a proper examination also means you can flag up any pre-existing damage which might be useful to know about when it comes to final negotiations with the agent and former owner. It’s also important to know where fuse boxes are placed, and don’t forget the water valve stop, either. Now’s also the opportunity to determine whether you need additional security. While you’re at it, work out whether the front and back-door locks are up to the standards required by your contents insurance company. Better safe than sorry.
Keep up the good work by joining things. Foremost among these, especially if you have children, is the local library. In this day and age, with more and more of them getting the chop, it’s a resource to be treasured. Not only is it, of course, great for books you want to read but not own permanently (e.g. genre novels), the local library is also a hive of community news and the venue for a variety of interesting events, including author readings and personal appearances.
It’s potentially tedious, but absolutely vital to clear a day for setting up all the services you need – everything from a local GP/healthcare provider to vets, dentists and the array of utilities needed for modern living; not just electricity and gas, but also water, broadband and TV services. Also, don’t wait until there’s an emergency for making sure you have telephone numbers for plumbers, electricians and all-purpose handymen and women. If something goes wrong, you want to be able to snap straight to action. If there’s a burst water pipe, you don’t want to be wasting time researching phone numbers when you could have done it months earlier. Asking friends for personal recommendations is still the best method for making sure you get only the most reliable and trustworthy personnel and this brings us on to the next point:-
Introduce yourself to neighbours. You don’t have to be new best friends, but neither do you have to stand on ceremony and wait for people to be friendly to you. And if you’ve forged a few links with people in your street, town or village, then you’re in a far better position for asking them about local plumbers, cleaners, electricians etc. You may also find families whose children are the same age as yours, which could pay dividends later on.
Change-of-address cards should be sent to all your friends, relations and associates. Whether you go the old-fashioned route and get them printed up or just issue the electronic equivalent is down to your own judgment. You should also take a moment or two to update all the companies whose services you use, especially utility companies. If needs be, you can avail yourself of the mail-forwarding service at the Post Office, but it’s preferable to get as much of your mail as possible sent directly to your new address. Re-routed mail will take longer to reach you.
In the throes of new love, who among us ever wants to entertain the possibility of splitting up? It’s unthinkable. And when we’ve made vows, promising in front of witnesses (and, depending on your beliefs, in front of God), to stay together until we permanently expire, the idea that either party will ever have a change of heart simply doesn’t occur to us or, if it does, we swat it away as if it were a persistent wasp, troubling us quite unbidden on a hot day. But relationships end. Not all of them, no, but most of them, yes. From infancy, we’re bombarded with messages about true love. From films, art, music and theatre, the messages come thick and fast, programming us with the idea that anything other than long-lasting, true love with the perfect soul-mate is somehow aberrant. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. A relationship being finite does not mean it ‘failed’ or that it wasn’t worth having. It’s time to go easy on ourselves and realise that the fact that our relationship has had a shelf-life is not some terrible judgment on our worth. There’s enough upheaval as it is, so why add to it with self-flagellation, deep dark nights of the soul and unnecessary, morbid rumination? Better to get on with the business in hand, and part of that may be the need to rethink our living arrangements.
As arduous as we can, with some justification, find moving house, just imagine what it was like for Neanderthals and other early forms of man, who had to do it all without the benefit of lorries, vans, winches, levers and other forms of helpful equipment. They didn’t even have masking tape, let alone cardboard boxes and scissors. They had no telephones for organising friends and family to help out, and neither did they have sophisticated linguistic skills or writing materials. True, they had some advantages, such as not having to ask for time off work, but that’s almost the only one. And no, they didn’t have to contact utility companies and navigate infuriating, circuitous telephony menus in order to speak to someone, but that advantage came at a cost; they had no utilities. No instant light, heat or water. Try moving today without those resources, and you’ll soon start losing your temper.
But what exactly was the moving-in process like for cave-people? Let’s divide them into Neanderthals (from which modern man did not descend) and cavemen (from which he did). To us, Neanderthals might have appeared excessively hirsute and rather aggressive, but they weren’t without organisational instincts. Excavated rock shelters in Italy have led some scientists to conclude that caves were divided into levels, perhaps an early version of the fashionable mezzanine concept. The upper level was used for the storage of animal bones and was also possibly a cookery/food preparation area. The middle was more of a living/chill-out zone, sometimes including a fire-pit, while the bottom was a kind of workshop, where primitive tools were kept prior to going out hunting. For years, organisational skills have been attributed to humans, but it’s clear that Neanderthals had a notion of interior design that wasn’t without common sense. They did not simply chuck all their stuff in a pile and make the best of it; they had an early version of the sitting room, wore jewellery, ate a better-balanced diet than some contemporary humans and buried their dead. They had a greater hand in civilisation than that with which they’ve sometimes been credited and an interest in style for style’s sake.
As for early man, the natural shape of caves had some bearing on how they were decorated. There might be passages and chambers, provided the natural architecture of the cave allowed it. Cave art was, by the time of the Ice Age, becoming increasingly sophisticated, with engravings of horse heads and stick men. Paintings of animals are sometimes thought to have been not just art but actually warnings, helping the community stay aware of which creatures posed a lethal threat. Sculptures, made with ivory, stone and clay, were also popular. If you’ve ever wondered what inspired the more surrealistic cave-art that you may have seen (the spirals and labyrinthine patterns), there’s some evidence that, upon moving in, cave people used hallucinogenics during their down-time. Plants with psychoactive ingredients were widely popular, leading to design work comprising ‘neural patterns’ – that is, patterns that reflect the structural content of the brain. Evidence taken from caves in both Spain and Japan have led archaeologists to make this particularly startling conclusion.
Research has also revealed in recent years that early men used a form of paint to decorate walls and liked adding design features like zig-zags. Paint was made using animal fat, eggs and crushed minerals – a completely organic, non-toxic formula that would probably be hugely expensive if made today and peddled to families in Notting Hill. Stone Age settlements in the Orkneys have led to this and other revelations. In the 1980s, a Neolithic settlement was unearthed, including temples for worship. By 3000 BC, with caves now thoroughly passé, actual buildings made from stone were springing up. Yellows, browns, reds and oranges were the favoured decor colours. Hematite, a black mineral, was the popular paint ingredient, with the eggs or animal fats working as a binding agent. Sometimes spelled haematite, it could be crushed up and used to create a variety of pigments.
Moving ‘house’ in these early times was, therefore, not without its pleasures and excitements, its hopes and its dreams, and, as archaeological digs continue to bring new discoveries to light, it’s worth watching this space for further updates in the near further.