Rental Opportunity Of The Week: Two Hallways Stuck on Top of Each Other!

Where's the bathroom? Where's the privacy? Where do I shit???
A one bedroom house in Catford
Photos: Right Move
What is living in London like? Hell. Here’s proof, beyond all doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.

What is it? I dread to even describe this one as I know the words I’m going to have to type out when I do it, and I don’t want to do it. I am flinching as I do this. I don’t want to do this. Alright, fine: “two hallways”.

Where is it? Catford, home to that big fibreglass cat and a load of middle class friends-of-your-friends young couples who just moved there because it’s the only place in London they can afford and tolerate to buy, who keep turning up at the pub with middle-distance stares like soldiers back from a war and who cheerfully keep saying, “No, Catford’s – Catford’s nice! It’s on the up-and-up!” If it’s on the up-and-up so much Julia why are your hands still shaking?


What is there to do locally? You know the young couples I am talking about. Friends-of-friends mates. Always there when you go to a 30th birthday party. They always turn up a little later in the evening, and you turned up deliberately late, because you didn’t want to get involved in the early round system that comes with a party like this – it means you have to buy for the first ten people who all turn up on time, and then you get hooked onto an absolutely huge mega-round, and your Monzo pot really isn’t looking as healthy as it used to after the famous “five Deliveroos in four days” Bank Holiday weekend. But the idea of isolating yourself from the round system, though very “Money Saving Expert forum advice”, is not conscionable: You either involve yourself in the round, or you are considered anti-social, and though it is kind of fucked up it is the truth – you know how you feel yourself when you see someone tap out of a round. The strange flickering question across the front of your brain: “Why aren’t they doing rounds? Are they… is it a religious thing?”.

Once you have turned up and had the necessary three drinks it takes to soften your legs and make you laugh a little louder, they turn up – dressed slightly too glamorously for this occasion, always; her in a dress she could feasibly wear to a wedding, him in shirt over jeans with a leather jacket; always bringing a little present for the birthday person, when no one else has – little nods and smiles, someone tells them you have met them before even though you don’t remember them — “You know Charles and Julia, right?” “I don’t think we’ve –” “We’ve met before.” “Have we?” “On incredibly numerous occasions, yes.” “Alright then, hi mate” – and then they melt into the crowd again and you’ve forgotten their names again already.


You don’t even ever see them at the bar until you go out for a cigarette later with that guy who, when sober, is incredibly sanctimonious about his vape, then, two pints later, is running to the corner shop for 20 B&H and a lighter. You and him are chuffing darts and you see them, Charles and Julia, waiting under a streetlight, him rubbing her back, her sobbing onto his shoulder – ”I can’t face the Overground to Catford, Charlie,” she’s saying. “I can’t walk down that high street in the dark again.” He is saying, “shh, shh, we’ll just wait until surge goes down and we’ll get an Uber”. Then you cough so much you have to bend over double and do some very disgusting spitting for a bit. I don’t know why you always think you can smoke. You can’t. 

Alright, how much are they asking? £950 p.c.m.! 

Sometimes people message me, on apps, things like, “Alright, big bollocks –” they are mad at me, already, “– alright big bollocks, then, with your big bollocks, show us your flat, then, if you’re so good at flats”.

I understand being angry at me for no reason – I have lived inside this shell for years – but I never quite understand who’s side, exactly, they are on: Are you mad at me for questioning the state of London housing because you live in shitty London housing? Then you’re mad at the wrong guy. Did you build the house yourself? Then you are mad at the wrong guy. Are you a landlord apologist? Your intentions are completely incorrect, sprayed in impossibly wrong directions. The point is when people get mad at me and demand to know: Is your flat so good, then? The answer is: no.


I cannot disclose the precise location of it due to not wanting to die at the hands of a nutter, but it’s in London and it isn’t very good. Well: It’s sort of nice, actually. Reasonably, it’s the nicest flat I’ve ever lived in here. But it is absolutely psychotically laid out: We have a large single space room at the base of the flat, enveloping the living room and the kitchen and the sort of dining area, all of which is just demarcated by whatever furniture we have decided to put wherever we have decided to put it. Then, upstairs, is just a looming mezzanine floor above the whole thing, so the bedroom and the office area I’m typing this in now peers out over the bottom of the flat via a balcony.

What I am saying is: There are only two doors in this flat, the front door and the bathroom door, and everything else is essentially the same large room.

What this means is, for instance, when I am typing my magnificent words, I can hear the dog scratching its ear in the bedroom next door, and I can hear literally every fucking single fucking word of whatever is fucking playing on the television at the time, and I can hear people playing ping-pong in the quad downstairs, and I can hear drilling many blocks over from whatever is being constructed in this fucking building site of a city. I cannot focus for even one fucking second in this place! I cannot get a single minute of peace! I will go deranged with all this noise and my constant access to it! To reiterate, this is still one of the better places I have ever lived! 


Anyway, what I am saying is: Though it’s an old trope, the “two-up two-down” model of room demarcation does, classically, work. Rooms are good and they have uses. It is always necessary to be able to shut a door. Masturbation, intense concentration, a Call of Duty session when you know you’re going to say terrible things over headset to some 12-year-olds: These demand doors and walls, because we have evolved to require privacy. The idea of an open studio flat is a lofty and noble one, but, fundamentally, we all need a door to be debased behind. 

Can’t do that, here, though. Can’t do that in Catford. That is because this flat is two hallways glued together with some stairs, and it’s all basically the same room. Look:


Here are some of the problems I have with this: firstly, it is two hallways glued together with some stairs, and it’s all basically the same room. That is Problem #1. There are dozens more: how are you meant to get out of bed and squeeze past the bannister of the upstairs hallway without impaling yourself on it? I think you have to get out of bed like, at the bottom first. How are you meant to get a book off that bookshelf by your bed without climbing over the entire bed itself? How are you meant to get past the insanely-placed desk without picking the desk chair up and moving it entirely over your head? Come to think of it, what position can your body be in where you can feasibly open or close the bedroom curtains? You haven’t even had a piss yet and you’ve had to encounter an entire obstacle course.


Further questions: What percentage, exactly, of your flat is staircase (I think it’s over 20 percent but slightly under a third, but still too much essentially unusable space to be paying £950-a-month for)? How much does it cost to heat a hallway flat in winter when neither original hallway had a radiator in it? Where, exactly, is the advertised “en-suite shower” and bathroom? Is it under the stairs? Is it so frighteningly bad the estate agent didn’t even dare take a photo of it? Do I have to shit under the stairs? Do I have to take a shower at an acute insane angle? Again: Do I have to shit under the stairs?

Why is the front room the kitchen? Why is the kitchen the front room? Crucially, what does this sentence from the listing copy mean: “A smashing little place with private entrance. Ideal for young single, couple, or downsizer.” What is a “downsizer”? “Hi, I’m a person who lives in London and I’ve decided – I’ve made the active decision! – that I have too much space. I want, instead, to move into two hallways for the best part of a grand a month. I’ll shit under the stairs, I don’t mind.” Who is this person?

And, most of all: This flat has been carved out of a house by cordoning off the two hallways and the stairs. I have to say: The reason houses have two hallways and some stairs is because they are necessary for getting from one floor of the building to another. What, exactly, is the layout of the remaining house next door? Is it just a neutered home with no real way of ascending up to bed? Have they built a climbing wall? Is it just plastered smooth like an Action Man crotch? Was it really worth it? Was it worth doing that to your house for £950 a month? 

Anyway, from the way this flat is so obviously lived-in (normally the places we look at on this column are just white- or yellow-painted walls, single half roll of toilet paper leftover by the builders, and one kettle, flashbang reverberating off every surface, very bleak indeed), it’s clear someone very neat and tidy and careful has made these two hallways a home for some time here. Frankly, I want to say to them: Congratulations on finally moving out of it. But you, you, everyone else still reading this far: If you have to move to Catford, with Charles and Julia and their yes-you-can-share-the-Uber-with-us-but-we’re-Monzo-requesting-our-third-of-the-fare-even-before-we’ve-got-to-the-tunnel, don’t move here. There are other ways. There are better ways of being alive. 

@joelgolby (h/t @ediebaby)