What a day.
They always start off so innocuously don’t they? Partner went off to buy a bolt to secure one of the front doors to our block and a new number plate as part of our redecoration of the entrance area.
I decided to do some exciting tasks like cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floors in the flat.
Partner fitted the bolt. Then there was a problem with the lock. This is one of those double door entrances. One is normally left bolted shut, and the other one has a Yale lock to enter.
Doors in rather nice deep grey undercoat. Many of us preferred this to the subsequent green gloss.
For the last two years, the lock hasn’t worked. The door shuts, but basically, if you pushed on it, the door would open without needing a key. This was due to someone, probably one of the Vamps and their pack, pushing on it some time ago. So it screwed the lock.
However, Partner had tightened up the top bolt the other day and to persons of average or feeble strength (unlike Vampires) a key was now needed to open the door.
But in a matter of days, this clearly didn’t suit someone, who either kicked or shoulder charged it, thus totally stuffing up the lock. We do have an intercom for the block but that must be too difficult to use.
I could still make my key work in the lock with a little judicious wiggling. Partner’s key wouldn’t work. The key of a neighbour who lives on our landing wouldn’t work. The Indian who stores something in one of the downstairs flats didn’t have any keys.
This was escalating. We had visions of half the block locked out. A number of our residents work whacky hours in gambling, which I should really call gaming, but it is still gambling so that’s what I’ll call it.
We secure the door, they come home at 3am or whatever, and can’t get in. Not clever.
‘I’m going for a new lock,’ says Partner. I agreed to ring the keycutter and see if he could cut 30 keys in a couple of hours (two per flat). He wasn’t in the ‘phone book.
‘Why didn’t you walk down?’ snarled Partner on his return with a new lock.
Right. So I’m just going to walk down and ask how many keys he can cut today. Walk home. Walk back down to give him a key to cut some copies. Walk home. Walk back to collect keys. Walk home. No.
I walked down with the key, prepared to bargain for anywhere between 10 and 15 keys. Not necessary. He agreed to cut all 30 by 5pm. He didn’t want a deposit.
Earlier this week one of the tenants had moved out. Apparently the leaseholder wanted to put up the rent so they had found somewhere cheaper.
They had also thrown out rather a lot of books. Seventy actually. Including a couple of Twilight novels which I do recommend. Sort of Buffyish, good vampires, sexual attraction and a few baddies kicking around. Or kicking arse. And then we move on to werewolves. Why didn’t the tenants buy all the series? I’m going to have to see if the library has the others.
Bags of books
‘We can give them away to people,’ I said generously to Partner.
‘We can sell them at a car boot sale for a euro or a quid each,’ said Partner. I did the sums and my generosity suddenly disappeared. Especially when I convinced myself how unsound it had been to throw so many books in the rubbish bin. We did give a few away. They were in German. I’ll read Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, but not German. Unless it’s archaeology.
New tenants were moving into the same flat yesterday. Partner had been chatting to the estate agent that he knows when she came to view the flat – and she described it as filthy.
I realised I needed to ring her. Not good to give new tenants keys to the block and them not to be able to get in when they turned up later because we had changed the lock.
‘Oh!’ she panicked. ‘I don’t have any details for them.’
What? No name, contact details, ‘phone number, anything? ‘They came from a foreign country and they’ve gone.’
Turned out to be Spain actually. That foreign country half an hour’s walk away.
‘And the cleaner is coming tomorrow and the painter is there now, they won’t be able to get in,’ she panicked even more.
‘I’ll go and speak to the painter,’ I said reassuringly.
‘But he only speaks Spanish!’ Her voice was going through the roof at this point and so was my patience.
Somewhat later the new tenants did contact me. I helpfully informed him about the change of locks and said we needed to meet someone to hand over different keys for the front door.
After a little bit of the gentle roughseas interrogation, the new tenant said, in a snotty British voice, ‘And who are you?’
‘I chair the management committee for this block.’
‘Oh, I’m very pleased to meet you then,’ he said quickly.
‘Welcome to the block.’
Power. Don’t you just love it?
When I collected the new keys I asked if there were 30. The key cutter said he had checked them twice. I said I would check them too. Would you accept 30 pound coins without checking them? And these cost more than a quid apiece.
There were 30. Part cash, part cheque? I asked. Gib is something of a cash economy. Cheque will be easier for you, he said. True, but not really the norm in Gib. Cheque it was.
‘Name, address, ‘phone number?’ I asked. Name was a stupid question as it was on the cheque.
‘Just the ‘phone number.’ I could have made that up. I didn’t. I told him it wouldn’t bounce. ‘They all say that.’ He still took the cheque.
‘The door was kicked open,’ I said in conversation.
‘Tell me about it.’ I didn’t bother. He obviously already knew. ‘I’ll have to check out 30 keys now,’ I said. He laughed.
Back at the block, I checked out 30 keys. Twice. We collared at least half the block coming in and out at the time and dished out their new keys. We then ran up and down the block knocking on doors. I rifled through some personal paperwork and the ‘phone book to ring other people to let them know about the change.
By early evening we had contacted the residents of 15 flats and issued keys to virtually all of them. Everyone knew about the change.
How many people knocked on the door yesterday?
First up, the daughter of the new tenant, and we gave her the keys. Very nice girl. Extremely sociable and polite. We’d also given keys to another young teenager who lives in the block who we met in the doorway and she responsibly accepted them on behalf of her family.
Next to knock on the door was our lovely long-term non-payer. Biggest outstanding non-payer in the block. Nothing to do with the keys, but to discuss work he wants done affecting his flat.
He summonsed us up to his flat. Um, I thought he wanted to speak to me, not issue demands? By the time I got up there, Partner and him were already locked in an argument.
Whoa boys. I bought a bit of time and we went onto the roof to look at the source of the problem – a rusting old water tank.
‘I want to speak to you without HIM,’ said Mr Non-Payer.
‘Fine, your brother goes too, and it’s just one to one. We’ll sit on those chairs over there.’
The also-rans obediently departed. We sat on the chairs. Mr Non-Payer pulled out his notes and questioned me, writing down my answers to his questions.
Yes, we had approved the works. No, we wouldn’t carry out the works until he paid up in full. Board policy. No way are the rest of the block who are fully paid up, subsidising works for his benefit, when he is in arrears. He dutifully wrote all this down.
‘I’m not paying until the work is done,’ he said, in the soft Irish brogue.
‘The work isn’t getting done until you pay,’ I replied in hard Yorkshire.
‘If I pay, when will it get done?’ he asked.
‘Don’t know. Have to ask Partner. And when am I going to see some money?’
Whereupon he flashed me a one-er. Or however it is spelled. (A hundred quid).
He didn’t want to come into our flat of course. But having been summonsed up to his flat I was a bit tired of silly power games and told him to stop being so precious.
Partner told him the work could be done in a couple of weeks after he paid. This involves erecting guard rails to the roof, removing a redundant water tank, applying a waterproof membrane to the roof, and redecorating the affected interior of his flat. This work costs more than he owes.
I’d told him I would put it to the board for approval. I did that.
Partner said the work would be done and held out his hand. Mr NP didn’t want to shake. Or didn’t want to pay?
‘It’ll take me a couple of months to get the money to pay,’ he said.
‘What about the money you won on the Grand National?’ I asked. (Four grand I might add).
Apparently he was taking his wife on holiday with that. Why do people have enough money to go on holiday but can’t pay block charges?
He went off to the pub. Natch.
Then we had the Vamp knocking on the door. Long-term readers, and those of you who read the link earlier, will know that the Vamp lives above us and used to live a night-time life and drag coffins around. She seems to have put that life in abeyance for now and has turned into a daytime Vamp.
‘What do you guys drink?’ she asked. Feminist cringe at use of you guys.
‘We’re teetotal. Tea, coffee, water,’ I said.
She looked horrified.
Partner took sympathy on her.
‘I drink San Miguel and she drinks Brut cava.’
The Vamp looked mildly relieved.
‘But what about something stronger?’
‘No,’ we both said.
Off she went, purse in hand and five minutes later, we had three large tinnies of San Miguel and a bottle of Brut cava in our hands. Thanks Vamp. She flew upstairs. Or whatever Vamps do. She’d already
bit kissed me earlier.
How about that for appreciation of what you are doing? She’s fully paid-up on her block charges and she gives us something personally. Wonderful gesture.
Who was next to knock on the door? The new tenants. One daughter. Then the father. Then the mother, who came in and chatted to us.
She got Pippa’s sniff of approval. He wandered over leisurely to sniff her. He’d ignored Mr Non-Payer.
At this point I was rapidly losing it. Far too much social contact and herding residents to give them keys was worse than herding cats. Pippa and the Vamps could just have bitten everyone. Possibly an easier option.
We hung around waiting for another neighbour to buzz us so we could give her keys. Seven o’clock, she’d said. And buzzed at ten.
Result? Everyone notified, and all but two people issued with their keys (not around).
And I do this for nothing.