Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I Dreamed I Dwelt in Dovecot Towers

To mangle and conflate two separate curses: “When the fates wish to punish writers, they grant us interesting times to live in and write about.”

Before I moved to Dovecot Towers, I was largely ignorant about both the enigmatic world of urban newbuild flats and the harrowing effect of mass buy-to-let. Like many others, I had even walked by Dovecots blithely believing them to be comfortable, even vaguely glamorous, upmarket apartments. Now I know better.

The very first weekend I lived there, I heard a truly horrific domestic assault in one of the flats below. I was the only resident to call the police, who had trouble locating the building. There was plenty more to come.

Many memories will haunt me forever. Davey’s death is the worst thing I’ve ever seen anywhere, and afterwards I found it very hard to live here. I hope Sarah escapes the horror of that night, that she finds peace of mind and happiness in the future. Imagine how she’ll feel if she sees Dovecot Towers in the distance through the window of a speeding train, or is inadvertently driven past. The flowers on Davey’s shrine were never stolen (somebody tidied the wilting memorial and left fresh blooms.) New tenants moved in to the flat last week. I wonder if they know what happened there. I hope nobody tells them.

Elsewhere, the ‘murder’ mystery is still unsolved, but police eventually described the flat as containing a crime scene with forensic evidence but no body. They suspect (or rather, have concluded) that something terrible happened. Meanwhile the incident file on Dovecot Towers gets bigger every day.

I always thought that when I left, I’d have my revenge on Dovecot Towers (especially its more irksome inhabitants.) Thumping Techno Boy beat me to the door. Many nights were spent watching my breakables and crystal dancing to the sonic impact of his tunage. I planned to visit at 5am, and press on his doorbell to wish him a cheery goodbye. I also wanted to install a powerful sound-system underneath Georgie the posh 24 Hour Party Girl, and serenade her with recordings of bagpipes or wolves howling for an entire weekend. Unfortunately she left before I did.

Sadly, in the previous few weeks, several friendly tenants moved in, people who would chat and pass the time of day. One couple even had a baby (this might seem strange, but hearing the baby crying was a welcome taste of humanity.) Then there was Yuri and Lev, the affable, upbeat Eastern Europeans who skilfully negotiated their rent down with their landlord when he tried to increase it, as living here was so, well, challenging.

As for my landlord, William, well he’s incommunicado, and never gave me a reference, never even told me when or whether the bailiffs were due. Mending my credit rating and retrieving the money stolen from my bank account is the next task in hand. Something as simple as a block of flats has devastated us both.

Moving out was easy. I was already packed, and didn’t have the flat professionally cleaned (it’s being repossessed; the bank can pay.) Despite my best efforts, the bathroom still looked filthy as mould was rapidly colonizing the walls. Tiles were put up from top to bottom, instead of the usual (i.e. non-cowboy) practice, from bottom to top. Consequently the tiling crumbled and collapsed, providing a handy gap for damp and spores. The day before I left, every light bulb in the kitchen/diner/lounge died in unison, which could have been a sign. I turned off my music, and listened to the building for one last time. Silence. Now there’s a first.

I sincerely hope the management company from hell keep their promises. They assured me there would be improvements, and I hope they keep the occupants of Dovecot Towers happy and safe, a hope which diminishes with every passing day.

The night before I moved out, the people staying below me (in a hotel apartment) sang rugby songs until 5am. I closed the door and drove away, without looking back. I dreamed I dwelt in Dovecot Towers. It was a nightmare.


ReubenH said...

Hooray!! Well done for finally getting out of that hellhole! May your walls be thick, your doors and windows solid, and all your immediate neighbours kindly little old ladies.

I'm curious as to what you're going to apply your writing talent to next?

RenterGirl said...

Don't worry Reuben! I will still be posting. There's so much to write about in the world of renting (which is what I had initially to write about, but sort of got sidetracked by the world of wonder and horror that is Dovecot Towers.)And...I intend to stay in the city, once I find somewhere suitable. And safe. It's going to take a loooooong time...
Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Yes, best of luck Penny. I love reading your posts on a Tuesday. Keep posting because, as I've commented to you before, there's a lovely rhythm and flow to your words.


MattW said...

All the best, Penny. I hope that your new pad is more like a home to settle down for a long time - with some decent cupboard space too!

I believe that your blog should be compulsary reading for trainee Architects and Town Planners. They must learn how NOT to build homes before they ever get let loose on a single building project.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks everyone. I am trying to spread the word in architect departments, but the true villains are the developers.

the reaper said...

'I believe that your blog should be compulsary reading for trainee Architects and Town Planners. They must learn how NOT to build homes before they ever get let loose on a single building project'

have to agree,make the f****** live in em first.

the reaper said...

'but the true villains are the developers.'

long has this been haggled over on HPC,but for me,the true villains are the customers ie BTL's who bought these places and the banks and regulators that contrived to lend these idiots the cash.

They were priced more expensively than terraced houses nearby,priced more expensively than suburban semi's/detached,and yet these muppets bought them and pinned their retirement dreams on them.

There are no free lunches,and to quote Mama Gump
'Stooopid is as stooopid does.'Only the govt can really protect people from their own stupiditiy and that's why they exist.Sadly,we had 'Prudence' (ahahahahahahahahahahahah) brown and tony bliar,in a govt of all the talents,Hazel Blears,Harriet har'person' etc.

would the tories have been any better,probably not.

RenterGirl said...

The customers had little choice over what they bought. The problems of these places are ignored by everyone. They didn't want a free lunch, they wanted an investment, and were 'educated' to believe invest in property. Personally, I wouldn't buy anywhere off plan (the developers change the lay out afterwards) or anywhere I couldn't imagine living in myself. The investors were deluded. The developers are the bad guys. As for the tories, well they started this mess, new labout finessed it, and with a semi nationalised bank and a redistributive tax, I'm happy.

Anonymous said...

I've read your blog with sympathy, and a certain amount of horror. Glad you're moving out, and I hope it's to somewhere better.

the reaper said...

'The customers had little choice over what they bought'

realise I might get banned but I believe if they'd opened their eyes they'd have had plenty of choice.In Leicester,two up two down terraces in trendy bits of town where yuppies(I am one I guess) rent never really went over £140k and yet that was the cheapest the flats in the centre of town were ever available for.Most were far more expensive.I have seen shows since,panorama was one I think,where these investors bought flats without even seeing them.

'The investors were deluded. The developers are the bad guys.'
I accept there were some incredibly sharp practices at Inside track seminars and that the prices charged for the flats were never going to show a rental yield that could be reasonably expected to cover costs over the long term.

'As for the tories, well they started this mess, new labout finessed it, and with a semi nationalised bank and a redistributive tax, I'm happy.'

the late eighties was the appetiser for this mess.greed tasted good.The sale of council housing stock was a big mistake and even though I was a kid at the time,I knew they wouldn't replace them.We're at the start of this and we've already run out of social housing.Where are people in distress going to go?

RenterGirl said...

I agree with you Reaper. But much of the property bubble had a veneer of official policy about it, and people trusted, well: banks, the media (and even Inside Track.) Yes, the people who bought without viewing were stupid, let's face it. One woman based in London bought overpriced flats in Rochdale thinking it was Manchester (trust me, it's not.) Even so, the appalling state of the buildings, and their inevitable decay were not flagged. And as for social housing, well who started the nightmare timebomb that is right to buy? Labour didn't wade in and stop it.

Alice cook said...

Where are you moving now that Dovecot towers is no more?


RenterGirl said...

See my post post...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Renter Girl!

I hope you can truly move on to greener pastures.

I will continue to follow your posts.

Even as far away as the Basque Country (where I live) we suffer many similar situations.

Did you know that in the Spanish state, over recent years, more new housing was built than in the UK, France, Germany & Italy put together? Talk about a bubble!

All the best,


RenterGirl said...

Thanks Andy. I have heard about bubbles elsewhere. What's it like to rent where you are? Is it seen as second best?

Anonymous said...

"What's it like to rent where you are? Is it seen as second best?"

Certainly. The attitude seems to be "If I'm going to pay, I might as well buy something that will be mine one day".

This means the percentage of available housing for rent is very small. It seems to me that there is very little Renting Culture here.

I'm no expert, but I think this is partly a result of a very poor salary vs. rent ratio. People (couples, because it's practically impossible to rent or buy on one realistic average salary in this country)see that rent may be, say, 80% of what a mortgage may cost them so they go ahead and buy.

Now, with the saturation of the market, we'll see what happens. Interest rates are supposed to go down now, but I'm waiting to see what all the small speculators will do (people who bought property aiming to sell it at a profit).

Just an example: where we live, which is subsidized renting and therefore supposed to be affordable, rent is 500 € for 64 square metres (this is before putting in the kitchen, wardrobes & other furinture). In other words, about 50% of the monthly wage of the tenant!

I won't even go into the quality of the buildings in question...


fajensen said...

Interest rates are supposed to go down now, but I'm waiting to see what all the small speculators will do

Hahaha - Nope!

The interest rate that WE can borrow at will go up because the banks like very much that they can borrow at 1-2% and lend at 7,8, 12, whatever.

The only interest rate that track the central bank rate is the one on your current account deposits!

There will be grief and wailing.