Friday, 29 August 2008

Flats and Houses, Part 1

Inspired by Manchester Confidential’s debate about city living, plus the fantastic Renter Girl blog which I’ve only managed to find time to read now by neglecting work all afternoon, I thought I’d regale you with a portion of my Manchester history which I often overlook, but which has been essential in shaping my experience here; my homes.

I’ve been a resident of Manchester twelve years and this is my thirteenth address. It sounds a lot but actually it’s not that unusual a tally. Three student houses in three years followed by four addresses in Chorlton as friends moved to Manchester then moved out again to shack up with partners or get on the property ladder. (I still don’t earn enough to even pay off my Student Loans so a mortgage has always been beyond the pale for me, even at the height of the boom). Another address for when I moved in with my partner, and one more when we broke up. My next was as a lodger to help my sister buy her first flat when she moved back here from down south. The next, and current, for when I wanted to live alone again. Thirteen in all. It’s easy done.

My first address was Oak House, Fallowfield, student accommodation furnished by Swedish prisons and decorated to match, where everything had a thin layer of grease on it the day we moved in and a thicker one the day we moved out. The next two addresses were typical Fallowfield terraces, one well kept and recently refurbed, very homely and cosy, the other a disgrace, replete with damp, slugs, freezing cold, everything threadbare, and ironically the one that got burgled. We were well into a day of hangover TV and junk food when one of us piped up, ‘What used to be there?,’ indicating a suspiciously clean and vacant square beneath the TV set. It used to be our video player. They took that and a bag of sugar, and judging from the footprints in the kitchen, the latter might have been for the dog they brought with them.

All my addresses in Chorlton I loved and would move back to now. One of the things I love about Manchester is that, while buying in a place like Chorlton is only for the lucky few, you can have all the benefits of residents’ overspill wealth and culture for as little as £42.50 a week (at least in 2000 you could). The reason I recall that particular rent and not the others is because we had to leave it in a pile once a week at the bottom of the stairs for the landlord to collect. All above board though I’m sure …

After Chorlton I lived in Hulme (and had a forty-five second walk to work from my front door) and as a sometime Hulmeosexual it was also sadly the first place I ever got homophobic abuse in the street in Manchester (dauntingly, the first incident was outside a newsagent called GBH). I’d gotten the bug for living close to town though, so after that I moved in to the Northern Quarter, next door to the Craft Centre. I loved the location, a small pedestrianised street, far from any traffic, even though my room was tiny and all the doors were sprung so everything was soundtracked by slams.

Sharing with my sister at Lockes Yard after that was also great fun, I love that little area of town, Great Marlbrough Street, New Wakefield Street, the arches and bars, and I loved having a balcony in my bedroom with a gorgeous Japanese maple outside to mark the seasons. But the spectre of the sprung and slamming door was ever-present, coming this time from all around, and a noisy and unpleasant neighbour upstairs helped make my mind up to leave. I would leave notes for him after he stopped answering his door, such as:

“I have been knocking intermittently for the last hour. Either you can’t hear me because your music’s too loud, or you’re ignoring me because you know your music’s too loud. Either way it proves my point. I’m having to go out now to get away from you, instead of staying in and watching a film as I planned. If I ever have to do this again, I’ll call the police.”

My sister is still in that flat, the neighbour has thankfully gone.

No comments: