I was in Newcastle to review a concert, and in order to save the Independent some hotel money I was staying in the flat of my old schoolmate, Kevin. (I had a comfortable night's sleep. Kevin didn't have a spare mattress, but his bedroom floor, like that of the kitchen, had the thick, downy softness which only years of dead skin and human hair can bestow.) He is now a medical student, and is endeavouring, by means of resits and intercollated degrees, to spend a whole decade in further education. Too much time in front of the The Young Ones at an impressionable age led him to believe that his is the perfect lifestyle. And I almost envied him of it - until the Dog Hairs Incident.
I wasn't sure what they were at first. Kevin himself had been able to make a positive identification only after they had prompted an allergic reaction in his ex-girlfriend. And what makes the situation worse is that Kevin doesn't have a dog. He presumes that the offending hairs belonged to a canine - a German Shepherd, by the look of things - owned by the flat's previous occupants. But, unlike me, he has no desire to speculate on how the hairs got there. He's reached the stage, he says, where he doesn't even notice them. I couldn't see myself reaching that stage. Call me a stickler for hygiene, but I prefer to keep dog hairs in general off the shower curtain. Someone else's dog hairs would be too much.
It was the first time I'd realised that my life was no longer the same as Kevin's. Previously, I had never considered my own flat to be anything other than studenty. It's the only one I've lived in since I was a student myself, and I've never bothered to decorate it, as I'm probably moving out soon (I've been probably moving out soon since a week after I moved in).
My flatmate and I have a laissez-faire attitude towards domestic maintenance: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it is broke, don't fix it either. Hence the Jeff Koons installation, which the less visionary of our guests think of as a knackered washing machine. Hence, we couldn't do any cleaning even if we wanted to: every six months or so, we'll phone the landlord to complain about the broken vacuum cleaner, and he'll bring round a new broken vacuum cleaner, which we'll stuff in the hall cupboard along with the others.
But when I returned to my own place after staying with Kevin, I nearly rang Ideal Homes magazine to invite them round. Suddenly, my unmatching plates and my threadbare, loose change-swallowing sofa didn't seem too bad: they didn't have fleas, after all.
At some point during the past couple of years, my lifestyle has undergone an irreversible change. I've ended up in a flat which, for all its faults, doesn't necessitate a rabies shot. I know this is adulthood. I know it's the first step towards a time when every weekend will be passed happily at B&Q, stocking up on Rawlplugs. But I don't care. I don't want to live like a student anymore. If I'm falling into a consumerist, bourgeois trap, at least it's a relatively comfortable trap - without dog hairs.