Scary stories from a lovely place
There are lots of houses around where we live in Brixton that are going to rack and ruin. This is an old area, some of the houses have date marks taking them back to the early 1900’s. On some the beauty is easy to see. On others you have to look closer. Detail has been painted or plastered over again and again, fences and walls have been erected and then torn down to make way for more intimidating ones. Gardens range from beautiful menageries of plants and birds to plain old dirt right next door. Windows are smashed or finely dressed. Driveways are swept or littered with new rubbish on top of remnants caked into the ground.
The residents are a combination of student communes owned by indifferent and responsible homeowners or slumlords, retirees, young professionals and families of every colour and religion. As such the condition of the homes depends on who owns the four walls and who is residing inside them. Across the road from me is a lovely home that an elderly couple have lived in for a very long time. But just behind their home, in the next street is a house that must be occupied by squatters. The outside walls are concreted but unpainted. There is no glass in the windows. There is no front door. There is no security of any degree. The front garden is dirt and rubbish. It’s a bizarre contrast to other homes in the street.
Stephen bought our house in early 2008, just before we met. It was not as bad as the aforementioned home, but it was on it’s way. It had been a student commune for at least ten years. The walls were painted a mustard yellow, and the ceilings, the same, but in a gloss form. It was uber dirty. There must have been a small cooker against the one wall in the kitchen – it was splattered with years worth of oil and cooking splashes. The toilet was smashed and the bath was filthy. There was chewing gum stuck to the bedroom walls, which were also filthy. Someone had scratched their name into the floor on one spot in the kitchen. A dry wall had been erected in the front room to make it a third bedroom. But Stephen saw potential. He saw through all the above to the high, pressed-steel ceilings, the ancient looking fireplace, the wooden floorboards and the antique metal light switches.
Stephen, his parents, me and various friends put in work over the last few years to make the home lovely. It’s now pretty classy. But we had our limits. There was lots we wanted to do but couldn’t afford. We wanted to sand the floorboards, renovate the bathroom and kitchen, build a deck at the back to appreciate the view to the south and landscape the garden a-la 44 Stanley. This sounds like a lot of things, and even though we never got to it, the house is in much better condition now than under it’s previous owner/s.
As of today it is no longer Stephen’s house. We sold it in late January and the process is finally done. Now it belongs to another man and his wife. We really wanted to sell it to someone who would appreciate it, not pack it full of students paying too much for little space. So we were discerning in who we sold it to. We also have our neighbours’ quality of life to consider. The new owner has expressed a desire to do many of the things we would have liked to. In fact, one of the things he will do before they move in is fix up the bathroom. It really needs it.
I’ve loved living in this house. Mainly because of my housemate, but also because we made it nice. We’ve had some great braais and dinner parties with friends. We had a crazy bonfire night when Stephen almost blew off his head. Stephen’s parents have stayed. My mum has stayed. Other random people have crashed in the spare bed. This was Silas’ first home. The house was redeemed from potential ruin. We did a bit. I’m glad the process will continue under the protective hand of the next family.