Sunday, 25 April 2010

Smell You later!

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.


Anonymous said...

Bottom flat in the block of eight I'm living in was occupied by an old lady who was a fire hazard. Despite complaints by other people in the block over two years or so the private-sector landlord did nothing. She was served notice but refused to go, as apparently no sheltered housing organisation would take her as she is a smoker and thus a fire hazard. The fact that our block breaks fire regulations isn't something that said slumlord gave a damn about.

Meanwhile I used to get regular calls on the intercom to let her carers/meals on wheels in as she's old/deaf/etc.

So a few weeks ago she falls over so they get the police round and break the door down. A few days later she's taken away. Now the lower floors stink, as one of the neighbours who saw inside saw all her partly eaten and uneaten meals lying around rotting. Carpet in her bedroom is riddled with cigarette burns. Front door still damaged from being broken in.

I can only think it is truly poetic justice. Flat is now empty and will stay that way until it is completely gutted and rebuilt. Said slumord has lost thousands. I hold my breath every time I pass her flat and feel a warm glow inside. Sometimes there is a god.


RenterGirl said...

It's shocking isn't how, people ask for help, or don't know how to access help. And what happens when people live alone without help. It's awful, but that poor lady should never have been left alone. It does all work out in the end.

Shoe said...

That is hilarious funny - and so true. One place I lived around 02-04 had a downstairs tenant who engaged in constant, animated conversations with his "visitors."

In fact there were no visitors. Nobody ever came or left. He just made up different voices and proceeded to have conversations with himself. He was harmless though.

Its not just a tenant thing though. I work with a guy who from a 6 foot radius emits a pungent stench of something that has been decaying for a week. We put him in the corner in a cube on his own so we can proceed to ignore him (he doesn't do any work either, and his persistent lateness is just ignored). Once he gave us a lift somewhere, and his car was imbued with the same putrid stench of not having washed for about 3 days, and determined avoidance of deoderant.

Scary thing is, his wife threw him out 2 years ago and he's been renting ever since. I dread to think what its like.

Likewise in the same house as the guy with the imaginary friends, the landlord (who was pretty ok) had to evict another guy downstairs for being Mr Stinky. He had to tear out everything - floors, fittings, everything. What was rather amusing was that standing in the middle of the flat was a toilet. Not quite prison like - it did actually have 4 walls. But whatever engaged the landlord to place it right there in the first place puzzles me to this day.

RenterGirl said...

Oh, there's more to come on those subjects....BUt a toilet in the middle of room? That's the stuff of nightmare and of legend. Respect to that landlord. Thanks for reading, and for your comments.