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  • We needed to find somewhere to live; and we needed to rent a flat whilst we looked for a house. After fruitlessly searching every local paper in London; I finally heard about a flat on the South Bank of the River Thames from a friend of a friend at work. Jacques met me at Gerard Street and we took the tube to Vauxhall to check the flat out.

    We walked along the tree lined street past shabby Victorian houses, once grand and fashionable in the 1800’s; and a few yards from the public garden we found the right address. The house was divided into a basement flat, an attic flat and a 1st floor one roomed flat.

    We would have a shared bathroom/toilet with a couple who lived upstairs. We had a sink and cooker in our flat but no fridge. We had to agree to rent the room. There was no other choice.

    Then we met the other residents.

    Jerry lived upstairs with his girlfriend Lucy. He was very hospitable and told us we could use his fridge on the landing any time.

    Edward and Lesley lived in the basement flat and invited us down for a drink.

    Edward was a student in St. Martin’s in the Field Art College.

    After we had moved in we descended to the basement; bottle of wine in hand and knocked on the door.

    “Hallo, come in” Edward told us
    .
    There were uncovered rough boards on the floor. I stepped round a board that had collapsed leaving a gaping hole; we were shown into the front room that was scattered with miss matched chairs, various plates scattered on the floor with the dregs of previous meals drying on them.

    Light streamed in through the grimy window onto a large rubber plant.
    “I’ve been driving myself mad trying to decide what to paint for my finals,” Edward told us;
    “then I saw the shadow of this plant I put a canvas on the floor and I’m painting it round it.”

    “Good idea,” responded Jacques.
    “I hope you get through the exam,” I murmured.

    “Lesley, bring in some glasses,” he yelled. “They’ve brought us some wine.”

    She entered the room wearing a yellow smock, picking through the debris on the floor in chunky high heels with two year old Thomas stumbling along behind her, his face drawn with weariness.

    We settled down to chat about our lives suddenly Thomas started to scream.

    “It’s time for bed Thomas,” Lesley told him.

    She laid him on the couch and went to get a bowl of warm water and proceeded to wash his legs and feet with a face cloth dipped into the water. Thomas thrashed around and screamed louder.

    “Why do you think he’s screaming?” asked Edward
    “Well,” I said, “First of all it is very late for a two year old to be awake. I would not bother washing him just put him in his cot and wash him in the morning.” And with that statement I had lost the chance of having Lesley as a friend.

    I also failed to be friends with guy upstairs. One day I put a garlic sausage, unwrapped, in his fridge. The next day all my food was sitting on top of the fridge including the garlic sausage, with a note that read
    “You can no longer use our fridge you have made all our food stink of garlic now”

    I was only twenty two but I was determined to store the memory of these mistakes to tell my children when they went out into the world and had to share a house.

    I had problems with the kitchenette too. One night just as we started dozing off in bed there was an explosion. We spent half an hour looking for the source of the explosion.

    Eventually I found a large box of matches that I had left on top of the grill. The heat had been so intense that it had ignited the whole box. We found matches in odd places for months afterwards.

    Six months later, tired from my job, writing itineraries for rich people to travel round the world in the travel agency in Gerard Street; I picked M up from her Irish child minder and
    returned home; opened a ‘Vesta’ instant curry to dehydrate and gave M a drink of milk whilst I sang along with Radio One.

    Jacques returned home beaming. “I can leave the packing job. I’ve got a place at the London Film School. My money has come through and we can move to a proper house.”

    We found an ad for a large semi-detached house in Hendon and arranged to rent it for a year. When we arrived we found Hall Lane ended under the Hendon Flyover arching into the sky. Strangely the noise of the traffic was muffled by its height.

    The house was furnished with brown, drab forties furniture, and each room had a small electric heater with two bars emitting a very low amount of heat. In the dining room we found a very long table that had been used as a cutting surface by a tailor. There were 3 bedrooms, one double, one for M and one for the new baby who would be born in four months’ time. The house was dull and unattractive but it was going to be our own home
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