Hubby, TWM and I were out this afternoon as I had an appointment in town. We decided to pop in at my mum and dad’s before we came home, but were earlier than expected. Rather than sit in the car in the rain, I buzzed the neighbour’s house to see if they still had my parents’ spare keys – they always used to keep some in case of emergencies. This couple have lived in the flat directly beneath my parents for as long as I can remember – it’s at least 25 years, anyway. She’s German and works at the Goethe Institute, and he – well, I’m still not sure what he does, but it seems a bit rude to ask at this stage in the game. They’ve never married, never had kids, and are the most kind-hearted and generous type of good peoples.
Anyhow, they didn’t have the keys, but he asked us in for a cuppa while we waited for my parents to arrive. So we sat in their kitchen, chewing the fat and drinking tea. For those who have never had the pleasure, a Glasgow tenement kitchen is a glorious room. It is often more sitting room than the actual living room is; it is used not just as a kitchen and dining room. The traditional tenement kitchen will often have a large alcove – a bit like this:
Originally, this was the bed alcove – these tenement flats housed families much larger than is now seen as ‘normal’. The flats were two roomed – called a ‘room and kitchen’, and would share a toilet outside on the stair landing with perhaps as many as four other flats. The bed would have taken up the whole alcove, and most of the family would sleep in this one bed. A curtain would be drawn across it during the day to shield it from view, while the space underneath would be used for storage – sometimes of a second pull-out bed in the case of the larger families.
These days, the rooms are also multi-purpose – but often the alcove is now used for dining, or for a study or office area. In this flat, the occupants have used the alcove as a kitchenette, and the rest of the room as a living area.
Anyhow, back to our afternoon. It was one of those cosy afternoons that you could never plan. Drinking tea while the rain battered down outside, admiring Mr Neighbour’s extensive book collection and their beautiful reclaimed chairs. It was all so quintessentially West End Glasgow. To complete the picture, Ms Neighbour returned home shortly afterwards, on her bike, from their allotment.
If I ever come into money, I will buy a large West End tenement flat, and enjoy the society.