(james benedict brown) on the road

Beneath high ceilings

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 31 July, 2008

In a job interview the other day, a recruitment agency employee (yes, it’s got so bad I’ve resorted to employment agencies) asked me why I had chosen to move to Northern Ireland after completing my first degree back in 2004.

I tried to recall the reasoning for that move. I suspect it might have been due to a highly irregular moment of forward thinking, in which I imagined the advantages of mentioning in future job interviews that I had knowingly sacrificed a well paying job in London for a more interesting one in Belfast. Quite aside from the great year that I had in Northern Ireland, that investment in a resumé peculiarity has begun to generate some very positive interview conversations. I’m very proud to present a CV that details my path from Sheffield to Belfast and then Montréal. At least it sets me apart from the rather large number of graduates in Glasgow who, it seems, have never lived or worked outside the city.

However, I couldn’t help recalling a friend who finished the same degree as me at the same time, and who started working in London on a salary £16,000. In Belfast, I started on about 40% less, and even in the course of an entire year, never matched her starting pay.

Money doesn’t motivate me. But I think high ceilings do.

As the conversation developed, an internal monologue began to supplement the conversation. Stupid as it may sound, I have genuinely been caught off guard by people who, in the last week, have asked me why I have chosen to move to Glasgow. And I think the best answer I can give is high ceilings. Glasgow is full of them. Prior to this recession, I had begun to calculate the places to live in the UK that might offer the best ratio of potential earnings to cost of living. Glasgow pulled out ahead of the pack pretty quickly. Although I remain stubbornly unemployed (and I’m beginning to wonder whether it is me that is being stubborn) it still makes sense. Without wanting to tempt fate, I have been eyeing up the windows of letting agents and the pretty excellent map-based search facility of s1homes.

The cost of living in London is absurd. And not only is it absurd, the cost of renting anywhere to live is so high I know that in the first year after finishing this, my second degree, I would either have to share a house or commute. Neither a continuation of cohabiting like a student nor launching into metroland living appeals. So I spend my days exploring the rental market of south-side and west-end Glasgow (although the latter looks increasingly overpriced relative to the former). Glasgow’s staple rental accommodation are the tenement apartment blocks that cluster around most of the streets in these districts. Three and four storey walk-ups, they offer an incomparable volume of space thanks to high ceilings and deep plans. Dropping into the show suite of a modern apartment development yesterday, I pretended to be interested in purchasing a new build flat. It was not easy to pretend. The development was badly designed and the apartments were miniscule. The new-build premium was completely unjustified, considering that a few streets away were dozens of older apartments that were cheaper, more considerately designed and bigger.

This evening I am writing on someone else’s laptop in the same someone else’s apartment. That someone else has left town for a week or two, initiating a chain of house sitting Glasgwegians that has caused me to find a very comfortable home for a few weeks. While this someone else is gone, we’ve been invited to make ourselves at home, and for that I am very grateful. All I will say is that this someone else is a successful artist who secured the tenancy of the former office a well known firm of Glasgow architects. It is like stepping into a Sunday interiors supplement feature: modest but beautiful taste in furniture and interior design, set against a near plain white backdrop of Glasgow apartment living.

It may not be my apartment, but under its high ceilings I am content this evening. And now I must return to the kitchen, to assist in the creation of a salad which, I am reliably informed, will revolutionise my appreciation of salads.

Life is unpredictable, but not too bad.

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One Response

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  1. am said, on 1 August, 2008 at 08:46

    What a happy email. And ending on vegetables no less :) You’ll find the right job, you’ll find a nice high ceilinged apartment. You know, if you get a feeling about a place you should stick with it- you don’t know what (or who) it will bring you :) x

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