What is it? As ever, we must creep backwards on our footsteps through the snow to figure out how we ever got here. Take away the fitted kitchen and the wardrobe and the annexed bathroom, take away the double bed and the spotlights and the single black-and-white canvas print: what was this room before a landlord got their hands on it? What was this room’s role in the wider machine of the building? Due to the low ceiling, narrow dimensions and ground floor access, I think it was either “half a garage” or “one of those little rooms you have off a kitchen sometimes, where you have the washing machines and a small sink and a cupboard that has all those cereal bars you bought on offer one time, a 60-pack of Shredded Wheat and the remains of all that toilet paper you bought at CostCo”. Someone has looked at their utility room and gone: ‘I wonder if I can trick a cunt to live in here?’
Where is it? Ruislip, which is out past Wembley, somehow (stuff exists beyond Wembley? I always assumed Wembley Stadium was some sort of greying Death Star, with its own horrible gravity, pulling in all forms of life that live behind in its shadow, and that all there is past Wembley is a complex rat’s nest of intersecting A-roads, with crumble-zones and bollards and special huge immoveable curves of concrete, bridges that somehow loop back in on themselves, and then maybe some of those flat strange fields where they put all the rubble of the Blitz, and thin reedy grass grows through it and the whole area doesn’t have any noise to it or wildlife, and it just collects old out-of-print Stella cans and blue plastic bags, and this miasma of metropolitan nothingness continues all the way up until you hit the next available town, which is Watford) (but apparently I was wrong and they have Ruislip now instead), and exists in its own grey nether-place of areas I have never heard of, no matter how far out on the map I zoom: Ruislip, near Eastcote, by Ickenham, which is near RAF Northolt, by Hillingdon, you know, out by Cowley and Hayes. The more I learn about the geography of “London”, the more I am convinced that maps are made up by the government to trick us into thinking Britain is richer and more varied than it is. The entire population of “North Hillingdon” was made up by the Tories to fake votes.
What is there to do locally? As mentioned, it’s near an RAF base, and what I always assume of a locale when it is built around an armed forced outpost is that the entire nearby economy is turned in the direction of fire, so my image of Ruislip is it’s just riddled with lads who can’t read without their lips moving and only have three changes of clothes, who are so damaged from the stress of making their bed in a way that doesn’t get them yelled at every day that whenever they are let loose in a pub, they end up in the car park damaging a meek local dad for the rest of his life by breaking a sticky pool cue over him, and as punishment when they get back to base they have to make their shoes really shiny or run a kilometre while wearing a backpack. Happy to be proven wrong, obviously, but I feel like I won’t be.
Alright, how much are they asking? It’s hard to tell exactly because it’s listed as £230 per week [*1], but by my calculations this comes out at £996 per month. I am quite, quite sure the landlord will happily round this up to a neat grand if that would make it easier.
Let me ask you something: does this bathroom doorway look wide enough to you? I suppose I am annoyed I have got to the point in life where I have to ask a question like that. That every experience I have ever had up until this point has led to now: having an opinion on the width of a bathroom doorway in Ruislip. Millions of years of human evolution has led to this: my perfect grey-pink brain, wondering if they made the bathroom doorway narrow deliberately to try to save— what? Money? Space? What is the point of the narrow bathroom doorway? What is its purpose?
It’s not just about the doorway that I personally would have to walk sideways through, though (although, a fun imagination game: consider the indignity of walking sideways through your bathroom door like a crab while you’re also in deep need of a shit. Do you think psychically you would ever recover from the damage of that?): the doorway is a symptom of a wider disease, and that disease is “someone built a bathroom here inside a box”.
You can always tell if a bathroom has been retrofitted, because it doesn’t have a source of natural daylight and nine times out of ten the box it’s in has a “useful shelf” on top of it, which you can only really use for luggage, and this bathroom has both. At the end of your flat, inside of the kitchen, which is also sort of the bedroom, here’s a dark room you can shower and piss in. The doorway is not regulation width for unstated reasons. We have not even considered the delicate dance you have to do to actually close the door – which swings inwards, obviously – behind you once you’re in. I feel like getting into and out of this bathroom takes anywhere up to about 11 very precise balletic moves.
We have, of course, seen dreadful, soul-killing flats with too many spotlights in the ceiling before: this is nothing new. But there is a subtlety to the art of the shitness of this one that I want to highlight: move out past the bathroom and you have yet another slickly grey London kitchen, loomed over by a fridge (normal) and a wardrobe (unnormal). Back beyond that you have a sort of unusable expanse of space (I suppose you could put a sofa in it, if you always want to walk around your sofa before turning sideways and shitting; I suppose you could clutter the place with more furniture, if you really want to make it worse), which then tapers into a sort of bedroom, with a bed situated in the prime sleeping spot everyone wants their bed to be in: directly against the external wall, right by the front of the house, right by the front door. Nothing to me says “serene sleeping” like being right next to the main road that directly leads to your property.
Hark, what’s that screwed to the wall above me? Why, yes: it’s a black-and-white canvas print of a bridge in New York, next to an electrical socket with a single coiled wire poking out of it! Who says landlords don’t have interior taste and a wide-ranging aesthetic!
I was ready to give this grand-a-month narrow-doorwayed nothingroom in Ruislip a pass, until I read the property listing. “FLAT IS QUITE SPACIOPUS BEING ABOUT 28 METRES IN TOTAL”, which I would argue is not actually that spaciopus, seeing as it’s just under the size of two parking spaces.
“ENTRANCE IS FROM THE THE REAR OF THE BUILDING, FULLY SELF CONTAINED OWN KITCHEN WITH WASHING MACHINE ETC IDEAL FOR SINGLE PARENT OR COUPLES”— sorry, what? How’s it ideal for a single parent? It only has one bed, and no doorways beyond the sideways one for the bathroom— how is a single parent supposed to live an ideal life here? I would also argue it’s not exactly conducive to a couple having an enjoyable existence: yes there is a double bed, but beyond that you have about 20 more metres square where it is impossible to avoid each other, and you’d be driven mad doing the I-need-a-shit crab walk in front of each other within a week. In fact, I’d argue this place isn’t even particularly suited for one person to live in, especially one who has £996 a month to spend on rent and for some reason wants to spend that on living here, in Ruislip.
“I AM A PRIVATE LANDLORD SO THERE WON BE ANY FEES ETC,” the ad continues, and I am reminded that once again private landlords love to boast about being private – hey, I’m one of the good landlords! I don’t charge any additional fees! The only fee you pay is £996, every single month, to live in a shithole where your wardrobe’s in the kitchen! See, I’m good! I’m an entrepreneur! – but I suspect the privateness might be enforced: that not even a property company in London, one of the most ghoulish businesses in the world, would take this place on and rent it.
This might be the first London Rental Opportunity that is truly unsuitable for any single human being to live in. Every time I think I have seen every inch of the pallid underbelly of this city, I am surprised anew.
[*1] I started to ask myself the question, ‘Why does anyone listing a property put the price down weekly? Nobody (well, very few at least, and yes I am annoyed I have to put this bracketed caveat in to placate some fucking smart-arse moron sending me a Twitter DM [instead of a direct reply!] telling me that, actually, when they were ‘studying once in Nottingham’ that they did ‘pay their rent weekly, but then I suppose that doesn’t subscribe to your pro-London view of the world does it? Very, very inconvenient, that Nottingham exists’, or some similarly facile bullshit) pays their rent weekly – even fewer think about their rent in weekly terms. Most contracts demand monthly payment anyway. Why even bring the week into this?’ but I think there’s something crackable within that: this isn’t about how you, the prospective tenant, should think of the rent – the weekliness of it is how the landlord listing the property is thinking about their income. ‘That’s £230 a week for me,’ the landlord thinks, cheerfully. ‘That means I can continue to not have a proper fucking job.’ Turn the lens around. This all makes sense.