Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Flat hunting is painful. Apparently you used to have to leaf through the Evening Standard and stand in a telephone box for hours to find a new home (according to my mum). Thankfully we now have the internet to do the trawling for us, and to send the very best offers our way. My personal favourite of such offers over the past few weeks has got to be: 'Bob, 68, seeks single, female student to share a double room in Acton.'
Tempting though that seems, I shall not be taking Bob up on his offer. It got me thinking though, and I decided to have a go at coming up with an ad to rival even that of Bob, 68.
Here is my attempt:
Happy Baker seeks sunny room in London loft apartment
Are you a group of music playing rugby players with a spare room? Do you have an empty bed in your flat of young professionals in Notting Hill? Does your modern loft apartment with views over the South Bank feel lonely? Then there is only one thing you are missing: a Libby.
Interests include smiling, shopping and photography. Currently a journalism student at the London College of Fashion, in my spare time I enjoy spring cleaning and exploring London, not forgetting (of course) its best pubs. For me testing the food and drink in new pubs and cafes is not just a hobby, but a duty I take very seriously.
Despite being a self-confessed workaholic, I enjoy letting my hair down. Hobbies include expressive dance and fancy dress (see above).
Although studying journalism, my other calling in life is baking. I love to make cakes for people, and have been known to leave boxes of cupcakes for my flatmates with stickers reading 'EAT ME' on them, scattered around the apartment.
I am not just looking for flatmates, I am also looking for people to take on the very serious positions of Official Cupcake Testers for my latest creations. This is a somewhat appetite-consuming role so I am looking for people with sweet teeth and hungry stomachs.
Wednesday nights in Libbyland are Pancake Nights. Potential flatmates, therefore, would have to be OK with having pancakes made for them on Wednesdays, as it is an important part of the Libby Code to, 'Never Eat Cakes (Pan or otherwise) Without also Making Them for all Those Present'.
So, if you need a flatmate / happy baker, and especially if you are: Ewan McGregor, an Italian Count, a rugby team or have: a river view, a claw-foot bath, a sunny garden or a walk-in wardrobe, then get in touch. (Time wasters need not apply.)
P.S (Warning: some of the above may have been subject to exaggeration)
(As told to Libby Page by Miss Fashionista)
“Do you have any questions?”
I looked around the flat. No I didn’t have any questions.
“You should know, we sometimes get rats.”
Yes, definitely no questions.
“This is the sitting room. As you can see we have three sofas.”
Three grey sofas huddled in the carpeted room around a boxy television. The sofas wore a sad expression and a jumper of stains.
“If you follow me out this window we get to the balcony. It obviously isn’t great now but in the summer…”
At this he trailed off, leaving the end of the sentence hanging in a question mark in the air. In the summer… In the summer you could sit outside among these margarine tubs filled with soil and suspicious looking plants, and admire the view of the rear end of a block of flats.
“If we climb back inside…”
I followed him back through the sitting room and up the stairs.
“Be careful of the wires. Now, this is the bathroom.”
My eyes headed straight for the dark patch of mould creeping across the ceiling.
“We do have a bit of mould. But don’t worry, the landlord said he might fix it.”
I tried to imagine myself standing naked in this damp room. Maybe I would just have to shower with my clothes on.
“And if you follow me next door, this would be your room.”
Putting my head around the corner of the next door I saw a bed. But no room.
“We used to have a desk in here…”
I think he noticed my eyes widening at this small miracle.
“But Callum decided to take it out to brew beer instead.”
So that explained the large vat of yellow liquid standing on the shelf above the bed. I was quite relieved.
“As you can see it’s a fine room. Now this is your wardrobe.”
He opened a cupboard just outside the room to reveal a broken clothes rail and a heap of indiscernible items of clothing on the floor.
“And you saw the kitchen on your way in. So that’s it really.”
I followed him downstairs and we stopped in front of the door.
“So is there anything you want to know before you leave?”
Resisting the urge to cry, I forced myself to speak.
“How have you found living here?”
A noise, any noise, is more reassuring than a pause.
“Yes it’s fine. So are you interested?”
“Well I’ve got some other flats I’m viewing this week,”
(I’m lying. Can he tell that I’m lying?)
“But I’ll be in touch.”
I was never very good at lying.
“Ok well I don’t know how long it will be left for. I’ve had lots of other people looking around actually. So far no one has got back to me. But I have more people coming round.”
“Well thank you very much for showing me around. I’ll be going now. How do I get out?”
He opened the front door and pointed down the corridor to a heavy metal door, “You need to press the emergency exit button because the door isn’t working. And when you get downstairs watch the bikes as you leave.”
“Ok, thank you. Bye.”
I walked quickly away from the flat. At the end of the corridor I managed to get the door open and then made my way down the concrete steps. I tried to ignore the smell and the puddles. Once at the bottom a cluttered rack of bikes nearly got in the way of my escape. Pushing myself up against the cold wall I squeezed past and burst out into the street.
Freedom tasted like smog.
I gripped my umbrella close to my body and walked as fast as I could back through the graffiti jungle. All I wanted to do was get home and have a hot shower.
“So,” I thought as I emerged back onto the main street, all visions of a Cath Kidston decorated loft apartment with a roof garden faded into nothingness, “the search continues…”
After a year of London Fields and Broadway Market, I will be moving out of Hackney at the end of the week.
I have loved so many things about living here. Columbia Road on a Sunday makes my soul smile, Pub on the Park does the best chunky chips in London, Bridge Café in Shoreditch feels like a Parisian bar and sells sticky sweet baclavas, and Regent's Canal is the perfect place for quiet wandering in the big city.
But there are some things I won't miss.
There is only one place where checked shirts, geek glasses and sailor tattoos on men aren't just acceptable, but practically mandatory. East London is that place, and on Saturday I will be more than happy to see the skinny derriere of the East London Look and wave it a cheerful goodbye.
Yesterday I nearly had a breakdown in Tesco. If I saw another man in a string vest and pink plastic ray bans I was going to cry. In the fruit and veg aisle I counted eleven adolescent-looking adults wearing postage stamp shorts, grey school socks and brogues. By the time I reached the cereal aisle I had counted three more, plus twelve shaved heads and floppy fringes, nine dicky bow ties, five crucifix earrings, a pork pie hat, two berets, four tea cosies on heads and seven v-neck vests (revealing chains and chest hair). A middle-aged man wore dungarees, a checked shirt buttoned up to the throat, an oversized bow tie, a cap, and sock-less loafers. "That's someone's DAD," I said to myself as he pulled a family pack of biscuits from the shelf.
Where did masculinity go? Certainly not Tesco, Hackney. I could feel myself choking up in panic as my local supermarket became a mirror and I found myself faced with the harsh reality of my own reflection: "Is this really what my life looks like?" What is the cider-drinking girl from Dorset doing here? How did I get to the stage where dressing in a skirt and jacket and lacking either a shaved head, dip dye or pair of biker boots makes me stand out like someone wearing a cattle bell around their neck?
Let me not be misunderstood: I am not condemning self-expression. In a fashion election I would vote for individuality no questions asked. But the East London Look isn't about individuality. It is a strictly dictated uniform for the 'Cool Club'.
There's just one problem. I don't want to join your club.