The little lodger is moving in. I chose her after an exhaustive search of twentysomethings looking for accommodation, during which I met a terrifying selection of millennials and members of generation snowflake.
The highlight has to be the 22-year-old engineer who came with his parents. They toured the house and inspected the room on offer. They then fixed me with a withering stare and, as the lad stood by saying nothing, fired at me the most frightening list of questions I can imagine being asked about a prospective lodging situation.
‘And where will we sleep when we come to stay?’ was the first, asked by the mother, a very nice lady — but, you know, not so nice I’d want her in my house every weekend, sitting on my couch, watching Coronation Street on my flat screen.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘if you look out that window you will see the back of a very nice B&B on the high street that has rooms at extremely reasonable rates.’
All things considered, I got in with the next question: ‘Any girlfriend or… who will be coming to stay?’ She looked askance. ‘Oh no, he’s much too busy for girls, aren’t you? No, but he’s got lots of very good friends. I suppose it will be all right for them to stay?’
‘Friends?’ I said, half choking on the ‘s’ of the plural. ‘How many? How often?’
‘Well, they’ll want to come for nights out in London. Not every weekend, of course.’
I gulped. After we had made our way downstairs and were standing by the front door, the father said: ‘And the rent, what does that include?’
‘Ah well, I don’t think you’ll find a better deal in this area. That includes all your gas and electricity, your council tax, Wi-Fi, even your cleaning. So…’ But I wasn’t getting the smiles of delight I’d been expecting.
The three stared back blankly as the father said: ‘And what else is included?’
I suddenly had a horrible premonition that this was going somewhere not very nice.‘I-I can’t think of anything else,’ I said, for truly I couldn’t quite, and hoped I wouldn’t have to.
The father said: ‘Will we have to do his laundry then?’
Oh, thank God. But still. ‘Beg pardon?’ I said. ‘His washing’ said the mother. ‘Who’ll do his washing?’
I was stumped. The lad himself, all 6ft 4in of him, still hadn’t said a word. ‘I think I showed you the laundry room, next to the kitchen?’
‘I seem to remember,’ said the father, ‘that in my first lodgings my landlady did all my washing and cooked all my meals.’
I had to think on my feet, so I said: ‘Look, I am doing this for money. So if you want to make me an offer, I’ll wash all his clothes and cook all his meals if the price is right.’ But I draw the line at pole-dancing for him and his friends. I didn’t say that. Of course I didn’t.
Still, they looked back disapprovingly. I got a text a few days later, saying he had found accommodation that better suited his needs. Possibly his parents had booked him into the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge for three years.
A string of other hopefuls wanting the impossible came and went, and then a very nice computer whizz kid who I thought I could live with and a sweet girl I liked a lot.
It was between the two. Both said they wanted the room. But I had a vision of me — let’s be realistic — running down the stairs to let the dogs out at 7 a.m. dressed in a pair of skimpy knickers, or forgetting to shut the loo door, or jumping in the shower to sing a couple of Shania Twain numbers, and I thought I had better not have a male lodger.
A girl would be less embarrassing. So I went on to the website where I’d found them and sent the man a message that I thought was a very nice rejection. In order not to hurt his feelings, I told him I had chosen someone else ‘purely on the basis they’re a girl’. I pressed send and a few seconds later let out a bloodcurdling scream. I had typed possibly the stupidest thing I could have come up with so far as equality law is concerned.
Oh dear God, he’s going to sue me, isn’t he? ‘Yes, your honour. I chose her purely because she was a girl and she was small and wouldn’t take up too much space.’
Ah well. I love the little lodger. She may be pint-sized but she’s feisty as hell. She does a terrifying job.
And in the evenings, to unwind, she bakes cakes. I’d call her the perfect woman but I don’t want to break any laws.