What is it? Okay, right: remember when you were in Year 5, and your school took a trip to London? Perhaps you already went to school in London: skip this bit if so. The rest of us, some time around Year 5, did a big trip to London: 30 kids on a coach, off to spend a day and a night and see Cats, or something. Kids in matching hi-vis vests, snaking down London streets among a caravan of teachers. Someone smuggled a share-sized bag of Skittles away from home and got as high as it is possible for a ten-year-old to get by huffing on the sugary fumes. We all had the same trip, just scattered around different primary schools. And for some reason, the hotel rooms you stayed in were like this: tight, long, white-walled corridors, two single beds opposite each other with a gap in between. And it didn’t seem weird at the time, but: when have you ever stayed in a hotel with that room layout since? Where even was that hotel you stayed in? You remember the room. You remember the lights-out afterparty in one of the cool boys' rooms a corridor down. You remember sitting on the bed and playing cards and eating Pringles, long past 10PM. But when, ever, in your adult life, have you ever booked yourself into a hotel with two single beds opposite each other? Did the hotel ever really exist? Did you remember it wrong? Do hotels have special floors, for mass primary school bookings? Where did the rooms go. Where did the rooms go. Did the rooms really ever happen at all. Anyway, in answer to your question: that, but for £1,400 a month, in West Hampstead.
Where is it? In a Bermuda triangle between West Hampstead, Kilburn and Kilburn High Road, so somewhere equidistant between paradise and a shithole
What is there to do locally? I don’t know why we keep this section in because nobody in London sees their local area during the week – you either commute directly home after work to a load of laundry and watch iPlayer, or you go to the nearest Wetherspoons to the office and drink there. Those are the only two options – and at the weekend you are probably too hungover to leave the house, unless you’re not, in which case you’ll get a bus into town and walk around the Tate a bit, no deviations, so on balance it doesn’t fucking matter what there is to do locally, because you’re never going to do it, never in your life. Anyway, there are some bakeries.
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,400 per calendar month. Pounds. One-thousand-four-hundred-pounds.
For all the things that America has that we do not – an astronomically diverse candy selection; bullets and bullet-firing machines; Hulk Hogan; Chick-fil-A – the one thing they have that I am not jealous of is a college culture that is completely OK with sharing rooms. Consider, please, every single coming-of-age American college comedy (or horror film! It could be a horror film too) you have ever seen: they co-habit, the Americans, in dorms, in tiny white rooms in a maze of other white rooms, and two strangers are introduced to each other – tentative, at first, one of the strangers has made a land-grab for the shared dormitory space, they have put up posters and lit incense, and the other stranger, the fish-out-of-water one, is nervous (over the next 90 minutes this stranger will taste vodka for the first time, have penetrative sex, discover Who They Really Are and possibly have their neck scythed open at the arteries) – and nobody, at any point in this interaction, says any of the following things:
"Hey so: can you play white noise music every time I shit or piss? I am extremely paranoid about you hearing me shit or piss."
"So should… should we peg, like, a, uh, sheet? A little sheet up? Peg a sheet up between our beds to sort of waffle and distort the nightly sounds of sobbing or wanking?"
"Yeah, so how on earth does sex work. In here. Because we are, both of us, in the most lurid and intense physical horniness moment of our entire lives. We are going to fuck and fuck nasty. With multiple partners. For the next three years. How do… I mean, do we set a little, like, rota up? I can’t not fuck right now. I can’t have you watch me fuck from a single bed opposite me. We have to work something out."
America has always, for some reason, been OK with this, and I consider it a cultural rift, a fracture between our two great nations that can never truly be knitted together. But oh? What’s this? Is this the Great American-style Dorm Room, transposed over to Kilburn, and available for you to rent? It… it is? All praise to the most high bless up:
Why yes! Those are two single beds crammed so close together that you and your room mate – who are both, remember, paying £700 per month for this experience – can feasibly reach out across the void and knit your sweaty little hands together, holding out for comfort in the middle of the long dark knight!
Why yes! Both of those beds are built in to the very fabric of the flat and supported by walls that are encompassed in the floor plan, so no, this isn’t just a small flat repurposed by a landlord to accommodate two single occupants: this is a flat designed, from the ground up, to occupy two people without any consideration for privacy or their personal needs!
Why yes! The flat is dotted with seemingly a thousand angled reading lamps, curled monstrously away from the floor!
Why yes! There is a single TV mounted up high in the corner of the shared-space bedroom, which presumably the occupant of Bed #2 has territory over (Bed #1 owns the desk), and just think: imagine paying £700, per month, to argue with another human being – three foot away from you, the human being, so close you can hear them breathe – argue with them over whether to turn the TV off after 11PM because you have to sleep and they don’t!
Why yes! This sink, mini-fridge, microwave, six shelves and no cupboard doors is described in the literature as being a "full fitted kitchenette"!
Why yes! The aforementioned literature does boast that the flat has "strong Virgin's fibre broadband", and yes, I am going to make a strong Virgins joke about that! You would have to be a virgin! To live here! Because nobody is going to fuck you! In a single bed! While your flatmate watches!
Why yes! I am increasingly starting to worry that the fuck life of London’s renters is doomed by the landlords who enforce it, because increasingly these London Rental Opportunities are almost actively designed to deter sex, with people, and if we see the national birth rate start to dip over the next couple of years and nobody can figure out why, come find me – I will be 32 and living in a garage and will not have seen a titty for years, galactically wise in my monastic unhorniness – and I will go, "Aha (I will have not fucked in so long my voice will be cracked and gnarled) – Aha: I told you. I told you. I told you all. Blame the landlords!"
Why yes! This advert does boast "electronic key card for extra security", as if anyone would break into this flat looking for anything other than a heavy gas-like feeling of despair!
Often, with these LROTWs, I get a juddering, uncomfortable feeling that I am peeking, somehow, at an ugly vision of the future: that, in five years or ten, London will be populated with plaster-skimmed kitchenette-with-no-cupboard £700-a-month dorm spaces and we will all sleep like this, head-to-toe with strangers in a small slice of Kilburn real estate, and that we will not blink about it: it will be normal, like college kids in America, and that I, I am the insane one, that history will judge me unkindly for thinking this is anything other than good. But I am pretty sure I am right about this one: it’s just two single beds in a studio flat that isn’t even big enough for one person. Crush London to dust and build something better in the space left behind.
@joelgolby (h/t Emily Bootle)