Since my last post about my ‘flat-o-curiosities’, my sister has arrived in the country. We had decided before she arrived that we were going to look for a new place together, so I have quickly found myself in the position of having to ‘pitch’ this tiny Whitechapel dive with its wacky wiring, silly shower and barren kitchen (sorry, I couldn’t find a suitable ‘k’ word to make that alliteration aeroplane fly) to the hapless fops on Gumtree.
As if my post below doesn’t make the place sound unbearable enough, I didn’t even mention that the neighbourhood Tom-cats are in continual competition with one another over whose particular interpretation of the infamous ‘eau de cat’ is the most covetable, staging their ‘scent-offs’ near our front door; there is no light in the kitchen apart from a tiny bulb behind the ancient yellow toaster, making it difficult to judge whether that little brown blob on the table is a delicious chocolate-coated peanut or a jaw-breaking, indefinable material that could in no way be interpreted as food; and our ‘backyard’ could be used as an example of what the world would look like six to eight years after humans have been wiped out*. And, to put the half-decomposed banana on top of the colossal compost heap, our next-door neighbours are squatters. Squatters who enjoy a good disco followed by a plate-throwing brawl at 3 in the morning.
Okay. All of these things haven’t really been that bad. I have been able to put up with all of this for 8 months, after all. I have even come to think of my little defective slice of Whitechapel as ‘quaint’ rather than what others might term ‘a hole’. My room also seems to be the most immune to the sounds of squabbling squatters, so usually I sleep right through.
But after I had written my advertisement talking about our ‘two bathrooms (1 shower), combined kitchen and living area and a backyard simply perfect for summer BBQs’, I started wondering whether and when to lie to the people who came knocking. I had to make up my mind quickly, as one of our first visitors – a Canadian girl – almost immediately asked the most difficult question to weasel my way out of: ‘How do you find the neighbours?’
The pause preceding my response should have given her a clear indication of ‘how we find the neighbours’ (‘We usually just knock on their door…’). She didn’t seem to notice my hesitation, however, so I quickly stammered something about how we don’t really know them that well and that they like to party on occasion, but it doesn’t really disturb me.
Before you say, ‘you squawking Lyre-bird, you!’, I actually told the truth to the people I thought were decent. This girl already seemed a little ‘off’, so I figured there was no harm in only sharing the tasty details of our neighbours and our interesting light-switch situation with people who were ‘quirky in a good way’. I thought that these ‘quirky in a good way’ people might look at this flat as I have come to: as a story they will tell for years to come.
At this stage I have found two potential candidates to pray for watery salvation from the moody shower-head and learn how to make-do with cake tins instead of pots, and it is only up to my flat-mates to decide which one they could bear to live with. By now I know that one wrong choice in the flat-mate department can sometimes prove worse than a painfully ineffective shower, lack of cooking utensils, noisy neighbours, dumpy backyard and cat pee combined. But both of these girls seem fine, so hopefully the bubbly Australian or the laid-back Brit won't prove to be as good at omitting off-putting details in their self-advertisements as I am on the 'flats offered' section of Gumtree.
I hope whoever succeeds doesn't retrospectively hate me forever. You see, I didn't tell them about the shower head. And to some, that is much, much worse than the occasional sounds of Italian profanities and shattering crockery at 3am...
*On a related note, my flat-mates tell me that a short walk from our front door there is an area used in the film 28 Days Later. No doctoring or special effects were needed. It already looked like it was torn apart by zombie-humans who had been infected with a potent virus that induces a murderous and destructive rage.