What is it? A deviation from the normal accepted format of this column, in that: this is a property purchase, not a rental.
Where is it? We love a rent, don’t we, renters. Love to rent things. Love to pay for the temporary loan of a fundamentally vital asset and love to be financially punished for any minor scrapes that occur to it. It’s weird, isn’t it – because we all love the process of renting so much – that we don’t rent anything else. Renting is such a rare transaction, and otherwise only used for things you need on a temporary basis. Is that weird? Feels weird. We rent cars in other countries when we want to drive away from the airport (why would you buy a car in another country! Exactly). We rent suits for proms or weddings when we know we will not need the suit again ever for the same event (I once watched Wheatus play Teenage Dirtbag followed by A Little Respect followed by Teenage Dirtbag again at my Summer Ball in Burton’s finest rented tux). And then the only other thing we rent, which we need for literally all 365 days of the year, is the roof over our head. This feels absurdly backwards—! Why are we not talking about this, all of the time—!
What is there to do locally? Anyway, this one is a property purchase, in Islington, not a rental, which is depressing for renters in its own little way, because: we live in a country that fetishises home ownership. We cruelly crush the renter for having the temerity for needing a place to live. We crunch the entire economy together so it is completely wobbling on top of the idea of people buying property, but also most people simply do not earn enough to buy property, because the margins of what is acceptable to pay people and what is acceptable to charge for a house are psychotically out of sync. We build a system where, broadly, you basically have to be one half of a domestic couple before you can think about moving into a solid place of your own. And then you spend your twenties looking at these various cards stacked against you and think: well, fuck saving then, I’m just going to spend every last free pound on Nando’s lunches and beer. And then your thirties happen, and I’m sorry about that. And then you might start to straighten up and act right and start saving, a little. So you forgo a holiday this year. You make your own lunches. You take on odd side jobs for a little extra cash. Everything is funnelling in towards this goal: The Deposit. You scrape up every spare piece of money you can make towards The Deposit. You beg your family, you turn down nights out with your friends. It’s been three years now, four years. You’ve somehow found a bank that will give you a mortgage based on your income (once you climb the mountain, by the way, banks can just look at your income and decide that, even though you have paid rent impeccably and in full for the past ten years, you are not earning enough to afford a mortgage, which has a lower monthly repayment, and so turn you down for the duration of a mortgage you are promising to literally work the next 30 years of your life for) and you have balled up The Deposit and you’ve done what they told you to do, you’ve pooled together the money needed to prop up this ailing economy and you’ve promised to join the mortgage-paying home-owning Tory-voting masses, you’ve promised to become one of them, and then you look at your budget and what you can afford, and you realise that, after all that, you can only afford this place, where you have to army-crawl through a special flat corridor to get into your bed every night.
Alright, how much are they asking? £360,000, plus your soul and your happiness in its entirety
Should probably talk about the crawlspace. “Crawlspace” is very rarely a positive word. It’s always “Body Found In Crawlspace, Remains Suspected Human”, and never “Fun Time Had In Crawlspace, Someone Bought Beers And A Disposable BBQ”. The crawlspace is an unthought of, liminal, transitional zone of a house – a funnel for drafts, a locus point for dust, an unthought of shelf of spare space that couldn’t really enhance any other room, and also electricians need it for access to a meter, so basically you just use it to heave all your luggage onto when you’re not using it (the luggage is filled with all your old clothes that you got too big for but refuse to throw out, for some reason), and that is it. The crawlspace is not an appreciated space. We do not and will never have a soft spot for the crawl space. It is always where families in horror movies keep their malformed twin. Anyway:
So here’s a flat, and not a particularly big flat either (42.1 sqm, for the heads). A small flat is a small flat, and that is fine. If one person is living in a flat, then a small flat is an OK thing to be. A well-designed small flat can really be something (if you’ve ever been in a hotel room and marvelled at some ingenuity there, you will know this – an ironing board in a wardrobe? W-what!). This is a well-kept small flat – the guitar mounted on the wall! Tasteful prints, a chic and minuscule desk! – but it is not well-designed, because the mezzanine level seems to have been put there by a psychopath as a dark but not particularly funny joke [*1]. You will notice that there is an entire section of mezzanine – a space, if you will – that you can only use to crawl across to get into bed from. That’s it.
Let’s consider the main room of this flat: that’s the combined kitchen–living room area, which seems fine and quite tasteful until you look closer at it. So the living room is… a futon staring directly at a bizarrely low wall-mounted TV. So the kitchen is… directly under the mezzanine level, so you have to stoop to cook if you are in any way taller than the fridge. You can see the drawback of cramming two essential rooms into one essential space by looking at the washing machine, which is somehow combined with the breakfast nook/dinner table, in that you need to move at least one but possibly two stools, maybe even the sofa as well every time you want to load the washing machine, and even then you have to crawl around under the wall-mounted table to put things in there, and frankly I hope the universe helps you when you drop a sock.
I am a man who makes a lot of uncomfortable, haunting noises when I need to bend over abruptly to do things – nyahh! Ouff! And, worst, a sudden strangled uh–oh. – and I would not be able to use this washing machine while anyone else was in the house. I would not want people to see me like this.
The more you look at this flat, the more the fundamental use of space – building a mezzanine level over it like an arch – makes less sense. I understand the need to segment a small space into two layers to accommodate a bedroom: sure. But I do not understand why that bedroom needs two access points – a spiral staircase inside the walk-in wardrobe (??) and a second, more robust staircase that leads to a low mezzanine floor you need to crawl across to then hop down into your bedroom to, from.
Like: both of these access points make no sense. But having both makes even less sense. If you have the spiral staircase in your walk-in wardrobe already (!!), then why do you need the entire rest of the mezzanine floor – which, though it has a TV and a single mirror in it, is fundamentally unusable space, because if you were to lie up there (there is not enough ceiling room to sit upright) then you would just be leaning sideways on your own arms, on raw carpet, staring at a TV centimetres away from your face, at which point you may as well shuffle backwards and down a small jump and get into bed.
Do you see what I mean yet? The spiral staircase in the walk-in wardrobe (!?) is the bedroom access. The mezzanine floor that makes the height of the kitchen almost unworkable and takes, with the staircase, a huge usable portion of the downstairs floorspace up is entirely pointless. For some reason, this flat – already very small! – has been made functionally smaller by the baffling addition of a mezzanine. And you are meant to save up for five years and hope one of your parents dies so you can inherit money enough to buy that. And here’s the worst bit, here’s the worst thing: someone richer than you will still end up doing exactly that. Good luck to the London property market, frankly! It’s going to fucking need it!
[*1] If you went to school with any high functioning goths, you will know what a “dark but not particularly funny joke” is. A dead fox they found and carried into school in a Londis bag to crucifix in the science lab for some reason, that sort of thing. Doing a tombstone pile-driver on a Year 7 so badly he has to get wheeled into an ambulance in traction while the whole playground stares on in stunned shock. Trying to fill a Rolo yoghurt cup with blood.
Where are they now? Where’s your school’s most vibrant and electric goth? The answer may surprise you: they are an office manager with two very wonky children, and they have a really quite lucrative sideline selling old wrestling figurines on Facebook Marketplace. “Are they happier than me, Joel? Is the goth from school who wore a tank top to prom happier than I am?” Yes, yes they are. In every possible way.