What is it? Been staring at a blank page on my computer here, trying to confront this question for something approaching 85 minutes now, and I think after all that time the answer might be "the one that pushes me over the edge". Look outside the window. The world is on fire and Boris Johnson is Prime Minister. I know these are trite observations, but: the earth is dying beneath us, we are possibly the last generation of humans not to have our lifespans clipped by climate annihilation, every time a bar unthinkingly hands me a plastic straw with my drink I am gripped with a clench of Catholic dread, the feeling that, when this is all over (soon), I will be condemned to hell to count every strand of plastic I used and threw away, apologise to every baby turtle I killed with my ways, forced to kiss every cow I ate square between their large calm eyes and say Sorry For Everything. We haven't had a war in years, and we are due a war. The jungles are burning out of the ground. The rich get richer every second. Billionaires still exist. The streets are still not red with billionaire blood. Everything is bad and tipping downwards. And there, every week, like clockwork: I have to look at a London shit-hole and assess it for how much of a shit-hole it is in the wider context of London shit-holes. This week’s London shit-hole is: not that bad in the wider scheme of things; still, though, very bad. Sorry, I've had a heavy couple of d—
Where is it? On this dying soil ball / somewhere around NW11, Brent Cross;
What is there to do locally? Brent Cross Flyover. Tesco Superstore. Big branch of Zara. The entire Brent Cross shopping centre. Brent! Cross! T! K! Maxx! The question isn't "what is there to do locally?" The question is: what isn’t there to do?
Alright, how much are they asking? £795 pcm.
Three photographs of this flat exist, only— I feel like I am constantly banging my fists against the wall of this one, but: it really is endlessly baffling to me that estate agents have three facets to their job: i. handling a big keyring; ii. turning up on time to an appointment; iii. taking photos of a flat they are trying to rent out, yet so consistently, constantly, fuck one or all of those functions up.
What I am saying is: if you or I took a photo of one or more flats a day, every day, for work, as our jobs, we would be better at it within one day than every estate agent on earth. Is there something depleted within the estate agent brain that stops them from taking a normal photo of a bathroom, or a more illustrative picture of a kitchen? We can only assume that: yes, there is.
Anyway, each of these photos contains something heartbreaking and/or dark, so we'll go through them in turn, and that will make for enjoyable content, won't it:
1. IN WHICH SOMEONE HAS SOMEHOW REDEFINED THE SHEER DIMENSIONS OF THE WARDROBE
We have seen single beds on this column before; they have become a sadly recurring theme. If you want to rent a single flat in London and spend less than £1,000 per month on it, there's at least a 50 percent chance you're going to sleep in a single bed there. I don’t want to get all "human rights" about this, because I'm sure single beds aren't the worst thing in the world (not as bad as torture, are they! Everyone hates torture!) but every adult should have access to a double bed, and anything less than that is contrary to, like, European law. Single beds are for people who still can’t be trusted not to piss themselves while they sleep and who still think playing Gameboy under the covers with a torch is exceptionally, thrillingly naughty. They are not for people who have Monzo and debt.
Can we fucking talk about that wardrobe, though? That is a rare, mythical, unseen-on-this-column-before item: a single wardrobe. It's tall and slender and looms in the corner. It cannot be easily accessed without walking around between the bed and the table and then, sideways crawling like a crab past the radiator, inelegant throughout. It can – at my best guess – hold about five light jackets and one heavy coat. It is an entirely redundant piece of furniture. I mean, I guess you could stack some T-shirts in the bottom of it, if you got special small plastic stackable boxes? You could maybe get— what, one, two pairs of shoes in there? But otherwise: that is just a large, white, wooden box, a little bit like a coffin, designed to hold fewer than ten pairs of trousers. £795 a month.
1A. IN WHICH ACCESS TO LIGHT IN THE HOUSE IS SEVERELY RESTRICTED
A quick revisit to this photo: if you look carefully in the top left corner, you will notice three things: firstly, it is broad daylight outside, but all the lights are still on inside the flat; secondly, this is the flat's only window, therefore only source of natural light; thirdly, the window faces directly into a wall.
So the lessons we can take away from this are: these photos are representative of the brightest the flat can possibly become. This is an illustration of the maximum amount of sunlight you will be exposed to while living in this flat. And you still need all of the lights on, constantly. Get a big box of Vitamin D tablets in, lads, or your bones are going to go weird and bendy. £795 a month.
2. AN ANCIENT RIDDLE GIVEN TO YOU BY A TROLL GUARDING A BRIDGE: IF IT HAS NO OVEN, CAN IT A KITCHEN BE?
Kitchen's got no oven, does it. Now, normally these places do at least pretend to have some sort of hob-like device – there's a special landlord-only machine you can get which is two hobs embedded in the top of a microwave – but that is not what we have here. We have a microwave on a shelf next to some laundry detergent. That is your kitchen. That is your cooking device.
We've all been 22-year-old men, haven't we? We’ve all spent an entire year of our lives eating kebabs, cereal and microwave meals. We've all gone to the doctor and asked him why we're tired all the time and keep crying. "Is it depression, doctor?" we ask, ashen and grey. "Has the mental health epidemic that is sweeping this country finally got to me?" And the doctor leans forward and says: literally have you ever eaten a carrot. You realise that no, not since Christmas.
Chug a whole thing of Innocent smoothie on the way home and suddenly your legs work again. Think about getting into taking roasted vegetable couscous to work with you, but ultimately decide against it. Just start having peas with things instead. So yes, we have all been 22 and an idiot. But sometimes, now I'm past that, I'd like to be able to cook pasta. Especially if I am paying: £795 a month.
3. IS THERE SOMETHING VERY BLEAK ABOUT THE FACADE OF NEATNESS WITHIN THIS MINUSCULE BATHROOM?
There is, yeah. Used to small bathrooms here on this column – property listings like to describe them as "en-suite", which gets around calling them "slightly too small to use and rely on every day, especially if you intend to keep anything more than one bottle of shampoo in there" – but for some reason what's pranged me out the most about this is the neat way someone's folded over the squares of toilet paper into a little triangle. That'll look nice, won’t it? Neaten it up a bit. Make it look tidy. You're paying through the nose to piss in what is essentially only a couple of steps removed from an iron maiden (the medieval torture device, not the band that balding long-hair lad at work is into), but with tiles instead of spikes,. But still: the toilet paper is folded very neatly for the photos. £795 a month.
4. NOTES FROM THE GUMTREE ADVERT I TOOK ALL THIS FROM
Two notes, one bleaker than the last: this flat doesn't have an EPC (Energy) Rating because it's simply too small to class ("- EPC Rating: EPC Not Required (Less than 50 square metres being rented)" – a cool and good boast, I think we'll all agree) and this single bed, windowless, oven-less, tiny-bathroomed studio flat, in Brent Cross, has its maximum occupancy listed as: two.
Two. People. Two human people. In this space. In Brent Cross. I would argue the maximum occupancy this space can comfortably allow is "slightly less than one", but that's London for you. Remember the top bit, with the burning of the planet and the slow erasure of a class hierarchy that anyone can possibly have any chance to climb? Yeah. Feeling it now mate, aren't you? Yeah. And you thought I was being a prick. £795 a month.