One of the best features of the new flat is its balcony, which opens off our bedroom (originally the living room of the flat) and out onto the road. The road is broad and treelined, and busy at rush hour but not excessively trafficked at other times. The balcony runs the full width of the room, and is blocked off from the neighbours' balconies on either side by frosted glass screens. The neighbours on the left have filled theirs with plants, and placed a trellis up against the dividing screen; those on the right have left their balcony entirely bare except for a small washing line and (intermittently) a large dog.
When we arrived it was clear that the landlord hadn't been using the outdoor space at all for really quite some time. It was looking grey and unloved and neglected. Nor could it be our priority since bookshelves, bedding and a bloody good spring clean were all desperately needed (the landlord's two big dogs had left hair absolutely everywhere, and I don't think he'd cleaned the place properly since his parents died. In 2003.) But in the last fortnight CB and I have been able to turn our attention at last to Project Balcony, as it hasn't been known.
Stage one was sweeping and washing (done by CB, bless him) followed swiftly by the installation of a pair of folding metal chairs, in a smart navy blue, with cream and turquoise striped cushions, all courtesy of UPIM. Then I managed to buy a small flat folding stool/side table from IKEA last week, so we can eat/drink/listen to music on the laptop out here. This enables us to sit outside of an evening and frighten passers-by with a spot of Dizzee Rascal or Wiley (Grime hasn't reached Rome, it seems).
The final and aesthetically perhaps most important element of the process is introducing plants. I bought a few last week, and we've been shuffling them around, deciding what to put where. Tonight I was ready to pot them out and organise things. I've a trailing succulent with small rounded red/orange flowers in a hanging pot; a small and kind of non-descript succulent in a small pot to put on the windowsill; a semi-succulent with huge leaves and small pink flowers which the woman gave me free after I bought 5kg of potting compost; and a hibiscus with lovely crimson flowers. So I spent some time putting things into bigger pots and making them look happier, and then came to the point of choosing what to put in the tray which clips onto the front of the hand-rail. To be precise there is a wrought iron cage which hooks onto the metal frontage of the balcony, into which cage a rectangular plastic tray/pot is placed.
This afternoon we chose a very pretty ornamental chilli plant, covered with tiny chillis in various shades of crimson, scarlet, ochre, orange, violet, and aubergine. Apparently they are also edible. As trialled, with its pot inside the plastic tray, it looked good; and this was therefore allocated to the (desirable! sought-after! high-profile!) spot out the front. I duly potted it out and popped the tray back into the metal frame. At which point, disaster struck.
Perhaps the bolt wasn't done up tight enough. Perhaps the weight of the soil is too much for the set-up. Perhaps the gods of gardening aren't on my side. Whatever. The whole ensemble slid instantly apart, and though speedy action by CB managed to prevent the metalwork from going anywhere, the lovely new plant was not so lucky. It plummetted head-first, so to speak, down onto the pavement below, accompanied by a good kilo of compost.
Blessing counting: no-one was walking underneath at the time. Just. CB went and scooped up traumatised plant parts, soil, fallen leaves &c, and we will formulate some new plan for the metal holder, which is clearly so sensitive and susceptible. Grr. The fact that there's still a pool of dirt/mud/soil on the pavement directly below us is, er, nothing to do with us. No sirree. Wholly coincidental. *gazes innocently at sky* I've popped the poor chilli back into its old pot and left it in peace for a bit.
Now we're sat out on our semi-systemised balcony with a couple of beers and Patsy Cline and the sky has gone a lovely soft lilac colour and we're about to eat some salami and mozzarella and grilled aubergines. Hfd.