Situated between the affluent and the homeless of Fitzrovia stands a pillar of the neighbourhood that has been a fixture since the late 1960s. A mixture of rented and privately owned flats gives a unique sense of diversity, and while the garden and layout are wonderful, it is the people that make this building what it is.
In speaking to the residents, they are refreshingly honest. I only need to open our email account for the feed about the injustice of the forced window and lift fees that is rightly filling up the inbox. The five-figure major works bill that has been simmering for six years has led to a united response. There are also complaints about the sound made by students, the nursery and ‘youfs,’ with their parties, games, and incessant 7am alarm. Gracefully no-one kicks up too big a fuss as everyone remembers how noisy they were.
What is intolerable is the smell of urine in the morning, and weed in the evening. Suggestion came from a number of people that suitable toilets would go well with a fixed up community room and access to the roof. Other suggestions included a bike rack, playground, and a curfew, while perhaps unreasonably requests were made for Jacuzzis to be installed in each flat and for the culprits who are caught weeing in public to have their private parts removed. I doubt this will be brought up any in council meetings.
Personally I can attest to the problem of a balcony-flower thief still at large, and while they (the flowers) are certainly dead by now, it is the principle that now nobody can enjoy the beautiful display in the window.
On the whole though, it is a wonderful place to have grown up. It is a community of people at varying stages of life sharing one space, so invariably there will be disagreements. This is why it is all the more amazing to see such successful cohabitation. An example of this is when members enjoyed a garden party in the summer, and are looking forward to another one for the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
Behind the organisation are neighbours with great intentions, ready and willing to not only lend sugar, but regularly hot water.
One person who sadly missed these festivities was the recently deceased Jamaican chef across the hall. Though he struggled through alcoholism and in his later stages was resigned to a wheelchair, he still managed to be a joyful giver of flowers, chocolates and perspective. His gift of kindness we all could do well to emulate and it would make these halls better than ever.