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I'm standing in my bedroom looking at my reflection in the mirror. I can't decide which tie to wear. It's a difficult one. I could go with blue. Or I could go with blue and white striped. But then again the blue with darker blue spots has always been a personal favourite of mine. I pick up my copy of Esquire and flick to an ad a few pages in. I am using Clive Owen as my inspiration tonight. He doesn't have much trouble attracting a following. He looks good without a tie. I decide I will too.

An hour later I am outside the bar. I suck in some of London's polluted air and run my right hand through my backpacker length hair. I push the door open and make my entrance. I am immediately set upon by a young lady called Gemma. (She's wearing a name badge, I am not telepathic). Gemma welcomes me to the evening's entertainment, gives me a name badge saying 'Jon' and ushers me towards the bar where a complimentary flute of champagne is awaiting me. I take my drink and sip gently. There are a quite few people here already. None wearing a tie I am pleased to note. They are all in groups talking between themselves and I feel conspicuous standing alone. Thankfully, I'm saved by a new arrival. Samantha takes her champagne and interrupts me while I am playing a blinder of a game on QuadraPop. “Hi,” she says confidently, “looking forward to it?”
“Yes,” I reply, “this is my first time though. I'm a little nervous to be honest.”
“Don't be, I have been coming for the last four months. We are all in this together. So are you offering or wanting?”
“I'm offering. You?”
She doesn't have time to reply as all of a sudden a bell is rung. Everyone immediately turns expectantly in the direction of it's chime. Gemma is standing on a chair. That's a health and safety issue if ever there was one. She welcomes everyone and explains how it's going to work tonight. The 'offerers', like myself, will be permanently sat at their own table and all those on the hunt will move between us. We have three minutes to chat to one another and then, when Gemma rings her bell, the hunters move off to chat with someone else. Simple. All I have to do is sit still. I can do that. I make my way to an empty table and sit down. Those on the hunt are then asked to go and sit opposite someone. I watch as twenty or so people walk towards us. Who am I going to get? A few people walk past me before one of them turns back in my direction and sits down opposite me. She smiles. I smile back slightly unsure as to whether I am allowed to start talking yet. My throat and mouth are suddenly very dry. I take a sip of champagne but all this does is make me cough. Then I start panicking. What questions shall I ask? I haven't prepared anything! The only thing I can offer people are my rates! Then the bell rings and immediately there is a cacophony of noise as everyone starts chatting away. Except us. We are silent. I smile. She smiles back. There is a long pause. I know this because I am thinking, 'Crikey, this is a long pause. I need to say something.' So I do. I say, 'Er'. Just to buy myself some time. Thankfully she says, 'Yes', and just like that we are away.
“So what have you got?” she asks.
“I have a very nice double room. A really good size. It's in Fulham.”
“Nice area. How much?”
“About £650 give or take.”
“Ok cool,” she writes something down, “have you got a washing machine?”
“Yes. Washing machine, fridge-freezer, TV, wireless internet. All mod cons.”
“Can I come round sometime?”
That's a little forward, isn't it. I don't even know her name. But why not? I give her my number and my address. We arrange for tomorrow night. This is going well. For some reason we start talking about strawberries. Then the bell rings and she is away.

From the left comes another seeker. By that I don't mean I have just been talking to Judith Durham and now it's Keith Potger's turn, I just mean a new person on the hunt. This time it's of the male species. His beard is flowing and his accent is Eastern European.
“Hallo, I is Alex.” He says.
“Good Evening. I is Jon.” I say, pointing to my badge.
He nods upon both seeing and hearing this double conformation. I note his badge says Paul. I immediately label him as KGB. Gemma passes by and drops off a clipboard. It has a 'Spareroom Speed Dating Feedback' form attached to it. I put it to one side and look at the KGB Agent. He looks at me. I briefly consider the virtues of engaging him in a starring contest but instead ask him what he does for a living. I already know of course but I want to see how good he is at lying. Not great as it turns out. He says he's a waiter. How unoriginal. He tries to justify his work by telling me he is also a student of physics. Whatever. I'm having none of it. Alex/Paul then asks me what I do. He's blatantly been sent over here to conduct research. He's not getting it this easily. I tell him I'm a chef. I half expect my previous flatmate, Wendy, to burst through the door and start explaining why this couldn't be possible. Something about destroying a wok. Thankfully she doesn't materialise and I soldier on. I'm a chef and part-time painter and decorator I tell him. Alex/Paul seems quite impressed and asks me for my favourite contemporary artist. 'Norman Lamont', I say with an air of jubilant authority. Quite where the former Chancellor of the Exchequer's name came from will be a mystery until the end of time. Delightfully Alex/Paul nods in appreciation. He says he also likes his work. I raise an eyebrow. Is he trying to catch me out? I don't have time to find out as we are interrupted by the bell. He walks away without my phone number or address but no doubt with dreams of working in the same restaurant as me someday.

Next up is Felicity. Sadly not of Kendal shape. She is an actress though. Or an extra at least. She tells me to look out for her in the forthcoming Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica-Parker flick. I ask her what the film is about. She says she isn't really sure but it's a romantic comedy and there is a scene on a street near the end of it and this is where she pops up. I tell her I am very much looking forward to it now. She asks me if I am being sarcastic. I say I am, just a little bit. She gets up and moves away. I am left sitting alone for a whole minute and a half. I wish I had a tie to play with.

The next forty-five minutes pass by in a flash. I meet a builder named Ron, a teacher called Rosie, a bloke who's name I missed but he likes fizzy cola bottles, a social worker called Gary, a Foo Fighters aficionado, a comedian who does funny things with a yo-yo - apparently - and a journalist called Hannah. She likes bananas. They are an interesting crop. Two people stand out as potential new housemates though. Samantha, who I met earlier, and Danny who has trials with QPR on Thursday. After the speed-dating part of the evening has been drawn to a close everyone approaches the bar and begins to talk more informally. I find Danny and ask him if he is interested in the house. He says it's a bit too expensive. I nod and say I understand and move off to find Samantha. Initially I can't see her so I order a pint from the bar. Then I spot her. She's with the KGB Agent. They're talking and they're laughing. I shake my head. She is clearly not as intuitive as I am. I feel sorry for her. I remove my name badge, drink half my pint and leave. I don't even say goodbye to Gemma. I do pat her bell though.

As I sit on the bus I ponder why I am having such trouble finding a housemate. I console myself in the knowledge that tonight was at least more successful than the previous one. The one where I agreed to meet a potential housemate at Fulham Broadway and then, as we walked to my house, discovered she currently lived two streets down from mine. She had to walk past my house on the way to the tube station. A tube station that is fifteen minutes away. I thought that was the type of thing only people called Trigger did in Only Fools and Horses. Obviously not. It also affects girls called Elena. But like I say, tonight was infinitely more successful than that episode.

I get home, make a cup of tea and look at the three discarded ties on my bed. I knew I should have worn one. Or maybe two. I pick them up and put them back in the draw. As I do I notice my Superman tie. I put it on and look in the mirror. It must be said, I do look a bit like Clark Kent. My phone rings. Two minutes later I hang up. Lois Lane – or Claire as she probably prefers to be called – is my new housemate. I throw my copy of Esquire in the recycling bin. What does Clive know?

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  1. "I do pat her bell though" - hahaa you saucepot!
    Loved it

  2. Thank you. You are reading far too much into that comment though!