Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Bad housing just part of the experience

I can't recall exactly when I reached the age at which I was no longer content to sleep the occasional night on a friend's floor, but I suspect it was in my 30s. And such carpet-nights probably followed an evening that included music, alcohol and cannabis, the last of which I stopped smoking in my 30s when the decent giggly white middle-class resin became unavailable and the market was flooded with horrid gangsta skunk.

Along with sleeping on other people's floors of course many of them slept on mine - floors in a variety of cheap rented flats and houses called generically in those days 'student'. It meant they didn't have central heating, frequently didn't have wiring installed in the past 40 years, were in areas shared with ladies of negotiable virtue or just smelt too bad for normal people. In one house, the immersion heater only went on once a week to give three baths. Otherwise we used the kettle. In hindsight I'm not sure it made economic sense. 

The reward of course was the experience. I recall waking on the first Sunday morning in a new gloomy basement room off Gloucester Road, to emerge in bright sun a stone's throw from Regent's Park and Baker Street, with shops and cafes already doing a thriving trade. In contrast to deepest Suffolk it was soo Goddam metropolitan it was worth the silverfish. 

It wasn't universal. I can still divide my VIth form into those like me and those who would go from the ordered comforts of their parents' homes to the ordered comfort of a married home with nothing in between. Nor is it universal still; if my nephew is anything to go by, 'student' accommodation now requires double glazing, an ambient temperature of a constant 20deg, a current gas safety certificate, a resident concierge and a parking place. 

But for what I got from it, I wouldn't have swapped all my bad housing, the 'cold water walk ups' in American terms, for all the green teas we so assiduously tasted. 

7 comments:

cuffleyburgers said...

In my last year I had a north facing window (in St Andrews) with no central heating. It was by no means unknown to wake up with frost on the blankets.

Still, alcohol, nicotine and the occasional floozy helped take the edge off it.

right_writes said...

Of course, what you got, was adequate accommodation for a reasonable price, something which is not acceptable to the authorities any more.

I was quite staid, in that I rented a cluster of attic rooms for £6.00 per week... The water otter was made by a company called GLC, it consisted of a large cylinder with a tap pointing towards the open entry at the top... Underneath it, was a large gas ring. Should one desire a bath, the idea was to fill the cylinder with water and then turn on the gas... It was advisable to go into the flat roof outside the bathroom window for a spliff at this point, because otherwise one would be gassed... After about twenty minutes, one returned through the window, to turn the ring off and run the half bath that this rig entitled one to.

When I left there, the landlord was selling... The next time I was in the area (Fulham), I noticed that the house looked rather smart... He had sold to a bunch of Yuppies, who had canap├ęs in the garden.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

@cuffleyburgers: Et in arcadia ego... I can't remember which way our bungalow in Livingstone Place faced, but it sure as hell was cold.

otoh one of our residents was the son of a Fife miner, and his mother got 12 tonnes (check that!) of free coal every year, so we were never short of at least one warm room.

Happy Days...

Sebastian Weetabix said...

I do recall going for a piss one morning in my early twenties when I was a student and finding the water in the lav was frozen. At the time we thought it funny. I suppose nowadays it would be incorporated into some 'third sector' horror story to batter the evil Tories.

Anonymous said...

I remember the cold, frost glazed hard on the insides of windows and always the damp of some student flats. Three of us, we moved into a semi rented out by a navy bod [with garage but no car] it was great but we couldn't afford to run it, had some parties though!
I don't want to pull rank, but I never went near dope, alcohol was enough.
It didn't matter whose party it was, it was sleep where you can, never any violence just good laughs and hide the booze!
Sport at the weekends and during and nothing to do with the degree until third year but we were all used to passing exams at the death - that's what you did then, course work buggered me.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"were all used to passing exams at the death - that's what you did then,"

Absolutely.

Exams every term of my life from age 8 to age 22. Never a problem.

All this coursework guff is part of the universal feminisation of education, and is most of the reason why boys are falling behind so much.

Do I sound like an old fart?

Rossa said...

These days there are 64 pieces of legislation before you can rent out a property. Can't allow a tenant in without a gas safety certificate. Current thing facing landlords is legionella testing. Not mandatory but the 'due diligence' that would need to be proved in the event of any Court case.