Before going to Mali, I lived for 2 ½ years in Hull – the Quebec city just over the bridge from Ottawa which has since been amalgamated into Gatineau. I lived in what you could describe as a working class part of town (although that would include the girls who sometimes worked the street corner nearby).
I actually liked the neighbourhood, for, not despite, its rough edges. I liked its sharp contrast to the clean-cut, middle-class city across the river.
I’d also received a bit of sticker shock when I moved to Ottawa and found that the cost of renting a whole house in Saskatoon wouldn’t get me a bachelor apartment anywhere close to the city centre on the Ontario side. It was much more affordable across the bridge – even though my place in Hull was less than a half hour walk to Parliament Hill.
The place I found was advertised as a bachelor apartment – which usually means that the bedroom is not separate from the living room. I’ve lived in several such apartments before and while I don’t mind the coziness, it can be a little uncomfortable having people over who you don’t know well as they may have to sit on your bed.
But while this apartment was small – just a corner of a house – it was split on two levels. A flight of stairs led from the main floor room (in which was a kitchen and table) to a sort of loft-style bedroom (my mattress on the floor) and a bathroom off to the side. There was no door separating the floors, but having guests over didn’t have to feel like inviting people into my bedroom either.
The place was cold in the winter – I hammered rag rugs to the walls to try to cut down the drafts – but it suited my needs well enough. It’s one of my old homes that I look back on fondly – not as the kind of place I will likely ever live in again, but as sort of emblematic of a certain time in my life. It’s interesting looking back at my old homes in this series and thinking about what these places represent to me now...