OMG! Gill is moving flats again. She DID warn me that her current flat was only temporary, a six-month lease that she signed out of desperation. As soon as she explained the “bricks in the wall”(think hot water bottle) heating system that it features, not to mention the overly helpful yet DIY challenged doddering landlord, I knew she’d be hitting the pavement soon in search of an upgrade. Well, not so much an upgrade but something with REAL heat and no mould. Her standards are low. I’ve taught her well. Low expectations…that’s the way forward.
That got me to thinking about the flats she’s had over the years. When in university, she lived in Toronto’s Chinatown area. The apartment was nice but it did come with the occasional “Naked Lunch” bug, a huge insect that appeared unexpectedly in a closet or drain. But I guess that was to be expected, living so close to all the fruit and vegetable stands and daily shipments of food from overseas. And the yard came filled with a pack of feral cats and Toronto’s famous raccoons, those notorious ‘second story bandits” that can pry anything open.
The place I found most interesting was the apartment in an old Victorian building. The landlord (never around when you needed him) was last rumored to be deep in a South American jungle doing some sort of research. (We suspect he was just smoking pot, but if ‘research’ is his disclaimer, who are we to argue?) Meantime, his rental properties (including Gill’s) languished in disrepair. First came the rats. Gill became so upset with them she had to keep her toaster in the fridge to keep them away from crumbs. They treated her stove like their personal multi-level condo and could be heard at night…chewing. What, we don’t know…probably the wiring. Gill was so afraid for her parakeet Newton that she sent him home to me for an extended vacation so he wouldn’t fall prey to them.
Entirely not my fault that a chipmunk on my deck nearly killed him…a long story. I’m still on her ‘shit list’ for that episode.
When the spring season came, she planned to enjoy the outside deck. She figured it would be a perfect place to relax and do some writing. That was until the hoards of wasps came.
Her English flats have been nice but all seem to come with standard issue single-glazed windows, letting the better part of the North Sea gales into her flat. And it goes without saying that most places have had an advanced case of ‘Rising Damp’. Her current place seems to be the leader in that respect. Her last place in London (Catlady’s place) was pleasant but came with Catlady and her needy cat. It became needier when Catlady was away, which she was for extended periods of time. Then the cat stalked Gill, looking for any shred of human affection…and food. Gill tried but she isn’t a cat person. She was also allergic to the cat’s abundant supply of fur, so their relationship was prickly at best.
Gill looked forward to her move to Bristol and a chance to live by herself. This, I believe, soon wore a bit thin and she discovered that she liked having friends around. That was when she began trolling the local pubs to meet people. She met some lovely dogs that way…but very few people. But she has high hopes for this new place.
I sometimes think that the sign that a person has truly reached adulthood is that they hire a moving van(with several strong men) to move their possessions. By that standard, all three of my offspring are nowhere close to adulthood. Crazy D lives out of a series of overstuffed plastic buckets and athletic bags. L’il Sis rented a truck and coerced several strong male friends to do the heavy lifting for her move into my place. The way her furniture etc. has taken root in the garage and basement, I doubt she’ll be leaving anytime soon. So I feel reasonably secure about putting my bungee chords in the garage sale this month.
Gill has a specific M.O. whenever she changes flats. First, she susses out possibilities and then decides which people she will befriend in the new place…preferably people with cars (for strapping mattresses on top of), people who work for either the cable or electric company (to cut down the time she goes without the Internet or heating), and anyone associated with the closest swimming pool complex (so she might get the ‘friends and family’ discount). These are the priorities in her life. Once those things are sorted, she’s good to go. The flat doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be large, it doesn’t have to be well equipped. She is totally prepared, again using the new friend with the car, to spend an hour at Ikea buying a plate, a knife, fork and spoon, coffee mugs, a small pot for cooking rice –the most basic needs.
Renting a flat in the UK, to hear her tell it, is not unlike buying a discount airline ticket. There is the stated price. Then come the add-ons: the first and last month’s rent. Security deposit. ‘Letting agent’s’ fee…for providing invaluable services like unwanted opinions and the pen to sign the lease. There is the fee for ‘installing’ Cable, Internet, phone services…this involves the strenuous job of flipping a switch. By the time she’s done, her ‘budget’ flat is the equivalent of business class… except there’s no champagne–and her booze budget went for all the add-on fees.)
For this latest move, she has revived her time-honored custom of strapping her futon to the top of a car with a bungee chord. The last time she did that, we had the 100-year rainstorm. I have a feeling the OPP is still looking for her…good thing the mattress hung so low it covered the license plate. I only hope the futon fares better during this move. It’s one thing to live with established rising damp; it’s quite another to bring a soggy mattress into a new flat to grow its own brand new mould.