|Posted on April 16, 2021 at 2:40 AM|
As Hook emerges from the tube he sees the gang of youths outside the kebab shop and knows he must pass them or look weak. He tries to push by but the men murmur angrily and one pushes him in the back. Hook ignores him and walks on, hearing scuffling steps. Instinct tells him to turn round but instead he strides quicker, footsteps close behind. The street is eerily empty, Liddle Towers a beacon of false hope in the dusk.
Hook turns at last to find six or eight of the men walking quickly behind him, hands in hoodie pockets, scowling. Hook runs. Opening the gate he jogs as swiftly as he can through the scorched-earth gardens, not even seeing the mark where the block almost killed him. At the block entrance, as he pulls a mattress away from the doors, he glances back fearfully but the yobs have stopped at the road where they cluster laughing, swapping high-fives.
The foyer of the apartment block is dark, ghastly: in order to make the building more environmentally sound the communal lighting has been dimmed. As he waits for the lift Hi-NRG mozzies blitz his ears like atomic engines; Hook hears distant screams, breaking glass, and shivers in the sultry night.
Liddle Towers was erected at the peak of the boom and they’d paid peak prices to escape from the Georgian terrace off the Cally. This is meant to be their safe nest from which to look down on a city that has at some point become strange to them.
The day after Hook had put down a substantial deposit on the flat, Monica warned him blocks like these would one day be high-rise slums. Back then it had a concierge, potted plants in the corridors, and the lift smelled of scented water. Despite these enticing amenities, only two-thirds of the apartments (Hook can never bring himself to say ‘flats’) have ever been occupied. As a result there were soon calls by people who didn’t live there to move in families from the council’s bulging waiting list. Monica campaigned against the proposals; Hook secretly voted in favour. He won. At least the concierge hung around for a while; the perfumed water dried up after a week.