Last time I rented a flat, I was unmarried and living in Ripley in Derbyshire. The flat was something of a come-down from living in my own home, but I’d had to sell up because of some bad business deals (actually, trusting someone too much – we live and learn). I was at the time working for Butterley Engineering as their IT Manager.
Whilst living in Ripley, I met the woman who a year later I married and we moved into a rented house in Hemingford-Grey in Cambridgeshire. After renting and owning homes in Caterham, Surrey and returning to live in my home town of Newport, Shropshire; after raising two children (one of whom is about to turn 18); and after nearly 20 years of marriage… renting a flat again feel, frankly, weird.
Mostly people I know of my age start renting a flat because they are separating from their spouses/partners. However, I am now renting a flat in Swansea for work purposes. I have spent the vast majority of the last nine years living in hotels during the week. Frankly I am sick of life in Hiltons, Marriotts, etc. whether they be in the UK, Germany or Egypt. Corporate hotel life is pretty much the same whatever part of the world you are in. And the hotel lifestlye is not at all a healthy one. Few hotels offer a decent wide range of healthy food. In fact, the menus are relatively short and poor and the fallback is take-aways which are even less healthy. Of course, I could simply eat less, or pick up something cold from supermarket on the way back to the hotel (not convenient in many cases) but I am raised to have a hot meal in the evening.
My latest job for my employer is on a long term account with a client in Swansea, and a lot of the staff that live too far away to commute from home on a daily basis are now living in rented flats rather than in the hotels. This is generally much cheaper for the client than hotel living. In the past, when I was flitting around the world on relatively short term assignments or servicing multiple clients at the same time, taking a flat option was never an option.
Getting a flat was very easy indeed. The hotel I was staying in was located on the Marina in Swansea as are many many newish build flats in a revitalised area close to the city centre. It took only part of a morning to visit a few agencies on near the hotel and arrange to visit a few flats. I viewed and chose on a Thursday and moved in the following Monday. Paperwork back at the office was very straightforward. The flat is fully furnished and was ready for me to move in. I have some admin to do around utility and community charge bills, but nothing of great difficulty. I have bought a few things such as a twin-tuner PVR for Freeview (I can’t cope without a pause button) and a decent wok. I am enjoying cooking for myself (other than holidays, I have not been doing much cooking for the last few years).
My greatest challenge in moving into a flat was simply coming to terms with the idea that I kind of have a second home that I am responsible for that is apart from my family. I showed my family pictures of the location and of the flat itself from the outside (Google Street View is amazing) and later videos of the inside of the flat, but this was not the same as having them visit.
I was therefore delighted that my wife and eldest daughter came down for the weekend. Oddly, I found myself nervous. I was having visitors and was nervous. I went to a lot of trouble to make them feel comfortable and to feed them well.
Despite poor weather, we had a good look around the area. We also fitted in a show at the Swansea Grand Theatre: the comedian Andy Parsons probably best known for his appearances on Mock-the-week – now Andy Parsons is not my favourite comedian, I find his angry-man-shouty style not to my taste, but the tickets were only £15 each and it was what was available. I went with an open mind and, I have to say, was thoroughly entertained. I laughed most of the way through his show (as did my wife and daughter) and felt we had received very good value for money.
When my family headed off after a hearty meal from my kitchen on the Sunday afternoon, I felt a little lonely, relieved that I would not have a four hour drive to work the following day and anxious about them driving home. I also felt settled into my flat as it long felt like some secret hidey hole.
I am now happy with my flat, especially when I can look out at the boats in the marina directly outside of my window (and capture photographs, on the poor quality camera on my iPhone 3g ,such as that show above).