Joeblade

Accommodated

Well, I finally found a place to live in Oxford, so it looks like I’m all set. I say ‘finally’, as if I’ve spent months on this search, but it was actually only a few days. It felt longer, though.

After finding out that I had been offered a job, I had permitted myself a few days of ‘slacking time’, where I’d caught up on important things such as Paper Mario 2. When you’re unemployed for a while, you become very aware that every hour you spend on leisure or recreation is an hour spent not looking for a job so it was nice to have that weight off my mind, but after a while, it became a case of every hour spent on leisure was an hour spent not looking for somewhere to live, so the whole process began again. I unsubscribed from the job alerts and signed up to the accommodation alerts, and got googling.

For financial reasons, I was limited to house-sharing again, so I got busy making calls, and my small, tender, malnourished optimism gland perked up as I managed to make three viewings in my first evening of looking. I hoped on the train to Oxford the next day.

After a two and a half hour train journey, and three phone calls during that journey, I arrived in Oxford with the grand total of zero houses to look at. Bum, I thought. This was going to be harder than I thought.

I wandered around Oxford for a bit with my dad googling from Somerset to try and find some housing agencies. Four were found, but after traipsing across the length and breadth of Oxford, I had only managed to discover that they’d all gone out of business months before I got there. Tired and cold, I returned home, had a brief dinner, and got back to Google.

It was a tiring day, particularly if you’re a waddling, overweight, breathless geek like I am. I managed to find another three rooms to look at for day two, though, so back I went.

My definition (is this).

Day two demonstrated that some landlords are using a slightly, massively different dictionary to me. You see, when I describe a room as being “very nice”, well, it probably has carpet, is freshly-painted and decorated, is well-lit and airy, is sizable if not actually large, is furnished…you know, liberal use of magnolia colouring, maybe a lampshade, and so on. But, in The World According to Landlord Number One, it means something very different. It means “walls and ceiling stained a deep brown from years of dirt and nicotine”, and it means “bare lino on the floor, chipped and cracked and festering”, and it means “furniture held together by sellotape and collected from various skips”. The rest of the house (which I saw despite having no interest in the room, of course — I am English, after all) was the same. It was like something out of Silent Hill — I kept expecting something to ooze out of the walls at me.

I have standards, yes, I’m a snob, yes, but more importantly, I have gadgets, and the overwhelming impression I got from this place (helped along by the group of grizzled men across the road drinking White Lightning at 12noon and eyeing me up) was that if I moved in here, I would be robbed very quickly, so, time for a sharp exit.

I am quite good with such as children.

Room number two was more promising. Within a few minutes walk of the city centre yet in a nice enough residential area off the main roads so you could be both metrosexual and — I don’t know what the opposite of that is…yokelsexual, perhaps? — at the same time. After scouting the area, I went to the front door, which was answered by a six year old boy.

A six year old. That’s never a good sign.

“Is your dad in?”. Urgh, that made me feel old. Dad was in, yes, so in I went, ever hopeful. The living room was full of toys, filling every corner and threatening to overflow at any moment. I’m not exaggerating this, they were level with my neck at some points. Feeling that this probably wasn’t quite what I was looking for, I saw the room anyway. It turned out that if I took the room, I would actually be sharing the room. Yes, that’s right. With the six year old.

Soooo…time for a sharp exit.

I’d warmed to Room number three already by this point, by its virtue of not being rooms one or two, but I’m always open to disappointment. My lack of scheduling skills had given me about three hours between rooms two and three, so after some serious slacking in Oxford, I looked at the map, and decided that it was within walking distance.

It wasn’t really within walking distance.

Yeah, making sure you’re reading the map correctly is a good idea, you know? Little details, like making sure what you think corresponds to ‘thataway’ actually does. What I thought would be about 20 minutes or so turned out to be about 90, so by the time I made it to room three I was wet, cold, and utterly exhausted. Yes, this room was going to have to be awful for me to turn it down.

It wasn’t awful. It was small, but I could live with that provided I had enough room to fit my computer. The house was nice, new, in a privately-owned crescent. The housemates were nice and friendly, and one of them made me a cup of tea. They had wireless ADSL and two Xboxes (it’s not Nintendo but it’s a start). They had comfy sofas. It was nice. We chatted, I liked them and they seemed to like me. I had found my new home.

But.

It turned out that they didn’t know if I could have the room, because their landlord had advertised it at the same time as they had, and it was to be a case of who got there first, so they still had to get in touch with him to say they’d found someone. And, yes, within minutes of my return to Weston, I got the call — the room had already gone. Arse.

The novelty starts to wear thin.

I got home so late on day two that I had no time to continue the hunt, which I was glad of because I didn’t think I’d be able to anyway. I had walked so much those last two days that I’d actually lost ¼ of a stone. I ached. I spent part of that day recovering and looking for new rooms. I am quite, quite feeble.

Day three took place on a Saturday, and I mustered together 4 rooms to see, spread out throughout the day. One fell by the wayside very quickly when I found I’d have to leave Oxford at 4pm in order to make it home that night due to trains cancelled in mysterious circumstances, and I couldn’t see this room until 7pm. I was actually happy about that, not because I didn’t want the room — it sounded good, in fact — but because the thought of waiting around for another whole day in freezing cold, wet conditions just wasn’t funny anymore.

So. Room number one was great — small, but perfectly formed, in a nice studenty-house with all mod-cons and wireless ADSL. I sat with two of the housemates and chatted, and again, we seemed to get on, and one of them made me a cup of tea.

But.

In a very English gesture, they wanted to show the room to everybody who’d made an appointment to be fair, rather than give it to the first person who showed up. They’d see everyone, then make their decision, and let me know about it early in the following week.

I’d have loved to have lived there, really. It felt like a really nice atmosphere, but they couldn’t say there and then that I could have it, and I couldn’t take the chance of waiting, finding out the answer was “no”, and then having to try and find a place just days before or after Christmas. The trips to Oxford were taking up entire days and leaving me with no time for anything else.

So, day three, room number two. And we have a winner.

But.

No, actually, there’s no ‘but’ this time. The house is nice, the landlady is nice and gave me a ride in her silver sports car, the housemate I met is nice, the room is…well, it’s small, but I should be able to squeeze myself and my computer into it, and if I can’t, well, it’s another reason to buy myself a laptop, right?

So, job — check. Place to live — check. Looks like I’m all set.

By Paul Haine, in