Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Moving out

The past few weeks I've been in such a state. I finish my Au Pair job on the 17th of December, and with it goes not only my primary source of income, but also my home. And with the local and global economy rushing headlong into chaos, the job market isn't exactly thriving. So up until a few days ago my prospects were looking fairly dire.

Naturally I managed to get a job without too much hassle (it was always going to be one or the other). The company that hired me provides staffing for high profile, high end events. It's not exactly guaranteed full-time work - in fact they're advising already that January is a lean month - but it's a job nonetheless.

But if the job market is tough then the housing market is out and out war.

I must have looked at a dozen houses in the last fortnight. Of those, two were nice, and the rest had me genuinely worried that I might be sold into the white slave trade. I had always thought that shows like East Enders and The Bill portrayed only the scummiest aspects of London life. As it turns out, it doesn't matter how nice the surrounding areas are; if you live on an estate in London, the chances of you getting stabbed over £20 rise exponentially. I saw flats with no living area; a room with three doors and a curtain; and in the worst case was offered a place in a one bedroom flat sharing with an overweight middle aged man with a ponytail. I don't mean to be judgemental, but there are some things you should be obliged to mention on a room advertisement. And the going rate for a room is £150 a week.

I was beginning to think my top two options were death by exposure or being shanked on an under lit stairwell when I went to look at a room in Highgate, and found myself in flat search utopia. The woman I spoke to (also named Shannon) lives there with her adult daughter and one other lodger, a Spanish girl who's moving back home after Christmas. I was determined not to lodge with a family, but she made it clear I would be treated as a flatmate. Honestly though, even if she hadn't I probably would have offered her my firstborn for the lease. The flat is beautiful. It's in North London, flanked on two sides by Camden and Hampstead Heath (famously the home of Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton amongst others). It has high ceilings and a private garden, and night buses to every corner of town. The next door neighbours are rich young bankers (single, too, according to my new landlord), and the area is practically overrun by people in the arts and media industries.

Afterwards I went home and decided that if I didn't get the lease on that flat I would give up and become a drifter, hitchhiking my way to the Med so I could sleep on the streets in relative winter warmth.

I picked up my set of keys today.

But wait, there's more. As if I needed any further incentive, I also found out the mother and daughter who own the flat are, from February next year, going to be spending much of there time in America. For weeks and months at a time they'll be gone, leaving me all on my own. Which means, to all intents and purposes, that for £400 a month (all inclusive) I just rented myself an entire house.

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