Tony Gallichan is Mildly Perturbed by... Moving House - Again
Believers with the capability to click the page back button and select an earlier musing may be familiar with my astounding ability to move home. Actually, that's not fair, not really. The musing to which I'm referring only really covers the one move - with hilarious consequences. Those that know me know just how many times I've moved. Bit of a cop out, to be honest but I've just been sitting here trying to count up just how many times I have moved and the answer is...well..more then thirty as well as the few times I've been homeless.
Look, it's a pretty high number, ok?
So, let's try to put all this in context, shall we, eh? Eh?
I first moved into London Field's House, or, as the Crawley News calls it, 'The House Of Death', nearly nine years ago. It's a hulking great building, two stories high with the flats arranged around a central, square courtyard. It's starting to show it's age, lets be honest here. It's a dank, dark, decaying monolith that's, well, I'd say it's seen better times but I somehow doubt it.
I believe that the Guinness Trust's original idea was to house airline staff in the small, one room 'studio' flats. The thinking was that airline staff wouldn't actually be at home much so they didn't need much in amenities. Ok, not brilliant thinking for the poor airline staff, but you can see the logic in there, somewhere. However, then the local Council got involved. The Trust is now in the position of having to offer three out of every four newly vacant properties to the Council so they can shift people off their own housing waiting list.
Or, rather, so the Council can house all their trouble makers and scum with another landlord and thus wash their hands of them.
I came to the Trust the 'correct' way. I was homeless and filled in the Trust's own application form and was given one of those oh so wonderful 'studio' prison ce..er..flats. I was there for five years and I'm telling you now, that sort of confinement is not good at all for the mental health of the resident. I should know. by the time I'd moved in the place was twenty five or so years old. And time had taken it's toll. Windows that wouldn't lock, crumbling kitchen storage, dodgy floorboards etc. The Trust would sometimes do the little repairs, but anything major and they would baulk at the thought. I know of one person who had to wait three years for his floor to be replaced and made safe after the flat beneath him was fire-bombed.
After being there about six months, the Trust held a meeting for all the House's residents and asked them just what we wanted the Trust to do with the place. First answer from all was demolish it. The second thing everyone said was that we needed security. Gating, secure access etc. The Trust went away all smiles and folks thought that maybe, just maybe, the dinosaur of a property might just get a refit.
Nine years later, it's finally happening.
In the intervening years all sorts of things have happened. A second murder took place, the first happening a few years before I was living there. Several people died of natural causes and led to the idea that living at LFH dramatically shortened your life span. The Council started to move some VERY dodgy people in. Drug dealers, crack and heroin users, pimps, thieves etc. The place rapidly fell even further downhill. Kids - and I mean kids, children of as young as ten - teenagers etc, used the stairwells to smoke skunk, drink etc. They were encouraged, of course, by the scummier of the residents.
The maintenance of the building became nominal to almost none existent. This was, apparently, because the Trust was considering just what to do with the place. The money they had in place all those years ago at the first meeting had vanished very rapidly as they dawdled and deliberated. A lot of the money was grants and as the Trust took so long, the grants were withdrawn. So they had to work out what was needed and then try to get the money in place all over again. They came up with three options. One was to demolish the place and build over it. The second was to demolish the place and sell the land off. The third was to refurbish LFH, turn all the 'studio' flats into proper one bedroom flats, complete with the luxury of an actual bath instead of a small shower tray.
Astonishingly, they chose the third, and by far the more expensive option.
However, just to give you an example of how all this procrastinating and scratching of corporate heads affected us day to day, LFH has a laundry room. the 'studio' flats aren't big enough to house a washing machine. On boxing day, 2005, the washing machine and dryer were broken into and the cash boxes removed. A notice appeared two weeks later saying the Trust was treating the matter of repairs as urgent.
I'm writing this on the first of August, 2006. To date nothing has been done. the machines are still broken. Oh, there was the excuse of the maintenance company changing hands, but that was very early on in the year. It has to be said, however, that the one, seemingly ok thing about living around scum is that if something gets broken, they soon figure out a way to use it anyway. So, for all that knew the trick, free laundry was up for grabs. For those that didn't, well, you walked around very smelly indeed.
London Field's House had developed a terrible reputation over the years and now, thanks to the Trust, the residents were feeling like second class tenants. We watched as the rest of the estate got new kitchens, got gas central heating, even basic window frame maintenance was none existent for us. I've sat in Resident Association Committee meetings as the poor people on the front line for Guinness were given a rough time over it - by me, mainly, heh.
So, earlier this year, there seemed to be a possible light at the end of the tunnel. Another residents' meeting was held and this time, it seemed definite plans were in place. The 'studio' flats would be turned into a mixture of one and two bedroom flats. Gating would be put up along with secure, vidphone entrance. The new places would have gas central heating, double glazing, the works.
One thing that immediately became apparent was that the number of residents would be halved and we were asked to tick a box expressing an initial preference as to whether we wished to stay at LFH or be re - homed. It was made clear that this wouldn't actually be classed as our definite decision and that we would be asked to give a proper confirmation of our wishes at a later date.
So imagine my surprise when, after hearing nothing for a good few months, a letter plopped onto my doormat stating that as I'd decided to leave LFH could I please come to a meeting. Well, to say I was mildly perturbed would be doing a grave injustice to my mood.
You have to feel sorry for the guy who took my phone call. You do NOT want me in full Lord Macfadyan mode ranting into your ear, trust me. As it was, an interesting compromise was reached. I would have to move out of LFH, however there was a ground floor flat close by that was becoming vacant. Two, in fact. The first one I didn't like 'cos there was no fencing around the garden - just a grass verge from the path up to the back patio door. The other, however, was in fairly decent nick. I sat down and had a 'lil think about it and it slowly dawned on me that I was in a win-win situation. I got to stay in the general area yet in a better part of it, got a nice flat and also got a walloping load of compensation for being forced to move - compensation that would enable me to do the place up so it was great - new furniture, carpet, curtains etc etc.
I said 'Yes!'.
However, things were going to have to happen quickly - and quickly isn't a term that the Trust understands too well. They understand it just fine when they want something done by a tenant, but if the tenant needs something done quickly.....oh dear.
So, they wanted me to move very shortly, but they hadn't got their heads around the idea of sorting out a removal firm. In the end I was given a date I had to be out by and with the clock ticking, I phoned them up and told them the day I was moving and they'd better get their arses in gear and sort both the removal company and the compensation out.
They did - the don't like the Judder Man almost as much as me....
So, after that, I ended up with the keys to the new place and spent most of my time redecorating it. A couple of neighbours have been brilliant - one building something I can only describe as the flight deck off the 'Scorpio' for my computers and music stuff - its 'kin brilliant. I've a posh new leather office chair - shop soiled (or, it has a tiny, almost microscopic white dot on it) so I got it for fifty quid! Purcell face was a help in that he gave a hand with painting the lounge in what can only be described as 'industrial aqua marine' - which, once he'd gone, I altered to lilac and white, lol.
Mind you, the compo doesn't go far. After everything is done, a couple of debts paid off and a daytrip home to Jersey, I'm reckoning that I'll only have about two hundred left in the bank.
Which is two hundred more then I had. I'll also have a beautiful flat, leather suite, new curtains, bed linen, carpet etc.
I do have one iddy biddy problem though.
One of my cats, waaaaay back before I moved into the place detailed in my previous moving house musing, had got into the habit of visiting the neighbour across the little square - these are the same neighbours who have helped so much with this move - Pete and Maureen, thank you SO much. When I moved into the last place, he still went and visited as I only moved a few doors down, so I got into the habit of going to them every evening to get the cat back.
I've just started to let the moggies out now we've moved again.
Bandit jumped over the fence, took a few sniffs of air then shot off like a rocket back to Pete and Maureen's.
So, at the time of writing I'm basically going to finish this up then walk up there and get him back.
Tony Gallichan is stressed, jumpy and not feeling at all 'well' at the moment. However, he bets you don't write stuff on the flight deck of the 'Scorpio'. 'Down and safe!'...