6.15pm I make a pina colada. Before you ask, just because.
6.16pm the phone rings.
I glance down and scowl, it’s a handyman. I take a sip and answer the phone. The coconut cream has barely a chance to touch my tongue when the acrid taste of being a landlord overwhelms my senses.
‘I’m really sorry to bother you SL, I didn’t know who else to call.’
I hold my tongue, I want to say the agent, but manners dictate I reply not.
‘I’ve come to this property where there’s been a report of damp and it’s crazy.’
‘OK, what’s crazy?’
‘Well, this flat, this guy who’s moved in a couple of months back, there’s black in places where I’ve never seen black. I’ll send you photos now.’
I take a deep breath. I don’t want photos. I don’t want to hear about condensation mould. I eye my drink longingly and look at the Spotify music list I’d been about to play. I sigh and flick to the WhatsApp photos pinging through.
I’m pretty pissed off when I see them.
‘How has this happened?’ I ask.
‘The guy says he can’t afford to put the heating on. But he’s there brewing cider and there were four or five other people just sat on the floor drinking – they were all drunk!’
‘Sorry, did I hear you right? We’re in lockdown and what’s happening?’
‘There’s no furniture SL, there’s no bed, he’s just sleeping on a quilt. Can you see it in my photo I sent? Not even a cover on it! There’s no tv, no chairs, they’re just all sat around on the floor drinking his homebrewed cider. They’re well pissed, and they’re loud, making a right racket. I’ve had to get out of there as they’re making allegations.’
‘What sort of allegations?’
‘They’re saying the building is unsafe and so he doesn’t have to pay his rent.’
‘How is the building unsafe?’
‘They’re saying about this black mould everywhere.’
‘That he’s caused by not putting the heating on, by brewing cider and by having loads of people around like it’s a pub? Not to mention breaking the law given it’s a national lockdown!’
‘Exactly, that’s what I said to him. I said to him, “Listen mate, this is rented as a home not a pub, I’m telling the agent.” And then I called Mrs Violet at the letting agent and told her she needs to do an inspection straightaway to put the guy to rights, but she told me she wasn’t allowed because it’s lockdown and I says to her, “But how can I be allowed to come here and its lockdown?” and she says it’s because I’m maintenance. And so, I had to call you SL.’
‘I understand, well thank you,’ I reply.
‘I don’t want to be telling you all this bad news, but you know I have to be straight. If you don’t do something pretty quick that whole flat is gonna be covered in black within the next month.’
‘I understand, thanks.’
‘Oh and there is more…well, I bumped into the neighbour down below the flat where this guy is brewing cider and he’s not happy.’
‘I can understand.’
‘No, you can’t, it’s not just the noise and all them people, one of the cider vats fell over last week and leaked all through his ceiling, he was showing me the damage.’
I take a very large sip of my now bitter tasting pina colada.
To be continued…