The landlord's name is Simon Barre; not to be confused with my future co-worker, Simon Willetts. He used to own the Laser Quest site that later converted to Megazone equipment, and that was later bought by Megazone to become their base of operations for the UK, and that later held Pat and Katie, and later again, me.
So Pat and Katie know him from way back, which is how they hooked up with him to rent rooms to Simon Willetts and me.
Burnmoor Street is south and a little west of the city centre, not far from the twisty-turny ring road, and next to the football stadium. ("Football", of course, means soccer.) Above the houses on the west side of the road, two of the stadium's lighting towers are visible. The houses all appear to be two-storey, all built in a row. In Las Vegas, apartments are built one above the other. In England, at the time these terrace houses were built, this innovation had apparently not yet been made. Each house is extremely narrow, and extremely tall. Most of the houses have a little concrete name plate built into the facade, giving the name and year of creation of the house. The even side of the street contains Buxton Houses; Haddon Houses; Derwent House; Stratford Houses; and ours, Warwick House; all built in 1898.
Our house, 26a, is on the east side of the street, on the corner of a tiny stub street. Presumably this stub once went somewhere, but no longer: it ends after about 10 metres, in a brick wall. The front door to 26a is on this stub street. It has two locks: a familiar Yale-style tumbler lock, and one of the really old style warded locks, which I haven't seen for years, with the key with a long round shaft and symmetric mask pattern on the end.
Brian is in, and Simon introduces me. Brian is the only current tenant. He has the downstairs bedroom. He's a sports reporter for the Express, a national newspaper.
Simon mentions to Brian that there's plenty of electricity in the meter; a statement whose meaning completely eludes me until I get an explanation from someone else, much later. It seems that in England the authorities are not allowed to simply cut you off from the electricity supply without first installing a special pay-as-you-go meter. You then feed this meter cards, which you have bought from the electricity company, and it dispenses power accordingly. The meter has a little LCD screen, showing how much credit you have remaining. Just why 26a is on this scheme I don't know; but Simon periodically turns up and feeds the meter another card.
Simon shows me around the house. Ground floor is Brian's bedroom to the right of the front door, so it faces onto Burnmoor St; and kitchen / living room to the left. There is a hot water system clearly retrofitted in one top corner of the kitchen, which Simon describes as supplying "plenty of hot water". It looks to me rather small for coping with showers for three people, but that's because I haven't seen the bathroom yet.
The kitchen also contains a stove circa 1975 complete with original grease, the front-loading washing machine (about which more another day); and in the living room is a TV which picks up all four channels. The whole house has that piecemeal style furniture you get in rental accommodation; but this being England the pieces have had longer to accumulate. For example, there are plates from fourteen different sets of dishware.
Behind the kitchen / living is a tiny back yard, about 4 metres by 4 metres. In the middle, where the front door enters, is a short corridor leading to the door to the basement, and the Staircase Of Sudden Death.
The entire house is only about 4 metres deep. The Staircase needs to leave enough space for the front door to open into, and then use the remaining space to rise one floor. This means that it is extremely steep; more than 45 degrees. It goes up for about nine steps (steps that could be treated as a ladder as easily as a staircase) and then turns 180 degrees in four steps.
On the first floor (remember, that's the one above the ground floor) are two bedrooms and the bathroom. The bedroom facing onto Burnmoor St will be mine; the one opposite is Simon Willetts'. Simon has lived here before, when last he was in Leicester working for Megazone; and this was his room then.
(Various other rooms have also been occupied at times by various other Megazone personnel; the house is its own little Who's Who of Megazone.)
One corridor off the Staircase of Sudden Death serves the two bedrooms; the other corridor off it connects to the bathroom, tucked in behind Simon's room. But since the Staircase had such trouble gaining the necessary height with sufficient rapidity, there is no landing connecting these two corridors: to get from my bedroom to the bathroom, you have to step down onto the first step, and then up again into the bathroom corridor. Nice and challenging when half asleep and in the dark.
The bathroom itself is quite large and is carpeted with some kind of stuff obviously designed for bathrooms: it's like walking around on a huge bath mat. It contains a bathtub, onto which has been retrofitted an electric shower.
That's right: an electric shower. It's a box, with a single cold water pipe running into it, and electric power rewired from what used to be a light fitting overhead, and which indeed still has a string hanging down, by means of which the light could be turned on and off. There is a knob on the box to control water temperature: you twist the knob and water starts to flow, and is electrically heated by an element in the box.
I am stunned. "What a clever idea," I think to myself, "mixing water and electricity in a highly humid and poorly maintained environment, less than half a metre away from a naked human who is standing right in the middle of the shortest path to ground."
The bathroom also contains the warming cupboard. This is part of the house's heating system, and it contains a large tank which is full of warm or hot water. I am uncertain as to whether or not this tank is associated with the hot water system downstairs in the kitchen; I think not. This warm water is then piped to a series of radiators, one in each room in the house; a procedure which occasionally involves an amazing collection of creaking, groaning and clanking noises. The water heats the radiator, which in turn warms the room. The whole thing is obviously retrofitted: all the radiator pipes run outside the walls, around skirting-board height in most of the rooms.
There is also an upwards continuation of the Staircase. Cleverly, part of the ceiling over this stretch of Staircase is sufficiently low that if you choose to climb it in staircase mode (as opposed to ladder mode), you whack your head, quite hard.
The second floor contains two more bedrooms, at slightly different floor levels; with low, sloping ceilings. These two rooms are effectively the attic, so although there's plenty of space where you enter the rooms, at the middle of the house, there is a rapidly diminishing head clearance as you move towards the edges. These two rooms are presently unoccupied.
The phone and TV lines are retrofitted, similar to the heating system. (Obviously none of these things were standard in housing a century ago.) The phone line is tacked to the outside of the building and snakes in through a window to the house's sole phone jack, in the living room. However, most of the wiring for the lighting (except in the bathroom) and some of the wiring for electrical outlets is run inside the walls. The visible portion (switches and outlets) all looks modern, but I wonder what kind of wire is buried in the walls. I have a nasty suspicion that if I opened up a switch or an outlet, I'd find solid core copper cable with woven cotton insulation, long since dried and turned weak and brittle.
My room contains a bed with a heavy duvet, a bedside table and wardrobe that actually match (although the wardrobe is broken such that the doors don't close), and a mismatched bookcase, desk and chair. It now also contains my suitcase. Brian and I go out for fish and chips, which for some reason involves mushy peas; and then I go to sleep.
Tomorrow morning Phil will pick me up and we'll walk into the office together. This will supply me with a guided tour of the way to the office, and a bit of a look around Leicester.