Friday, May 25, 2007

The worst cell of all, oneself

The Ministry of Fear movie poster, based on a book by Graham Greene

After the chaos of yesterday, I was prepared for today to be either an equal slush fest or something closer to zen. Getting up at some extreme-sport hour of the day in order to get to the Citizen's Advice Bureau at some ungodly hour didn't help. Although it was a mini soap-opera in itself.

There were two people in the waiting room when I arrived at about 8.15 and the CAB doesn't officially open til 10am. (I discovered that you can't book appointments, but fortunately got a tip-off that in order to be seen you have to arrive really, really early). After waiting until 9.45, we were informed that only one volunteer (the CAB general advisers are all volunteers) had turned up that morning. By this time, the queue had increased to 10 and we were told that they would only be able to see two people, possibly three. The prospect of waiting for another two hours only to find out we'd run out of time was not appealing and I decided to go and see a solicitor instead and pay for the bloody privilege if I had to.

Fortunately, I voiced my intention and the receptionist provided me with a list of solicitors that specialize in housing law. Nice dudes. So off I went, clutching my Danny Wallace, Join Me, which I had been reading for the past two hours (he accidentally starts a cult - brilliant - I'm meant to be reading Brighton Rock for my reading group next week, but you know me, I like to live on the edge). Then I received a text from G informing me that the Council gives advice to private tenants. I kicked myself for not knowing this already and headed to work. The woman I saw, a singular gemstone called Sandy, (she saw me immediately - it's not like going for housing benefit) advised me that we are only entitled to 28 days notice if the new landlords want to increase the rent. I almost cried at the table, something I think she noticed.

"Are you ok?" she asked as she looked up from her papers, seeming genuinely concerned.

"A little, er, surprised is all," I squeaked.

"It's not much time, really, is it?" she observed.

"Not to find somewhere else, raise a deposit and rent in advance, pack all my stuff and move down eight flights of stairs," I answered, resting my head on my chin and attempting my best 'I'm calm about this really' smile (which came out as an, 'I'm having an acid flashback and you've just turned into Medusa complete with a full head of hissing snakes' smile, I suspect),"No."

"If they do put the rent up, come and see us straight away," she said, "You might be eligible for housing benefit."

I thanked her, but secretly knew I can't take benefits at my age. Not with two degrees under my belt and absolutely no reason why I couldn't pay my own way.

She was lovely though, and told me to contact her as soon as something happened and she would advise me and the residents every step of the way, either individually, or as a unit, either in her office or at our house. Sometimes, the Council gets it right.

When I left I felt hysterical, but as I wandered around the streets before going home, I started to turn my frown upside down (yes, I am using crack as a way of alleviating my stress levels, what of it?). I thought about how, without knowing what the rent was to be raised to, I couldn't really make any choices now about whether I would leave or not. One thing struck me as certain though, whether I was going to have move out or whether I was going to have pay more rent for where I was, I need more money.

I thought about my options. I could:
  • sell my ass on the streets (time consuming, possible I wouldn't make much off it and I'd have to deal with the perils of chafing)
  • sell all my possessions (seriously unlikely to make much money and what money it did make I'd be tempted to use buying all the things back again when the full horror of my decision finally sunk in)
  • get a full-time, grown up job and stop living like Petra Pan (awful choice, this one, I've spent so long avoiding the trappings of middle class material commitment in honour of being a hippy creative, it seems a shame to ruin it now when it's working so well for me)
These didn't seem like great choices at all. Then it occurred to me, maybe the Universe was trying to tell me something! Maybe it was saying that what I really need to do is make a proper commitment to my writing. Now that I have several finished pieces (ok, in need of a little bit of editing), I should be sending them off. Apparently I should have a little index card file so that I know which pieces are where, when they've been rejected/accepted and so on. There are ways of making these things work and maybe the Universe was trying to tell me it was time to try some of them. I couldn't help but wonder (for all you SITC fans out there).

Now I feel as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. This isn't a catastrophe, it's my destiny! Whatever happens with the flat is now less important that what happens with me, and I think that's the order it's meant to be.

If it doesn't work out, I'm going to try selling my ass.

It is impossible to go through life without trust: That is to be imprisoned in
the worst cell of all, oneself.

Graham Greene

1 comment:

Kerrie said...


I've just started a feminist group for those of us living on the South Coast, would you like to join? It's
Or if you let me know your e-mail I can send you a proper invite. I live in Portsmouth too by the way.
Kind Regards