Life

Rental Opportunity of the Week: You Don't Normally Get Both of These Bad Things in One Flat

But in this one: you do!
January 15, 2021, 1:47pm
1lrotw
Photos via Gumtree
What is living in London like? Hell. Here’s proof, beyond all doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.

What is it? Sleep in your kitchen and shit in your shower for one thousand human pounds per month.
Where is it? Hendon, a complicated extension of the Brent Cross Flyover that you are somehow allowed to live in.
What is there to do locally? Listen, man. Come on. This question cue, every time, catches me out, because historically I have lived in N16, N10, E2, E5, E9 and SE23, and worked in W2 and EC2, and Canary Wharf for a bit but I never learned the postcode for it, and frankly beyond those codes I do not go too much further than my house or to work, and that of course is during what I suppose we will refer to one day as “normal times”, and this is sub-normal times, so I can’t go anywhere, so I can’t do the deep and meaningful research of, say, “going to Hendon”, and, “seeing what shit Hendon has to offer”, because on a good day it’s a walk, a Hammersmith & City tube (grow up!) and then an overground train to get there, one hour door-to-door, and on a bad day, (e.g. now, presently), it takes longer, and plus I’m not going to risk catching the virus to go to the one restaurant Time Out says is alright there. So fucking figure it out yourself. I’m sorry to come in so hot about it! But I’m fed up of being asked about made up London areas that happened to stumble onto having a Tube stop so are assigned significance! I don’t know! What there is to do! In fucking! Hendon!
Alright, how much are they asking? Sorry, sorry. I’m— I moved this week, so. You know what moving is like. It frazzles the nerves. I’m sorry to you, and I apologise to Hendon. £1,071 p.c.m.

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I often rail against “landlord couture”, the listlessly bland interiors that landlords decide for us, a kind of Essex-inflected grey sheen, one that landlords and estate agents – people who think shiny suits and new-plate Minis with stickers on the side are stylish, for instance – seem to find particularly gorgeous and thrilling: off-grey walls, grey-slate kitchens, frosted-glass uplighters, grey-on-white bathrooms, the smell of new paint and skimmed plasterboard and a ghoulish lack of vibe. The kind of people who have white cots with grey teddies in them and expect their child to grow up alright. “Finished to high spec” means “we made everything grey in a way that feels like having your soul pulled out of your body with a cold metal hook, and we’re charging you £200 extra a month to live inside it”, and I hate it a lot. 

That said: here is an example of a landlord being allowed to decorate unbidden by their own tight rules of anti-taste, and what you end up with is something that is, somehow, worse:

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So yes: we have grey skirting boards and coving and ceiling rose, with a strange turn-of-the-millennium multi-coloured light shade and red vinyl kitchen cupboards. Which is all fine, really – it would be aggressively horrible to live inside, but isn’t world-ending – but it seems so bizarre to go to the effort of making the active decision to decorate a space in this way and then fill it with, as best I can tell, furniture that was claimed from the pavement after a particularly strong night of rain. 

So you have: a single chest of drawers where the middle drawer doesn’t fit, so has somehow sagged out of its fitting; an extended kitchen work surface that is only propped up by two legs, so very literally needs the fridge underneath it for support; a set of garden furniture chairs and table that seem to have been kept outside for many, many years before being bought in here; a strange section of tiling in the bathroom, where, after running out of the large cream-coloured main tiles, they just filled in a corner gap with a vertical-running mosaic.

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By the way, before you ask, yes: a shower curtain does close in front of the bathroom door, because the entire bathroom is your shower, and if you did not have a shower curtain there then presumably the door of the bathroom would warp and plump with damp, like the kitchen work surface already has, and then you’d be charged for it out of your deposit. £1,071 a month, for this, remember. In: Hendon.

Should we address the fact that you sleep in your kitchen and shit in your shower? It feels like we should, because normally a flat featured on this column has one (sleep in kitchen, but have a normal bathroom) (shit in your shower, but at least your bedroom is a separate room) (&c.), but not both: this is a rare treat. Here, necessarily, your bed is in the same room your vivid red kitchen unit is in, so you sleep in your kitchen, but also that is your living room, so you make pasta then sit cross-legged on your bed and eat it (or, I suppose, you recline on the garden furniture that is next to your wardrobe), then sleep in the low fug of pasta smell, because you cook and eat and sleep all in the same room.

And then you wake up the next day, unrelaxed, pull the door to your bathroom tight, sit on the toilet and shit it all out, then lean over to the tiny corner sink to rinse your hands before just gushing the shower over the top of everything, you and the door and the toilet and the sink, just rinsing and rinsing and rinsing away, why have separate things when you can only have one thing. People like to rag on three-in-one shower gel these days – I agree that you should wash your body (made of skin, flesh) separately to the thing you wash your hair with (made out of hair, keratin), but soap going anywhere is more-or-less a good thing – but this is like the housing equivalent of it: push every single function into the same bottle and give, instead of three very workable functions, one very blunt un-function.

If you have had to go to Hendon, to live, then the least you should expect is to be able to cook soup in a different room to the one you sleep in.

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Sometimes I wonder if I expect too much. If years of looking at these flats has ameliorated all sense and boundaries of taste and normality – maybe, you know, it’s fine to sleep in your kitchen, really? Maybe it’s fine to have a very small sink that is deliberately made in the shape of a corner so it can fit in the tiny amount of space available for it? Maybe I am the one who is out of touch, and maybe grey on white with red is a nice colourway.

Sometimes I wonder if my brain is decaying in my skull and that pushing more poison through my eyes in the form of all-hours exposure to the internet is turning it further into a black, swampy sludge, and you are all reading this not because you delight in the horrors of the London rental market – exquisitely documented by a genius! – but to watch as a single human mind revs down, slowly through the gears, without realising there is no fuel left in the engine.

But then I think about the sensation of sitting on your toilet and having a single ice cold drip of water from your shower drop directly on to you, and knowing that that is happening to you – not in central London! Not in anywhere particularly vibrant and alive! – but in Hendon, and I realise: no, it is not me who is the mad one. The whole city is unhinged. Am I the only person left who thinks shitting in his own shower is vulgar? Please, please, reach out and touch my hands and hold them. Tell me I’m not going wild and insane.

@joelgolby