What is it? Sort of single-occupancy flat situation, I suppose, but then all of these adverts say "couple will be a preference", which just makes me think of a couple, living here, how on top of each other two people get when crammed into a space barely enough for one, and how quickly their love – once tender and steel-strong and unbreakable – frays and wanes living like that, how quickly the minor irritations explode and bloom into huge arguments, here, in this studio flat in Ilford. How many months of that 12-month tenancy they actually manage; how quickly the sex life fades to nothing: once a week, then once a fortnight, then once a month, lights off and barely looking at each other. The texts don’t flow so quickly at work anymore; the "what do you want for dinner? Where is it? Ilford.
What is there to do locally? Was trying to remember where I knew Ilford from, and it turns out "every time I’ve been out of London and had to take an agonisingly long train journey back, it for some reason always idles outside Ilford train station and I always wonder why there’s a massive warehouse that just says 'Bombardier' on it". Anyway, turns out they just distribute Bombardier from there. Google Maps just tells me Ilford is somehow outside of the North Circular, and it has a gym, an Argos and a Primark. You’re welcome to the place.
Alright, how much are they asking? £825 p.c.m.
It's not a test, and there are no marks available, and there is no loss of dignity in not getting it right, but here’s a question I would like you to answer: look at these pictures. What's… "off" about them? What’s wrong?
Might not come to you at first. Takes a second. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know the answer: yes, correct, this is inexplicably two kitchens at the same time. Like twins, or a split atom. Like a horror movie mirror where the reflection moves of its own volition. There, in the front, a washing machine, an upright fridge, an oven with a hob. And then: there, at the back, a washing machine, an upright fridge, an oven with a hob. When I first saw this photo I held my head and made this audible noise: “Augh!” It is simply! Too many kitchens! At once!
Last time I saw a configuration like this is was when I was in halls of residence at university, and the two-kitchens-crammed-into-the-space-of-one-kitchen made a dull sort of sense: 18 people stretched out across one floor, sharing five toilets, seven bathroom sinks, one shower and one bath, and a kitchen full of two upright fridges, one deep-chest freezer, the planet’s filthiest oven and two kitchen sinks. Erratic, yes, but the maths of it just about worked: I never really ended up waiting for a shower, somehow? I never seemed to go to the bathroom when all the stalls were full? I rarely, if ever, had to cook my Super Noodle on the hob (gourmet-style) while someone else cooked around me? Perhaps this is all humanity really needs: one-third of their own toilet, exactly half of one shelf in a fridge, one oven hob on a shifting bi-hourly schedule, one-18th of a shower. That there, in crumbling halls of residence in Bangor, North Wales, the administration dumb-lucked their way to a Fibonacci ratio of life.
So taking that information (Bangor; Wales; the memory of the encrusted brown mass on top of the hob, the unsubtle lumps sliced out of my cheese; the 3AM fire alarms; that German girl who put a fold-down FHM poster of two girls kissing on her door in a manner I can only describe as "aggressive"; that time I skidded on a water balloon and cracked my ass-bone on the linoleum floor outside a trainee nurse’s bedroom and screamed so loud I thought I would die, and he didn’t come out to tend to me possibly dying because he was too busy blowing some lad he'd met earlier that morning, ["Sorry. I was blowing someone."], which I understand but did not appreciate; the kid in the floor below who got arrested for hiding a webcam inside a hollowed-out shampoo bottle and putting it in the shared shower) – taking that information and running with it, I am willing to posit a theory about the two kitchens: both those kitchens aren’t your kitchen. One is your kitchen, sure. One of those kitchens is your kitchen. But the other kitchen? The other kitchen is upstairs' kitchen. They come into your kitchen to use their kitchen. Here are two other clues:
'Oh,' you’re thinking, 'I’m mildly uncomfortable with my upstairs neighbour having a key to my flat so they can come in at any time and fry eggs.' Well, dickhead, drop that attitude: there is an incredibly intense mortice lock on your bedroom door, so there’s all the peace of mind you need.
'Ah,' you're thinking, 'here’s a deeply unusual line of copy from the online advert: "your own bath". Normally adverts don’t have to specify that, do they?' No they don’t! But this one does because, as aforementioned, I’m pretty sure your kitchen is just one kitchen inside another, wider, two-berth kitchen.
Rest of the flat is fine-but-shit – that glossy grey-new finish that every landlord puts on every property they want to charge £200 more for a month; some really On Top bathroom tiling; a bed crammed into a wardrobe with barely any room to walk around it; a miniature sub-kitchen area that, somehow, contains an additional third fridge or freezer – but it’s the kitchen-share situation that’s really doing it for me.
"Come to Ilford," they say, on Gumtree. "Come to Ilford, where it’s sort of in Zone 4 and goes into Liverpool Street, and we have an Argos, and a Primark too, and your neighbour keeps rustling around inside your kitchen to wordlessly make their dinner, and your bedroom door has reinforced locks on it. Come to Ilford and pay £825PCM for the pleasure."
No, thank you! No!
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.