Monday, April 20, 2009

City living...

I think I've already mentioned that we're back in the city this week, and I've also mentioned that I recently I read The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble. I really enjoyed it because it’s about all the people who live in an apartment block in New York. Having lived in the suburbs all my life, until our lifestyle change nine years ago, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of apartment living. I loved Helene Hanff’s book Apple of my Eye, which I read just before I visited NYC in 2003.
Life in apartment blocks, especially in New York, has always seemed so communal – almost like a grown ups version of boarding school (which is a scenario that fascinated me as a child. I loved boarding school books and used to pretend our modest, 3 bedroom weatherboard home was a boarding school. Fellow boarders helped me with homework, played netball with me in the backyard and shared midnight feasts – all imaginary, of course).
Anyhow – where was I? – oh, yeah, talking about living in apartments.
When we moved into our apartment in 2000, it was the first urban redevelopment scheme in Townsville and involved turning the top floors of the City Council’s multi-storey car park into residences. I was rather excited about the new life. I was sure there’d be all kinds of interesting people living on the different levels and we’d all become great friends.
Well, to an extent that’s happened, but inner city people do keep to themselves a lot, too. And you can’t peer out a side window, as you can in the suburbs, and see your neighbour drive home, talk to the dog, lug x numbers of bags of groceries inside, rouse on the kids etc. You can’t stick your nose over the fence for a chat, while you water the garden or take in the washing.
In the same way the real life is never (or rarely) as exciting as in books, I found apartment living a tad disappointing.
But you know… just this week (our one week in town this month) the interest level has inched a little higher for me.
The other afternoon, I was on my way back from the supermarket, which is on the corner of our block, and I saw a very presentable middle aged man parked just outside our front door, looking rather worried.
As I approached, he jumped out of the car and asked me if I could help him.
Naturally, I said, ‘Of course.’
Next minute, he hauled two huge bunches of flowers out of the car and asked me if I could leave them outside one of the apartment doors. He’d already tried on the intercom phone and the intended recipient of the flowers wasn’t at home and he was on his way to the airport and couldn’t hang around.
So, he stuck his business card in one of the bouquets, and I delivered the flowers – rather sad to have to leave them on the doormat, but as you can guess, my romance writer brain was ticking away madly…
Next day when I got in the lift (aka elevator), another guy came dashing through the foyer. I hit the ‘Doors open” button and he managed to slip inside the lift just before we started our ascent.

He gave a huge sigh of relief. “I’ve just managed to place a bet on the Doncaster,” he said. This is a big horse race in Melbourne and it was clearly very important to him – almost life and death important, judging by the intensely relieved look on his face.
I was intrigued and it occurred to me that if I spent a morning hanging out in our foyer (pictured right) and riding up and down in the lift, I’d probably fill a notebook full of story ideas.
I mean there’s the little soldier on our floor. There’s the hugely famous football star, who sometimes has “sleepovers” at an apartment here. There’s the mysterious, darkly handsome Russian actor…
I'm thinking I may yet have to write my own apartment book.


Magdalena Scott said...

What fun, Barbara! And what a lovely foyer to hang out in. I'm glad apartment dwelling is becoming more interesting for you. It always has intrigued me as well. One reason, I suppose, that when I created my clip art life last Saturday, my dwelling was a penthouse apartment.

I look forward to your apartment stories, whether in blog or paperback form! ;)

2paw said...

I have never lived in an apartment or a flat, always in a house, so I idealise that style of life(like boarding school!!) What a wonderful resource though and I shall expect an apartment book now.

Barbara Hannay said...

Now I'm really curious, Magdalena. What's your clip art life? Is this like Second Life?

Magdalena Scott said...

Oh dear. Me and my big mouth. My blog is, in case you didn't already realize that.

If you really want to see, here is what I put on my blog about my life as clip art:

Barbara Hannay said...

Oh,right. I kinda... get it... looks like fun.

JoyfullyHis said...

Oh, the possibilities...