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The Mom has recently become familiar with one of my less favourite terms learned since I’ve lived in the UK: flat-share. This is what happens when one rents a room in a large house full of other rooms, already rented out to people who are generally but not necessarily total strangers. A flat-share is normally a large house, wherein the only communal rooms left are the kitchen and the bathroom, or bathrooms if one is lucky. This living arrangement differs from having a flatmate in that there must be more than two people living in the house at the same time.

For example, when The Mom and I lived together, flatmates. Now that Crazy D, L’il Sis and The Mom are all living together, with me for a few weeks, it’s a flat share.

When I arrived home for my annual Christmas visit, what led me to this realisation was the kitchen. It looked just like the kitchen in all the other flat shares I’ve seen: the counters were covered in stuff and in order to understand who belonged to what, you had to have everyone in the same room at the same time. You also had to hope for the best.

The Mom’s kitchen is now home to at least five different bottles, if not varieties, of olive oil. When I used to live here there were zero kinds of olive oil. The Mom doens’t really care for it, and since she’s been told she can’t use it to fry something to within an inch of it’s life, she doesn’t understand what use it could possibly be. Not that frying is something that often happens, but still. An oil that’s expensive and can’t be used to fry fish? Pointless.

But it’s importnat to know what one is allowed to eat or use in the kitchen. It’s also incredibly difficult, as nothing is labelled, the cupboards are shared, and it would seem that the basement is now being used for secondary or tertiary food storage purposes. When staying at friends’ places in London over the years, I have learned the rules of being a guest in a flat share. You are allowed, on the first and possibly second day, to have at it in the kitchen. People are generous. Yes, please help yourself to a coffee, tea, hot beverage. Oh, please, go right ahead, have the last slice of pizza, apple, whatever.

Stay longer than that, though, and you need to start buying your own food.

So far, at The Mom’s, I’ve done fairly well in that I’ve not eaten anybody’s special food yet. And by special, I mean especially expensive. I eat what I recognise to be The Mom’s food, which is to say, nothing involving olive oil, nothing organic, and nothing too high in fibre.

The kitchen is actually the main reason I now believe The Mom is living in a flat share, because people cook meals individually, and at unusual times of the day. You may be finishing breakfast, but someone’s already moved onto lunch. And just as you’re about to go to sleep of an evening, you hear the gas burner click into action and the smell of frying tofu or greens fills the house. It’s unusual but not altogether unpleasant to go to sleep with garlic wafting through the house.

The only thing is that it’s difficult to operate under normal flatshare rules when the flat you’re sharing is actually The Mom’s house. Because in a flatshare no one cares what you do or when you do it. Now, people at THe Mom’s don’t necessarily care more or less, but as the level of sharing is increased (as in, three people, two cars) it’s often tricky to strike just the right balance between involvement and living, as a friend of mine said, in someone’s pocket.

The drying rack for laundry is a popular item, and just like in a flatshare, there is constant jostling for position. People wander into the back room, which used to be where we watched TV but is now the secondary laundry area, touching clothes, proclaiming things to be dry when they are still damp. You have to make sure no one has to go to work or out to an appointment before you go into the bathroom for an extended period of time because having someone bang on the door whilst you are soaping your hair is deeply unpleseant.