Just when I thought I had sorted things out and felt quite happy with how things were rolling along, those very things were about to change. When I told the agency guy the happy news that my friend Ben was moving in, he informed me that the landlord wished to increase the rent. Not by much, but an increase nevertheless. I forwarded this email to Ben, who called me the next day informing me with a hoarse voice, which made the news sound even more dramatic, that he had been allocated less hours at one of his jobs and combined with the rent increase he would not be able to afford to move in. He was incredible sorry and I knew he meant it. Bummer nevertheless. I thought for a few minutes what to do with this new situation and although I hadn’t really made a clear decision I started looking for rooms on Gumtree.
The next day my dear friend Amina from Lowlands Country finally came to visit me for the weekend as in all those years she had never been. I was very much looking forward to it. Not only to have some distraction from the flatmate situation, but also because Amina is like a sister and it is always great fun and very inspiring to spend time with her. We did Brixton, Opera in Pimlico, Oxford Street, Soho, Covent Garden and lots of food in tropical temperatures. As I have decided to vacate the mansion, with regret, ’cause I do like this place, I started to develop a new sort of preoccupation; Looking for shared accommodation on Gumtree. No one really likes to be looking for a new place to live, but compared to Amsterdam the sheer abundance of accommodation available in London is pure joy. In Amsterdam it is considered nearly impossible to find (affordable) living space to rent, without waiting for at least a decade for a nice place to come available on one of the housing corporations’ books and there has been a great lack of housing for decades. Finding a room here can still be quite an adventure. You can come across shabby places, viewings that are being cancelled last minute and living spaces that don’t look in the slightest like how they are being advertised.
I saw a room in a flat advertised as -and I quote- a very large room in a beautiful decorated spacious flat. Unquote. The pictures accompanying the ad showed a classic mansion. A tat old fashioned perhaps but homey. I sent the number accompanying the ad a text and the person, Colin, got back to me within 20 minutes. A very jolly Aussie gay guy with whom I had a very nice chat and who presented the flat as a fabulous and homey living space for a very affordable price. I was quite looking forward to the viewing and had high expectations. Those were about to be crushed quite brutally. He suggested to meet at the nearest tube station and not at the residence. It was only a 10 minute walk…. to a high-rise buiding as part of a rather bleak estate. It is a quiet area which made me worried about my safety when arriving late at night. We walked to the second floor of the particular building, which smelled of rubbish. Colin explained to me that the rubbish shaft had been clogged and that he called someone to fix it. When we entered the flat it was rather dark and the hallway quite narrow. The room on offer had a double bed but was really tiny. There was a balcony with a view of other high-rise buildings and although it was fairly long, it was very narrow. The kitchen was open plan around the corner of the hallway with a tiny terrace table with two chairs. Since there are three people in the house you could not even have a meal all at the same time, let alone at a proper table. Besides a bathroom and separate toilet that was the entire flat. I have to say it was all very clean, but not particularly beautiful and definitely not spacious. It was as if the flat was only meant for sleeping, not living and the pictures on Gumtree were of a completely different house.
I should have told Colin that this flat is not at all what he presented in the ad. Perhaps I have become to anglofied as I remained polite, pointed out the nice features in the flat and pretended that I was interested. When I left I was baffled, appalled and angry somehow. I guess it is all my own doing. I got lured in with nice pictures, nice words and sweet Aussie gay charm and now I feel deceived.
Let me give Colin the benefit of the doubt and believe he is not delusional, he just wants to sell. I am not sure if this was the right tactic though. Colin did changed tactics I saw by re-wording the ad and adding pictures of the actual flat. Taken at night- so you would not see the scaffolding and the other high-rise buildings in the background- with a lot of light so it actually looks very nice. You would probably still be disappointed. Like Colin I probably should change tactics too. Don’t believe the hype before actually seeing the property.
image: Nicobobinus on flickr.com