Despite years of renting I have never encountered one of those “NO DOGS, NO BLACKS, NO IRISH” signs that used to pock the British landscape. Everyone who knows me will, however, have heard my Mrs Turpey story. They can skip everything up to the last paragraph.

I was working for the university in Oxford in 1995 and about to become a graduate student in London. Imperial had a list of landlords and landladies who offered reasonable rents and conditions in return for quiet, harmless geek tenants. One of the landladies was Mrs Turpey. She had a place in Battersea that looked pretty good on paper so I rang her and arranged an appointment to look it over. She ended the phone call in a slightly lowered voice: “I have to warn you about something before you come…”
“Oh, yes?”
“…There’s a lot of those coloured people around here.”
I decided to go along anyway, just for fun.

She was shameless, an escaped Monty Python character. You have to remember that I had dreadlocks at this stage in my life, swinging around in front of my eyebrows in a way that seems impossible to believe now. As she showed me around the (nice) kitchen she looked at me sternly: “I hope you won’t be cooking any of those curries.”

She came to mind just now as I was casually browsing the window of a local rental agency and saw a rather nice one-bed place going for a very reasonable monthly rent. At the top of the ad was the legend “WOMEN ONLY”. At least Mrs Turpey had no prejudice against my money.