I am back on Clifton Place. Rain pelts the skylights and the jets roar overhead every thirty seconds or so, as they do in most parts of London everywhere except, oddly, the Elephant and Castle.
It has been raining all day, sometimes reaching torrential levels with the rain pounding the pavement like hail and huge pools forming in the corner of the street. Walking home, the huge fortress like housing projects below Lafayette – two blocks south of Clifton Place – were wreathed in fog, so the upper stories were cut off by the cloud and barely visible from the street. On foggy days, this city really does look like Gotham.
I’ve involved with this place in one way or another for five years, ever since I helped the owner, Gavin, paint and plaster one of the upstairs rooms and install the cupboards and paint on the level I’m on now. In subsequent years, I’ve alternately house-sat and stayed here. When Gavin and his girlfriend Charlotte had all their furniture here – Gavin has exquisite taste, with fine prints and antique furniture and art he buys at auction on the walls – it was one of the finest places I’ve ever stayed.
Even now, when Gavin has cleared the place out to rent it and the only furniture is an airbed, a chair, and the two boxes I use to prop up this computer, it still lovely – if a little eerie. In the morning the light pours through the skylight, softening the brick wall with the single arch which separates the main space from the kitchen, the thick, century old beams which hold up the roof – and you wake up into the light and feel like you could be in a country house, say in Maine or Quebec’s Eastern townships or even rural England, and not in what is still basically the Brooklyn ghetto.