Thursday, June 30, 2011

1987: If you're in confusion, here's the solution

Carefree student days were at an end, and after six weeks doing not very much when I should have been doing a great deal, it was time to move to London at last.

Some might call it rash, others bold, but I had no job to go to and was just going to try my luck. I didn't have any money either, but at least I had somewhere to live.

I'd got a room in a house through a friend who was also moving to London. Unfortunately she couldn't move in when I did so I'd have to brave it on my own. We'd been up to see this house, which was a nasty little terrace off the rather grand sounding but actually execrable Manor House in north London.

She was in a horrific mood, as was her wont, when I arrived to collect her and what should have been a fun road trip was fraught with tension. Not having driving in London before I found the whole stop/start gear-crunching routine to be a total nightmare, and after running over a huge cone and getting it stuck underneath the car in Upper Regent Street the car finally overheated and we were by the side of the road in a then desolate Fitzrovia for what seemed like hours. When Smokey Sings was on the radio every 15 minutes, and while it was nice to see ABC making a comeback the future for mum's beige Cavalier was not looking too promising.

We eventually got to Manor House and met one of the people we'd be sharing with, an old acquaintance of my friend who was called Andrew, was an artist and who looked like Jesus. He may as well have had a neon sign with the word 'knob' atop his head, but my moving in was weeks away. A quick trip to the landlord to register me and it was job done. I was sure it would be fine.

So on my moving in day I arrived at about midnight after leaving home - just a couple of hours away, at lunchtime. I got totally lost and circumnavigated London via the M25, eventually finding my way down past Barnet and Southgate and other mythical districts, known to me only from the Tube map.

Of course I had no key yet, and Andrew was not amused by my knocking him up after hours. This is when it was confirmed to me that not only did he have no sense of humour but he was also really mean.

The next morning I had to drive the car back and so got the train up to London. Mum packed me off with the remains of a moussaka and after forcing the temperamental front door lock I could finally unpack my room and settle in. First thing I did was plug in the stereo and tune the radio to Capital. I lived in London now. It was the law.

But my rear ground floor room didn't feel like home. Andrew and his Spanish girlfriend spent all their time in their room. They used the kitchen to silently and prissily prepare vegan meals which they would then eat in their room. I only got told off once for using milk and apart from that I never saw them at all.

It was grim. The phone was incoming calls only, there was no TV and no one else in the house. The front ground floor room was apparently inhabited by another artist whom I never met, but whose equipment was always assembled as if someone had just left the room. I'm sure it was staged. I once met someone on the doorstep when we were both locked out for about four hours until the key just suddenly worked. He was a nice guy, we got on. I went away for the weekend and never saw him again.

So I spent that first balmy night in that house lying on my bed listening to the radio, smoking and feeling the vibrations from the Piccadilly Line passing underneath, while this song cropped up on the radio time and again.

I had to get a job but had no clue what I wanted to do. But what I did know is that I didn't want to stay in this house.

Reader, I stayed two weeks.


  1. Terrifying. Bloody hell.

    Moving to London with no job is something I could never have done in a million years. It actually took me three years of trying to get a job to get here.

  2. Well I got a job pretty quickly, but that's another story.

  3. I was going to say, pretty much the first thing I did was tune in my hi-fi to Capital and all the rest. It seemed very exciting at the time.

  4. Brave lad. I slunk back to the old family home after graduation as I had no money or job and it was only half an hour from Central London anyway. Big mistake - all it meant was endless battles with my mother who expected life to revert to what it had been before I went away to University. We growled at each other for two years before I moved to the South Coast, where I still am.

    I remember lots of my friends 'doing time' in various rooms in various shared houses in North London, though. Always meant there was a floor for me to sleep on, though some of the floors were so sticky and disgusting I chose to brave the Night Bus instead. Grim times.

  5. I moved down to London before I had a job too. Retrospectively, I don't know how I ever dared (I was a lot more timid in those days!), but I had a house-share with friends lined up, so it felt exciting rather than worrying.

  6. Those were my thoughts too, though the excitement wore off pretty quickly.

    After this hideous house I moved into a flat with a friend from uni and it was much better. We both got jobs at the same place, and therein lies another blog post.

  7. Incoming calls only - says it all

  8. My dad really liked Mel and Kim. He thought they were "entertaining".