I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but I've been busy with the Shoreditch Web Project (however did I used to cope with a day job and a life? I mean, really, how?).
Anyway, flat in Glasgow next door to a 30-foot neon sign. It's not much of a flat, but I love it. It's in an old warehouse, and has window boxes. It's a reposession, which makes it feel a bit weird, moving in somewhere that's fully furnished with someone else's microwave.
The whole idea was to go up for a long weekend at the end of February, tidy it up a bit and then go back when I wasn't working. It didn't quite work out like that. It ended up being the most expensive weekend of my life.
I remember ages ago someone cloned my credit card and spent nearly two grand on gambling in Venice and lingerie. And I remember thinking "just once, I'd like to spend that much money."
Turns out it's easy to spend that much money - just on stuff that isn't fun. For a start, when the bank removed their nice steel we-own-this door, they pulled the frame out, sealing the flat shut. So I ended up spending £100 just to get into the flat and £600 on a new door. This is not a stylish way to spend money, even though my locksmiths are lovely (they've invited me round to tea next time I'm up).
"It's a rough area," they said.
"Really?" I said. "It seems charming." And meant it.
Putting some rubbish out that night, I trod on something. It was a mouse. I wondered if I'd killed it.
The useful thing about living in the Barrowlands is that your rubbish just goes. I figured if I put out the dining table someone would sell it, but it was gone within minutes. Along with a candleabra, two cupboards and a coffee table. A novelty light made out of spinning twigs hangs around for a bit longer, maybe a quarter of an hour.
After clearing the living room, I look at the bedroom. It's eerily neatly made up like a dusty hotel room. I'm shattered, but I'm not going to sleep on someone else's sheets. But I fancy an early night, perhaps just change them and then.... I peel off the sheets... and find mushrooms growing out of the mattress.
The next day is match day. My locksmith has solemnly warned me - don't be on the Barrowland streets after 2.30. Celtic are going to lose. It'll be nasty. However, come 2.30, I've lost all track of time and am wheeling a new memory foam mattress through the Barrowlands. The only thing that happens is that someone helps me lift the mattress in. Which is kind of them. I notice a police van drive past. It's covered in riot shielding. I don't care. I'm just thrilled I found a memory foam mattress for under £200. Well, as thrilled as you can be at spending money on a mattress.
I'm still sleeping on the carpet. Which really needs to be cleaned. A man called Gordon comes out. He hisses through his teeth. "This Gibson Street?" he says. I shrug. "What do you mean?"
"Nothing," he says, and parks the van. "It's just... well, if I'd known then maybe I wouldn't have come out."
"Oh," I say. "But everyone's so friendly. Mind you, that man there is going through that bag of rubbish I just put out. Can't think why."
Gordon hisses again. "He's seeing what boxes you've thrown out so they know what you've just bought for the flat."
"Oh." I say. I help Gordon carry his carpet cleaner up the stairs.
"Nice mirrors," he says, pointing at the stairwell's mirrored wall. I nod. Personally, I think they're a bit 2-star Dubai hotel, but hey. Gordon hisses through his teeth again. "I don't want to worry you," he says, "But it's so that you can see if there's someone waiting round the corner to jump you."
"Oh." I say.
Gordon cleans the carpet. "No needles," he says, with quiet surprise. He looks at my door. "Been burgled yet?" he asks.
"No," I say.
"I don't want to worry you," he whistles, "But just pray you're out when it happens."
I help carry his carpet cleaner back down the stairs. "Well, they've not taken your van," I say. He frowns. "Oh they would if I was any longer," he says. He scowls suspiciously at a nearby cafe. Inside are two old ladies. Clearly he means them.
I go to Ikea. The cab driver is lovely and she tells me all about her kids and her regular hospital visits. She pulls up on a street. "There you go, pet." She says.
I get out. "This isn't my street." I say.
"Yes it is, Gibson Street," she says.
I protest. I live on the other Gibson Street. She stares at me as if that's an impossibility. "But this... this is a nice area." And it is. It's very leafy. A couple are wheeling a pram like they're in an insurance advert. We leave Glasgow's trendy West End and head East. The market is in full flow. The nice cab driver snorts with horror. "I'll stay with the car," she says, "But I've got my eye on you. You'll be fine. Go!"
I unload a bag of cutlery and tealights like I'm in a war zone.
Truth to tell, it's all rather nice. It's a bit run-down, but I'm used to that with Kings Cross. I'm a five minute drunken stagger from the Merchant City. I spend my evenings sat in the Polo Lounge. I don't talk - I'm just shattered, and I smell a bit of oven cleaner. I go back to the flat, and sit on the floor, watching Honor Blackman Avengers and drinking Scotland's own Glen's Vodka.
In the mornings, I wake up, go to one of the cafes downstairs and get a bacon roll. The market's great - it's got DVDs and primroses. I'm suddenly fascinated by primroses as I've now got window boxes.
There's also a crack in the bedroom wall, but I'm not Amy Pond, so I don't care.