Lacking a sizeable inheritance—those long-lost great uncles just keep on refusing to die—I cannot afford a house in this staggeringly over-priced country and so, at the age of 39, still need to rent my accommodation. Having recently moved back to Oxford, I have been searching for a new place, and this has been something of a challenge.
It’s actually been some years since I paid any formal rent anyway. I am something of a vagrant: in York I largely stayed with a friend, who charged me a generously low rate, and was fairly relaxed about me paying as and when my patchy student finances had the resources. Subsequent to that, I stayed at my brother’s house in Bath for a year, where we made ad hoc arrangements as suited us. Intervals in Brazil have largely involved cadging rooms with friends too, and since arriving back in Oxford in February yet another friend has kindly put me up with few requirements other than a few cleaning and cooking duties. But as of early May, I shall be an official tenant again and, to use the technical expression, fuck me is it expensive.
I have viewed a large number of properties, both sole rental and sharing, in this delightful city. Lodging was one possibility, but nothing seemed suitable: Mrs Sarasvati had a room in her house in the ideal district of Jericho; when I went to visit it I found her to be a charming and intelligent Indian woman with whom I had a long conversation about Sanskrit literature, all the time trying my hardest not to notice the wallpaper peeling away from the walls and the mildew glaring out from the cracks, odourously indignant that its stale solitude was to be breached. Another house with a spare room, very close to my current temporary digs, was owned and inhabited by Piers Delafontaine—one of that class of posh, miserly skanks who are clearly far too U to lower themselves to cleaning, but too tight to pay someone else to do it for them. Neither seemed suitable.
At the other end of the scale, sole rental made my eyes water and my wallet weep quietly in my pocket. A glorified bedsit on Iffley Road—nice, but so small that if you breathed in too hard there was a risk of the walls caving in—would have cost over a grand a month, and a cheaper “flat” on Abingdon Road turned out to be three unjoined rooms opening onto a shared hallway, thus necessitating a lock on each room door. My ability to lose keys, lock myself out, or—on more than one occasion—break off the key in the lock of a door ruled out this option. Being stranded, half-naked, in a cold, shared hallway because I had managed to flush my keys down the loo during a night-time visit would almost certainly be the fate awaiting me there—probably within the first month.
I have, finally, found somewhere. It is a big shared house: expensive but not gratuitous, and I shall be sharing with a two German girls, an Irish guy, and a Frenchman. A nice mix of people, and one which comes with the added benefit that the household would give Nigel Farage an aneurysm. We can but hope, at least.