My head touched the fridge, my feet touched the door

Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 00:00

In Middle Abbey Street I once rented a room so small that my head touched the fridge and my feet touched the door, writes Michael Harding

I might as well have been in a wardrobe, but I was blissfully happy there because I had a place of my own. And it was better than my mate’s flat where I once lay on the floor and watched a rat’s tail slither through the cracks in the ceiling above me. But then I moved to Ranelagh, which I considered so posh that I invited a journalist from a Sunday newspaper for a sleepover.

The mattress was stained with the lives of many previous tenants, and it lay up against the wall all day because there was no bed base. I kept my duvet in a large black plastic bag.

I shared a bathroom with country girls and one old man, the solitary tenant on the third floor, but I never used the bathroom to wash, preferring the hand basin in my own room. Downstairs a Raleigh bike lay against the wall in the corridor, and there was a phone on the wall. I was on the phone one night when the old man came down the stairs with bicycle clips and a lamp and stared at me like a ghost out of a John McGahern short story.

The journalist couldn’t get a taxi in Ranelagh after we had consumed a few drinks; that’s why she stayed. She had blonde hair and was heavily perfumed and I presumed she was rich.

She climbed over the bicycle and up the bare stairs and then negotiated herself onto the floor. I insisted she take the mattress, but she said she’d prefer to stretch on the floor because she had a bad back. She never undressed and left before dawn as I lay snoring, alone on the mattress, as content as any man on a life raft in a storm; because in those days my life was stormy and my little bare room and my flea-ridden mattress were a wonderful refuge from the world.

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