Category: Blogging

Through the Glory Hole – My Spareroom Adventures in London

Through the Glory Hole – My Spareroom Adventures in London

“The landlord likes to put some pretty quirky rules in the agreement. One of them is ‘No immoral use of the internet.'”

“That means no porn.”

My Spareroom Adventures in London

As anybody who has moved to London knows, finding a place to live can be a difficult task.

I experienced this for myself, having recently taken the plunge and moved to the capital for a new job. I was more fortunate than most London newbies as I already knew some very kind people (with even kinder sofas), but knew I would eventually have to undertake the unenviable task of finding my own place.

From the off, I decided I wanted to move into a shared house – partly because I didn’t fancy auctioning off my kidneys outside the tube to pay the bills, but also because hangovers are much more bearable with company rather than repeats of First Dates and a tube of Pringles.

For that reason I decided to check out Spareroom, having been given generally good reviews from those who have used it and deciding there was only a small chance of moving in with a neo-Nazi.

Spareroom #1 – No porn allowed

One of my first viewings will no doubt live long in the memory. Initially the signs were good – friendly housemates (a guy and two girls), running water and a room that I was able to fit in without having to learn to be a contortionist – and it seemed like I was passing the interview process of being an acceptable housemate (FYI: Just say you watch The Walking Dead and lie about making them tea).

It was at this point they sat me down and told me that the landlord has some pretty strict guidelines he likes them to adhere to…

“The landlord likes to put some pretty quirky rules into the agreement,” the guy told me, barely concealing a smirk that made me wonder if there was going to be a forced hazing ritual before putting pen to paper. “One of them is ‘No immoral use of the internet.'”

“That means no porn.” One of the girls piped up, staring so intently at me I felt like I had my Google history tattooed on my eyeballs.

It’s pretty difficult to work out what to do in that situation; if I acted indignant I’d look like a furious porn-addict, whereas if I went along with it I risked getting evicted when the child-lock picked up any episode of Game of Thrones.

“We have found ways around it though.” The final housemate tried to reassure me in the least reassuring way possible. Petrified I had gone from Through the Keyhole to Through the Gloryhole, I told them I’d be in touch and bolted it.

Spareroom #2 – Six-legged roommates

The next day I met the landlord of another house. This one was even nicer than the first and again seemed to have some cool housemates with similar interests. One of them was making pizza. It was the dream.

Once the landlord had given me the tour, he decided to leave us alone so we could have a chat and they could vet me properly. Again, warning signs began to emerge as one of the housemates darted to the door to check he had actually gone.

“Has he told you about the bedbugs?” she asked intently.

“Bedbugs? No…” I replied, wondering which weird fetish was going to make it into this tenancy agreement this time.

“Eugh, he never tells anybody about the bedbugs,” the other one housemate growled. “Well, don’t move in here unless you fancy waking up with insect bites every morning. We’ve had them for about three months and he won’t call an exterminator. Also he takes rent in cash.”

I downed my tea, thanked them for their time, went home and burned my clothes.

Spareroom: The best of the rest

The next fortnight or so was an interesting mixed bag of viewings around London. I got to do a nice bit of travelling having viewed houses in Hackney, Walthamstow and Oval and lived off enough meal deals to last a lifetime (I’m sure my stomach is still lined with Tesco’s southern-fried chicken and chipotle sandwiches).

Along the way I had a few more interesting run-ins – the police bust next door to the open-house (“Oh, you must be looking for 28! This is 28A. Now move along.”) and the illegal sublet where I’d be sharing the basement room with the washing machine stick out. I began to wonder if my friends actually lived in London or were just lying and commuting from Bedford or Luton.

Thankfully there was light at the end of the tunnel as I managed to find a place in Brixton where the housemates don’t seem like complete nut-jobs, the bed was insect-free and I didn’t have to sleep next to something that dined on liquitabs.

I’m just waiting for the no-porn rule.

 

 

 

Ticket For One – Is going to the cinema alone still a taboo?

Ticket For One – Is going to the cinema alone still a taboo?

Is Going to the Cinema Alone Weird?

Is going to the cinema alone weird, or an accepted hobby in 2016?

Before I even start, allow me to offer a piece of advice. If you’re going to the cinema alone, do not sit in the middle.

I made that mistake about a week ago. I had a relatively free day and decided I wanted to watch Arrival (which I also reviewed here; thanks for asking!), but it was the afternoon and all of my friends were at work. I’d been in this situation before; you wait for an evening you and your friends are free and, before you know it, the film is out of the cinema and you refuse to buy the DVD full price – it’d be Mad Max all over again.

Not being someone to download films (just to clarify incase Theresa May is reading) and also being a fan of the cinema experience, I decided to go into town to watch it – forgetting that it’s ridiculously expensive since I lost student privileges and Orange Wednesdays bit the dust years ago.

Before doing so I did text a couple of friends to ask – is going to the cinema alone still considered weird? Are you seen as a big screen enthusiast, or held with the same contempt as someone who dines alone in restaurants on Valentines Day, passing themselves presents and taking selfies with their steak.

The general consensus was that nobody knew. One friend called it “bold” another said it “might look a bit sad.” Neither, however, had ever done it – it was unchartered territory.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-14-18-20
Even the aliens in Arrival didn’t come alone – Image taken from ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Pictures’ available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFM03UJ4B4g

Weirdly when I got to the desk, I had a little trepidation about asking for the dreaded ‘Ticket for One’. Would the receptionist look at me with pity? Disgust? Admiration? Would she call for security in her earpiece and put me in a padded room with the bloke who came to see Paul Blart: Mall Cop on his lonesome years ago?

Of course, none of that happened. She printed my ticket and told me which screen it was with the indifference of someone who didn’t care for my internal plight. Perhaps going to the cinema alone was less of a big deal than I thought?

Once I’d entered the theatre I was in dreamland. The screen was completely free; no smooching couples or rabbles of kids throwing popcorn (it was daytime so you’d hope not). I decided to sit in the middle and dump my jacket like I owned the place. It looked as though I was having my own private viewing – like a billionaire or anybody that watched the new Ghostbusters.

At least it did to start with.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 16.26.55.png
Who you gonna call? Literally anyone else. Image taken from ‘GHOSTBUSTERS – OFFICIAL TRAILER (HD) available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3ugHP-yZXw

After the trailers started they started coming in. First a happy couple who, like me, clearly thought it was going to be empty and stopped in their tracks when they saw my lone figure. Sat in the middle. Looking back at them. They kept their heads down at moved to the end, not daring to make eye contact.

Then two mates with way too much food to eat between them. Then another couple. Then a group of three students. And I was on my own, proudly in the centre. I was the weirdo.

By the time the trailers were finishing there was around a dozen people and I was wondering what they must think of me sat on my own. My jacket was on the seat next to me – perhaps they thought it was for a friend? They would eventually find out that was not the case.

I wasn’t sure what to do, and I’d be lying if I said leaving didn’t cross my mind. People would think I needed a different screen or had the wrong time. Not being able to read single digit numbers would be less embarrassing than this.

Once the trailers finished, however, I eased up and within 20 minutes of the film starting I’d forgotten all my worries. There were no sniggers and nobody was texting or tweeting about ‘the sad loner’ in the cinema. If truth be told, nobody seemed to care as much as me.  Perhaps if I was laughing alone to a comedy I’d look strange, but in a film where everyone was focused on the screen and not talking I didn’t feel out of place at all.

So is going to the pictures alone still a taboo? Possibly not. If you say you’re going, will people frown at you like you’ve told them you like toe nail clippings on top of your porridge? Possibly. Did I write this so if anyone I asked I could justify my solo cinema trip as a social experiment? Absolutely.

But if you’re someone who loves the movies and there’s a film you really want to see, you’ll barely notice once the curtains open.

Just don’t sit in the middle.

London Sightseeing: My Super Off-Peak Time

London Sightseeing: My Super Off-Peak Time

Now this is a story all about how,

I ended up milling ‘round London town,

And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there,

I’ll tell you how I ended up avoiding max train fare.

London Sightseeing: My Super Off-Peak Time

How did I end up sightseeing in London?

I always considered myself to be relatively travel-savvy, particularly when it comes to trains. That was, until my last visit to London.

I had come to the capital for an induction at a football website. Although I should have been a little nervous as this was my first “gig” since picking up writing again, I felt fairly at ease; particularly after I’d got the email saying “casual dress-code.” Get in, skinny jeans and Converse.

If anything, things were too relaxed. I had a great time talking with the editors and finding out what I’d be writing about over the next few months, but this soon morphed into discussion about our respective teams (up The Foxes) before descending into general chit-chat. The meeting ended up going on an hour longer than planned.

Unfortunately, this meant that when I returned to London St Pancras, the machine spat out my ticket in disgust. I went to find out what was wrong with my ticket; I was sure everything was fine on my end, it wasn’t even 5pm! The ticket guard seconded his machine’s disapproval, pointing out I missed super off-peak time by five minutes. It ended at 4.30pm, not 5pm. I felt a fool.

London train ticket

With nothing to do for the next two and a half hours, I decided to see what St Pancras had to offer. I wasn’t hungry, ruling out half the stores, and didn’t want to spend half of my bank account on a couple of clothes to justify my being there.

I thought about playing on one of the pianos in the main bit of the station, but anxiety got the better of me. These were peak-time London people – they expected peak-time background music for their peak-time background commute – not the crude rendition of Bob the Builder I learned in Year 7.

After fifteen or so minutes playing 2048 on my phone, I decided enough was enough (read: I lost and didn’t get 2048), I decided I’d make the best of it and see what my friends who lived in London were doing. One was away on a trip in Newcastle and another was working until late at work. Still, there was always my mate, Dave. Dave’s always up for a laugh. Good old, reliable Dave.

Dave works in Central London and has a job that is infinitely more interesting (and real) than mine. When I first introduce, or even describe, him to other people however, I have to tell one story.

Dave wears glasses, which isn’t unusual in itself. Lots of people do, I’m wearing a pair right now. You might be too. Anyway, Dave’s spectacle situation is interesting because he doesn’t wear them just to sharpen his vision, but also to correct his depth perception.

When his glasses are removed, Dave’s world moves closer and then further away, making him unstable on his feet and fearful of any objects within five feet. He’s essentially like a drunk; Dave’s glasses sober up his eyes.

He used to be able to read most of the letters at the opticians because his eyes would bring them into focus when the board appeared to come closer to him. When Dave couldn’t read the smaller letters one day, he asked the optician to “do the thing where he moved the letters closer.” He informed Dave this is not what opticians do, and presumably ticked the box saying ‘weird eyes.’

I fired off a message to weird-eyes Dave and headed to Central London on the tube. When I got off at Leicester Square around 5.30pm however, I saw Dave had read my Whatsapp message but not replied. He’d blue ticked me. The swine.

Realising I was on my own, I did what (presumably) anybody trapped in London with a smartphone would do, pretended to be a tourist and did some sightseeing.

London Nelson's Column

London Trafalgar Square

Having been to London once or twice recently, I had a fairly decent lay of the land and knew where most of the big sightseeing landmarks were. I ignored the National Gallery as I’d done it a few weeks before but milled around Trafalgar Square and snapped a couple of pictures, starting one of those ‘stories’ the kids are going on about these days.

London Buckingham Palace

I then decided to amble down towards Buckingham Palace as it was a sunny day. Being London, there were a lot of people milling about their business and doing some sightseeing of their own, but what surprised me was the amount of ducks and geese. They were everywhere. One gang had even adopted a pigeon for what I can only assume was a hazing ritual.

London ducks geese

The pigeon failed.

London pigeon

Within the hour, I’d walked past Downing Street, snapped Big Ben and was heading up the Thames. I thought about getting food but had already earmarked this particular Tuesday for a Dominoes. Priorities.

Realising it was coming up to 7 o’clock, I decided to call it quits on my London sightseeing trip and made haste to the underground. I found my train before relaxing and thinking about the tasty, jalapeno-topped dream that would await me in Leicester. As such I realised that, like all good stories, my snapchat needed an end, so I took a picture from the train and came up with a suitably cheesy pun.

I think I’ll sign off with that here as well.

London off-peak train

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