Moving house is the third most traumatic thing after death and divorce. Well, it depends whose death

Whoever said "you can't go home again" was talking rubbish. I'm here. The other person was right, the one who said: "Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in."

If you've ever been involved in a house chain, then you'll know that it is very hard to co-ordinate the exact day of moving so that everybody is happy. Obviously there are two ways of doing it. The first is that everybody compromises just a little so that the moving date suits everybody reasonably well. The other way is the way we're doing it. Everybody else in the chain apart from us moves on precisely the day they originally wanted while we take up the entire slack by moving with various children, cats and a rabbit back to my parents' house.

So, around 20 years on, I'm back in the same bedroom where I slept until I was about 19. In fact, it looks not so much as if I had left home when I was 19 but as if I had been reported missing in action and my parents had superstitiously kept the room unchanged in case I should one day return. It's still got the wallpaper I chose myself at the age of ten. I chose a red that was as close as I could get to the colour of Manchester United's shirts. There are also many of the same postcards and posters on the wall, including a poster for a completely forgotten group called the Radio Stars who were on an equally forgotten label called Chiswick Records, who were based not in Chiswick but above a (now defunct) record shop in Kentish Town Road. (Of course, to anoraks like myself who were buying indie records compulsively in the fertile year of 1978, a label was only truly obscure if the label was hand-stamped, like the first record by Scritti Politti on St Pancras Records or even, in some cases, hand-written.)

My wife has found the process of sleeping in this little boy's bedroom somewhat disturbing, rather as if she had suddenly been compelled to spend a month with me sleeping in the pram that I had been wheeled around in as a baby. Worse still, from her point of view, the experience has resulted in my becoming even more pedantically obsessed with the passing of time than I am anyway. I keep making strange and almost meaningless calculations. My parents moved into this house in 1963. If the people they'd bought it from had lived here as long as my parents have lived here, then they would have moved into the house in 1927. On the other hand, if I started living here now, by the time I had lived in the house as long as my parents have I would be 75 years old. When I share these and other calculations with people they have an odd reaction: their eyes glaze over and they change the subject, or they pick up a magazine and start reading it. They obviously find the subject too disturbing to contemplate.

The process has been especially interesting for my wife because for the first time she has been able to see a huge amount of material from my past before I put it in bin bags: lower-sixth essays on British social history 1760-1830 (which all begin with sentences like: "There are three especially significant things about trade unions in the 1880s. Firstly . . ."), a calendar for the autumn term of 1973, a poster I bought at a Genesis concert, programmes of plays I'd forgotten I'd seen.

One supposed fact that everybody knows is that moving house is the third most traumatic life event after a death in the family and divorce. Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion about whether these traumas have necessarily been put in the right order. It all depends whose death we're talking about and when it occurred. For example, if something should happen to me, then not only would certain persons be spared lengthy demonstrations of how my parents have actually been living in this house for more than a third of the time since it was built and from having to look at just another photo of that school play from 1976 ("I'm fourth from the left at the back there"), but also these certain persons would move into a new house with the mortgage paid off.

So if you hear I've suffered a horrible domestic accident, think the worst. Which reminds me of a thoroughly bad-taste joke: What runs up curtains and falls down stairs? If you don't know it, you can e-mail me for the answer on

This article first appeared in the 19 February 1999 issue of the New Statesman, We are richer than you think