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A-Z lodger survival guide: A is for Acceptance

Listen closely lodgers and non-lodgers alike. It may sound melodramatic but acceptance – your first lesson in lodging – is fittingly one of the most important in terms of staying sane and, ultimately, surviving.

For a long time, I didn’t accept my situation as a lodger. I would let being at the bottom of the ‘caste system’ within the house get to me. For example, trying to negotiate with a then 15-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl to watch something we all like on the television would, for a long time, frustrate me enormously. My requests to be fair would usually be ignored or refused. And when we rarely negotiated away from MTV Dance or the Disney Channel, it would inevitably be E4 and Friends or Comedy Central and Scrubs. Often episodes that I’d already seen and quite often they’d already seen. But at least it was a compromise. And that soothed me. Although any equality I had was non-existent when South Park was on.

And when Crazy Yank was in control of the remote, I initially expected negotiation to be greeted with the maturity of another adult. Instead, my meek ‘Why don’t we put on something we all want to watch?’ would inevitably translate into Extreme Sports, some obscure documentary about a molecule that nobody wanted to watch and him commenting ‘How fascinating’ and ‘Wow, get a load of this’ before telling us facts and figures about something completely unrelated… or Nigerian Movies. Whatever his choice, we would watch the television at an average 50 volume (10 was loud enough for the average person). Once I watched, as I sat two metres away from the dolby surround system, as the volume crept to 72. I was screaming inside.

But it is that these sorts of times that I learnt to walk away, down the stairs, close the door and regain some control. Yes, I could still hear the television in my bedroom. I’m sure the neighbours could hear it. I’m sure that’s what made the cat transform into Demon Cat because he apparently never suffered from severe mood swings or a stare that said: ‘Just as you’re dropping off, I’m going to jump up on to your pillow, sit on your face until my furry backside suffocates you and you die’ as a kitten. And no, I couldn’t change the TV channel in my room because all the television channels linked up to whatever was being watched in the lounge. But I could put on a DVD. Read a book or a magazine. And stop myself from screaming inside my head. For a while at least.

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London calling

I haven’t always been a reluctant lodger. I’d arranged to stay with Jack’s family in their (now former) home in north London. I’d met Jack the previous summer when we were thrown together in a flat above a laundrette in a small Hampshire town while we were training to be journalists. Now in London, and with regional magazine placements done, it was time to take up our permanent residence at the magazine company’s headquarters.

But I didn’t stay in north London very long. After a week or so, Lily, my friend and Jack’s then-girlfriend, said that her Mum’s lodger had fled to Poland. I didn’t see this as a sign. Maybe I should have? But having grown-up in the south-west, I was comforted upon my first visit to Barnes. My knowledge of London was still severely limited at this point and I was oblivious to the affluence and high population of yummy mummies in this suburban sanctuary. We took Lily’s highland terriers for a walk around Barnes pond. I didn’t feel like I was in London, which I liked.

 We went back to the house where Lily’s mum, Lilac, came half-way down the stairs to meet me. Meeting Lilac was the start of the end as a twenty something living with other twenty somethings for the next 18 months. I’d soon be living with her Crazy Yank ex-boyfriend – nearly my father’s age – his two kids and Demon Cat. No one knew this of course as she stood smiling, with her head at a jaunty angle on her beige staircase and I, as green as can be, looking up saying it was nice to meet her.  This, ladies and gentleman, is the real story but not where it begins.

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