I walked in to a terrible apartment in France’s Marseille, took one peep and thought this place looks nothing like the photos I’d seen on the advertisement. I turned my head to the woman who unlocked the apartment door then smiled subtly. Lowering my gaze, I scanned the room for the nearest door, not only to explore another room but as I didn’t want the woman to know exactly my thoughts.

What a deep diving shithole this place is.

“It’s a quiet area,” said the woman in a French accent.

I appreciated her speaking English, as we were in her country, but I still felt the need to lock my eyes on the nearest door that lead to another room.

“Why have the doors been painted silver?” I said.

“The previous tenant decided to paint the doors,” said the woman. She didn’t seem too impressed.

The paint had no particular outline. It had literally been hit with a spray can and there’s not an ounce of gloss so I thought something more needed to be said, “It’s a blunt silver that doesn’t seem to fit with any of the other off white colours.”

I looked around the room. The off white was from a lack of cleanliness. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was an actual white shade.

She didn’t reply. I moved forward to the next room. The lady stood back, seemingly waiting for my reaction. But I didn’t budge. I just wondered why she hadn’t had a chance to get a cleaner service in to give the place a good scrub before I’d arrived.

“Why is there masking tape surrounding the entire line of the apartment where the wall hits the floor?” I said, my eyebrow truly elevated to a point my shock had surely no longer been concealed.

“I just got the keys back from the tenant,” said the woman, standing two meters to my side.

Poor landlord.

“It must have been a shock,” I replied.

An embarrassed smiled cracked in her face. “I need to renovate the apartment now,” she said. “I’m open to any offers.”

“I’ve never seen doors painted silver, I have to say. It’s very interesting. And I must say, I can only imagine the person who decided to tape over every crack in this apartment must have been taking LSD.”

The woman didn’t seem to understand what I was saying. Perhaps it was my Australian accent or maybe she could image the effect of LSD.

I pressed, “From hallucinating.”

Nope, still confused. She didn’t blink an eyelid. In fact, this was a bit awkward, so I went deeper, “If they took LSD or acid they might have been imagining little creature or ants crawling into the apartment to eat them alive.”

I finally got a mild giggle. I guess I was happy with that. Nonetheless, I wasn’t visiting the apartment to talk about her previous tenant. I was there to see a decent place and find a decent pad to rest my beefy cheeks.

As I wandered around the apartment I wasn’t too rude about her wasting my time. I really tried to put myself in her position and image renting an apartment to somebody who then demolished it, and I mean demolished when I say it as power sockets had been pulled out and tape over with masking tape on every wall. On top of this, dirt had ingrained in every crack and fissure I could see.

When I walked out of that apartment I knew dam well it was not the place for me. I felt I needed a shower, but I was with a place of my own at that point so I psychologically needed to trick my skin to become at ease. This apartment had been the third I’d seen that day. It was the time I’d felt like I was negotiating behind a fake smile for a car I knew would break down the moment I’d driven it out the door. I wanted to be settled in my new city. I couldn’t have any issues with my new apartment. My home is my castle, or at least that was the image I once had of it to be. This was becoming struck down like a boxer in his third round and his coach splashing water across his forehead and lubricant over his cuts. I had to move forward or I’d never see that shower of ease. To be continued. Click here for the follow up article: “Foreigners renting property in France: documents, documents and guarantors.”

Gaston Cavalleri is an Australian author, travel writer and screenwriter.