A displaced hedgehog is a figure - or rather an image - from Tove Jansson's Moomin books. This is how I can best describe myself. This blog is mostly about being displaced.
Thursday, 26 June 2008
University of Cambridge offers accommodation service which provides you with addresses of places to rent. It feels quite safe and secure as compared to using an anonymous agency. I typed in our requirements (suitable for a couple, minimum six months, pets accepted) and the highest rent we were prepared to rent, and see, there were at least ten options. Some of these we dismissed at once for various reasons, to the rest I sent email enquiries. Everybody responded, and I made appointments for the week when Staffan and I planned to visit Cambridge. Looking back, I am enormously glad, firstly, that we went at all, and secondly, that we went so quickly, not waiting for July, as we had initially considered, and which would have been more convenient in many respects. A house does not look the same in a picture and in real life. It’s just like hotel advertisement: rooms always look larger and nicer in pictures. I guess a good photographer can work miracles.
On the first day in Cambridge, we drove around looking at the chosen houses on the outside. That proved decisive for some of the places, as we stated that we didn’t want to live in a street with heavy traffic or with a view over garbage bins. A couple of houses were rented out before we got a chance to have a look. We decided we didn’t want them anyway.
Then we went around. The first impression was devastating. The houses were diminutive, the rooms small, the ceilings low, the so called gardens tiny patches of grass. In one house, a couple that had been renting it told us that their double bed would not fit into the master bedroom. That day I cried. Deep inside, not to show Staffan how depressed I was. I thought about our house back home, that I had never imagined as large – now it seemed a palace. My 2,000 square meters of garden, my apple trees, my strawberry beds, my flowers, my huge lawn. Was I to leave it all to live in a claustrophobic shack where I could not even bring my own bed. A compromise was inevitable, and we told each other that it was just for six months, and then we would find something better. I fancied a little cottage in a village, with green fields around, cows and sheep grazing, and a nice pub nearby.
There was one house left, and we almost decided to skip it, because from the description it seemed just the same as all the others. We told the landlady in the previous house that we were taking it and would get back in a couple of hours. Then we went to Water Street, where we had been the previous day and didn’t think much of it. As soon as we stepped inside we looked at each other and nodded: this was our dream house. It may be smaller than the others, it doesn’t have a guest room, but then it’s us who will live there, why should we think about guests? It feels spacey and light, the view from the bedroom is astounding (river Cam and a common on the opposite side), and the garden – well, it is reasonably small.