Very very tiny…

tiny, but cute!Caterina talks about the Microflats for sale in London for something like $200,000 CDN each. All this for a tiny (344 sq.ft.), yet very slick urban living space for young professionals. I have to admit that like Caterina, I love small spaces. This may seem ironic given the 1000 sq.ft. minimum requirement I imposed when I went condo hunting a month ago, but that was for practical reasons–it needs to be big enough for me, Spiff, and all my stuff, of which I seem to have acquired quite a bit in the almost 20 years since I left home. However, being the Gemini that I am, I have no problem with the idea of being attracted to both big open places and small intimate ones.

not to scaleMy first non-shared apartment would certainly qualify as tiny and intimate. It had only two rooms–a kitchen with just enough room for a small table, and a bed-sitting room with enough space for an armchair, a single bed, a desk, and a small bookshelf. It was on the second floor of a large woodframe Victorian house on College Street in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The limited floorspace was hemmed-in even more by the small headspace. I didn’t have a gable–the apartment was the gable. The highest point was along the wall that bisected the apartment, with the ceiling sloping down on either side. Where my bed was tucked into the corner the ceiling began about four-and-a-half feet up from the floor. If I sat bolt upright in bed my head would hit the ceiling on a glancing blow and hurl me out of bed and onto the floor. Fortunately this was just a theoretical possibility as it never actually happened.

God, how I loved that place!

You can see the front of the building in this scan from my university yearbook (pardon the crease in the middle). See the large gable in the midde with two small square windows? The same gable occured on the back of the house, and that was the apartment.

pardon the creaseWhen I first saw the place it was a disgusting mess, with moss growning in the oven, bags of garbage all around, and nails sticking out of the broken tiles on the floor. Walls and ceiling in the bed-sitting room were painted the color of dried mustard–which can be a nice accent color, but is too much when it fills the room, uninterupted. The pattern on the kitchen wall (and ceiling) paper was upside-down.

I recruited some help and set to work on it. We cleaned and disinfected the fridge and stove, and scoured the floors, walls, and cupboards in the kitchen. Then we removed (or pounded in) the protruding nails in the floor, and gave the bed-sitting room a thorough paint job. We did it in light blue, which went well with the broken tiles, and really served to brighten the place up. The wardrobe (which was a permanent fixture) was painted a bright white. I then bought a peice of light grey carpet (an end peice) which covered most of the broken-tiled floor in the bed-sitting room.

The bathroom was down the hall, and I shared it with two women who lived in similar tiny apartments on the same floor. It didn’t even have a shower (just a bathtub with a big ice cream bucket for filling and dumping over your head), but I got used to that right away. We were all on somewhat different schedules and we were all good about keeping the place clean, so the bathroom situation was a non-issue.

And that was it–I had done the work and had transformed the place. The upside-down wallpaper stayed, but that was OK because it was something of a coversation peice. I really felt like I had built a wonderful little nest for myself there, and I still have fond memories of sitting on my bed or in the big old creaky armchair while reading or entertaining a guest or two.

Back then I didn’t own a lot of stuff, so that was all the space I needed. I left my bike outside (even over the winter), and the neighbours were all good and friendly. I stayed there only one year. Circumstances changed and I moved into residence for my final year at St. F.X.U.

I could easily live like that again, but not as a permanent arrangement. If I had a “home base” somewhere and was inclined to move around a lot spending weeks or months at a time in other cities, that is all I’d need in those other places. For example, if I made huge bucks and were required to pass a few months of the year in London, I’d be first in line for a microflat. In fact, I’d probably spend more time there than in my bigger place back in Montreal!

I hate the cost of saving a few bucks!

In January of 1993 some idiot kicked in my door and stole all of my cameras and my VCR. I was a student of photography at Concordia U. at the time, so losing my cameras was a real blow, on top of the fact that the woman I was married to had walked out a week earlier.

Aside from the trauma of the violation, which included a boot print on one of my pillows and a couple of horrified cats, it turned out to be like winning the lottery, because I was insured.Basically, I traded in an armload of broken and shopworn early-80s-era Minoltas for a full and up-to-date Nikon kit that I had previously not even dared dream of.

In there somewhere I also got a new VCR. I decided to save $50 by buying the non-stereo version of the very expensive 4-head Sony VCR that I had selected. What was the point, considering my TV had only one speaker? (Historians will note that I did, however, toss an extra $200 for half an f-stop on the 50mm f1.4 lens that I chose over the more conventional f1.8 model.)

Two years later I was much better paid at work, had a much bigger TV, and was able to run a VCR through my stereo had it been a stereo VCR! In the meantime, I had taken maybe one or two photos with the 50mm 1.4 lens, prefering instead the more natural–for me–28mm wide-angle lens.

Alas, my VCR was not stereo. So I spent several years in mono (occasionally running a split mono feed through the stereo speakers). Then, a year or so ago my (then) girlfriend suddenly found herself without a VCR. She was still running a straight-to-(20-year-old)-television feed, so my mono machine was perfect for her, and it was still running like it was brand new.

So I jumped at the opportunity… I passed the Sony machine on to her (in exchange for many smooches) and upgraded my VCR. Not long after that I went insane and ended up with a 5-channel stereo receiver, 5.1 speaker system, DVD player, etc.

OK, OK, so I got over the woes of my $50 savings from 1993. What I didn’t tell you is this. Just before my recent sound-system upgrade rampage, I bought a 5-disk carrousel CD player for the insanely low price of about $120 (CDN). I got the cheap, but widely regarded, RCA RP8065. For a few dollars more I could have gotten the RP8070. The only difference is that the RP8070 has an optical output for pure digital delivery to the receiver. Big Freakin’ Deal sez I. I don’t even have a freakin’ digital receiver!

A month later I had a digital receiver.

OK, frankly, I doubt I can tell the difference aurally. But the difference smashed me over the head last night when I went to transfer a mix CD I had made on my PC to a MiniDisc. My MD recorder is a portable player/recorder that came with an optical cable for direct digital recording from a CD player to MD. But I can’t do that because my CD player doesn’t have an optical output! My only workaround is a bunch of analog patches. Can you spell D-E-G-R-A-D-E? REM never sounded so fuzzy.

Alternatively, I can buy an RCA-to-¼inch patch cord for not much less than I would have paid for the upgrade to the more expensive machine with the optical feed, and suffer only minor analog humiliation.

As much as I like to think of myself as something of an anti-materialist, this is a lesson learned and unlearned and relearned, over and over: Think ahead!

Back to the Bedroom

I slept in my own bed last night, for the first time since early January. There’s been this damn construction going on in my bedroom because of a leaky toilet up above. Three and a half months it took them to do basically two day’s work! Sheesh!

But what a sleep! Mind you, I’ve gotten so used to the sofa that I didn’t know what to do with all that space in my Queen-size bed, but it didn’t take too long to adapt. Such that it took a superhuman feat of strength and will to get my ass out of bed this morning.

…and out of bed I went, immediately to the phone, and ba-bing! I’m now booked into the Hotel Port Royal (5th arrondissement) and “Dhely’s Hotel” (6th arrondissement). My Parisian adventure is that much closer to reality. Woo hoo! (In case you’re wondering, I booked into two places because I don’t want all of my proverbial eggs in one basket. Beside, staying at two different places will make it seem like I’ve taken two different trips!)