Seven years ago, my partner and I moved into a creaky little flat in West Hampstead, London.
It was a shabby little thing - in the crappy block of flats on a well to-do street lined with much nicer houses. We didn't care much; our landlord was chill af and the rent was cheap.
We moved in, and over the years, like little scavengers, filled it with stuff, most of it mismatched, almost all of it free. We painted the wall purple. We put up fairy lights. We hung photos and art on the walls. We had a series of housemates who came and went, each as lovely as the last. We often debated whether to move to cooler, more edgy parts of London, but for whatever reasons, always stayed put.
We offered unlimited sofa space to friends needing a place to stay whilst they set up a life for themselves in London. We hosted crazy house parties, world cup screenings, harry potter book nights, and Eurovision events. We made friends with neighbours. We had people come round after heart break, to celebrate good news, or simply just to hang out and chill.
We, and consequently our close circle of friends, spent the vast majority of our twenties learning what the fuck life is about in this creaky little flat. We partied hard, worked even harder, had existential crisis after existential crisis, nurtured businesses, changed careers, watched our lives fall apart, fought and made up, laughed until we cried, and sometimes just cried.
Moving flats might not seem like a big deal for a lot of people. But I moved around a LOT as a kid and young adult. By the time I was eighteen, I'd lived in about twelve different houses/flats - in different countries, different cities in Australia, different suburbs of Brisbane, different neighbourhoods of Beverley and Southampton. To put it into perspective, my time in this West Hampstead flat is the second longest I've ever lived in one place, only missing the top spot by two years. So it matters to me. For me, it represents one of the only solid, stable elements of my trying and tumultuous twenties, as I (and the people around me) tried to figure out who the fuck we were and what we actually wanted to give to the world.
And now it's time to leave this creaky flat and see what adventures await us somewhere new. The next flat is a little shabby and poky too. But if our time in this place is anything to go by, that won't matter too much. We'll laugh, we'll cry, we'll fill it with more mismatched crap and hearty memories, and soon the place will feel like a tiny but mighty home, just like this one did.
Thanks West Hampstead, it's been grand.