Rental Opportunity of the Week: This Flat For Rent Will Induce An Existential Breakdown

Let's say you wake up here one morning. How long would it take till you cracked and went mad?
Sofa in North Harrow studio flat to rent
Photo: Gumtree
What is living in London like? Hell. Here’s proof, beyond all doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.

What is it? You can feel your eyelids stir at the front of your face. Front. Your face has layers to it, and now – that just-about-perceptible moment between sleep and wakefulness – you can feel every one of them. First, skin: pushing warm and soft against the pillow, a thin scrim to keep everything in. Then the soft fat of your cheeks, your lips. Beneath them, a pulsing and taut structure of muscles, tired from a long day of making you smile and frown. Beneath that: skull, hard dark skull, a dreadful cage in which it is trapped: You, that little seed of You, a tiny little speck buried deep in the darkness, one that has been dormant for— what, eight hours, nine hours? But it could have been years. It could have been millennia. It could have been eternity. Your eyelids twitch twice, then open. You are in a room


Where is it? The pillow does not have a familiar pillow smell, so even though all your senses are still clanging like a bell – it’s bright in here, isn’t it? And you haven’t quite adjusted to the concept of sound – you know you are in a new room. This is not the first time you have woken up in a new room. This is… let’s be honest, this is not even close to the first time you have woken up in a new room.

Tentatively, as you feel your shoulders whirr back to life, then your elbows, then your arms, you blindly reach out a single hand, burrowing under the covers: nothing. Hmm. Normally when you wake up like this you are used to at least one other body there. Some warm skin to touch. A slick condom leaking on the mattress between you. The taste of smoking and saliva and the memory of kissing so passionately on the bus that your teeth clicked and you laughed and you laughed and you realised this was your stop even though the doors were closing and ding ding ding driver! Driver! Let us off please!, more laughing, and then you got back and then the room was dark and everything was urgent and the clothes were being pulled off at every angle — you somehow stepped through the neck of a t-shirt, once, you were so intent on getting it off your body so you could get on your knees — and then, yes, the rest. But nobody is here.


You try and attune your ears to the scene. Maybe they… already got… up? Maybe they are showering, or making you… coffee? No, that does not seem to be the case.

Where is it? We are still figuring that out. Fine, you can fully open your eyes now. You can sit up. The blinds are not drawn and the full beam of the sun is hitting you hard from a south-easterly direction. It is bright in here. Ah, yes: just as you thought. This is not your room. OK, not a problem, not a problem. Just look at – ah. You did not plug your phone in last night. It flashes the dead battery sign at you. Alright. OK. Hmm.

Sofa and bed in North Harrow studio flat to rent

Where is it? First you should take in your surroundings. You are in a bed directly under the slope of two windows. The bed is somewhere between a single bed and a double bed size, you notice, and you distantly think: that must be quite hard to buy sheets for. Though not duvets, obviously. You have always thought the optimum way to buy a duvet is at least one size, possibly two sizes, larger than the mattress it sits on. That way the duvet drapes luxuriously to the floor on all sides: you can twirl and contort yourself under the duvet, grab great handfuls of it and shove it over yourself in the night, and never accidentally stick your feet out from under it into the white-blue shock of cold. You have always thought that, about duvets. That is your duvet theory. You have never told anybody it, ever. Where are you, though?

Wardrobe and random chests of drawers in North Harrow studio flat to rent

Where is it? You sit tentatively up in the bed because the roof slopes so low you might clunk your head on it if you’re not careful. To your right: a very small, child’s chair, in front of a small chest of drawers. ‘That’s creepy,’ you think. Why would a chair be that small? For anyone over the age of about four, that chair is entirely useless. And yet it is in the room, with you, and these three windows, and the sun, and you have to move it out of the way to get any access to the chest of drawers. The chair is so utterly pointless that it is actively incapacitating another piece of furniture just by being here. Mentally you interrogate this chair, the idea of the chair. This is among one of the top five worst thoughts you’ve ever had upon waking.

Sofa in North Harrow studio flat to rent

Where. Is. It. You put your bare feet onto the cold tile floor and ease yourself out of bed. Next to the chest of drawers: a wardrobe. Next to the wardrobe. A thin set of shelves. Next to the thin set of shelves: a sofa, cream-white and seemingly transported here from an alternate-futuro version of the 1970s, where they never dropped atom bombs and figured out clean energy decades before CFCs were a problem. You thought you were in a bedroom but the sofa has thrown you for a loop. There’s a coffee table in front of it. What fucking – there’s a fridge behind the sofa. What fucking room are you in? What fucking room are you in?


Where is it? Right now you really look at it. There’s two breakfast stools of different heights (is this for the person who uses the tiny chair? Are they in here, somewhere, scuttling around? Are they really high up or really low down?) and a shelf with a microwave on it.

Tiny kitchen in North Harrow studio flat to rent

You realise with a shock of horror that the shelf is actually a work surface and has a sink built into it. That can’t be a kitchen though, can it? Because it’s just a long shelf with a sink in it and a microwave on it and – in the corner, sort of between and behind the sofa, so if you were to actually use it you would have to bend down both over and around the sofa to get in it to get, say, a single pint of milk out of it, like it would be a very ugly contortion your body would have to get into indeed – down there on the floor is a fridge. But that’s not a kitchen though, is it? 

Where is it? Suddenly you realise that there is no taste in your mouth at all. Not saliva, not the warm sour taste of sleep, not anything. 

Where is it? You pick the fridge end of the sofa up and with a very inelegant movement half-heave it round on a diagonal angle so you can get in the fridge. Maybe you can open the fridge up and find clues. Maybe some… medicine? With someone’s… name on it? You don’t know. You’re moving on impulse here, really. You still have to make quite an ungainly reach to get at the fridge


Where is it? (You are wearing underpants, by the way, but not much else.)

Where is it? There’s nothing in the fridge. Fuck!

Shower and shelf in North Harrow studio flat to rent

Where is it? May as well check out the bathroom the – yep. The thinnest possible shower cubicle you’ve ever seen. And, ah… you don’t really know how to explain this, but a special small thin toilet cistern that has apparently been installed to accommodate a wooden set of shelves in the toilet that are somehow the largest piece of furniture in the bathroom.

If you were designing a bathroom in – what you’re assuming is! – an existential prison, the shelving would be like, third or fourth on the list of necessary bathroom items to make space for. I mean realistically, a bathroom can live without any shelves in it. But it’s hard to flush a turd away with half a toilet’s worth of water.

Where is it? Ah. Yeah. OK. You’ve just realised the sink is somehow the same shape at the breakfast stools.

Weird stool sink in North Harrow studio flat to rent

Where is it? [The intrusive voice that only yells at you during extremely intense emergency situations and is never ever helpful at all but always reminds you that You are not really in control of You, you are a hundred thousand little sub-routines all running on top of one another, some primal and left over from the lizard era – your fear of mirrors! How often you catch mugs when they fall out of a cupboard you put them clumsily back into! – and some learned from the modern era – the way you hold your phone with your little finger supporting it even though you saw that viral tweet by a chiropractor telling you to stop!


And you added a PopSocket to your Amazon basket but then had that little freakout you always have about Amazon (“Am I supposed to shop at Amazon or… ? Because I know it’s bad but I don’t know how it’s bad…? It feels like one of those ones that people say is bad but still use anyway don’t they because. I mean everyone uses Amazon, don’t they? Or do they. Is everyone secretly not using Amazon without me? It sort of sucks that the moral prerogative to shop or not shop at Amazon is forced onto the consumer, isn’t it. Like why does Amazon as an entity never need to feel this guilt. Maybe I could get one from— but they’re like two pounds more on the actual website. Could use eBay but last time you used eBay to get around your Amazon guilt, an eBay reseller just sent you it from Amazon anyway. You paid more to have someone else shop at Amazon for you. Right, you know what, just— leave the tab open and deal with this another time.”)! – you are just spinning little tops balanced precariously on top of one another, and consciousness and free will are all a ruse, and whatever you think you’re going to do you’re going to end up doing anyway, because You. Are. Not. In. Con. Trol.]

You’re in hell, aren’t you?

I’m not in hell. Aren’t you?


No. It’s too… plain to be hell. Why would they put tiles on the floor in hell? Ugly.

It’s not hell. Limbo, then.

Could be limbo Look out the window.

It’s not limbo. It’s Harrow. Looks like North Harrow to me.

Alright, fine. I’m not in hell. I’m in North Harrow. Why are there shelves in the bathroom?

I don’t know. Why does the bathroom sink look like a stool?

I don’t know. Why is there a fridge behind the sofa?

I don’t. Know. Your phone’s just bleeped on.

Ooh. Phone. Yeah, you little rat. You little caged rat. You used to sneer at rats, didn’t you, when you read about the lab experiments with them, what depraved things they would do for a crumb of cheese, what complicated rhythms and paths through mazes they would learn in exchange for a tiny little dose of dopamine –

No signal Oh what so we can’t check Instagram?

Phone’s ringing Don’t answer it.

I don’t want to answer it Let it ring off.

Yeah but we are stuck in – like we are stuck in an unfamiliar room. In Harrow. I know but I don’t like answering phones.

Yeah I don’t like answering phones either just – Maybe we should answer the phone.

That’s what I’m saying! How do you answer a phone?

I don’t know! It’s how long it’s – Oh you’ve done it by accident, now.


Hello? Hello?

Hello? Yeah hello?

Hello. Yep. Hello.

Who am I speaking to? You called me.

Yeah. See, this is why we don’t answer the phone

Yeah um. Actually I was wondering if you could help me. I’m stuck in a room.

Yes, the room. Ah, OK. And I’m not… I’m not actually in hell, or anything, no?

No. OK.

Did you think you were in hell? Ahh? It’s – a little bit, yeah. I’ve just woken up –

It’s one o’clock. I don’t know how that’s your business. Who are you, again?

Landlord. Landlord”, right. And I am to assume you are the landlord for… this room?

Yes, your room. £1,100 a month and £1,000 a month deposit. That’s mental. That’s absolutely mental.

You’re not meant to say ‘mental’, anymore. What are you meant to say instead?

Find another way of describing surprising situations. Sure. I… don’t want the room.

The room? No, no. You signed a contract. I genuinely mistook the room for hell, a minute ago. I had a strangely involved argument with my subconscious. I thought I had died and gone to Hell because someone put a fridge behind my sofa. I do not think this room is healthy for me.

Well, you signed a contract. Well how long until I can get out of the contract?


… Three months? You just made that up, didn’t you.

No. Three months? Right. So it’s going to take me three months, and costs me £3,300, to not live in this room anymore.

£1,000 early contract break clause. You just made that up, as well, didn’t you?

No. Maybe this is hell. There is no way hell can be worse than this.

OK well. Rent’s due today. Yeah fucking. Fuck! Yes! Fine! Cunt!

You’re not meant to say ‘cunt’ anymore. It’s a gendered insult. Fuck, off! You fucking… landlord!

Ask him why that chair’s so small— He’s gone. 

That didn’t go well. Didn’t go great, did it.

No. No.