Psuedo-philosophy aside, it was time to deal with earthly matters and find somewhere to live. This would surely be piss-easy. Just check out the adverts, visit the flats, haggle a bit, move in, and let the wild parties begin, er I mean let the process of integration truly begin. I had few concrete plans, but I definitely wanted to live with someone else, preferably a tzabar so that I could improve my Ivrit. I checked the same old websites that everyone suggested and found a couple of possibilities to get the ball rolling.
Flatshare one was advertised as near Neve Tzedek. Now I don’t want to get all Ms Fargher or Mr West on yo’ ass (pass the mind bleach), but a little geography lesson may be in order, after all it’s not you who is known as Tony Tel Aviv. Neve Tzedek is one of the oldest parts of the city, known for its old, charming buildings, gentrified village feel, and expensive property. Holon is a town to the south of Tel Aviv, known for being where you go to do your driving test. Sort of like Luton. We all know people who failed in London and then passed in Luton. Not me. I stuck out weeks of embarrassment so as not to cheat the system. I’m not bitter, really. NB I’ve been to Holon and it is much better than Luton, but it seemed like a good idea to tie in the driv… ah, forget it.
I called up and the pleasant-sounding A gave me the address, which I looked up on Google Maps, only to find that the it was near Neve Tzedek in the same way that Kingsbury is near St John’s Wood. An estate agent would probably call it “Tel Aviv Village”. Nevertheless, being far too British to call and cancel, and feeling that I should at least go and look at something to get the ball rolling, I made my way down there. The roof terrace was okay, with a view of equally uninspiring areas, the room was also… okay. Are you getting the theme here? I met flatmate number 2, who appeared to have just woken up (this was the late afternoon), and managed to utter that the terrace would be “party central” in the summer. This was a bit of a stretch, like being told that a Colindale rooftop is “party central”. I went down to the lounge which contained nothing apart from some chairs and a table and made an executive decision not to rush things. However frustrating the gypsy lifestyle was becoming, it wouldn’t be as annoying as committing to live somewhere you don’t like.
Yes, the gypsy lifestyle. It has been, ‘ow you say, character-building. I’d love to sit here and write about how my principles and values helped ground me as my physical being wafted over the holy ground where my forefathers walked. But I just can’t lie to you. It has been a right ballache, and I more or less had to turn off the human switch and stop thinking about it, like any other animal fighting for survival. It was strange and a little disappointing, as on paper travelling is fun.
But there’s a difference between broadening horizons by experiencing new things, and wanting so much to have a stable home, lugging stuff around Gush Dan and beyond, without one’s own transport, and perpetually trying to work out the optimum time to hang about at a relative or friend. Too short and there’s too much moving to get anything done. Too long and you’re biting the hand that feeds you. And it’s never easy to get your hands on anything. Stuff here, stuff there, stuff not even with me (and I didn’t travel with an awful lot). This seems like a good time to point out that I’m eternally grateful to everyone who sorted me out. Obviously you benefitted from the way that my charming, sophisticated company filled your abodes and lives with joy and light, but still - I’d have been on the plane home if it wasn’t for you. Or in a Mercaz Klita, but the plane sounds more dramatic.
Anyway, back to the property hunt. Flatshare two was more appealing on paper. It was in Ramat Aviv, an upmarket area near the university at the other end of the city. Generally speaking, as you travel north in Tel Aviv, you go from edgy, lively, and hip to leafy, refined, and classy. It was at this point that my lack of personal transport, which had grated since early on, really started to annoy me, especially as Shabbat was getting near. Keen to get out of the wilderness, and not wanting to get two buses all the way across town, I splashed out on a cab.
It’s a shame that cabs are the most expensive way of getting around, because I have a thing about talking to cab drivers. They don’t always speak English, and they’re sitting in a cab for much of the day with nobody to talk to. This makes them the ideal Ivrit practice partner. They’re bored, so they’re happy to hear my life story, and they don’t drop into English. As in most cities, they also tend to be philosophical salt of the earth types, and are happy to talk about and listen to almost anything. I have rarely left a cab here unsatisfied (yes, yes I know but I thought I’d leave it in - oops, that’s even worse, apologies to any Victorians reading…). Apart from the one guy who didn’t want to chat as he was listening to the news. Worst value cab journey ever, he still got a tip but through gritted teeth, if you’ll excuse me mangling the metaphor.
Again, the actual flat had little going for it. It was so bare, it was more like a shell. I’ve compiled a few useful tips for tenants seeking flatmates.
- It always looks good if the lounge contains more than a couch, table, and perhaps a dusty television.
- If the kitchen is lizard-free, that’s going to get you brownie points.
- Some people find an excess of mould in the bathroom unpleasant.
- I don’t care if you’re a student, it’s no excuse for having nothing on the wall, at least stick up a worn-out poster of Che Guevara / Theodor Herzl / Dave Mustaine (delete as applicable).
- Put a vase on a table and whack a plant in it.
- At least try to give the impression that life as opposed to existence is taking place.
I’m in danger of boring myself, so let’s just say that Flatshare the Third (First Blood Part VI) was mainly defined by the lounge, which could have been great but just contained a load of junk. It was impossible even to sit down and stare outside at the beautiful view. If they couldn’t be arsed to sort that out, no way was I going to get involved. The rice-cooker bubbling away in the middle of said lounge tempted me to make an offer there and then, but I somehow managed to drag myself down the stairs and out of the building before my heart was able to dominate my head. Don’t worry - future episodes will not contain in-depth descriptions of the other seventeen places that I looked at.
The pressure was building. It was becoming apparent that finding a roof might be a little bit more difficult than I had anticipated, and it was time to move on. V was having her kitchen done, F needed her room, and I’d already been there long enough that any more would be biting the hand… However when I moaned about it, several people told me that they’d been through the gypsy thing as well, which made me feel a bit more hopeful, not to mention normal. After all, as much as we try to follow our own paths, is there anyone on this planet who hasn’t derived some short-term solace from a metaphorical arm round the shoulder?
(Header image: Depressing block of flats, somewhere in Israel.)