A life-long dream come true

Libby tells how dhe moved to London to house share

How a casual house share turned into a beautiful friendship

In today’s interview we talk to Libby who shares a house with Cinzia in Lavender Hill, Clapham, South London. The two women in their 50s met when Libby moved into their shared house in 2019. They live in a beautiful 4-bedroom terraced house with their landlords coming to stay once per week.

How did you end up sharing in the first place?

I moved to London from New Zealand last year not only because I wanted a change of scene and lifestyle. But it was more actually, because it had always been my dream (since I was about 10 years old) to live in the UK. So I simply had to do this before it wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t easy to begin with, to be honest. Finding a job when you are ‘over a certain age’ proved to be more difficult than I had expected. I initially stayed with my niece, but soon started house-sitting (through various friends of friends of my niece). I also wanted to secure a job before deciding where to live.

Within a few weeks of starting my new job in Battersea I found this gorgeous house with a room to rent online. I was lucky enough to secure it out of 500 people interested. If I was to share a house, I wanted it to be with people my age, but the location was the deciding factor. I was overjoyed to find that I was to share this place with an Italian woman in her 50s. Cinzia had already been living in the house over a year so knew the ‘funny things’ about the house.

What is the best thing about your house share?

We live in a beautiful terraced house; it’s a large 4-bedroom with 2 bathrooms and a massive kitchen. Our landlords come to stay in the house about once per week (very much their London-pad). So most of the time we each have a bathroom to ourselves. Location is great – I can walk to work which is important for me. Cinzia and I get along really well. Slowly we got into a habit of sharing a couple of meals per week. There is nothing set in stone, just a phone call during the day to see if the other was going to be home that evening.

The way I cook (and dine) now is different than before. I now cook the ‘Italian way’, which starts with putting on the apron and normally doesn’t finish until several hours later.  Its cooking with lots of chatter, animated expression, laughter and sharing a bottle of vino! It’s all about being together.

What does a typical day look like in times of Covid and being confined to the house most of the time?

Can’t describe a ‘typical day’ but I’ll tell you what it’s been like for us. Fortunately, because Cinzia and I get on so well we have had fun.

We are now both furloughed, but in the beginning, we were both asked to work from home. So we sat at each end of the huge kitchen island and focused on working. We quickly realised we had to take this seriously, so set the alarm for agreed coffee breaks and had ‘concentrating’ music playing in the background. Wi-fi wasn’t the best which was frustrating.

We wore semi-casual clothes while working and relaxed in our sportswear in the evening – just to break the day. As we were now both at home every evening, we took turns on cooking. One person decides the recipe and the other person has to cook (just to make it fun). We also bought a large jig-saw puzzle. One rule though – we had to put in 10 pieces per day per person. No more/no less, not an easy rule to adhere to.

Then we decided we would master the art of meditation.This was funny at first, especially doing it together, but it is our ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ effort. Needing another challenge, we decided we would both learn to crochet and make ourselves each a rug. These will always be our Covid19 rugs, full of shared memories. So we bought wool on-line (NHS blue) and soon found out both of us suffer from un-coordinated fingers and thumbs. We are into a really great routine now. The house is big enough to give each other space, but we still do lots of things together every day.

Do you think it is an advantage living with someone during the Covid crisis?

Living with Cinzia during Covid19 has been so much fun. Its probably because we are both single mature women with our families in other countries. Apart from setting each other challenges, to me it has been an absolute blessing to have someone to talk to (some conversations/confessions have been deep) and share the hours in the house with. Time seems to fly by now (isn’t that the definition of fun?). Thank goodness we get on well together and respect each other’s space.

What are the downsides of sharing a house?

You cannot fully compare it with living in your own place where you can do whatever you like. The owners are a bit different, like we each had to bring our own set of glasses and cutlery and there are parts of the house that are only used by our landlords, but Cinzia and I laugh it off.

It’s about compatibility and what you can bring to the relationship

I know, being new in a foreign city and not knowing anyone, living alone would have been crazy – and expensive. Not sure if it makes any difference that Cinzia and I are both equals in this house (i.e. we are both tenants) but at the end of the day it’s more about compatibility and what you can bring to the relationship. This has been a really positive experience in my life and I’ll certainly look to share a home with other people again in the future. I’m actually thinking of moving to Yorkshire and, once I get a job, will definitely seek a similar set up. Of course, it won’t be the same as with Cinzia, but there are certainly far more benefits to sharing a place (for me) than being on my own – absolutely.

I think it’s great how you moved across the whole world to start a new life her in London. Many people have dreams like this but often find it too daunting to start all over again. What’s your advice?

Well, the hardest part was ‘deciding’. Deciding without listening to the complicated chatter in your head that says ‘what, when, are you crazy, you can’t, it’s too hard, you’ve missed the boat’ etc.

I was at a crossroad in my life (the end of a long-term relationship) and I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain as it seems to be an adventure that single people can do. I had days and days (weeks actually) to just listen to myself, and chat to strangers. Whilst on the Camino, I thought a lot about my desire to live in the UK since I was a child and decided to ‘just do it’. Not moving to the UK and living with regret (for not even ‘trying’) seemed an expensive way to live.

As soon as I decided, it then changed into a ‘planning’ exercise. I did, however, go off track … when I returned home from my Camino, and told my boss and work colleagues that I had decided to move to the UK, they were really upset and worried that I was having a mid-life crisis. They said ‘sure move, but do you HAVE to move to the other side of the world?’

Because I had never had a mid-life crisis before I thought that maybe I was, so decided to move, but to another city in NZ to be closer to my children instead. Got a new job, bought a new place, tried to settle but knew, in my heart, that living in Auckland wasn’t what I had dreamt of all my life. I wanted to live in the UK.

That ‘decision’ brought clarity again, so over a family dinner I told them my heart’s calling and set the wheels in motion again. This time, being cheered on by my kids and their declaring I was a wonderful example of ‘following you dream’.

My heart is happy and I’m happy …. and here to tell the story. It’s actually not hard (HARD), it’s exciting (the good and bad parts of ‘exciting’) and offers wonderful opportunities to dig deep to make things happen. I have absolutely no idea what will happen next – how exhilarating is that?!


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