Like some kind of crazy blessed miracle, I'm now into my fourth week at home. In that time, I popped into work very quickly to get my expenses, but otherwise have completely ignored it and enjoyed a rare spell in my adopted home city of Aberdeen, savouring the glorious seasonal weather. I was told by the boss that loads of jobs were just coming up, but as yet "the phonecall" hasn't come. It even appears that I’ll be here for my birthday tomorrow, the first time in Scotland since 2003.
In a perfect world, my time at home would have been entirely spent drinking red wine, playing techno on my decks really badly, gambling online, and with my trousers round my ankles. But as wiser men than me have observed, the world is not perfect. No, it is a filthy dog of despair, ever yapping and biting, and never allowing for rest or relaxation. Thus responsibilities have kept me from my vices.
These responsibilililities, as my beloved regular readers are no doubt aware, take the form of my flats. I have four now, and I arrived back from my eternity in Brazil with three of them empty. This is still the case, but one is now on the rental market and should be occupied soon, and one is in a later stage of development, and should be done in about 5-8 working days. I've just started living in the final flat, and have well and truly fallen in love with it. I checked out, incidentally, the one flat I am renting, and was truly delighted to find the girls have kept it in immaculate condition, and was so pleased I left them a bottle of wine.
More on all of this another time; for now my desire is to discuss the history and transformation of my first flat, that is, the flat recently re-done and now awaiting tenants. I bought this flat, on King Street, in September of 2002, while washing dishes part-time and getting drunk all the time, and the same time too I moved into the mythical castle, where dreams and reality were all too often blurred into total confusion.
Photos, alas, of the early days of this property, don't seem to exist, but for the first few years of its existence it had one bright orange bedroom, one dark purple, and a yellow living room/kitchen with a floor made up of ghastly warping squares of wood strips. Back then, my renting approach was casual to the point of gross unprofessionalism, so I let the place out to a couple of friends and forgot about it, and eventually went to Korea.
It all went a bit wrong then, as some long-planned serious renovation on the entire block took place, which transformed the communal area from a dump into a charming and elegant hallway, double-glazed my windows, and made the whole building structurally sound. All good, but this process and the delays leading up to it left my flat empty for years, and uninhabitable due to the serious mess left by the builders. I returned from Korea to find the place in ruins.
In all the flat was empty for almost two years before I redecorated and rented it out again. In retrospect, my attempts to fix the place up were fairly amateur - it was the first ever time I'd attempted something like this, and with mixed results. Nonetheless, this doesn't excuse the horrendous treatment of it by my tenants. All carpets were left ruined by dirt, grime and ash, walls were filthy, the sofas had lines slashed in them and the kitchen area was a disgusting, sticky mess. Their bedsheets had to be chucked out - after a year unwashed, covering some revolting individuals, there was no hope. After my mammoth effort in the complete upheaval of my second flat, on Nelson Street (as seen on an earlier entry) I really didn’t want to have to immediately start again on a flat done up only the year before, but there was no choice.
I managed two weeks in late June, and was agonisingly close to having it finished, before being sent to Brazil for about four months. Hence only now, during my first week or so back home, have I been able to finish. And so, some photos.
The bathroom was the biggest job, and one left to the professionals. In fairness, this was a long standing problem and not directly the tenants' fault, although I suspect their contribution was less than helpful. Basically, long ago, before my time, tiles had been put up over some kind of incorrect timber, resulting in water amassing between the tiles and timber over time. The first I heard of this was last year, when the neighbour below – a convicted paedophile policeman (incidentally) – complained of water dripping. As seen in the photo, the bathroom tiles “fell” off, surely without any help from my wonderful tenants. The entire bathroom needed to be ripped out, a wall partly reconstructed, and the whole room redone. It didn’t come cheap, but I was very pleased with the results.
We now have a proper, professionally-done bathroom, will nice walls and even tiling. The bath screen works particularly well. I still wonder at the lino, cut perfectly, which seems like nothing less than a miracle in light of my recent efforts to lino the bathroom in my fourth flat.
Here’s the other view. The sink, along with the rest of the suite, is old. Originally, they were going to replace it, but the cost of this was astronomical (£8000 altogether instead of £4000) and the old suite was perfectly good. Except for the sink taps – they’re rubbish. I put in all the units myself. I always go for a pine look to my bathrooms, mainly because B & Q sell a cheap range.
Moving onto the small bedroom now. I don’t have any photos of how my tenants left it, but it was the room that needed less work. Just a new carpet really, as seen here still not properly cut. The wall needed a few dabs of paint, and the curtain rail replaced.
Here are the finished results (minus a new pine chest of drawers and wardrobe that hadn’t been delivered at the time of this photo). The bed needed a bit of fixing, and new bedsheets of course, but this was straightforward and cheap. I’ve always liked the fireplace feature in this room, and think the gloss black is to good effect. The bedside table was actually made by my grandfather, years ago. Also not in this photo is the touch-sensitive lamp, with pastel blue shade, giving that much sought after glimpse of nouveau-countryside luxury chic.
Now, the big bedroom – what a mess. My tenants left the walls and carpet grimy and black. By the time this photo had been taken the walls had been wallpapered and painted, and a new carpet put in. I’m usually diabolical at wallpapering, but was quite pleased by my efforts this time. Of course, having done this, I then made a comprehensive mess of the room as I stayed there while fixing the rest of the flat up. To the left, you can see a few cartons, once containing baked potatoes from “The Tasty Tattie”. Some pizza crust was also left sitting during my entire stint in Brazil. The double bed was covered in my paperwork, a system for which I’m still to find, with me finding what space I could each night to sleep. The piece of crap wardrobe you can see is from Argos, and only a year old. What an absolute piece of total crap. Never buy furniture from Argos. My tenants surely didn’t help, but of all the furniture they lived with, only the Argos stuff didn’t make it out alive (an Argos chest of drawers had a similar fate).
What a difference a clean can make. The bed needed a little fixing, but otherwise is coping well after being bought from new in 2002. The bedside table is also from that year, though second hand I think, and spent most of its earlier life in the kitchen. The two-seat sofa came with the three-seat, in the living room/kitchen, and I’ll tell you about that later. The blue chair, like the one in the small bedroom, used to belong to Justin. For many months I coveted his four blue chairs, knowing they’d work well in my King Street flat, and would hint frequently to him. In the end, of course, the only way I could get hold of them was to buy his entire damn flat. Finally, the orange shelves – this is perhaps just about the only thing, barring the hallway, that had remained untouched over the years.
Here’s the other view of the big bedroom. It’s a very spacious room, hence comfortably fitting in a sofa and large wardrobe. It can alternatively be used simply as a living room, as it was when I bought the flat, but for rental purposes it’s obviously better to use it as a bedroom, especially as the living room/kitchen is of a very sufficient size.
The Three Ages Of Radiator. On the left is the blue-painted version by me when I repainted the whole room last year, and lazily just painted over the orange, as seen centre. This meant that over the year, with my awful tenants, the paint was scratched and peeled off all too easily. Hence I stripped the whole radiator, as seen on the right, before painting it white again, good as new. This radiator could also double as a national flag for some middle-European nation.
The hall just needed a new carpet, plus being cleared of all the crap I managed to fill it with. How do I manage this? Every time I redecorate, I fill every room with clutter. For weeks I had to squeeze past the various items of furniture and bags of rubbish I’d crammed into this small space.
Finally, the biggie – the living room/kitchen. This room was the selling point of the flat for me, as the very spacious room allows more than adequately for a living area, with sofa, as well as the kitchen. I’ve only got one photo of the horrendous state the tenants left this room in, as you can see above. No selling point. The whole room was like this, and worse, with thick ash and grime, and ruined walls and carpet. The cooker too was ruined, but it was on its last legs anyway.
Here is the kitchen after having been mostly redone, and just needing rescuing from myself. A new cooker had come in, the walls repainted and a new carpet installed, and an owl thoughtfully placed next to the microwave.
Here’s the sofa. It’s in this stupid position as I’d taken it from the recess so I could fit and cut the carpet. Both sofas were acquired rather fortuitously last year, for free, from the neighbour or a friend of the exceedingly lovely Rosie (who, incidentally, will be staying in the Market Street flat if she ever returns from Egypt). This neighbour was hilarious. He was registered disabled, legitimately so, and took great delight in exploiting this for parking. Parking outside my King Street flat isn’t necessarily easy, especially when driving with a trailer, as he did the day he took these sofas round, but he found a way – by parking his Volvo and trailer along the pavement, and blocking any poor pedestrians. He just pointed at his disabled badge and laughed. Sometimes I wish I was disabled too.
Now, this is much nicer. The sofa is again nestled perfectly in that fortunately-sized recess, a good quality shelf has been attached (better than last year’s shambolic effort), and some new furniture in place, courtesy of my £450 acquisition of an entire flatful of furniture earlier in the month. The wall light, one of three, is from last year, and was the cheapest from Argos. By a stroke of luck, it is the same shade as the wall, and with the main light on gives the room a soothing, sultry ambience.
And here’s the view of the kitchen area. I’m rather pleased with how it’s turned out. The kitchen unit surface was in a horrible way, so I made my own with some wood and tiles, and hopefully it will be durable. A good new shelf has replaced the ghastly white slab of years earlier, and a table salvaged from Justin’s old flat, together with the enchanting blue chairs, makes a cute little dining area. The stools, quite rickety things if truth be told, are from way back in 2002. I don’t think they’re very useful these days, in light of this new dining area, but they look quite nice. All the cups, glasses, plates, crockery and cutlery came from Asda. I used to think Asda was a place for the underclass, but they do a superb range of budget kitchenware, so I’ve revised my opinion. I’m also told they do quite good food now as well, but who cares about that?
There we are, my King Street flat, after its second revamping. Hopefully too, the last for some time, as it would be nice to get tenants of the calibre of Nelson Street’s. Overall, I’m pleased with how King Street turned out, although I don’t believe it is done overall quite as well as Nelson Street (despite being a nicer flat). It really needs the kitchen wallpaper stripped and repapered, a new boiler, a new shower, and one day I hope to do something major with the attic. But all that is for another day, way in the future.