What is it? An example of “landlord logic” so profound it’s possible the city as a whole (and, in time, the wider country) will never psychically recover from it.
Where is it? Belvedere, near Erith. Do not ask me “what is there to do locally” in Belvedere, because I have just now learned that a section of London called Belvedere exists. There is no way of me knowing wha—
What is there to do locally? My side-theory is that there are certain zones of London which, for whatever reason, are really hard to get to, even with the dense and multi-faceted public transport network we have here. I call these liminal areas “trickshots” – you can never get to them directly, you always have to overshoot on a train then travel back on yourself on a bus; you always need to get on the DLR for exactly one stop, for some reason, because not doing that means navigating a strange concrete space where you have to cross a bridge; you always find yourself walking up a really long residential hill; 45 minutes late to wherever it is you said you were going, you’re on a single-decker bus going down a long traffic-less road lined with greenery. This happened to me once when I went to Charlton, and I went to Charlton from a starting position of already being in south London, so getting to Charlton should have been quite simple, but for some reason I ended up crossing a really wide park by foot and got lost down a road with thin pavements and no other pedestrians on it until, desperate, I bought a sandwich from a petrol station and sat outside it, visibly upset. You think your life has reached a low and then you find yourself eating a plain cheese sandwich on the floor in Charlton, phone battery dying, lost and confused, and you realise: this city is a harsh metropolis. It is not designed for people to live in it. I feel like if you made me go to Belvedere right now I’d have to take seven modes of transport and I’d end the day handing myself in at the local police station for assistance.
Alright, how much are they asking? £892 pcm. You are right in thinking: ‘That is above the average price currently being charged for a nice place, let alone a crappy studio.’ You are even more correct in thinking: ‘Fucking hell that is a lot to pay to live in Belvedere.’ Eight-hundred! And ninety-two pounds! Per month! Per calendar month!
One thing that does annoy me is that: I am a moron. I’m not an intelligent person. That’s fine, and I have broadly got over it, but I do know the upper limits of my intellect now: medium to medium-low. I’m never going to really get my head around maths, for example. I don’t have the solid memory that people who “know a lot of facts” use to do well at pub quizzes (are pub quizzes actually about knowledge, or are they just about remembering things? Is there even a difference between knowledge and memory? I don’t know, and I’m too dumb to find out).
I cannot conjure up a theory and then apply it to something. And I also don’t really have any practical skills, and I am bad at learning new things. I mean, what can I do? Read and write? So can a five-year-old. Do you know how many times I have seen The Big Short (three), and yet I still do not understand shorting? All in all, a dystopian society would rightly diagnose me as worthless and have me frogmarched to a central square to be shot, while the rest of you – the thinkers and the doers – cheer on. Shoot Joel Golby, you’ll say. Shoot Joel Golby to death for wasting our resources. Shoot him then shoot him again.
And then I see the decisions London landlords make about their rooms, and I go: maybe I’m not the world’s thickest cunt, after all. Here’s one, for instance: there’s an electrical radiator mounted to the wall, but also the configuration of the room means that wedging the bed in next to it is the only logical place where that bed can go, which means the location of the bed instantly renders the radiator practically pointless, because now the radiator is only going to heat, like, one side of the bed, and not, for instance, the entire rest of the room. So now you’ve got a cold room and a bed that has exactly one hot side, and also you’re pouring heat into a mattress, which is a metal frame with a loaf of fluff and fibre stitched to it, and if Bear Grylls was stuck in the wild with only an electric radiator and a mattress available to him with which to conjure life-saving fire, putting them directly next to each other like that is how he would ignite them. So that’s Error #1. Error #1 in this incredibly small room full of errors is: your mattress is on fire but somehow you’re still cold.
Then you have the rest of the room, which is the usual blah-blah terrible-terrible landlord shit: a wardrobe that already looks like it’s going to collapse apart even though it’s been newly bought and assembled; walls painted white in a way that still somehow makes them seem dirty; a tiny bathroom with some incredibly large ugly tiles decorating it that only serve as an optical illusion to make the bathroom seem smaller; a kitchenette section (sink, floating cupboard, work surface jutting out over nothing), which has clearly been made with space to accommodate a fridge, but there is no fridge there, so either you have to buy your own fridge (“Oh, you want to cool your perishables? Unusual, unusual. The last tenant didn’t need one. We could buy you a fridge of course, but we’d have to raise the rent.”) or just live with the fact that your room has one incredibly bizarre long shelf coming out off a sink. The kitchenette also has absolutely no other equipment in it, so even calling it a kitchenette is a misnomer. It is, just, a sink.
But then there is something philosophically challenging about the kitchenette itself, which is: this studio flat has access to a shared kitchen. Here’s a photo, look, where there’s one of those weird student halls-style kitchens with two ovens and hobs in it, and you know already you’re going to have some very tedious passive-aggressive notes-going-back-and-forth rows with the other tenants about whose job it is to clean it, and you’re always going to mislay your good fork and find bits of your cheese and milk missing, &c. &c., sharing a kitchen with other humans is hellish, but still: why put a kitchenette in a bedroom and call it a “studio flat” when you could just not put a kitchenette in a bedroom and still call it a bedroom?
Do you understand what I’m saying here? This studio flat is clearly part of a wider house where every room has been given a separate lock and a kitchenette in it, so that each room in the house can be separately rented to a tenant and more money can be bled from the pig. But: why? The house has a big enough kitchen to already function as a shared house, but now a landlord has made the decision to put a kitchenette in a bedroom in a house where a kitchen already exists, and also – and I am going to have to jag into italics for this one again – the kitchenette in question isn’t even a functioning kitchenette, it’s just a sink and a gap for a fridge if you want it.
So the only possible takeaway from this flat is: this was once a fine-if-bleak bedroom in a share house in Belvedere, and what a landlord has done is, deliberately, made it worse. They have made the bedroom smaller and nastier by putting a kitchenette in there and retrofitting a tiny en suite bathroom, and they have almost certainly done that to all the other rooms in the property, and now the house (as a wider whole) is ostensibly worse than before the landlord bought it, because it’s full of shit sinks and wrong-angled corners created by bathrooms and double beds wedged in against radiators.
And this is the great secret at the heart of every landlord: they love to buy property and boast about how they are a savvy entrepreneur who, crucially, is “providing a service” for “young people” who “choose, for flexibility, to rent”. But in this instance the only service the landlord is providing is drastically lowering the quality of property available in this city while pushing the price of it up. I am never, ever doubting my ability to think ever again. I may be a moron who can’t drive and still doesn’t 100 percent know how “nous” is pronounced, but at least I’m not a fucking landlord.