Chapter 2 – Refuge from the storm
Danny stood outside of 301 Green Lanes looking up at the decaying brickwork of the old house with its peeling paint and rambling rooms. It didn’t look exactly exciting or full of promise but it might just be exactly what he required. It was the type of place he could get lost in. He could crawl away from the world and lick his wounds. Like him it looked battered and dilapidated and in need of a lot of love. But it also looked cosy and at one with itself. The place had been through the mill and it showed but it still looked proud and defiant.
Suzie pointed out the two little dormer windows on the fourth floor with their flaking green and cream paint, sticking up out of the grey slate tiles of the roof.
‘That one’s the bedroom,’ she enthused, pointing excitedly, ‘and that one is the living room.’
Danny was not really listening. He was enthralled. This was heaven. He liked the feel of the place. It beat hell out of those dreadful new soulless blocks of flats. This place had character. It looked old and homely.
Suzie took his hand and led him up the flight of steps to the front door. Danny allowed himself to be steered as if in a dream. He took everything in though. The steps leading down to the basement flat, the freshly painted bright red front door with its array of doorbells, each with a name scribbled in biro next to it. Danny noted Suzie and Charlotte were there at number eight on the fourth floor.
‘Here’s the phone,’ Suzie said as they passed, indicating a black phone in a small booth in an alcove in the hallway, with some strange black hood around it, as if pretending to provide some privacy. ‘If someone phones for you, or calls at the door, Mr Rose will ring the doorbell. As we’re on the fourth floor it’s four times for us.
Danny frowned in wonder at the thought of the landlord actually answering the phone and summoning people. It seemed a duty far in excess of his role.
They clattered down the passage giggling and laughing like lovers. Suzy dragged him up the four flights of stairs, pointing out the shared bathroom and rattling off names for all the people behind the doors that went in one ear and out the other. Danny allowed himself to be pulled along and even caught up in Suzie’s high spirits. Already he could feel his mood soaring. This was exciting – fun. It put Cheryl and his bust up at work right out of his head.
They reached the flat and Suzie turned the key, pushed the door open, and then handed the key to Danny, with a little curtsey, and stood aside to let him through.
Danny walked in and found himself standing in the small passage that served as a kitchen. There was a small stove at one end with a narrow cupboard to the side of it, a sink with two taps, one of which was dripping, and a small shelf with nails sticking out to hang mugs. The flooring was some swirly green lino and the walls drab patterned wallpaper. He stepped forward and pushed the door open into the living room. There were two old dark green armchairs with wooden arms, a moth-eaten sofa, a telly in the corner balanced on a painted chest of drawers, a carpet of indecipherable colour and walls that seemed to be covered with orange patterns, which turned out to be just faded and aged watermarks on beige textured wallpaper. The recess held the window they had seen from the courtyard. It had a single frame with four small panes and was so dirty it hardly let any light in. Suzy and Charlotte had not made a great deal of effort to make the place their own. A few crappy Pop Star posters pinned to the sloping walls seemed to be the only gesture in that direction. Danny looked at the pictures of the Osmonds, Sweet and T Rex and made a mental note not to talk music with Suzie. But he liked the place. The sloping ceilings gave it a cosy feel. It was different. Danny stepped back and took two steps down the passage to push open the other door, the door to the bedroom. There was a built in wardrobe and double bed and the twin of the recess and window of the first room. It was an identical room with those same sloping ceilings.
All Suzie and Charlotte had done in the bedroom in way of decoration was to stick up a couple of art posters of Van Gogh’s sunflowers to try to brighten it up. They were at least preferable to the Pop Stars of the living room but did not exactly do a lot for the ambiance.
The place felt cold and dank with a rather unpleasant odour.
Suzie ushered him back into the living room and into a seat. She flicked on two bars of the electric fire in the hearth and then bustled off into the ‘kitchen’.
‘It’ll soon warm up,’ she called. ‘I’ll rustle up a cup of tea.’
She went out the front door to the hall where the small fridge sat on the landing. There wasn’t room for it inside. ‘You’ll have to have it black I’m afraid,’ she called. ‘You can have all the furniture and the telly. Most of it was here when we came anyway.’
Danny looked round at the furniture he had inherited.
Suzie babbled away from the kitchen as Danny sat and tried to take it in. Eventually he heard the sound of the kettle trilling and then the clink of stirring. He had a place to stay.
Suzie came in with a big beam and two mugs of black coffee.
‘No tea,’ Suzie informed him with a shrug and grimace. ‘I’ve done coffee with two sugars.’
‘Coffee’s fine,’ Danny responded with an attempt at a smile. He was finding it hard to think of Suzie and Charlotte living in this place. They were two very smart girls who really did not seem to fit in with the beat up shabbiness of the place. They were much more suited to a bright, smart modern flat – all metal, glass and clean white walls.
‘Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits used to live here,’ Suzie enthused as if expecting him to be well impressed.
Somehow that did not add to the cache of the place in Danny’s eyes. But he found that it did not detract either. He’d put his hold-all in the corner and it seemed as if he had already moved in. As Suzie babbled on about the meter for the gas and keeping a store of shillings, about the neighbours, Mr Rose and something about the garden, Danny’s mind was already making plans. He sipped his sweet black coffee and tried to keep focussed on Suzie so that he nodded in the right places. But his mind was already flitting ahead.
Danny already felt at home.