This is a three part, true story that I posted some years back. Writing this had a very real effect on me, even forty years after the events. I have re-worked it, filling in some of the details I originally left out.
It was 1969 and Jim and I, having just got married, managed to find an unfurnished flat, in a very nice part of London. We had by far, the best flat in the house. It was the ground floor flat and had a patio that we were told was for our sole use. We were both on good salaries so the cost was not a problem, though we did have a problem.
We were continually being harassed by the landlord, to swap flats with a couple that lived right at the top of the house. Their flat was much smaller and we were happy where we were, so we told him so, each time he asked. It wasn’t long before this couple were not only using our patio and invading our privacy, but hanging their washing on our personal washing line, meaning that we had to dry our washing inside. It was far from a friendly house. Still, we were out most evenings so that was no real problem to us. The main problem was that we had to share our bathroom and toilet with other tenants. This was NOT good!
After about a year of sharing a bathroom, and the harassment from the landlord, we had had enough. With the help of my brother, we found another flat and moved out of our first home. As this story unfolds you will see how, such a minor decision can drastically change the rest of your lives.
The story begins…..
We arrived at what would be our second home. It was a very large, rambling house in North London. The front garden was seriously overgrown. It was obvious that nobody lived here. We went up the steps and turned the key in the lock. The door opened into a large, but dim hallway with a flight of stairs on the left, leading to the first floor.
A business acquaintance of my brother owned the house. He was a property developer and was happy to leave it empty. As a favour to my brother, he had let us rent it, as long as we didn’t pester him for things, and took it ‘as is’. “The first floor flat”, we were told. I have no idea why that was stipulated, as the whole house was empty, but we accepted the offer.
We made our way up the two flights of stairs to the first floor. At the top was a very large landing area with a banister railing around it. If you looked over the bannister and down the stair well you could see the dingy ground floor hallway. A huge chest of drawers stood to one side of the landing. We opened the first door on the left. It was a large kitchen. In the centre of the room was a table and chairs. We glanced around the kitchen, in amazement. It was as if whoever lived here had just popped out for a few minutes and would be back. They had left everything, including the washing up. There were cups and plates still on the table, spilled sugar where they had made their tea. Food scraps, packets, jars and tins of food. Everywhere you looked there were signs of the people who lived there, but when? Why did whoever they were, leave in such a strange hurry? It looked as if they had been sitting down eating their breakfast or tea, and suddenly got up and left the house.
Each room we entered was the same. Clothing, belongings and furniture filled the rooms. It was all very old. The furnishings looked almost Victorian. The kitchen was the most up to date and I would say it looked like 1950’s furniture.
We went back out to the landing and the large chest of drawers. We opened the drawers one by one, and was surprised to find they were all full of belongings. I opened one of the drawers and laying right on top was a beautiful pair of white, leather gloves. As I picked one up to look closer I noticed the other glove was only half made and still had the needle and thread attached. They were beautifully stitched. Not something you would have seen worn since the 1930/40’s. Who would have been making these and not have finished them? Why would they be left behind? Again it looked like somebody had just laid them in the drawer to finish later. Why didn’t she? So many questions.
There was a beautiful, large garden to be seen through the back window, but for now we had looked at what we came to see. The rest of this huge house we would investigate another time. After we had moved in.
What other strange things awaited us? What was in the downstairs part of the house, that appeared to be ‘out of bounds’?