Life is what you make it. I recently moved from a quiet town in the country to chase my big city dreams. Nothing ever goes smoothly, nothing is ever what it seems, but everyday I am getting closer. I am yet another slightly less-than-average girl trying to find her way in London, and in life.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

15 days, 15 hours and 8 minutes: Getting a job was easy, finding a flatshare in London is impossible

Since my most recent frazzled blog post, things have only got worse. I still can't believe how hard it is to find a decent place to live in London - there seems to be so many options out there, but why aren't they working for me!?

As soon as I get up in the morning (who am I kidding, afternoon), I log onto SpareRoom, HouseShare, Easy Roommate and Gumtree to see the latest vacant room additions in West London that wont cost me my entire salary. There aren't many. The ones that there are, I email, without even looking at the details. It seems I can't even afford to be picky any more and even contact that lonely old man who is after the company or the spinster who has an "empty nest". That one particularly freaked me out, and I could just imagine her sitting at the end of my bed in a rocking chair, knitting with a sinister grin on her face. But still, I am giving them all the benefit of the doubt and going for it, and where am I getting? NOWHERE. Hardly anyone is replying to me. What am I doing wrong? Am I coming across really that badly? The only ones that do reply are the creepy, dodgy ones that want me to pay a deposit upfront and meet them in a back alley in Clapham. Do they think I was born yesterday?

I'm starting to wonder if I am looking at this completely the wrong way. I'm sure Gumtree etc. works for those who can just pop out of work for a visit there and then, but for me, stuck in the middle of nowhere without a teleportation device, it just seems hopeless. I am wondering if these people put their ads on the internet and then just forget to check it? I suppose the more likely option is that they are so inundated with requests for viewings that they just ignore them and don't bother to take the ad down. So I started to look at agencies that advertised flatshares. Surprisingly again, there aren't many. One I came across, Interlet, seems to specialise in flatshares and offers to show you around for the bargain price of £120. I want to cry.

I actually went to London on Thursday to try and view some places. It wasn't much easier actually being there, but I did manage to get a few in. The first was a tiny room in a houseshare in Hammersmith - perfect location, but none of the flatmates spoke good English, there was no living room, a tiny kitchen and it's still £800 a month. The next was a much bigger room near Parsons Green - the location was a bit naff being in the fly zone for Heathrow Airport, the house was falling apart and it was all a bit dingy. But, I actually quite liked it, the place had charm. And there were 8 others living there which appealed to me as it meant someone was always bound to be around to hangout with. Apart from when I visited, the place was deserted. But I had a good vibe, it wasn't too bad. Nevertheless I had a text a few hours later saying that one of their friends wanted the room anyway, so that was that.

At that point, my shitty iPhone died (it was barely 10am and I'd used it sporadically for 3 hours!) so I couldn't get to the next flat I'd scheduled to visit and instead tried to find an internet cafe to charge it up. I went to Biz on Gloucester Road and whilst I was there, got in touch with a private landlord who had a decent looking property to rent in Hammersmith. I spoke to him, all seemed dandy and he told me to come to a 'meeting point' in East Acton. I was slightly confused, but went along anyway figuring he had a fair few properties and might be able to show me some more.

I got there, to this shell of an office with a few desks and computers and eastern European workers who were reading through lists of their vacancies to other confused hopefuls like myself. The place was actually pretty busy. I stepped up and got questioned about basically what I wanted and what I was doing here and said I wanted to view the property they had in Hammersmith. I was then told that their properties in Acton were much better, so I should have a look at one of those before "going all the way to Hammersmith". I was like yeah, fine, whatever. I do not want to live in Acton, but I am a coward and not good with confrontation and this snooty bitch was looking at me as if to say "So you think you're too good for here?"

I should have left then. Instead, being the naive little fool that I am, I hung around and waited to be shown a house in Acton and then onto the one I wanted to see in Hammersmith. In the meantime, a Spanish couple came in and asked to see the rooms they had in Acton. When they lady came along to show me around, she turned out not to speak any English at all. Which is great for someone working with the public in England. She decided to kill two birds with one stone and paired me up with the Spanish couple, which was actually quite lucky as they were able to act as translators. As soon as I got in her car, I reiterated that I was only really interested in seeing the property in Hammersmith, which was met with a lot of confusion (on both sides, but mainly mine as my translators were lazy and didn't want to fill me in). I got some sort of acknowledgement and nod that we would go to Hammersmith later. So we then proceeded to get shown all around their shithole properties in the massive shithole that is Acton. There were three in total. I refused to go into the last one. Seriously, they were so dodgy, I couldn't quite believe it. We walked into the first where the two guys were doing a bong on the couch, there were obviously rats and the place fucking stank. There was mould all over the bedroom wall and the mattress looked about 235434538564 years old. I was helpfully told by my translators that "the room still needs to be cleaned." You don't bloody say.

The second was even better. We turned up to a house with 3 skips in the front, as they were apparently remodelling the bathroom - fine. Our guide then opened the front door to another dank squalor. This time though, as soon as we got in we were quite rightly yelled at by the current occupant of the room who said she hadn't been notified that viewings were taking place, and how dare she show people into her room which she had been doing all morning. She also had a dog that was meant to be kept in her room but had been let out and gone missing because the stupid woman had let it out when she showed people around. The occupant also proceeded to inform us that she still had 6 months left on her contract and was not leaving, so how dare her room be advertised. Quite rightly.

At this point, I just wanted to leave. I got back in the car and couldn't even feign enthusiasm. We stopped at another property and I just waited in the car. When the others got back in, I was told that they were done and were going back to the office, and the guide would then take me to the property in Hammersmith. I was told to wait in the car for a few minutes. About 15 minutes later, the woman who'd spoken to me in the office came out with the non-English-speaking guide, and then told me that, actually, I would not be taken to Hammersmith and had to leave. When I asked why, I was told the property in Hammersmith is not in as good of a condition as the ones in Acton. Which didn't bear thinking about. She then said, she needs to find out what her client wants to do with the room and could I come back at 10.30am the next day. I finally grew some balls and told them to go fuck themselves, thanked them for wasting my only day in London and left, feeling dirty and disgusted and like I wanted to jack it all in and just live in my little room in my little house in Shropshire for the rest of my life.

And here I am now. Back to where I started, trawling through Gumtree and SpareRoom with even less hope than before. I am very close to paying that £120 and letting Interlet fuck me over as well.

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