This post is from 2013, and has been lurking as a draft for several years. It’s now popped up to see the light of day – join me for a bit of time travel!
Admittedly, the weekend got off to a bumpy start. I had booked a coach ticket for 9.20am, so I set my alarm for 7.30 to give myself time to shower, eat breakfast, pack up the last few items and walk to the coach station with plenty of time to spare.
I woke up at ten past eight. Somehow I had managed to set the alarm for 7.30pm, but thankfully my body clock rarely lets me sleep much later than 8 no matter what time I went to sleep. I ditched the shower and power-walked to the coach station, where naturally I had to sit for fifteen minutes waiting for the coach to arrive. A well-dressed girl a few years younger than me entertained me for that time by walking back and forth between the coach stand, the information board, and the coach itself which was parked further down the road waiting until the stand was free. I, an old hand at this travelling lark, sat tight and waited for it to come to me.
The journey north wasn’t too bad. I snoozed, read my Kindle, looked out of the window and eavesdropped on the hilarious conversations of the two girls sat behind me. They joined the coach a few stops after me and were evidently planning a night of clubbing in Birmingham, the preparations for which had involved waxing areas of their body I didn’t even want to think about (but I heard about in surprising detail). Considering that it was a four-hour drive, the time passed remarkably easily.
I arrived in Birmingham a little after one and immediately headed off to the train station. The walk from Digbeth coach station to New Street train station is fairly short and takes you past the Bullrin and the market and up an odd spiral staircase that appears to exist for the sole purpose of allowing people to get between two roads without walking up a hill. I’ve made so many journeys via Birmingham now that I was walking on autopilot, enjoying the spring weather and thinking about the flat I was going to see that evening.
First, though, I had to fill five hours. When I’d booked my tickets, I had assumed I would be going straight on to my mum’s house and therefore chose a coach that interfaced neatly with a train arriving in Shropshire just as my mum finished work. It made sense to take the opportunity of viewing the flat, though, so I hung around until the current tenant finished work.
It’s a lovely area. After an hour or so of wandering, I knew I would take the flat unless it was dripping with damp or crawling with mould, and perhaps even then. Ten minutes to the church, two minutes to a lovely cafe where I had lunch, ten minutes to a well-maintained park, and two minutes to the train station. The buildings are beautiful and many of them are of historical and architectural interest. I spent an hour wandering through a small museum and then, armed with an informative leaflet and a map, spent a bit more time walking the Village Trail and admiring what I hoped would be my new surroundings.
There is only so much time you can spend looking at houses, however, and I spent the last hour and a half sitting in the train station, reading my book and watching the commuters coming and going. On the dot of six, I arrived on the doorstep of the flat and rang the bell.
Nothing happened. I gingerly pressed what might have been a different bell or might have been a broken plaque of some variety, and nothing happened then either. I banged on the door. I rang the bells again. I attempted to peer in through the window but was foiled by frosted glass (frosted glass? odd).
Finally I must have made some kind of audible noise, and the door was opened by a small Hindu woman. I knew that she was not the current tenant, as I’d been told he was a single man, but I explained to her who I was and what I was doing. She informed me that the tenant was not in. A moment later her husband arrived who confirmed that he was not in, and was in the process of giving me the landlord’s phone number when the door opened once more and we were joined by a man who turned out to be the elusive tenant. Introductions all round, an awkward shimmy past one another in the world’s narrowest hallway (inexplicably narrowed further by a free-standing door leaning against the wall), and we headed upstairs to see the flat. The frosted-glass mystery was cleared up; the downstairs room was in fact owned by the building next door.
I’ll admit it. The flat might be the world’s smallest. It is a single room, dominated by a double bed and a small wardrobe and not much else. But it is newly-renovated, it has a kitchen equipped with an oven and a washing machine, and the bathroom is not shared. Everything I want out of a flat, really. I asked the tenant why he was leaving and he told me that he found the noise of the television downstairs disruptive, although he confessed that most people would probably not even notice it. Other than the faint murmur of television voices, there was no reason he hadn’t liked living there – he just felt it was time to move on.
I thanked him and headed back to the train station, comforted that I had time to decide by the fact that only one other person had viewed the flat and hadn’t seemed very keen. I have since decided, after conversations with all my parents, to apply for it – an amusing process in itself as I have neither a job nor confirmation of a university place. I do have an obliging mother prepared to be a guarantor, and sufficient savings to cover a couple of months’ rent while I acquire a job, a uni place, or both.
On Saturday morning my mum dragged me out of bed and off to a Welsh clog dancing workshop. I have done a bit of English clogging before, and I’m a fairly fast learner, but even so I found it a little disconcerting to attend a workshop conducted almost entirely in a language I don’t understand. It was made even worse by the presence of a horde of schoolgirls, all of whom appeared to be entirely fluent in both Welsh and English, and some of whom were also accomplished dancers (some were utterly hopeless, which I found comforting). Nevertheless both my mum and I managed to follow along and we weren’t the worst dancers by a long way. Five hours of walking the day before and two hours of dancing meant my feet weren’t in great shape so we opted not to stay for the social dance workshop or return for the ceilidh in the evening. Instead we went home and I stormed through some proofreading I had managed to neglect for several weeks.
I had asked to be woken for church on Sunday, but in the end I don’t think I managed more than a grunt and I finally emerged just before eleven feeling a lot more human. Somehow I always manage to run myself into the ground in the weeks before I visit my parents’ houses, so I suspect they have an image of me as some kind of hibernating sloth. I was sufficiently awake to teach my regular English tutoring lesson after lunch, thanks to the miracle that is Skype, and then mum and I got back into the car and zipped off to buy a new pair of shoes for me and price up new garden benches for her (the old one crumbled into a pile of greyish sawdust under the weight of four feet of snow this winter). I admired a bag I didn’t need and a purse I couldn’t afford and carefully wrote down their names in my “things to look out for on eBay” notebook.
Alas, the weekend was over all too quickly. I snuggled my cats for the last time, petted the dog behind the ears and set off back down south again in a reverse of the same journey.