As mentioned before, this blog is largely devoted to the importance of “location” in your writing – but just as the setting for our protagonists is of the essence and may determine their actions and the outcome of our plot, so is the setting where we, as artists, create our stories. I mean, of course, our workspace.
Some writers can function in a noisy cafe and produce 7 books of outstanding magical mayhem with plenty of Muggles thrown in (J K Rowling), while others work in solitary confinement at a desk in their garden shed to avenge all those cruelties adults inflict on kids (Roald Dahl). Some writers have to follow a little ritual, like brewing a cup of strong cup of hot chocolate and donning their fluffy bunny slippers before they can settle down and write anything. Others can write on the tube during rush hour on the back of their daily newspaper and never turn a hair.
I could cut off an ear
At the start of last year I had determined that I needed a dedicated workspace for my writing and my art, so when I came across a dilapidated workshop I decided this might be worth trying out. After I was assured FOUR times that the repair garage below would only operate during business hours Mondays to Fridays from 8.30am to 4.30pm and no works were ever to be carried out on weekends, and that repair works for the workshop were scheduled to take place, I thought I could risk it.
Sure enough, it soon transpired that my garage landlord not only worked 7 days a week from 6.30am to 9pm every day, he was also in the habit of letting himself into my studio the moment I left, snooping. The roof turned out to be so leaky it would have made a Swiss cheese looked positively solid…and with leaky roof comes lack of electricity supply, since the electrics fused, whenever water gushed through light fittings and walls. Throw in an enormous mould infestation spreading across the lot, and you have the complete Hieronymus Bosch.
Frankly, after having decorated the place at my own expense I was so gutted, I felt like cutting off an ear Van Gogh-style and hurling it at my landlords (their ears you understand, not mine) as punishment for ignoring my stipulated conditions for signing the contract.
I was promised repairs, which were eventually done half-heartedly and with much grumbling in the summer, but only part of the roof was repaired and about one quarter of the electric circuit was disabled, which meant leakages still occurred and now the circuit was too weak to support a kettle, let alone oil-fired heaters in the winter.
Yet my landlords still think this is the best – and cheapest – artist’s studio in Cardiff and continued to charge me full rent, which, as you might have guessed, included electricity, even though more often than not, there was none for me to use! It isn’t even the cheapest studio in Cardiff, for there’s somebody advertising a workshop for £40 per week on the other side of the town, considerably less per week than I paid, and that is for USABLE space, not a leaky cauldron or breeding grounds for lonely mould fungi and rats.
Last week the studio experiment came to a crashing end and I moved out in disgust at the “artistic license and liberties” my two horrible landlords were taking.
Right from the start of renting my art studio above a repair garage there were problems with my two landlords, “here-today-and-gone-tomorrow” type sole traders who clearly didn’t like anyone preying into their business affairs too closely. Whatever questions my fellow tenant and I asked we received no answers or, on occasion, were told obvious lies which in the next conversation would be contradicted again.
Last week, when I was struggling to remove all my things due to a series of unforeseen circumstances (I was locked out of my storage facility at the Big Yellow, when one of their electronic access doors developed a fault after business hours), my landlords actually rifled through all my removal boxes whilst I was out. I have reason to believe, they stole whatever they could, using my things to tart up the workshop once I’d gone and market it as a “lovely little studio” (suddenly no longer located in Cardiff’s down to earth Canton district, where the small business park is actually to be found on the Llandaff Road, but the studio had miraculously shifted to Pontcanna, a well-to-do neighbouring district, according to their Gumtree advertisement). The pictures shown with the advert, by the way, were also taken without my consent or knowledge while I was out but still renting the place.
When I returned for a final time to remove the remainder of my boxes, everything had been pinched – about a quarter of my things! Curiously, most of the things stolen last Friday correspond to items shown in the advert! Since they had left the gate unlocked leading up to the unit I rented, I can’t say with 100% certainty it was them and therefore can’t alert the police. However, all the other people renting business units in that industrial estate are rugged blokes in overalls, so I can’t see them carting off boxes with art materials, vases and office chairs, can you?
I’m long grown out of my glue sniffing days
All that I can do now is to try my best and warn artists all over Cardiff not to get involved with such unsatisfactory landlords. Workshop space might be scarce in the Welsh capital, but please remember that this one fills up with fumes every time one of the landlords starts spray-painting a car in the garage below and you’ll be subjected to out-of-tune whistling , constant swearing and very loud music all day every day, too!
A studio that’s as “lovely” as the mechanic’s “realistic quote” for your car repair job
I have since put through a warning note on Gumtree, where landlords Richard and Jon are advertising two workshops, if those are indeed their real names. Both workshops are leaky, by the way, and if you’re renting the bottom one, you might stand ankle deep in water while you’re trying to operate electrical equipment at your work bank, for the downstairs gets regularly flooded.
I hope I can alert Cardiff artists to the fact that neither landlord likes to give out his surname or a full contact address with the contract, and both refused to name who the overall landlord is (which would prove to a tenant that leaseholders are actually permitted to sublet).
Significantly, neither one of them likes to deal in anything other than mobiles and cash; they have no email address, no web presence of any kind that is mentioned on their signage, invoices or business cards – and yet they run a repair garage and building business respectively and expect tenants to trust them with cash rental payments! Hardly credible in this cyber day and age.
Master Forgery or every-day Daub?
Their full business name and contact address is not even on our contracts, and when the other tenant and I pointed this out, we had our heads bitten off, with one of the landlords getting defensive and quite aggressive into the bargain. Admittedly, one of the landlords is socially rather inept, but he runs a repair garage, so should know at least the basics of company law. Tenant W., who had rented the unit below mine, also tried to get answers to some pressing questions and when he didn’t get them, he moved out, too. Taken all of the above in combination, you can bet your easel and brush there’s something wrong with that workshop picture!
Before you ask, I did get my deposit back but only because tenant W. and I had discussed beforehand that we would tell the landlords we’d give notice and they could use the deposit for the last month’s rent. I doubt I would have seen my deposit returned otherwise, for there was little business activity going on at the garage from mid-October onwards.
Taking my artistic license elsewhere, I can only hope that the next setting for my writing will be more conducive to creativity. Besides, I’ve run out of buckets to deal with leaky roofs.