Given enough time, nature will take back the land it’s lost. I lived in a house like that, once. In Birmingham when I was a student there, not the second time I lived there. That second time was when I was working and training in what became my profession, and meeting people who would become integral to my life then and later on, and now. In that house being taken back by nature we had at least one mouse. A plant, I can’t remember, a tree?, grew in between bathroom tiles. Leaves sprouted from the wall. We didn’t use all of the bedrooms. There was one spare room, caught in stasis. We never cleaned it. The air was clogged with the smell of dust. R and I watched the next door neighbours in their back garden through the window of that room. We didn’t use our back garden. In London a back garden is a privilege. In Birmingham we squandered it. Our landlord used a handyman to do up the house while we were away over a summer. The man re-painted the wooden window frames at the front of the house. He only got halfway through. We didn’t meet him. We know he got halfway through because he had set out to do the job vertically – so each window from the top to the bottom of the house was half-painted, from top to bottom. None of them were completely painted. I think he painted the windows shut. That could be a different house. When we came back to the house in the autumn R couldn’t find one of her pans. Later the pan was found in the garden, flung. It had been used to mix paint. I think it stayed there. Eventually the landlord put poison down. I found the house mouse twitching in the middle of the living room floor, spasming on the thin wiry carpet. I felt so sorry. I carried him outside to the garden, and then I had a spasm myself, of human-rodent disgust. I flung the mouse into the garden. Then I thought that a cat might eat it and become sick. But it was too late. I don’t know where the mouse landed. I couldn’t find him in the uncared for morass of flora.
For a long time I felt that I didn’t feel at home anywhere, and that feeling like that, free range, was a good thing. Nowadays I welcome the love of more and more places, but the sea still moves restless. I’ve moved house twice this year, this calendar year, three times in eighteen months. I’m about to move house again, to a flat on a street along which Orthodox Jewish parents walk their children to school. My room has two windows, each facing different compass points. There is no garden, but there are shared green spaces. I don’t know if it has a mouse. I don’t think it will, the last time I went to look at it there was no evidence of nature pulling the spaces back down to earth, but there’s always time.