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Speed mating and flat dating

September 17, 2013

It had all the trademarks of a speed dating event. Strangers with name badges, an atmosphere of hopeful optimism and the odd, suspicious whiff of halitosis.

But instead of ‘Hi, I’m Bill’, it was ‘Bill, £650, Tower Hamlets’.

After two weeks of house hunting, an advert promised me I could make a quick, painless job of it at a speed mating flat dating event, a convention for house owners and house seekers.

Reluctantly, I paid £3 entry on the evening and related my name, budget and desired location to the girl at the reception stand. She nodded, wrote down some details and handed me a pink sticker. I slapped it on my jumper and set forth.

I was early. A few people were squinting at each other’s badges in the darkness and smiling politely as a disco ball swirled above their heads.

Marc, £900, Elephant and Castle, had a fine sheen of sweat on his brow, and was slurping loudly on a diet coke. I took a step sideways,

Now it was imperative to mingle and show vigour. I approached Peter, £460, Walthamstow.

‘E17, to be precise,’ he said, trying to show me his laminated map, but I could barely see through the fog. ‘It’s a real bargain.’

‘Looks promising,’ I said. ‘So what do you do?’

‘I teach science and maths.’

‘Maybe you could teach me, too,’ I said.

I saw a glint in Peter’s eye, and realised with horror I had just flirted with him by accident.

Encouraged, Peter got out his iPad and flicked through some photos of his house – the big bedroom, the middle bedroom and the small bedroom.

‘Daddy bear, mummy bear and little bear.’ He grinned at me, creepily.

Moving on.

Oh no, there was Marc, £900, Elephant and Castle, and he was shaking slightly. I hurried past, pretending to be dazzled and disorientated by the disco ball.

I shuffled around a muscly boor in Clapham – “your place or mine?” – after making eyes at a stud from Dalston with a hefty deposit – “is there any wiggle room on that?” – to Claudia, £450, Stratford, a dental therapist who provided me with a list of surgical procedures (crowns, fillings, extractions) – “So I’d be living with… just you?”

Nothing was right, nothing.

The swarm of pink stickers, the people desperate for a roof over their heads, far outnumbered the white stickers, those smug cats. I had seen almost all there was to see by 6.30pm.

Who was left? A nervous looking girl from Kensal Rise, a man holding a poster of a converted shed in Barnes, and most likely a drag queen from Islington.

Tom, £575, Shoreditch, was looking at my badge funnily, and for a disconcerting amount of time.

Man, I thought, he just won’t give up.

The badge-lecher took a hesitant step towards me.

Play hard to get, I told myself. Don’t be swayed by the salesman. You have standards, god dammit.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Rachael, is it? I think you should check your badge, think you’ve, erm–“

What a cowboy. I peeled the sticker off my chest and screwed up my eyes to read.

“Rachael, negotiable, anywhere”.

p.s. has anyone got a spare room?


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