What is it? At first glance, it’s a room that isn’t quite big enough to put a bed in, but actually when you zoom out and think about it more – the galaxy-brained take – you’ll notice that not only is it not big enough to have a bed in it, it’s not really big enough to have a kitchen in it either. This, however, has not stopped the landlord.
Where is it? Enfield, the misshapen wedge between Tottenham and Edmonton, i.e. the district you only ever go to when you drive through it once to get to IKEA and once, again, to leave IKEA, eight hours and two full meals later, somehow. Nobody exists in Enfield. It is just two lanes of vehicles, all arguing with each other about whether they really need any more lamps.
What is there to do locally? Again, I would also like to point out – and not to rag on Enfield, but! – once again I would like to point out that Enfield is not exactly one of the elite suburbs of London. Like: It’s in the north London mix, for sure. It’s a bit far out, but isn’t true hell to get to. There are some transport links out there. There’s a Power League and an Asda.
I think the true test of how “in the mix” a London suburb is is this: If someone invited you to a party there, and the party started at 9PM, would you have to leave your house before 8PM to get there?And, realistically, what time do you have to leave the party to make it home on public transport? From that formula, how many viable party-able minutes do you have, at this flat in Enfield where they only have all the big lights on and everyone is crowded in the kitchen?
(This obviously incorporates some other questions of intangibles: It is to be expected that, should you arrive at 9PM on the dot, which is uncool, the party won’t be in full swing at that exact moment; the first 20 to 40 minutes can therefore be written off as non-party minutes. And sometimes a party never gets going because the vibe has been curated incorrectly – the wrong people are there, the wrong songs are playing, the TV is still on for some reason, the host has not supplied a good starting stock of alcohol. This is a risk you have to take every time you go to a party at someone’s flat, and it’s a risk that multiplies in damage every minute you spend getting to and eventually from the party.
Ask yourself, before you cross that river and get an overground then a bus then a walk through Enfield; ask yourself, is this 55 to 75 minutes worth of partying really worth the trip? Or do you want to just text them and say you’re “oh mate, hell week at work. just really don’t think i’m gonna be able to make it. but have a rager, yeah! sink one for me!”?)
So in this instance: yes, Enfield is very much part of London. But part of London in a way that, realistically, it isn’t.
Alright, how much are they asking? I can’t imagine anyone stands up to read these columns – I mean we’re already 500 words down and haven’t, truly, started yet; how long can you expect to hold this pose? Come on, you are but mortal – I do want to make sure you are sitting down for this one on the absolute off-chance that you are not. Right, yeah? They’re asking £960 PCM.
London London London London London. London! The bright lights, the big city. The West End! The dazzle, the stars, the burbling of people. The fashion, the art, the tingle of excitement. This is why you came to London, wasn’t it? Not just because it’s the cultural hub of this entire country – this is where the bands play, where the films are made, where the celebrities live, where Pete Doherty set up that market stall in Camden – but because this is where things happen.
All those warehouse parties in Hackney Wick, where boys with dirty fingernails and little rolled-up hats talk to you about dance music in a way that seems somehow both celebratory and deeply, sinisterly aggressive! The illumination of Oxford Street in the winter, with that big McDonald’s and a series of people who have just bought a roller-suitcase for some reason and are now frantically dragging the empty thing down the pavement with the same intent as a Roman army marching on a sacked city! That world-famous museum in west that you only went to because your mum came down for the weekend and she was paying the frankly delirious expensive entrance fee!
You wanted to be someone and this is where you came to be them. You wanted to meet capital-P people and this is where those People are. London, London, London! You’ve been here two years now and the only significant friendship you seem to have is with the guy in a corner shop who sometimes lets you off 40p if you’re short on change.
Anyway: if you have £960 spare, every month, you can live here in London, in this:
We should talk about Photo #1, which is the most significant: This is a room with a wardrobe in it and an empty space where the bed should go, and a door.
This set-up offers a number of significant logistical obstacles that are not currently highlighted because there is no bed in play, but basically: There is no way you can put a double bed in here, at all, and there is no way you can put a single bed in here that doesn’t infringe on either opening the bottom drawers of the wardrobe or opening the bathroom door (which swings outwards).
So if you have a bed – and by the way, this flat doesn’t come with a bed, so you need to provide your own bed? – it is either going to get in the way of the wardrobe or the bathroom, there is no way around this. This is why they haven’t put a bed in there: in the vague hope that you, a potential tenant looking at the advert, won’t notice this.
It’s an incredibly uncomplicated chicken–corn–fox arrangement. If you put a bed in there against the far right wall, you can open the bathroom door but you can’t open the bottom drawers of the wardrobe (depending on the height of the bed, you might have difficult fully opening the doors of the wardrobe, too). If you put the bed against the left-hand side, you can’t get in the bathroom at all. The room is too narrow for you to put the bed flush against the back wall, and the only other remaining side of the room is the thoroughfare to your kitchen, so those two options are out, too.
I suppose, feasibly, if your bed is exceptionally narrow – and you already have to concede that this flat can only really accommodate a single bed, anyway, so let’s assume you’ve bought a special narrow bed, a thing that does exist – then you can just about have the bed against the right wall, the wardrobe in the small nook behind the bathroom door, and sort of work it like that. But if you need to get into the bathroom, you can’t open the door fully, because it will wedge against the bed.
Essentially: There is no way this room can have all three functions of “has a bed in it”, “has a bathroom door that opens”, and “full access to a wardrobe”. You have to pick the one that means least to you.
We haven’t got to the kitchen yet, so let’s get to the kitchen. For some reason, this studio flat is a living chicane, so you have to shimmy past the front door and into the kitchen area, which is tiny (nominally fine) and is equipped with… hold on, a sink and a fridge and some of the ugliest cupboards I’ve ever seen, and for some reason a floor-to-ceiling window.
So let me get this straight: As well as having to provide your own bed, which this flat doesn’t have any actual room for, you have to provide your own hot plate as well? You have to buy two of the most essential furnishings for a flat to live in this already shit flat, and it’s not even just a market price flat, it’s an actively expensive flat? Hold on, let me read the listing:
DSS FRIENDLY - Small Self-Contained Ground floor Studio Flat Available in Enfield N18
The flat comes furnished and has a private bathroom and kitchen.
The Studio is situated in a quiet property within a quiet in neighbourhood […]
We are accepting single applicants who are currently on Universal credit, or looking to switch over.
Someone told me at an event once (yeah… he’s a writer) that the reason a lot of these shitholes are the price they are is because it tracks with the top end of what councils pay to cover people on Universal Credit in terms of housing credit. If the council pays a maximum of £960 in a certain area, for instance, you’ll notice a lot of places that cost exactly £960 for that reason.
On the one hand, part of me wants to be like, hell yeah, rinse the system for everything it’s worth! But then another part of me recognises that this flat just acts as an aqueduct that funnels money indirectly from the taxpayer to private landlords, and that that is a fundamentally bad transaction even before you get into the bare minimalism of a place like this.
What I’m saying is this shithole in Enfield that costs £960 a month is arguably the most cynical property we’ve ever seen on this column, because it has been created entirely – out of, what, an old hallway? What even fucking was this space before it was this? – for the purpose of renting out to someone desperate enough to need shelter and in the position where they have to take this.
Landlords like to crow about how their hoarding of property – or their segmenting of large properties into dingier, smaller, single-storage spaces – is a “valuable service” that they provide to the fringes of the country, but I don’t see any particular value in this. It’s a room you can’t get a bed in and opening any of the two doors is a nightmare. You cannot heat food in this place unless you provide the heating equipment yourself. It is very literally insane that this is not against any kind of law we have going.
Still: London! Smell the air; feel the tingle of anticipation. This is a place where stars are born and magic is noticed. People get plucked from obscurity just for singing on buses or crooning idly to themselves on the Tube, here, in London! That’s why you came down here, didn’t you: that gorgeous velvety singing voice of yours.
But then you haven’t had much time to sing lately because your hours at the cinema have been so late and then so early. And then on the one morning off you get a week you don’t really want to do a load of scales and warm-ups, you just want to watch Homes Under The Hammer and eat a load of yoghurt. And you haven’t really been texting your friends back lately – you don’t want to message them at the end of your shift in case the buzz of their phone wakes them up, and then you forget in the morning, because it’s such a rush to sleep four hours and get out – and you’ve really been meaning to see more of them, haven’t you.
But then— hold on. When did you last sing out loud? You used to love singing. Your mum – back home, god, you need to call her too, but fucking when, I’ve only got 20 minutes for lunch and I have to go and buy a lightbulb – your mum used to go spare at you for always singing around the house, when you were washing up or hoovering or supposed to be doing homework. “Lol london yh?” that Facebook message from someone you went to school with said, the one you forgot to reply to because you were meant to be on shift. “alsways knew ud make it. hows that singing going?”
Yeah, no, yeah. It’s not going. Bit by bit this city has beaten all of the magic out of you. How are you meant to ever get spotted in a Vue cinema polo and cap while travelling home on the night bus at 3AM? You move your bed across the floor and back because you need to open the bathroom door. You plug in the hotplate you bought from Argos and had to work two extra shifts to get. London, London, London. The city where everything can happen! But nothing, nothing, nothing ever does.