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Sunday, 20 May 2012

London Flat Hunting

I am currently house sitting for a council tenant. This is perfectly within the rules for eighteen months. It has been longer than that. I am going to be evicted, but I don't know when. Ergo, I am looking for a new place to live.

Despite the many tales I've been hearing of people being evicted in advance of the Olympics, this seemed to get off to a promising start.

The Art Space

I went on a web site that caters for people looking for a room in a shared housing situation and found something that seemed ideal. It was a live-work space, catered towards artists. I arranged to go look at the rooms, without Xena, as, at the time, the vet still thought she might have a sprain and she was not allowed to walk very far.

The rooms were tiny and seemed overpriced, and the organiser was overwhelmingly hispterish, but the shared space was good and it seemed I could get a ground floor room with my dog. There were 10 rooms going in each warehouse space. Given the prices, I worried my future housemates might be trust-funded artsy wannabes, but then I decided to get over myself. I emailed the organiser the next day and asked to arrange a meeting between him and Xena in order to get the room I liked. He said he did not want to force an injured dog to walk and I could have the room if I wired him the deposit the next day. Alas, I still do not have internet banking and asked to put it off to Monday.

On Monday, I was feeling too glum about Xena's impending demise to leave the house and warned him I couldn't do it until Tuesday morning. He wrote back something with a smilely in it and thus on Tuesday morning, I sent the wire, intending to email him saying I had done it when I got home at the end of the day. But, alas, at the end of the day, I found he had emailed me that afternoon to say he had rented the room to somebody else. I had a moment of panic and asked for the last room in the building with a window in it. More than half the rooms he had for rent had no windows or outside light, which I know from experience will mess with my head. This last room was smaller, more money, and up a flight of stairs.

But wait a second? How could the room be gone if I wired him the money that morning? I called him up and he explained, basically, that he had undercapitalised the project. The building owner would not let anyone move in until he paid the full deposit for the entire building, which was not money that he had. Therefore, in order to get things underway, he had decided that whoever sent him deposits first could have whatever room he had for offer. He had promised the same room to three different people and I was not first to prove that I had wired him money, ergo, it couldn't go to me. I briefly explained that I needed both a window and ground floor access, due to my dog's mobility issues and he said he would try to see if we could shuffle around a bit, but I would still need to pay the higher rent in that case. I said ok. I have to move. I have a dog. I need a place.

My friends, however, said I should get my deposit back, so I called the landlord and said I didn't really feel comfortable with how things were going and as I had wired him money for a specific room at a particular price, I would like my money back. He sounded unhappy and I apologised at length for the inconvenience I had caused, but he agreed to return the money. Again, I have no internet banking, so I don't know if he has done this yet. I have his real name and bank details, so I am confident that my money will get returned.

The Recording Studio

I was cycling past a set of studios that are in high demand and was surprised to see for lease sign on the building. I phoned up and found that the sign was out of date, but the company had several other things on offer. Would I like to live in a three bedroom recording studio around the corner from my current address? Would I! The price was high, but if there were three of us, I could just about do it.

The recording studio turned out to be in the basement of an office building. It was two bedrooms, a small living room, a fantastic kitchen, a large recording area and a control room. The guy previously living there had done it up himself in a kind of haphazard way, which the estate agent kept describing in terms of the 'architectural vision' of the DIYer, as if he were an undiscovered Frank Lloyd Wright. The man had not merely stapled budget-rated acoustical foam to all the walls and then decided to cover them with shabby black coverings that did not hide exposed pipes, he had left it unfinished on purpose as part of his great aesthetic.

Indeed, he did seem to love black walls, as the entire studio was black, as was a wall of the living room and was the bathroom. This was a daring choice for a basement apartment with no windows of any kind. But not as daring as the shower.

The shower was attached to the master bedroom, which was really the only proper bedroom, as the other one had hanging sheets instead of a wall separating it from the living room. He had clearly run out of room to put in a shower, so he put in a bath tub, in the interior, windowless, black painted room. The ceiling was not high enough to support a shower. But then inspiration must have struck him. He dug into the ground and made the bathtub deeper. Approximately 5 feet deep, so it was a long, narrow enamelled space that he had put footholds in so one could climb in and out. Or, possibly bleed out the corpse of an animal slaughtered for dinner. I may yet have nightmares about that shower.

With the sound proofing and the black walls it would have made a great SM dungeon if it was not so shabby. As it is, it would make a perfectly great rehearsal space and a nice place to live if I wanted to go slowly insane. Especially if this manifested itself as cannibalism. It has a really nice kitchen.

The Missiles

The Ministry of Defence has decided that the best way to defend the Olympics from terrorists is to put surface-to-air missiles on the top of a gated community in Bow. The people living in the flats under the missiles were not consulted about this and are not pleased to have military weaponry on their roofs. (It turns out that the 4th amendment in the US Constitution is more useful than you might have guessed in the modern age.) Much to my delight and surprise, I actually met two people who live in the missile buildings.

Bow is not London's most sought-after area, so I asked if 'gated community' meant something posh. One of the residents explained that the area was being gentrified street by street. Some squares were very rough and others were fine and others were posh, all right next to each other. The gated area is a posh enclave of 20-something yuppies who are buying their first flat before moving to a more desirable post code. She explained they had not yet gotten beyond the 'stage' of doing lots of coke and behaving like children. The missiles on the roof are an accident waiting to happen, she opined.

I asked if there was anything going in my price range, because who doesn't want to live right underneath an embarrassing military accident? She said there was and then emailed our friend in common a link to an advert for a one room flat. It was more than twice as much as she had estimated the average cost to be and well out of my range.

It's just as well as can't afford coke either.

The search continues....

And if you know of a place that wants a not-yet-employed recent graduate and a short-term dog, which is on the ground floor, with a ramp or with a lift, do let me know.

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