People with a spare room for a while are always mad. It shouldn’t be true, but it is. Just as drug dealers are from Salford, and even in Orkney, Socialist Worker sellers have cockney accents, so it is that people with a spare room for a while are always certifiable.
Over the years, I have enjoyed their temporary rented accommodation when in between homes, but just days after moving in, I’m sleeping with a chair wedged under the door, and 999 on speed dial. Maybe my room had previously been their special secret friend. Perhaps they spoke to it at night: (‘…Hush now, liebling, I have found you a human! And this time – a real one! Hahahaha!’)
And yet, when plans go wrong, they are extremely useful. ‘Katie’ was thirty-something, with a posh job in marketing; I was new in the big city and she was a friend of a friend. Always immaculate herself, and very correct, her boyfriend was an incongruous seventeen year old lout in a hoodie. What does she see in him? I wondered, as he farted openly and repeatedly in the lounge, monopolising the remote control after snatching it from my hand.
Late at night, the truth emerged. Increasingly desperate cries of ‘Ohmygodohmygod!’ proved she didn’t like him for his conversation. Stumbling out to the loo one night, I saw she had left her bedroom door wide open during one especially loud session, so I shut it. I was given notice the very next morning, which I found a little harsh. After all, it's not as if I peered round the door to ask for a hand out with the bins.
Given such emergencies, you may find that some spare roomers live alone through choice. Others because it’s better for humanity. One landlady kindly rented me a room while I was again between homes. She was a ‘character’. Missy (let’s call her Missy) kept a small museum of historical tampon boxes on the coffee table, shown proudly to visitors. When she went away for the weekend, and removed the batteries from the remote control, I said nothing (I was paying rent, remember.)
Missy liked her booze. One night, I was drunkenly locked out of the flat until three pm the next day. At first I thought I was being melodramatic for worrying she might have suffocated. Just as I was poised to call the police to break down the door, she appeared with no explanation, other than that she was pissed.
For Missy, the world was paved with eggshells. Not anticipating her every whim was interpreted as warlike. I was soon given notice for unreasonably ringing the doorbell while locked out. Missy is probably at home right now, howling at the moon, dancing naked around a shrine devoted her beloved Lloyd Grossman pasta sauce. Missy wanted to be a naturopath, but she was already as naturopathic as a hat-stand.
I can laugh about it now, but it didn't seem half as funny when I was sitting in the council offices declaring myself homeless.