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.