What People Say On SpareRoom.com And What They Really Mean

Looking for a room to rent can be shite at the best of times, let alone all the bollocks that's left between the lines in their adverts...
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This feature originally appeared on the very ace Work In Prowess

In 2011, my first year in London, I somehow wound up living on a futon in a fortune-teller’s spare room. I say “fortune-teller” because , like all people who are forty-five and live alone and burn wild sage regularly, his job title was prone to frequent changes. The day I came to view the flat he was a “guru”, and when I moved out six months later, he had downgraded himself to the somewhat less grand – yet no less vague - title of “healer”. It had been a hard time for him, too.

Although I have more stories from that six-month period of my life than any other, it’s not an experience I’m keen to ever repeat. Yes, it’s funny to say that I once came home to find that he had handwashed all (and only) my knickers from the laundry basket in my room – it makes for a compelling story, I promise you that – but it’s less fun to lie awake at night wondering who will notify your parents once you are inevitably found dead and dismembered in a bath of piss-wet sand.

For this reason, I have found myself slightly over sensitive to the language used on SpareRoom.com. Now that I’m using it again, let me share some of my knowledge with you.

We’re looking for someone who will pitch in with the housework – beyond just washing up!

It’s important that you understand that not everyone who lives in this house is a dickhead, but the person who wrote this ad definitely is. She is the housemate that imposed a communal “kitty” for household supplies, and she is the housemate that emailed you at work to remind you why it is there. She is the housemate that bought a mini kitchen whiteboard to draw up a cleaning rota on, and she is the one who wrote “Work Makes You Free” on the mirror while you were in the shower.

It doesn’t matter what all the other housemates are like, because hers is the deciding vote in every house-related argument, mainly because she is the only person that cares. She is always in the house.

She is always. in. the. house.

On the few occasions that you think she is not in the house, you have whispered conversations about her with one of your other housemates that has all the fervour of two people trying to forge travel documentation during an ethnic cleanse.

We like having the occasional glass of wine…

Separately, and within the confines of our own social circles.

…but ultimately we’re a house of busy working professionals who enjoy peace and quiet.

Look, buddy, we don’t care if you’re an accountant or a graphic designer or a fucking candlestick maker, you better have the living habits of Anne Frank if you want to live here, comprendes? We don’t want to see you, and we don’t want to hear from you. We don’t want you hovering on the edge of our glass-of-wine conversations, hoping for an occasional question pertaining to your career or social life. Nuh-uh. No room for that at this inn.

We all love to cook together.

This happened once. Everyone agrees that it should happen again. One of the housemates had a date that had just been cancelled. “It’s okay,” someone says, in an uncharacteristic show of feeling toward the person they have shared knives and forks with for the past 18 months, “we’ll make fajitas!”

Weird Brian has some chicken that’s about to go off, and eagerly offers it, along with an onion. “It’s going off tomorrow anyway,” he says, twice. “No sense in it going to waste.”


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It was fun, in the way that only fajitas can provoke fun. You argue playfully about the best fajita construction methods.

You think: I am not alone in this city, in this world. Some great cosmic force has joined me with this band of misfits, and we are a family. A real and intimate affection exists here, and there is comfort in the knowledge that, wherever else my life goes, I will always be bonded to these people in some small way.

In the morning, Weird Brian leaves a note on the table asking for everyone to pitch in a quid for the chicken.

A little about us…

Right after the part where the ad tells you that every conceivable landmark in London is only “ten minutes away”, you will usually find out “a little about” the people who are expecting you to clean the bathtub every other Sunday for the forseeable future.

Sara is an antipodean princess who loves a night out on the town

Sara is a bow-legged skank. She is in the nasty habit of having noisy sex in the shower with men who are introduced to every housemate and never seen again.

Charlotte is working on her PHd and loves books

Charlotte is a sour-faced mule whose fringe permanently needs a trim. Your only conversation with Charlotte will be concerned enquiries about how her PHd is going. Sometimes you will get bored of this and ask her if she really thinks academics is a wise career path in the current economic climate.

Toby is always out and about!

Let’s get one thing straight: Toby is gay. Toby is the kind of gay person that straight women are constantly trying to be friends with, that women break their heart trying to be friends with, and who, unfortunately, just isn’t taking CVs for a heterosexual female friend right now. He has two or three plump ones with stylish haircuts, and that’s quite enough, thank you. Your continued suggestions to “go out sometime” have been noted and sadly, rejected.

Anthony is an amazing chef

Anthony cooks stupid meals and leaves the pan to “soak” for ten days afterwards.

If you think you’re a good match for us, just send us a message with a few lines about yourself!

The only time we will ever communicate as a group is to ridicule the message you send us.

Follow Caroline on Twitter, @Czaroline