At Christmas, me and an old mate of mine were getting deep over a bottle of wine, chatting about our lives and how things have changed, when she suddenly asked me, “don’t you and The Fella wish you’d have stayed at home until you could afford to buy a place together too?”
Having started saving at 16, avoided holidays generally and continued to live with her parents up until now, her and her fella of eight years are now in a position to look into buying a house together – and it quickly became evident that she thought my choice to galavant around the country, renting with my boyfriend and generally free-falling through the last few years of my life was ridiculous.
I brushed the question off with a, “Oh I don’t know, I guess it’d be good to have a house and that… shall we get another bottle?”
But her question got me thinking; thinking about how different my life would be if I’d have stayed living at my parent’s throughout University and the years after, about the moment I decided, on a whim, to move across the country to one of the most expensive cities in England… and particularly about the very first flat my fella and I moved into together.
Always the smart ones, we’d given ourselves one day in Brighton to find the perfect flat to rent, and after no less than six viewings had fallen through because someone else had taken the place it before we could even see it, (not to mention one terrifying tour around a bedsit which was definitely the scene of a murder not long before) we were panicking. It got to quarter to five and we were still having no luck, so when we finally viewed a place that didn’t have any glaringly obvious problems we took it, mainly out of fear that the couple waiting downstairs to view it would sweep it out from under us.
It was a one bedroom flat in an old house just off the seafront… with no heating, no double glazing and, (as we were later to find out) mushrooms growing in the bathroom.
The windowsill next to the bath was rotted through and we both seemed to constantly have a cold whilst we lived there, but we didn’t care. It was a complete shithole… but it was our shithole. On those freezing January weekends we’d wear every item of clothing we owned, sit under the bed covers and watch The Sopranos on full volume in order to hear it through our earmuffs… if anyone came to visit I’d run around like a crazy person spraying perfume to cover the general smell of sausage fat coming from the kitchen… and we’d simply use superglue to re-stick the bits of wood that fell off the pane every time we opened the windows.
Believe it or not, we were actually really happy there… except, of course, for the psychopath that lived downstairs…
Michelle, the troll living underneath our happy little bridge, quickly became the bane of our lives; between spending her days listening to heavy rock music and smashing whatever was to hand at her ceiling if we so much as walked to our bathroom, she decided (after about two weeks of our moving in) to start writing lengthy emails to the letting agent about what ‘horrendous people’ we were.
In her ‘tales of torment’ I was the person who got up at 7 AM for no other reason but to jump on the floor while she was sleeping, (which, if you know me at all, you’ll know I don’t jump at any time and I wasn’t aware 7 had an AM) whilst my fella would throw all-night ket parties mid-week before getting the whole party to knock on her door.
I should probably point out, and I really can’t stress this enough, in the eight months we lived there we never actually saw or spoke to Michelle in ‘real life’. She would bang on the ceiling throughout the day but if I knocked on her door to
find out what her fucking problem was discuss the situation, she’d shut the curtains and ignore me… yet, if you ask our landlord, we were constantly bullying her in the hallway.
By the end of our tenancy our relationship with Michelle was, how to put it…strained. As well as slashing our neighbour’s bike tyres and having her creepy ginger boyfriend stand on the roadside and stare up at me every time my fella would leave the house… she had started getting creative with her threats. As I said, she refused to actually speak to us in person, so instead she started to pile up books with terrifying titles in her window, sticking little post-it’s onto them saying things like “you’re next”.
My personal favourite was the pile of books with ‘fire’ and ‘smite’ themed titles… because just two days later, at 2 AM, she set the fire alarm off and refused to answer her intercom despite the smoke billowing from her flat into the hallway. Assuming she was passed out, my fella and our other neighbour opened her door to investigate, (I naturally assumed she was going to jump out with a bread knife and we would make the first page of the paper the next day) only to find her creepy, ginger boyfriend casually sitting amongst the smoke in nothing but his boxers.
Anyway… whilst it was a fucking nightmare at the time, I can’t help but look back on our crazy little Michelle and laugh at the whole situation. In fact, I often wonder what she’s doing with her life and who she’s terrorising these days.
Which brings me back to my original point… despite our many, many ups and downs, I look back at that first little flat so fondly – along with the rest of the memories I have from the years since.
In my personal experience, all those stand-out memories and some of the funniest stories, have always come from stupid decisions, finding myself in ridiculous situations and learning to roll with the punches.
Me and my fella might not own our own property, but one day we will… and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t give the memories we’ve made, (and are still making) on this crazy journey to get there, for anything.