The Worst of Times: Memories of a screaming harridan: Frances Fyfield talks to Danny Danziger

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I'd chosen the wrong flat, bought post-marriage and part of that range of mistakes. But I was moving out, all that was over.

The flat had been one of those places you think is a bargain when you first see it and, besides, you're desperate with looking. You go into it and think, 'This has great big rooms, and it's going to need next to nothing doing to it, and it has a garden', which I'd never had before . . .

Then when you've moved into it, you suddenly realise this won't do, the garden is covered by shadow all the time, the great big basement area is chill, and if you start peeling off the ghastly wallpaper, there's graffiti underneath.

Later, you realise that the walls are paper thin and you can hear the rows from next door, and gradually the impetus begins that you must move again, you must move.

It was a street that looked ultra respectable, full of up-and-coming people, but it was distinguished by a colossal burglary rate. I started to hate it when I was burgled, and someone took a mallet to the front door.

So I embarked on another house hunt. I found somebody to buy the flat, which was difficult to sell because I hated it so much.

You had to point out what a wonderful bargain it was without saying, 'Actually, you'll probably be burgled within the first week,' and 'Don't move that wallpaper, really, don't move that wallpaper, you won't like what's behind it'. Or, 'The bathroom's cold as ice' and 'You'll never get anything to grow in the garden'.

But I got a buyer, a nice, pleasant individual. He didn't understand that you've got to harangue your solicitor all the time if you want to move, he was one of those people who believe solicitors know what they are doing, but perhaps he didn't want to move at the same speed as I did.

All the time I was looking for a replacement flat, and when I came to this particular one, I thought, 'This is it, this is what I want'.

And when you start desperately to want something, while selling something else you desperately want to get rid of, then the tension starts to mount. You eat, sleep, live and breathe it. You've probably got to make at least two dozen phone calls about your move every day, you've got to keep putting pressure on people to get things done, and you cease thinking about anything else. At the same time, you start doubting whether you actually hated the last place as much as you thought you did, and by the time you come to removal day you are in a bit of a state.

I've moved lots of times and I've always had good experiences with removal men before.

When this lot arrived, I knew it wasn't going to be like that in any way, shape or form. They weren't people I was going to charm with cups of tea, and who were going to offer to change light bulbs. They packed up things in newspapers instead of that nice wrapping paper that doesn't make your fingers filthy.

They were surly and clumsy, and I got the feeling they were the sort that if something was smashed or broken, they'd put it in a bin and not tell you what had happened. Various things had been dropped on the way out and I knew the washing machine was never going to work again.

I constantly got the feeling with these removal men that they were looking at pieces of furniture I was moving and thinking, 'Why's she bothering?' which makes you think 'Why am I?'.

My car was packed with the vital things you need for a move, like the kettle; but I had parked the car badly the night before and left the lights on, so there was a flat battery, of course. So I began running between all points, the old flat, the new flat and the battery-dead car, becoming quite out of control, actually getting quite hysterical, tearful, hyperventilating, the whole works.

When we got to the new place, it had been empty for several days, so it was seriously cold. It was six o'clock Friday evening and I was completely knackered: I didn't want to do anything except weep, or possibly get drunk.

But eventually I calmed down; I have a great friend who came round and said, 'I know what to do about boilers', and she started to attack the boiler, and I lit the gas fires, which had not been lit for a long time.

And just as I was thinking 'It's not so bad', there's a thumping and banging in the street below. Footsteps are coming up the stairs, I open the door and, passing by me into the flat, there are about 13 firemen in pith helmets, carrying axes. And they say, 'There's a report of a fire.' My somewhat nervous neighbour upstairs had smelt unfamiliar fumes and couldn't do something simple like come down and knock at the door.

Anyway, that was the worst move I've ever had, which has a positive aspect in so far as it did turn out all right in the end; I love this place, and have an enormous sense of home-coming when I open the door.

There are times when I've considered moving, but I remember this harridan shrieking down telephones at solicitors, being rude to removal men, leaving the car lights on and sitting in the loo weeping, then the spectre of all that happening again interferes, common sense prevails and I say to myself, 'This is maybe as good as you're going to get, at least for the foreseeable future.'

The criminal lawyer and novelist Frances Fyfield lives in north London. Her latest book is 'Perfectly Pure and Good', published by Bantam Press, pounds 14.99.

(Photograph omitted)

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