Plus one has done this guardianship thing before when he first arrived in the city and needed a cheap and temporary place to rest his head until he could figure out if he would be staying and where he wanted to be. He slept on a camping bed and ate out – or in with camping cutlery. He went to the Laundromat on Saturdays and never had visitors over. He took baths in a bathroom no one knew he had fixed the light to so no one used.
He was convinced, despite my many years in res, that I would not be able to cut this hippy communal living lifestyle and made me trawl up to the site to see for myself. Temporary metal fencing fixed into concrete blocks and a combination bike lock sealed off the site. A pitiful three people, including myself waiting to get inside. Everyone (to be fair, including myself) looking exceptionally casual, people who didn’t appear to have day jobs or at least office jobs.
A disorganised shuffle in and shuffle out like a beggars changing of the guard past the bike lock and a piece of fencing when the company’s staff appeared with the last lot of prospective tenants in tow, some of them following everyone BACK in to re-examine their room choices. This was the thing plus one warned me. If you see a room you like, it’s not like an estate agent. You don’t think about it and call back later. You immediately pay your deposit and put your name almost literally on the door. The rooms are sold as seen and until you collect your key, stay unlocked so anything that MIGHT have been in them is up for grabs.
A shambling tour across a series of building, crumbling from without and within. Promises of new temporary showers but no internet or washing machine. It becomes quite clear why the buildings were originally designated no longer fit for purpose. Sad remains of previous tenants like ghosts in various rooms. Paper towels and soap still in the WCs. Pinboards with the last notices before the place was evicted still declaring meeting timetables and events. A café area still advertising the latest meal deals of the day before closure.
Chaos among the prospective tenants. Some have clearly done this before and have very specific requirements. Some are just curious. Some have been returning daily as new rooms open up, playing swap as better places emerge. It appears there are two types of people. Those who want the cheapest possible space they can get, irrespective of size or condition. Others, like me, the largest possible room. We are told the very large rooms were given out in a near stampede at 10am that morning and the next set of big rooms are to be handed out later at an unknown date. That they are ‘very big’. The guide whispers there is one ‘largish’ room on a top floor that may suffice but it is NOT one of the big rooms.
Before we get there he gets a phone call from someone who has no aspirations to pay his deposit that day after reserving a space. In a fit of irritation the guide declares this other ‘largish room’ is now also up for grabs at the same price as the one I may wish to see. It is dark and chilly, a ground floor room with all windows but one barricaded shut. A girl and her boyfriend pounce immediately. This shocks me. There is indeed no wait period, it is a free for all sale.
I begin to look agitated and our guide says ‘the other room is bigger than this’. We carry on. The ‘other room’ sits at the top of a staircase and is light and airy and indeed larger for the same volume. I wait. The girl, my competition, is silent. Obviously having been so on the offence previously she can’t work out how to undo her hasty decision. I tentatively say I will take the room because it appears everyone else here wants the small cheap ones. This one even at the higher price is a bargain.
We have a new home.