Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Please Don't Send Me Out There!

Today, I am reluctantly and vaguely considering the dreaded Great Flat Hunt. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t endure that torture again. I’ve been scanning the paper, and looking online. I even tried Gumtree, which once led to some truly disturbing calls from perverts. Gumtree is used by mad people (including my former land lady, who used up much of this planet’s supply of mad).

This is how to find a flat. First, see into the future. Buy the newspapers before they come out. Phone the landlord the month before flat is up for rent (or if possible before they are aware that they own property).

Use mind control, compelling them to rent you the flat. Ten years rent up front in advance (cash, of course) will cement the deal. Deposits are complicated these days: first dibs on your first born’s stem cells, and a promise never to live in the house you are paying for, so as not to damage it, might give you an advantage.

Next, brace yourself for estate agents, and the wily look on their faces as they push you into whatever property’s been on their book’s the longest, disdaining your perfectly reasonable upper rent limit, glancing at their workmates and smirking, undermining your determination to save money.

There are small ads in local papers where close to Manchester city centre means Birmingham, and two bedrooms translates as a studio with an alcove. That’s not to mention the hideous ritual of the wait outside, where it’s first come first served, and the orderly queue is a rugby scrum of psychological warfare, and you must pretend to be…The Best Tenant In The World! (And utterly perfect.)

There’s the tense moment of giving in your notice. Those with tight finances (or just no money at all) must time this carefully to coincide with the date of their new tenancy. A gap of more than a few days means paying rent on two homes, or staying on floors and hostels, and we all hate that.

Then there are references, and the deposit dance (the reality of needing a one months rent upfront and a months deposit to hand over to your new landlord, while you’re still waiting for the former landlord to hand over the money they have supposedly been keeping safe.)

Worse is the actual move. The idea of begging cardboard boxes from supermarkets, carrying them home in the rain and storing them in a tiny flat with no space causes yet more drudgery and fear. And the packing, stuffing valuables with the newspaper you’ve been hoarding, in the sure and certain knowledge that at least one cherished item will be smashed, and something vital will vanish en route.

And for what? For more of the same, hauling everything you own from one end of town to another to escape criminal neighbours, noise, and tiny capsule flats, only to end up in exactly the same situation.

I don’t feel strong enough. Not yet anyway.

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