Finding a Flat - Part 4: Lockdown & Lady Luck

Living in lockdown and where to next

27 October, 2020

🧳 Move in day

Right back where we left off. The day that would make or break us.

Thank goodness it was the first of the two scenarios; we moved in without a hitch! After the official signing of the tenancy agreement, terrifying transfer of the three months upfront rent payment (as agreed in order to secure the flat), and the handing over of the keys, we had made it. Just managing to squeeze all of our possessions (including a guitar and stockpiles of groceries) into an Uber XL, we made the big move during lockdown in one go.

Even after the stresses of the morning, Simon was technically still working so immediately set up his laptop, hopped on a Zoom call and started typing away. The internet was fast - yus! We needed a few extra kitchen items now that we were living by ourselves so I picked up some bargains from Poundland down the road. How convenient.

Looking around the flat, we couldn’t believe what a bargain we’d snapped up. Like I said, it was perfect.

📑 About the flat

It’s about time I actually let you in on this flat I’ve been raving about. So it was part of a new build four story apartment and we were one floor up facing away from the street. It had a huge open plan living area with a large fold out sofa, dining table and spacious galley kitchen. Along the hallway, there was plenty of cupboard storage space leading towards a good-sized bedroom and modern bathroom.

It was an AirBnB that the owner had decided to pull off the market right as the threat of lockdown loomed. The rent included all bills and the flat was furnished and ready for occupancy. We knew we’d snapped up quite the bargain as it would normally pull in £3,000+ per month as an AirBnB and we weren’t paying nearly as much! The tenancy was for three months and was ours as long as we could pay three months of rent upfront.

🔒 Locked away

So lockdown. The rules were that you could only leave the house to get groceries/essential items and to do one hour of exercise per day in your local area. In retrospect, we probably took this a tad too seriously. We got so used to being indoors that I’m sure at one point, we went a full week without leaving the house. Somehow the thought of going down one flight of stairs and pretty much just across the road to Regent’s park seemed far too risky. We tried to do two weeks worth of grocery shopping in a week to reduce the risk of exposure but this was back in the day when we didn’t own a single face mask. It just wasn’t a thing. What we did do was spend half an hour after every shop washing our groceries. I wonder if it helped.

Instead of braving the outdoors, we made the most of the huge living room and did Les Mills workouts, Just Dance, built a fort, did a fancy dinner night, played twister, did a 100 push ups a day challenge for a month, scavenged for hidden Easter eggs, played cricket with a foam baseball bat and I made storytime, song and dance videos for my students learning from home.

Being locked away wasn’t so bad.

There was one little issue, but that’s a separate tale to tell… 🐭

It’s that time again

As they say, all good things…

It was time to move again. Scraping the barrel for an ounce of motivation, we only made it into first gear in this round of flat hunting.

It wasn’t that there was any shortage of flats; Each of us put out advertisements on SpareRoom and were inundated with responses. NB: Everything is a competition and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Less than 24 hours after putting out an advertisement, I’d racked up 44 responses. Surely that was a winning score. Nope. In that same time, Simon managed to reel in 98 responses. I’d lost by a mile. I’m going to go ahead and blame my lack of enthusiasm for this round of flat hunting on being a sore loser.

Despite having all these options, here’s what we actually viewed:

  • Camden 1 bedroom flat

    Video call with a friendly guy who had a foot-long list of questions from his wife which we had to work our way through. The flat had a huge deck area and looked okay but some parts didn’t get much natural light and we weren’t a huge fan of the street view.

    Verdict: Keep looking.

  • Camden 2 bedroom flat

    This wasn’t a typical flat viewing; this was a bit of a different option. One of Simon’s colleagues had a two-bed flat which was currently empty as he was working from overseas. This had potential as a temporary flatting option as it would help Simon’s colleague cover rent and buy us more time to find our own place. The flat was cosy but we figured that it would be too tight of a space for three of us if we were all working from home later in the month.

    Verdict: Keep looking.

Yep that’s it. Hundreds of flats out there and that’s all we could be bothered doing.

Luckily for us, Lady Luck found us an option and plonked it right onto our laps. How about a move to Hackney?

🐱‍👓 Hackney?

Hackney. We didn’t really know too much about Hackney to be honest other than there was a canal, supposedly some good pubs and it was where all the hipsters live. I’m not much of a drinker and definitely not hipster. Hmm.

But the big perk: Cool flatmates! Simon’s friend from school that he’d flatted with for two years back home, R, and his girlfriend, J. (All I can think of when I type this is RJ’s licorice...mmm). Nothing beats RJ’s licorice so that’s surely a sign. Two rooms had now become available in the flat and who better to flat with than a friend with a proven track record of being a great flatmate? We made a quick trip over to the flat to check it out. Simon had been there once before but that was back when social gatherings were a thing so he could barely visualise what the flat would have looked like empty.

We figured that the flat layout could work out quite well for working from home; R had a set-up on the dining room table and then there was a spare bedroom which could now be converted into another workspace for J and Simon. A three-bed flat with a living room for two couples was a pretty good deal. The lease would end on November 1st and we’d figure out what next at a later date.

I was hesitant about moving east as I had grown attached to the north-west part of London and it meant moving further away from work. Also, being introverted, I was somewhat anxious about adjusting back to being in a social flat after a quiet three months.

✌️ Hackney

Well, I’m glad we went for it. Saying goodbye to Camden was sad but sweet. I can’t say it was an authentic Camden living experience as lockdown had created a hush over a normally vibrant area but we’d loved it nonetheless. Now a new adventure awaited out east. Again, we managed to move all of our belongings in an Uber XL. Easy.

Greeted with hugs and the comment of “You can get yourself a glass of water this time - this is your flat now”, we could tell that this was going to be a whole different experience to the relatively quiet months of lockdown.

Kiwi Crew reunited (sorry J!)

We immediately noticed the street noise and a buzz about town that was missing from our bubble we’d been living in. Visiting nearby Haggerston park, we felt a distinctly different vibe to Regent’s park. Haggerston was full of groups of young people chilling out with drinks, as opposed to the family and touristy atmosphere of Regent’s. This was our new stomping ground.

🔊 Living it up and down

It took a few weeks but we slowly grew used to the new area and got into routines with work. Our flat got lots of natural light and opening out the doors on each side created great airflow through the flat, essential as the days got increasingly hotter. Also, I don’t know how we lucked out, but the local Tesco Metro stocked...PIC’S PEANUT BUTTER - the deliciously scrumptious taste of home ❤️ Not to mention, some much needed black gold a.k.a. Marmite and a selection of the finest Whittaker's chocolate arrived in the post from R's mum. Pretty much the definition of living it up right there. The company wasn't too bad either. 😜

We had our share of frustrations with choppy wifi, water cuts and noisy neighbours from time to time. One day it was so ridiculous, you just had to laugh or you would have cried - here’s a bit of an insight. Unfortunately for us, living along a narrow two-way road meant that every day cars would end up in tooting battles as they each felt entitled to the road and didn’t want to back down. I’m thankful that I wasn’t working from home during the roadworks on the street - that meant queues constantly formed and literally created gridlocks as neither lines of cars could move forward or backward. It took shouting over the balcony from R (in a very convincing British accent) and an angry Scotsman to bring about temporary ceasefires in the tooting.

But aside from that, everything was smooth sailing.

👨‍👨‍👧‍👦 Time to move it move it

Having moved into five different flats in the past ten months, Simon and I were pretty chilled about finding our next flat from November 1st. However, it turns out that finding a flat for the four of us +1 was harder than we expected.

Could we keep the flat family together or would we have to split? Find out in Finding a Flat - Part 5: Is this the One?

Trying to choose a flat