I’m waiting for the washing machine in Hampstead. I’m cleaning the sheets. This place is not what it used to be when I was house-sitting for my friend. It still has all her books and her games. It has her curious boxes full of interesting things. All the unusual things are here, but her landlady has been thundering through here like an elephant. When my job was to maintain the equilibrium, and the landlady wasn’t involved, it was easy. I could go in occasionally and i could make sure things were well kept.
The neighbors are not friendly. One time, when I was leaving, I explained to some pointedly baffled downstairs residents that I was “checking up on X’s flat”. That language got back to the landlady, who sat me down formally and told me I should refer to it as her flat, not X’s.
Shortly thereafter, a chair was put in the bath. The light fitting had disintegrated above the bath. It’s the sort of thing I could fix easily. But suddenly I’m not sure where I stand here. If the landlady puts the chair into the bath, am I allowed to reverse it? Should I fix the light? Clearly the landlady is aware of it, or she wouldn’t have put the chair in the bath. But she hasn’t fixed it.. But the chair is in the bath which looks like a statement of intent to fix it. It started on her watch. She put the chair in the bath. Then she did fuck all. I have left that chair in the bath for months now, knowing that she’s in and out the whole time, hoping that she might make good on her territorial promise.
Similarly there’s an upside down table in the bedroom that was brought in off the fire escape. There’s a barbeque in the front room…
This flat is not large, and its run down, and even though it’s full of my friend’s possessions and she’s been living there for what – twenty years? Even despite this, in Covid, while she’s been stuck in New Zealand, the landlady has been letting herself in whenever she wants to to just… Doing random shit that I don’t feel I’m allowed to reverse. Pile of kindling in the corner? Ok. Bunch of dirty sheets from a changed bed in the bedroom corner? Yeah fine, but does that mean she slept here? The washing liquid is empty. All the looppaper was gone until I replenished it. A wall covering looked like it had been torn down to see if the wall was damaged behind it. (It wasn’t. I put it back up)
I’m standing here and I’m sad. There was life here once, but with the way in which things have been flung, it feels inhospitable here now. The rent was low, but one of the walls is utterly trashed with a leak that was ignored for decades. There’s a horrible carpet in the bathroom. The place worked for my friend, but it wouldn’t work at all for the market. The whole flat needs to be gutted and rethought.
Despite that, I can remember many many magical crazy nights here. She lived here from when she was training at RADA until now. I met her her when she was an actor straight out of her training. She and I were both plugged into the community of alternative makers. She’s a director now. She’s brilliant and weird. Her time is now. And she’s lost this flat. I hate that. But it feels like she might thrive in New Zealand.
The sheets are clean now and I’ve hung them up. It’s close to midnight. I washed the sheets so I wouldn’t get lazy and sleep here. I’m gonna get a bus home. There’s still lots to do at home too.
Fuck it. I paid fifteen quid and got an Uber.