Eventually, I managed to secure a job in Manchester and was able to move up there to join Helen. It was only a temporary job, due to end on Christmas Eve. You might think that this was a pretty flimsy basis on which to decide to relocate, and you’d be right, but at the time we didn’t care, we were perfectly open to doing reckless things, and the company I was going to work for had sort-of-promised me a job in the new year.
In a fit of excitement, we rented our first place together. It was on the ground floor of a Victorian semi-detached house in Didsbury, 11 Central Road (which, confusingly, was the second house in the street – were it not for the fact that the first house was number 9 I would have supposed they were numbering in binary).
As a home, it lacked a lot of things, such as central heating, a sensibly sized hot water tank or a proper washing machine. Instead, it had electric heaters that had to be moved from room to room, which not only ate electricity but meant that we had the choice of either being cold in the room that we were in, or in the one that we were next going to.
Also eating electricity was the fact that we didn’t have a shower, which meant that we could only wash by taking baths. But the hot water tank didn’t hold enough water to fill the bath, meaning that we would end up boiling kettles full of water and heating pans of it on the hob just to have a wash.
The washing machine was just weird. It was a small plastic box, which was designed to sit on the draining board. Rubber hoses, like the ones you use to attach a shower head to taps, connected it to the sink. It had no spin function and did not drain automatically, meaning that you had to empty it at the end of the wash, refil with cold water to rinse the clothes, empty it again and then wring everything out into the sink before hanging it to dry on the old wooden airer which, we quickly found, stained any clothes that were not dark, meaning that you had to wash them again. In the end, we gave up on the thing and spent our Sunday mornings in Mr Bubbles’ laundromat (or rather in the Queen of Hearts pub a couple of doors down from it).
The flat also had some things that you didn’t want. The mould under the bedroom window was easily disposed of, but the rising damp in the living room, caused by the landlord’s insistence upon having flower beds adjacent to the walls of a property with no damp proof course, was never fixed. And the previous tenant had had a phobia about white walls, which came no way close to explaining why she had painted the place in varying shades of brown.
In short, it was often cold, occasionally damp, cost the earth for electricity and we ended up redecorating it at our own expense. But it was our home for our first nine months of living together and we always remained strangely fond of it