Sep 7, 2010

Tea Totallers

If you're reading this, chances are we miss you. London is lovely, but we'd prefer it if you were here. (no, really.)

The universe decided to consult Mick-Jagger on our loft - we didn't get what we wanted, but it might just be in our best interest. The loft was incredible. The surrounding neighborhood, not so much ...

I made that mistake while working at the Torino Olympics. I went to see the apartment on a sunny day in the middle of the afternoon with 3 friends - Paul, Tom & Andrew. It was a different place when the sun went down and I wasn't in the company of multiple men.

Things that clued me in...

1. "You're LIVING there? ALONE? No, can't be..." says the cab driver when I give him the address. His exact words "Non e una zona sicura." (It's not a safe neighborhood.) Would have been a nice factoid to have BEFORE I PAID 3 months rent.

2. No women on the streets. Ever. A fact I didn't notice walking amongst my 6 foot companions.

3. When leaving the house for a tour of the neighborhood, I grabbed my purse on our way out the door. The apartment owner stopped. "What are you doing?" (he looks at my bag) "NEVER take that with you. Only take the cash you need in your pocket."

4. On the aforementioned neighborhood stroll I was strongly forbidden to walk down a number of streets -
a) the red light district (approx 100 meters from my place)
b) the drug trafficking street, where Giovanni had 3 bikes stolen
c) the street where a furniture retailer gypped him out of some money ... no danger there, he just hated the guy.

It's a different world for women (especially paranoid ones who watch too much SUV). As my father pointed out when he dropped me off at JFK last week, "Women traveling alone are targeted." Almost as comforting as the time he told me to "Go down a fighter," as I was boarding a flight 3 days after 9/11.

I digress. My point is this: between Torino and Harlem, I've garnered enough street cred. This time around, I'm looking for local charm.

So we focused our efforts on Notting Hill. 10 apartments, 4 real estate agents, and 1 LONG DAY later - we've put "an offer" on a place. Yes, to rent an apartment (or more accurately, to let a flat) an offer must be made. Then the landlord can accept, negotiate or deny. All the while, your sleazy real estate agent continues to show the property despite your deposit, and use your offer to encourage others to pay more (of course this corresponds with his fees).
Then you fill out extraordinary amounts of paper work.

Where do you work?
How much do you make?
Where did you work before?
Where does your father work?
Are you a terrorist?
If you are a terrorist, would you be willing to pay the first 12 months in cash? (because advance cash payments bump up agent fees as well.)

So we wait. Fill out paperwork. And wait some more.

And the title of this post comes from vegan Phil - a Welsh letting agent in Notting Hill - who like Matt and I, is a "tea totaller." Meaning we don't drink alcohol, just tea. Except we don't drink that either.


Anonymous said...

as someone who lives stateside..ny...i just lost out on my first home purchase...i understand ur pain and the pain that realtors can be...just stay calm and tell yourself that it wasn't meant to be and try and i mean try to move's hard..don't forget to check craigslist it might be of help...and try to enjoy the could be much worse
best of luck to you guys and i hope all works out...soon =)

Brittmae said...

I love the details...and I would totally brag about having a friend living in notting hill. If you had a house with a blue door--well--that would just be the icing on the cake.

Too bad about that neighborhood, but I too watch too much SUV and spend way too much time at court and think those subtle red flags of crime-infested mob-controlled area may be good to mind.

lybberty said...

"women traveling alone are targeted" and "go down a fighter."


you should dedicate a post to the advice of one Judge Nicolai.

Valerie said...


This is the period that I now term the "storm before the calm". Every person I know that moved to London had a less than pleasant experience in the first week or so, including Denis and I. We questioned our motives completely, had everything go wrong and then...something miraculous happened. We found a place (four days that felt like a lifetime), we loved it, we met our fabulous neighbors, we made friends, we discovered restaurants and RELAXED! It was SO worth it in the end, but man is it a pain going through it! (See my old London posts for reference to this horrible time or not if you're trying to think happy thoughts). You are in good company.

emilyhutchison said...

go down a fighter made me laugh out loud in class. your father is a genius.

siovhan said...

You are so brave for living in Torino in those conditions. And then in Harlem. Whoa. Kudos.

I'm hoping that Notting Hill place quickly becomes yours -- you two deserve it. You're both wonderful. And I'm LOVING reading about your adventures.

angelique said...

when I flew home for the Thanksgiving after 9/11 Mom told me not to go along with the terrorists that would inevitably hi-jack my plane but to "gouge them in the eyes and kick them in the balls, do whatever you have to do" - and once over dinner Dad turned to me out of the blue and said "if you're ever at home alone and someone breaks in and is holding you hostage, ask if you can make yourself a cup of tea, heat up some water in the microwave so that it's boiling hot, then throw it in his face" - apparently you aren't the only one in the family who watches too many crime dramas

Teri said...

Angelique's post made me laugh out loud...I loved it! Gotta love those parents who care enough to give such great advice.

rubi said...

We've decided we have enough street credfrom 2 years in harlem too and next time around we'll be living in the notting hill of wherever we move too.
Your building looks awesome! I love reading about your move. Hope London is treating you well. :)