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I’m 42 years old and living in house share with 6 other people

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What ultimately terrible decision did I make in a past life that led me here? (Picture: Michael Mannion)

Stumbling through the front door, I did my best to reach the kitchen without incident.

That meant not falling over one of the several pairs of mislaid shoes, slipping and killing myself on one of the many discarded and ironically named ‘bags for life’, or stomping on too many empty Amazon parcels to count. 

And even though I was successful, even avoiding the three randomly strewn umbrellas in my path, there was still one more hurdle that stood between me and the cup of tea I’d been longing for – the pitch black kitchen and the dimly lit figure inside.

It sounds like I’m depicting the opening scenes of a cheesy horror movie, and I’m sure in some people’s view, it will seem much worse than that.

I’m 42 years old and living in a six-person house share. So that ‘mysterious figure’ is not an intruder or a banshee-like creature. It’s actually my housemate, Colin.

And while I question his decision to fry an egg by the light of a vanilla-scented candle at 11pm, it’s moments like these that actually make me wonder where I went wrong.

Originally I’d had hopes of moving into film and becoming a well respected director of earthy kitchen sink dramas (Picture: Phil Ellis)

What, ultimately terrible decision did I make in a past life that led me here, standing in the doorway observing Colin like I’m watching a particularly unusual David Attenborough documentary.

I guess the foundations for this life were laid way back in 2002 when I’d just graduated from university, having studied media production.

Originally I’d had hopes of moving into film and becoming a well respected director of earthy kitchen sink dramas like Mike Leigh or Ken Loach. Little did I know that I would soon be living in one of these films – think Kes but with rats.

However, instead of moving to Hollywood to become a major player in cinema, I decided to move to Sandbach, Cheshire, which is only famous for being recorded in the Doomsday book and as the birthplace of Blue Peter’s Yvette Fielding

The rent had to be paid, so I found work in the only major employer in the area, an airbags factory. 

It was only meant to be a temporary stop, but fast forward three years and I was still moving palettes full of airbag parts from one floor to the other all while dreaming up my first feature film in my head and wondering if I could shake another Twix out of the vending machine without paying for it.

Living in this house share led him to stand up comedy (Picture: Matthew Highton)

Eventually, I started writing down all the silly, funny and absurd thoughts I had and soon I decided I needed somewhere to say these ideas out loud, which is how I stumbled upon stand up comedy. 

Breaking into the business would be easier said than done, though. It took me three months to land my first gig – mainly because I had no internet at home – and find The Comedy Balloon in Manchester.

My first gig there consisted of 10 minutes of unpaid comedy, and while I can imagine it was very unspectacular for those watching, for me, it was life changing. 

After that, I began pursuing stand up properly as a career and that meant looking for cheap accommodation so I could afford to gig for next to nothing.

So, I spent most of my 20s moving from one house share to another. 

For a while I managed to live with just one or perhaps two people I already knew and was friends with. Looking back, these were the good times. 

Phil spent his 20s in house shares (Picture: Michael Mannion)

I think fondly of having a whole shelf in the fridge to myself and not having to walk around with a Glade plug-in to make each room I entered bearable. 

Then, during my early 30s, I moved back to my parents’ house in Preston for a few months after a very brief stay in a surprisingly much worse house share than the one I currently find myself.

I optimistically thought they would be over the moon to have their special little soldier home. But by day six, it was apparent to me that I was very much starting to get in the way.

They kept giving me ‘subtle’ hints like: ‘Oh wow, look at this affordable flat in Burnley’, and ‘Phil, you’re really starting to get on our nerves’. 

And after a short debacle over a fire alarm – by which I mean, I pointed out they had no fire alarms, and was pretty much accused of being a snowflake for suggesting they invest – I decided it was my cue to leave.

That’s how I found myself in a six bedroom house in Finsbury Park, paying £400pcm at 42 years old.

Many comedian friends are in the same situation (Picture: Phil Ellis)

To my circuit comedian friends, this is a perfectly normal arrangement and many of them are also in similar situations. But my old Preston friends constantly berate my lifestyle. 

They just don’t understand why I haven’t got a mortgage, a ‘proper job’ or why I am not preparing for child number six. And while a part of me longs for the peace and quiet of my own, decent sized flat with a little balcony and a view that isn’t the back of a chicken shop, I’m pretty certain that I would soon get bored.

I would also be alone with my own thoughts and that terrifies me much more than any communal toilet.

Whereas, by sharing with six strangers – who are aged between 36 and 40 – there is never a dull moment.

The reason I had stumbled across Colin in the dark was because no one had bothered to fit a new lightbulb after the old one broke three months prior. Including myself.

Just yesterday, one of my housemates came in and genuinely asked me to show them how to use a hammer! 

There’s never a dull moment (Picture: Phil Ellis)

And I actually relish the challenge of placing my entire week’s shopping on only half a shelf in a shared fridge – it’s a fun and brain nourishing puzzle.

So while I’ve long forgotten that the toilet and sink basin are meant to be white and have grown used to the smell of poorly scrubbed out, three-week-old yoghurt pots and milk cartons in an overflowing recycling bin, I don’t begrudge living here at all.

Perhaps the only thing I would change – aside from an increase in the average wage packet or a decrease in interest rates – would be the rogue mice (because apparently, if you have mice, you definitely don’t have rats).

Maybe one day that will all change, but for now this is home and there really is no other place like it.

Phil Ellis will be performing his show, ‘Phil Ellis’ Excellent Comedy Show’, at Soho Theatre until Saturday 11th May. For tickets, visit philelliscomedy.com

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