I love flatmate life. It’s opened my mind, and built me a web of loveable weirdos who, if I hadn’t lived with, I’d never have met
If ever actually marry someone, it’s weird to think that they will never know me as well as Nick does. I met Nick when we ended up flatsharing in my teens, and I’ve lived with him intermittently for a decade since.
Nick has seen me come home in my school uniform; brandishing my A-level results and a degree certificate; wearing my first suit; holding my first published article and my dad’s death certificate.
He has rescued me from mice, e-coli, broken gas fires and crap boyfriends; tolerated my messiness, put up my shelves, gritted his teeth to my 1980s record collection; made no comment when I painted my room pink and laid AstroTurf on the front-room floor. He has taken me to doctors, weddings, funerals, clubs; fed me Jägerbombs and held my hair back when I was sick. And he didn’t kick me out when I didn’t pay rent for two months, or electrified the kitchen trying a new way to wash up.
But this isn’t a love song to Nick. It’s an ode to all wonderful, annoying, necessary flatmates. A generation putting off marriage, who can’t afford to buy or live solo, seem destined to live with randoms for life: 1.5m “young people” rent flats, and many share until first-time-buying in their forties. No wonder Emma Jane Unsworth’s new novel, Animals, speaks to us — a story about two Withnail-esque thirtysomething girl flatmates.
Finding someone to share with in the first place is a nightmare. If you can’t live with friends, you have to audition strangers off Gumtree and just hope they’re not axe murderers or Coldplay fans.