God knows, Noah had his problems. But at least he was given prior warning about The Great Flood and had the opportunity to build a huge boat which, I expect, is what the population of Tewkesbury wished they had at the moment as the rains seem to show no sign of ceasing and the water levels continue to rise.
And so it came to pass that I found myself the subject of a watery problem recently when Pink ordered me to flatsit her friend’s tiny abode in Willesden Green while she was away for a few days. To use the word ‘tiny’ is possibly rather generous. In order for there to be enough room to swing a cat, the cat would have to have disproportionately smaller limbs than normal, preferably no tail and, in an ideal world, no head or body either. Such are the pitfalls of extortionate rental prices in London. So I dutifully agreed to the job, in the hope that I could take advantage of the change of locale to get some writing done, free of the usual distractions. I had no instructions other than to keep an eye on the place but as I left home Pink called after me that her friend’s landlord could be a little ‘difficult’ – though she was sure I’d have no reason to contact him.
However, I did have a reason to contact him because when I arrived at the bedsit I found a dead mouse on the floor in the tiny kitchen. I think I fainted, because the next thing I remember I was lying on the floor with my head propped up against the sofabed, one leg sticking through the door to the kitchen, and the other wedged between the wardrobe and living room wall. Even more disturbing was that the dead mouse had now disappeared. I rang the landlord, Abdul, immediately and a lady answered the phone with, what I perceive to be, an over-friendly and less than professional manner. She asked me to ‘hold on just one second, love’ before returning to the phone several minutes later and saying, ‘Sorry darling.’ I explained who I was and what I was doing at the flat, and asked to speak to Abdul.
It turned out that it was Abdul himself who I had been speaking to and when I told him about the mouse he let out a high-pitched shrill which, I think, was supposed to be a laugh. He said there was nothing he could do as it was just ‘one of those things’ and a dead mouse was better than a live one. The fact that there had been a dead mouse on the kitchen floor when I arrived and that same dead mouse was now missing didn’t seem to concern him, but he said I should think myself lucky it wasn’t ‘the other thing’ when the previous tenant was last seen fleeing the bedsit in the dead of night, screaming hysterically, wearing nothing but a towel and fluffy slippers.
After my strange conversation with Abdul, I put ‘the other thing’ out of my head and decided to attempt some writing. Unfortunately, I made the foolish mistake of switching on the portable television set and becoming distracted by an episode of Murder She Wrote. This is puzzling really, because I have been unable to stand the sight of Angela Lansbury ever since my parents forced me to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the nightmares from which are the reason I slept in a large cardboard box until I was fifteen. When it had finished, I switched on the news and watched continuous reportage about the current state of the flood crisis, and thanked my lucky stars I was not one of its victims. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn a lesson from bitter experience that I should never thank my lucky stars about anything, especially when I’m exposed to a situation which is potentially hazardous enough to necessitate the thanking of one’s lucky stars when one has managed to avoid it.
Having attempted to take a shower, I waited several seconds for the water to heat up, but it remained stone cold. I braved another call to Abdul who let out his high-pitched shrill again and said it was just ‘one of those things.’ He assured me that if I ran the water long enough it would eventually heat up, but after running the shower again for fifteen minutes, the water remained cold. I redialled Abdul’s number and asked if he could fix the problem, but he told me it was probably a simple case of all the hot water having been used up by the neighbours as it was a shared boiler, but I shouldn’t worry as it would reheat in a couple of hours. I was rather flabbergasted that I was sharing a boiler with some people I’d never met, and when I asked him why the bedsit didn’t have its own boiler he just said that you get what you pay for and hung up. I retired to the sofabed wondering how landlords were allowed to treat their tenants with such an apathetic manner, and if Abdul was currently enjoying the luxury of a hot shower.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of something resembling The Great Flood. Willesden Green was now in the grip of, what London Underground announcers call, ‘extreme weather conditions!’ However, it was worse than I thought because when I put my feet on the floor I found them immersed in three inches of water! The floor of the living room was completely swamped and I could see a steady flow of water pouring in under the front door. On top of that, the dead mouse had returned and was now bobbing around next to the coffee table. I felt like calling Abdul again but changed my mind as I expected he would just let out his high-pitched shrill and tell me it was another ‘one of those things.’ So I did my best to protect any furniture and valuables from getting soaked, and discarded the dead mouse down the toilet.
The rain didn’t last that long and I was pleased to find that the water in the living room began to reside. Even better, the hot water was now hot! I quickly took my chance to beat the neighbours and jumped into the shower. While I was in there, I thought I heard something moving around in the kitchen. My overactive writer’s mind immediately generated thoughts of an invasion of mice taking revenge for the undignified disposal of their furry friend. But on stepping out of the shower, I was absolutely horrified to discover a tall, skinny man in tight jeans and black vest who introduced himself as Abdul. You can imagine my reaction, especially when he looked me up and down and let out his high-pitched shrill. But he told me not to worry as he was just collecting the money from the electricity meter. Naked and in shock, I could only think to tell him about the flood, and as Abdul looked around at the residing water he said: ‘It’s just one of those things, Ducky,’ before mincing off with the meter money.
Naturally, I did not relay this part of the story to Pink as she is suspicious at the best of times. I never did find out how or why the dead mouse disappeared, but a couple of days after returning home the phone rang in the middle of the night. It was Pink’s friend. She was in an uncontrollable, hysterical panic after waking up next to a ‘giant rat’ asleep on her pillow and wanted to ask if anything like this had happened while I was there. But I just looked at Pink sleepily, let out a high-pitched shrill, and said that it was just ‘one of those things.’