When I left college, I couldn't make up my mind whether or not I wanted to move in with my boyfriend or not, so I went back to my parents' for a while. Then it became clear that I *did* want to move in with him, so I joined him in the dingy nurses home he was staying in in North London. We took turn-and-turn about sleeping on the tortuously uncomfortable cast-iron single bedstead and the incredibly uncomfortable parquet floor and we started looking for somewhere to live.
Our finances were slightly hampered by him working only eighteen hours a week and me not working at all; but eventually we found a quite cheap, quite large room in a shared house close to his work.
The house had three bedrooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs. The upstairs rooms were rented out to a group of friends who spent their spare time making replica chain mail and slaughtering orcs in the grounds of the local psychiatric hospital.
The two rooms downstairs were separated only by some glass french doors. We had one and Tony, the acting landlord, had the other, with his girlfriend Sharon. Rent was paid weekly on a cash-only basis - I made a tentative query about rent books on the day we moved in which nearly caused us to be asked to leave. Also on the day we moved in, we noticed that the double-glazing pane in the bottom of the front door was badly cracked. 'Smashed' would be another word you could use to describe it. It was still broken on the day we moved out, nearly a year later.
Tony was the son of the actual owner of the house. His family were from Naples and his real name was Antonio. The family had lots of connections in the local Italian community and Tony therefore had a problem ... Sharon was *not* italian. She was a dyed in the wool Londoner and his family didn't really approve. Despite this they'd been together for years - they had a volatile relationship which we experienced quite a lot at second hand through the glass doors, until we jury-rigged a wardrobe-and-blanket modesty-barrier and bought a TV. Sharon once tried to push Tony out of the car on the M25 at eighty miles per hour. He was driving.
Tony did building work on houses his father had bought and was doing up to sell on, but he also worked for other construction companies. During those periods, friends used to deliver building materials at odd hours of the night that would disappear in to the garage and then be gone in a day or two.
Every so often, beautifully manicured italian gentlemen wearing camel-hair overcoats and carrying expensive leather briefcases would visit Tony, and Sharon would go out to visit friends. However hard we tried not to, we could still overhear some of the conversation in the next room through the doors, the wardrobe, the blankets and the noise of the television. One day the visitor said:
"Antonio ... Uncle is NOT VERY HAPPY with you".
I started to worry about coming home one evening and finding a horse's head in the bed, so we began to look for alternative accommodation.