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November - Editorial - Moving Home

I can’t tell you if the UK housing boom has peaked. I have been completely wrong about house prices since 2001 and likely to be wrong about everything else for the next 30 years I should think. Nevertheless there is something exciting about moving house, even if one is renting. I have last found a place to live that just might cheer me up (something Carine assures me only happens in alternate leap years.)

Currently I am living in a shared house that Count Dracula would have been pleased to call home, if he’d wanted to live in a seventies estate detached home in Petersfield. In every room there are decomposing dried flowers and piles of rotting moth eaten teddy bears. The moths flock in and chew on the carpets, loudly, and no one has removed the dust sheets from the furniture in years. Things break off in your hands, curtains spill over with dead things, the heating is electric and only heats the house when you are out, immediately shutting off when you get home from work. It is a bit like living in some dead blokes house, only you haven’t the heart to leave or tell him that he is dead. Dust, dirt, no soundproofing, you can hear everything that goes on behind the paper thin bedroom walls, all for four hundred quid a month, per room. It also comes with a strange Irish tenant who hasn’t yet discovered the soap and leaves all the windows open on frosty nights. The incentive to find somewhere else was pretty urgent, I felt.

Petersfield is the town of the living dead. Come here in the day and watch eighty-year-old biddies in stout shoes shuffling from shop to shop. Visit at night and see the clusters of bored kids wishing they could drink their booze inside the pubs, rather than in the street. If there are any cops, they are out on the roads with their speed cameras, rather than dealing with any crime in the town. The town echoes with the endless drone from the nearby A3 motorway and the rattle of the trains as they scrape their way through from Portsmouth or London. Petersfield is trapped in a natural basin surrounded by pretty hills, but it captures every sound from every direction and is therefore an acoustic nightmare -not the peaceful place to live the estate agents might tell you.

So, accepting the inevitability, I have placed a deposit on a rented flat in historic ‘Old Portsmouth’. There really isn’t anywhere else to live in this city. Southsea looks out onto a bland pancake of a sea, behind it, although they tell you it is ‘bohemian’. the buildings are stunted, the streets too narrow and the whole area is blighted with monumentally unambitious architecture – if ever an architect got a look in over the vast housing estates built there.

Old Portsmouth still sports enough evidence of a grander past, Hitler’s bombs notwithstanding. By good chance then I have found a Georgian town house to live in on the High Steet and if you squint, you can see that once this was the epitome of elegance. Indeed Royalty was murdered next door and Lord Nelson used to wine and dine on the other side. It is a sad fact that this Georgian dwelling has been butchered and made to produce five flats (one the size of Harry Potter’s broom cupboard,) but I get to live on the first floor. The entire first floor. This is grand living indeed. A living room with original oak timbers and marble fireplace, three tall and chilly windows, each fifteen feet high. It is 30x20 feet and this is just the front room; there’s a bedroom, dining room and a new tiny bathroom tucked into the wall as an afterthought. I suppose two hundred years ago they pissed out of the windows.

Whoever lived here lived well. The beautiful original oval spiral staircase sits in the centre of the house lit by a skylight. They had style 200 odd years ago, something that has completely bypassed Petersfield and modern British housing estates. At one time, this would have been one home, the top floor for the sevants, the basement for cooking, (where someone has an art gallery now and won’t let anyone in!)

I knew this flat had to be mine the moment I went in. Even though the rent is ruinous and way more than a mortgage. It has possibilities. It demands that you entertain and even though I no longer possess any furniture (having given it all away in Canada and Cornwall over the last few years) all you need is good wine, tall glasses and company. The room will just embrace us and make us welcome. I know it. Of course, I have no idea how I am going to heat it, but I am sure there’s a few student essays I can throw on the fire.

I imagine Nelson probably endured a drinks party or two in this place, certainly elegant white gloved ladies would have been entertained by handsome swains at the piano whilst eyeing young officers with a steady income. It’s that kind of place and soon it will be mine, on loan for the price of the rent. Colleagues tell me that I could find somewhere cheaper, warmer, newer; but this place is living history and here my photographs will feel at home.
Bishop Hernandez, one of our regulars on Hackwriters, writes to warn me about ghosts, but hey, if I was a ghost I’d not be in a hurry to leave this place. I’ll be here and then I’ll be gone, the ghosts will stay forever.

Next week I’ll move in, for some reason I expect my luck to change with it. More anon I think.

Inside the November Issue

You can visit Krakow and Auschwitz with Philip Seddon, Amsterdam with Samantha Derrick, climb in Taiwan with Anthony, discuss the future of Europe with James or the Bush presidency with James Campion, discover the 'Trail of Tears' in American history with Astrid. There is now a brilliant short story from Sidi Benzahra, something about Vegas from our regular Colin Haslett and James campion has discovered that the Sky is Falling -run for the hills. Natelie White discovers shopping, Ms Davidson wishes she hadn't, J T Brown discusses that delicate issue as to whether you wipe with paper or your hand. James Skinner has a dream about nuclear war. Abigale Vail on fear and loss and just what are the secrets in the bedroom. All is revealed. Larry Thompson comes across a singing bed in Africa and there's more - check it out.
Come back we update and add new work every week.

© Sam North 2003

Previous Editorials:
October: Stairway to Heaven and other memories
September: 29th Deauville American Film Festival
August: Deathrate 2003 and Being Your Age
August: Summer Movies -London heat
July: London Art Fair
July: Readjusting
June : Saying Goodbye
Returning to Blighty

May: Dystopia
Art and the Matrix
Blossom Time
Forget your troubles
- April
Oscars -March
Oscars have a message

Waiting for War February
Winning the Peace
The Munster House
Renting in Kits

Winter Escape to the UK
Hacks takes a break

What will you seeing at the movies? November
'The city where everyone gets to live a millionaire lifestyle'
It’s SECTION 9 in the N.Y. Sunday Times
A cornucopia - October
The Kids stay in the picture- August
Hacks visits the new Museum of Glass in Tacoma- August
Hot Sweats in a Cold Read at the Anza Club- August
LIFE ON FAST FORWARD - Vancouver on speed -September
SweetSista'Shorts Carousel Theatre- Granville Island - Off Fringe
Arts in the Community is for real -
Time to enrol
Vancouver Film Festival Trade Show report

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