The apartment is amazing, in an unchanged Victorian grandeur kind of way. Not ripped apart and done up and polished and pruned in a show off kind of way, just slowly added to when needed, the interesting electrics must have come first, then a Spanish boiler, it goes out when you overwork it, it needs a match to light it and you need to keep the window open as it needs ventilation.
The talkative drains no doubt are original, not noisy in general but the bath laughs loudly at the sink as it empties, tickling its pipes somewhere down below. They also have a faint wif that comes and goes, it was there on our arrival and now not, but you know its lingering, waiting for a hot day.
Arriving in the dark our host, like El Borne itself was charming, he seemed surprised as he turned on each light and it worked. Out of the darkness the next day and on the way to the park we realised we were still walking along the same building, I said wow this must still be our building, Graham agrees saying it smells like ours! Further round reveals three huge sturdy blocks overlooking the park. And we understand why our hallway is so grand.
I cannot call the hallway, or lobby, cubanesc, as I haven’t been there but you imagine with a bit of gold leaf here and there it could be. Every piece of marble they have used is a different colour, and where there is no marble, they have painted a pattern that winds up the many twists of stair. People and their bags have bumped off the paint to reveal an under colour of terracotta red, like an ancient painting, the decorators took the same care.
Our bathroom has a small square window that overlooks the cold curling stairs into the hallway; when closed light flickers in past pretty twisted ironwork, and you can hear the distant street. If you open the window you can see into the cavernous space punctuated by white domed topped columns of potential electric light. Or up through unwashed multi coloured glass panels that Esher like divide the hall with the stairs.
Light reaches through the grand arch opening of glass, wood and iron doors, that you climb through a fragment of to get out. We recognise ours, as it is the one with the red graffiti across the bracing panel outside.
But even with this huge glass opening, the light fails to fill fully the space inside and doesn’t reach the wooden structure built to house the laundry room with its Victorian fancy woodwork, a building within a building, now topped with a huge funny extraction pipe, the only sign of this age and its imposed modernity. Inside it looks as if it hasn’t changed, green rimmed sinks and dripping taps.
Another more distant light disperses as it falls centrally from high up, it flays falling past rows of once used internal windows and dusty shutters, balconies and balustrades. It helps but the light from the street has stronger fingers and illuminates as best it can the builders and decorators and stonemasons and blacksmiths and glass blowers and architects efforts.