Tag Archives: lodger

I’ll be back…

I’ll tell you something, Crazy Yank loves his films. His DVDs in particular. It became a ritual, usually at the weekend, that he’d go to Blockbuster and pick up three used ones for £10. I’d never seen such a big DVD collection when I moved in. I still haven’t. Hundreds. I forget the exact number now but it was about 400. The family have proudly informed me that it’s many more than that now of course.

I remember going to the hallowed Blockbuster on the High Road with Crazy Yank and co from time to time and trying to have my say. It was hard because Crazy Yank and Wonder Boy would go for some action film or a horrific shoot ’em up film. Slish would eye up some teen fluff and Crazy Yank would often appease her with one out of the three choices. I would look for the independent films, those with the Sundance Film Festival stamp of approval, and would inevitably get nowhere or ‘forget it’ more specifically. But one glorious day, I was allowed one out of the three: The Savages. (It was OK.)

Anyway, sorry for the silence and forget what Arnie said – I am back. I will be posting more regularly now and by more regularly, I mean weekly. If not weekly, fortnightly. Hello.

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I’m not dead… yet

Hello. I’m so sorry for my silence. Been all sorts of busy with real writing (of course this is real writing but you know what I mean. Job writing. Sadly.) I’m also in the process of moving (again) but let’s not talk about that…

Anyway, it’s great to be back. I have been embarrassed by my barren blog and I’m getting back on that abandoned horse. Etc.

I’m going to continue with my A-Z guide but it would be really great to get some feedback from readers – to see if there’s anything else apart from the said A-Z guide and selected memories that you’d like me to write about on here. Perhaps you’re a reluctant lodger and you’d like some advice? I hope you’d like some advice. I like getting my agony aunt hat on.

So please. Shoot. And then at least I’ll know you’re not dead… yet, too.

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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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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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The short goodbye

It started with a knock on my door. I lay in bed, staring at the sunlight dancing on the ceiling. I hadn’t got back from work until after 11pm the night before. Laden with Tesco bags, I was faced with Henry snogging some girl called Flora from Wimbledon High in the kitchen. The party hadn’t died down until five. It was 10 O’Clock.

‘Sas? Sorry. Are you awake?’

I threw my body off the bed and came to the door. ‘Hi Lil, sorry, I’m awake. I’m just lying in bed looking at the ceiling. How are you doing?’

She gave me a slight smile. ‘Fine. I’m… fine. Can I… ah, have a chat when you’re up and dressed downstairs?’

‘Yes, sure,’ I said noticing the shy cigarette resting by her side.

When I went downstairs, there was a new cigarette resting between two of Lilac’s slim fingers.

‘Everything OK?’ I asked. She gave me a faint smile.

‘Things are going to get nasty around here and I don’t think it’s fair on you. I’ve loved having you around. In fact, you’re my favourite ever lodger. Lily will tell you that,’ she said, stopping to take a drag. ‘But I can already feel how stressed I’m getting and Henry’s exams aren’t for another two months.’

‘No, I understand,’ I said, winded despite empathising. What now?

‘I know Shark Attack has said he’d be happy to have you stay for a while. He has a house by the water. It’s a really beautiful house. And Big James has also said you could go and stay with him and his boys. So you’ve got plenty of offers. They’re good guys.’

‘Yeah… I’m not sure.’

‘Why? Because they’re men? Does that make it different?’

‘A bit. I know they’re nice and everything but I’d prefer to live with a woman. I think I’ll talk to friends and have a look around first.’

Friends weren’t moving or looking to move. I looked around. A box room in St John’s Wood. And then Crazy Yank’s three-storey house by the Thames. Two weeks later, he came to pick me up.

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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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