The S & M Files, Part III

Distribution Permission

This version of S & M Files is freely distributable provided that the copyright notice remains intact. All material in the Annals, unless otherwise stipulated, is copyrighted (1999-2006) to Michelle A. Hoyle & Stephen B. Dodd.


In which:
Michelle ventures opinions on moving to England and chides Stephen for his uncharitability about places in which to live.


Now that I've been in England more than one week, intending on being a permanent resident, I feel I have the right to make cryptic, cynical pronouncements about life in England. Enjoy this humorous and somewhat barbed rebuttal to Stephen's earlier comments.

English Life: Housing, Heating, and Happiness

We were fortunate that Stephen's cousin Julian offered to put us up for the first two weeks after our arrival here in Brighton. Of course, if one is to believe Stephen's account of Julian's apartment, perhaps the offer wasn't all that fortunate after all. :-P Myself, however, being made of far sterner stuff than Stephen, I found Julian's apartment to be perfectly fine for a cheap place to live. Now, you might not think that a £600/month place is a "cheap" place to live but, given the housing situation here in Brighton at the moment, and the fact that Julian has a 3-bedroom, 3-storey house, 600/month is almost reasonable. Cheap is what enables us (and Julian!) to save so splendidly on heating. After all, if the heating doesn't actually function, then you can't spend a fortune on electricity attempting to use it, right? Cheap is also what enables us to almost never have to vacuum. When the carpet throughout the house is the colour of dirty sand, you just don't easily notice the dirt on it. Ahhhh! The luxuries of the bachelor apartment!

For a cheap place, though, it has large windows everywhere, single-paned to be sure, but large windows nonetheless. The walls and ceiling even bear evidence of recent painting too. What more could a bachelor ask for? Cable, mobile phones, PlayStations, VCRs, stereo equipment, and sound editing equipment apparently. The sandy floor in the living room (or lounge, as the locals refer to it) is festooned with high-tech music equipment, two televisions, a PlayStation, and a digital equipment cordless telephone (DECT phone). This is very amusing when you consider that the actual inhabitants of this flat spend far less time here than we do. Maybe they've figured out how to use this stuff remotely?

I hope that the picture I paint of Julian's flat is neither too contemptuous nor unflattering. I rather like it except for the heating and the carpet. I had secret plans to sell all of Julian's stuff and just take over the place in order to solve our housing problem. I figure that any place that is not home to more than 20 species of bugs (unlike some other places in which I lived) is a fine place to stay. Any place where the roof doesn't leak into the walls is also a fine place to stay. Any place where turning on the microwave doesn't interfere with television reception because of 'noisy power' is a fine place to stay. If you manage to not have all these problems in one place then you've found a fantastic place to stay, even if it doesn't back onto a ravine!

For some reason, completely unfathomable to me, Stephen decided that finding a place of our own in which to live wasn't that high of a priority. After all, what can you do with your own personal place: open a bank account, have proof of address to get cell phones, have a place to forward your business calls to, have a place to put all of your stuff coming by container from Canada, have a place to sleep after your relatives boot you out on the street? Those don't sound all *that* important, right? Well, apparently they weren't to Stephen but luckily I convinced him that we absolutely needed to find our own place to stay as we could only stay with Julian for two weeks and then with Anna, a friend from Sussex University, for the month of December.

Finding a place to stay in Brighton lately necessitates a lot of visiting estate agencies. Apparently, since the last time I was in Brighton two years ago, lots of people in the London area hit upon the clever idea to move to Brighton because they could commute faster from here via train into London than they could navigate about London. The result of their cleverness is that the demand for housing in southeast England, especially Brighton, has skyrocketed, pushing prices for housing up and seriously impacting the amount of housing available. For us this meant that we could visit an estate agency in the afternoon, peruse their daily list of available properties, and discover that 2/3rds of them were already gone by the time we'd arrived at the agency. The turnover of rental properties is really high.

One of the first places we examined was a 1-bedroom apartment that had sea views from its windows. I think the 1-bedroom part of the apartment description was being overly generous. When the agent showed us the bedroom, I couldn't resist commenting that I'd seen walk-in closets that were larger. The "bedroom" was just wide enough to fit a single bed into and then be able to walk in the narrow aisle created between the bed and the wall to the window. The rest of the apartment was likewise small, even if it did feature an "electric shower." This device, not intended, I'm sure, for auto-erotic stimulation, heats up your shower water to the desired temperature using electricity, thus eliminating the need for a hot water tank which never has enough water anyway.

On another day, we were able to view *two* potential places. The first was a relatively modern apartment with two bedrooms, partially furnished. There wasn't anything much exciting about it except that it may have had cable and it cost £700/month! It was neat, cheerful and bright, but BORING and expensive. Definitely not EinMaterial.

The other place we were to scope out the agent was reluctant to show us. Apparently they'd had trouble renting out the place and it had stood empty since the end of August. The property in question was a converted mews. For those of us not in the know (like me!), a mews was a place where horses and carriages were stored and often featured a space for the grooms and horseboys to live above the horses and carriages. The original building was constructed in 1860 and featured "unusual decor". This sounded more like it. We were far more enthused than the hesitant agent. I loved it from the moment we stepped in, even if it did smell somewhat musty. Lots of brick. Lots of wood. Lots of windows. Lots of stairs. Every single room was on a different level than the others. There was a bedroom upstairs with two beds, a lounge at the front of the house, a small sitting room with french doors out to a sunken garden, a small, efficient modern kitchen, a bathroom with a nice deep tub, and the dining room.

It was the dining room that featured the odd decor. The two walls of the dining room had been papered from floor to ceiling in a gold wallpaper that had yellow flowers and vines crawling up it. It sounds rather odd but given the light in the house and how what little light there was reflected off the gold paper, it worked wonders to lighten up an otherwise quite dark area of the house, despite the number of windows. The house did have windows but they all face west and most of the house was down from street level. It was, however, a mere block from the sea. If we looked around the corner from the mews, we could see the sea. We could definitely hear the gulls.

I loved it. I had to have it, even if the place was furnished was already well furnished with antiques and rugs and wall hangings and we had a big whack of stuff arriving from Canada. The agents had recently reduced the price from £650/month to £600/month in an attempt to get the place rented out. We had to have it. We pestered the agents daily. We would have pestered them hourly if I had thought it would have helped. They provided us with a set of three two-page forms. One set for each of us and the third set for somebody who would act as a guarantor in case we decided to skip town. Having only just arrived from Canada, we of course didn't have any UK credit history which is what they wanted to check. We had to provide details of our jobs, our places where we lived, personal references, and get all this stuff from our guarantor, too. Again, Stephen's relatives came to our rescue, with Maggie providing the needed guarantor reference. Indeed, she turned out to be a Class A guarantor, just in case anybody else needs one in the future. Even with her all checked out pure as the driven snow, they still gave us grief. Stephen's personal reference turned out to be out of the country and they were going to hold us up just on that even though everything else had worked out. After several anxious days, we were finally given the keys after we gave them £1450 (or more than $3600 CDN)! That's almost enough to have a down payment on a house in Edmonton. This was only the deposit and the first month's rent and we only have the house until August. I guess we'll do the whole thing over or maybe consider buying. It's almost as cheap if we could come up with the 15% deposit. <sigh>

Well, at least we're housed now. Stephen can concentrate on his number one priority: making us rich so we can afford to shell out $1500/month in rent. (:

Closing Words

I think I'll bring this edition to a close. We're loving our new house. I'm looking forward to our stuff arriving in January and to Stephen's Mummy coming to visit us in the spring.

I remain,

[Michelle's Mind]

S & M Files
Ep. 1 (I) | Ep. 2 (II) | Ep. 3 (III) | Ep. 4 (IV) | Ep. 5 (V) | Ep. 6 (VI) | Ep. 7 (VII) |
Ep. 8 (VIII) | Ep. 9 (IX) | Ep. 10 (X) | Ep. 11 (XI) | Ep. 12 (XII) | Ep. 13 (XIII) | Ep. 14 (XIV) |
Ep. 15 (XIV) | Ep. 16 (XIV)