By a member of our creative writing group Write to Life
On the first day I arrived in the shared flat, I went into the bedroom and it was very dirty; dust was everywhere. They’d put a sheet and a duvet cover and a pillow case in a bag and left it on the bed with the duvet, three plates, a cup, a glass, a knife, fork and spoon. Also two towels. That was it.
The room is tiny. It has only a bed and a narrow wardrobe. Nothing else. Nothing else would fit in. As a Moslem, even praying in the right direction is not possible; there’s not enough room. There’s a pipe running down the wall into the floor, in the corner next to the wardrobe. Where it goes in, there’s a hole in the floor.
It had a horrible smell – the window had been shut for a long time. I opened the window and asked the manager for a vacuum cleaner, he said he’d come back with it. I waited a week.
Before I went to bed, I went to the bathroom to wash, It was early March; cold weather. The water ran hot for one minute, then cold. So I couldn’t shower. I went back to my room and went back to sleep like that, in the dirt.
This was a Tuesday. NASS were supposed to put money on my card that day; it didn’t arrive till the following Monday. On Wednesday I came to FFT and got my travel money; I took the bus back which took almost three hours but meant I could save a little money for chicken and chips.
On Thursday I went to JRS, a refugee support centre near Wapping, where I go on Thursdays every two weeks. They were able to give me £20. I ate there before going back home. So that £20 I managed to make last for those four days. On the Monday my money arrived; Section 2 support, £35 a week.
I had made enough for three days but there’s no microwave there and as I couldn’t use his pans, I had to eat it cold. I didn’t put it in the fridge because I thought if I did, somebody would take it, and then I’d have nothing to eat.
It’s not much money. In the morning I have fruit, but then I don’t eat again until the late afternoon when I can go and get chicken and chips, which is not healthy. So I wanted to cook for myself, and once I was getting a little money, I went and bought food. One day last week I found some cooking equipment in the kitchen; I thought it was for everybody so I took a pan and started to cook in it. Five minutes later one of the other occupants came out of his room and said, ‘That’s not yours, it’s mine – you have to get your own pans and stuff’. I told him I was sorry, and asked if he needed it right then. He said no it was okay so I carried on. He told me to choose a cupboard for my stuff. But all the cupboards were full. He left his dirty dishes next to the sink, so I washed them up with mine and his pan. But when he came back instead of thanking me, he just took them and filled them with water and put them back where they’d been, beside the sink. I could see in his face he was not happy that I had washed his stuff, but he said nothing so I didn’t either. I put my food on my one plate and put it in the bedroom. I had made enough for three days but there’s no microwave there and as I couldn’t use his pans, I had to eat it cold. I didn’t put it in the fridge because I thought if I did, somebody would take it, and then I’d have nothing to eat.
So I haven’t yet been able to buy any cooking equipment for myself; I’m trying to save a little money bit by bit.
A week after I arrived, the manager finally returned with the vacuum cleaner. I was able to keep it, so I now clean the common parts of the flat as well as my room. Nobody else seems to care about it.
The kitchen is dirty; the cooker is dirty and greasy. The bathroom is dirty. Five of us have to share it. I don’t see other people in there very often. The hot water was finally fixed after three weeks, so now I can have a shower.
I haven’t met two of the people in the flat. The two either side of me, I don’t know what’s wrong with them because something must be. One of them plays music loudly, day and night, any time he feels like it. R&B, Grime, noisy music. The other one is constantly on the phone, all the time. In the kitchen, in the corridor, wherever. But if anybody else comes out, he rushes back into his room. You can hear everything he says, even ten metres away. But it’s a language I don’t understand. He doesn’t want to be seen but evidently he doesn’t mind being heard.
One day on the way into the flat I passed him coming out and said, ‘Hello’. He didn’t reply, just pushed past me and went out.
When I arrived, the manager said my room was the smallest, but that somebody else would be leaving the next week. But three weeks later when I sent him a message asking about it, he said, ‘No, he hasn’t left – when he does I’ll let you know.’
The window looks out onto Uxbridge Road. I can’t see any trees, just shops and traffic.