Lodgers, Life, and the Perfect Pair of Jeans!

Shorter blog this week. I had forgotten that my shifts have changed. I have to work Saturday, and as it’s now late Friday afternoon it doesn’t give me long to write something.

As you know, I reactivated the ad last Saturday and have had a few responses and seen a few people. The first came Sunday morning, a nice older lady who was being forced to leave her current rental due to the owners selling it. She was nice. Very nice. But there were a few things that put us off. To begin with she is retired, and, of course, all the activities that usually filled her days have all been cancelled or put on hold. That would mean she would be in the house all the time! Now, don’t get me wrong, we like our lodgers and want them to feel comfortable and at home, but to have one that was there all of the time, that never went to work, or indeed never really went anywhere is a bit of a daunting prospect. It would mean no time alone for me and Miss F, and no alone time for me. Also, she not only has a car that would need to be parked on the street – where parking is already a serious issue – but she also has a bike that would need to be accommodated. Having only just got rid of the last lodger and his bike which cluttered up our tiny garden and basically got in the way, I’m not so keen on the idea of taking on another one.

We told her we’d let her know and waited for the next candidate. He was an older man. He was alright, but then it turned out he was the father of a boy who bullied Miss F unmercifully at school and she was understandably uncomfortable with the thought that this boy would be able to come into her home to visit his father. The guy also started work at 4am every morning, and the thought of being woken at that hour every day as he slammed the door on his way out to work is not tempting. He also had both a car and a bike to be accommodated.

Then another young man came along. He was nice. We liked him. So much so, that baring anyone super fantastic coming along we decided we would offer him the room at the end of the week. In his early twenties, he’s a chef at a local restaurant and his working hours of midday to 10pm are perfect. He won’t be needing the bathroom first thing in the morning, and it means we will have the house to ourselves in the evening. He also has neither a car not a bike, which makes life a lot easier.

Monday, a lovely young girl came along to view the room. Initially, she seemed perfect, but as she talked little alarm bells began to ring in my mind. She’s an undergraduate student at Cambridge University, but will be working virtually at home for the year – my home, obviously. She has no job to go to either, so again it is someone who will be in the house all the time. Then she asked me if I did short-term lets, and quickly backpedalled when I said not really. Changing lodgers is such a stressful and worrying time that I really want to avoid doing it all that often, and her comment made me wonder if two months down the line she’ll be off again.

I do wish people would be honest about their needs. After all, if I know for definite that the lodger wants a rental of only six months, I might consider it, because at least I’d know exactly where I stood. She also told me that she’s an ardent activist for a lot of different causes, frequently attending marches and protest rallies. Now, that’s all well and good, and each to their own. But, during a pandemic I’m not comfortable with having someone living in my house who is mixing regularly with large crowds of people and then bringing possible infection back to us. Also, if she is registered on some sort of list as an activist, is there a chance my address will be linked to her?

And on top of this, I have been receiving endless email enquiries about the room which sometimes beggar belief. Would I consider renting it to someone’s teenage son who only ever smokes in the garden? No. No smokers, means, no smokers. Would I consider letting the room to a young couple with a baby? Definitely not. It’s not that big a house, with only one bathroom. Having four people plus a baby trying to use it doesn’t bear thinking about. Plus, I’ve done the whole baby thing and I really don’t want to have my house once again cluttered up with pushchairs, highchairs, and all the other paraphernalia that comes with a baby. It made me a little sad though, that a young family are so desperate they would even consider all cramming into one room in someone else’s house.

Several night workers have enquired, and I’ve told all of them no. Been there, done that, got the eyebags to prove it. Several people who work from home have also enquired, and again I’ve turned them down. If we go into lockdown again and our lodger must temporarily work from home, or is on furlough, then that is one thing. It would be an extraordinary situation that would pass and then things would return to normal. But, to take on someone who permanently works from home? I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Then there have been the usual crop of idiots telling me they can’t afford that much rent, and will I accept less, or that they can’t pay the deposit as well and would I consider waiving it. Umm, no.

So, we decided on the young chef, and Wednesday I messaged him saying if he was still interested in the room then it was his. Hours went by, then he finally replied. He has a problem paying all the deposit in one go, would I consider him paying half the deposit before he moves in? Then the second half with the second month’s rent? My initial reaction was hell no. I’ve been lenient with people before about the deposit and they have then taken that to mean I’m a pushover if the rent isn’t paid in full and on time.

I asked him what the problem was as he had not said anything about being unable to afford the deposit during the viewing. It’s because he’s currently renting with someone else, he explained, and didn’t want to leave them in the lurch so abruptly with this month’s rent looming. If I could accept a split payment of the rent, then it would mean he could help this person out by contributing towards the rent for this month.

I didn’t know what to think. We had really liked him, the fact he goes to work at all is good, and his hours are perfect for us. No car or bike to accommodate is a bonus, and he did seem a well-mannered and respectful young man. Yes, he was now messing me about re the deposit, but, as Miss F pointed out, it was to help out a friend and said a great deal about his character.

I told him I would think about it and would let him know by Friday afternoon. I had one more viewing lined up Friday morning, an older man who was a firefighter and looking for somewhere to live as he’d split up from his partner and had been crashing at friends and at his mother’s house ever since. I was unsure about him. He seemed nice, but someone who’s used to having a place of his own and being the alpha male within that place is always problematic. We have experienced trouble with just such a man before. He would freely hog the bathroom with no thought to other people needing to use it, he was untidy, rude, and seemed to think he lorded it over me because of his sex and age.

Wrong. I am the only alpha in this house. This guy, although seeming genuine and pleasant was older than me. That will change the dynamic of the house in a way I’m not sure about. And again, he had a car and a bike that would be coming with him.

So, after discussing the matter with Miss F, I messaged the young chef back and told him I was prepared to accept his offer of half the deposit money before he moved in, and the other half with the next months rent. This was on the clear understanding that it is a one-off thing and that going forward the rent must always be paid in full and on time. It seems a small concession to make to get the lodger we want. I have yet to hear from him, so maybe he’s had a think about it and decided to go elsewhere. If he has, then I will simply run the ad for a second week as I don’t really want any of the other candidates, and I will keep you all posted.

In other news, my car went in for its MOT on Thursday and luckily passed with nothing needing doing. It’s a relief to know I have at least another year’s motoring and am left with only needing to get the car through one more MOT next year before a small pension I have matures and I will be able to afford to buy myself a new car, if I need to. But who knows? If my current little car is still running as well as it is, then I will simply keep driving it until it starts to cost me a lot of money.

After I dropped the car off, I wandered back through town in search of jeans. Now, I live in jeans. I have a uniform that I wear for work, but the rest of the time it’s jeans. Finding that perfect pair of jeans is an ongoing mission. When you are only 5’1” and a little pudgy around the middle it can seem like Mission Impossible, and the only shop in town I stand a hope of finding them in is Marks & Spencer. They alone out of all the high street clothing stores acknowledge that not all women are 5’7” and above. Sure, a few shops do a petite range, but there’s never a great selection and there’s never enough sizes.

Adding to the problem is the fact that we cannot try clothes on in store now but have to buy what we think might fit. Take them home. Try them on. Look in the mirror. Cry. Take them back. Start all over again. Regular readers of my blog will know the trauma I experienced simply finding a smart dress to wear to Miss F’s birthday lunch in August. Over £300 spent and five trips back and forth to the shops later, I ended up spending £70 on one dress and two tops!

I was not looking forward to it. I went upstairs to the ladies’ department. To my joy there was rack after rack of jeans in all the lengths and all the sizes. Best of all, there were different cuts and not just skinny fit. I hate skinny fit. I consider it the worst thing that has happened to most women, especially those of us who are shorter than average. Back in the last nineties, bootcut was the main style and I loved it. It fitted and flattered those of us with shorter legs making them appear longer. But then it went out of fashion and everywhere began to sell skinny fit and super skinny fit only. Skinny fit? Huh. That’s a misnomer if ever there was one. Why are they called skinny fit when they neither fit, nor make you look skinny? For several years I have struggled to find jeans that fit me around the waist, over the hips, and are the right length.

So, you can imagine my joy when I walked into the jeans department and found it full of different cuts. Sure, there were a lot of skinny and super skinny fits, but there were also slim, straight, flared, cigarette, ankle grazer, slouch, comfy, mum, boyfriend, and, ooh, bootcut fit!! Like a child let loose in a sweetshop I wandered around in a daze. Selecting carefully, I found a pair of slim-cut, mid-rise, stone washed denim. Then a pair of soft, dark blue denim in a wonderful slouch cut, and finally, a pair of velvety black ones for best in a bootcut style.

I paid for them all – £80, for three pairs of jeans – then went downstairs to the food hall. A few weeks back, my mum gave Miss F a £10 M&S gift card as a reward for doing so well in her exams, and she had passed it onto me with orders to use it to get us something extra special for dinner one night. We both love steak, and £10 was exactly the amount needed to buy two big sirloin steaks and a bag of massive beer battered onions rings which we had for dinner Thursday evening. Thanks Mum! They were delicious.

Then I popped to the local health and wellbeing shop to buy a bottle of eucalyptus oil. Not for me, but rather to train my cat with. It’s a fact that cats tend to go wherever they want to, and my cat loves being up as high as she can and unfortunately has a habit of sleeping at night on either the top of the cooker, or on my lovely white porcelain draining board. Obviously, this is a habit I’m keen to break. Having to clean and bleach my cooker top every single morning to get all the hairs, mud, dust, whiskers, and the odd claw or two off is not something I enjoy. And as for the mess she makes on the draining board, well, you can imagine. It’s unsanitary, and when you consider where cats go and what they do, to have them then shed that all over the places where I wash, prepare, and cook food, it’s not really on.

I had trained her not to do this by use of the eucalyptus oil several years ago, but it appeared a refresher course was in order and as I had run out of it, I had to buy some more. Cats hate the smell of eucalyptus. It’s such a strong scent that they really can’t bear it, so, in order to train your cat to stay away from places you don’t want them to go, sprinkle the eucalyptus oil generously over some cotton pads and place several in those locations – I use five on the cooker top and another four on the draining board. The smell is so repugnant to most cats that they will stay well away. I lay these pads out every night before I go to bed, as overnight is the only time she gets up there. In the morning I simply place all the pads in a tightly sealed glass jar. Every now and then I refresh them with more eucalyptus oil. It’s a simple trick that works with most cats and is perfectly harmless to them.

So, I got home, put away the steaks and went to try on the jeans. First pair – fitted perfectly and looked good, and, most importantly, were comfortable. Great start. I tried on the second pair. Same result. So far, so good. I tried on the last pair, the black bootcut ones. They were also perfect. I couldn’t believe it. To have selected by eye three pairs of jeans that were just right was astounding. I had planned to take at least one pair back, but do you know, I kept all three pairs. They’re all different and will work for different occasions and like I said, I live in jeans, and having achieved the impossible not once, but three times, it seemed daft to miss this opportunity.

So, that was a good day. My car passed its MOT, I found three new pairs of jeans, there was steak and chips and a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon dinner, and I managed to write almost 5000 words on my current project. Is this the gods smiling on me for once? I think so.

I have work tomorrow, then Sunday off. I haven’t worked a Saturday for ages, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. It used to be that Saturday was our busiest day, but the world has turned on its head and nothing is as it used to be. It will be nice to have Sunday off though.

Right, as usual, my short blog has turned into a long one but at least it’s now written, and I won’t be panicking all day at work tomorrow because it still has to be written.

Take care of yourselves, and I look forward to chatting with you all again next Sunday.

Julia Blake

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