That's Life ( Pt 7 )
Dear Diary...It was lucky I was alert, with all the noise that was going on in the background of the hallway, my hearing must have been extra clear that day, because as I was about to put the receiver down on the bar, I heard a voice say: “Hello, hello...hello!” In a frantic manner.
She was about to change my life completely in two seconds flat, how the fates work. On hearing her words, I immediately picked the phone back up and spoke. “Yes! I'm here.” My heart began racing and butterflies were kicking in as I waited to hear what she had to say.
Her voice was hurried. “We've just got a room come in this very second.” She sounded as excited as I did.
“Really!” I declared, a feeling of elation washing over me.
“It's a double room in a large house, with a family.” There was a pause before she spoke again. “But I'm afraid it's in quite a rough area.”
“That's no problem!” I declared. “As long as I've got a roof over my head, that's all I'm worried about. Can you make an appointment for me to see it tomorrow?” I was already thinking of my new life to come, before I'd even seen the place. Hoping they wouldn't mind a baby around, I thought of the peace I'd have at last, sharing a house with a family.
Then she spoke again. “Give me your phone no: I'll get back to you as soon as I've checked with the owner.”
I felt euphoric, as I gave her my number. Placing the receiver back and waiting it seemed like the longest time ever, waiting and waiting. Finally the phone rang, I picked up the reciever so quick, it only had time to ring once. “Hello!” I said, anxious to hear what she had to say.
“Yes! That's fine...you can go around and see the room tomorrow at midday.”
“That's great!” I said, feeling over the moon. I let out a big sigh, as she gave me the address, then I put the receiver down and ran upstairs.
Children were still running around all over the place, it was the usual bedlam for a Friday afternoon when school had finished for the weekend. I always felt like I was living in a madhouse between the hours of 4pm and 7pm. If the weather was nice we usually sent the kids out into the garden to play, as well as a climbing frame, there were swings to keep them occupied, also a sandpit for the very young ones.
But today I didn't care about the noise, for the first time in ages I was on cloud nine, soon I'd have my very own accommodation, well at least I hoped I would anyway, I had to keep thinking positively, otherwise too many other negative thoughts would cloud my mind, there was a need to protect my sanity for once.
It was 7pm when the younger of the children were put to bed, the older ones were allowed to stay up as long as they didn't make too much noise. Some of the other women would get themselves ready to go out pub crawling, then onto a nightclub. For me it was a relief when they'd gone.
Normally I'd keep my son awake on a Friday night, while watching the television, or sitting in the kitchen, so I could have a bit of a lie in on Saturday morning, but this evening I put him in his carry cot early and turned in myself, knowing I needed to be one hundred per cent alert for tomorrow's meeting.
Saturday morning arrived and was very cold. I remember putting my son's all in one teddy bear outfit on him, ( well that's what I called it! ) He looked like a blue bear cub, with the hood up, all you could see were his eyes, nose and mouth, he was so cute and cuddly. My friend's daughter took him out in the garden in his pushchair, while I got myself ready.
After some toast and tea, we washed up and tidied the kitchen ready for the next mums to start cooking, everyone did their fair share, though I have a feeling that Granny would tell her daughters to do her share most of the time.
Me and my son's future godmother caught the bus into the city, we could have got another bus to the address, but decided to walk instead, it would then give me a chance to get the feel for the area that I didn't know much about. I have to say the lady on the phone was right, it was pretty rough and I was starting to feel a bit scared, but my friend told me not to worry too much, so we carried on until we came to a street with huge mansion style houses, some were in good order, others had windows partly broken with boards covering up the holes.
We approached a house with old bits of car on the curb and piles of rubbish drowning in what was a rusty old bin, but looked more like it was meant to burn rubbish. I gazed at my friend. “Is this the address?” I felt scared, mainly for my son.
“Yeah! This is it,” she announced with a smile. I wasn't smiling, not one bit.
We walked up the path and knocked on the door, a big fat man appeared, he was so out of breath you'd have thought he'd walked miles up a hill, not just to the front door.
“I've come about the room,” I said trying to seem positive.
There was a commotion inside, as two lads came to the door to see who it was, followed by a dog that looked as if it had seen better days, then the big fat man shouted out to his wife. “You got a visitor, someone about the upstairs room.”
A short, thin woman with greasy hair appeared at the doorway and told me to come in, it was apparent she never had any teeth, reminding me of one of those people that make funny faces, I think they call it gurning. As we entered the hallway, the smell of fried food hit me straight away.
The hallway was dark and dingy, with paper partly ripped off the walls, there was a staircase straight ahead which we had to walk up, I had to leave the pushchair downstairs and carry my baby up, it turned out my room would be right at the top of the house, which was three floors up. I have to admit it was a large spacious room, but appeared as if it hadn't been used for years, there were cobwebs everywhere and the carpet was in tatters, the curtains were hanging off the rail and looked as if they'd seen better days, the only piece of furniture in there, was a tattered, frayed old chair. I gazed again at my friend as I contemplated what to do.
“We'd like to talk in private,” said my friend to the landlady.
“Okay!” She said abruptly. “But don't be too long...I've got someone else coming to view the room soon.”
As she walked back downstairs, my friend informed me I should take the room despite what it was like. “You might not get another opportunity like this, at least it's a roof over your head.”
I tended to agree with her, but had this feeling of trepidation as I walked out of the room, I noticed another door opposite and decided to have a peek. It was a bathroom with bear floorboards and a bath with black grime all around the base, the sink wasn't in any better shape either, everywhere was absolutely filthy, with mold on the walls too. I felt depressed that anyone could let a room to someone in this state, but I knew I'd have to take it and make the best of a bad situation.
We went back downstairs and I told the landlady I'd be taking the room. She then asked when I'd be moving in?
“I'd like to move in tomorrow if that's okay?” I wondered about where I'd be kipping down for the night. “Have you by any chance a mattress I could sleep on?” I asked her, thinking after I'd spoken, it was probably a mistake.
“No!” She said straight back. “It's just the room, you'll have to get your own mattress.”
She gave me her phone number and told me to give her a ring when I would be arriving. Then she began uttering the rules of the house. “You'll get your own front door key, they'll be no men allowed up in your room, otherwise you're out. I'll cook your evening meal, I'll do your washing which will be picked up on a Monday and Thursday, that too will all be included in your rent, is that clear?”
I felt taken aback by her strict regime, but decided at least if I didn't have to cook or do washing, I'd have more time to spend away from the house. “Yes! I understand,” I said, desperate to get out before I heaved with the strong stench of frying.
Once out in the fresh air, all I wanted was to get back to the refuge and sort myself out, there was bedding to think about, although thank goodness my son would be okay in his pram. Tomorrow would come all too soon and with trepidation I wasn't looking forward to cleaning that room. Tonight I'd make the most of my bed at the refuge.
To be continued...