What is it? Well it is an office building and you pay to live in it. You pay to live in an office building. With dozens of other people. You pay. Them. You pay— you pay them. This is a property guardianship, so it's essentially a job as well as a transitional living arrangement. So, just to clarify: you pay them. To live in an office. And have a job doing that, guarding it. But you pay. The flow of money goes from you, to them.
Where is it? Canary Wharf, a grey concrete nexus where hope goes to die, the most artificial place in all of London; they pulled ground up out of the edge of the Thames and then concreted over it, embedded quasi-futuro tube and train stations in there, wove a DLR through it; they adorned it with skyscrapers, they sprinkled it with anodyne bloodless bars, it has a Slug & Lettuce, I detest the place;
What is there to do locally? Live in a glimmering chrome-and-window-pane tower block, behold the hard white-grey ground below it and think about plummeting head first into it, how satisfying it would be, to die, here, in Canary Wharf, surrounded by towers and cranes and hard shades of beige, Even The Birds Don't Nest Here, wouldn't it be good to be an upright functioning human one second – bones, muscles, fibres – and a large red pool on the ground the next? Wouldn't that be nice, of a weekend, in Canary Wharf;
Alright, how much are they asking? Between £450 and £800 pcm;
I once worked at an SEO firm that was so bad at SEO that it changed its name twice to avoid bad reviews from disgruntled former workers there, because they could not figure out how to SEO their own SEO. Parse that again: an SEO company that had specifically trained people to use keywords in a way to game Google could not figure out how to make their company look well-represented on Google because the people who used to work there loathed it so much. They paid me the exact minimum they could legally get away with and there are people there I still chant the names of, Arya Stark-style, to myself at night, and imagine strangling to death, the neck blood staining my hands a dark, dark red. Laurence. Andy. Alice. I won't put their surnames here but know that I remember them.
I'm like 90 percent sure this is my old office, the one I worked in there. It is obviously hard to tell the difference between every single personality-void office space in Canary Wharf, but it all makes sense: the wending path-patterns in the carpets; the veneer-and-glass board rooms; the kitchen corners; the dirty microwave; the grey plastic walls; the pillars; a whiteboard collapsing quietly in a corner; carpeted flaps in the floor that house electrical outlets, surrounded normally by nests of modem wires. Every day I trudged in here, shirt and trousers, dreading another day. An entire year of sighing to myself and hoping I was anywhere else, anywhere. This was the summer I was forced to commute to work every day even though I could work from home. Even though the Olympics were on and we were situated on the city's busiest Tube line. Crammed in with head-to-toe Olympic apparel-wearing tourists, waving small flags. All so I could collect my measly salary writing about LED lightbulbs.
I hope one day everyone involved in the upper machinations of that company burns in a pit and dies!
Anyway, the office – or at least a very close synthesis for that office – is now hollow and up for rent, which is good for me (it means my former employers are doomed and on the way out, relocating to ever smaller premises as their shonky business model fades and their profits dwindle to nothing), but bad for anyone in London looking to rent a room in a house, because fucking hell lads, look how bleak this is:
Me: ah, I loathe houses and flats fit for human habitation, with their solid brick walls and cosy radiator systems. Aha. Not for me. I prefer a wall I can put my hand through with a half-punch and ceiling tiles primed to fall on me at any time—
Me: ah yeah, no, not for me, "an actual segmented kitchen area in which to prepare food" – yeah, no thanks: a microwave, two kettles and a sink is all I really need to prepare nutritious food, in a small corner area that opens out into the rest of the office as a whole—
Me: hmm yes I see what you mean when you tell me houses with sofas in them are much more comfortable places to live in as a human but have you considered that I have two fire escapes here, both front and back—
Me: yes agreed it is nice to have segmented rooms without strip-lights in them and, like, a place to have a blanket, but also have you considered a purple-by-way-of-grey carpet that has been mashed down to a sort of paste by one billion tireless footsteps—
Me: yes sure cosy living rooms are nice I see your point but also if you lug a sofa up here in the lifts somehow then maybe 18 people could all share this space, especially if someone plugs a TV into the fucking floor—
Me: sure yes curtains are nice and privacy as a construct is one I endorse but have you ever considered just panes of glass with a frosting pattern that hasn't been updated since the 1980s—
Obviously it's akin to an insult that this advert and offering is even on a rental website, offered as an option for humans wishing to live in this broken city – like, who wants to live in an office, man; no, thank you – but also to really double-down on the "renters, essentially, are horrid rats who should prostrate themselves at our feet for even being offered the chance to live under our yoke" attitude that the property owner presumably has, there has been issued a strict list of caveats for anyone wishing to live here, in this joyless space:
Please have a job and references from it and your current landlord! Please be ready to go in a week or less! Please do not be a criminal, save that for us! Please have respect and be charitable! Please remember you are not a tenant, you are a property guardian! Don't fuck the walls up! Please take your duties as a property guardian seriously! Please fend off squatters for us! Please sleep in this shithole so that nobody else will take it! We own this property but acknowledge we may forget to check on it so long that it becomes by proxy the property of somebody else! You have to stop that happening, but also provide your own bed! And just to clarify! You pay us! To live in this grey hell! We do not pay you! You still have to pay us £800 for this! There is a Tesco Metro sort of nearby! In Canary Wharf!
Burn! This! City! And! Start! A-! New!