What is it? I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired I’m tired I’m tired, I’m tired tired tired tired tired.
Where is it? Almost precisely situated between two of my old houses, which adds a thin bitter flavour to the whole charade. It’s been a while since I’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been able to hypothetically see one of these properties from one of my former windows, and you have to wonder to what logic the bombs fall on the map.
Is the city the curse, or am I? Does me leaving an area lead it to ruin, or was it ruined already when I moved there? Am I to spend the next few decades in this city slowly degrading it? Or worse, am I meant to live shuffled up against the cold shared walls of these places, not quite knowing they are there? Every day I wake up to a DM, a tweet, an e-mail, saying, “look at this.” The scabs are spreading: every week I wake up to a DM, a tweet, an e-mail, saying: I know you normally only do London, but. At some point you have to look at the central point of the rot and wonder if it’s the heart or whether it’s been engulfed—
What is there to do locally? So, as mentioned, I am tired—
What is there to do locally? I am tired that they keep occurring, and that they keep getting worse—
What is there to do locally? I am tired that I have to see them all—
What is there to do: I am tired that I have to look at them and say: It is not the worst one I have seen this week, thus giving the property a free pass, just for not having a shower in the kitchen in the exact right terrible way—
What is there to: I am tired that they doesn’t seem to be any great gear of society that is stopping them—
What is there: Is that not why we have society? Isn’t that what society is… for? To stop… this?
What is: Feels naïve, doesn’t it, to have such a hope for that. Seems foolish. When you’re a teenager you rail against the system – “Why don’t they just make flats nicer! Fuck!” – and adults tell you in a soothing voice: No, you don’t know anything, they can’t do that because it’s not realistic. But I’m 34 now and it still doesn’t really make sense, I’m just more tired about it. That’s how they get you, I suppose. Never tire! Never give up!
What is there to do locally Palm 2, Biddle Brothers, Dom’s Place then Blondies, in that order.
Alright, how much are they asking? One thousand, one hundred pounds. A month. (£1,100 PCM). A month.
I am struggling with this one. I’m struggling because: How can me, an idiot, how can I be the sole source of logic here? I’m not the only person involved in this flat. Someone owns it, and someone leases it through a property management company. People have seen this flat. Someone took photos of this flat, and uploaded it to a website, which I assume has to do some at least cursory vetting. It’s not like, a dark, dirty secret. It exists. And yet I seem to be the only link in the chain going: hold on, lads. Not sure about the floating bed box that has insulation stapled to the side of it. And yet—
So you know obviously we have a studio flat, and I should point out that this studio flat is knackered, is absolutely exhausted. It’s odd that I can say that about inanimate objects, but look at the pictures and you can see that it is true: Have you ever seen a wooden floor look quite so fucking done? Have you ever seen whitewashed walls with visible wires trailing over them look like they are sighing? Have you ever seen green landlord-issued curtains look quite so limp and over it? One of the major pieces of furniture in this flat is a wooden CD tower, for goodness sake. This flat has been waiting for a nice soothing trip to Switzerland since about 2001. It is tired! Let it die!
Obviously, we can rattle briefly through the lesser features before we turn and look at the shining, foil-skinned elephant in the room, but it’s remiss not to pay proper attention to the details. So for instance: the bathroom is next to the kitchen, which is bad. The kitchen – I dunno, the word “kitchen” feels a tad grand for what this is, the way they can’t call certain cheap drinks “orange juice” because it doesn’t legally contain any orange. Essentially, this is a kitchen in the spiritual sense, not the legal one, so let’s go ahead and call it the “area demarcated as being for kitchen-type use” (ADABFK-TU).
Anyway, the ADABFK-TU seems to have been made Stig-of-the-Dump style out of scavenged parts, so it is a washing machine and an old, knackered chest of drawers with two wooden struts on top of it that someone has balanced a sort of work surface on. Your kitchen equipment is one of those combi-ovens with the hob rings on top that makes it impossible to even realistically make beans on toast without having some sort of mental incident. There is, as aforementioned, a CD tower.
But it’s the bedroom, obviously, that deserves the attention. The bedroom is a floating box with a ladder going up to it. It is made of wood and I don’t really know what’s supporting it and I, frankly, don’t trust it not to collapse in the middle of the night. Despite this flat being so knackered-looking, it doesn’t actually look lived in, and to that I actually assume someone has recently made this storage area into a studio flat, using things fished out of skips, and so the bed-box has never actually been tested with human weight. (This is my theory, but if you or someone you know has ever slept inside that plywood box then please let me know.)
There is a radiator visible in this flat, but I have to assume it doesn’t work or the bed is nailed up against an outside wall, because it’s clearly so fucking freezing up there that someone felt moved to fit a single sheet of insulation to the outside of it. I mean, it’s not screaming “cosy” to me. I can’t imagine getting home from a long day at work and getting back to my long, strange, tired-looking flat and climbing up a short ladder to curl up in my bed-box, like a hibernating bird.
And, too, if I must bring the human condition into this: I cannot imagine the floating unsupported coffin you sleep in surviving even one thrust of a shag without collapsing chaotically onto the wooden floor below. “How was the Hinge date?” “Yeah good, good date. Bibble Bros then Dom’s Place then Blondies, obviously. Bit of a hitch with the shagging part: My bed collapsed and we both thudded inelegantly on the ground and they think the splinter she got could lead to sepsis—”
It’s 2021 and I’ve been writing this column for a number of years. I have started to approach Fridays with dread. “Surely,” I keep thinking, “surely this city will run out of these shitholes soon, right?” I cannot keep robbing a living like this, can I? Surely not. Surely one day there will be no more floating bed-boxes to conquer. But no, no. They never stop. They keep getting smaller and worse and more impossible to live in. Can’t wait to see shit what London landlords are cooking up for me in five, ten, 15. I cannot wait to see what this city looks like in one hundred years, until the sun engulfs the earth.