and thus do not know how to link this page to my Huffington Post blogs. So here is a link to it instead. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/leanne-davis/
‘Please Help the Littlest Hobo Find a Room’. That was the title of the Facebook group I set up in desperation two weeks ago. I had already been searching for a month through all the usual channels and not found anywhere I would actually enjoy living. The thought of having to advertise myself like a second hand B&Q barbeque was pretty mortifying.
In the past I have without a thought, moved in with friends, my sister or boyfriends. But things are different now. All my friends have fiancés or husbands. My sister has a serious partner. And ex lovers mostly have wives and children and I’m not sure how they’d feel about me cozying up on the settee to watch Come Dine With Me. (Though we’d all have a lot in common so it could be a laugh I suppose).
I have spent hours trawling Spare Room and Gum Tree to find ads which don’t demand (in Nazi style capital letters) that IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO ADHERE TO THE STRICT CLEANING ROTA DO NOT EVEN BOTHER GETTING IN TOUCH and NATIVE SPEAKERS OF ENGLISH ONLY NEED APPLY. Not that I’m untidy but I do come from Darlington so that may prove a problem.
One advert ended with a note flagging that there was also a ‘very well behaved dog’ living in the house. That’s cool I thought, I love dogs. Upon arrival however I realised she had failed to mention her two six-year-old children that were tearing around the flat naked, whilst not one but four Chihuahuas barked mentally at the infant invasion. Did she think by highlighting one dog in the advert she’d thrown me off the scent and I wouldn’t notice the screaming children and the other three furry friends at the viewing? Had the children just escaped when she came to answer the door? Are they normally kept in a drawer a la ‘Carole’ in The Brittas Empire? I left promptly.
I even got so desperate last week that I contemplated moving in with a middle aged man who I feared may kill me during the night. The house was beautiful though so I persisted (but would definitely be putting a lock on the door). A day later he text late at night: “Just one thing, I forgot to mention we have a mouse infestation”. Forgot to mention?! Alas desperation remained. The Mouse House was beautiful. “Come over tomorrow for breakfast and meet the other housemate, a lovely girl” he text. I agreed (did I mention how beautiful the house was? And there was a hardware shop selling locks and pepper spray just around the corner). I arrive for breakfast and alas, the girl was indeed wonderful, interesting, sweet and we appeared to have masses in common. The fry-up was also rather delicious. An hour later and all seemed sorted. “So, shall we speak later?” I ask him. “Hmmmmm” he muttered in his usual non communicative way “I have to work out what I want. I’ll let you know”. Alas, that night the lovely girl text to tell me another ‘friend’ was moving in instead. Funny - there had been no mention of another friend during either meeting. What had I done? Was it because I ate the white of the egg before the yolk? Ate three rashers of bacon rather than two? I wasn’t being greedy - the rashers were tiny (mouse sized in fact.). I burst into tears defeated. Why was this so hard? It seemed like North East London didn’t want me to move in.
Then out of the blue a good friend offered some wise words. “Stay strong and be open to everything that is on offer. Don’t put a barrier on things”. Ten minutes later I get a text from my best mate Liz to say her friend has a six-week sublet in a creative warehouse in Hackney. Apparently the people are lovely, friendly, open and warm and there are no mice, children and definitely no Nazis or murderers in residence. And just like that, my homeless panic lifted and I immediately saw my destiny. I am indeed the Littlest Hobo but not in the bad joke, homeless mutt sort of way it was initially intended. Like the real Littlest Hobo who wandered from place to place, I feel I am destined, at least for a short while, to do just that. As long as there’s no set contract, the people are lovely and the area is creative and fun, then I’m there - whether for two weeks or six months. I may stay longer at some than at others. I may even tire of it after a while and eventually want to put down some roots. But for now being the Littlest Hobo makes me feel free and excited and 2013 looks set to be a year of adventure where pretty much anything goes. Do however have a quiet word with me if I start barking at squirrels and sniffing other dog’s bottoms.
This afternoon I sit writing in a coffee shop in Stoke Newington. Feeling momentarily reckless, I have branched out and tried a different cafe to the one I normally frequent three doors down. The Americano (“with just a drop of milk”) has been ordered. The seat by the window, taken. The failing laptop, plugged into the wall. I am set for the day. This is my radical bid to try something new, avoid becoming stale in my surroundings and give another local tradesman a piece of my humble financial pie.
But try as I might, I just don’t like it.
The problem is I am averse to change. I am a creature of habit. Alteration discombobulates me. Today’s coffee is too milky (which thus makes me sleepy). My Turkish waitress friend is not here to ask me whether I have finally found a place around here to live (and thus I cannot reply ‘Not yet!’ with a look of equal optimism and frustrated constipation). And the music is too loud (and a wholly different CD from the one they play in the other place). Did no one tell them I was coming?!!
Perhaps I am employing too many changes right now? 2012 has seen the following; Change of jobs: 1. Change of house: 1. Change of relationship status: 1. Change of knickers and socks: c. 340 (give or take the odd festival). I am just about to change every letter in my postcode (from SW6 to a N16 - hence being in Stoke Newington). And then today I have gone and changed coffee shops. I think the latter has been a change too far.
So why, you may ask, the complete life upheaval to North London when an ad hoc amendment in coffee shop throws me into a spin? Quite simply the statement, ‘if you don’t like it, change it’. Currently I live in Parsons Green, but being devoid of a boyfriend/husband/baby/quilted gilet/wads of cash I don’t feel I really fit in. I have no community. And being a writer who spends most of the *working week* alone, I crave the company of other lonely freelancers. I desire to frequent underground bars where “everybody knows my name”. And I want to hang out in coffee shops where I can happily spend the day writing without the fear of finding a baby under my seat (this happened to me in Parsons Green last week for a whole fifteen minutes and no one came to claim it. I actually began to fear it might be mine).
Given the last baby statement, you are therefore probably wondering what the hell am I doing moving to Stoke Newington where one in three of the inhabitants are under the age of six. Simply, I would love to live in another more creative/less baby heavy area, but I’m not cool or edgy enough for Hackney, streetwise enough for Brixton or rich enough for Soho. And thus, this is an intermediary solution – a change of situation without being a change in village style comfort and familiarity. Yes it is *yummy mummy* but with a creative spin. Like-minded people come and chat to me when I work from the coffee shops around here giving me a sense of community (albeit rented). And so if I do find the odd baby under my chair, at least I know I will probably have something in common with it’s mother when I hand it back.
It’s exciting times. My risk adverse nature is taking a stab in the dark and diving in at the deep end. I didn’t like it, so I am changing it. The problem is however, there was nothing wrong with the coffee shop up the road. I liked it very much but still felt the need to change. And an overly milky coffee was the tragic outcome.
Good job 2013 and a plethora of fresh starts and impossible to keep resolutions is just around the corner....