I’m back in Blighty temporarily and I’m watching EastEnders and I don’t mind admitting it’s making me glad I don’t live in England any more (because EastEnders is exactly like real life in England, even down to the fact a man like Ian Beale can be a serial monogamist). Technically when I left I was no longer in the East End where I’d been a good while; I spent the last six months hibernating in the stabbiest part of North London waiting for the moment to escape my lodgings so I’d no longer have to live with a man who would leave his shit in the toilet because he thought flushing it cost him extra money.
Ian Beale is on the screen and he has scratches all over his face that I thought were splatters of turd at first. If I was remotely interested I might ask someone why they’re there. Beale is going out with Denise now, which seems random to someone who hasn’t watched it in a while, but then the last time I watched the show properly, Phil was high on crack and burning down his own mother’s pub while his giant baked bean head turned more rubicund each time he cackled. It felt like a jump the shark moment, and I resolved to never watch it again, though I did unwittingly catch it another time by accident and Beale had turned into Greengrass from Heartbeat. Now Beale is stealthily making his way through the female cast, worming his way into their affections with some sexy, surreptitious hocus pocus no doubt. I don’t know whether he has Beales On Wheels anymore, but he’s certainly an unstoppable sex machine.
Getting back your deposit in its entirety in Paris is unheard of I’m told. There’s this amazing law where even if a tenant stops paying the rent a few months into football season, they can’t be turfed out until Spring the following year in order that they don’t freeze to death. Tenants having more power seems only fair to me, though it doesn’t half heighten paranoia among landlords and landladies. These people are extremely on edge and shouty (especially down phones), though it’s kinda understandable if you think about it, and it’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to nail down a flat in Paris if you’re coming from out of town or you’re not a Frenchie. Then there are the letting agents, like Benoît, who came to inspect the place last night. Benoît is uptight and fastidious and ever so slightly unhinged, though I only met him for an hour so maybe he’s a nice guy when the jackboots come off and he’s enjoying a Martini with other members of the Sturmabteilung. We spent what seemed like days cleaning, getting the place nicer than it looked when Claire first moved in, though Benoît managed to see things that weren’t there and apportion the blame to the outgoing incumbent for stuff that was already broken and had been discussed on the day the flat had originally been let. It reminded me a little of Mr. Balowski, The Young Ones’ landlord, stomping on furniture and saying: “Aw, some sod broke your chair! That’s £20 you owe me.”
We await to learn how steep this extra clean will be, though one predicts Benoît will forget to call any cleaners, flounce around with a duster for five minutes and trouser maximum rate. Here’s another interesting thing about getting a flat in Paris: when you turn up, chances are the fixtures and fittings will have all gone and you’ll be lucky if the previous tenant spots you the sink. In the UK it’s illegal to leave exposed wires, though nabbing the sockets is de rigueur for some reason. It’s a bit of a shock but it’s not as bad as abandoned human waste floating in the pan of a morning. Now there’s a nasty little surprise I’ll happily do without.