It was just a little over a week ago that I returned, finally, from Nigeria. I desperately try to find something positive to say about the place, and now back in Aberdeen I can confidently state that the best thing about it is that it's far away, although it should be said that if you trim away the aggression and the senseless, pathetic "do you have a present for me" begging, there was a genuine friendliness in the culture. But some smiles and shaking of hands doesn't compensate for the bad food, filthy streets, insane traffic, lack of infrastructure, gross overpopulation, world-leading corruption, violence, inequality, poverty, appalling inefficiency, disease, pollution, hopelessness and the overwhelming sense that despite the desperate (yet enthusiastic) practicing of religion, all forms of God have long abandoned this forlorn nation and left it at the mercy of cheating, power-crazy leaders and paranoid, money-obsessed whoremongering expat oil workers.
So it was a relief, you might guess, for me to get back to Scotland, and back to familiar faces and cold weather. Or is that cold faces and familiar weather? I've been enjoying my time back, and have been home to Dingwall to see my mother, my whisky-soaked grandfather and even my cousin for the first time in almost four years. I've met up with friends, drank proper beer again, played poker (and lost), eaten many pies, and enjoyed the tranquil sounds of brutal techno on a proper hi-fi. In the midst of all this revelry, I even had time to be involved in a train crash.It should be noted that I managed to sleep right through this dramatic crash, which appeared to have been between the train and a tree, and was most upset that the incident didn't even injure let alone cause the death of one of the multitude of screeching harpies that were seated around me in the train.
But most of all, in the last week, I have been plugging away with one of my main preoccupations after porn, booze and gambling: property. I've got a couple of flats, for those who may not know, one of which I live in and the other which is rented out. I am in the process too of trying to buy another flat, which is proving to be a rather tricky task, as the Aberdeen market is insanely competitive. I've looked round five flats in as many days, and bid for a few, but getting a flat in Aberdeen these days is either pure pot luck or the result of paying way over the odds, and as I'm unwilling to chuck all my cash away in an unsound investment I'm going to hold out for eventually getting lucky. Getting lucky will still involve paying at least 50% over the asking price, but that's a little better than 100%.
It's the flat I'm living in that is really occupying the bulk of my time though. I've been trying to fix it up for the last nine months, but as the last seven of these have been spent mostly abroad, this has been a slow process. I've been wallpapering the kitchen since October. The flat is a nice flat, but has been in need of an overhauling for quite some time. This I'm now in the midst of, and an end is in sight, but for now - and I don't say this lightly - the flat is certainly the most filthy it has ever been. It is a shambles. And the best way to demonstrate this is by means of a little tour.
The Nelson Street flat
We begin with the living room. This room isn't in a dire way, but it still obviously rather cluttered, and closer inspeaction reveals several empty soup cartons, slowly festering. What this photo doesn't highlight is the stink of fish in this room, caused by the decaying mussels and seafood sauce that have been sitting open for the last week. I should really throw these out. On top of my collection of CDs, you can see my little Mauritanian guitar, and my Senegalese drum nearby. I have no skill whatsoever in either, and my enthusiasm does not make up for this.
Another view of the living room, this one brings in to view the decaying mussels (far right) as well as empty pie bags and a pizza box. Why can't I just put these in a bin? I wonder this often.
Here we take a little zoom-in of the living room. The focus here in on the remaining quarter of a macaroni pie I had on Thursday. If I can muster the numbers, perhaps we could all enter into a sweepstake as to when I'll eventually throw this out.
Now, into the bathroom. This picture cuts away the cluttered shelf and lumps of congealed toothpaste, and you can't really see all the many specks of hair trimmed from my beard that have attached themselves to the mirror, sink and remains of soap, but you can probably see it's a bit messy. Look closely and you can see my green hardhat beyond the toilet - I don't know how this end up here. I spare you any close up of the toilet as it is a scene of the most dire unholiness.
Peering into the bath, we can see an old tub of plaster filled with water, with the plaster spreader inside. This has been here for about a week. Fortunately, I shower rather than bathe.
This is my bedroom, and is the tidiest of all the lot. It's got a bit of a clutter going on, but is fundamentally clean, and doesn't smell of fish, or anything so undesirable. Stillm I'm not sure it would be impressing the lucky lady who ventured this far, but then I'm sure the toilet would have long since seen her run screaming from the flat.
Those that have lasted the course may now find themselves in the kitchen. Ongoing work has seen this room in a state of severe upheaval. Only this week was the epic task of wallpapering completed in atrcious style, and the walls have been painted blue so as to try to hide the many mistakes. Despite the initial facade of chaos, the kitchen is almost done, and just needs everything put back in place, wiped and scrubbed thoroughly, and maybe some curtains put up too. I'm confident this will look like a proper, clean kitchen in just a few days, and I might even celebrate by cooking myself a proper meal! No, just joking, I wouldn't dream of doing such a thing.
Terrors lurk in the fridge though. This frudge is new, and has had little opportunity for me to turn it black with rank mess, but already it is beginning to smell. The reason for this is the fresh octopus I bought - in March. You can see it in the centre of the picture. In the top left of the package is a kind of green sludge. I don't know what this is, but it wasn't there when I bought the octopus, and appears to be growing. I try not to open the fridge at all right now, and am not sure what to do about this situation. I'm having serious thoughts about whether I should eat this octopus.
Here's the hall, which links all four rooms (plus the bathroom).
Finally, the second bedroom, which is just a big mass of random stuff piled on top of each other. The room used to have a big, ugly walk-in cupboards taking up about a quarter of the room, so I took a big axe, a jigsaw and a hammer, and smashed it to pieces, covering myself and the room in a thick layer of black dust in the process. Since then I've been trying to patch up the gaps in the wall and ceiling made, and have begun now to wallpaper the space left. Until I get proper access into my attic, which I intend to convert to a mini-room, I have little storage space, so I've just chucked eveything here.
I do wonder if, at the wise age of 28, I should still be living in such torrid style, as though some oozing student, but tell myself this is just a temporary phase until I get the flat fixed up and sorted out. The fact is though, that I know that as soon as this flat's finished, I'll find some other little project that will consume my time and cause me to neglect all my basic household cleaning duties. I have come to the realisation that a combination of bad upbringing (my mother has never been good at keeping her cupboards clean) and bad genetics (I'm told my grandmother used to just push stuff off tables by way of cleaning) leave me helpless to an untidy fate. But all is not lost.
You see, I realise I need a good woman. A wife! Yes, a pretty young thing with a nice smile, who is good at cooking and cleaning, and doesn't mind me being away 75% of the time with only cursory contact, who doesn't bore with me her inane, petty conversation and appreciates my rambling lectures about Maoist China. But most important is that cooking and cleaning. I'm sure many lovely young ladies must fit this bill.
Of course, any pretty young innocent who fell for my bearded charms (whether under the influence of Rohypnol or not) would immediately cut loose upon viewing my living state, and therein lies my Catch-22. So I suppose the upshot is that I'm going to have to tidy up and try and keep the place tidy for more than a day. These are the problems of living in your own home. At least in Nigeria I had a maid to clean up behind me every day.