Housesitting our way through London

Last summer, I wrote that it was hard to imagine living anywhere in London other than Walworth. But when our lease at our flat ended last September, we were loth to sign another one, given that we only had a few more months left on our UK visas. And so we turned to what we call ‘Housesitting.’

The term is probably familiar, but you might think of it as the sort of thing you do for a friend when they’re out of town for a weekend, not a long(or even medium)-term housing solution. We probably would have thought the same only a year ago, but a Couchsurfer with whom we stayed on the Costa Brava in Catalonia told us of her experience housesitting in the Antipode during a ’round-the-world’ trip.

So, we joined a site called TrustedHousesitters.com, where we created a profile and started checking out the listings from  homeowners who were going away for a while and needed someone to stay and look after their homes (and usually pets).

Although this post is about our housesitting experiences in London, I would note here that most of the postings on TrustedHousesitters are in Australia, New Zealand or the UK. There are a good smattering in France, and a steady stream of assignments in other European countries. The number of assignments in the US and Canada seems to be increasing, but still lags behind. Every now and then we’d see an assignment somewhere crazy, like Vanuatu or the Bahamas.

But back to our experience. For a period of three months — from September to December — we spent all but a few nights (excepting the times we were away from London) in Housesitting homes. Our living situations ranged from a trendy flat in arty Shoreditch to a cozy row-house in suburban Sydenham. One recurring theme was that every place we stayed was home to at least one American; I guess the combination of visa problems and needing to visit relatives in the States means there are plenty of Americans living in London who need a housesitter. So here are a few  of our charges:

Lucy and Winston

Lucy the little greyhoud

Lucy the little greyhound

Winston the mighty fat cat

Winston the mighty fat cat

Lucy, a 15-year old miniature Italian greyhound and Winston, a 15-year old cat lived with their humans in Covent Garden. We actually looked after and stayed with them on two different occasions; the second time was in late November/early December, when Covent Garden was absolutely ablaze with Christmas lights. It was a wonderful time to be there, but it was cold enough that Lucy needed to wear a jumper when we took her out for her walks; but the sight of me pulling out the jumper got her so excited about walking that she could barely sit still long enough to actually put the jumper on. Winston didn’t get excited about much, other than treats.

Paisley and Argyle

Paisley and Argyle take a brief rest from a wrestling bout

Paisley and Argyle take a brief rest from a wrestling bout

We spent the longest period of time (about 7 weeks) with these two ragdoll kittens in their home in Shoreditch. Their antics included, but were not limited to: breaking one of their owner’s tea cups; climbing their cat tree and attempting to jump to the ceiling; deliberately pooping on the floor in front of us if they’d determined we’d been gone from the flat for too long; digging up the potted plants on the roof terrace; and frequently wrestling each other in stop motion. Despite, or perhaps because of, their tomfoolery, we grew quite attached to Paisley and Argyle, although we also recognised that, even after 7 weeks, we probably just weren’t hip enough for Shoreditch.

Rudy, Hendrix and China

Faith with Rudy (left) and Hendrix

Faith with Rudy (left) and Hendrix

This gaggle of animals comprised of two dogs — both of whom were part Labrador and part Staffordshire Bull Terrier , and one of whom (Rudy) had only three legs — and China, a 19-year old cat. Luckily, this colourful crew lived right by Sydenham Hill Wood, so we could take the dogs for lovely walks, much of which Rudy would spend in a buggy, except when we encountered other dogs, with bottoms to be sniffed!

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