Saturday, August 27, 2011

Giving to the homeless and taking from the landlords

In the early hours of the morning, I was awoken by horrendous thunder and lightening. It was about 4am, I sat up and watched: truly amazing. The sky was being lit up for seconds at a time, a greenish-yellow: like being in a fantasy world, on another planet with different light. I really, really wish it happened more often.

So. My room stretches out in front of me: a blank canvas, a bleak tundra of space. The clutter by the mirror - decluttered. The mothballs in the corners: exterminated. The sad, pathetic little rags that used to hang from the ceiling in an attempt to create a wall seperating my room from the front door: gone.

Let me cut a long and boring story short. As you know, I'm going to Strasbourg in 3 days. My (American) flatmate, has found someone to replace, if not my dazzling personality and abundance of charisma, then at least my physical presence in the flat. An Australian assistant. Which she has explained to our WWII-obsessed landlords.

Anyway, at 4pm, my flatmate goes out, I sit on the window ledge simultaneously gobbling down a roll-up and ripping layers of skin off from around my thumbs, and then the landlords arrive. They struggle up the stairs, I usher them in, and try as best as I can to get the ball rolling. "So, what paper do I need to sign?" I bleat, over and over again. But no - they want to speak to 'Mademoiselle' (my flatmate) about the 'situation'. What bloody situation? I'm leaving, she's getting a new roommate in October. You get me blud? But no, they insist I ring Mademoiselle up and say in a fake, breezy voice 'Hiya! Could you just come back round for a minute? They want to speak to you', hoping the flatmate senses the fed-upness.

In the mean time, back down we hobble, to read the water and electricity meters, Monsieur striding along, getting things done, with Madame screeching "Mais Michel! Miiichel! Tu as bien vu, hein? Tu as bien noté?" Back up we go, in comes the flatmate, and here's where the mind-boggling nightmareish nature of the whole thing began. Madame unravelled an ancient contract, written in the gently looping italic hand of an 18th century bard. And she begins to read it out loud, over...and over....and over, again. " 'Mademoiselle is reponsible for the full amount of rent' understand, hein, Mademoiselle? You are responsible, yes? You are responsible for the full amount! Where was I....yes, so. Mademoiselle is responsible for the full amount of rent." Jesus Christ, woman! She made a few notes, and then, finally, it was over. Except: "Michel," Madame began, "We should re-read this, and rewrite it out, now." Oh God please, please, show some mercy, do not make me sit here discussing the war whilst Monsieur's shaky hand embarks on the lengthy process of transcribing this...MANUSCRIPT.

Luckily I had the bright idea of whipping out my mini computer, seeing their eyes widen as I flippantly suggest I type it out. A scuffle ensued, when I reached over to take the contract, but Madame's iron claw clutched it ever tighter. She seemed to be suggesting she read, and I type. Well, I'll be fucked if I sit there whilst she re-reads paragraph 47 over and over again, changing her mind as we go along. I won, but not before she managed to belittle me by insinuating I can't count.

Here's a list of things old people are good at:
  • Darning socks
  • Making victoria sponges without using a recipe
  • Plucking chickens, and generally dealing with animal to plate processes
  • Mending things
  • Being casually racist
  • Counting in their heads
She was trying to force us to subtract the original water meter count by the new one. "Just simply subtract 2167 from 3694!!!" she chuckled. My flatmate and I looked at each other, and 'get your phone out' I muttered under my breath. "Are you not capable of doing that in your head?" she snorted, obviously appalled by the fact that I was still breathing without being able to do this. She looked at her husband, absolutely gob-smacked. "Well, to tell you the truth: no, I'm not", I felt like retorting. "I might, if you weren't staring right at me, watching every tremble of the pen's nib. But right now, I'm not capable." Also - can she roll a cigarette when walking up a hill in rain and a gale? Didn't think so.

So anyway, I typed out the contract, keeping one ear on Monsieur's story of fighting 'the Krauts', and how brave the American soldiers were, and how noble the English, and how this one time an American gave him a clementine and a walnut, and how this one time, the Americans got caught in a storm near Val, and a tree fell on their tank and crushed them to death. I chortled away. SHIT. You know that moment where you're not really following, and then the other person's like: "It died, Hannah. The dog died. Of cancer." and you feel awful? In all fairness though, don't ask me to type out your wordy, cursive French contract AND expect me to follow 'The Empire of the Sun: The French Version' too!

Sorry, got a bit carried away there. So I got my deposit back, and all is well. Just earlier I was sitting outside Dog Shit Park, when I saw a homeless man huddled in the doorway of the church. I was wondering what he could have done the other night, when the massive storm was on. Where did he go? Then it occurred to me: I'm moving and have stuff I won't be taking with me, which he might like. Here's some of the stuff I have for him:
  • Some raclette cheese
  • Some tomatoes
  • Some turkish delight
  • A scarf
  • Two long sausage shaped cushions
  • Some lemon squash (obviously will fill it up with water too)
  • Will buy him some bread to go with it, maybe some fruit too
I hope he isn't offended, or worse, just doesn't want it. That would be a bit tragic. I hope he's still there tomorrow, too. I took my books to this local bookshop that had a sign in the window saying "we buy your old books. Ask inside for pricing". I had about 20-odd books. Went inside, and the owner, this dirty man with a fag hanging out his mouth, curled his lip at me and turned away.
"Umm - hello?", I said, "I've got some books to sell."
He sighed and dragged himself over.
"Ah bon?" He rummaged half-heartedly through the bag. "Thing is, I haven't got any room for them." I looked around me - surely he could make room?
"So you won't buy them, then", I said. 
"Well, no."
"O....kay," I thought for a moment, "Well in that case, I'll just give them to you."
"Pfff", he scratched his head impatiently, "well, you know. I haven't got room."
"Okay, fine, I'll give them to the library." I picked up the bag.
"The library won't take them. They haven't got room."
For fucks sake, honestly. What sort of warped capitalist bullshit society do we live in, where you go to a BOOKshop, stick a bag of FREE BOOKS in the guy's face, and he actually has too much? Let's just hope the homeless guy isn't going to be all "you're alright mate, actually. Got some raclette cheese in just last week, it'll do me a good while yet. Cheers for the offer though."

P.S.: Might be a bit AWOL in the next few days as my big move is coming up. Hope everyone is well xx

1 comment:

  1. That story of the landlords just stays funny no matter how many times we recount it to each other. Well, you know, except for the time where it actually happened. That was pure torture. And to think, I almost invited Jane to come up or wait for me since I didn't think it would take too long!

    And you forgot the most important part of the story - the dish washing part! We've only heard that 50 million times now!