Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Life: My house is famous

(Jan 16 update: I just found a poster from one resident offering anybody $300 to take their place (lease) at Batavia Mews. Yikes! Not only is it unlivable, but we're trapped! And residents are paying other people to take their places!)

This week my flat, Batavia Mews, made the front of the London Student newspaper.

The story focuses on the mouse infestation that has run rampant through the flats for the last six or so months, and also discusses a couple other problems students have faced: electrocution (from faulty wiring) and dirty mattresses.

Here at flat 4, we have had a few of our own problems:
  1. No heat until mid-October
  2. Clogging sinks
  3. Clogging shower drains
  4. Three days in December (19th-22nd) with no heat or hot water - (meaning no showers and lots of cold, stinky flat-mates)
  5. Loud cleaners (who come with friends and/or chat on their cell phones in the kitchens - right next to my room)
  6. Broken cabinets (one in the kitchen just fell off its hinges over a week ago, yet to be fixed)
We also live right on a major thoroughfare, meaning people with rooms on one side of the house (with old, thin windows) hear traffic noises day and night - the traffic never really stops. And then their is the nightclub half a block away, providing a persistent 'thump, thump, thump' of bass on Friday and Saturday nights, and the heavy 'fire' doors that are rigged to slam shut - they have mechanical arms that are supposed to prevent this, but most of those are worn out, and the creaking hinges (I'm looking for WD-40) and stairs and paper-thin walls and floors.

Hmm... Is that all? I think so. I really don't like to complain, especially about somewhat trivial matters when so many people in the world have it so much worse and I should be spending time on loftier academic-type things. But, I'm afraid that conditions here have made other thought and work and relationships quite difficult.

A friend of mine, when I told him that London was draining me, commented that he thought a Buddhist could be happy anywhere. I suppose this is a common misconception, that we can somehow retreat from the world around us with meditation or chanting or some such thing. On the one hand, I could retreat inwards to some extent, focus on immediate tasks and cultivating calm and metta. I think I did this three years ago when I was in Bristol.

But going underground and inward for a bit is not always so easy with the "householder's" life. The struggle for balance is an almost daily one, between the solitary academic Buddhist and the community and family-oriented guy from Montana. Both sides love nature and silence, and both are far removed from these in Southeast London.

And I sigh, sitting in my room listening to the banging of utensils and cupboards in the kitchen - and sirens from streets below, looking out over a grey, blustery day in London.

Where is my mind?
In the kitchen?
Watching over Kelly as she sleeps 4000 miles away?
Watching a summer sunset from my favorite perch near Missoula?
Where is my mind?


Kelly said...

Hi, J.

ACK! You bring your flat so clearly to my mind! It's *exactly* like this. Just a few more months, babe, just a few more months.



Patia said...

If it makes you feel any better, you're not missing anything in Montana. It is windy, snowy, dreary and blah.

And I have mice, too.

Tom said...


I feel bad complaining to you about the storm that hit Sac'to. You live in a SLUM. It's Dickensian! It's a hard-knock life!

Call up Daddy and have him send you a bucket of money. Kelly won't marry some haggard man with rat bites, even if she can call you Doc. Don't stand for that European les miserable. You're an American, damn it. You saved that country from the Nazis.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Hey babe, oh, if only I could be out of here SOONER! And with you! Sigh... grumble grumble... sigh.

Patia - yea, I'm no fan of Missoula in January, that's for sure. Kelly and I are both committed to snow-birding as much as possible in the future; Florida, New Mexico, Hawai'i, here we come!

Tom - you're right, it feels like the post-WWII good will has worn off a bit, replaced by money grubbing and bureaucracy. Bah-humbug, I say. Or, may all beings be happy, may all beings be at peace. Yea. That's better.

Jennifer said...

Hello Justin,
I am so sorry your living conditions are sub-par. We're thinking of you and sending you warm wishes.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Hia Jen - thanks a million for the warm wishes (I'll be sending them back, as I know how cold Missoula is in January :). Yea, it's a bit miserable here. I do have my better days though, those when I am able to call up my meditative/spiritual resources a bit more and wish well upon the world. Hmm... need more days like that, I think :)

SJ said...

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
Well, you're very welcome to pop over and stay in cool and green Bristol anytime you want. Same weather, fresher air, and the only rodents that are around are the ones in the trees.

Anyway, speaking of London, I got a mail from Fede and Lucia that they're going to that godforsaken place in March, are you gonna be around then? It'll be good to meet up.

SJ said...

And what's wrong with rodents?! Eh?! You looking for a fight? Why don't you pick on someone your own size big guy? Mighty mouse will stand up for his kind! squeak!

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Wahooo SJ! Yes! I'll be taking you up on visiting Bristol VERY soon. Hmmm... Early February is right around the corner. I'll get back to you with specifics asap.

London w/ Fede and Lucia! Yes again! Can you come down? You're very welcome to stay here again.

Trust me, I'm fine with the rodents! I even brought back 'sticky-traps' so they could be removed humanely. No need to quarrel there :)

Anonymous said...

oh dear... I just got my acceptance letter for these halls this morning... not looking forward to it very much any more!!!