Back to the landlady drama

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The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

Lewis Carroll

Word of the day: Barbastelle – a hairy lipped bat

For anyone not keeping track of all my nonsense, myself and my three flatmates recently discovered that the landlady, Julie, has been paying us little visits while we were out.

Having made it clear with our rental contract that we can’t stop her, she’s started popping round every few evenings and using our flat like some kind of storage facility. So far we’ve acquired a broken toaster, a vacuum cleaner that smokes when you turn it on, a bag of plastic spoons and two packs of doilies. Then this evening, Jinjing and Hamoudi were in the kitchen making falafel and I was hanging about hoping to either get some leftovers or summon up the energy to go and get popcorn, when  Julie showed up again. She poked her head round the door and said,

‘Ohhh, are you having a party? Alright for some.’ Then went back out into the hall. Hamoudi  watched her through the slightly open door, and gave whispered updates to us as to what Julie was doing. Apparently she was checking the paintwork, looking in the toilet and then she took a pile of notebooks out of her back and put them up in the cupboard in the hallway. Thoughtfully she took out Hamoudi’s bicycle pump and my spare towel first, before adding the notebooks and putting a padlock on the cupboard. Then she left. Hamoudi has spent the evening in the hall with a paperclip and YouTube trying to work out how to pick the lock.

‘I just want to know what’s in those notebooks. I’ll bet it’s all information she’s collected about us.’

‘Why would she keep it here then?’

Hamoudi looked at me with ferocious wide-eyes, a man pushed to the edge, I’m not sure what by.

‘To taunt us!’ he said.

Have mystical forces kept me away?

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‘Oooh eerie mystical doom.’ Kurt Cobain

Word of the day: odology  –  science of the hypothetical mystical force of od (not heard of this before and there doesn’t seem to be much information online. Anybody know about it?)

I haven’t written for a really long time now (it may only be weeks) and I’ve not been sure why. Every time I’ve picked up my still-broken laptop, held together with tape and a rubber band, my mind has been a void. Until now, I put this down to general apathy. Stuff has happened, my life has been fine, but I couldn’t think of a single reason why anyone else would want to read about it.

Then today it came to me, someone must be out to stop me and has put a block on me communicating with you, a spell. There have been clues: odd looks in the street, strange dreams, and I shut my finger in the gate which made the nail turn purple. I’ve seen people in my town (by which I mean the bit of London I live in) handing out cards offering to put spells on people for a reasonable fee, so the means are there.

Not sure about motive though. Was I in danger of stumbling on a truth? Did my seemingly innocuous posts about mowing troubles and landlady drama leave clues to a deeper conspiracy? I agree it’s unlikely, but so many things that happen are unlikely, so let’s not dismiss anything yet.

Anyway, for now the spell appears to have lifted and I’m back.

Other events: Mike has been making demands that we find money for the drinks fund (we use it when we go out drinking together). Since we work around rich people, they often drop tenners in the shrubs without noticing. Until today all I’d found was an out of date fiver, but this morning I was able to present Mike with a crisp twenty rupee note. He didn’t seem pleased.

And management have proudly told us that in a few weeks we will be saying goodbye to the rats and grime and moving into a new messroom [Hooray!] with them in the same building [Shit]. I don’t dislike our management as individuals, but as a group they like to sit around in silence being clean, speaking only when they need to bitch at each other. Gardeners aren’t really like that and I can see there being a clash. Still, we’ll see.

Anyway, sorry for neglecting you all, I’m looking forward to catching up on your blogs…

The dream man gets out

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Word of the day: Bodach – churl; goblin or spectre

Weather: yuk

Mood: well…

 

Got home from work, muddy and soaked. The lounge door was open and I could see Jinjing and Hamoudi hunched over their laptops. Being nosy, I went to try and see what they were doing and they both turned to look at me with haunted eyes.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked, I could see composite faces on each of the screens, like something off Crime Watch.

‘Working with an online identikit program,’ said Hamoudi.

‘My dream,’ said Jinjing darkly, ‘the face in my dream, we’re trying to create it.’

‘The man who stands and stares through your window?’ I asked. With all the trouble with the landlady, I’d forgotten about that.

‘I think he was sitting opposite me on the tube this morning,’ said Hamoudi. I tried not to look too confused, but I must have, because he went on. ‘I knew what he looked like from Jinjing. And there he was, the dark haunting eyes, the grey hood, the pointy nose.’

‘And he was going to work?’ I asked.

‘He wasn’t going anywhere, nobody else could see him,’ said Hamoudi. He paused dramatically, then said, ‘He was dead.’

‘Ah,’ I said, I’d forgotten about Hamoudi’s dead people also. I look at the faces they’ve created, Hamoudi’s has a scar, Jinjing’s has a brooding brow and pouty lips.

‘See? They look the same! That proves it!’ says Hamoudi. ‘I saw the man from Jinjing’s dream.’

I don’t point out that they’re sitting right next to each other, looking at what the other one is doing, so it’s not surprising they’re a little bit similar. I also don’t point out that Jinjing’s has no scar and Hamoudi’s doesn’t have a brooding brow or pouty lips. I don’t want to spoil the drama. I creep out the room and make the most of the empty kitchen to cook some pasta.

Turns out Judge Judy hasn’t taught us the law at all

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The landlady, Julie, turned up this morning, she brought her dog and a box of Cherry Bakewells and wore shoes she couldn’t properly walk in. We thought we were ready, we were not.

Weather: I’ve not been paying attention

Mood: ditto

Word of the day: Grimgribber – learned gibberish; legal jargon

After dispensing tea, some awkward politeness and staring, Jinjing launched in with our complaint, after all this has been building up for weeks.

‘We rent this flat, it’s ours, you can’t just come round when you feel like it,’ she said.

‘Have you looked at the contract?’ said Julie, and took a good long slurp from her cup. I wasn’t sure about that slurp, it seemed awfully confident for someone who’s been breaking the law.

‘Legally, you can’t come in without twenty four hours’ notice,’ said Jinjing, who’s been watching a lot of Judge Judy recently.

Julie pulled out a copy of the contract, licked her finger, turned the pages, then laid it on the coffee table, smoothing it out as she did so. She pointed at one paragraph with a red nail, and I wonder if she painted her nails for just that purpose.

We crowded around and read, we looked at each other, we looked at her, we looked at each other again, and then I said,

‘What does that mean?’ Really there is no need for contracts to be written in such weird language.

‘You don’t rent the flat,’ she said, ‘you each rent a room. You may use the facilities, but they aren’t in your rented space.’ She tried to stop herself from smiling and failed. ‘The flat is mine. I can visit it whenever I want,’ she finished with a small chuckle.

‘Oh bugger,’ I said. I was deflated. Jinjing wasn’t going down without a scrap.

‘But you still can’t come in our rooms, we do rent them. You need to give us notice, you can’t just come in.’

The landlady’s mouth snapped so tight shut that her painted red lips disappeared.

‘Fine,’ she says, ‘if that’s the way you want it. I was hoping we could be friends, but if you don’t want that…’

‘And you broke my laptop!’ I suddenly blurted out.

‘Oh I don’t think so!’ exclaimed Julie.

I go get the laptop, bring it out and show her. She could just have denied it, but weirdly, she said.

‘That’s just a cheap one though, you’d be getting a new one soon anyway.’

‘No, I wouldn’t!’ To be fair, it is a cheap one, because that’s what I can afford. ‘And you aren’t allowed to just break my stuff!’ She sighed, puffing out her cheeks, then waved her hand at me like I was an annoying fly.

‘Ok, how about I take £200 off this month’s rent?’

So, that is more than the laptop was worth, so suddenly I was happy and said ok! Jinjing gave me a look, but I didn’t care. Two hundred quid!

The rest of the conversation was boring and awkward. She’s promised to give us warning before she visits, but is under no obligation to do so and if she needs to turn up in an emergency, she will. I suspect this means nothing will change. She has promised not to go in our rooms, and we’ll have to see what happens with that.

It’s kind of a resolution. Two hundred quid!

 

Grrrr

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Word of the day: hackle – pluck or spirit; to show hackle – to be willing to fight (originates circa 1860)

I used to be quite confrontational, you know? People were scared of me. Sometimes it would be useful to have that power back. I spent a good ten minutes just staring at my phone. Then half an hour straightening out my cupboard. Then ten minutes growling at myself. Then I realised I’d lost the landlady’s number and had to get it off Neville. Then, fuck it, I called her.

For anyone reading who has no clue what I’m on about, I drew the short straw [breadstick] to call the landlady and ask her why she thinks it’s ok to go into our rooms when we aren’t here.

She’s very nice, but she’s one of those people who seems able to use niceness as a tactic of war. Along with guilt. I’ll try to represent this as well as I remember…

Landlady [launching into unstoppable niceness]: Oh hello, how are you doing in your lovely new home? I got it painted freshly for you all, you know? I didn’t want you living in a hovel, and the last tenants left it in such a mess. It nearly broke me when I saw what they’d done.

Me [trying to interrupt]: Yes…well…we won’t do that…

LL: But it’s a lovely flat, isn’t it? I don’t think you could find cheaper in London.

Me: Yes, but we’re a bit concerned…somebody has been coming in our rooms, moving things around, we’re a bit worried.

LL [suddenly quite sharp and shrewd]: Well, did you leave the door unlocked? That’s very dangerous, I don’t want someone breaking in and causing damage. That makes my insurance invalid, you know?

Me [a bit sick of the softly softly]: And Neville said that you’ve been coming round while we’re at work.

LL: Hmm? I need to go in a minute, I have a hospital appointment, I’m a slave to my knees, they say I have to have an operation.

Me [sod the softly softly]: Have you been coming into our rooms?

LL: Only if I need to.

Me: Like when you moved my ketchup?

LL: Well, it should be in the fridge, I’m not sure why you put it your room. You’ll bring in ants!

Me: You shouldn’t have been in my room to know that I had ketchup in there.

LL: Oh you don’t mind me visiting my own flat, do you? The previous tenants didn’t mind.

Me: But-

LL: Well, I’ll come round at the weekend, and we can all discuss it then.

Me: Discuss what?

LL: See you then! Bye!

I was still trying to argue into my phone, but she was gone.

I have no idea how to discuss with someone so blatant about lying and manipulation.

 

 

D’oh!

ride on

Weather: pretty good

Mood: not bad

Word of the day: Bufflehead – a duck, an idiot (I feel this is rude to ducks)

I was out on the ride-on mowing the lawn again. I think I said before how much I love that, whizzing about making lovely straight lines (straightish, anyway). When I’d finished I had to clean out the mower, that means getting a blower out to clean off the grass, putting the huge bucket at the back up into the air to clean inside it. So I blew away all the grass and left it all sparkly and new in its cheery green and drove it into the shed.

The shed is only just larger than the mower, so you have to edge in around shelves full of junk and step ladders. But once I’d got the front end in, it stalled. I’ve not known it stall before. I started the engine again, there was a grinding noise, and I stalled again. I started to panic, tried one more time, it felt like I was stuck. Something beneath the wheels maybe? So I got out, walked out of the shed and realised the huge bucket was still up and had been in the process of ripping the roof off the shed. It hadn’t succeeded though, and no one had seen. So I put the bucket down and drove in, then crept away. All fine. There will be a point I get caught fucking up.

I also chickened out of calling the landlady today, and then hid and ate popcorn in my room, so I didn’t have to face the others. Still not sure how to play this.

Time to draw straws/breadsticks

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Day of reckoning: Who is going to speak to the landlady? We agreed to each pick a breadstick, whoever got the short breadstick (we didn’t have straws) contacts the landlady to ask why she’s visiting while we’re out.

Weather: bit nippy

Mood: foul

Word of the day: Jigamaree – a thingamajig; a cunning manoeuvre

Yep. I fucking lost. I thought I had method – I thought the wobbly breadstick was the short one, so I avoided that one. But now I’m thinking Jinjing also had method, and she made the long breadsticks wobble to catch out smart arses like me.

In other news: At work the shorts competition (who can wear shorts from now until winter) is getting tense between Dan and Mike. I was going to work with Dan out in a garden and Mike pulled me aside before I left.

‘It’s cold this morning, make sure that Dan doesn’t change into trousers while he’s out, won’t you?’

‘How would he even do that?’

‘Just make sure, I’m trusting you,’ said Mike.

‘But I don’t care,’ I tried to explain.

Half an hour later I was digging up some ground elder, when Mike called my phone, ‘Is Dan still wearing shorts?’

‘I don’t know, he’s on the other side of the garden,’ I said.

‘Go and check! Go and check! He might have changed!’

‘But I still don’t care,’ I said. Mike wasn’t listening. He wouldn’t get off the phone until I’d made sure Dan was still wearing shorts.

I’m finding out! …Oh.

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Finally we find out who’s been invading our rooms and leaving dog hairs, sweetie wrappers and moving my ketchup.

Word of the day: Heuristic – helping to discover by trial and error

So it was tense when me, Jinjing, Hamoudi and Neville sat down beneath the watchful eyes of the cat picture. Did I only imagine that those eyes followed us as we sat down? Yes, I did, but it would have happened if this was a horror movie. I tried to keep things light, but Neville looked shrivelled and wary, Jinjing was cool and sharp and Hamoudi was a big innocent bear, as always. I suspect I looked like I’d wandered in by accident, that’s kind of my thing.

Jinjing started by saying we all had to remain calm and honest and work out a resolution, fair enough. Then I shared my news about the perfume wafting around the flat when I got home.

‘Isn’t that just the landlady though?’ said Neville. ‘She always makes the place smell.’

‘What?’ we all said. Because of course we know the landlady, we each met her before we moved in, but she shouldn’t be in the house, not without us knowing, not without 24 hours notice. And here is Neville talking like it’s a common occurrence we should all be aware of.

‘What do you mean always?’ asked Jinjing.

‘She comes round quite often in the afternoons,’ said Neville. ‘I guess it’s when you’re all at work.’

‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ said Jinjing, she was getting shrill, which summed up how I felt.

‘Does she have a dog?’ I asked.

‘She had a dog when I had my interview,’ said Hamoudi.

‘Does she eat sweets?’ I asked.

‘Does it matter?’ said Jinjing.

‘Well, yes, because she if she eats sweets, she’s been in my room. And if she’s been in my room, then she’s the one who broke my laptop. In which case,’ my turn to get shrill now, ‘I want some bloody money for it.’

‘Why didn’t you tell us that she’s been coming in the house?’ repeated Jinjing to Neville, I think she wanted to continue blaming him for something.

‘I assumed you knew,’ he said.

After that there was some general annoyance and tetchiness. The only thing we could agree on was that one of us needed to tell the landlady to stop turning up when we were at work, but that none of us actually wanted to do it. Stalemate. We left it at that.

So, aliens, Illuminati and sleepwalking are out, and a small middle-aged lady with a bad perm and a yappy dog is in. My life just got 43% more dull.

Discussion tonight…

fella 2

Weather: bitter winds that cut through the scowling clouds.

Mood: clearly melodramatic

Word of the day: mazy – dizzy; confused; labyrinthine; convoluted

So after hiding in my room for the last two days, I thought I should face whatever music is playing, whatever trouble is brewing. I could hear somebody in the kitchen and so I steeled myself.

It was Hamoudi listening to Joan Armatrading and shimmying about the lino while  cooking soup, which is as nonthreatening as it gets. We did the usual hey-how-you-doing? and then moved onto what had happened while I was away. Well, not much. Neville went into hiding, to the extent that Hamoudi was convinced at one point he was dead.

‘Except, then I would have seen him,’ explained Hamoudi, (Hamoudi has talked about seeing dead people before, for anyone who hasn’t been following.) ‘So nothing is sorted,’ he said, and shrugged. Then I told him about the mysterious perfume smell and asked if he knew where the cat picture came from. He knew nothing.

Finally, we agreed we need to properly sit down, the four of us together, and talk it over. When Neville gets back tonight, we’ll do it. Not sure how late it will be, so I’ll probably save writing about it until tomorrow.

Anyway, this feels like a dull blog, so I’ll put up some photos from my trip.

 

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So I got back and I found…

 

 

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Picture from my trip away

Today I returned to London from my three day escape, feeling much calmer, if totally knackered. I was nervous about what I’d find at the flat. Would Jinjing and Neville still be fighting? Would the walls be splattered with blood?

Actually, they were all at work, as normal. However, what I noticed on opening the door was the smell. Sickly perfume. The kind that station toilets leak into the world. Then I noticed the Quality Street sweet wrapper on the kitchen floor – of course, that’s a communal space, so Neville is free to eat chocolates there. Then I went in the lounge, and did a double take to see these eyes staring at me from the wall:

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Where in merry Hell did that come from? It’s like something my nan would buy, surely not Neville, Jinjing or Hamoudi. It this some kind of home decoration housebreaker? I’m too exhausted to work this out now, I’m going to bed.