• [Housing, Heating, & Happiness]

    S&M Files, Episode 3: December 2, 1999
    English Life: Housing, Heating, and Happiness

    Now that I’ve been in England more than one week, intending on
    being a permanent resident, I feel I have the right to make
    cryptic, cynical pronouncements about life in England. Enjoy this
    humorous and somewhat barbed rebuttal to Stephen’s earlier

    We were fortunate that Stephen’s cousin Julian offered to
    put us up for the first two weeks after our arrival here in
    Brighton. Of course, if one is to believe Stephen’s account of
    Julian’s apartment, perhaps the offer wasn’t all that fortunate
    after all. :-P Myself, however, being made of far sterner stuff than
    Stephen, I found Julian’s apartment to be perfectly fine for a
    cheap place to live. Now, you might not think that a £600/month
    place is a “cheap” place to live but, given the housing situation
    here in Brighton at the moment, and the fact that Julian has a
    3-bedroom, 3-storey house, £600/month is almost reasonable. Cheap is
    what enables us (and Julian!) to save so splendidly on heating.
    After all, if the heating doesn’t actually function, then you can’t
    spend a fortune on electricity attempting to use it, right? Cheap
    is also what enables us to almost never have to vacuum. When the
    carpet throughout the house is the colour of dirty sand, you just
    don’t easily notice the dirt on it. Ahhhh! The luxuries of
    the bachelor apartment!

    For a cheap place, though, it has large windows everywhere,
    single-paned to be sure, but large windows nonetheless. The walls
    and ceiling even bear evidence of recent painting too. What more could a
    bachelor ask for? Cable, mobile phones, PlayStations, VCRs,
    stereo equipment, and sound editing equipment apparently. The
    sandy floor in the living room (or lounge, as the locals
    refer to it) is festooned with high-tech music equipment, two
    televisions, a PlayStation, and a digital equipment cordless
    telephone (DECT phone). This is very amusing when you consider
    that the actual inhabitants of this flat spend far less time
    here than we do. Maybe they’ve figured out how to use this
    stuff remotely?

    I hope that the picture I paint of Julian’s flat is neither too
    contemptuous nor unflattering. I rather like it except for the heating and
    the carpet. I had secret plans to sell all of Julian’s stuff and just take
    over the place in order to solve our housing problem. I figure that any
    place that is not home to more than 20 species of bugs (unlike some other
    places in which I lived) is a fine place to stay. Any place where the roof
    doesn’t leak into the walls is also a fine place to stay. Any place where
    turning on the microwave doesn’t interfere with television reception
    because of ‘noisy power’ is a fine place to stay. If you manage to not
    have all these problems in one place then you’ve found a fantastic place to
    stay, even if it doesn’t back onto a ravine!

    For some reason, completely unfathomable to me, Stephen decided that
    finding a place of our own in which to live wasn’t that high of a
    priority. After all, what can you do with your own personal place:
    open a bank account, have proof of address to get cell phones, have a
    place to forward your business calls to, have a place to put all
    of your stuff coming by container from Canada, have a place to
    sleep after your relatives boot you out on the street? Those don’t
    sound all that important, right? Well, apparently they weren’t
    to Stephen but luckily I convinced him that we absolutely needed to
    find our own place to stay as we could only stay with Julian for
    two weeks and then with Anna, a friend from Sussex University, for
    the month of December.

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