After squatting

original en castellano abajo

Paula and his friend thought that the cook was exploiting them a little, that that thing about to allow them to stay in “his” squat only if they were cleaning the rooms was not too equitable plan. They met with the Poles and decided to search for another place to live.
The difference was that the Poles were going to stay only a few weeks more and Paula and another boy they were going for a few months. So when the Poles found a room that they were going to have to share between them all, sharing two boys one of the beds, it was time for Paula to find a room that his friend could occupy.
At work she thought that she could not cope with everything and asked for a week off. The new manager offered two and she felt she may well need two weeks to find two rooms.

Paula had sensed, when she had to find a room for herself, that it was more difficult for a boy to find somewhere. But now she would learn just how much more difficult.
At the beginning they aimed for two rooms in the same house, so they could live together and sharing meals. They bought the renting newspaper and phoned the first few numbers. For some strange reason it took them five calls to get an answer. The first four did not answer (what is the point of paying for an advert if you are not going to pick up the phone?). Most adverts said “No DSS” and Paula had no idea what this meant, but it didn’t seem to be affecting the first conversation. The person who answered the phone gave them an address and they got on the bus, checking the A-Z map all the time.
“It should be this stop.”
“Well, we missed it.”
“Let’s get off now on the next one then! Quick!”

They got off, un-walked what the bus had over-gone and found the street. Now they only had to find the number. They located the even numbers, which was what they needed, and admired the beauty of the terraced houses, all the pretty same. Paula looked at his friend smiling, but he looked serious.
“I don’t know how you feel. But this being only the first house we’re seeing, I am already fed up.”
“I feel exactly the same. We’d better like it, because I really want this to be the last one we have to visit.”
Far from fact. The pretty terraced houses disappeared right before the number they were after. There, behind the last terraced house, laid a run-down modern-but-ruined derelict slum, with a number. They double-checked. It was theirs. They looked at each other, then rang the bell.

“Oh, come in, welcome. This is our house.” (I have not come to see your house, I have come to see my prospect room.)

The woman guided them through a narrow, smelly corridor. The smell of typically London/indian food. Then they were in a kitchen. The family kitchen. There was a husband on a sofa who waved a brief hello. They were hesitant to follow the woman any further but she motioned them to follow her through the door she was now opening. They followed her and they were in an empty room. There was just a bare bed and an empty wardrobe. One of the rooms to let. She went through another room and showed them a similar room, only this one was slightly smaller.

“Come, sit down,” she said as she sat down on the bare mattress and patted on it to indicate where she wanted them to sit. They sat down out of politeness but none of them had any intention to take on these rooms. She talked about the price, the bills and how lovely it was to have them both there, and were they only friends? Paula’s English had not been good enough to politely cut her short and now it would not be good enough for a polite answer either:

“So you will enter our rooms from your kitchen?”
“Yes… Yes, there is no key.”

C. wondered why it had even been necessary for Paula to ask that. They made very little conversation before emptily promising to call back with a definite answer.

“No way I was going to live there! With them having full access to our rooms unnoticed?”
“You know what?”
“That was the only advert, in all today’s paper, for two rooms in the same house.”
“For our budget.”
“For our budget.”
“It doesn’t seem very possible to find two affordable rooms in the same house at the same time.”
“I am not that bad in the hostel for girls where I am now.”
“I suggest we look for a room just for you and then I’ll think about moving out.”

Paula took on talking to landlords as her English was slightly better and spent all the time that the job in the office allowed her phoning landlords and visiting houses. C. didn’t like any of them. After two weeks, Paula was still phoning the numbers advertised in the cheapest rooms section of the loot paper.
” Well, when ‘Well, when you can movethen? ” asked the second-last landlord.
” As soon as we see the room, but it is not for me. It is for a boy who does not know much English to speak with you on the phone.”
” Ah. Ah. Sorry. Don’t want guys.”
” Sorry? ”
” You should have said. I thought it was for you. But the fact is that I do not want guys, they are too dirty. ”

With every call Paula felt that her soul was falling down to her feet. She had already thrown the towel when she decided to do another round of calls, to all the numbers where there had not even been an answer in the previous rounds. C. remained seated on the grass while Paula was returning once again to the telephone box. They were both exhausted.

They answered. Paula was too tired to keep the norms of education.

“Hello. It says in your ad that you have a room for 50 pounds a week.”
“Does it include invoices?”
“Good. Is it a single room?”
“And it is not for me. It is for a boy. Agree? ”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
” Well. If you want we can go right now to see it.”

The room was in Stoke Newington. They were tired and Paula made a mistake on having noted down the house number.
” Here it is. Number four. ”
It took them two rings and ten minutes to answer the door. Paula had no longer any energy to even get angry.
When the door finally opened there appeared in the threshold a man with a black coat, an almost top hat, also black, black trousers, a white shirt and corkscrews on both sides of his face.
“We are coming about the room.”
There was no response. The guy with the corkscrews was looking to C. through Paula.
“Are you not renting a room here? ”
It seemed to Paula that the guy with the corkscrews kept on ignoring he when he denied with his head almost imperceptibly. Then he closed the door and they remained amazed in the street.
“It may well be number fourteen and you forgot to write the number one. ”
” It may.”
It had taken them almost an hour to get there so a few steps more, five houses further down the street wasn’t too much of a waste of time, especially putting the day in perspective.

In number fourteen they were waited by a woman of brown curls with an accent that sounded Andalusian to Paula, who radiated in the hope to be able to speak in Spanish:
” Where are you from? ”
” Israel. ”
” Ah. We are Spanish. ”

The lady showed them a room that felt like freezing to Paula, with a sink, a microwave and refrigerator inside, in addition to the bed and a television set, and looked at her friend begging him with her eyes to please like it.
” There is heating, ” the lady said. ” I know that it is necessary, because this room is very cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. ” (at least the lady is sincere, thought Paula). ” But I do not put the heating on to cheat the people who comes to see it ” (which is to be welcomed, thought Paula); I prefer to leave it off if nobody lives inside (very ecological, thought Paula).

They signed a contract in a wrinkled / crumpled paper with a pen of red ink, and Paula was grateful to heavens that the search had ended.

” It is a cavern, Paula. ”
” This is what you can pay for fifty a week. ”
“And tomorrow, back to work. I wish I did not have to return but the two weeks of vacation that I asked for to help you look for a home end today.’

In the two weeks Paula had been off from work, the owner of the pub where she worked had fired the manager and hired a new one. It is not possible to say that the new boss of the bar was waiting for Paula with his arms opened on the following day. / not that the head of the bar were waiting for Paula with arms open the next day.

” Have they not told you?’
” Who? ”
” The Polish boys from the kitchen. ”
” No, what did they have to say to me? ”
” You do not work here any more. There is no work. Take this envelope, it is the salary of your last week.”

Paula was glad that she had at least her friend to tell it to him. And for having that job in the office. To C. was allowed ten free minutes to speak with Paula.
” And this face? ”
” I have just been sacked.”
“Come work here! They are looking for a waitress; one just left today. ”
It was the second time Paula changed jobs in London; there would be more changes and some equally of percussion caps/primers.


Paula y su amigo pensaron que el cocinero les estaba un poco explotando, que lo de dejarles quedarse en “su” okupa solo si iban limpiando las habitaciones era un plan no demasiado equitativo. Se reunieron con los polacos y decidieron entre todos buscarse otra casa para vivir.
La diferencia era que los polacos se iban a quedar solo unas semanas más y Paula y el otro chico iban para meses. Así que cuando los polacos encontraron una habitación que iban a tener que compartir entre todos, compartiendo los dos chicos una de las camas, fue momento para Paula de encontrar una habitación que pudiera ocupar su amigo.
En el trabajo pensó que no podía con todo y pidió dos semanas de vacaciones. Apenas les dio tiempo en esas dos semanas a encontrar habitación, pero lo consiguió. No sabía Paula lo difícil que era para un chico encontrar una habitación de alquiler.
“Bien, cuando te puedes mudar entonces?” le preguntó el único casero que contestó el teléfono a la primera.
“En cuanto veamos la habitación, pero no es para mi. Es para un chico que no sabe tanto inglés como para hablar con usted por teléfono.”
“Ah. Lo siento. No quiero chicos.”
“Tenías que haberlo dicho antes. He pensado que era para ti. Pero es que no quiero chicos, son demasiado sucios.”

Con cada llamada a Paula se le caía el alma a los pies. Había tirado ya la toalla cuando decidió hacer otra ronda de llamadas, a todos los teléfonos donde ni habían contestado en las anteriores rondas. C. se quedó sentado en la hierva mientras Paula volvía una vez más a la cabina de teléfono. Estaban los dos agotados.

Contestaron. Paula estaba demasiado cansada para guardar las normas de educación.

“Hola. Dice en su anuncio que son 50 libras a la semana. Incluye facturas? Bien. Es habitación individual? Y no es para mi. Es para un chico. Conforme?”
“Si, si, si bien por supuesto.”
“Bien. Si quiere podemos ir ahora mismo a verla.”

La habitación estaba en Stoke Newington. Estaban cansados y Paula se confundió al anotar el número de la calle.
“Aquí está. Número cuatro.”
Tardaron en contestar al timbre dos timbrazos y diez minutos. Paula ya no tenía fuerzas ni para enfadarse. Cuando la puerta se abrió por fin, en el umbral apareció un hombre con gabardina negra, sombrero casi de copa también negro, pantalón negro, camisa blanca y tirabuzones a ambos lados de la cara.
“Venimos por lo de la habitación.”
No hubo respuesta. El de los tirabuzones miraba a C. a través de Paula.
“No alquila una habitación aquí?”
A Paula le pareció que el de los tirabuzones le seguía ignorando cuando negó con la cabeza casi imperceptiblemente. Luego cerró la puerta y se quedaron pasmados en la calle.
“Igual es catorce y se te ha olvidado el uno.”
les había llevado casi una hora llegar allí así que nos cuantos pasos más, cinco casas más abajo no era demasiada pérdida de tiempo, sobre todo poniendo el día en perspectiva.

En el número catorce les estaba esperando una mujer de rizos morenos cuyo acento le sonó andaluz a Paula, que radió en esperanza de poder hablar en castellano:
“De donde es usted?”
“De Israel.”
“Ah. Nosotros somos españoles.”

La señora les enseñó una habitación que a Paula le pareció heladora, con una fregadera, un microondas y una nevera dentro, además de la cama y un aparato de television dentro, y miró a su amigo implorandole con los ojos que por favor le gustara.
“Hay calefacción,” dijo la señora. “Sé que es necesaria, porque esta habitación es muy fria en invierno y demasiado caliente en verano.” (al menos la señora es sincera). “Pero no pongo la calefacción para engañar a la gente que viene a verla” (lo cual es de agradecer) prefiero dejarla apagada si no vive nadie dentro (muy ecológica).

Firmaron un contrato en un papel arrugado, con un bolígrafo de tinta roja, y Paula agradeció al cielo que la búsqueda hubiera terminado.

“Es un antro, Paula.”
“Es lo que te puedes pagar por cincuenta a la semana.”
“Y mañana vuelta al curro. Ojala no tuviera que volver pero las dos semanas de vacaciones que pedí para ayudarte a ti a buscar casa terminan hoy.”

no se puede decir que el jefe del bar estuviera esperando a Paula con los brazos abiertos al día siguiente.

“No te han dicho?”
“Los chicos polacos de la cocina.”
“No, qué me tenían que decir?”
“Ya no trabajas aquí. No hay trabajo. Toma este sobre, es el sueldo de tu última semana.”

Paula se alegró de que al menos le quedara su amigo para contárselo. Y de tener aquel trabajo en la oficina. A C. le permitieron diez minutos libres para hablar con Paula.

“Y esa cara?”
“Acaban de echarme.”
“Pues vente aquí! Están buscando una camarera que acaba de marcharse hoy.”
Fue el segundo cambio de trabajo de Paula en Londres; volverían más y algunos igual de fulminantes.

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