Tag Archives: crazy Yank

A-Z lodger survival guide: C is for Confidence

I (think I) know what you’re all thinking. You can’t have C without Crazy Yank. Right? Wrong. Such is Crazy Yank’s all encompassing character that he can’t be restrained to a single alphabetical entry. His omnipotence and omniscience means that he’s always here. On this blog. Not that he’s God or a ghost that’s haunting me (I hope not, anyway.) But he could be Big Brother. (I jest or once again, I hope I’m joking.)

No, instead, I’m going to talk about confidence. In terms of having confidence and being told things in confidence. To be honest, it’s more about the latter. And because of that, I could simply say no more because that would prove my lesson here that what a lodger is told must be always kept in confidence as, and when, it requires such discretion. As much as I found myself being consulted as rarely, or in fact as equally, as Demon Cat (sorry, Demon Cat but it’s true) about a lot of household choices, something I still feel most honoured, and also a little amused, about is that on more than one occasion, I was in the fortunate position of being a confidant for Crazy Yank, Wonder Boy and Slish. Sometimes this would happen simultaneously either about the same subject or something completely unrelated. What I found truly fascinating about this is that this often meant that, in terms of knowledge and what makes each individual tick, I was able to understand each person and the particular situations from a number of different angles and with a far greater understanding than any of the others did. I felt lucky being in such a position if not a little overloaded from time to time.

And having confidence? Well, when you’re lodging, confidence is of course important for integrating and building a rapport with the rest of the family to the best of your ability. It’s having the confidence to realise that you still have a life and that you’re not living with your friends because of bad timing, different budgets and contrasting preferences in terms of location. And finally, it’s quite frankly having the confidence to resist rising to the tiresome bait and/or forcing out a laugh when your twenty-something friends insinuate that you have a boyfriend nearly the same age as your father and have adopted two children (and not forgetting a demonic cat) for the umpteenth time.

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Yank Man

If you thought I was stretching the truth on Crazy Yank or any other part of my earlier ‘Ahoy Deck Season…’ tale, you would be wrong. To prove this, I have decided to paste the edited version of the ‘Ahoy Deck Season…’ post I recently wrote as edited by Crazy Yank himself. I e-mailed him the post to make sure he was OK about me writing this blog. Thankfully, he (and everyone else) was – bar a few of the changes he made below, of course…


Ahoy deck season . . . .
‘If you come on my deck, those Mickey Mouse socks will have to go!! You will have to be naked,’ are among the first words Crazy Yank say to me when I go upstairs today.

I live in the basement. In a room that was a garage before it became a converted cinema before it became a bedroom. It’s a great space even though it has no windows and I’m showing signs of rickets. This afternoon, I could see the sun shining through the glass panel above the front door so I went back into my room and put on a mini denim skirt, a tankini top, cardigan and Mickey Mouse socks.

‘Everything down to there is sexy until you get to those Mickey Mouse socks!!hip Crazy Yank begins.

I tell him I don’t care because my feet are cold and no-one’s going to see but I know I will have to negotiate to gain access to the deck this season.

‘It’s my sanctuary. I don’t let the kids go up there… Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to go up to the deck,’ I say, clutching my socks.

He follows me up the first stair case and then the next: a private stair case that leads to the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, MTV Cribs-style walk-in wardrobe and the deck. We step outside among the Buddha heads and plant pots. Two loungers are next to each other. One is barely in the sun and the other is entirely in the shade.

‘It’s too early for the sun,’ he says.

‘Who’s going to sit there?’ I ask, pointing to the sun-lit lounger.

‘Me,’ he says, lying down, grinning.

OK baby,I say as I untie my little nothin’ and let it fall to the deck.

I go down the two flights of stairs and put my socks back on. My friend rings to say she’s five minutes away in the car. She arrives and we set up camp in the back garden. Then Crazy Yank appears.

‘I’m renaming the cat Govinder. I’m in my transcendent zone,’ he says balancing on one leg as demon cat rushes into the house. Govinder, Govinder, come on. Come here, he says, wandering back inside.

‘That’s groovy, lover,’ I say.


I think the blog needs to be a tad more flattering to Crazy Yank.
He’s a cool guy whose springtime has hit him somewhere between his Dharma and south of his navel.
So what if he wants to keep his dojo a sanctuary ?
He deserves it and it’s all he has to call his own.
. . . . Hey, you think chicks are going to read this blog ?
. . . . . . OK, that was a little sad.
Take another look at Crazy Yank
but this time look a little deeper.

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A-Z lodger survival guide: B is for Bonding

As a lodger, you must resist trying to speed up the bonding process (although in hindsight, biscuits could’ve really helped with this family as you will find out in a later survival guide post.) Anyway, bonding will happen at its own, natural pace.

Crazy Yank initiated bonding pronto. The man speaks, bleeds and urinates bonding with whoever he meets. The way in which he reached out to bond with me varied from his ‘Please act like this is your home,’ to his ‘I told you it would be fun living here,’ which he said repeatedly for the first six months whether I showed any signs of enjoyment or not. But with Wonder Boy and Slish, things weren’t so straightforward. And I’m not really talking about the usual monosyllabic, moronic teenage syndrome when I tried to talk to them. Often,
in the beginning, they look terrified when I was around. (Again, maybe it was the short hair?) I got used to saying goodbye and not really hearing one back. Conversation was as exhausting as walking in sand with dumbbells tied
to my feet.

And then? There was some sort of turning point. It was initially very subtle; they looked less scared of me and would initiate conversation with me a bit. Started saying goodbye. That sort of thing. I guess they got used to seeing Sandy Shaw – I mean, me – hanging around their pad.* Soon it was Wonder Boy’s sixteenth birthday. His main present was a XBox 360. This eased the bonding process. Wonder Boy and Slish actually wanted me to play on the XBox with them.

But what really sticks out in my head is at about the same time as that, the four of us went out for dinner for the first time together. This one balmy summer’s evening, we went to Nandos on the Chiswick High Road. And then we went for ice-cream at Foubert’s. And then we came home and, because no-one wanted to go to bed quite yet, we played Scrabble, mocking each other’s attempt to outdo each other, until about 1am. That, for me, was the real turning point in our relationship as a more comfortable, natural household. And I think we all
knew it.

*(Months later, Slish said she thought I seemed sad in the beginning. Well, I was finding it hard to deal with a break-up, London and the new job at the time… and of course was also saying goodbye to people who weren’t saying goodbye back.)

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Ahoy deck season…

‘If you come on my deck, those Mickey Mouse socks will have to go. You will have to be naked,’ are among the first words Crazy Yank say to me when I go upstairs on a particularly warm day last April.

That morning I had stepped out of my bedroom to see the sun shining brightly through the glass panel above the front door. I felt warm in its reflected rays. So with a reinforced optimism, I went back into my room to dress accordingly: a mini denim skirt, a tankini top, cardigan and Mickey Mouse socks.

‘Everything down to here is sexy until you get to those Mickey Mouse socks,’ Crazy Yank begins.

I tell him I don’t care because my feet are cold and no one’s going to see but I know I will have to negotiate to gain access to the deck this season.

‘It’s my sanctuary. I don’t let the kids go up there… Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to go up to the deck,’ I say, clutching my socks.

He follows me up the first stair case and then the next: a private stair case that leads to the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, MTV Cribs-style walk-in wardrobe and the deck. We step outside among the replenished Buddha heads and plant pots after his recent trip to Homebase and TK Maxx. Two loungers are next to each other. One is barely in the sun and the other is entirely in the shade.

‘It’s too early for the sun,’ he says.

‘Who’s going to sit there?’ I ask, pointing to the sun-lit lounger.

‘Me,’ he says, lying down, grinning.

‘I’ll come back later,’ I say.

I go down the two flights of stairs and put my socks back on. Lily rings to say she’s five minutes away in the car. She arrives and we set up camp in the back garden. Crazy Yank appears.

‘I’m renaming the cat Govinder. I’m in my transcendent zone,’ he says balancing on one leg as Demon Cat rushes into the house. Govinder, Govinder, come on. Come here,’ he says, wandering back inside. Continue reading

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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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North of the river

It was a Wednesday afternoon the day I moved to Chiswick. It should have been the day before but I hadn’t finished packing. Henry was the only person in the house when Crazy Yank’s Jeep arrived. In between helping me take my combination of suitcase and Duty Free bags (full of my life, not airport frivolities), Henry said: ‘Good luck with Sharky,’ half-grimacing, half-laughing. He gave me a hug. Said something like ‘See you soon’ and I was out of the door. He stood on the doorstep with the same awkward expression that had accompanied our first meeting in the hallway. I put my hand up to gesture a wave but didn’t quite manage it as we drove off.

‘Living with us is going to be easy,’ Crazy Yank began. ‘It’s going to be fun. I mean, it’s a really fun house. I want you to feel at home. Act like it’s your home. We’re easy-going, y’know.’ He repeated these sentiments a few times for the next 10 minutes of the journey (and especially while we were stuck in traffic on the Chiswick Bridge) and yet again before we pulled up at the house.

We dumped my suitcase and Duty Free bags in my room. He went back to his office on the second floor. I stared at the suitcase, the Duty Free bags and this room that had been both a garage and home cinema. The carpeted two-step runway in the middle of the room was a reminder of its former celluloid life. It was a massive space, with an adjoining shower and laundry room. It had plenty of ceiling lights but no windows, which made it feel a bit like a garage. I didn’t bother unpacking that day (or properly until about a year later if that) because I planned to move out two months later to live with a friend from university. In just eight weeks, I’d be living with someone my own age again and my bedroom would have windows. Or so I thought.

This is where the real story begins. And welcome to the start of your education on surviving life as a lowly lodger (plus how to guess the weather to match your wardrobe and prevent the premature onset of rickets through lack of vitamin D caused by no windows for nearly 14 months, of course…)

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A touch of Lilac

Crazy Yank was just one of many of Lilac’s male suitors dressed up in a platonic façade. Another was called Howard who I never met but heard inevitably disagreeable things about; he seemed to boss Lilac about, telling her she was late when he knew she was working long hours and certainly didn’t seem to tickle her funny bone either. Of course, there was Henry’s younger drum teacher (Lilac remains 49 years old all her life) but that was all hush-hush drinks at the pub and a reckless option in her mind. There was Big James, younger in his early forties and good friends with Crazy Yank, who’d inevitably ‘just be passing’ on his motorbike from Ealing.

At the time, my joint favourite contender with Crazy Yank was his antithesis: Tennis Mike. Despite Crazy Yank playing a great deal of tennis, Tennis Mike had good contacts within the Lawn Tennis Association. He’d spoil Lilac with the best Wimbledon tickets you could get your hands on and steak au poivre and champagne dinners. Meanwhile, Crazy Yank would whisk Lilac away for daytime and late-night drinking along the Chiswick High Road.

Lilac would typically go with the flow, enjoying herself and maintaining that both Crazy Yank and Mike were ‘just friends’ and that they wanted to be just friends with her. This was just the start of getting to know a woman who, to this day, never fails to amuse me. A woman who one day, felt hungry and burnt croissants so they looked like charcoaled elephant turds on a baking tray. Another day, she got home telling me how famished she was and I went out to the kitchen to find her eating quail eggs knocked back with a couple shots of vodka.

But Lilac isn’t always so chilled out. Unlike Henry. And that became a problem when I was living there. One night in particular, 10 GCSEs meant watching Skins and crafting me a Best of Zero 7 for Henry. And for Lilac? It meant shouting.

‘Henry, what are you doing? This has to stop. You’ve got your GCSEs, Henry. Do you know what this means? Do you know how hard I work for you to go to this school?’

Henry, as usual at his mother’s outbursts, would say nothing. I sat there, looking at the carpet, shouting inside for him to say something.

‘Saskia, please don’t encourage this behaviour. He’s got his exams soon. They’re very important.’

I looked at Lilac to say something but nothing came out. Lilac was staring at Henry who was still watching Skins.

‘Henry! Are you bloody listening to me?’

Henry got up from his armchair, slung his satchel over his shoulders and stomped up the stairs. She followed him up two flights of stairs to his attic room, shouting on the verge of tears.

I switched off the TV, turned off both lights and crept up the stairs to my room.

Soon after that, it was time for Lilac and I to have ‘a chat’.

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