What is it? It's a very narrow flat with an extremely cold-looking garden;
Where is it? Blantyre, just outside Glasgow, home of… listen, I'll be honest: I started searching "things that are from Glasgow" so I could be arch about it, then I saw a related article about Young Fathers and remembered Young Fathers exist – remember Young Fathers? – and then just sat and stared at my screen and listened to "GET UP" a couple of times. Great song. Did you know: Young Fathers aren't even from Glasgow? They formed in Edinburgh. Shall we just answer this bit "Irn-Bru", like I was intending to do all along, and just move on with it? Shall we? Yeah. Irn-Bru.
What is there to do locally? Go art-looking at CCA; loop around on the big tube system for a while; go clubbing at the only clubs still open and good in the UK, as best I can tell; go to Kelvingrove Park, which is idyllic; ask your one mate who has lived in Glasgow for a bit on Facebook about what's good to do in Glasgow, so this bit doesn't look so sparse and ill-informed as usual; DRINK IRN-BRU WITH YA TAPS AFF WHILE DOING HEROIN IN A KILT!
Alright, how much are they asking? £15,000, all in.
Alright, if you're not going to do it I will: turn and face the enormous elephant in the room, an elephant the size of the sun, turn and look at it straight in the eye, as the elephant – the enormous metaphorical elephant can talk – says, "This isn't in London, is it? And it's not a rental opportunity, so are we actually going to stand here and call this a 'London Rental Opportunity of the Week'? Are we? Honestly?" Yes, elephant, we are. Long have we broken out from the confines of London for London Rental Opportunity of the Week. LROTW is more a wet finger stuck into the air to vouch for the wind of the property market as a whole, starting with The Unviable City and circling ever outwards. This is how we find ourselves in Glasgow now, passing smooth hands over rough worktops and going, "Yeah" and "Mm-hmm." Thinking: hmm, yes: I could live here, and die here, and be happy here, if here was my own.
What I am saying is: you could buy this flat, near Glasgow, with a garden, right now, for £15,000.
This is obviously a revelation to a soft-edged London-based pansy boy like me. And so to the flat itself: it's quite narrow and it looks like crimes have definitely been committed on the sofas. The magnolia needs a touch up and the carpets need doing again. The kitchen is spectacularly narrow and it looks like you'd clunk your head a lot every time you used the microwave. There is a single sparse lightbulb extending down the exact centre of the living room, which is the bleakest feature an on-market flat can have beyond a newly slain corpse. A lot of people have cried in that bath. The back door is seemingly crafted for ants. The garden is enormous. These are all the perfect combination of "horrendous bedsit your uncle used to live in when he used to eat Pot Noodles all the time and got scurvy" and "place you could absolutely put up with, for a couple of years, with enough nice lampshades and a decent broadband connection, if you absolutely had to". Half-horrible, half-charming. For £15,000 you'd take worse.
There is a line in famed Scottish-looking VICE writer Francisco Garcia's write up of Finnieston – a clutch of Glasgow streets named the "hippest area" in the UK by The Times earlier this year – that goes: "It's odd how the stuff that makes you jaded in London can fill you with a bit of optimism and earnest good-will in a different setting." He was talking about craft beer, but it may as well go for flats like this, too: if this flat were in London, and going for £1,400-a-month, I'd be howling about How Broken It All Is, how This City Is Unworkable, go all DJ-Khaled-deep-in-a-3AM-Wikipedia-and-paranoia-hole, talking about how "They" Don't Want the Youth to Thrive, how We Will Never Be Able to Afford to Live with This Shit, how What: They Expect You to Singe Your Ass On the Hob While You Microwave the Tiny Amount of Food Your Leftover Wages Allow You? But then shift the goalposts 400-or-so miles north and slap a £15,000 price-tag on it and things look rosier, somehow, in this new context: why don't we all move to Glasgow, buy affordable flats to ourselves, have some space to live in, finally settle a little? What is so bad with trod-in carpets and narrow hallway-cum-dining rooms? Maybe we should all move north of the border and live extremely happy, slender-walled lives.
Can I see myself living in this narrow, massive-gardened flat in Glasgow? I am thinking about it and I absolutely can. I would wake up early every day and, barefoot in the frost, breath steamy on the air, salute the sun as it rises. One spare room I can prop up with a sturdy desk and a lick of slate-grey paint and a clock that ticks and I can work there, studiously, like the academics of old. The people who work in the cafés there would soon come to know me. They would greet me with cheery Scottish hellos. "Och!" they will say. "It's Joel!" They will smile broad Scottish grins. Some of them would refer to me as "The English Prince".
"And what shall we be having today?" And I will say – my accent will have become more English by contrast, like when English actors appear in American TV shows – I will say, Englishly, "The usual, Rod," and Rod will bring me my usual (a small plate of vegetables). He will look down upon my lunch and, every day, say the same thing: "Och, I've nevae seen anything like it. Am scratching my wee heid." And I will solemnly hold up to him an avocado, which he will tenderly touch the hide-like skin of as though it could electrocute him at any moment to death. Like a scientist, rapt at a new discovery in the distant confines of space. Marvelling as if he's seen magic for the first time in his life. And then the spell will break. "Are ye sure I cannae get you a wee bucket of haggis to go wae it, Joel?" he'll say, and I shall say: no.
But then I always think, when I preach a mass emigration from London to somewhere viable instead, I always think: 'But what of the people there, with their ways and their lives, who don't want it ruined with young people – and, worse than that, London Young People, the worst of all the young people? Does the woman in the sandwich shop in Finnieston really want to hear about the virtues of coconut milk in coffee? Does the landlord in a spit-and-sawdust-and-fighting pub really want to be asked to turn the football off to put Question Time on instead? How many unprompted conversations about Lena Dunham can Sue at Londis take before enough is enough? We think about our place in the world, and how we will carve it out and keep it, but we don't think of the water in our wake. I want to move to Glasgow and live in a £15,000 flat, but I also don't want to ruin Glasgow, home of £15,000 flats. So it's tricky, isn't it.
Really painted myself into a corner with this one. If we cannot live in London because it's expensive, and we cannot live in Glasgow because it is cheap, then we—
Well, what are—
What are we meant to do?
More stuff from this increasing desperate and bleak series! Hooray!