My 'boyfriend' as I call him (and luckily, as he calls himself) is essentially living in his office. This is the sort of thing I would blog about if I was living back in Paris, I suppose, although now there is a boyfriend involved it kind of makes me feel as if I am just talking about him for the sake of it.
I think you will appreciate this. People always respond well when I describe a Ridiculous Situation I have found myself in...
First of all, if I am going to mention him let's give him a different name. He is referred to as Big Phil because his best friend is called Little Phil, so I think we will call him Big P from here on in, because it makes me feel like a 1970s roller disco Manhattanite. With an afro. (Although I look terrible with an afro - I know because in Year 8 I entered the school talent competition with four other girls and we lip-synched to Stop Right Now and I was Scary Spice, in leopard print and a wig. Did you know that Scary Spice doesn't have any solo lines in that song? I'll never forget it... or forgive it. I just stood dancing at the back like a lemon in a wig.)
A few weeks ago, Big P was looking for a flat to live in. The caretaker of his office - a really interesting space, an old brewery in the centre of London - said that the landlord of the building was converting one of the offices into a flat, so that him and his family would have somewhere to stay when they come over occasionally from Australia.
Rent-free, across the courtyard from his office, rent-free...
Good for you, I said, imagining a show-flat type thing. All the perks of a normal place to live, but entirely empty and completely free, I thought.
The first time I saw it, they had just finished ripping out the office fixtures and everything was covered in a thick layer of white dust. There were piles of broken desks everywhere, with transparent plastic thrown over them.
At the end of the office - for that is what it is - was (still is) a set of wooden screen doors, leading to a more respectable room with a double bed in it, but still quite a lot of office furniture...
Big P opened the door to the bathroom to show me where the loo was, and there was a very surprised woman in there with a pair of eyelash curlers clamped to her eyelid.
Turns out it is the bathroom for the small business across the corridor...
That first night we got so drunk in Soho that I demanded we return to the new pad, because I could't be arsed getting the tube back east to my house. It was quite fun really, kind of like that really old Simpsons episode.
Do you remember the episode when Marge and Homer check into a themed hotel? And their 'themed room' turns out to be an old basement with two single beds shoved in? And Homer says to Marge, "Imagine I'm the janitor and you're the janitor's wife, who has to live with me in the utility room"? And in reality it was just a leaky utility room, and they'd been fobbed off because the hotel had double-booked their room?
Well it was a bit like that.
In the morning we crossed the courtyard and cooked breakfast in Big P's office, which luckily has a really good kitchen bit, towards the back of the huge open-plan space. We ate bacon and poached eggs, looking out at rows and rows of empty desks. Then I had a shower in the office shower cubicle, mostly used by a handful of 'grab life by the crotch'-types who cycle into work every morning.
I felt like we were two sneaky squatters, who had hidden in the storage cupboard all day and come out to run riot in the office over the weekend.
Since then I've stayed over a couple of times. I stayed over on a weeknight for the first time last week, and as I didn't want to walk through Big P's office to shower, or use the shower in the bathroom he shares with the office of strangers across the hall, during work hours when people would be about (and asking questions), I decided to have a shower at my work.
The showers at work are underground, and I'd heard rumours that they were heavenly. I made sure my pass would work the night before, then of course in the morning when it came to it, I couldn't get in. The door is hidden in the wall outside, literally like a secret door to shower paradise, and you wave your card over a camouflaged card reader to get in. Swish.
I had to persuade the two receptionists and security guard that I'd been given permission from our office manager to use the showers, and when I at last got down there, I had an awkward experience similar to the time I went to the swimming pool in Paris and ended up wading through the pool fully-dressed, carrying a baguette and crying.
First I could't push the door open, so I thought it must be one cubicle and I had to wait. A blonde woman in lycra was just behind me, and she raised her eyebrows at me as she pushed hard on the door and went through.
Once inside, I could only see empty cubbyholes which looked like there might normally be clean towels in (I'd heard in the office that soft, white towels were provided). I panicked and almost ran out again, before remembering that the swimming pool incident was almost four years ago... I'm a much more sensible person now. I simply asked the blonde woman if there were normally towels in the cubbyholes and she pointed to a shelf of clean, folded towels right next to her, and well within my field of vision. Ah.
Then. I went into the shower cubicle in my coat and shoes, carrying my big leather work bag and a tote bag with clothes in. I managed not to get anything wet, as it was a large cubicle, but my shoes made the wet floor really muddy and it was a bit of a nightmare cleaning it with the towel (thankfully I had just enough common sense to do this after I'd used the towel).
When I'd finished, I walked out of the cubicle to see a new woman, going into the shower in nothing but a towel. Turns out you are not supposed to go into the shower full-dressed and with all your bags.
Still, could have been a lot worse. Hopefully it will be ok tomorrow, as I'm staying at Big P's office/bedroom again tonight.
I feel mean now, taking the piss... I'm actually in the squat flat right now, as Big P (haha I don't think I can keep calling him that, unless I learn how to roller skate and travel back in time to the good ol' days of Studio 54).
He has to work late in the office tonight, but there's no internet in my house at the moment, so I thought I'd come over anyway, and use the opportunity to do some blogging.
He brought me some snacks but I've eaten them all.
And half a packet of Sainbury's salt and vinegar crunchy sticks I found... hope he wasn't saving them.
I really need the loo, but scared someone from the office opposite will be in there. Also I don't want to lock myself out, and have to wander across to Big P's office and have everyone wondering why I've showed up at his work like a stalker.
Also they might figure out that I'm the girl who showers and cooks spaghetti bolognese in the office when they all go home.
Here's a song for my inner roller disco queen anyway, and for yours: