February 16th, 2008
I recently had a go at Edinburgh letting agents for their single-minded adherence to sensible working hours. The practical consequence of all this 9-5 M-F-ishness was that the fellow stepping into his new flat this past Friday evening had never seen it before. Orla had done virtually all the apartment hunting whilst I loitered with the Picsies.
Now, to be honest, I was a trifle dispirited at first. Having grown very fond of our tony New Town neighborhood I felt no great urgency to relocate to the decidedly bluer collar East End. Walking east Friday night along Montgomery Street, where twee cobble roads give way to practical tarmac, I felt the loss of Mellisâ€™ cheese shop almost as keenly as I had previously felt the loss of San Francisco sushi. In this frame of mind, the litter swirling around our buildingâ€™s entrance caught my attention much more readily than the open-air cafÃ© across the road.
The building entrance is a confused jumble, edged as it is by one set of doorbells dating from the late 19th or early 20th Century (non-functional), and a second set of more modern vintage (I think these work, though Iâ€™m not sure). Ascending the stone steps, worn into depressions by a century or more of use, I caught sight of a rusty bike chained up off the hall and a baby buggy similarly shackled to the iron railings. Orla had warned me that the common area was a bit dank, and I could see what she meant.
Our front door is marked â€˜ELDERâ€™. One has to wonder: were the previous residents Elders or elders? But when Orla opened the Elder door and welcomed me in, I slowly began to perceive that she had done her job very well indeed.
Our new space is a first floor Victorian tenement flat (remembering of course that first floor British equals second floor American). The front windows look north out over the open air cafÃ© with its sidewalk tables. At the rear, south-facing windows give a view into the interior of the tenement square and into the tangled mess of vegetation that was once this buildingâ€™s garden. These south windows matter greatly. The South is the source of natural light in winter, when lack of it impacts one even more than the cold.
One really charming aspect of the flat is all the Victorian detail. In fact, from within one might also imagine oneself back in San Francisco! Two of the three fireplaces (none of which, sadly, work) have detailed tile work. A couple of rooms have ornate crown moldings and ne even has a leafy ceiling rosette from which a chandelier presumably once hung (a fixture hangs there stillâ€¦but calling it a chandelier would be over-generous). Water-heated central radiators take the edge off the cold, and slightly distressed knotty pine floorboards lend the place an extra warmth.
The kitchen and bathroom are both newly kitted out, so we have modern convenience fittings where youâ€™d most want them, and the flat as a whole has lots of storage space.
All this makes up for a few downsides. In particular, most of the furniture is cheap, slap-together Ikea. But as Orla pointed out, a good space can eventually hold nicer furniture. A bad space is still a bad space, whatever you fill it with. The common areas of the building are a bit neglected (notably the aforementioned garden, where Iâ€™m reasonably certain I observed a lurking sasquatch), but this we can address with a bit of elbow grease.
So thatâ€™s the news. After bunking with family and friends, after hotels and temporary flats, Orla and I are home at last.