Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Lord Acton never lived here

29th March 2012

Perhaps the place is called after him, but I am pretty sure that Lord Acton never lived here. I am really tired of living in Acton. When I moved here I was working full time and travelling by taxi or my company car so I didn’t have to look at it. Now I am marooned here. I have heard people praise it but I suspect that they live in grand houses and travel everywhere by private car, and do their shopping in far away places.

I would like to live somewhere easier, less corroding to the mind. “It’s just like Peckham,” said a friend recently. That emotive name, which acts like a code word, no more needs to be said.

I feel bad about the place at the moment as I am rather stressed. My tenant is moving out, another is moving in, it’s the big change over. The flat has to have a whole new bathroom, and two new patches of damp have been discovered. I am well into the red now, spending money I just don’t have.

My very good, efficient letting agent suggested I needed a new sofa, so I swapped with one down in the flat where I live. There was also the issue of the curtains. Curtains!! Oh dreadful word. I did a lot of research; Argos, John Lewis, a special mill out of town, and considering the size of the window with its 90ft drop it was going to be horribly expensive.

Then I remembered seeing a small curtain shop on Acton High Street. I went up there and they had one pair of curtains in my size, just the right colour – a snip at only £120. I thought I had found a bargain and it was a bit of a boost.

Not much English was spoken, it was all conducted in Arabic, but the man behind the counter seemed friendly enough. I paid up front, £47 for the track, £80 to put them up and I felt grateful.

We arranged a time for Habib to come and put them up. Unfortunately he didn’t turn up and his mobile was off all day. “He’s tired,” the man in the shop told me. Another arrangement was made and I rushed back early from my painting group on Saturday. I had to be there to meet him at the flat at 6pm. He arrived at seven. I thought he would be a little old man with a beard, but he was about 35 very robust and bad tempered. “This country is finished,” he told me, as soon as he’d got through the door. He said he’d be back in Lebanon if he could, “but there is always a war.”

Strange that he thought I would want to hear his rancorous remarks about my country, and that he might not even suspect that I have a trace of patriotism. He reminded me of someone who had been so badly abused that he couldn’t imagine what good relationships are like – not that I have that good a friendship with England at the moment. With no possible reply to make I left him to it.

Three hours later he had put up the track and was about to get the curtains up as well when he realised he had no curtain hooks. End of play for the evening. I still had his ladder – my one bargaining tool if I could take it hostage.

On Sunday I rang the shop. They blamed me for not having any hooks of my own, and asked, “Can’t you put them up yourself?” No I couldn’t. The voice on the phone said he might come himself but would need someone to help him (I was supposed to be able to do it on my own).

Last night two men arrived with hooks to hang the curtains. They looked lovely – but the pulley system didn’t work and they wouldn’t draw. Mr Habib had put up the wrong track. At 10pm Mr Habib returned, agreed that the track was wrong and took away his ladder. He told me to go to the shop the following day and collect a new track. In the morning I wondered if the shop would know anything about this, and rang one of the other men. He said not to go to the shop, he would sort it out.

And so it goeth on – curtains are up but won’t budge and the tenant comes in tomorrow. It surprises me that the curtain men are not interested in doing good business. When I went into the shop and saw their prices I said I would like more curtains from them for downstairs, but it didn’t make any difference. But at least they were more friendly than the small curtain shop near my road. It used to be quiet OK but the last time I went in it was staffed by two elderly Muslim men with beards. They made it clear they could not help me at all and I was out side on the pavement in about two minutes.

Today I had to finish off trying to get the flat sorted out, cleaned, polished and net curtains sewn for the new arrivals. At this make do and mend stage of my life Sally Bowles has turned into fraught Frau Schroeder.

I went up to Acton looking for a lavatory brush, you have to say toilet brush as no one now uses the other word. All the ones on show in the numerous Asian pavement shops were pitifully weak and fragile looking. In Pound Stretcher I saw four laid out on a shelf with sturdy ceramic bases. The problem was the bases were empty.

“We ain’t got none,” an assistant said. I led her to the toilet holders on the shelf.

“The brushes have all been stolen,” she said. “Our customers are always doing it.”

I wonder what the people of Acton do with all those purloined loo brushes? Clean their teeth, brush their hair?

When I got back with appropriately crappy new brush and groceries I couldn’t park anywhere near my flat. I saw a driver outside my flat get out and ring the bell of the flat next door to mine. He could be living there for all I know, but was holding a card and looked like a visitor. I asked him if he was staying long as I would like to move my car a bit nearer. “Not leaving I am going here,” he told me with an unpleasant grin.

After I’d unpacked my car and walked up the road with my stuff, I went out to see if there was a space nearer my home. He was sitting in his car, a long shining silver thing with tinted windows making him a silhouette. I went to my car and waited as he looked as if he was leaving.

I sat watching the builders who are working on my late friend Hilda’s old house. She was born in 1912. She used to forget her age and I would say, “Remember the Titanic,” which always delighted her. The house has been boarded up for years now. It was bought by an Indian woman who rumour has it, has been having trouble with her builders. They seem to have made very little progress. I watched them gathered round a skip full of soil, swigging from cans, railing and jeering to each other.

Eventually I gave up and went back to my flat which is out of sight of the road. Just as I turned my key I heard his engine and away he went. Some how I just knew he was going to do that.

I am too dispirited to go on living here but I can’t afford to go anywhere better in London. I want to live in Bedford Park, in one of the roads leading to the church which belong to that other world of prosperous London – but I am at a stitch and mend time of life and the only way I could do that would be to do a “Miss Smith,” she is the local bird lady who once lived on a good street inside a very bad car.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps stitching and mending is easier done in the North. Move to Yorkshire Jane. Of course it doesn't have the glitter dust covering London.

    Well I spent six hours in gown with no knickers waiting in an admission ward on a plastic chair for my hernia operation. Falsely allocated there it was nice to hear I had a massive hernia, was going to be on an epidural and be in for 4 days when the nurse i/c tried to find a bed for me elsewhere. Ogres of non communication even when I taxed them with the possibility of being bumped off they denied it....Oh well it happened. I think they tried to suggest I could have it done by someone else the next day but never did more than hint when I said I wanted to go home. I escaped after seeing a sympatico registrar who never actually made that offer but listened to my saying I hadn't consented to anyone else doing the op with sympathy. So it seems I'll be on the next list about a month!

    Ahh I hate it. I think they knew probably 3 hours previously it was unlikely which is why I never got my drug allergy bracelet after reminding them about it. OOOOOh. Rant over.