Thursday, July 19, 2012

1988: Share the view

Flatmates; who'd have 'em? Well I've had plenty, as no doubt have you, and I'd say nine times out of 10 we fell out and never saw each other again.

You start out as friends, but you don't know what someone's really like until you live with them and when you find that out it's a wonder you've stayed out of jail. Yes, I've eyed up the knife drawer on occasion but never been moved to commit murder, tempting as it appeared at the time. What better way to rid yourself of those annoying little habits that make your life a living hell after all?

That said, did it ever occur to me that living with me might have been a nightmare?

My best mate's girlfriend had bought a lovely first-floor one-bedroom flat almost opposite the Imperial War Museum and though she had someone moving in in September, if I paid her £50 a week it was mine until then. I could have the bedroom, and because she was about to start as a hostess on cross-Channel ferries she'd be away a lot but would sleep on the sofa bed whenever she was. The proviso: no one was to sleep on sofa bed but her.

Perfect timing. I had to move out of my flat in Shepherd's Bush, the one on which I'd paid no rent to same best mate's sister who was living in America for the past six months. She'd come home briefly and though she didn't make a huge issue out of it seeing as she was living rent free with her boyfriend in California, she asked me for the money in its entirety nonetheless.

She had every right to of course, but we were friends and she'd never asked me for the money and I thought I'd got away with it. I lied and said I'd get it, but I knew there was no way I could lay my hands on that sort of cash. I hoped I could stall her and she'd go back to the States and forget all about it. So she phoned my dad.

Therefore, I needed somewhere else to live. This Kennington flat was ideal. Really near the place I was working, nice room, nice flat, great flatmate, etc. So I made myself at home. I knew come September she'd let me stay on, it wouldn't be a problem.

But after the first time she found a couple of my friends sleeping in her sofabed on her return in the dead of night one day, she reiterated that this was to be a temporary arrangement. After the second time I had my marching orders well and truly hanging over me. And when I came home one day to find her unexpectedly in doing all the washing-up I'd left for a week or so in high summer, she told me she couldn't live with me anymore and when September rolled around I was out and this fictional, exotic-sounding Antonella was in, as had always been the case.

By the end of July she'd packed in the ferries and got a job at oh-so-Eighties trendy boutique Joseph, and had swapped her uniform for short, tight black skirts and asymmetric shoulder-padded zip-up tops in shades of plop brown. Not that she wasn't a fashionista already. This was the girl who spent her first term's grant on a Chanel handbag.

But we did laugh a lot. As horrific as this sounds, we'd earnestly sing this terrible song to each other like they did in the video and lose it before the third line of the second chorus. We did a lot of laughing. But then we did a lot of smoking.

I really didn't want to have to go. I hinted I'd like to stay on, in fact, I ended up begging her, but she wasn't having it. And besides, she had decided to train as a lawyer. (This one she stuck at, and is now an international lawyer based in Geneva) and was doing a corporate let on the flat Corporate my eye. When I went back a few months later to collect my TV that I'd had to leave behind because it was too big to take floor to floor for three months, I think the Manson family was living there. I was lucky to escape with my life let alone my TV.

That was a great flat, but I blew it. I learnt a lesson there and then got payback in spades when I owned my own flat. Ah, selfish youth.

Amazingly however, we stayed friends. For a while.


  1. Not entirely relevant, but your TV comment reminded me of how much stuff we used to cart about then. For instance at University I'd transport a bike, couple of suitcases and various boxes across Britain by train - two or three changes - at the start and finish of term.

    It was a logistical nightmare/miracle! I used to quite like the challenge though. But I wouldn't want to consider it now and nor would these young folk neither.

    Although it has to be said that the BR guard and station staff in those days were very patient and helpful, not like some of the hustling paraders you can get inflicted on you now.

  2. I wonder if she ever looks back and thinks she was a bit tough on you? Actually, probably not.

    She's in Geneva, you're in London....but where oh where is Glen Medeiros??

  3. I know, OP, I lugged endless stuff everywhere, often roping in a willing friend with a car to help me out. I had all sorts of junk. That's not changed as I've got older.

    She doesn't think she was tough on me, KK, in fact, she knows she was doing the right thing. I deserved it. I don't see her now but everytime I make a fried tuna and celery sandwich or here the phrase 'what if they gave a war and nobody came' I think of her.