What is it? Well, the advert here says "annexe", but it's a shed, isn't it. It's a shed.
Where is it? I think what's fascinating is that you can live in a city for an entire decade of your life and then one day you look at a shed on Gumtree and you learn about an entirely new area of London you have previously not heard about until now. Today is a school day, and on this school day we are learning about the existence of: "Sudbury Hill";
What is there to do locally? I’m genuinely laughing when I write this, but: when I googled "things to do Sudbury Hill" the first thing that came up was a children's play centre 0.8 miles away where 12 of the reviews rate the service "terrible", with one mum fuming because she ordered 28 nuggets – such a high, specific number! – and only got 27. So, in answer to the question: you can catch two buses and one train to a soft play area where you will be given 27 nuggets to eat while an entire party of five-year-olds watch on at you, fundamentally disappointed about how their tiny lives – and yours! – have turned out;
Alright, how much are they asking? £750 p.c.m.
The first ever London Rental Opportunity of the Week was a shed, I think. One of the first ones, anyway: a small child's play shed, erected in the living room of an otherwise normal share-flat. That shed was a symptom of a different disease – it's safe to assume that someone attempting to rent out a shed in their front room is in desperately dire straits, scrabbling to portion out their rent to a third- or fourth-party to try to keep their bills in order, the roof above their head – and things have changed since then. A shed is no longer a sign of pure desperation. A shed can be something else now: something cleanly polished and sold to you as aspiration. A shed, landlords carefully creep up behind us and whisper, are annexes. You could live in one. You’d like to live alone, wouldn’t you? That’s the dream. In Sudbury Hill, but alone. A 15-minute walk from Sudbury Hill station, but… but alone. A place you’ve never heard of, which is a 15-minute walk to somewhere else you’ve never heard of, but: alone. The dream. New bathroom. The dream. An annexe. The dream. Gaze upon the future of the London property market, everybody. This is… the dream:
Here's what troubles me most about this: everything in this shed is immaculately, sparklingly new. For some reason that throttles me with dread. This hasn’t been renovated with new fittings, or refitted after a previous tenant has lived there for a while. This has been custom-made to be like this. You are in the shed in someone else's garden. You can see the house, beyond it, pebble-dashed and strewn with toys. A tiny family with a tiny cosy life, in Sudbury. They have their house, their life, their semi-regular trips to eat 27 nuggets at a play centre in Harrow. They built you a shed to live in. They see that as fair, and £750 a month as a fair price. They peer out of their windows at you as your shed glows against the night. "You know," they say, the family. "We've got a lot of garden left. We could put… another shed in there?" This is the cynical way London makes people think now. Ascend onto the property ladder and flick a crumb down after you. Look, you scum fuckers. We built you a shed. Live in it, you absolute pieces of shit. Give me £750 a month and walk with your hands in your pockets to Sudbury Hill station. It’s on the Uxbridge branch of the Piccadilly line.
Very small and unfit-for-purpose dwellings for rent in London are given a pass for two reasons: one, if it's an exceptionally affordable, absolute-bare-minimum-but-it’ll-do kind of place, then fine; it’s somewhere someone can stay while they get back on their feet (there is nothing wrong with very cheap, very basic property). Similarly, if it's somewhere within commuting distance of somewhere good, it can be one of those places bankers sleep in five days of the week – proper "I just need a bed, a coat hanger and somewhere to wash my body" place – before they go back to their mega-mansion in Cheshire or something. This shed fulfils neither purpose, though: it's £750 a month (£750! A month!) and in Sudbury Hill (Sudbury! Hill!), a place I’m pretty sure didn’t exist before I started writing this and has actually been inserted into this timeline, Mandala Effect-like, history rearranging in front of my very eyes.
Anyway, the shed is nice, for a shed. But that's sort of not the point. The fridge is new, the bathroom is new. It's immaculately clean and painted perfect-white. It has a fold-out bed, which adults paying rent famously like to sleep on. You get a perfect, fenced-out square of garden to enjoy. The oven is new and there is a four-hob setup on top. The bathroom is one of those template nice-enough-and-newly-fitted-to-boot ones that you can see in any given new build in London made over the last five years. Like: it’s nice. Tiny, and a shed, and in Sudbury Hill, but nice for it. But again, that's sort of not the point.
The point is the cynicism of its mere existence. It was custom-built, this year, designed for the express purpose of offering someone with £750-a-month a sub-par place to live in. It’s a shed. In Sudbury Hill. That is not even that near to the station. In a way, this is as representative of a creaking property market and a desperate millennial population as, like, a new-build block of flats that conveniently forgets its affordable housing obligation, or "poor doors", or the mythical market rate, or lads in a vinyl-wrapped Mini charging £125 to get a key cut. The moral of the story is: people with sheds in their garden can be as nakedly evil as the biggest mega-corporation, if they want to be. The moral is: a shed can be as nice as you like, but it's still going to be a shed. The moral of the story is: 27 nuggets! Is not an acceptable amount! Of nuggets!