A Year Ago – The Flat

May 16, 2006

… and my summer of hell

A year ago today (that is, May 15, even though I won’t get to post this until the 16th) I moved into a place known as “the flat” – a wretched excuse of a hovel above an ailing florists, next to a newsagents, and opposite the pub, bus stop and the fish and chip shop (“The Contended Sole”, ho ho), which seemed handy until you went anywhere near a weighing scale, or tried to get your car in / out of the drive any time when said chip shop was open because nobody gave a damn about blocking you in even though it’s illegal. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Unhappy Beth
Beth didn’t want to move.

Cable company ntl refused to install broadband and a phone line because it was considered to be a business address (due to the florist) then it turned out that the BT phone line wasn’t actually connected at all and it would cost £70 and take two weeks to install a line, plus another week to activate the ADSL.

And the thing about ADSL is (around here) that it’s slower. It only goes up to 2Mbps whereas my cable at the time was 3Mbps, and it cost more, and I would be stuck with BT for a year (getting 10Mbps cable with ntl next month – yay!) and their bills are completely unfathomable.

Anyways, the day after the broadband was working the phone line went dead and they took another 5 days to fix it. I worked out of my friends’ house while they were at work, Starbucks (where Bob the Starbucks hobbit insisted I was doing my “school work”) and when I couldn’t do that through my mobile phone.

The same mobile phone I needed to use to call all these cunts and hang around on hold for *hours* at a time at mobile rates, rather than the free or local rates you would get using a normal phone. I had a nice £200 bill for that month, plus about £50 for wireless at Starbucks because I only bought what I thought I needed and I was proved wrong at least twice. And now my credit card was £1400 in the red.

I had released Feeder 1.1 the week before and needed to keep on top of things. And to make matters worse, PayPal’s IPN was playing up, Apple mentioned something about adding podcasting to iTunes and I needed to do my tax return so that I could claim tax credits so that I could pay the bills and I had to do that online too (and you can’t claim retrospectively).

And that was just the work side of things. It was hellishly noisy in this place because it was on a main road, didn’t have double-glazing and was incredibly hot probably due to poor insulation. It was also situated in the bowels of the village where there is no wind. This meant I needed the windows wide open and so the noise from the drinkers outside the pub channelled straight into my room. And not any old drinkers, but the village’s finest drug addicts and alcoholics and boy were they were loud. I put the iRiver on the windowsill to record one day just to prove to my friends that I could hear every single word of drunken conversation.

Room with a View
Room With a View

And, Swansea City Council had decided to completely resurface the roads, curbs and pavement for “two weeks” starting the week very week I moved in. These two weeks actually lasted three months. I was in the flat four months and spent most of the last two weeks moving again.

So, in fact, it was almost 24 hour noise:

  • 4:30am Newsagents opens, various delivery vans and customers’ cars start pulling up, driving off, all cheery shouting by “morning people”.
  • 7:30am The beginnings of rush hour and lots of kids. Gowerton has two comprehensive schools (both English and Welsh language) and is something of a giant crossroads. Hell.
  • 9:30am Rush hour starts to subside. Roadworkers start their digging, drilling, steamrolling. Otherwise this would be reasonably quiet.
  • 12:00pm Chip shop and pub open for lunch, school kids abound, cars everywhere.
  • 2:00pm Chip shop shuts. Roadworkers reconvene really noisy stuff.
  • 3:30pm School ends. Cars everywhere.
  • 4:30pm Rush hour starts.
  • 5:00pm Chip shop and pub open again.
  • 6:00pm Rush hour ends, pub starts to get busy.
  • 7:30pm Pub and chip shop in full swing.
  • 10:30pm Chip shop closes.
  • 11:00pm People start to pour out of pub and continue conversation in street.
  • 12:00am – 2am Hooded youths smash up cars with cones from roadworks. Police are sitting in their Subaru Imprezas catching people doing 80mph on a deserted motorway.

Being a geek I don’t normally go to bed before 4am, but in the flat, if I didn’t get to sleep by 4:30am I wouldn’t get any sleep at all. More often than not I would be woken up at 10:30 by the sound of pneumatic drills – they may as well have been drilling into my skull.

And then there was the rest of it. The gas oven didn’t work (it seemed to be permanently set on full power so everything burnt) but the hobs did. The washing machine appeared to work but wasn’t plumbed in (and couldn’t be because there wasn’t enough room), the draining board didn’t because it leaned the wrong way, half the lights didn’t work, there was no shower curtain or screen, the boiler was leaking so you could only get hot water at off-peak times when the pressure was high enough, the bathroom was carpeted and, when warm, smelt of old piss, all the curtain rails fell off as soon as you breathed on them, every single room was the wrong size and shape and every single floorboard creaked. The landlord, meanwhile, was on a permanent golfing holiday.

The whole building was listing forwards so severely that if you put anything like a pen on the desk it would just roll off the back and an too-full mug of tea would spill all over the place. You ran downhill to bed. I got backache from sleeping at such a silly angle. And the roof leaked, but fortunately it was a very dry summer.

There was a garage in the back yard (accessible by a single-track lane) but Audrey was too low to get down the ramp. The driveway I mentioned was not supposed to be used as it was a right-of-way for the neighbouring houses and one troublesome and wizened old cow insisted on making a big fuss about this, even though everyone could get past my car in a squeeze and despite never actually needing to use the damn driveway – I offered that any time she needed to, she let me know, but she never did.

Audrey Jack-knifed

There was no way in hell I was going to leave the car on the road to get smashed up, it’s a high insurance-group car and the premium had already gone up quite a bit anyway. And the driveway got narrower the further back you went, so I had to reverse in and Audrey is wedge-shaped. I managed to scrape the wing mirror while trying to squeeze another couple of inches for the miserable old bat and wanted to hack her into little pieces after that incident. Plus, Audrey’s doors are about 8 inches thick, so if I had bags in the front of the car I had to put them through the sunroof just to get them out.

I could go on, seriously, but I won’t.

The flat was cheap and it needed to be as it was only meant to bridge the gap between moving out of one house and into another. To do the full story justice is complicated, believe me, and kinda personal. Even though this is my personal blog there are plenty of places I’m just not going to go, partly because I don’t want to tell it, but also because I suspect you don’t want to hear it. Besides, I have to keep some stuff back for the autobiography :-).

But that flat – man, I’m so glad I got out! Only one good thing it did for me: I was so depressed that for the last two months I almost stopped eating and started the process that led me to lose 15 pounds, some of which I’d gained thanks to the chip shop and even more I’d been trying to shift for years. That, and an appreciation for simple luxuries such as dependable hot water, a level bed and some peace and quiet.


2 Responses to “A Year Ago – The Flat”

  1. purrplechick Says:

    That flat was hell for everyone who had even the slightest connection with it (especially people who helped you move in). But as you say, it’s made you appreciate the good things in life, so it was all for a reason. Plus the losing weight thing can’t be sniffed at.


  2. Steve Says:

    It was cursed! Like me.

    Apart from the weight thing. [Shiggle]

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