The Block: Part One

This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 820 words.

In my mind, I always called it the block. But it was known to the outside world as Spencer House, a boring block of flats at the edge of a much larger estate. Unlike the nearby tower blocks, Spencer House was small. Just six floors, with two flats on each one. At least the height guaranteed it had a lift, which saved walking up the stairs. The other big difference was that it was not owned by the local council. Everyone who lived there either owned their flat, or rented privately from whoever had bought it. That gave it a modicum of class, which was sadly not reflected by its outward appearance.

At one time, the small balconies would have been a blaze of colour, window boxes full of bright geranuims, or whatever was cheap at the garden centre. Recent years had attracted owners and tenants with little interest in horticulture, and the best on offer was somone’s washing, drying on a few pegs clipped to a short line or wire stretched across the space. Despite the ridiculous cost of buying one of the flats at the time, you would never know that any of the residents had a pot to piss in.

Still, the service charges paid for a cleaner to mop the staircases, and entrance hall. The entryphone system guaranteed no random visitors or criminal elements, and the lift was maintained to a good standard. Just as well, as I lived on the sixth floor. At one time, I knew a few names, and would even stop to chat on my way in or out. But then that became nods, or an occasional “How you doing?” With a high turnover in the rented properties, I hardly recognised a lot of the people coming and going, and became convinced that tenants were sub-letting. And those sub-letters were likely doing the same.

In the absence of familiar faces and names, I started to give them my own names, just in my head of course. ‘Frizzy-Haired Sexy Girl’. ‘Fat Bald Bloke’, ‘Loud Couple From Second Floor’. I had names for them all by the end.

The trouble really started over the parking spaces. When the block was built, I presume they wanted to save money on land, or thought everyone would have just one car. So they built a parking area outside, with just twelve spaces. But they didn’t bother to number them, just painted white lines that left a gap about the size of an average car. Well, we all know that most couples have two cars these days. Even a single Mum with a teenage kid might have two cars as well. And then there was ‘Middle-Aged Biker Man’, who wanted to use his space to park his sad little fake Harley in, as well as his sporty hatchback..

I never told anyone, but I was probably the only one living there who didn’t have a car.

One weekend, Fat Bald Bloke reversed his van into the motorbike. Whether this was accidental or intentional, I never found out. But I heard the shouting all the way up in my flat, and went out onto the balcony to look down on the fun. The bike was on its side, and Middle-Aged Biker Man was waving his arms around, looking a bit like a mushroom in his American-style crash helmet. Fat Bald Bloke gave him the finger, climbed back in his van, and drove off. I enjoyed watching Biker Man trying to lift his bike back up level, and even timed how long it took him.

Seven minutes.

Then I spotted Possible Junkie walking toward the entrance carrying two blue plastic bags. He had obviously come from Vijay’s shop near the precinct, as Vijay always gave out those bags for free, even if you only bought a Snickers or something. Possible Junkie looked like he had never eaten anything. You could see the bone structure of his face and head, and count the individual bones of his hands. He wore skinny jeans so narrow, I had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to ever remove them. I was sure that only a heroin addict could exist being that thin, fuelled solely by drugs and cans of cider. He could have got a job as a skeleton, every Halloween.

The drilling woke me up early that Sunday morning.

Biker Man was standing watching two guys drilling into the tarmac on the corners of his parking space. Well, the space he always insisted was his anyway. I made some tea and toast and went back out onto the balcony to watch. They were bolting metal posts into the corners of the space, and judging by the rolled up heavy chain next to them, it seemed to me that Biker Man was about to fence off his space with chains. I gave a low whistle, and smiled.

Fat Bald Bloke was not going to like that one bit.

51 thoughts on “The Block: Part One

    1. Thanks for coming aboard with this new serial, Margie. It is a very ‘London’ story. Let me know if there is anything you might not fully grasp because of that. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  1. I love it already. Anna Quindlen wrote a fun book called “Alternate Side” about parking on a block in New York City and all the characters. I will enjoy reading your take on a similar situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A time long ago (the 1980s) in a place far away (in the Panhandle of Florida) a friend and I were walking in a Park of a small town. We knew no one and as we noticed the goings-on we referred to people by characteristics much as the voice of the sixth-floor narrator in this story. the story brought back that afternoon. thank you. Warmest regards, Theo

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    1. Thanks, Theo. That comes from me of course. I use it all the time to refer to dog walkers and neighbours who I do not know well. ‘Jenny two-dogs’, ‘Mister Grumpy Husky’, and so on. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. (1) I wonder if there’s a female flat owner who’s as flat as a pancake, and what name might be given her—Board Broad? And might she be related to Anna Grammy?
    (2) Our bright geraniums grow in the dumbest places.
    (3) The U.S. Navy routinely delivers sub-letters, but requires the paper to have an official watermark.
    (4) Popular block holiday song: 🎵All I want for Christmas is my two parking spaces🎵
    (5) Possible Junkie’s actual name is Jack Skellington. Heroin gives him nightmares.
    (6) Possible Junkie’s druggie amigo, Definite Pothead, smokes pot—but doesn’t have a pot to piss in.
    (7) Shroomers don’t realize they’re riding a sad little fake Harley. Convinced they’re riding a hog with a classic winged logo, they actually believe their bike can fly: “Hey, look! I’m Flying Freddie!”
    (8) The rumor will spread quickly that Middle-Aged Biker Man has privatized his parking space. I’m looking forward to the chain reaction.

    NOTE: I immediately thought of “Rear Window.” But, clearly, so did others. That’s why I didn’t grace this chapter with any cinematically paneful puns.

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  4. Okay, I’m in this time. I fell behind in the last serial and finally gave up, Pete. I’ve already taken a liking to Fat Bald Bloke. He must be a real heartbreaker with the ladies.🤣

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        1. I had noisy neighbours above me for fiveyears. They received letters from the management, and were even threatened with legal action. I was glad to get away from there to Beetley.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I suppose it does feel a lot like ‘Rear Window’. It is very ‘London’ though, and definitely ‘working class’, even though the narrator owns his own expensive apartment.
      Glad you are interested from the start.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Acute social perception as ever. As I’ve lived in an apartment block, it’s depressingly familiar. The misuse of balconies, the trouble over parking spaces. Every day of “lockdown”, I thank god that I’m not living in a flat without a garden, now, and feel sick with sympathy for those who are.

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    1. Thanks, Pippa. I was going to base this on my last residence, in Camden. But that had 55 flats on five floors, and would have run to far too many episodes. 🙂
      Best wishes as alays, Pete. x

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  6. Gosh you are prolific! I envy you immensely for the wherewithal to keep posting new stories. Personally, I find I stay with your stories if they are shorter. Let me try to stay with this one, this time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoy the discipline of serials, Cindy. But I don’t expect everyone to follow them, obviously. I have a lot less to do than most people, and I appreciate that. I had already written this in draft during the last serial, and wasn’t sure whether to go on with it.
      Then I did. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I suspect I might have watched a great many more films, Cindy. And I might have gone a lot further afield with Ollie. But no regrets so far. 🙂
          Best wishes, Pete. x

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