Recently, I found myself sharing a home again. The flat was large and pleasant enough so I thought – oh, give it a go. I wasn’t looking forward to it entirely, especially as one of my (lovely) new flatmates described the residence forthrightly as: “We’re two blokes. It is what you would expect.” Cue feverish visions of 70’s contrived sitcom flat-share hell.
But they could use the rent money, and I was looking for a place, so why not? Ghostly memories of flat-shares past came flooding back, reminding me of why I avoid multi-occupancy wherever possible. Stories like the long, desperate queues for the bathroom, once while the horny couple (there’s one in every shared house) shared, a long, indulgent bubbly bath last thing every night.
Or the chilly, gothic, three-storey house where I went away for xmas, returning to find that in my absence, all six occupants had quarrelled terminally and disastrously, so badly they had stopped speaking to each other, even with me. And it was nothing to do with me!
I had flashbacks of sharing the nervous breakdowns of others (one co-tenant tried to take her own life with four junior Disprin) the heated recriminations which turned nasty over ‘carrot theft’ (so kill me - I used one of your carrots…)
The flatmate who one morning filled an entire kitchen with a visiting French street theatre troupe but ‘…had only slept with two of them.’ The flatmate who, for economy turned down all the heating until there were ‘icebergs dead ahead’ in the lounge, but heated her room until we melted again. The flatmate who bought a house but took the bed and the curtains from her room, leaving me to explain things to the landlord.
But my flatmates (let’s call them Alex and Bruno) are lovely guys and behaved like gentlemen throughout. The only bugbear was Bruno and the toilet. Until I arrived it looked like the bog in Trainspotting: a dark abyss, a dangerous swirling vortex of filth and gloom, which until I held my nose and applied bleach could have pulled humanity through its noxious gateway and into an unpleasant alternative universe. Forever…
But we were all polite: no bathroom hogging or food-stealing. Perhaps it was a question of respect. Nobody resented living there. Previous flatmates of mine have felt themselves out of place, and have acted imperiously, as if renting was beneath them. One even referred to us as peasants. I miss her so much.
Bruno leant me books, Alex recommended music. I am missing the music (mostly Bruno’s daily 11 am sax rehearsal) and Alex’s diligently prepared, economical and yet paradoxically luxurious packed lunches, and having technical assistance around at all hours. Most of all it was great to have someone ask: ‘..do you need anything from the shop’ occasionally.
You’re going to miss me Bruno, I said, enjoying the leaving meal he’d cooked for me. No, he replied: we’ve bought a dishwasher.
He loves me really.