I just had one of the worst viewings of a place to rent that I've ever had (& I've had some bad ones over the years; some day I might write about them all, just to make you all laugh).
The one consolation, as I walked away cringing, was knowing that it was so utterly bloody awful I have absolutely no doubt I did the right thing in saying a big fat "Nope"...
From the outside, it looked a perfectly okay house; a semi, bit run-down but structurally sound, big windows, wooden front door, gravelled front garden area with untidy shrubs; at a guess 1950's in vintage. So far, so unexceptional.
The first thing I noticed as I was shown inside, by the blinking half-dressed man who had answered the door, was the smell. A very odd smell; musty and kind of greasy, with an undertone of strong tobacco (it was advertised as a non-smoking house). It reminded me of very dirty hair.
The half-dressed man showed me upstairs to a first-floor front bedroom. It was a decent size and one wall was lined with built-in cupboards. But; out of the four cupboards (two large, two small) only one had handles on the doors; the rest had to be prised open with one's fingernails. In front of the cupboards a large leather sofa had been squeezed in, facing the bed. One could just about get past it to the window, where a small circular dining table and an office chair had been pushed between the bed and the window. Next to these there was a small chest of drawers with every single drawer hanging askew. A random assortment of other odd things, apparently left by the previous tenant, were scattered about the floor; a broken wheely basket, a broken lamp, a car vacuum still in the box, a giant packet of Pampers...
By then I had learned that the man showing me around was not the landlord, who I'd understood I was supposed to be meeting, but one of the other lodgers. He showed me a small and (literally) mouldy bathroom and finally a cramped and quite staggeringly filthy kitchen with a harem of flies circling. He then made a long, involved speech about how he and the other three guys living there are really great cool people, very respectful, never cause any bother, and then explained to me how they had had two other earlier tenants given notice to quit for a) not being friendly enough, and b) being too dirty. The mind boggles.
"Negative attitude is not good here", as he put it.
He told me I would probably never see the fellow my appointment was officially with; "very, very lazy guy, never comes here." He told me Lazy Guy's mother owned the place and Lazy Guy looked after the letting of it, but that he was empowered to act on behalf of Lazy Guy to arrange a new let.
The doorbell then rang and he let in a smartly dressed young man in aviator sunglasses, who told me he was Lazy Guy's brother, and the owner; just moments after I'd been told the owner was an older woman.
By this point I had been trying to get away for about nine of the ten minutes I'd been there. I seized the excuse of the interruption and made an exit.
I walked into Richmond town centre, washed my hands very thoroughly in the loos at Costa Coffee, and had an iced tea and a bun. I actually felt slightly dirty all over, just from having been in the house. Every surface in the place was thick with grime, clagged with grease, grey with caked dust, or dark with good old-fashioned black mould. My "yuck" feeling wasn't helped by the weird confusion about who actually had the privilege of owning this nadir of accommodation.
Yes, it was cheap; but not staggeringly cheap. I wouldn't have taken at at half the asking price, anyway. If I lived there I'd be terrified of catching something from the shower.
Regarding the really great place I saw last Monday, I now know the landlady can't make a decision until the 24th, as the last of the enquirers she's promised a viewing to can't come and see it until then. I can't wait on tenterhooks till the middle of the week after next. So I'll go on looking in the meantime.
Something's got to come up, somewhere, somehow! Please...