Tuesday, January 19

Living Conditions I

Currently I spend my weekdays in London and go back home for the weekend. Last autumn I house-sat a friends art collection in her swishy pad in West London for a couple of months. This was sort of great but also a bit tense, the immaculateness of the pale carpets and the fragile and valuable Works of Art made me nervous, I wore latex gloves and a hairnet in the flat and put paper on the sofa before I sat on it.

At Christmas my friend returned to guard her own art so I needed to find alternative weekday accommodation. I placed a couple of very brief ads asking if anyone had a room to let. I’m a bit out of touch with this sort of thing, but is it normal to reply to 'Accommodation Wanted’ ads with full details of one’s divorce arrangements?

This person (who gave no name or other indication of identity) lives about as far away as one could get from the area I specified

I am living in canary wharf in a 1 bed apartment means 1 bed room and living room , if you need you can take my bedroom whereas I am happy to adjust in living room till march 1st week.

Amount will not be a problem , can talk about that if you like and see the apartment.

your comfort is my main concern

take care


I spent a weekend visiting the best of the proposals, all of them were astonishing in one way or another, one chain-smoking care worker showed me a tiny bedroom full of teddy bears, the rest of the house contained a lot of purple sculpted-pile carpet and was strewn with empty beer cans and overflowing ashtrays. The next flat had a large splashy bloodstain in the hallway which put me off a bit. And then there was Polly;

Polly sent me a very long response detailing the fabulousness of her Chelsea apartment, the 'spacious living room' with 'gorgeous soft furnishings', the 'outside patio for barbeques in the summer', the 'well-equipped kitchen' and the 'vast bath for sumptuous soaking after a hard day’s work'. I was suspicious but I had to see it.

I found the address and tinkled the wind chime by the door of a basement flat, the door opened onto a small grotto-like space partitioned into 'rooms’ with thin bits of board, the smells of cat wee and mould were overwhelming. To hide the mouldy areas Polly had recently glued bits of brightly-coloured fabric over the window sills and skirting boards.

To emphasise the lack of space, the flat was decorated with strings of Tibetan prayer flags and crammed with garage-sale scavenged items, including 2 washing machines and a tumble drier. Polly had rigged up some wobbly storage systems to accommodate bread makers, coffee makers, kettles and assorted broken pots.

My first step through the front door put me in the centre of the 'kitchen’ which consisted of doll-sized sink, the two-ring, Baby Belling hob was set on the drainer which I didn’t notice at first because both hob and sink were covered over with saucepans and plates,
Look! she pointed up at one of the perilously crammed shelves
there’s an ice cream-maker - we can make ice cream!

Polly has many cats, they peered at us as she insisted I went into the bathroom, squeeze my way between the bath and sink and inspect the 'designer’ loo seat, the front of the lavatory was right against the back of the bath - to use it one would have to sit sidesaddle.

I’d been there 5 minutes, I was feeling very queasy and said that I had to leave.

I went out of the door and Polly followed me, in the rain, wearing fat pink felt bootees, this pale pixie-like person bobbed alongside me keeping up a stream of information about her health problems as I tried not to break into a run towards the station as she grabbed my arm, telling me to look in the windows of the local restaurants and shops so I could see what a great neighbourhood we were in.

In the early hours of the next morning Polly sent me a text suggesting that I could stay for the first month for free.

I resisted this bargain and have chosen instead to move in with half a pop group for a little while...


  1. Oh, the living hell of apartment hunting.

    Polly's pad reminds me of a very small house I roomed in during university for a semester. Except that Harvey didn't have an ice cream maker.

  2. The above comment is mine. I somehow clicked anon. Damn.

  3. I moved flats 16 times in 8 years before I got married. And 3 times afterwards. They can scrape me off the floor of this place! :¬)


  4. My worst living arrangements were with my parents, specifically from the age of 12 to 20. Everything after that was OK.

  5. I am now recalling the horror of the basement apartment with no windows.

    Well, in truth there was ONE window.

    But it was painted over.

  6. Half a pop group sounds interesting. Better than cat woman

    You deserve better than all this hassle.


  7. Oh My Dearest Lulu!
    I have been in your situation a couple of times and once, back in my 20s, before kids, shared successfully for 6 months or so. Next time we needed another address I knew it had to be stand-alone or nothing. I hate to say it - I know there are happy roommates/flatmates, at least for a time, but it is recipe for something like disaster. I know London is terribly expensive but a room of one's own - no sharing - is worth what it costs. Not that you asked me but I felt compelled to provide my advice. Maybe another house sitting gig is out there? Good luck.

  8. Oh my goodness, thanks for the laughs. I'm sorry it was a bit at your expense. Hopefully you will find something a little better, right?

    Back when I was in Chicago, I needed a roommate to offset my costs at my place. I had a similar experience in terms of the characters that came by. I specified non-smoking and one woman got mad at me cuz I said she couldn't get high in the apartment. I guess weed doesn't fall under smoking in her mind. Another guy said he was on parole and wondered if I'd mind 'covering for him'. I eventually found a good guy.

  9. yikes, sugar! i hope y'all find something soon! xoxoxo

  10. Oh my lord!

    Is it wrong that I want you to keep apartment hunting for the purpose of my entertainment? So funny, Lulu. And alarming.

    I'm dying to hear more about the place you're currently residing in.

  11. Xl - I haven't done this for a few decades, I'm out of practice. This is the only time I've thought of an ice-cream maker as a bad thing.

    mapstew They can scrape me off the floor of this place! I can so relate to that sentiment

    Bill Stankus - 'Everything after 20 was OK.' !!! lucky man

    MJ - Polly's place had a window - hers was painted too!!

    Ms Fancy - the Half a pop group is quite fun actually. I don't deserve hassle do I?

    K - I'd love another house-sit, I just don't have enough friends who go away!!

    Wow, - if it made you laugh my pain is worth it darlin'!

    Sav - The half pop group is cool for the time-being sweetie - hey it's something to write home about!

    Ms projectivist - likewise to Wow - if I'm keeping someone amused, then at least someone's happy - will tell about new place soon.

  12. I want to find out all about your past life euh lives. What could you possibly have done to cop this Karma Lulu. Pop Group you say ... hmmm.

  13. I think I lived at Polly's place when I was resident in North London bedsitter land - maybe we all did. (I partucularly like the "we" in "we can make ice cream!")

  14. oh lulu I'm so glad you didn't move into the flat with all the teddy bears. I have a friend who works in mental health (not me of course, I'm not a nurse, oh no)and she swears that collections of stuffed animals = Danger Will Robinson, Danger!!!

  15. oooooh nyrsemyra, i have long suspected as much. especially those people who like to drown the rear window of their car in stuffed animals.

    thank you for your clarification!

  16. Good grief. Praise be for living in the provinces where having your own place is financially possible.

    Back when we were very young a girl I knew rented a room in a tenement flat in Edinburgh. The floor area was seven feet square - enough for a bed and a wardrobe with no doors. The room was nineteen feet high. And it was unheated...

  17. Ange What could you possibly have done to cop this Karma Lulu?
    I was Mata Hari in a past life - does that explain things

    Gadjo - there are many versions of Polly's place so we may have all come across one, brave the person who spends a night there.

    Nursey - I have a stuffed animal danger alert embedded in me too - even if children have them!

    Ms P - cars drowning in stuffed animals and grown ups who surround their workplace with them *shudders*.

    Kevin - no doors - your young lady friend was living in a pit.

  18. I'm kinda with Ms Project on this one. Please could you text Polly to go out for a drink or something so that we can find out more about her?

  19. Which half? top - bottom - left - right - front - back ?

  20. I think you have some kind of hidden radar in your head that homes in on eccentrics. Perhaps you could get it adjusted so it heads only for those eccentrics who are fun to be around?

  21. P.S. I have many dolls, but very few stuffed toys: Axel (after Axel Rose) sock monkey made by a friend, ET with an extending neck, little rag doll made by a sister when she was a child, shaggy teddy bear the colour of Nurse Myra's walls,strange knitted tube person, and one other hand-made rag doll. I was going to say I live alone. . .

  22. ".. latex gloves and a hairnet in the flat and put paper on the sofa..."

    Man! Anytime there is any self-pity in the Land of Topiary she will just think of you doing this for TWO months!

    Cow agrees with Wow and with you, there are both a lot of nutters wanting to rent, and a lot of nutters wanting to share.

    Let's hope your situation takes a quick and drastic turn for the better! Perhaps, a place with carefully trained Topiary is in your future!


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  24. Scarlet - Polly is fascinating, I have kept her numerous emails and texts which I plan to turn into a novel, but daren't actually reply to any of them.

    Joe - front half

    Ms Eyeball - that radar isn't so easy to adjust - but I'm trying!

    Clearly you don't live alone, I do actually own a strange knitted thing that a disturbed person made, I think he was aiming for a monkey.

    Ms Cow - no self-pity allowed, I pretended I was in a cake shop when I wore the hair net


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