My first flatmates in London were a gay couple, I’d moved here to London with them. We’d all been friends working at the same company in Birmingham, and neither of them had come out yet. People had their suspicions about Thomas, but Laurent hid it fantastically well, behind the simplest of disguises. He was French. Whereas people were used to seeing British guys and making certain judgements on their sexuality based on voice, mannerisms, style, etc, Laurent could get away with anything – people just thought it was because he was foreign.
One evening after a work party me and Thomas were walking home – we lived on the same street. That had been awesome actually, I’d for the first time been able to run over to my friends’ house, the way they always do in American movies. Aside from this it has always involved some kind of trek or train journey.
We got to the junction our street passed through and he told me he wanted to tell me something. I said go on, I do love a bit of gossip. He then told me he was gay. We had become friends because of a similar taste in films and specifically music. I wondered for a moment if that meant I was gay too. Nah, surely there’s more to it than that. He then said something which should have caused me to run a mile, had I thought about it. He said “can I come back to your place so we can talk about it more?”
I said “sure!” and off we went back to my flat. We were up half the night … TALKING. I was the first person from work that he’d actually told, maybe even one of the first people ever, and we had a long, mature conversation about the whole thing, occasionally peppered with some gay jokes from me which I couldn’t resist. Come on, your best friend opens up a whole new comedy avenue and you don’t take advantage of it?
Anyway, Thomas developed a bit of a crush on one of the senior managers Laurent. Laurent was best described by our HR department, who called him “asexual”. You couldn’t tell if he was one way or the other. Or both ways. Or neither. He was just French. Thomas used to talk about how Laurent would look at him a lot but he couldn’t tell if he was looking at him as if he liked Thomas, or he just thought he was weird. I couldn’t really offer any advice, to be honest it could have been either.
The two eventually hooked up secretly; Laurent still hadn’t come out and the differences in company seniority was bound to cause a scandal. But despite their efforts it was all very widely known. Half the company lived in the same leafy suburb of Birmingham, they were seen together all the time. One colleague saw them buying baguettes together at the shops and it was all over the company.
When our company’s IP was sold to a US publisher and almost all of the Birmingham staff were let go, the three of us made a pact that if one of us got a job in London, we would all move there. Laurent got one first and we all agreed to move.
We’d scouted out flats during a trip to London, just one day and overnight stay. Thomas and Laurent arranged everything; we were to look in Tooting, decent enough area, right prices, low council tax etc, Thomas had done all the research on the internet. They’d booked us a hotel for the night, it was only when we arrived at this mega-cheap converted place in Marble Arch that I realised they had only booked one room. One room with a double bed and a single. A family room basically. For three adult men. I don’t know what was better, the look on the proprietor’s face when we arrived or the look on my face when I saw there was an very liberal en suite shower – basically a glass cubicle stuck in the corner of the room.
We went to see 4 flats. The first two in the morning were appalling. Ex-council flats in shitty housing blocks up for rent for ludicrous amounts of money. After that I think the three of us were reconsidering the move, even Laurent and he actually had a job to go to! We shouldn’t have been surprised, since when we arrived at the letting agents office for the viewings, he opened up his drawer and (I’m not kidding) emptied a pile of keys onto the floor and started rummaging through them for the flats he wanted to show us.
In the afternoon, we saw a nice three bedroom place. Massive garden, one big room, one biggish room and a small room. Perfect right? Couple gets the biggest room and the smallest room for a study etc, I get the one in the middle just for me. We then saw another. Upstairs flat, four small bedrooms. Thomas preferred this. “Excuse me, what the fuck now? Four bedrooms?”
“Yeah we can have two you can have two.”
“What? Why would I want two fucking bedrooms? Three bedrooms for the three of us is a luxury since the two of you will be sleeping on each other. Four?”
There was much arguing. Laurent stayed right out of it. In the end I had to put my foot down, this was ludicrous, and say that if we didn’t go with the three-bedroom place with the garden, I was out of the deal and I wasn’t coming. We took the three bedroom place.
People often ask me was it weird living with a gay couple. Not at all really, actually preferable to a straight couple I’d say. Plus we were friends which made it easier. People for some reason always ask if it would be weird because they might ‘check me out’. I don’t know why I get asked that, and it wasn’t a problem, in fact Thomas was so repulsed by the sight of me topless, I might has well have shoved a photo of an ill-attended vagina in his face.
The most difficult thing was Thomas’ OCD, which led to him one day – when he’d taken the day off work – to go into my room while I was out and alphabetise my DVD collection, but putting the Disney DVDs first. That’s gay OCD for you.
Oh and there was a bit of an altercation over Milla Jovovich one night. I was having a special evening dedicated to Milla, by watching The Fifth Element, Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse (just released that day) in one night – it was Milla Monday. Thomas had borrowed one of the DVDs and I’d told him I needed it back as I was about to watch it. He went to fetch it and somehow got distracted by shagging instead. My evening of Milla was put on hold until the festivities in their bedroom were over, and in a rare display of rage (I fucking love Milla Jovovich) I absolutely beat the shit out of my…
Ha ha, I know what you’re thinking – “Me? A punchbag? But … we’ve … seen you.” I know! How did I get a punchbag? Why? Well, it relates to a certain lady and the fact I was left home alone for two weeks.
No it’s not Milla, but her co-star from Resident Evil, Michaelle Rodriguez. Another of my all-time favourite women, and maybe the reason I love Resident Evil so much. She was in a film called Girlfight about a female boxer. She looked hot. So hot I am now going to spend ten times longer than I really have to to search the internet for an appropriate picture.
So my … oh hang on just one more.
So my flatmates had gone on a two-week trip to Thailand, and I was enjoying having the flat to myself. I had watched and thoroughly enjoyed this film Girlfight one night as a special Hispanic treat. And as the end credits rolled, I was on my laptop researching how I could buy a punchbag. Perfectly normal reaction right, that’s what everyone does when they see a film they like?
I found this set, it was a few hundred quid – not bad for a film-related impulse buy, I’m sure I’d had worse. It was a rig with a punchbag on one side and a speedball on the other. It was only as I awaited its arrival a few days later that I thought to go back and look up the dimensions again. I measured things out. On the positive side, it wasn’t too tall to fit, but only just. My plan to have this in the corner somewhere as an occasional ‘take it out and box’ style fitness accessory didn’t look like it was going to work out. This thing was fucking massive. Two metres high and not much less wide and whatever the other direction is.
I could barely carry the punchbag into the living room, it was so heavy. At about 2pm in the afternoon on a Saturday I began the assembly.
I knew I was in trouble when I got to 1am and was ready to assemble the final piece (the frame for the speedball) and the instructions said “you will need another person to help you with this”. Fuck that, I had come this far and wasn’t going to give in (see the resilience there, see the gritty determination, maybe I could go pro boxer after all).
So, I tipped the frame on its side and assembled the final section using various household items to secure it while I fastened bolts, tightened screws and occasionally jammed my fingers and arms under 35kg of metal. Finally it was done, I was so pleased, on top of the world, felt like a champion.
Then disaster struck. At 2m high it had been tight getting the frame onto its side (the wide base meant as I tipped it it got taller). Now, with the large circular panel attached, it was taller and wider at the top! I tried lifting it back vertical again, the new weight attached to one side threw me off balance and the whole thing nearly KO’ed me and the dining table, and my flatmates’ priceless collection of Will & Grace DVDs (I thought of smashing them anyway and pretending it was the boxing frame). But it was so big now it couldn’t get past the ceiling!
I realised the only way to lift it would be to rotate it on the ground and lift it on its side where it is narrower at the top. Now our lounge was big but not big enough for this kind of nonsense, so it took about half an hour just to rearrange the furniture to make room for the legs and pivots and bars and fixtures which would be swinging around the place as I attempted this. To make things worse I had to stand on a chair to get the necessary height, making my position whilst lifting this monster pretty precarious. Nerves jangled as I prepared to make the lift, I could see camera flashes, crowds of cheering onlookers, the echoing voice of the referee, I could taste blood in my mouth from our earlier rounds, but this bout was going to be mine and this 35kg heavyweight was going down – well, up.
After some fancy footwork (the chair was *very* unsteady), I finally managed it – there was a narrow escape when the top nearly jabbed the paint on the ceiling, but it all ended happily.
I say happily, my flatmates were going to fucking kill me.
As they arrived home from holiday they could see most things were as they’d left them. I’d thoroughly cleaned the flat. But there was something new. I found this video in my comedy archives – I think I filmed this on my phone as a kind of Thomas/Laurent coming home walkthrough, so I could prepare for their reaction:[evp_embed_video url=”http://www.mccannecdotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/whileyouwereaway.mp4″]
“What the fuck is this!?” a tanned and exhausted Thomas said less than politely.
“Well, while you were away, I – shall we say – made some personal fitness investments, which required a small rearranging of the furniture. On the plus side, you can now see the TV better from the dining table.”
“You know the most stupid thing, not the waste of money, not the space this thing is taking up, but the fact I KNOW YOU and you will NEVER USE THIS!”
I didn’t really. Apart from Milla Monday. It was one of those things where I thought if I had it there every day to remind me, I would do something about my fitness. Instead seeing it there just reminded me that I am a sucker for a hot girl in a film, and reminded Thomas and Laurent that they live with an impulsive fucking moron.
You know Thomas used to say I’ll buy anything. Boy, did I show him!
I remember this purchase. There was always something about it that made me doubt the sturdiness of its construction. Now I know it’s because you should have had an assistant for the building process.
Top marks for determination though (I kind of have to say that. The picture shows that your boxing skills are sufficient to burst the speed ball and I don’t want the same thing to happen to my head).
Ha ha ha, yes “burst the speedball”. Well spotted. That is exactly what happened. Ah, Milla Monday…
I don’t remember seeing this marvellous impulse buy
It was probably dismantled and lying in the garden by the time you came round. I had it up for a good 2-3 years though. Took it down when I had to urgently hunt for new flatmates, figuring it was not a very attractive feature in the living room.