Thursday, 17 April 2008
I used to live in a really rough neighbourhood. I ended up there because i was desperate to move out of my mother's house (not for any bad reason, i was just ready to spread my wings), but wary of flat-sharing. The flat in this neighbourhood became available very suddenly and i had to act quickly. It was a one bedroom flat, and i figured that it wouldn't be so bad, as i'd come home each night, shut the door behind me and i'd be safe and sound in my nice, clean dwellings.
Dave Chappelle, the comedian, does a high-larious skit about his first trip into the 'hood in DC, where he encountered a crack-dealing baby. He could just as easily been describing this area of London that i lived in, though i never came across any crack dealers myself. The bit i'm referring to starts around the 4:56min mark or 7:00 to go straight to the baby part. (Warning: The language is 'fruity')
So i moved in and nothing untoward happened for quite awhile. I'm not saying things weren't going on all around me, as each morning, i'd walk to the bus stop only to behold yet another yellow police notice asking for witnesses to come forward for burgularies, assault, murder, you name it! Actually, in the first year, the only dodgy thing that did happen was that i once had a knock on the door. I wasn't expecting anyone so i spoke through the door asking who it was. A man replied that he was from the flat below and there's a leak in the ceiling which might have originated from my flat. I said it wasn't from here and he eventually left. So far, so good. The only problem with that story was that i was on the first floor and all the ground floor was either offices or the Tenant's Hall. There had also been a spate of burgularies whereby the thugs had gained access to people's homes by pretending to be on legitimate business.
Something noteworthy did happen eventually. I think i must have been there for a year or so. It was a Sunday morning and being in the choir, i had to be in church an hour before the service began. I was running late, and had just managed to gulp down some of my obligatory morning cup of tea, dump the mug in the sink, open the front door and step out, only to almost stumble over a Somali-looking man lying prone about 3 feet away from my door with a pool of blood around his head.
Once my heart had returned to as close to it's normal rhythm it was going to get, i gingerly inched towards the body because tragically, that's what it was. He was dead, his eyes wide open and glazed over. I whipped out my phone and was about to dial 999, when it occurred to me that i didn't want the police having my number. I locked my door, determined to call from a phone booth along the way to the bus stop, but somehow somehow, i found myself on the bus towards the tube station and that was that!
When i got back home that evening the body had gone and there was police tape around the place, so i guess someone else had discharged thier duty as a good citizen. Till this day, i'm not sure how i managed to literally step over the body of a dead man (okay, i exagerrate) and go about my business. I guess i feared the wrath of my choir master more than i felt any civil responsibility. I figured he was dead and there was nothing that was going to change that. I know that makes me sound like a cold-hearted witch, but i'm not. What would you have done?
So, life continued. Towards the end of my second year in the place though, things took a turn for the worse. On this particular day, i'd been on study leave and at college. I got home to find my kitchen window shattered and the front door, wide open. I gingerly made my way inside and it became obvious that i'd been burgled (durrr!). They had taken my work laptop, which i had brought home with me the previous day. I think that was all. I called the police and they subsequently sent round a CSI (not Gary Dourdan, unfortunately). He dusted for prints and all that stuff they do, but found nothing. Needless to say, i hardly slept a wink that night as the window was broken and wide open.
The landlord had the window boarded up temporarily whilst he made arrangements for it to be replaced, but the following weekend, i returned home from a wedding, only to find the board bashed in. Once again, they'd come and this time they took all my CDs and DVDs, some electronics and stuff like that. I was livid.
The window was finally replaced, but very soon, the little toe-rags (how do i know they were 'little'? Don't worry. I'll get to that soon) came back, smashed the glass and came in again. This time, they were really starting to take the mickey as they took my mini-stepper, and some new pots and pans (still in the packaging) that had been a birthday present from my Mum!
To cut a long story short, they came back one more time, after which i said 'enough is enough, I'm outta here'! So i got over my fear of living with strangers and found a flat share somewhere in North London.
The landlord found a new tenant who also happened to be a guy who worked shifts. You won't believe that they actually came again, smashed the window and climbed in. Or maybe they didn't. The tale gets a bit murky here. Basically, the man was in and asleep and the noise woke him. Imagine their shock! Turned out they were two boys in their early teens who had figured out that i was never in during the day so they'd decided to just help themselves to my possessions! I can't imagine what they thought they would get on the 5th 'visit'! Unbelievable!!! Thinking back, i can't remember if i took the moral high ground or if i cast some hot ijebu curses their way. Anyway, that's my experience of ghetto living. I was glad to get out, i can tell you that for nothing, but not everyone gets to do that...