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
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
SLW: Will you want it?
IAN ASSUMING SHE MEANT THE ROOM: Well, we'll have to have a look at it won't
SLW: I'm really desperate for this room.
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.
GUIDE TO BEING A RENTAL PROPERTY ESTATE AGENT:
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.
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 hole...how 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
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.