It could be argued that I might possibly be, erm… a bit eccentric to live with. But there’s eccentric, and there’s downright crazy.
Before moving to Spain, I’d been living in London flatshares for a decade. Rents in London are ruinously expensive, so this is quite a common thing to do. Most of the time, it worked out pretty well for me, and I made a handful of good friends for life. Sometimes, however, you get lumbered with nutters. And this is a story about one of them. Let’s call her Ramona.
One dark and wintry evening in 2003, my landlady, with whom I shared a lovely flat in North London for many years, and who remains one of my dearest friends to this day, brought her home, a tall woman in her early forties with dyed blonde hair. They had met at some spiritual development course. Ramona was looking for a room to rent, and my landlady happened to have one available. This was pronounced a manifestation of divine synchronicity, arranged by all that is love and light in the universe. Who was I to argue.
Things went well at first. Ramona was pleasant, kind and unobtrusive. She firmly believed in the existence of angels and fairies. She also had trouble paying her rent on time. Usually, she came good in the end, so my landlady was lenient. She had developed a soft spot for the hapless creature and wanted to give someone, who was new to the country, a chance of a fresh start.
Ramona did earn steady money working as a carer for the elderly, but her spending habits were less well prioritised than they ought to have been. For instance, she had made it her mission to collect each and every single set of tarot cards she came across, especially the ones with angels and fairies on them. We found this out when she showed us the box under her bed, which contained around thirty decks. They cost between twenty and fifty quid a pop.
We explained to her that there were thousands of different editions of these divination cards, printed all over the world, and that it would be quite impossible to collect them all. That’s when it dawned on me that all wasn’t well with Ramona’s reasoning capabilities.
My landlady chose to interpret the card incident her still being a bit naive about Western consumerist culture and its overwhelming abundance of pointless paraphernalia. Ramona had only recently arrived in the UK from one of the Baltic states.
A few weeks in, Ramona, on her perpetual quest for spiritual enlightenment, decided to follow the teachings of an inspirational guru, who had attained living godhood by subsisting on nothing but air. Eating, according to his teachings, was an activity practised by lesser life forms languishing in the clogged-up realms of low vibrational energy.
I didn’t pay much attention to her fasting at first, until I realised that she had not only stopped eating, but that she wasn’t drinking anything either. I then tried to explain some basics of human biology to her, such as the part about death through kidney failure if you deprived your body of fluids for longer than about four days.
“Yes, but the holy guru says…!”
There was a crisis meeting. I was totally freaked out about sharing a flat with somebody who was, effectively, self harming, and at risk of unwittingly committing suicide in the room next to me. I think I even yelled at my landlady. And probably more than once.
I needn’t have worried. It was still early days in our flatsharing arrangement, and I hadn’t yet cottoned on to the fact that Ramona was quite incapable of following through on any kind of plan, especially one of this order, which would have required a serious amount of willpower. After a couple of days, she started guzzling water by the gallon, and we all survived the episode.
One day, Ramona asked us if we minded if a friend of hers, visiting from Poland, stayed the night. Being her hospitable self, our landlady made up the guest bed for him in the living room. Said friend arrived quite late that evening. He was around 50, slim, with grey hair and he looked me up and down before shaking my hand. I also remember that he was wearing a pair of really ugly maroon coloured shoes, that looked like they had been cut out of old tyres no longer fit for recycling.
Anyway, the three of us greeted the guest, sat down for a quick snack and a cup of tea together, then my landlady and I said goodnight, leaving the two of them to catch up.
The next morning, there was no sign of the Polish man. We asked Ramona whether he had gone out for breakfast. She said no. She said that he had, in fact, just taken right off again last night after neither of us had offered to sleep with him. And apparently, he had shown no inclination to try his luck with Ramona, because – so her theory went – her breasts were too small for his liking.
All of her other friends, which we were unfortunate enough to meet over the years, turned out to be either stark raving mad or utterly socially inept. Ramona stayed with us, on and off, for several years, and there’s probably enough material for a Tolkienesque trilogy replete with trolls and other assorted outcasts.
Sadly, it all ended rather badly with a horrid blackmailing incident, borne out of Ramona being in some desperate situation, which she had brought upon herself by her own incompetence 😦