What is it? What is that sound? It’s a high, huge, creaking sound, almost – like a robot the size of the planet rubbing its metallic fingers together, or the wind whining in the low lulling way it does before a disaster hits. Or it’s – what is it? Four or five great ancient gears, buried deep underground and forged by a people more ancient than history itself, slowly slotting into one another and revolving? It’s a rumbling beneath the concrete of your feet that you can feel but not hear? What is that sound, what is that sound. It’s like a huge tree fell over and all your nerves are on fire. It’s like you’re stood on the very top of the Empire State Building – balanced on one toe, at the very tip of the spike – and all around you is somehow silence and noise. What is that sound, though? Ah, oh: it’s the sound of the cost of living crisis finally hitting London’s horny landlords. It’s the sound of some guy’s sofa.
Where is it? Ealing Broadway. Have you ever met someone who lives in Ealing Broadway? You’re at a pub, maybe, for a friends’ birthday. Bigger group than anticipated so you’re all stood around the table rather than sat at it. The one person you actually know here has gone to the bar (Saturday night, taking ages) so you’re trapped in small talk with strangers. Who is this – someone-you-don’t-know’s boyfriend, look. He tried asking you “how your fantasy football is going this year” but you don’t play it so you’ve had to move really quickly on. What could you, what is there… ah, this always gets them going. “Have you come far?” you say. “Where do you guys live?” And then he sighs, looks around, lowers his head on his neck and leans towards you, like he is announcing a sad and terminal diagnosis. He has just affected the air of a doctor telling you that your arm has to come off. And he goes: “Ealing Broadway.” Fucking hell. How long’s he going to be with that fucking Neck Oil–
What is there to do locally? Well the guy’s still here, so you can ask him. “And is there much to… what is. Ah. Is there anything good in— is there anything good to do in Ealing Broadway?” He looks up at the ceiling and stands briefly on his tiptoes. He comes back down to you. Look at him. You can tell from his nervous energy, somehow, that he is a reformed smoker: right now is that perfect time in the night, 8PM heading towards 9PM, where a scramble through the crowd and out into the street for a smoke would be perfect right now. Could hear yourself think, for one. Take a few hits of fresh crisp outdoor evening air before sucking down a lungful of tar. Always prettier people outside, somehow, and that’s part of the allure of smoking, too: the gazing, the wondering. You can see one hand shake into his pocket looking for something, but – no.
Why do you think he quit? You’d put him at about 32. It’s always one of three reasons, at 32: late-starting late-twenties health kick, dad develops a wheezing lung disease that ruins the vibe of the next three Christmases or a new girlfriend says he needs to get his “sperm health up” if they are “serious about trying”. This guy has ‘Under Armour®-brand cycling leggings’ written all over him. He quit smoking to cut a few seconds off his charity triathlon time.
It’s been four, maybe five hundred years since you asked the question. He went out to the edge of the universe and back. “Oh, Ealing? Fucking nothing mate. Yeah. Fuck all.”
Alright, how much are they asking? £850 PCM, but crucially that is without bills. Keep that in mind, the bills thing. We’ll come back to it on bills.
Since time immemorial, since the Romans marched into this boggy bit of Thames and announced in ‘Londinium’, this city has been beset with horny landlords. You know what a horny landlord is. You know what I mean. But just in case, I will be explicit anyway: horny landlords are landlords who are horny, and have a spare room, and to appease the horniness that roils inside them they will offer that room out — ““““FEMALES ONLY’’’’’’’’ — for free or greatly reduced rent, and over the course of the email chain to find out about that they will, for instance, say something just deliriously insane about socks and feet. The problem with horny landlords is, due to the economy, this scam does often work: young women move to this city every day, from satellite towns dotted around the country or from smaller countries in Europe, and they need a place for them and their two suitcases and one bag to stay until they get a job and make one friend, and often a £150 PCM rent and a sleep on the sofa in a room you can never be 100 percent sure doesn’t have hidden cameras in it is the only viable option for a little while. I’m not saying it’s good, I’m saying it’s real. If you’re going to put a gun to my head and make me take a moral standpoint: I do not think we should be allowing horny landlords.
However, the one thing that makes horny landlordism work for horny landlords – the looming and dreadful reality of the economy – is now, finally, working against them. The point of horny landlordism is this: it exploits the financial power imbalance that develops between someone who has been working for 15 years and lives alone and has twos room and a low-interest mortgage, and someone who has just graduated and could barely afford the train fare down to the city. That financial imbalance is as old as time, and it means that a lot of people have, begrudgingly, let their landlord watch them shower once a week in exchange for a reduction of rent. But the point is now the economy is finally affecting the lower-middle rung of the tightly controlled class ladder, and. Well. This guy’s shitty living room now costs £850 a month to live in:
“*Female Only*,” the advert reads. “I have my living room available to rent out in Ealing Broadway… My sofa is 2m*1m size which can be used as a single bed. The room is furnished, all furnitures are new and bedding stuffs can be provided. There are currently two tables in that room but I can always change it if needed. There is a door so it’s a separate room … Due to the size of the room and bed, it’s only for one person to live … I work in Canary Wharf so I will go to office at least 2 days a week, hope to find a clean and tidy roommate.”
So basically: you can sleep on this guy’s sofa for £850 a month, but also he will be there for three days a week, and also your bed is still his sofa, and maybe he will move the tables in there and maybe not, and also you’ll have to be very clean and tidy, when you’re sleeping on his sofa, in exchange for £850 a month. Landlords in this city only offer female-only sofa-sleeping out for horny reasons – if it wasn’t horny, the sofa would be available to rent for anyone, and it would be powered by greed not horniness – so it’s just a case of figuring out in which particular direction this landlord’s horniness bulges. If I were to take a guess I would say… well. There’s a zither on display in the living room/your bedroom, so. It’s medieval reenactment horniness. They’re going to make you drink mead and toss gold coins at your toes while you dance.
A BRIEF NOTE ON HAVING SOMEONE SLEEP ON A SOFA IN YOUR HOUSE, WHICH MY PERSONAL FRIENDS ARE ENCOURAGED NOT TO READ
Having someone sleep on a sofa in your house kind of sucks. It’s fine, but it sucks. You know, it happens. People stay out too late, they come down to London for one night, whatever. We have a big sofa. It’s fine to sleep on it for one night. But that room with the sleeper in it is no longer your own. It is smeared with their blanket and a pillow. A close friend of yours is sat in their underpants, drinking a coffee you bought them. TV on a low volume. “Should we get breakfast…?” no mate. New day. I’m done with you. Other things to do. This isn’t a pleasant experience, exactly. It’s not the end of the world when it happens – I am glad to be in a position in my life when I can offer a sofa to people! I hope that the sofa offer extends two ways, and that one day I might sleep on theirs! – but let’s not pussyfoot around this. Having someone sleep on your sofa is fairly discomfortable for everyone involved. Why would you want someone to do that, a complete stranger, and every night of the month, in exchange for £850? What kind of toe guy do you have to be to be into this?
The thing is, £850 a month to sleep on a sofa isn’t even close to a good deal – you can, despite the rent crisis, still find rooms in houses at that price-point in this city, and one where you don’t wake up to a zither-freak smelling all your shoes – which means that the cost-of-living crisis might finally stamp horny landlordism out of this city once and for all. A note from the advert: “The price is only for rent, bills are not included as the increasing inflation rate, council tax band is D.”
A weird quirk of shithole landlordism and the energy crisis has meant that some unexpected winners have emerged from all this: people who signed up to a ‘bills included’ contract before the huge energy cap change, and who are living in a single tiny room, sure, but whose landlords are all completely stuck with the energy costs that come with it. I think I am only describing about 5,000 people in the entire United Kingdom, here, but I do want to say to them: may the universe continue to bless you, and don’t forget to leave your heating on 24 hours a day, and where possible leave the shower going while you go to work.
For the rest of us, a grim vision of the current housing market: £850 a month to sleep on what is undoubtedly a horny person’s sofa, in a room that isn’t in any way your own, with two tables and a zither, and also you have to pay bills on top. Horny landlordism might be a niche form of it, but it still depends on someone being desperate enough to live on a sofa in a sex guy’s house for £850 a month.
Right now, that’s not viable for anyone on earth. But how long until it is? Six months? Maybe eight, at a push? This sofa will not go unslept on for long. If you’re going to put a gun to my head and make me take a moral standpoint: I do not think this is a good thing.