Sunday, 25 August 2013

Battening down

Ah! The Great British Bake Off is back, and we've just watched it on iPlayer. What a wonderful show it is. With the coming of X Factor and Strictly, television is now sorted for the rest of the year. It's as though the world has started battening down the hatches for winter. We'll sit around a television watching the final of X Factor in the week before Christmas and someone will remark how strange it is to think that the first episode of the series was broadcast in the height of summer. We'll think back to this time of year, feeling nostalgic, talking about the blackberries we've frozen so that our crumbles can be filled with the taste of September!

We've just come back from Abbie and Ian's house just off the Cally Road. Nathan and Abbie knitted, whilst Ian and I looked at a photo of his Great Grandfather on the wall, resplendent in a First World War soldier's uniform. I wonder what that friendly-looking fella experienced in the gruelling years after the photograph was taken, and if he returned home a different man.

Abbie and Ian live in the estate just off Copenhagen Street, which is right next to the massive district behind King's Cross which is being developed to within an inch of its life. It's a part of London which used to be filled with grimy Victorian warehouses and rusty old gas cylinders. It was my first ever view of London. We used to come into St Pancras Station from Bedford and the sight of the gas cylinders would tell us we were almost there. That part of town always seemed so murky and dingy to an eight year-old child. One of many terrifying reasons why I thought I'd never want to live in London! 

The trip to Abbie and Ian's also reminded me of a time just after the general election in 1997, when Meriel and I were house hunting. We had a limited budget, but had found a two-bedroom flat for the right price just up from where we were today. We were very excited, as we walked up from King's Cross, at the thought of living in Zone One, but were incredibly disheartened to discover that the flat was in a horrible concrete building. To make matters worse, the flat had a live-in landlord, a Greek-Cypriot who had covered all the walls in ghastly wall paper, strange golden ornaments and icons, and light-up pictures of the Virgin Mary weeping! The floor carpets were swirly and the curtains were distinctly leafy. I could have vomited a more homely vibe. 

The land lord was bearded, fat, very odd and obviously incredibly religious in a Greek Orthodox sort of way. Meriel at the time was very Buddhist and I was very gay, so we ran as fast as we could in the opposite direction, incredibly despondent at the thought that we may not be able to find anything decent for the money we could spare. Curious, unsettling days.  I've just read my diary from the time, but it all seems to be about the Labour Party Conference which I was attending and seemed to be much more interested in writing about than the mere trials and tribulations of looking for a place to live in!

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