When I first started working in London, I was commuting from my Aunt’s house in Colchester. As this wasn’t a long term solution, I was looking for somewhere to live at the same time. This involved buying Loot, phoning around agencies and arranging to see places in the evening after work.
My normal day was as follows: Up at 5, leave my aunts at 5:30, get the 6:10 train to Liverpool St, get into London for just after 7 and get to the office for 8. Finish work at 4, find the place I was looking at for about 5:30, grab something quick to eat and get the train back to Colchester at 7, in bed for 9. Even on a Saturday I was going into London first thing. It wasn’t sustainable.
I wasn’t too concerned with where I wanted to live, I just wanted something close to public transport and somewhere on my own. I ended up seeing all sorts of places. There was the studio flat that had a lovely kitchen but wasn’t big enough for the sofa bed to fully open up in. A flat over a set of takeaways but seemed to have grease on the walls. My favourite was the place that seemed to be in a middle of a war zone. The windows and doors were all grilled up, and when I suggested opening a window, I received a look of horror.
While it was quite nice to visit all these places, I still hadn’t found somewhere to live. I made arrangements with a company in Forest Hill to see a basement flat. I wasn’t expecting much, but I found this wonderful little flat, on a quiet street. Yes, it was in south London, but I could get bus directly to both main London Electricity offices. It was just what I was looking for.
This should now be the place where I tell you how it all went wrong and I ended up living somewhere else. It’s not, but it had a few quirks.
Firstly, the flat had a set of coloured spot lights and a disco ball. I’ll let that sink in for a moment, a disco ball! For future reference, most people get the wrong impression when you switch the lighting over to “Party Mode”. You didn’t know that I had it in me? I didn’t either.
It seemed that the previous occupant of the flat was my new landlord, who used it as a place for some extramarital activities. Well until his wife found out. It wasn’t as if he was an Adonis, he was a rather short West Indian who was seemingly more beard than anything else. His attire was a Benny hat, a pair of old what was originally green overalls but now mainly stained, and a pair of sandals.
This budding Lothario was unsurprisingly a bit dodgy. It took me a couple of months to figure it out, but he had a safe in the flat which every so often he pop in to put stuff in/take out. I quickly put a stop to it when he wondered in uninvited on a weekday that I had off. There was the whole incident where he wanted me to pay for covering the back garden in Astroturf. I wouldn’t have minded, but I couldn’t get to the back garden.
The upstairs neighbours were quite nice if a bit loud. I didn’t know which was louder their fights, or their making up. Oh, and even though the house was split into three flats, I somehow managed the heating for all three. If my heating wasn’t on then no one else could have theirs on. I also didn’t pay any utilities bills while I lived there, but I consider that less a quirk and more a feature.
There was one problem, the landlord was rather poor at sorting out the drains. One of the problems with living in a basement flat was if your drains are blocked and it rains then there is only one place for it to go. As I wasn’t prepared to pay for it to be sorted out myself, he refused to do it, until I suggested that he may have to replace the carpets. Then when I started going through the whole song and dance again, I had enough and decided it was time to move on.
His last attempt to get money out of me backfired when he said that I hadn’t given enough notice so he was holding onto the deposit. I said that it was fine, as I wasn’t giving him the last month’s rent then. He whinged about it, until I got a solicitor friend of mine to phone him to remind him of our contract.
It’s just a shame that I never got to use the spotlights and disco ball in anger.