“I want to know what the devil you mean by keeping coming into my private apartment, taking up space which I require for other purposes and interrupting me when I am chatting with my personal friends. Really one gets about as much privacy in this house as a strip-tease dancer.”
– P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
The school website told us to allow two weeks to find a place to live. We had to do it in six days.
We’ve been living in the same place for over 2 years now. That’s two years without having to worry about finding flatmates, divvying up utilities, spending all available time setting up and meeting appointments to view small and dingy rooms that look nothing like their photos online, and trying to determine exactly how much Ramen you’ll need to eat in order to make rent. Two years of knowing where all the local shops are, having transportation sorted out, and a settled routine of laundry, shopping, and housekeeping. Two years of being settled.
In other words, I – at least – felt woefully out of practice. But we dove in with gusto. Every morning we got up early and made our way to the school library to take advantage of the free internet and spent hours combing through university housing website. We sent off dozens of emails and counted ourselves lucky if anyone responded. We set up at least three appointments a day (which inevitably turned out to be on opposite sides of London, requiring an hour’s travel time a piece). And time after time, someone got there before us, the landlord wanted to rent to females and neglected to inform us beforehand, the residents didn’t want to live with an “old married man” (not even 26, mind) who didn’t want to go clubbing and drinking with them every night, or just found somebody else instead.
I won’t lie, both J. and I were starting to have visions of him starting grad school living in a hostel with raucous German roommates, unable to set up a bank account or phone service without an address. But then, on Friday, my second to last day there, the heavens opened and we found a place.
It’s in Zone 2 and only about 30 minutes by tube from the school. The tube station itself is a 10 minute walk from the house, as is the High Street with all the local shops. The house itself is privately owned by a pair of eccentrics (more on them later) and shared between three students – a girl from China, a British guy, and now J.! Each have their own room (which was larger than our hotel room, incidentally), the rent is half of what we’d initially budgeted, and utilities are cheap.
Saturday we moved him in, unpacked, and stocked the fridge with food and wandered the neighborhood. Turns out it’s the center of both a large Hasidic Jewish and a Brazilian community. Apparently the only languages spoken in the area are Portuguese and Hebrew. We saw a large number of men in large fur hats and black satin coats, accompanied by women in grays or black dresses meeting up and wondered what the occasion was, before thunking our heads. Duh. Saturday, it was Shabbat. We found a Rabbinical and Hebrew school just down the street from Sainsbury and a Brazilian takeaway restaurant. Gotta love London!
In spite of all the crazy we did manage to catch two shows in the West End and an afternoon at the Tate Britain, but this was primarily a working vacation and in the end we were able to land J. a place to live. Vigorous huzzahs and appropriate sacrifices to the gods of flat hunting are in order.
Next time: the landlords!