I have arrived in my first digs. Me, my suitcase and my Lego shaped luggage tag (sock present) boarded the first train of many and I am now tapping this out from a lovely double bed in a large detached house in Cambridge. As I have resolved to save some cash on this job, I shunned the taxi rank when I stepped off the train and decided to use Google Maps and the inbuilt compass in my iPhone to get the bus to my digs.
I am a firm believer in using a compass and it always amazes me that more people don’t. I have often been stood in the middle of an alien town centre mumbling ‘so which way is north?’ before waving my phone in a figure of eight in order to re-calibrate the compass. (Only other iphone compass users will understand this.) I can’t deny that I also use the Maps app and have solemnly followed that little blue dot around the British Isles with the same faith and determination as a wise man following the North Star. But sadly, sometimes that little throbbing Dot of Deceit has let me down and led me to venues which were NOT my destination. The compass, however, always shows me north and has just assisted me in my journey to this week’s abode.
Despite the digs being slightly further out, I am incredibly pleased with them. The house is spacious yet cosy and Landlady is smiley and helpful without being annoying or cloying. This is a huge relief as my last digs when I visited Cambridge were massively disappointing. Not only was the bedroom chilly and claustrophobic but everything seemed to be covered in a gritty web of dust and fluff. The hall had piles of Good Housekeeping magazines which were coated in grimy lint and I wondered if the irony of this was lost on Landlady. During my brief ‘tour’ around her home, she used one phrase on several occasions whilst referring to various facilities.
‘This door/shower/TV/tap has a bit of a knack to it.’
For crying out loud.
I don’t want stuff which has a ‘bit of a knack to it’. I just want it to work. If you are charging people to stay in your house, just make things work. I don’t want to have to shoulder a door like a riot cop simply to leave the house. And I don’t want to turn a shower dial as tentatively as a safecracker to ensure I reach a comfortable water temperature which will neither scald nor freeze me. I just want to pay you money to stay in your house for seven sodding days and in return I expect you to provide me with basic facilities which function the way they are meant to.
However, this house is fresh and modern and I have my own bathroom . Landlady knows the drill and within seconds of stepping through the door she has shown me to my room and given me a key. She also saves me from having to negotiate that age-old digs predicament, that eternal etiquette quandary which has perplexed me for several years.
What is the polite length of time to wait before asking for the Wi-Fi code?
Some people say that, at minimum, you should have a cup of tea or make at least ten minutes of polite conversation. Some people think that, in order to let everyone know where you stand, you should make the request the minute you are through the door. However, no sooner are we in the room but she is pointing out a scrappy piece of paper on the dresser with numbers and letters on it. This ripped corner of an envelope may look like nothing but those innocuous numerals and characters contain the key to my touring happiness. They are my salvation, my liberation and my connection to friends, family and back-to-back episodes of mind-numbing television.
The much sought after Wi-Fi code.
‘I’ll leave you to it.’
I do an inner whoop of delight and settle in. As I unpack (pull random things out of my suitcase and throw them on the floor) I notice a little pile of posh hotel slippers next to the bed.
It’s a nice touch. Of course if I was staying in a fancy hotel those slippers would be nestling in amongst my suitcase within seconds. Usually taking those kind of luxury items from a place you are staying in is considered normal and acceptable. But taking these items from this kind of residence would not be okay. It would make me a shifty digs tenant with dubious morals. I won’t be taking these slippers but I do take a moment to admire them.
I am slightly further out of town and as it is pretty late, my options for food and beverages are limited. Landlady says that most things are shut but she points me in the direction of a Co-Op which is open till eleven. The cuisine offered there has very little nutritional value and, as I have just pre-booked a load of train tickets my funds until the next pay-day are pretty low.
These two contributing factors result in a dinner of an Admiral’s fish pie followed by a dessert of jelly beans.
When I return to the kitchen, Landlady is nowhere to be seen so I pop my dinner into the expensive microwave and observe my surroundings (ie, have a poke about). It is a delightfully charming home with style and elegance alongside character and warmth. The farmhouse style kitchen is so spacious that I could lie on the floor like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man and still not touch the counters. (I don’t). And on the kitchen counter is a luxury-sized tin of Quality Streets just brimming with foil wrapped chocolates. It’s so full that I doubt it would be noticed if I took a couple. (I do.)
On a kitchen wall is a wipe clean board with a shopping list. Amongst the reminders for washing up liquid and bird feed are the words ‘RED WINE’. They have been underlined several times and are followed by multiple exclamation marks. This tiny insight into her lifestyle makes me feel at ease, as does her framed print of Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss.’ My mum has that picture in her hall at home and I draw a lot of comfort from seeing something so familiar yet personal within these new surroundings.
The microwave dings and I take the plate up to my room and get my laptop connected to the high speed Wi-Fi, ready to relax and enjoy my first night away. It is unlikely that I will continue with this luck for the whole seven months so I am just going to enjoy this comfort while it lasts. Sometimes the theatrical community can get a little stuck on discussing the weird, awful and genuinely terrifying digs. But just as it is fun to share anecdotes of the disasters, it is just as important to make sure we tell the tales of the good and of the commendable.
At this time of year a lot of productions are hitting the roads and a huge amount of performers, crew and stage management will be checking into stranger’s houses all over the country. A vast community of theatricals following maps, compasses and Tom-Tom’s in order to locate their resting place for that week. Sometimes these gadgets and gizmos can admittedly lead you in to unwelcoming surroundings and can remind you just how far you are from home. But there are also places with warm welcomes, hotel slippers, super speedy internet and an impressive range of cereals and teas.
Just follow the little blue dot.
Thanks for reading this guys. If you are touring at the moment or have toured recently I would love you to tell me about your GOOD digs experiences. No doubt the bad tales will come later. As always any shares are VERY much appreciated. Just click on ‘Share’ at the top of the page. You can ‘Like’ my Page on Facebook (Girl In The Dark) or you can follow me on Twitter (@agirlinthedark) Feedback and comments are always fun to read.
The Tinyurl for this post is http://tinyurl.com/a99pk37
If you type your e mail address into the box at the bottom of the page you will be put onto my mailing list and e mailed this blog as soon as it is published.
See you soon.