Thursday, January 14, 2010

The housemate merry-go-round and the importance of home. Well, tonight Dan announced that he is moving out, so I have to get a new housemate by 23 February. (Applications/recommendations to the usual address.) I felt sad and weary at this news; just the other day I'd been walking down my street (I think, getting some milk from the milk bar) feeling happy about how settled my life was.

Even in that moment of happiness I couldn't help feeling melancholy, too, knowing that my feeling of being happy and settled could be disrupted at any time. But I stomped down the feeling because I have talked a lot with my psychologist about enjoying moments for what they are, and recognising and cutting off the rage, unhappiness and paranoia with which I insist on filling them.

But what really got me thinking about the housemate thing was when Jellyfish reacted to my news by saying: "Blimey. Is it just me or has looking for a house/housemate kept you rather busy over the last few years?! Poor Mel."

Recently, Dan asked me how many housemates I've ever had. I actually worked this out about Wetburgh Street; now let me work it out about my current house. In 2005 I moved in with Natalya, Nicolette and Meep the cat; when Nicolette moved out, and then Natalya and Meep, I lived with Tin and Rohan in the infamous "hipster housemate" period of late 2006. Then Carly and James moved in at the start of 2007, and when Carly moved out, Dan moved in. This was in August 2007.

Dan moved out to get a job interstate in January 2008 and his friend Marty moved in. 2008 was a very unhappy time for me and Marty bore the brunt of this, I'm afraid. Mid-2008 James moved out to live with his girlfriend and Dave moved in, inaugurating the new Mezzanine Era and bringing (after several months) Monty the cat. Shortly after Dave moved in, Marty moved out and Dan was welcomed back. In January 2009 Dave and Monty moved out. I missed Monty a lot, so I got Graham. Then Talor moved in. She moved out in July and Paul moved in. Which brings us to now. I have lived with 11 housemates (plus 3 cats) in this house.

Let's face it, everyone I've ever lived with has only seen this house as a temporary stopping place, whereas to me it feels like my destination. This is absurd as I would not want to own this house; it is desperately in need of a facelift at best and a major renovation at worst. Indeed, houses are so absurdly expensive these days that I don't ever see myself owning my own home.

In the back of my head I've always known I won't always live here, but I that hasn't stopped me buying furnishings that fit the awkward living room. I haven't felt so happy with where I live since the Donald Street days.

Perhaps my extended time at Donald Street has spoiled me for other houses; as Sandor indelicately pointed out, people are always nostalgic for their first time. I always seem to return to Donald Street in my dreams and nostalgia seems to be a dominant affective mode for me. Perhaps that's why I cling to 'home' where others forge on to new homes: I'm living my future by remaining determinedly in the present… or trying to reconstruct the past.

Sandor actually emailed me recently to let me know that our former home is up for lease again. Disappointingly, they have turned the front lawn into an arid, tanbark-filled rhombus, and ripped out the rosemary bush in the back courtyard that provided so much seasoning for my housemate Matt's favourite meal, "skillet".

For what they are asking, I would pay roughly $692 per calendar month for a room that cost me $360 per calendar month back in 1998 and had risen to $375 by the time I moved out in 2003. As for "Just a short distance to nearby Brunswick train station", I'll show you this "short distance":

The house is marked with an "A". The actual tram stops I used to use are marked with pink dots, and I have circled "nearby Brunswick train station", which you will note is actually further away than the actual nearest train station, Anstey.

Here are some annotated pics that I pulled off the real estate website, pretty much for my own archival purposes. You, blog readers, are now participating in the Web 2.0 equivalent of a slide night.

This is the view from the spot where we had the dining table to the front door. They've put in a screen door since we lived there, but the little narrow window next to the door is unscreened. Smashing that window was how burglars ransacked the house in 1998. On the left you can see the living room – the curtains are exactly the same – although the spot where we put the couches and my Hammond organ is out of frame. On the far right is the fridge nook.

There was an odd little step just inside the front door which would sometimes trip people up. This was not a design flaw but had deliberately been built in so that if the laundry flooded, water would flow out the front door rather than through the rest of the house.

Here's the kitchen, with the missing fourth wall that enabled us to play our parlour game-cum-reality TV show, What's In The Cupboard, Sandor? At some stage the owners have installed that dinky little add-on bench, which gives much-needed bench space.

A rough sketch of the way I had the furniture in my bedroom. Once the bed, the chest of drawers and the dressing table (not in frame) were in the room, it was pretty cramped and there was only a narrow L-shaped catwalk through the room. I can't think of another furniture configuration that would enable the occupant to open the door of the built-in wardrobe.

Oh Mel, it hsa made me all nostalgic to see the photos of Dudley St too. I kept thinking, there's where Andrejs spewed by the street sign, there's where we got ready for Law Ball, and there's where I passed out on the floor!

The notion of 'home' is one I've been thinking about a lot too, given the recent and pending moving I'm doing. House-sitting, while a novelty and convenient in some ways, still doesn't really equate to a home, and I'm looking forward to having my own place again. I think one thing I really appreciate is having some degree of control over the decor and ambience of the house I'm living in, to create an environment that is truly pleasant and suitable to me, and when in share houses that's so untenable. Everyone has different bits and pieces, and some of them keep changing. But living on your own, which I'd often fantasised about through my late twenties, was always too expensive to commit to.

I hope you find a good housemate in this latest search Melly. My ear is to the proverbial ground.
I have so many awesome memories of Donald St too Melly - parties, and other drunken events mostly. Sleeping on your floor sometimes too. I remember buying a bottle of raspbrery vodka which we took to Jade's mum's place down the Great Ocean Road for New Years, and it was so vile I think it stayed in your freezer for years afterwards.

Best of luck with your search, Melski. I will also keep my ear open for you.
A lovely post. Thank you.
I'm a new reader and love your blog. Am working my way through chronologically.
Do you still have the Hammond organ?
Yes I do, Dorian – but it won't fit in my current house, so it lives at my parents' house.

Would you believe though that I am thinking seriously about purchasing an electronic piano? God knows where I would put it.
Don't forget that the TV was no ordinary TV. It was the Jesus TV. And the garage was its tomb.
Is the high turnover considered normal? What's the common link? :-)
If you're trying to have a go at me by suggesting that I drove all my previous housemates away, you could at least put your name to it. :-)
This post screams MS Paint Classics. Especially the simulated TV.

If only that site lived.
Anonymous, of course high turnover is normal. It's a share house. Unless you start them with a core number of people who are already friends, I find people come and go very rapidly. Even when they're friends, people's lives and circumstances change.

I can't believe I'm spelling this out.
Mel, I think you're lucky that you've found a place where you can happily stay! I find that looking for a house is much less pleasant than having to look for housemates, and it seems looking for a house/room is what I'm always doing, for one reason or another. I'd apply for the vacancy but I skipped town permanently in December, alas.
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