I've been looking for a new flatmate it's been a bit of an ordeal. In nearly 20 years of finding new flatmates on and off, I've never had this much trouble. There were a couple of really nice people who decided not to move in for financial or location reasons, some who just weren't right for the flat - or I wasn't right for them. And then there were the rest who rang, emailed and came round.
There were the ones who rang and whose sole word of English seemed to be FLAT. There was one couple who said they had a super cat even though the advert plainly said no couples and no pets. And the email from 'Two lovely Spanish girls and a rabbit'. Some people couldn't understand why I might want to know a bit about them before letting them into my home. One was a pastor and her email was full of God Blesses. Needless to say, she wasn't invited to visit.
Of the ones who came round, there was the nerdy guy who was about six foot eight. He sat on the sofa and stared straight ahead, not looking at me once. He did briefly liven up when we talked about graphic novels but struggled to be polite about my small collection. There was the man who was surprised I had anything intelligent to say about football. There was the Spanish artist who wanted to move because her current flatmate was 'a dirty man'. She was supposed to call me the next day and didn't. When I rang her, she said, 'I am working'. Silly me for interrupting an artist. I checked out her website and her work was pretty crap so she had nothing to be haughty about.
One guy in his early forties had been a Jehovah's Witness since childhood and just left. He sounded OK on the phone. When he came round, he stared at me the whole time like he was trying to hypnotise me. He insisted on taking his shoes off when he came in and had a hole in his sock with his big toe poking through which, in other people, wouldn't have mattered but it just added to his creepiness.
One young woman was so anorexic she looked like she'd snap if you slammed the door hard. I guess she wouldn't take up much space in the flat or hog the kitchen but I've done Flatmate With Issues and it's exhausting. Another one was scared of the lift.
There was the older Australian woman who didn't like the flat but wanted to meet me for a drink as she thought we could be friends. I have friends, thanks. I want a flatmate.
There were a few who turned their noses up at the lack of dishwasher or ensuite bathroom or my smallish TV. What do you expect for this money in central Camden?
Quite often, as soon as I opened the door, I knew they weren't the right person but still had to show them the flat and pretend to be interested in their lives. No doubt some of them felt the same about me.
I thought I'd have a look at the competition to see what other people were saying in their adverts. There was one on Gumtree from a middle aged man who was looking for a very young woman. The rent was just a few pounds a week, but she would be required to cook dinner, do the ironing and provide him with a daily massage. He said there was 'nothing funny' about it. I reported him to the admins anyway.
One woman who came to see the flat told me that she'd been to view another place and turned up early, so she rang the landlord. She'd spoken to him the day before but the number was now 'not available'. She got to the house and the front door was open, so she knocked and went in to find a lot of junk in the derelict-looking hallway and on the stairs. No one was around. She got to the door of the flat, which was also open. She then decided that she could well be in the opening scenes of a horror film and left.
I have a flatmate now, and he seems pretty normal. But then, so do I.