Below is a little narrative from one of the more bizarre encounters in my life. It demonstrates how looking for a house in a new city is always an adventure.
“Do you like the smell of fish? Raw meat? The stink of rotting veg?” a round of verbal bullets sprayed from the woman’s mouth with an intensity intended to petrify. Her face contorted to such a level of disgust that anyone passing by might have thought I’d just declared an admiration for Alesha Dixon’s critiquing approach. I had in fact made the mistake of asking whether a two-bed flat advertised in the agency window was still available for rent. “‘Cause that’s what you’ll have to put up with every time you step awt your front door; a God awful stench,” she concluded as I dived for cover behind the nearest brochure.
As a postgrad fresher and London novice under pressure to find an abode I was a walking pay cheque ripe for the cashing. But Collette the Letting Agent was apparently oblivious to this. Rather than the hard sell she was giving me a hard time. (“I don’t bullshit ya,” was her preferred way of putting it.) And yet bizarrely her disregard for usual salesman spiel was refreshing to the point of sparking a curiosity within me: I wanted to see this horrible flat.
“Oh right,” she responded clearly taken aback by my ludicrous decision. “Well, err, I shouldn’t really do this but…” She threw a set of keys over to me. “There’s only me in here and I can’t leave, so you can just show yourself round,” she said while offering directions with a flick of her index finger.
Throughout my brisk search for shelter I had been treated to a kaleidoscope of customer courtesy from all manner of would-be letters. From feeling like I was auditioning for a role as an extra in a house share (“We’ll let you know our decision”) to being driven round nearly all of South London at a moment’s notice, the styles employed have been as varied as theories on Derren Brown’s Lotto trick.
And Collette’s renegade method was the one I found most endearing.
As it happens the flat was let down more by its dilapidated state and reportedly reluctant landlord (“What do you mean will he do it up? He already has”) than the exotic aromas coming from the market on its doorstep. But Janine’s style got me thinking; it sure would’ve been a whole lot easier if that Dubai-based landlord I found on Gumtree had trusted me to look round his flat on my own too. Rather than demand a scanned Western Union receipt be emailed as proof of finance and seriousness of intent before he would fly over to guide me himself (“I’ve had my fair share of time-wasters”). Oh well, I guess some people just aren’t very accommodating.