I still haven’t thought up a nickname for my latest flat, and I’ve been there a while. After so many homes being either outrageously horrible, or stupendously nice, I think this flat is the goldilocks flat – that is, just right (apart from the letting agent.)
But things are beginning to shift slightly over to the world of weird. It’s a small thing, a tiny incident, but as one used to reading the runes of a building, scanning the evidence for signs, I found this disconcerting.
Someone has pinned an excerpt of a poem on the wall. It’s terrible poem, bad enough to make William McGonagall adopt a superior sneer. It was entered in a local newspaper competition and ends with the sentiment: “ I know in my heart/there’s a place for my modern art.” Heroically bad, in other words.
Something is awry. The signs are all around. I introduced myself to a neighbour, who seemed pleasant and amiable, but all I’ve heard since are constant tumultuous screeching arguments with her boyfriend, all day long, every time I walk past.
And while hunting a parcel that had gone awol (I *heart* the post office…) I left a jaunty message for my neighbours and noticed something strange: their flat smelt pungently of cheese. Could be stilton - might be the noxious aroma of bloke-foot, but it reeked, and made me realise why my flat had been smelling so bad – the odour was snaking across the landing and infusing my home with eau-de-roquefort.
Then the occupants knocked on my door to explain that they hadn’t seen my parcel (to a backdrop of “You fucking slag – no you’re a fucking bastard,” from the people opposite.) I tried to find a delicate way of asking why their home smells so strange, but I am not a diplomat. Perhaps they are artisan cheese producers? (By the way - they are French.)
Things like that are unsettling. In a former home, an occupant spoke to neighbours in the lift – he seemed fine, and they willingly accepted his invitation to join him for a cuppa. Imagine their surprise when her opened his door to reveal the stench of decay, and long departed (ex?) budgie nailed to its perch.
Then it got scary. He began stalking female occupants, waiting for them patiently beside their door, nodding silently when they emerged. He played ‘Hangman’ with their name on the wallpaper, using the words death and slaughter. He sat habitually in the local pub drinking milk – which to me seemed the strangest thing of all (or perhaps I am allergic to dairy?)
After months of terrified female tenants pleading with officials to intervene, he revealed his nature by posting a home-made bomb to a public school. Mercifully it didn’t explode, but he was arrested, and we never saw him again.
It starts with a poem, or a simple game of hang-man, and then everything goes astray. I hope this is simply my innate world-weary cynicism. I also hope the standard of the verse improves.