For almost six months I have walked around with a to-do list that reads “write a book, buy a flat”, because I like to think small like that. I haven’t done either yet. Instead I’ve started adding easy stuff, like “do the washing up”, just so I have something to cross off. Meanwhile, I’ve shuttled between mates’ sofas for so long that soon I won’t have any left.
And so the viewings continue. I have now seen so many flats I could appear on Mastermind with Through the Keyhole as my specialist subject. Georgian houses chopped into studios; modern glass-walled cubes; low basements that are snug like Mr Tumnus’s cottage, and ex-factories in areas nobody inhabits. Who lives in places like this? Never me. Sometimes I drag mates along with me. Friends who are millionaire property developers stand in Dalston micro-hovels talking encouragingly about potential. Fellow columnists venture out to Bloomsbury bedsits. Waiters, who have never even paid their own rent on time, look at floorplans, querying square footage.
Boys walk around knocking on walls, speculating about moving the kitchen. Girls work out where south is, for the light. I take my friend’s toddler on a viewing, trusting his instinct when he plops down onto the living-room floor and starts to cry.
The estate agents are surprisingly patient. They watch me troop around flats with so many friends they must think I have 15 boyfriends, some of whom I don’t know are gay, a baby and 10 parents. Occasionally I come close to finding The Flat, and think, right, this time I’m going to do it! Then the fear kicks in, and I start to worry about areas, and interest rates, and fixed-term mortgages, and whether the housing market is collapsing. And whether I actually know enough about any of these subjects to worry accurately about them.
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