(photo of the front of Harrod's Department store in Knightsbridge, London)
If you haven’t been to Knightsbridge, it’s a lovely place, zoned for commercial as well as residential. In 1981, Blocks of beautiful neo-classical and classical revival-styled buildings that were divided into small flats or hotels shared the surroundings with the priciest real estate and residential dwellings in London, along with the largest, most respected of department stores in England, Harrods. Oh, there were probably also Selfridges and Marks & Spencer’s (“Marks & Sparks”) and HMV stores all around, but Harrod’s stood proud and imposing, like a dowager princess. . . (can there BE such a thing as a dowager princess?)
Anyhoo, on a lovely side street in close proximity to Harrods, Nora’s building greeted us. . .
Being a place where various boarders occupied flats on a monthly basis, there was a pay phone in the hallway and a shared bathroom on each floor. The floors and stairs were swathed in thick, well worn carpeting -- the sound of bygone wealth: muffled sounds, silence.
Nora’s flat was on the ground floor, which was really convenient when she’d gone on a bender and came home, smashed and stunningly loud at three in the morning. At least, by not having to ascend the stairs, she wasn’t making more noise on the stairway (which, even though carpeted, would have made some residents unhappy to say the least).
Leading the way with her purposeful tread, Nora welcomed me in. “Here, dahling, you’ll sleep in the guest bed.” She indicated a twin sized bed, more like a cot, against the wall. Her bed, a similar one, was also against the wall and two feet away from the other bed -- separated by a nightstand. The room was about 14’ by 10’, and that was it except for a little sink with a large mirror, a closet, an electric kettle, and a heater that was fed by 50 pence (“50 p”) pieces.
I wasn’t sure where my suitcases would go, but Nora said, “Dahling, there’s room under the bed,” and lifted up the blanket. She also offered to share her closet.
The room was small, but clean. There weren’t any chairs or tables, but we sat on the floor or on the beds. “Will you stay with me, dahling, until you find another place?” Nora looked into my face and I at her liquid chocolate eyes that seemed to smile, with their upturned almond shape.
“Er, sure, Nora, thank you so much. Very generous of you.” She told me I could pay her ten pounds per week, and that would include the heat. Then she took out a baggie and some rolling papers and other stuff.
“Dahling, can you roll??” It was tea time in Nora’s flat, and she wanted to work up an appetite -- as if I have ever met anybody who had a larger appetite or a larger heart!!