(james benedict brown) on the road

Second floor living

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 3 September, 2008

The cat from upstairs is making herself (or himself… as you may know I am notoriously bad at identifying the gender of animals, sometimes including humans) a little too at home in my apartment. I don’t want to be accused of kidnapping, but on at three separate occasions in the last week she’s been there on the steps outside my apartment’s door when I come home in the mid-afternoon. She is detecting my rhythms, even more reason to try and develop some new ones.

Yesterday I had a bit of change in my pocket, so walked up Victoria Road to Allison Street and got a couple of bags of groceries. I’m learning to identify the best places for certain ingredients. Allison Street in particular is a brilliant place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, although I’m learning to steer clear of the food stores with the particularly bad swarms of flies inside and outside their crowded shop fronts. A discount frozen food chain seems to be the cheapest place to buy milk and some bottled items, and the Somerfield supermarket (hopefully soon to become a Co-operative) is pretty good for everything in between. I keep meaning to make a slog down to Lidl or Aldi, I reckon I can hold off on those delights, primarily because they involve a bus or a train ride and the inevitable red mist that fills my trolley with £40 worth of groceries simply because it’s cheap. And although I’ve yet to buy any meat, I’ve found a couple of promising looking butchers where friendly staff are happy to suggest good cuts or the days when I should call in for something specific.

So, heaving my bags up the stairs yesterday afternoon my nameless (and basically sexless) neighbour was waiting for me. She let herself in after me and proceeded to spend an hour or two sniffing and lolling about. Favoured places include the rattan rug in the living room or on top of my groin while I’m lying in bed reading (what can I say, I’m a charming kind of guy for cats). The bathroom windowsill is also a favoured spot in the afternoon, when the sun shines directly in through the tall sash window and floods the bright shiny room with light.

The east – west orientation of the apartment is, much to my surprise, quite pleasant. The old rule of preferring south facing spaces in a house is not necessarily accurate. In the morning and evening I can easily be fooled when I pass a doorway into thinking that I’ve left a light on somewhere. In fact it’s just the floods of bright sunlight that fall through the tall windows. At this modest storey there are few obstructions outside – the street is wide and the back gardens are deep. I’ve now managed to clean just about all of the windows as well. A prolonged period of vacancy before I moved in had ensured that the outside face of the windows were caked in dirt – notably those facing the street, which were in turn blackened by months of traffic pollution (hundreds of diesel buses drive past every day). All of these double hung windows have simplex hinges on the left hand side of the frame, and a removable strip of the inner frame which, in theory, allow for one counter balance cord to be detached from the inner leaf of the window so that the whole thing can be swung into the room for cleaning. Unfortunately some of the frames have been painted shut, most of the upper leafs are stuck and many of the counter balance cords are broken. But with some improvisation (a kitchen knife to attack the paint that had sealed certain cracks, and a kitchen mop held above my head while leaning backwards out of the window) the windows are now near-as-dammit shiny clean. That direct sunlight has revealed some smears that are frustratingly out of reach, but if little miss kitty from upstairs is happy, I’m happy.

With the bulk of my inherited furniture now in place, I’m in need of the personal touches to get the place feeling more like home. Until then some of the rooms are struggling to shake off the feel of a police safe house, but it’s getting there slowly. I’m now just controlling the urge to prise off the flimsy sheeting that appears to have been nailed over all of the original panel doors. I suspect that is not permissible under my rental agreement, but I can dream.

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