Living the high life

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TOWER BLOCK: Sitting on top of the world. ©Barry Duke/Benigrafica/Zarateman Wikimedia

WHEN I tell folk that I live on the 31st floor of a tower block on the outskirts of Benidorm, they generally react with horror.

“Oooh, I could never live that high”, they exclaim, adding “what happens when the lifts break down?”

So far this has never happened in the almost eight years that we have lived in a spacious two-bedroomed apartment in Sol de Poniente II, but when we chose our apartment it didn’t enter our mind that living in the clouds would expose us at times to really scary weather conditions.

High winds are the worst. Last week I wrote of how our utility room door was blown open with such force that a six-litre bottle of water was propelled into the back of my knees and sent me crashing to the floor, but this was nothing compared to the terror we felt when the wind blew one of two two-metre high glass patio doors off its tracks late one night.

We were watching TV when there was a loud crash and a gale tore through our living room, sending the pooches, pot plants, papers and pictures flying. Fortunately, we were able to lower the outside shutter which broke the wind’s force. But we weren’t able to get the door back on its sliders until the next day. Another heart-stopping moment occurred when I stepped out onto the patio to clean the doors.

To do so I had to slide them shut. Job done, I tried to get back indoors – and couldn’t. A wind had sprung up, and was blowing with such force against the doors they wouldn’t open and I had to remain on the patio for 45 minutes until the gale subsided.

I should point out at this stage that there is a serious design fault with the patio doors in this tower block. They have automatic locks. When a friend of mine, who once lived in the building, heard I was moving into Sol de Poniente II, he advised me to disable the locks immediately.

“If you close the doors while you’re on the patio there is absolutely no way that you can get back in because there are no handles on the outside. “And you can’t climb over onto a neighbour’s patio because the building, being fan-shaped, has no adjacent balconies.”

There’s another problem with high-rise buildings and wind, one that was noted as far back as 1902 when the Flatiron Building was completed on a site in Manhattan where 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue and Broadway converge.

Gusts would ricochet off the building and blow women’s long skirts above their ankles. Multitudes of young men would position themselves on 23rd Street at the base of the building in the hope of glimpsing a comely bit of stocking, and ‘plods’ had to yell at them to move on.

In 1905 a risque movie entitled The Flatiron Building on a Windy Day that ‘gives one a general idea of what women experience on a windy day around this noted corner’ was released.

Another troublesome building was the 32-storey Bridgewater Place in Leeds, completed in 2007.

This channelled fierce air currents straight down to the ground, creating gale-force winds of up to 80 mph at street level – and it caused a great deal more grief than lifting women’s skirts.

In 2011, particularly strong winds led to the tragic incident of a lorry being blown over, crushing a pedestrian to death.

The problem was solved by an architect firm. The Guardian, in 2014, reported that, ‘in a proposal that has all the elegance of strapping leg splints on a Dalek, they have resolved to erect a cumbersome series of frames around the base of the building, from which screens and canopies will be hung in an attempt to mitigate the wind.’

Will periodic bouts of wild weather – few and far between – drive us from our concrete nest?

Not a chance. Our monthly rental is ridiculously low, our Spanish neighbours are as quiet as mice and extraordinarily friendly and the views are incredible.

So, unless we’re given our marching orders by the landlord, we’re here to stay.

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