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We Brits are famously bad at confronting people and notorious for pussy-footing around a problem rather than coming straight to the point and telling people they're annoying us. For many people the idea of looking someone in the eye and telling them "Your behaviour is unacceptable" is about as likely as wrapping themselves in bacon and wrestling with a lion. But resentments build up, tempers get frayed and then your average Brit snaps and does something drastic - gets out the Post-it note and leaves a strongly worded reprimand. And if you're looking for something that's guaranteed to wind up the most mild-mannered of passive Brit, then look no further than flat sharing. As the author tells us "It's not for the fainthearted".
I was a student for a very long time - eight years in total. I wasn't thick, I just got a lot of qualifications and along the way I lived with some mostly very nice but occasionally really irritating people. OK, let's be more direct - MEN. Did I ever resort to the post it note? Probably not but only because they were expensive. The odd back of an envelope got scrawled on - let's be honest, we've almost all done it. With quite so many years of living with people I wouldn't have entirely have chosen to be around, I was a sucker for a book like "I Lick My Cheese" by Oonagh O'Hagan, a woman who's been collecting notes that illustrate the pitfalls of communal living.
In just under 250 pages and with a total of 120 facsimiles of the 'notes' she's collected, some of them clearly balled up and binned then rescued and photographed, O'Hagan offers a fast track to the dark underbelly of life with people you thought you liked but can no longer bear. "I hate you more than life itself" was one of my favourites - succinctly cutting to the nub of the matter without any need to dress up the problem. Some of the notes are funny, some sad, and rather a lot suggesting a need for psychiatric help. A few are friendly, many apologetic but most of them offer cautionary tales about confrontation.
The notes are split into four chapters grouped by the rooms they refer to. "I pay the rent, what do you do?" offers notes from the Living Room. "You stink like a big fat stinker" has notes from the bathroom. "I lick my cheese" has scary food and kitchen related threats, whilst "Why is my bed damp" refers to bedroom (and relationship) stuff. Personally I loved the kitchen ones - anyone who's ever shared with someone who puts their name on their food or leaves baked beans under cling film until they grow fur will know what I mean.
Some of the notes are self explanatory - "Whatever you do, NEVER let the bailiffs in" is pretty clear. Others need pages of explanation - "Stop butt flicking in my garden" is a classic that's all the more scary when written in capitals. I actually thought it said something much more scary than 'flicking' and was relieved that it related to people chucking their cigarette end into their neighbour's garden. Some are extremely obtuse such as "You know that I know that you know that I know you took it" (Life is surely too short to work out something like that)
It's not only dealing with your flat mates that stinks - their friends and family can be a challenge too. One note is written on a packet of stamps and tells the recipient "Here's a stamp. Write to you your mum, she keeps calling". Then there's the thorny issue of people's brothers/cousins/best friends moving into the living room and annexing the couch or - even worse - moving the boyfriend in without consulting the other inhabitants. "Your brother is really lovely but how long is he going to be staying in our living room" asks one frustrated flat mate very politely.
The secret to a happy marriage is almost certainly separate bathrooms. The quick route to flat share trauma is the shared bathroom and differing ideas about the importance of hygiene. One writer berates their flat mate for their weak bladder that leads to lots of flushing and asks for only 'number twos' to be flushed so they don't wake her up. Another points out that their flat mates should be able to tell the difference between the ashtray and the bath - apparently by the difference in their size. Just think of finding butts in the bath (as well as the neighbour's garden).
Division of chores is always a fertile battleground for flatmates. Someone will always martyr themselves for the moral high ground, generally failing to notice that nobody's giving them any competition for that position. "The washing-up you didn't do is in your bed" writes one frustrated domestic goddess. Personally I think a few years of filth in your student days probably prepares you for any germs that later life might every throw at you - a sort of inoculation on a par with mums taking their kids round to other people's houses to get them to catch measles or mumps
Some of the note writers are geniuses. "I can't believe there's no butter" and "Has anyone seen the kitchen?" both had me in stitches. My husband got really really fed up with me reading this book. "Listen to this one ...........and this one..........and this one". It's a wonder I didn't find him sitting on the sofa with a Post It on his forehead saying "Don't mistake me for someone who's actually interested"
I picked up my hardback copy - complete with its title on a post it note on the cover - in a charity shop for £1.50. It's not a book I'd want to read more than once, other than to dip in now and then and bore those around me with a few choice quips but I'd strongly recommend it as a gift for anyone embarking on their first flat share. By holding a mirror up to our less attractive habits - both the ones that have been criticised and the habit of writing notes - Oonagh O'Hagan alerts us to things we might have done or been tempted to do. Perhaps after reading this, the next time you feel the urge to leave a note on a colleague's coffee cup that's growing penicillin or to put an old envelope through your neighbour's door to thank him for letting his cat use your flower bed as a toilet, a quick recollection of what you thought of the writers of the notes in 'I Lick My Cheese' might just stop you making a complete fool of yourself.
Finally I'd like to leave you with my personal favourite Post It which I found stuck to the bathroom wall of the house where one of my friends lived with a bunch of filthy rugby players. It was left by a girl that one of the boys had brought home and said simply "A few words of advice Kevin. Twenty minutes of begging does NOT constitute foreplay".
'I Lick My Cheese' is a rather strange title for a book, but this is no ordinary book. It is a humorous collection of over 120 hand written notes by people to their flatmates. The notes all appear in the book as the original documents which have been written on everything from post-it notes, through to the back of envelopes and note pads. This is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time; not necessarily from a comedy point of view, but because it's so easy to relate your own personal experiences to the various topics.
Next to each of the notes the author, Oonagh O'Hagan, analyses the psychology of the person who wrote the note and in most cases this is quite enlightening! This book will definitely appeal to anybody that has experienced living in shared accommodation.
The book is divided into four distinct sections which cover a multitude of topics:
"I pay the rent. What do you do?"
Parties, Living together and other notes from the living Room.
"You stink like a big fat stinker"
Personal hygiene and other notes from the bathroom
"I lick my cheese"
Food and other notes from the Kitchen
"Why is my bed damp?"
Love, sex, partners and other notes from the bedroom
Some of the notes featured will make you cringe while other will make you laugh out loud, this book really does contain a rollercoaster of emotions.
To give you an example of the types of notes in the book, some of my favourite quotes include:
"Whatever you do, NEVER let the bailifts in"
"Lakey, the zoo called, they need you back by 8PM, Ali x"
"Has anyone seen the kitchen??".
The book comes in hardback with the recommended retail price being £9.99. The ISBN number is 978-1-84744-128-7. There are a variety of other humorous notes at www.flatmatesanonymous.com.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review, I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.
I saw this book in Borders a while ago and it just seemed amusing. It is basically a book full of pictures of notes left by disgruntled flatmates. I was then able to hire it from the library as I was not going to pay full price for a book that you can read in about an hour. At £9.99 RRP for the hardback copy although it is sold as a coffee table book, I do not have a coffee table.
It is written by Oonagh O'Hagan who I had never heard of before, from doing some research I think it is her first book as she has two more books in the pipeline of similar collections of notes. It is published by Sphere and was first brought out back in 2007 so you may have seen this around- it is the sort of book that is sold in the comedy section of places like Waterstones and Borders. Along with books like "Crap Towns" and "Bunny Suicides". It is in the "humour" category.
The book is a mixture of written text and full page photos of post it notes, scraps of paper and notes left in situ by flatmates. It is available in both paperback (£7.99 RRP) or Hardback (£9.99 RRP) and I have just done a quick search online and you can buy this from £5.91 in WH Smiths to a whopping £27.49 on a small booksellers site.
The book will literally take you about an hour to read so there is no way I would buy this. It is laugh out loud funny at times and every time you turn a page, and read one of the notes in the book it will either remind you of something an old flatmates used to do or will make you cringe. The notes go from lighthearted such as a photo of one stamp from a stamp book with the biro penned "Here's a stamp- write to your mum she keeps phoning" to the more crass "This phone has been up my a**" post it left on a phone. The humour goes from witty to toilet in the turn of a page so it will not be to everyone's liking. But overall, there should be something in it that everyone finds funny. The thing is, it is not worth the price as once you have read it, you have read it. You will remember the notes so it is not as funny the second time around.
Some of the notes are amusing "Whatever you do DO NOT let the Bailiffs in", it is 256 pages of flatmate humour- some of the notes have obviously been written by flatmates at the end of their tether (as it can get if you have ever had a flatmate- the littlest thing can send you crazy! its just one more sock left down the back of the sofa.....) so this makes if a funny read. It covers all the little things that seem to go wrong when you have flatmates- whose turn it is to buy toilet roll to stand offs and who is annoyed whose mum keeps phoning for them etc,
I would recommend you hire this book or try to get it on sale or on a book sharing website as if money is no object and you do buy this, it will be the sort of book you want other people to read so you would pass it on. There was a website with similar notes on it but I cannot find it- even flatmatesanonymous.co.uk only has photos of the author's three books/ upcoming books so the website I saw which replicated the book must have been a promotional thing for this book.
Overall 3 stars as it is too expensive to buy but it will tickle a lot of people. Espeically if you have flatmates or have ever lived in shared accomodation or university halls. It should bring back some memories and remind you why you now do not have flatmates.
On a random jaunt to a local bookshop a silly little title caught ones attention "I lick My Cheese", this was either going to be amazingly funny, brilliant and one of those books that you love. OR it was going to be a disgusting boo revolving around smeg, and lets be honest, no one wants to read a book about that. As it turned out, the title comes from a note in a flat, which is actually the basis for the entire book, it's "notes left in flats".
Those living in shared accommodation will recognise many of the ideas behind the notes, whilst others will me amazed at peoples tactics to avoid face to face confrontations. Oonagh O'Hagan has collected over 120 notes from flat dwellers who have handed them in to her, to create a humorous and widely entertaining book based on them. The book looks at the worst of shared living as well as the best...but mainly the worst.
Whilst not a huge reader of books, it is books like this that do appeal to me for so many reasons that make them perfect for me as they can be perfect for a pick up and read, put down, then pick up again a few hours later sort of read. The book doesn't need to be followed as it has no narrative it;s just simple and every page is it's own page no need to remember things from pick up to pick up no narrative, no story. The books pages are devoted to a blend of the stars of the show (the notes) and Oonaghs comments on them, ranging from back story's to her own experience in a similar situation and to just curious questions on them.
The book is one of those books that despite being one you don't want to put down, you don't mind if you do need to. Simply due to the fact you'll pick it up straight away as soon as you pick the book up in the next free moment and you'll love it there and then. Sadly though this will cause you to finish the 248 page book inside a few days...and feel it should have been significantly longer.
On a personal note (pun intended) I've witnessed the great "Note Leaving" about my house despite living in a family house (mum and my sister) when my brother and his then girlfriend moved in notes became an even bigger thing. Usually my mum leaves simple notes or my sister "bring in the washing" or "put the chicken in the oven at 220 at 5:30 please". When my brother and his girlfriend moves in notes became order of the day "I am a dirty dish, I go in the dish water not the sink, this is here ----> put me in there" or the brilliant "I am milk, I live in the fridge, when you're done with me, put me in my home". She could well have either of those in the "I lick my cheese" chapter...
...So that cleverly brings me on to the part of this review that concerns the chapters of the book, that book is split into 4 rather separate chapters based on the different parts of that flat in which people live:
"I pay the rent what do you do" this is the notes left about bills, rent and general living, often left in the living room and are often a bit general.
"You stink like a big fat stinker" this one is based on personal hygiene and the bathroom, featuring broken toilets and bad smells.
"I lick my cheese" which is based on the kitchen, featuring mainly "stolen food" and the the messy dishes that no one wants to wash.
"Why is my bed damp?" the final one which is aimed at bedroom notes, be it sexual, relationships or just a little bit on the perverted side.
Each of the four chapters is well worth reading every few months as you'll find yourself giggling every time you read them just like a 10 year old hearing "penis" on the TV. Though some of the notes are quite difficult to read, this is mainly due to nature, we all have different handwriting, some are easy to read, some (my own included) are really difficult. This is about the only major fault with the book that I can pick out.
Overall a wonderfully clever book that takes the best of flat feuds, the lowest common denominator in humans (note writing) and seemingly turns this art form into a book. Genius.
This isn't a novel, or an autobiography. It's a collection of post-it notes that have been left by flatmates for the others to read, usually about things that they are not happy with in their home.
The book has a limited selection of witty remarks, some of which are laugh-out-loud funny, and others get a chortle. There is nothing in this book that will not be laughed about, or passed around friends.
However, the book is ruined by the psychological analysis given at the bottom of each page, which sometimes actually takes up at least one side. At times it is useful to explain the background behind the notes, but many of them do not need any explanation, and so the humour of the book is distracted from by the author's footnotes.
The book is worth flicking through, but it needs far more post-it notes in it to make it truly recommedable. It did make a good stocking filler for me this year though.