Sally Hall: Choose your flatmate wisely or it could all end in tears

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One of the pleasures of impending middle age is the ability to strut around your own home wantonly ignoring the washing-up and eating ice-cream straight out of the tub while listening to The Archers.

It’s an unmitigated relief to know that I am unlikely to ever again have to live with random house-mates in mouldering multi-occupancy properties.

There must be some advantages to getting older, after all.

Memories of disastrous flatshares came flooding back when I read last week about an American man who is now facing charges of attempted murder and aggravated domestic battery following an attack on his flatmate.

The 23-year-old returned home one day to discover his roomie had eaten not one, but three, of his special chocolate chip cookies.

Furious Allen Hall throttled his flatmate before pushing her violently into the bathtub.

I can’t help but wonder if his response would have been more moderate if she’d been more restrained herself. One cookie might have merited nothing more serious than a Chinese burn. But three of the choc-chip treats = a murderous spree.

This isn’t the first time roomies have come to blows over biscuits. In 2011, two college room-mates attacked each other in a cat-fight over Girl Scout Cookies.

I should think myself lucky that I escaped unscathed from the multiple house-shares I’ve endured over the years. There were times, though, when violence hovered on the horizon.

On one occasion, there was even an outright war. Okay, so it was a washing-up war. No actual physical contact was involved.

In fact, was the most passive-aggressive episode of conflict imaginable.

Fed up of always doing the dishes, I resolved one random summer evening not to go within five feet of the Fairy Liquid until my flatmate picked up the scrubbing sponge.

The stand-off lasted 10 long days. Within the first two evenings, all the pans and plates were stacked up by the sink.

To fulfil my vow, I was forced to eat pizza on a piece of kitchen towel for tea. At the one-week mark, I was eating out for every meal, and by day 9, the smell was so bad I avoided the kitchen completely and spent the evening shut up in my room. In war, there are no winners.

I don’t know whether my flatmate even knew she’d been a combatant in a deadly battle of wills. I genuinely think she might not have noticed.

Eventually, she just put on the Marigolds and tackled the stacks of mould-encrusted crockery without a word.

I wasn’t always the instigator of these ineffectual stand-offs. Sometimes I found myself the victim.

One former flatmate guarded the immersion tank with such vigour that any use of hot water for cleansing purposes had to be accounted for in a special notebook.

Rather than face her disapprobation, I became a regular frequenter of the local gym. I’ve never been so fit (though I have certainly been cleaner).

Another random stranger I shared a flat with was so profligate with the Shake’n’Vac I feared I’d develop asthma.

She was also a ferocious man-eater who launched herself on any male within a four- metre radius. When my dad came for a visit, I booked us into a hotel so we could both escape her clutches.

Thankfully, those days are over. I now enjoy domestic harmony with the best flatmate I’ve ever had – the man who asked me, on first moving in, if I owned a cake tin big enough for his speciality giant German cheesecake.

Sarah Champion MP

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