The last week has been somewhat hectic, the main event being helping a young lad who has been a resident house guest for the last seven and a half years move out to his own flat in Norwich. This has entailed numerous drives to and from the city, cars packed with boxes and cases and bags and furniture and cds and dvds and clothes and bike and toolkit and bedding and towels and ....
He has been gone a week now, and it has taken me three days to get his old room to the state where it can once again be used as a spare room. He still has a wardrobe and a chest of drawers full of clothing, and a stack of boxes and bags "in store" here, and I don't mind that.
The flat he has moved into is really very nice. Close to his work, in a quiet road, and within minutes of the city centre, he has the whole of Norwich at his feet. I'm quite envious of the world that has opened up for him after all the years spent out here in the countryside where life is much more slow and relaxed. This has not been a good environment for someone who should be spreading his wings and learning from and with his peers.
It has made me reflect on my first flat in Brighton. I was teaching at the time, and still living at home, when my father announced to me over the tea table, "I've found you a flat. We'll go and look at it this evening." It was just down the road and owned by my Godfather, and within a couple of weeks I was in. On the top floor of a terraced house, it consisted of a sitting room, kitchen/bathroom, bedroom, and a separate toilet. Being at the top, the stairwell was virtually "private", and I used it as an extension to my living space as the flat was really in two parts, with two doors off the landing, one to the the sitting room and kitchen, and the other to the bedroom and toilet.
The only heating was a small gas fire in the front room, and in the kitchen the bath was under the lift-up worktop. Hot water came from an Ascot with a swivel pipe, and there was a small gas stove and a gas fridge - a good old "Thermocold" which ran really well. If I was cold whilst taking a bath, I would reach behind me and turn on the gas stove, which warmed the room quite well. There was a sink in the bedroom, but only with cold water. Single-glazed, there was often ice on the windows in winter, but during the summer I could get a cool breeze blowing through the flat from front to back. It also had great views, over rough hillside behind, and over the playing field of Brighton College in front.
What really annoys me is that I don't have a single photograph of the inside of the place. I still occasionally dream about it - I think that the first home of your own digs itself deep into your subconcious, so that you never forget it. In some ways the flat in Norwich reminds me of that Brighton home where I began to become my own person, and my envy of it has something to do with the loss of that freshness and excitement of unknown horizons.
In this photo, lifted from the net, my flat was the top floor of the building on the extreme right - No.5. What you can see is the kitchen window, but it was the same layout as the one in the middle which is No.7. With the flat roof of the bay windows beneath my own sitting room window, I used to sit astride the window-sill, one leg still inside to stop me falling out, and enjoy the sunshine and air. No worries about UV rays then. It was a much simpler life - though it didn't really seem so at the time.