What is it? Say you had no religion, no spiritual scaffold to guide your life; say this is you, an agnostic. And say you want to find meaning in the world around you – interpret the runes and the signs, and find a higher purpose because of it – and say you chose the London property market as your guiding god. Say all those things just happened, to you—
Where is it? I think if you were to draw an overarching philosophy on the meaning of life taken solely from the properties London offers us up to live in – “live”, in this case, being a bizarrely loaded term – then you could only take the conclusion that life is futile, broadly, and that we exist solely to do four things – eat and sleep and toilet and work – and everything else between those hours – birth, death, the magic of love, the glamour of joy – are all deemed irrelevant, frippery almost, because actually what you are here to do – like a single grey cell in a planet-sized battery – is consume, emit and rest enough to work, and when you have done the hours of labour allotted to your existence (roughly 40 years), you are allowed finally to die, and five to 15 people will ever remember that you lived—
What is there to do locally? That is what the four walls afforded to us by the London rental market tell us. So I suppose within that we have to assume two things: one, that the London rental market is not a religion worth following, nor is it a great machinery designed by a creator with enjoyment and need-meeting in mind – that these are cells, created by a jailer, to keep us dry and warm enough to go to work again the next day – and that, in that void, we should find and create our own glory. The London rental market does not want us to exist outside of the four base functions (Cook, Work, Excrete, Sleep; Cook, Work, Excrete, Sleep), and the London rental market does not care who we are, or what our names are, or what team we support, or where we come from, what books we read, what smells we love, what our mothers mean to us, how much joy we feel when cycling so fast it feels like flying. To the London rental market, we are all just a number in a spreadsheet, and if we do not create that number every month then we are rendered worthless to it. It does not care if we live or if we die.
What is that number, O Lord? £900 pcm.
DISCLAIMER: I think I should always disclose when I am writing these (beloved) columns in the midst of my own personal housing search, because there is some thin high smell of exasperation in them when I am. Not only am I looking for places that fit the criteria of this column, but I am also looking for places myself to rent, and what that means is a lettings company is currently searching line-by-line through my bank statements to ensure that I actually earned enough money in the pandemic to rent their property, even though they haven’t themselves dropped the actual cost of the rent even one solitary pound since the start of the pandemic, the pandemic of course gouging out most people’s ability to earn (as well as travel, hug people, see their nan) but has not, as best I know, eradicated anybody’s need for shelter, so frankly what the living fuck.
Anyway, here’s a place, look. I know I had ample opportunity to say all this at the top, but: it’s £900 per month, it’s a single room that is more of a landscaped corridor than an actual space designed for people to live in, and for that money you are paying to live in Redbridge, just outside of the A406, a grey ring that is generally deemed to denote the outer boundaries of London.
For just shy of a grand a month, you get to live in a corridor in commuting distance of the city. Good.
But also what we must observe from the photos is that this room (corridor) has been finished to what I like to call “landlord lifelessness”, a solid grey-and-white sheen – vulgar hard brown laminated floors, a looming silver freezer, glassy marble effect in the shower, grey and white and shit – which pervades this city, and is one of the poisons killing it, because: i. nobody with true taste would ever decorate their house like this, ii. nobody with true taste is afforded the opportunity to decorate a, house because we all have to live in these soulless little rentals, iii. these skimmed-flat, lifeless little places are finished at great cost, and iv. then by extension the landlord who inflicted this grey and chrome nightmare on the property assumes that it then adds value to it, raising the rent in line with this perception and, long story short, charging us all more to live within the confines of disgusting interior decorating choices.
I know interior design is not important to some people – it’s not a wildly huge part of my life – but when renters are consistently forbidden from making our rooms feel like home, then it does feel like a double insult to be forced to live in something so… so dickless. Give me a wooden door that has been painted seven times then stripped of all colour! Give me a single pane window in the bathroom that makes it absolutely freezing! Give me a glossed-over fireplace I can’t actually light! Give me something!
It’s hard to even know what to say about this place. You enter through the front door and you are immediately confronted by your own bed: this revolts me. You’re in a kitchen that has been newly finished to a high horrid standard, but you only have two hobs and your microwave is on top of your freezer. There is no washing machine because you do not have the space for it, so now the property has actively made your life harder by complicating an essential chore.
Remember this when you are lugging your laundry (no wardrobe) down the Redbridge high street, trying desperately to find a laundrette, the wind whipping at you, the sky dark for hours, a fizzle of rain spits hard into your eyes: you are paying £900 a month to not be able to do this in the corridor you sleep in. I think there are better ways of living than the ones afforded to you by this property. Let the high and guiding light forgive you: you deserve more.