14 October 2009

Li'l Miss Homemaker

I love my flat - I truly do. From the massive oak bed (and surprisingly very comfortable mattress), old and beat-up futon (which, of course, increases it's comfortability ten-fold), chairs and bedside tables as needed, and every kitchen implement known to man (including a cleaver straight out of Sweeney Todd - I could seriously take down a bull with that thing) - including (oh heavens ring forth in glory!) a washing machine! Gone are my days of trudging up Old Christchurch Road with luggage packed with dirty laundry, invariably watching the skies grow dark and eventually begin to pour, even when the weather forecasted a beautiful day. The flat is part of a large building which takes up all of St Bernard's Close; though it's big, it's a residential area, meaning I get to listen to the schoolkids chase each other home at half three, listen to another kid somewhere down the road practice the trumpet (before you pity me, he's actually quite good!) at half seven, and everyone and everything is quiet and peaceful at half ten. Gone, again, are the days of falling to sleep at midnight, only to be woken by drunken slags and chavs drunkenly screaming obsenities at each other at 3AM. I'm twenty minutes out of London, but the world is silent once night-time arrives. Blessings, blessings upon West Norwood. I love you all already. (Especially the group of three probably 8-year-olds coming home from school one day who noticed me in my kitchen window and shouted - in true London-ease - "Oi, look! A new neighbuh!" and waved as though I was the Queen. :)

I've met two of my neighbors - #6 is an adorably sweet old lady, straight out the casting call for "English Grandmother". She never leaves the house without one of two gorgeously adorable old wool coats - one peony pink, the other sunflower yellow. Her white hair is perfectly coiffed, and every exterior surface of her flat is covered in roses. #8 is, again, straight out of the casting call for *ahem* slightly "portly" English "bloke" of the "Wot's all this, then?" variety. I met him just now, coming out of my flat, as he was coming into his. I discovered, through his childlike glee and excitement over the fact, that we have squirrels living in our crawl space, hiding nuts away for winter. His "goal" for the evening was to get up there and "politely encourage" them to move elsewhere. We had a good laugh.

Hmm... I should explain. I have a deadbolt twist on the upperhalf of the door, modern and sturdy, and unlocked with your normal, modern key. At normal height for a door handle is... a door handle, beneath which sits a truly lovely old-fashioned lock which closes with a large, old fashioned key. I think I would've taken the flat simply for the keys on my keyring. The door handle, however, has been screwed into the hole in this door .. many, many times. Basically, the wood has completely begun to splinter and be eaten away, leaving the door handle and its screws barely, BARELY clinging on for dear life. If you wish to pull the door open (in either direction), you instantly find yourself holding a door handle completely on its own, while the other half of the door handle (on the other side of the door) goes rolling down the hallway. You attempt to grasp the door by the metal rod connecting the two handles, and this too comes out into your palm. It generally takes me 3-4 attempts to get the door successfully shut when going out - and it usually involves putting the door back together a few times, and finally pulling it shut via the mail slot. All this to explain how I managed to have an entire conversation with neighbor #8, all whilst attempting to, simply, shut my door. 

The flat is charming, but I've been having a bit of trouble with the heat. Namely, the windows might as well be kept wide open, owing to the fact that they are not insulated one little bit. Large gaps exist between the glass and the frame, the frame and the wall, et cetera and so on. On the one hand, this makes me even happier that I haven't been annoyed by neighbors' noise, if I might as well have the windows open, but it does rather make me realize that winter is coming on quickly and I should probably do something about this.

The property is a manged one, owing to the fact that the landlord lives overseas. (If her home furnishings and equipment are any indicator, she's German, adores IKEA (well, really, who doesn't?), and eats over the sink after butchering a cow out back) I was given a maintanence number to call in case of things going wrong (Good old Joanne - no longer just for fabrics), but I've spent nearly a week trying to track down the status of the wardrobe I was promised and which was contractually agreed on for me (the bedroom has no closet, so it was written into the contract that the landlord would provide me with a wardrobe... also, the front door handle would be fixed. You can probably see where I'm going with this) Joanne has promised that she is "on" the wardrobe, and that a bloke would be contacting me shortly about coming over to fix the doorhandle. I'm expecting both around mid-March.

The wardrobe, however, I can partly take blame for... sort of. Upon moving in, I found an odd thing plugged into the powerplug in the bedroom. It looked vaguely like an airfreshener that you plug in, but with no pleasant odors emiting, or catchy name on the back. It didn't seem to do anything and, as there are only two plugs in the bedroom, I unplugged it. YOU will quickly see where this is going, as that's the way it works when I tell the story, but I should suggest that there was no real indicator of what this thing does anywhere on its body. However, the doorbell - both outside *my* door and the one at the base of the stairs to outside - ceased to work. Although I was able to catch the ASDA delivery man bringing my groceries, the Sainsburys man who was bringing 'round my new toolkit, big bookcase, towel rack, and clothing air-dryer (useful, since the washing machine doesn't also dry)... managed to attempt delivery twice, then sent the items back to the store, where they issued me a full refund. While I appreciate the refund, I'd appreciate my books no longer sitting in piles on my floor even more.

Knowing that British workmanship is what it is, and expecting Joanne and her team to get on my wardrobe and front door in time for the Olympics, I decided to take matters into my own hands and went down the street to B&Q's - the UK equivilent of Home Depot (including hideously bright orange logos) I purchased some sealing caulking, a plastic sealant for the tops of the moveable parts of the windows (won't keep out all the cold air, but will also make the windows useable again come July), super extra strong glue (to fix down my toilet lid which, -delightfully- enough, is not actually attached to the toilet itself (leading to a few rather terrifying moments in the early morning), and - hey - look over here! Wireless doorbells! I always thought of doorbells as the button you pushed attached to magical wires that went somewhere to do something. Here, however, were buttons with a remote sounding system... that... plugs into the wall.. and looks ... like an airfreshen..er... oh, for crying out loud.

Sadly, while I thought I was terribly stupid-but-now-enlightened-and-clever-again, I have gone home, replugged the thing in, and found that it still isn't working. Fine. Be that way.

In the meanwhile, I have begun caulking up the parts of my windows that are meant to remain stationary and which have about 3 foot gaps open to the outside air. I managed to feel terribly big and strong and oh-so-terribly impressive. I'm still attempting to sort out the intricasies of internet access and finding somewhere in the flat with more than 2 bars on my phone, the bookcase/tool kit/airer are on their way, once the Royal Post goes off their current strike (bless them, the British have an odd way of going on strike, but only for two or three days together at most, and always scheduled about a week in advance, lest anybody be "put out") but I'm slowly but surely getting there.

And hey, you'd be hard-pressed to beat, "I managed to slide off, crash, and fall into the toilet bowl at 3AM because the landlady never actually attached the toilet lid to the bowl" for "Odd Places I've Lived" stories. :)


  1. Have you been to the Bricklayer Arms yet?

  2. loved this post - thank you !

  3. Hello Bonnie
    A check arrived for you today from EDF for £30.
    I can send you the check.
    I took the liberty of cancelling your mail with Paxton Green Health Centre.
    You still have your subscription with a christian magazine "Re" something or other. I have enjoyed reading it though.
    I was always curious as to why you never approached me. I am an actor and I use to see your National Theatre letters. I do hope it was not something I did. Or was it something that Gary had said?
    Would you let me know what you want me to do with the check.
    All the best
    Tom Collins, 7 St Bernards Close. My email is tomcollins888@gmail.com
    PS Your blog entries are great. Shame we didn't chat I'm a local historian. I can be a bit shy sometimes though.