an idiot in london


Tuesday, 21st March
Don't mind the cockroaches, they're probably more afraid of you than you are of them

Unsurprisingly, I was running a few minutes late. I was meeting Mark at Embankment Station. Mark, an Englishman (well actually he's from Leicester) was helping me out looking for somewhere to live.

So I bought Loot (it's like the Melbourne Trading Post) and we started trawling through the ads, circling, crossing out ("You could pass for a single professional female, if you shaved every day. An ugly single professional female, but a single professional female nonetheless.") and puzzling over what a "c/s rrf SE17" is.

We found a cluster of phone booths, and proceeded to add to British Telecom's coffers. Some time later I had made appointments with two places today, two places tomorrow, and left messages on many answering machines. Except for one. When I rang, the message went something like this: "If you know the extension of the person you are calling, dial it now. For Maintenance, press 1..."

So it was out to Kilburn for the first viewing. It was with a real estate agent (byo stake and holy water) called Scott who would be meeting us there at 1pm.

Meeting us and a swag of other desparates. When we arrived at the address at 12:50, there was a woman hovering around the doorway.
SCRAGGY LOOKING WOMAN: You here about the room too?
IAN NOT SO SCRAGGY: Yes (took a lot of effort to squeeze out a straight answer there)
SLW: Will you want it?
IAN ASSUMING SHE MEANT THE ROOM: Well, we'll have to have a look at it won't we?
SLW: I'm really desperate for this room.
IAN: Hmm.
SLW: Yeah I'm in a bad situation at the moment.
IAN: I'm living at the YHA at the moment.
SLW: Well I was here first, so it's mine then?
IAN: I could kneecap you and then have the place for myself.
SLW then rambled on about something, I'd lost interest.

1) Be a greasy untrustworthy little git
2) Drive an almost flash car (eg Ford sports convertible)
3) Mobile phone must never leave your hand.
4) Never.
5) I'm serious, you have to do everything holding that damn phone.

Next door to this property was a "cafe". It served all-day breakfasts including delicacies such as liver, kidneys, black pudding, chips. Who in the name of sanity would want to eat that for breakfast? AA men, it would appear. There were two AA vans outside this joint when we arrived, and another pulled up while we were there. I suggested to Mark that the cafe sprinkles cocaine on their meals to get people addicted.

The property itself was a tiny tiny pathetic little room. The real estate agent would've heard something like this from the smartarse Australian and his mate: "Have you seen it?...yeah it's a bloody much were they asking?...Eighty quid...That works out to...ABOUT 400 QUID PER SQUARE METRE...thump thump thump thump door opening and slamming behind"

After plundering an all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta bar (they made no money there today...the manager came over to check exactly where we were putting all that food) we ventured to our next port of call - Leytonstone with our man Tony.

It wasn't a bloody property at all, it was another bloody real estate agency. I swept in and declared to all and sundry that I had arrived. Tony had the look of a man who had just realised that he has left his child in the car with the windows wound up in the carpark at the casino. Turns out the stupid bastard had forgotten to write down my appointment in the diary.

So we waited for him to get his act together. And waited. And waited. Mark was afraid that I was about to lose my temper with the dimwitted office staff. "Like a meeting of Mensa in here" I said.

Eventually another real estate agent agreed to take us to look at the property. On the way there he quizzed me about the referendum on the monarchy. I told him that Australians weren't interested in those sort of things, we're only interested in important things like sport.

Another pathetic little bedsit, which I wouldn't take in a blue fit. Inside was a little fridge, a wardrobe, and a futon fold out bed (yuk). I asked what came with the flat. He patted the futon and said "This." "Oh, just that" I said. "It folds out into a bed" he said as if to say that it's so much more than a crappy couch. "Yeah I know, we do have futons in Australia." He attempted a little back-pedalling, but Mark was already halfway up the stairs pissing himself laughing.

This real estate agent then said that he had to wait for Tony for some reason (remember Tony? we barely did) so while we were waiting, I told this bloke what I thought.

"I'll be honest with you, it's a load of shit." He nearly fell over. Mark's working out how far it is to public transport, because this bloke is unlikely to give us a lift back to the station.

Tony turns up a few moments later in an obviously second hand black BMW. There are two sheilas (they call em birds over here) in the car who (whom? whatever) he is obviously trying to impress. After one minute in his car I had ruined his chances with them.

"I'm going down by the tube, I can drop you two fellas off." says smiling Tony. We squash into his car.

TONY: I can drop you at Walthamstow Station.
MARK: Walthamstow is closed.
TONY: Oh, I didn't know.
IAN: It's having escalator work done.
TONY: Well, I hadn't heard about it.
IAN: I've been in the country six days and I've heard about it.

The girls laughed. Tony didn't like that. "Well, I can drop you two here, and you can catch any bus running along here to Leytonstone Station...except that bus there."

We thanked him most sincerely, and set off toward the bus stop. We got on the next bus that pulled in, asked the bus driver if the bus went to Leytonstone Station, and he said no!

Today I discovered that some things are universal. Tony would've been just at home trying to rent roach infested havens in Heidelberg West, or anywhere, for that matter. You don't need looks, you don't need brains, you don't need talent, you don't need charm, you just need a mobile phone and a car on hire purchase, and you're there.