Sunday, 18 August 2013

Manor House

To an innocuous London address
A quick glance around, and then down the wet steps...

Although, to be perfectly honest, I walked down the wet steps for a perfectly legitimate reason. Shielding myself from the rain, I scuttled down a bleak, industrial road, stopping at a battered old wooden door, which I pushed at tentatively. It opened with a Knightmare-esque creak, revealing a courtyard containing (among other things) toy cars, bikes and various broken equipment, such as an abandoned trampoline. Crossing the courtyard, I found another door, wrenched it open... and stepped into my sister's house.

My sister lives in something between a share house and a commune: what was once an industrial warehouse. It still has the trappings of steel production, with doors which bear the "studio" legend and walkways, corridors and loose electrical wires. But with a haphazard grouping of furniture just over the threshold and palm trees planted in large pots, squashy chintz armchairs and random musical instruments around every corner, it is much more pleasant than it sounds. I'm not sure if I could live there... but both my sister and my cousin do, so there is a family connection there, I suppose.

I halloed my sister, thanking her for the invitation to her late birthday party and handing her a cheap Pixar DVD by way of a present. Attempting to avoid all the people smoking, which sends me into paroxysmal coughing and streaming eyes almost instantaneously, I slid across the room to where the cakes were. A guy came in with a girl who was unfamiliar to everyone else there and instantly disappeared into his room with her (apparently, this is a situation that happens almost daily) and I started a conversation with one of the only three people who I knew there - my sister's photographer friend, Vee.

Time has been kind to Vee. She still looks the same way as she looked when she was 14, even though she's ten years older than that now. We share a civil, almost friendly, relationship, although when you live with someone who's almost your sister's sister, that does tend to help. I cast around for something interesting to say after exhausting all the "my life sucks more because..." topics.

"I walked through Stamford Hill to get here," I landed upon, "and that's funny because I saw a school..."
"That's not funny, that's normal!"
"No, it was next to a block of flats and..."
"My God! A block of flats! When will this excitement end?!"
"Well, I'd just come out of a train station and..."
"I'm going to faint!"
"Can I just tell my story, Vee? Look, the other day, I had this dream about a school, a block of flats and a train station... all in Stamford Hill!"

There was a pause.

"And you just saw them all?"
"Well, not in exactly the same way, but yes."

"Oh, that's weird."
"Yeah..."
"Were you working there?"
"No, it was..."

At which there was another pause, at which I wondered about what exactly to say. Do I just do the blasé thing of confirming that I had a sex dream set in a school's staff room? Or do I just make something random up? I've known Vee since she was 12, so I should be in safe hands. But it it safe to play fast and loose with your sister's best friend? Or should there be some decorum here?

I looked around at the housemates and saw a complete lack of decorum.

"It was a sex dream," I admitted in a stage whisper (it carried over the drum'n'bass).
"Oh. Good sex?" enquired Vee, which put me off: I was expecting a laugh.
"Er... yeah, I don't remember much of it, though."
"Was it the staff room in the school you used to work at? Or the break room in the place you work now? Where do you work, anyway?"

My mind flicked between the school at which I used to work when I was 22 and the place I work now, which doesn't have a break room.

"I don't have a break room. Staff have to go and find somewhere to sit at lunch. I tend to hang around in reception and pretend I don't exist and I'm not on duty."
"That's what your dream means! It's symbolic of a desire to get a room going for staff! And that way, if you do want to have sex..."
"Genius! Why didn't I think of that?"

Vee and I left the party together. As we parted ways and I scattered alone back towards Stamford Hill, I began to wonder exactly how much wisdom comes from the most unlikely of sources.

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