Long before I met MLW I moved out of the house that I shared with Bluebird and Mother of Bluebird. The house was owned by MOB’s parents and for a while, before they moved to France, all five of us had lived there together.
Living there was not a happy experience for me. It was not my home, I was not happy with most of the relationships I had in the house, and a machine for living in the house was badly designed and badly operated. Demands were made of my that I was very uncomfortable with.
When I moved out I moved into a shared room in a house in Swindon owned by a pair of brothers who owned perhaps 50 houses in Swindon. As a branding thing one wall in every room was painted a deep purple / midnight blue colour. When, in time, MLW came to visit we started referring to it as The Little Purple Room. This is about how things were for me before MLW tho.
The room was quite a large double bedroom. It has space for a double bed, a desk and chair, a comfortable chair, some plants and some book cases. It overlooked the railway line and a large sign for the M4 (the way out). It was in the red light district of Swindon, about five minutes walk from my current work, from the station and from the best kebab shop in the world. It was a simple place to exist and therefore a simple place to concentrate on being alive. It was not salubrious but it was mine.
My housemates were not chosen by me. They were at best odd, at worst quite strange. Mainly they were very different from me. I was very much aware that I was a gentleman down on my luck and that my situation would change for the better. This helped. It helped to be reminded that I was in a state of transformation and that through my own efforts I would better my situation. I was also given an opportunity to define “better”.
(For those that wish there are a fund of humorous anecdotes from my time in the Little Purple Room which may form the basis of my November novel if I don’t fancy doing the Elizabethan spy novel I have in mind).
What mattered to me was that I could make the LPR a machine for living my life the way I wanted to live it. I had sufficient material comfort in the way I needed it in order to be comfortable doing what I wanted to do. I put a great deal of effort into designing the machine because I had very limited physical, social and financial resources. This really focused me on what made me happy.
Over a few months the room came to be mine and to work in the way I wanted it to work. I could be alone there. I could entertain there. I could have some of my housemates in for a beer. I could, with some effort, have a girlfriend to dinner and make her feel special in Shakespeare’s Second Best Bed kind of a way. Bluebird could come and visit me there. People I did not want to speak to had to ask permission to come into my space.
It was also very important that the room was mine. I was beholden to no-one except for the rent and for the social niceties of communal living. I could be the me that I needed to be at that time.
It helped that I was only ever passing through. The LPR was home, but only for now. Now would be defined by events but also by me. I took ownership of the room not by painting the walls but by deciding that I would buy purple bed-linen and purple napkins. It was not so much home as the promise of home to come.
What I learnt from my 18 months in the Little Purple Room was that I could be happy in a one room bed-sit in a shared house. Not only were material things not something that made me happy by possessing them but I also learned exactly what material things made me most happy through my use of them.
I learnt that I could be self-contained for a long time, that I could carry the promise of home with me for a long time, that a simple life could be a rewarding life.
I also learned that the thing that was constantly missing from my time in the LPR were other people. The LPR was a good box to be alone in, an okay box to be with other people but relationships were important.