Apartment Life

Planning academic trips used to be more of a gamble, before the revelations of internet reviews, and Google Street View. Some of the more unusual places I have stayed include a Salvation Army hostel in Geneva and the nurses’ accommodation block at a Belfast hospital. For longer trips it is more practical to rent a room or an apartment. When I knew I would be here in Boston for three months I explored http://www.sabbaticalhomes.com. After some digression (there was a fabulous house in the south of France…), I found an apartment in the South End district – convenient for getting to Harvard campus, for the Amtrack station, and for some great grocery stores and cafes. I haven’t lived in a big city centre (or without a garden) since I was a postgraduate student.

The apartment’s wooden floors and clean white walls reminded me of the writer Bruce Chatwin, who wished to live in an aesthetically-pleasing bare flat, so kept a spare room stuffed to the gunnels with all the clutter he actually needed. I am travelling light – one suitcase and cabin bag – I have little clutter to distribute. I have set up a work space with my back to the amazing view of the John Hancock Tower. Sirens (ambulances ‘whoop’ here like exotic birds and fire engines have tuba-deep honks) sometimes raise the background hum of the street, but it is easy to work, and a nice alternative to libraries and archives (more on them in another post).

harvard fridgeWhen I arrived there was nothing in the fridge AT ALL, which intensified its enormous size (there must be an interesting history behind Americans and their fridges). I went shopping, a little fuzzy-headed from the jet lag, and artfully spaced my purchases on the middle shelf. The freezer compartment has an icemaker with a mind of its own. The first few nights I was woken by the sound of new ice being churned out. My initial reaction was to keep removing it, like Mickey Mouse with the buckets of water in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice…‌

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