Sunday, 21 November 2010

Down and Out in London

Fleet-footed followers of Kate in the Countryside who read last week's Censored Episode will have learnt that I've got a job in London. But finding somewhere to live in the Big + Scary City is proving problematic. Flats put up for rent on Gumtree are being taken within three hours of being posted. And not by me. I have a flatmate, a salary and a coffee machine,* but nowhere to place these articles. 

My best friend / Belligerently Optimistic Future-flatmate (BOF) had made detailed plans for flat-hunting. Clutching an A-Z (his) and meticulously typed list of potential flats (mine), we arrived twenty minutes early for our first appointment near Victoria Park, both wearing our smartest coats. As we crossed the road to get to it, a man in a van drove past. 

'Watch out you don't get stabbed in there,' he called gaily. 

We stepped over half a bike and a pile of vomit and climbed the stairs inside.

'My brother's knocking this place down after Christmas, falling apart a bit,' said a man called Jim who was showing us round. 'It'll be great when it's all been redone again though, he's going to make a mint.'

I had never been inside a crack den before. 

BOF looked around dispiritedly. He finds flattery the best and easiest form of small talk and I could tell that even he was struggling here. 

'Windowsill's a bit rotten,' pointed out Jim, looking uncomfortable.

'Er yes. Um … (pacing around) Gosh … what a great kitchen,' BOF ventured helpfully. 

Worried that his fear of offending Jim would extend to his placing a deposit on the den, I suggested we leave, unfortunately forgetting to avoid the vomit on the way out.

But not to worry, an appointment in Canada Water came next. 

It had started to rain fairly persistently. At this, BOF explained that he'd read that drizzle was the perfect weather for viewing flats - 'Means you get a realistic impression of the place Kate.'

There are only two reasons you'd be in Canada Water: if you were trying out the shiny new East London line (it is rather good) and got out on a whim, or if you already live there, having failed to see the place before putting down a deposit. The best thing I can say for our visit is that it prevented such an error.

Canada Water Station:
making up for something?
Fred the estate agent had generously offered to drive us to the flat, so we met him at the shiny station. Racing out, he fled to his car as we struggled to keep up. Head jutted forward, Fred didn't stride, but instead took the car park with a series of rapid tiny steps, like a chunky little ballet dancer. 

'I've been told I walk quite fast,' he observed.

His pace is the pace of a man trying to rent out flats in Canada Water. It is a suburban desert, broken up only by the occasional zebra crossing and small, crying child. The house - with its hanging wires and collapsed sofas - added to the brutally lonely feel.

'Great to have some outside space,' enthused BOF. 

When we told Fred we'd walk back to the station he looked defeated. We would see the area after all.

To be continued…

*NOTE: The coffee machine is actually imaginary at this point. But I know exactly which one I want.


  1. norffff lannndaaaannnn is way better. or chiswick is fun too, if you like looking at huge pushchairs ('strollers' in vile modern american parlance) and tiny mothers.

    i'd like to come and visit please.