Monday 30 November 2009

Chinese water torture.

So, I came home one day, apart from the massive hole in the ceiling and the wet carpet, I wasn't really concerened, after all the landlord was only next door, he staggered the short distance, surveyed the damage and came up with the perfect solution for the December rain attacking the hole in his property, a plastic bucket to catch the drips, perefect solution, only it took him 4 days to get a 'workman', meanwhile I had to sleep with a constant.....thud, thud, thud, thud and not try to lose my mind, eventually the damage was repaired, somenone turned up  and did a bit of artexing, covered the yellowy white celing with some chocolate coloured paint and that was that, just spend 4 days listening to a constant tap, tap, tap in a freezing cold bedsit and tell me that after much more of this you wouldn't open up to anyone who had you in captivity!

During the war.

I only ever lived in one 'bed and breakfast', the live in owner was a old woman who came across as a rancourous old witch, the 'lodgers' were expected to eat breakfast then disappear until bedtime, she didn't like us to do any washing and reluctantly allowed us to have showers, our living space was segregated by a locked door, at least there was a TV with sky news, breakfast was left in the kitchen for us, usually a tray of eggs, a loaf of bread and a bowl of cereal, she would frequently interrupt us at all times and regale us with stories about when she was some kind of dancer in WW2 before virtually telling us to get out of her house, I knew my days were numbered when she caught me using the washing machine, I had several replica football shirts of differing colours/teams in her warped imagination I was 'washing a pub teams gear', needless to say I was on the move shortly afterwards.

Holes in the walls

At the dosshouse, things reached an all time low when some of the more doped up tenants/visitors thought it would be amusing to fire a ball bearing gun at the living room wall, one of them stuck to drink one night but when he came home and attempted to go to the toilet he missed, however he managed to 'go' everywhere else, the bath, the shower curtain, the sink and even the bathroom walls, another later tenant would get drunk on vodka at 8am, fall asleep and soak his trousers and settee, it was interesting time, especially when one of the inmates decided to punch a hole through a window, cutting his wrist into the bargain and leaving a trail of blood everywhere, he declined hospital treatment, instead he just wrapped a tea towel around his severed wrist and kept it there for the next six hours or so.

Friday 27 November 2009

They're watching me!

I remember an old song that went something like 'I got the feeling, somebody's watching me' so when someone moved in who actually believed this I learned to tread carefully, his entire persona just sent out the wrong vibes, apart from constant mood swings and a monotone voice not to mention, the most penetrating stare ever, anyway this space cadet actually believed the authorities were monitoring him via fibre optic cables, to throw them off the scent he would sleep downstairs or put black tape over cracks in the doors or windows, one night I came home and he had taken the lights out believing that he could feel static electricity, given his lack of personal hygiene it was more likely to be scabies, things took a turn for the worse when he was sat on a table with his head in his hands, attempts from various people at reasoning him were met with indifference, we tried explaining that when we came home after a few drinks and he was sleeping on the floor or taking lights out causing us to fall over him, he was putting not only us but himself in danger but to him there were greater risks, his entire security was being compromised and he needed to tell the world that the powers that be were watching us, the men in white coats would have had a field day, we just accepted his 'eccentricity' with raised eyebrows, after all, the landlord informed he was 'harmless', I wasn't entirely convinced myself.

Thursday 26 November 2009

A few white lies.

Our old friend Kev once tried to convince me that he wrote 'Is Vic there?' the 1980 hit by Department S (whatever happened to them?), he went on to say someone else took the credit and his life took a downward turn from that point, I suppose he was harmless compared to the dreamer who boasted about his service in the Parachute Regiment during the Falklands campaign, I was 14 when that conflict took place and seeing as though he was 2 years younger than me, it seemed unlikely! I have the kind of face that attracts these people.

Rattus Norvegicus.

Druggies are a bit like brown rats, you're never far away from one, one place became a doss house where the local underclass just invited themselves round, at the time I was seeing a girl so anything I had of any value was left at her house, it was a bit much coming home to find we had run out of spoons yet again and even I realised I was maybe getting instutionalised when I came home one day and saw some emaciated stranger casually inhaling what I presume was crack through a beer can as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

The Drugs don't work.

Neither do a lot of people who take them, these people have given up on life and can't see beyond the next few hours. I was used to just about anything happening so one day when a young (unemployed) person who was living in the room next to, above or below me (it gets confusing) had a 'mate' round simply because he 'had some drugs' experience told me they would use up whatever supply they had, his drug friend would either stagger home at some point or fall asleep on the settee and disappear, he did but it took him about three weeks, in the meantime he proceeded to squat in a bedsit, not bother to change his clothes or get washed but somehow manage to get hold of drugs, in the meantime he met a girl who was about half his age and came across as decent, intelligent and she had some ambition, I met her by chance in the street some time after and she told me she lost all reason, had no idea what came over her and couldn't explain what the hell she was thinking of getting involved with such a loser, he couldn't work out why a drug taking squatter wasn't very attractive in the long run to a teenager, ironically enough I also saw him in the street recently, he looked painfully thin, his face was etched with hatred and the effect was quite remarkable, his eyes showed no trace whatsoever of humanity or compassion, I guess he has given up on life.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Rock Bottom.

After a while of living this life, you lose your dignity, you just don't care anymore, one 'house' had worn out carpets, an unusable twin tub washing machine which necessitated regular trips to the launderette, a fridge that leaked, a kitchen that attracted slugs and snails, heating that was 'powered' by pre decimal 50p pieces which you had to buy from the landlord, windows that froze on the inside and just a smell of desperation, I have lived with worse people but never in worse conditions, this was as bad at it got or so it seemed, amazingly it got worse!

Every Breath you take.

There was once a TV sitcom called 'Rising Damp', many bedsits are damp, it is unpleasant, unhygienic and not good for your health so when I reported the ever rising damp problem in my bedroom to my landlady (the one who insisted on having a meter on the shower), I was expecting her to reluctantly acknowledge the situation and do something about it, her response was that it was caused by me 'breathing' which left me temporarily speechless, nothing ever did get done and I continued breathing.

After the divorce courts.....

A lot of divorced people end up in bedsits, usually they are quite bitter, I think I would be if I had gone from living in a nice house with a family to dossing about in a bedsit, one such guy lived with me, a young girl who had false front teeth (the gap between her ears was even bigger) and had quite an active 'love life', including one memorable night when she entertained someone she met in a nightclub, kept us awake with her moaning and groaning despite earlier informing us she was 'on her period' and was going to be a 'good girl' and dragged the once white bedsits to the washing machine at 5 am as I was setting off for work, I didn't feel like breakfast that day, another Young lad who seemed quite reasonable and some loner we referred to as 'Guru' (don't ask me why), this divorced guy used to have his kids round on a Sunday, he seemed ashamed of them seeing the squalor he was living in and they looked embarrassed, the whole thing was a bit sad really, I was to meet many more like this along the way.

Let's do some drugs.

No, not me, my drug of choice is beer, I like a nice cold lager but I must be the only person in the world who has been evicted from a bedsit for not taking drugs! The official explanation was that I 'didn't fit in', the truth was more like a live in landlord who by the way was terrified of his mother worked out how much money he had coming in, what drugs (usually amphetamine,whizz, billy or speed to you and me), he had and than proceeded to spend his money on this crap, and when mummy came round to ask why the mortgage hadn't been paid, I got kicked out at short notice he could only offer me a muttering apology, I was reading a book at the time and was told I had done 'nothing wrong', but I knew the truth, he wanted to do drugs, run away from his mother and cling on to dear life, all very commendable, mind you he was 40, jaded and dabbling in God knows what substances, his 'girlfriend' was about 18, obnoxious and like a vulture wanted to prey on him, I was a danger and had to be dealt with, I just didn't fit in. The house was within walking distance of the local football ground and the fish 'n' chips at the local outlets weren't bad either but that's life!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

The Full Monty.

My next port of call was actually quite a humorous episode, I shared with a Korean war veteran who used to drink cider every day and once tried to sell me a pair of shoes about 4 sizes too small, an Illegal Jordanian immigrant who turned out to be a really nice guy, very intelligent and at least he worked unlike many of our own parasites including John the stripper, The first thing I noticed about John was his dress sense, he had none! Jumpers that were about 30 years out of date, tracksuit bottoms that looked like he had slept in them and slip on shoes, his look was topped off by a mullet hair cut, a fake tan and a Jason King style moustache, amazingly he worked cash in hand as a stripper, the house itself was OK but in order to get a shower you had to put a 10p coin in a meter and guesstimate the temperature, length of time you got, it could be anything from 5 minutes of warm water to 30 seconds of scalding hot or maybe 2 minutes freezing cold, the electricity was on meters too, meaning I missed countless film endings or last 10 minutes of football games while I hunted around with a torch to find a coin to put in the slot, there was never a dull moment, watching John go out in his various outfits or wearing his 'best' clothes (Chino shirt complete with bootlace tie, blue corduroy trousers and of course black slip on shoes), but more of him later.

Good times, Bad Times.

There now follows a period of relative normality, I met a girl and was living in a decent house sharing with 2 guys of similar age and on a similar wavelength, it was a happy, relaxed time which only came to an end when one of the guys moved out, his mate went shortly after, leaving me and my then girlfriend, we were OK, paid the bills, looked after the house etc but the homeowner decided to put the house on the market, we were given first refusal.....and we refused! Moving into a terraced, Victorian 'student house' put a strain on our relationship, well we broke up shortly after which put me on a downer, which was worsened by the frequent student 'parties', especially when one of them took a LSD tab and was convinced he had 'discovered' things, pity he didn't discover soap and water, I discovered the way out.

And now for the weather.

I liked Tom (name changed slightly), nice old boy, he had lived in Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe for many years, had a good time, spent all his money and didn't care about the future, one day a doctor told him that another African winter would be too much, by this point, Tom was well into his 70's, no children and no money, so rather than bake to death he caught a one way ticket 'home'. Home turned out to be a bedsit where he virtually died before our very eyes, his life consisted of slow, shuffling movements, speeches where he seemingly had to fight for breath, a trip to the local off licence to buy his bottle of wine and a quick review of his life contained in a biscuit tin, I liked him, Kev used to toy with him and he was just an harmless, lonely old man, he didn't die through heat, he froze to death in a bedsit, nobody really noticed, his family appeared at the funeral along with maybe 10 other people, it was the most ironic death ever, file under forgotten.

My First Nutter.

I didn't meet any 'nutters' in bedsit 1, simply because nobody else moved in (I might have been living with a basket case when I spent 2 weeks by myself but I digress), when I upped sticks and moved, I met Kev (name changed slightly), I finally met one, oh and what he case he was, the landlord was a nice enough guy, we sat there and over a couple of cans of Stella, small talk about football and a bit of chit chat and I moved in, Kev was obsessed with hygiene but it didn't seem to stretch as far as his finger nails which were permanently caked in dirt, even though he avoided work like the plague, his belief that the washing machine was 'talking to him' didn't endear me to him and the clincher came when a female ex mate came round one saturday night ( I was out, one thing about bedsits is that you get out as often as possible) so she made a point of arranging to call back in the week, meanwhile Kev fell in love and misinterpreted everything, come the day I arrived home from work and Kev had blown his giro on flowers, written a poem, bought a teddy bear, moved the Argos Hi Fi to the centre of the table, put what sounded like an outtake from 'Oxygene' or some forgotten Vangelis album on at full volume (who said romance is dead), laid out a tacky supermarket bought Indian meal on the table with the obligatory cheap bottle of wine and tried his best, it didn't work, his 'date' stormed out and I had to pick up the pieces, the poor guy actually dressed in......I KID YOU NOT, a Surplus British rail shirt, sleeveless British Rail jumper, sensible black trousers and shoes that looked like something out of a school playground circa 1980, Kev, who had spent all his giro and wasted it got angry when the poor girl informed him that she had come to see me, then asked me if he was mad, I was beginning to doubt my own sanity at this point before storming off, I did consider rocking the table, pushing a buffet trolley around, holding up placards and speaking through a tannoy but it was a tragic incident and I didn't want to labour the point, a few hours later, Kev informed me that he got excited when he didn't take his medication, so that's me told!

My Favourite people.

The landlords....who else? My first ever bedsit landlord was a GP, he made a point of appearing in the local paper every time a charity photo shoot cropped up, did 'business' in his surgery between patients appointments and when I moved out of his hovel, it's getting ironic now, the place was a potential breeding ground for God knows what diseases and the person renting it out was a doctor, was he after business or something? I did progress to a 'self made' couple who at least kept their houses in a reasonable (for bedsit land) condition and another 'self made', (this means having a car on credit, a house out of town and membership of a golf or tennis club) working class hero who informed me that one of the other tennants was 'A bit of a nutter but harmless', slowly I started to see the link between money and greed and moved into a relatively decent place where the landlord used to plead poverty while having a new car every year, going on holiday to places I only know from the Sunday Supplements and having 'clothes parties' where basically anything they had worn once was considered untouchable, I met one landlord with a tolerance to 'certain drugs', every time he got his rent, he fell further behind with his mortgage by measuring out amphetamine on the kitchen table, next up. a middle class part of town, a nice house, so far so good, a landlady who didn't like me and didn't like the council to know who was living in her house was followed by my first ever 'Rachman' experience and then 'Mr Soft' but more of this later.

Suitable tennants only.

If you're ever unfortunate enough to have to move into a bedsit you may hear variations on this phrase, most private landlords will generally abide by the law and carry out repairs or essential maintainence work, ask nicely and they will even put up a certificate stating how many people should be living in the property at any given time, if you're very lucky, your landlord may even carry out inspections or even evict 'unsuitable' tennants but that's jumping the gun a bit.
Repairs WILL be carried out but in many cases the properties are in such a state of disrepair that a complete revamp is the only solution, most bedsit landlords have a 'handyman' in my experience usually a sour faced, unapproachable person in his 50's or 60's more often than not dressed in blue overalls and to be quite blunt, the kind of 'workman' you would only use if you couldn't afford anyone else or if you were a landlord who cared more about money than people, the term 'suitable tennant' roughly translates as someone who pays the rent, or has it paid by the social, most bedsits, in fact quite a large proportion have people on some form of benefits,( the 'no DSS' rule is often overlooked), a 'suitable tennant' doesn't complain too much and will put up with living standards that most people would consider subhuman.

Monday 23 November 2009

A brief introduction

All of the stories I will relate in the blog are true, some names may be changed and certain places will be left to your imagination, every event actually happened however far fetched or unbelieveable it may seem, to set the scene, I hit my personal rock bottom several years ago and was reduced to living in bedsits/shared houses, some not too bad, some absolutely horrendous, along the way I met many people ranging from contractors who just wanted somewhere cheap to live, people who were down on their luck, people who basically didn't want to help themselves and a few that were definetly a few screws loose, there are many stories, some tragic, some funny and some just pointing out how mundane and at times desperate this lifestyle is, over the next few weeks or months I will try to remember (and believe me there are a few experiences I don't really want to recall but it's a 'warts and all' account). I hope you enjoy reading it and spare a thought for the many people who for whatever reason are still living this life.