Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

'My estate agent showed me sweetly painted flats, hoping I'll fall in love with them without seeing the flaws'

Catherine Townsend - Sleeping Around
Catherine Townsend - Sleeping Around

My friend, Victoria, has moved out, and it looks like I might soon be homeless, too. I could go through the hell of interviewing flatmates, but that presents the distinct chance of Single White Female-style weirdness, so I'll probably move out as well.

In the past, I've found candidates through friends of friends, or sent emails via work, rationalising that the prospective tenant is only one degree of separation from someone gainfully employed. But since most of my friends and contacts read this column, the tactic has backfired: to the man who offered a "Tantric massage and spanking exchange" in lieu of rent: thanks, but I can get those for free.

I've had my share of crazy flatmates. There was the one who had found Jesus and kept leaving Alcoholics Anonymous leaflets on the fridge for me to find, or the one who secretly moved in her Korean mum, who didn't speak a work of English.

In a way, my relationship with Victoria was the most stable one in my life. Sharing a loo and living in such close quarters that you can hear antics through the walls create a strange sort of instant intimacy.

I've just had my second date with Glen, the sexy property developer who flew over from Dublin to take me to dinner. He suggested I scrap the flatmate idea and get my own place. But I've noticed that whizzing around in my estate agent's car feels a lot like a speed-dating event on Valentine's Day - both involve a man hoping my desperation will paper over the obvious mismatches. He showed me sweetly painted garden flats and wants me to fall in love with them without examining their flaws too closely, while we both try to play it cool and negotiate terms.

I'd explained to Glen that, with my budget limitations, I can choose between a dingy basement with crypt-like shower room in an area I like, or a slightly roomier flat overlooking a rubbish-strewn yard.

"One of the flats I own is in Notting Hill, and it's empty right now," he told me casually. "You're welcome to stay in it until you find somewhere else."

Asking him to "show me his flat" was the perfect way to get him alone. When he led me into the marble bathroom, I started to feel perfectly at home. The place was gorgeous: two bedrooms, stuccoed front, and views of a garden square.

The sexual tension had been building for so long that we barely made it to the bed. Afterwards, I joined him on the balcony. I told him that I really appreciated his offer, but couldn't stay in his flat, because I wanted to allow our relationship to evolve without feeling indebted to him in any way. He smiled down at me. "I don't mind either way. I just want to make sure that you're looked after."

"That's sweet, but I can take care of myself." Stunning though Glen's closets are, I need to know what skeletons are lurking inside before I commit.

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