Sunday 9 November 2014

How it used to be

We were down visiting the Outlaws in Waterford at Hallowe'en to protect the old folks from the ravening hoards of tots with buckets coming to the door and saying "Trick or Treat".  I'll give the young shavers Trick! One of the neighbours came with her three small girls and on the doorstep the conversation turned disconcertingly to rats (Rattus norvegicus, I presume, because Rattus rattus is so rarely seen in these black death free days).  Seemingly an old house on the street is being extensively renovated and 100 years of rodents are on the move in protest at the disruptive noise. Everyone was warning each other not to leave the ground-floor windows open. Can't see what all the fuss is about really but it was certainly simpler in the old days when we lived in smaller homes with fewer places for the varmints to hide.  And I'll take this opportunity to Snopes-on-the-head the absurd 'fact' that there are as many rats as people in New York City (or by extension in whatever city you live.

The first place that The Beloved and I officially cohabited was a bedsitter in Westland Row Dublin 2 right opposite where I was whacked off my bike 20 years later.  It was also 200m from the back-gate of TCD where I was at college, so it was a 2 minute commute. The room had been advertised in the The Herald, one of two local evening papers, as "Cosy bed-sitting room, fully furnished and carpeted. Worth viewing" at £6.50 a week".  You can get a feel for what else £6.50 bought a couple of years later. The dimensions of our home were 2.4m x 2.4m x 2.7m with the largest dimension vertical.  A little over half of the floor area was taken up by an antique bed and under the window was a little folding table with one kitchen chair. Guests could sit on the bed. The kitchen consisted of a regular wash-hand basin in one corner and a chipboard counter painted red that brought an electric hot-plate up to waist-level.  Underneath the counter was a minute fridge that didn't work. I asked the landlord to fix the fridge or get rid of it but he never seemed to get round to the task so we used the fridge as a mouse-proof cupboard. The other thing the landlord never fixed was the wall-paper - the place was so chronically damp that. from the week after we moved in, the multi-layered paper started to peel off the wall from the top.  It was like the Pit and the Pendulum as the room got smaller by the day.

The only 'meat' that we could both afford and conveniently cook was sausages. A vegetarian diet in early 1970s Ireland was a step too alien even for us.  The sausages were cheap and so full of fat that they reduced 50% in volume as they cooked. We knew we had a mouse problem when we found the parallel scrape marks of mouse incisors in the congealed fat, the morning after the fry before.  I can't remember what aspect of this shit-hole finally broke us enough to start looking in the Herald again but we lived at 40 Westland Row for several months in happy simplicity with our minute flat-mates. The next place we landed was the same price per week but inconveniently far (~1.1km) from college.  More to the point, the floor area was 3m x 5m, so we had room to swing a cat and there were no mice.  Things were looking up!

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