Alex Bower

ALEX BOWER is back with his latest column. Meet his landlord, a self-styled hip-hop terrorist whose life is one constant high.

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Every house has little niggles that give it character. For my flat in North-West Moscow, it’s the occasional appearance of phosphorescent paint on my bathroom walls, the low number of kitchen appliances that perform any useful function whatsoever and the fact that I have to sleep on my bed like a starfish.

Some niggles are more than niggles though, and can push you to the brink of moving out. For me, this isn’t the grunting and animal noises that come through the wall while I’m trying to sleep, and it’s not even the general experience of living with someone flirting so heavily with insanity I feel like a constant third wheel.

My landlord is one such huge niggle. Born and raised in the flat in which I currently reside, he has inherited it without any clear idea of how to manage it. This includes paying the utility bills, meaning that people come round knocking on the enormous leather bound door that separates us from the relative sanity of the outside so violently that it creaks on its hinges.  We then go into blackout mode, drawing the curtains and hiding out of sight, a bit like the time my sister asked me to watch Twilight with her.

It also means that the cold water is randomly turned off every month (not the hot water, that’s strangely fine), invariably when you’re in the shower, leaving you with no cold water to relieve the second degree burns you’ve just got from the sudden temperature explosion.

The problem is that he thinks it’s absolutely fine to rock up for a few nights occasionally, in the knowledge that he’s undercharging us and if we say no, he can threaten to raise the rent. This would be fine if he was cracking company and had great chat, but he is not cracking company and does not possess good chat. In fact, he’s a complete ass.

This is my landlord. He is based in Jerusalem where by day he works as a security guard, “so [his] life is one constant high” but by night transforms into a self-styled “hip-hop terrorist” called Sayaf and enters rap battle competitions where the only possible winner is Israel’s version of You’ve Been Framed.

I can’t put my finger exactly on what it is he looks like, but my best estimation is the white Jewish lovechild of Mr Pepperami and Cyril Sneer from classic 80s TV show The Raccoons. He recently came back to Russia to record that notoriously difficult second studio album, so there are a lot of nervous Sayaf fans around hoping he doesn’t sell out.

I first encountered him when I was putting the finishing touches to my floor bed via the absurd number of sofa cushions that Olesya has managed to accumulate without accumulating a sofa. He strolled into the apartment with his album collaborators, Spliff Blazer and 2-Zap, who sound like a hilarious parody act but are in fact totally serious.

I mostly managed to steer clear of him by avoiding the flat at all costs in case he would try to tell me about his various women again, because the last time that happened I failed to suppress my snorts when he told me that he couldn’t be monogamous because he “just had too much love to give” and I didn’t know the Russian word for “perennial rhinitis”.

The strangest thing though was the debris that stayed when he left, and what he had taken from my room. Missing were the router for the house and the power lead to a charming novelty lamp. Found, however, were ten Toblerones, three solvent-free gluesticks, two size XL lingerie onesies draped over a broken bed spring, and his phone. Maybe he’s not so bad after all.