London Flat Hunting

I am currently house sitting for a council tenant. This is perfectly within the rules for eighteen months. It has been longer than that. I am going to be evicted, but I don’t know when. Ergo, I am looking for a new place to live.
Despite the many tales I’ve been hearing of people being evicted in advance of the Olympics, this seemed to get off to a promising start.

The Art Space

I went on a web site that caters for people looking for a room in a shared housing situation and found something that seemed ideal. It was a live-work space, catered towards artists. I arranged to go look at the rooms, without Xena, as, at the time, the vet still thought she might have a sprain and she was not allowed to walk very far.
The rooms were tiny and seemed overpriced, and the organiser was overwhelmingly hispterish, but the shared space was good and it seemed I could get a ground floor room with my dog. There were 10 rooms going in each warehouse space. Given the prices, I worried my future housemates might be trust-funded artsy wannabes, but then I decided to get over myself. I emailed the organiser the next day and asked to arrange a meeting between him and Xena in order to get the room I liked. He said he did not want to force an injured dog to walk and I could have the room if I wired him the deposit the next day. Alas, I still do not have internet banking and asked to put it off to Monday.
On Monday, I was feeling too glum about Xena’s impending demise to leave the house and warned him I couldn’t do it until Tuesday morning. He wrote back something with a smilely in it and thus on Tuesday morning, I sent the wire, intending to email him saying I had done it when I got home at the end of the day. But, alas, at the end of the day, I found he had emailed me that afternoon to say he had rented the room to somebody else. I had a moment of panic and asked for the last room in the building with a window in it. More than half the rooms he had for rent had no windows or outside light, which I know from experience will mess with my head. This last room was smaller, more money, and up a flight of stairs.
But wait a second? How could the room be gone if I wired him the money that morning? I called him up and he explained, basically, that he had undercapitalised the project. The building owner would not let anyone move in until he paid the full deposit for the entire building, which was not money that he had. Therefore, in order to get things underway, he had decided that whoever sent him deposits first could have whatever room he had for offer. He had promised the same room to three different people and I was not first to prove that I had wired him money, ergo, it couldn’t go to me. I briefly explained that I needed both a window and ground floor access, due to my dog’s mobility issues and he said he would try to see if we could shuffle around a bit, but I would still need to pay the higher rent in that case. I said ok. I have to move. I have a dog. I need a place.
My friends, however, said I should get my deposit back, so I called the landlord and said I didn’t really feel comfortable with how things were going and as I had wired him money for a specific room at a particular price, I would like my money back. He sounded unhappy and I apologised at length for the inconvenience I had caused, but he agreed to return the money. Again, I have no internet banking, so I don’t know if he has done this yet. I have his real name and bank details, so I am confident that my money will get returned.

The Recording Studio

I was cycling past a set of studios that are in high demand and was surprised to see for lease sign on the building. I phoned up and found that the sign was out of date, but the company had several other things on offer. Would I like to live in a three bedroom recording studio around the corner from my current address? Would I! The price was high, but if there were three of us, I could just about do it.
The recording studio turned out to be in the basement of an office building. It was two bedrooms, a small living room, a fantastic kitchen, a large recording area and a control room. The guy previously living there had done it up himself in a kind of haphazard way, which the estate agent kept describing in terms of the ‘architectural vision’ of the DIYer, as if he were an undiscovered Frank Lloyd Wright. The man had not merely stapled budget-rated acoustical foam to all the walls and then decided to cover them with shabby black coverings that did not hide exposed pipes, he had left it unfinished on purpose as part of his great aesthetic.
Indeed, he did seem to love black walls, as the entire studio was black, as was a wall of the living room and was the bathroom. This was a daring choice for a basement apartment with no windows of any kind. But not as daring as the shower.
The shower was attached to the master bedroom, which was really the only proper bedroom, as the other one had hanging sheets instead of a wall separating it from the living room. He had clearly run out of room to put in a shower, so he put in a bath tub, in the interior, windowless, black painted room. The ceiling was not high enough to support a shower. But then inspiration must have struck him. He dug into the ground and made the bathtub deeper. Approximately 5 feet deep, so it was a long, narrow enamelled space that he had put footholds in so one could climb in and out. Or, possibly bleed out the corpse of an animal slaughtered for dinner. I may yet have nightmares about that shower.
With the sound proofing and the black walls it would have made a great SM dungeon if it was not so shabby. As it is, it would make a perfectly great rehearsal space and a nice place to live if I wanted to go slowly insane. Especially if this manifested itself as cannibalism. It has a really nice kitchen.

The Missiles

The Ministry of Defence has decided that the best way to defend the Olympics from terrorists is to put surface-to-air missiles on the top of a gated community in Bow. The people living in the flats under the missiles were not consulted about this and are not pleased to have military weaponry on their roofs. (It turns out that the 4th amendment in the US Constitution is more useful than you might have guessed in the modern age.) Much to my delight and surprise, I actually met two people who live in the missile buildings.
Bow is not London’s most sought-after area, so I asked if ‘gated community’ meant something posh. One of the residents explained that the area was being gentrified street by street. Some squares were very rough and others were fine and others were posh, all right next to each other. The gated area is a posh enclave of 20-something yuppies who are buying their first flat before moving to a more desirable post code. She explained they had not yet gotten beyond the ‘stage’ of doing lots of coke and behaving like children. The missiles on the roof are an accident waiting to happen, she opined.
I asked if there was anything going in my price range, because who doesn’t want to live right underneath an embarrassing military accident? She said there was and then emailed our friend in common a link to an advert for a one room flat. It was more than twice as much as she had estimated the average cost to be and well out of my range.
It’s just as well as can’t afford coke either.

The search continues….

And if you know of a place that wants a not-yet-employed recent graduate and a short-term dog, which is on the ground floor, with a ramp or with a lift, do let me know.

Glad to be Leaving

I actually have no idea why the bill for gas and electricity is so large, but now I know why it came to a name that I don’t recognize. It used to be in the name of one of my housemates. The guy that moved out (thank god). When he moved out, he didn’t tell anyone. I finally asked his sister weeks later and she confirmed that he was gone, although I was pretty sure that’s what had happened when I saw that the TV and all the toilet brushes disappeared.
When he left, he changed the bills to be under a fictitious name. And didn’t tell anybody, except possibly his sister, what name to look for. So last week, I saw a letter from the electric/gas company addressed to an unknown name, and realized that I had given no money to either company in quite a long time. I opened it and it alerted me that the gas and power was going to be shut off in a few days time unless we sent them money. A lot of money. The bill is incredibly high.
I called the company and asked if it possibly dated from before we moved in. They refused to discuss anything with me unless I faxed in a copy of my tenancy agreement. I couldn’t not get them to agree to delay shutting things off, even. So I did that and they promised to send a revised bill and have not done so.
And then I started talking to my housemates. The sister refused to pay anything and demanded to know why I had called them. (Personally, I think of it as kind of a disaster when power and gas get shut off, but I’m also the sort of person who replaces lightbulbs. Indeed, I’m the only person in this house who replaces lightbulbs.) She claimed the electric company was lying about the amount that we owed. We had already paid bills for the time covered under that bill, when it was in her brother’s name. I asked if she could produce copies of these bills, as that would surely help resolve any disputes. She got suddenly very shouty and defensive.
There was an interesting phrase on the bill. It said it was extremely accurate because they had sent somebody around to read the meter. Apparently, the previous bills all said they were the amount that the residents had called up to report.
Now, this is pure speculation on my part, drawn from conjecture and partially remembered rants of my very ranty ex-housemate, but what I suspect is that he was calling them up every month with invented numbers on the meter. Then he switched it to a name unconnected with him and hoped that nothing would get shut off before his sister moved out.
How much is the bill? Less than my monthly rent in London is going to be, but not much less.
The gas/electric company promised to send something within the week, when I explained that we were all about to move and I needed to see something in writing to present to my housemates or else I would get stuck with the whole thing. They made false promises about mailing things.
There’s false promises and duplicity all around. And I’m going to get stuck with the entire bill. Because the only way I’m getting any money out of the lying weasel or his sister is going to be to take them to court. And the whole process will certainly involve a wall of manic shouting from both of them. I have more financial capital than emotional capital. I can pay money and make the stress go away.
I was joking earlier that the vibe living here made me pine for the good old days of a disintegrating marriage. Truly I have cursed myself to an expensive divorce.

Seeking London Lodging

I’m currently combing the internets looking at flatmate listings for London. I hope to find LGBT-friendly folks someplace fairly central that will take my dog and I for £110/week or less. This is more than double what I’m paying now and I’ll have to also ride trains a lot more. And yet, it’s still definitely on the low end of what’s out there. I have faith, though. Somebody will be taken with my dog or that I have a recipe for cactus chili (somebody was recently kind of amazed when I talked about eating prickly pear leaves, so you never know).
My queer-focussed ad says:

I’m a 32 year old ftm looking for London housing starting by July 1. I’ve been transitioning for about 6 months. Before that I was a dyke. I’m a post-grad student, with a dog. She’s an 8 year old lab mix. Friendly but reserved. She is old and spends all her indoor time sleeping and would not require any attention from you. She gets on very well with other dogs and has lived well with cats before (she’s overly curious at first, but soon returns to her sleepy state).

I’m looking for a home with some communal space and queer or queer-friendly housemates. I’m from California originally and like to think of myself as relaxed and easy to get on with. I’ve spent the last 3 years abroad and plan to live in England for the next 2 or 3 years while getting my PhD. I like to play music, but I’m not loud. I don’t mind if you are.

Feel free to contact me at or to pass along my information to your friends who need a housemate.

I really don’t want to have to be stealth in my home. Some of my mail gets addressed to Miss or Ms. I recently told my cable company representative that my bank had mistakenly listed me as “miss” because they thought I had a girl’s name. This story is apparently believable – different cultures/countries do gender names differently, but it wouldn’t explain why my former landlords were all using the wrong pronouns. So I don’t know how much choice I have about being out – not that I want to live in fear of being found out.
Part of what was nice about being in Holland is that I was kind of just a regular person again for a while. It would be nice to be like that more of the time.

Flying to Birmingham

I’ll be in Birmingham tomorrow (Saturday) and back in The Hague on Sunday night for my last week here. My plan for this weekend is to find a flat and over the next week, I plan to put my things in boxes and lug them to the post office. And also go to the SuperCollider con in The Hague.

I am visualizing what I want: It’s £300 / month or less including utilities. It’s 8 km or less from school along a reasonable bike route. The folks who live there like dogs. They’re easygoing with a nice vibe. There may be more than one of them. They are relaxed. The room is big enough to hold me, my dog and my gear. There is internet in the house. My room has a window. It has wood floors or other hard material. The house is in good repair, especially the plumbing. The ‘fridge works. There is a good place to park my bikes.
I can be flexible about some of these points. Do you live in Birmingham? Are you looking for a flatmate? Send me email, quick!
I spent hours of my life yesterday looking at flat ads on a service that i’ve subscribed to and sending email to the folks listed there and I’ve gotten exactly one response – a no.
I guess I can just mail everything to school and deal with it later, in case of disaster.

This is Xena

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Happy Dog, originally uploaded by celesteh.

As you can see, my dog is very cute. Check out how her back legs are sprawled out, frog-like. This is how she normally sits, when she sits. It means she can’t spring up too quickly. Which is ok, as she rarely springs up. A more typical portrait would have her lying down asleep.
(maybe I should get her thyroid checked, actually.)
Not that she doesn’t run around when appropriate. When this picture was taken, she had just finished chasing a ball around in the woods. So fun! So cute! But indoors, she’s more sleepy. And very quiet. She only barks when a stranger is trying to come inside by themselves. (Useful) Or if she’s tied up outside a grocery store.
If you look very closely at this photo, you will fail to find evidence of fleas or ticks. Not only because the resolution isn’t anywhere near good enough, but because she gets a treatment every month which rids her of pests and protects her against heart worm.
So, if you, in Edgbaston, East Midlands, England, who has a free room in your flat, were to rent to me, you would have a very cute pet around and a bit of additional security, but with no responsibility. You could get all the belly rubs you wanted, or let her sleep (she’s not pushy at all) and never have to pick up after her. Really, it’s perfect for you.
Did I mention that she’s small?
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Posing on Pagoda, originally uploaded by celesteh.