Sometimes little things really restore your faith in people.
I live in a tower block that had a lick of paint, a general spruce up and some clever marketing invested in it about 10 years ago – and nothing much since. Now the community is what makes it feel like a place you can call ‘home’.
It’s 14 floors of 1, 2 and 3 bed flats built in the 60s when the council was trying to brand Liverpool as ‘the city in the sky’. Compared to some municipal towerblocks it wasn’t very ambitious in terms of scale: Liverpool was clearly going for ‘city in the sky – but not so far up in it that you can grow edelweiss on your postage stamp sized balcony’. That’s a good thing because our lift has a mind of its own – and clearly gets seasonal depression. You can guarantee that it will only break down in the dead of winter (so the stairs get filthy with mud) or the height of summer (so the walk up will make any resident ‘sticky’ at best) but we live on the fourth floor so I’m the efficient resident who sends an email – rather than the one who gets super strong legs. At the moment there’s murder over the fact that the bins have been moved so that recycling and compostible waste are separated. Murder, I say…people are fumin’. Although nobody has been featured in Angry People In Local Newspapers yet. Thank God.
Anyway, in 14 floors we have created something like a vertical village. People meet in the lift and the ‘atrium’ – the developers were pretentious types – and we’re a friendly, chatty bunch. It’s a blessing when you have kids because they find friends and there’s something like a support network. The younger residents seem to be taking advantage too – a bloke on 12 regularly visits a woman on the second floor…and everybody’s talking about it. We’re waiting until they finally make a public statement by riding in the lift together one morning. So far it looks like she hasn’t given him a drawer. He’s still going up to his flat in last night’s clothes at 7am every day. From what we can discern he hasn’t even been allowed to leave a toothbrush on 2. Ah…what does their future hold in store? Perhaps everything, perhaps nothing…
One day last week the building threw up much gossip. You can imagine my excitement because, for once, it all happened on my day off. I could observe all the riches provided by human behaviour. It was brilliant.
The bin men (all 4 of them) were taken to task by Andy ‘owns a dog but isn’t allowed one in his flat’; Barry The Super’s lift announcement – while printed out in a beautiful poster format – was ill received and (within about an hour) covered in rude comments; Hot Nurse on 14 was still rumoured to be dealing weed; Herbalife Lady got a new car; the kid next door ate an entire camembert and grew 3″ taller over Christmas (not entirely surprising given his appetite); our reasonably famous neighbour got a new ‘special friend’ – we know that because there were two pairs of differently sized football boots outside her door overnight; the other one gave us some goat’s cheese and there was a new school run scheme being dragged off the ground.
What a day to be alive at Merebank, eh?
I was still adamant that I was never helping with the dreaded residents’ association. I prefer observing all the drama – ‘swerve that community spirit shite’, I thought to myself.
And then yesterday I questioned my resolution. Over the autumn I baked pumpkin muffins regularly – and gave one to everyone who lives on our floor – actually I gave 2 to our favourite neighbour – because she’s an athlete and we worry that she needs more calories for her job. I used special flour so Goats Cheese Professor could enjoy hers. I walk Mustafa to school with my kids every morning if the weather’s reasonable – and battled with him so that he’d wear a coat when the temperature dropped below 8°. If there’s rain, sleet or snow, I pile them all into the car for what he tells me is ‘a white knuckle ride’ around the park – we’re not the US Postal Service, after all.
Yesterday was a rare snow day so I offered to take him to the park with my two. That wasn’t entirely altruistic: I honestly couldn’t be bothered keeping a 7 year old and a 5 year old amused in the arctic snow and an extra child means they play unaided. By a lucky turn of events his older sister turned up too – and we all enjoyed a snowball fight, visited the Sefton Park Palm House to warm up, walked a nice pensioner’s dog (with her permission) and came home tired but joyful.
In the afternoon I was at a loss and their mum (who is presently nursing a 5 week old baby) needed a nap so I invited them round for The Greatest Showman, a little bit of baking and fruit smoothie & soda water mocktails with Child 1’s bestie. In the end they played Operation and used Child 2 as a kind of human dress up paper doll – but you play it by ear as long as they’re all enjoying themselves. Parenting was a pleasure. I even managed to bake brownies in record time because I had Noor to help me. 13 year old girls work really fast if there’s chocolate and Wi-Fi readily available. Note to self – switch the oven on before the scheduled arrival time in future.
At the end of the day our guests went home with baked goods and exhaustion. We all slept soundly last night. – the families in flats 18 and 24 were content.
This morning I drove my kids, Mustafa and Noor to the same school – because Noor got a place there on Wednesday night. She was the only one of us who wasn’t excited about the snow day but I think we took her mind off the disappointment. She went in this morning looking fresh as the proverbial daisy – and sounding sharp as a pin. She’s not my daughter but I’m so pleased and proud for her…
I guess I haven’t managed to ‘swerve that community spirit shite’ after all. Weirdly enough, I’m quite enjoying being part of our little suburban enclave.
Having said that, I still checked the terms of the standard rental contract last night – those little twerps at No. 22 have pissed the residents of 3 flats on our floor off too many times for their Christmas Day drop-in to build bridges. The sound of high heels tripping the light fantastic on oak parquet in the small hours will never leave me. Their stupid Michael Bublé lite holiday sweaters couldn’t make five of us feel festive. Armed with the knowledge that they can’t have audible fun after 10pm, I am now invincible. Also perfect material for the residents’ association…dammit.
Better calm down and try to remember that I was once the owner of silly, impractical shoes who entertained fellow downing clubbers after closing every weekend. I don’t have a high horse to ride – although I will fight anyone who says that the music’s better now. And the get up? Who can be bothered with curlers in Tesco, fake eyelashes and all that contouring when the dancing just melts you into a hot mess? Maybe they don’t go for abandonment nowadays. If so, they’re missing out. What can I say? I partied in the 90s. After that a lot of people seem like night life civilians.
And with that sentence I’m back to normal, in my default borderline misanthrope mode – and completely unsuitable for the residents’ association…although I had the revelation that I may have been the provider of the milk of human kindness yesterday. Just the one time, like. Let’s not get excited.
I have a feeling that News From Merebank could become a regular column, though – I’ll keep you posted.
The post ‘click photo’ shows my children enjoying a little downtime in our stylish mid century flat – on our less than stylish IKEA sofa.