Susie Rushton: I've found a better way to live in London

Urban Notebook

You're either a mansion-block type of person, or you're not. At present, we live in a converted flat in a Victorian house. Not one room is perfectly square. I've seen bigger kitchens on a canal boat, and the corridor juts out into the living room at a bizarre angle.

Since all of the seven homes I've had in London have been flats in converted terraced houses (apart from one which was a converted office, during an East London period when I was feeling a bit edgy) over time I've got used to Cubist floorplans and flimsy front doors. That's just what happens when an old house is sliced and diced into rental flats.

But last weekend I tried to imagine myself living the communal-garden, portered, purpose-built urban dream, when we checked out a place for sale in a block of smart red-brick flats on the other side of our neighbourhood in west Kensington.

The first sign that new rules would apply in this gilded world was the sheet of paper with neat typing that had been stapled on to the frame of a bicycle leaning against the railings. In stern terms, the note admonished the owner for not using the communal bike park hidden away out of sight from the road.

These particular mansion blocks, it turns out, have their own quasi-police force ("porters") who prowl the buildings in search of badly parked buggies, wrongly locked bikes and rubbish bags put out on the wrong day.

"The corridors are always nice and clear here," the estate agent told us as we walked up two flights of stairs to the flat for sale, and at this my boyfriend, a former block-dweller, made approving sounds.

In my mind's eye, I realised just at that moment, I am the person leaving the rubbish out incorrectly, or blocking the perfectly vacuumed hallway without prior authorisation. I am not the self-satisfied neighbour who abides by the regulations and considers the hefty annual "service charge" worth every penny. At least that's what I thought until we walked into the apartment, and perfectly square rooms hit me in all their wonderful perpendicularity: not a weird alcove or gabled ceiling in sight. Even if the price of symmetrical living is a list of draconian rules, I don't care. Sign me up.

For little gems, click local

Have you ever looked at Google maps with the "more" option selected? Dozens of photos and videos appear scattered all over the map. A few are ads – but most are images and clips made by residents of that area.

If I run my cursor over the thumbnails dotted about on nearby streets, up pops a proud portrait of somebody's private back garden; sunset reflected in the metallic façade of an ugly block down the road; a rainbow over the rooftops; a video clip of two teenagers at the Tube station down the road, overlaid with a whimsical soundtrack.

The pictures and clips are scattered across the country, but the distribution is denser in cities, and transform cartography into a free-for-all art project. What's really sweet is the obvious affection shown for utterly mundane and familiar views. Click local!

Comments