Tuesday, December 4th

I have spoken to Hagrid. Yesterday, I decided gallantly to remove the snow and ice from Beloved’s car and went, once more, fishing in the basement store room for the right tool, a long handled device with a brush at one end and ice-scraper at the other. On the way I spotted Hagrid brewing herself a coffee in the room that houses our water filters. They only remove the dead rats and bricks as far as I know, we need another filter in the apartment for it to be drinkable. Anyway, she obviously saw me exiting with the tool and took a fancy to it so while I was cleaning the car she came out for a smoke and asked me where I’d bought it. This led to a general five minute chat during which I found out she lives on the other side of Warsaw, down south in Natolin and that she gets here by way of the metro (38 minutes), the number 114 bus from Mochina station (5 minutes) and then a short walk. I didn’t ask if she brings the red bucket with her.

Yesterday was one of those days when seemingly everyone is having a bad day. It happens sometimes. It started early with Gigolo and Oleg going at it in the street about the right place to drop a skip. Oleg had ordered the large metal container as he is on his last leg of leaf clearance, the woods around the lake, and so his usual dustbins don’t have enough capacity. He’d told the driver to drop in parking space close to Gigolo’s building and Gigolo wasn’t happy. He confronted Oleg, refugee gardener versus war-zone resilient resident, not a good match. Oleg lost and the driver had to move it to a little used parking space, which, funnily enough, turned out to be closer to where Oleg was walking with the barrows of leaves so not really sure what the problem was there?!

This was followed by Hagrid laying into Starbuck’s builders, accusing them of being “not serious” about cleaning our stairwell. I agree our stairwell is dusty since they started work because we keep having to clean the footprints off our dark wood floor and I also agree that they should make an attempt to clean it up, but, it is ultimately her job to keep things clean around here (I think) and in the time she spent ogling my snow-tool, drinking her coffee and arguing with the builders she could have cleaned the stairs. I’m not getting involved.

After all the street angst we suffered a, rather too predictable, disappointment with our meeting to discuss our “damp problem”. The plan was to get three important people together – Darth Muller who knows how this place was built, the guy from Administration and our own “expert” (hereinafter known simply as Expert)– and for them all to be able to discuss the problem, gather information and take a look on the roof. Firstly, Darth Muller did not arrive from Austria, although he did arrive today. Secondly it had snowed the evening before and looking on the roof was going to be somewhat pointless and lastly, the promised access to the roof via Starbuck’s apartment does not actually exist and with Penthouse being out that meant we couldn’t get to the roof even if we wanted to!

Despite the setbacks, Expert had a productive exchange with Admin and then proceeded to spend an hour or more digging holes in our walls and making a right old mess. Not to worry, it all moves us a little way forward.

We were hoping to catch Penthouse and Slightly Dangerous who are rumoured to have returned from holiday but have not actually been seen. The Audi is very neatly parked in the garage and hasn’t moved for weeks and yet Penthouse was supposedly “at work”. I’m not sure about this. We want to invite them to smoke the pipe of peace with us, or at least for us to explain things and them to either see sense or continue to be mardy bums. (Arctic Monkeys – look it up!)

In a nutshell, this whole thing is about damp walls in our apartment. Quite a lot in the room that was Offspring’s bedroom (now swapped with the study) and a small amount on one wall of the kitchen. That’s water inside the walls which is never evident on the inside, or outside, surface but is pushing the plaster and paint off, very slowly. How exactly the walls are getting wet is the mystery. There is nothing obviously wrong but there are many possible culprits ranging from; problems with the roof, a “cold bridge” effect because previous owners added extra insulation to the inside of the walls of Offspring’s room, something wrong with the original construction or insulation of the external walls or something that went wrong when Penthouse built a currently illegal bedroom on her terrace. My guess is actually a combination of at least three of those.

Being Poland, everyone’s eyes thus far have gone no further than the illegal bedroom. It’s illegal, as in it has no building permission, therefore it is at fault. So I think Penthouse has had enough of everyone blaming her in addition to her ongoing struggles with the authorities about penalties, demolition and so forth. Relationships between us turned bad when we were presented with an official letter from the local council that essentially said “Penthouse and Slightly Dangerous would like to legalise their bedroom, do you have any objections?”. This letter arrived with us via Florence Nightingale on a Friday at about midday and we had by then less than three hours to get a response to the council. We did what anyone would do and sent them a mail saying “We do have problems in our apartment but don’t yet know if it is caused by this bedroom or not.”. A subsequent visit by Beloved to the council alerted us to the fact that there is no love lost between the council and Penthouse. They were quite keen for us to send them any old bullcrap expert opinion that states the problem is the bedroom so they can send in the demolition squad. Fact is, we have no problem with the bedroom at all, I’ve seen it and it’s a nice room. Keeps our room below better protected than it was originally, so we’re by no means eager to condemn the thing but we can’t let it ride until we know whether it is in some way at fault for our problem.

Establishing the truth has not been and remains not easy. It’s as if everyone has something to hide – except me and my monkey. (Beatles – look it up). Penthouse, previous owners, Admin….they’ve all got an angle here and what we need to do is work out where in this big can of worms lies the truth. I’m already searching the internet for lie detectors and truth serums because that’s where this is heading!

After quite some months of monitoring our damp, and seeing it get slowly worse, we have now employed an suitably qualified and recommended building expert whose job it is to work out by a Sherlockian process of elimination what the problem or problems are and how we should fix them. It’s annoying but not debilitating by any means and given that the water is unlikely to be caused by aliens or magic water-fairies, it will eventually be resolved. In the meantime we suffer strained relationships and numerous interruptions to normal life, such as the meeting yesterday.

The black Audi, personalized plate “WO VIK” was here again this morning. Nothing unusual there as it is here every weekday morning at about 07:45. Drives in, parks by the side of the road and waits for Mr Big. We’ve never actually seen Mr Big so can’t give you details but he, or she of course, has a chauffer, a decent car, personalized plates and lives in 2B, one building nearer the gate than us. There is a possibility it is the Ambassador we have living here, Ponce de León., but I would expect the blue diplomatic plates in that case so I suspect it is simply a person of commerce and trade, or the mafia.

If Palpatine had been able to properly execute her vision for this estate, the whole place would be full of Ponce de León types. All foreign and all in some way, in her imagination, significant people. To an extent, I cannot complain about this ridiculous discrimination because me being foreign, even if not significant, might have helped us to get in here in the first place but that aside, their prejudice against Poles and other “normal” people has very much worked against them. I suspect from the moment they started building the place. Certainly they have not ended up with the mix of residents they originally envisaged and this is ultimately one of the main reasons for the past hostility and why things are such a mess today. It was a close run thing that we actually moved here given the relatively open display of their prejudices, in front of my Polish Beloved, during our screening process for renting the Isolation Ward from them. On balance we decided to overlook it as just being a little eccentric, which we both think was the right thing now even if we do still find it disagreeable.

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