What is it? As best I can tell, this is a fire escape that someone put a sofa bed in;
Where is it? Queens Park, up in that north-west bit of London I don't really ever go to because when I do the abrupt way residential buildings give way to high street gambling dens and the weird slow way the cars all seem to move up there freaks me out. The place has a dark energy about it and I have no time for it at all;
What is there to do locally? All there is to do in north-west London is either "be rich" or "go to the big windowless Westfield", those are your only two options, I don’t want to talk about north-west London any further;
Alright, how much are they asking? £966 per month;
I was walking past an estate agent in Peckham in the dead days between Christmas (good, thanks) and New Year (yeah, fine), and saw the same flyer plastered on every window of the shop: "MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WILL BE STARTING THEIR SEARCH ON CHRISTMAS EVE". And all I could think of for the what-turned-out-to-be 80-minute two-train-two-bus ride home was: really. Really? Really.
Consider the pure numbers: there are 66 million people in the UK, right now, as per 2017 figures. If 1 million of those people started their search for a new property on Christmas Eve, that would be, I would say, about 900,000 too many. But million s, with an S? More than 1 million? Two million, remember, does not constitute millions. I would say millions is either 3 or 5 million (consider muffins: if you had one muffin, you would have "a muffin". If you had two muffins, you would have "two muffins". If you have three muffins? You have "muffins". Four muffins? Peculiarly, at four, it tips over into "a pack of muffins". And at five? We are back round to "muffins" again. Muffins for millions. The logic makes sense.). So: either 3 million or 5 million people, in the UK, spent Christmas Eve – one of the most holy nights of the year, the smell of crackling wood and the soft tinkling of festive music, the dressing of the tree, the euphoric schrrrrrr of scissors through wrapping paper, the pigs in blankets, the rustle through the Quality St. tin, the pint in the old pub with friends, the stumbling back home in the sharp-shock cold of the night, the tiptoe up the stairs with the house still warm from the heating on, the mince pies, the anticipation – 3 to 5 million people in the UK, according to this flyer, in Peckham, spent instead that day looking at Zoopla and trying to figure out if they could push to £800-a-month, or if £750 was their hard limit. I am starting to think estate agents don’t care about us when they lie.
And so to start the year off with this, the dreary January search for property. This month is a grey time, but a quirk of fate means it is one of the peaks of flat-hunting frisson in the capital: leases run out, a new influx of 21-year-old Humanities graduates come down on the train, that one flatmate who stays in his room all the time abruptly announces he is moving in with his girlfriend, the capital becomes a whirligig. And into that I would like to pitch to you the following proposal: a sofa-bed for one under some medical lighting, sort of near Queen's Park, NW6.
A lot to process here, so let's just segue into a fun sub-section, because it’s the first day back and I really can’t be writing full paragraphs so I know you can’t be reading them—
A FUN SUB-SECTION
What am I looking at, here, Joel? You seem to be looking at one of those dreary rooms that are, like, "the office staff room" or "a kitchen only accessible by night security guards" or "a pre-detention room that the most juvenile offender-y children at your school had to wait in when they’d had a big tantrum and needed to 'cool down' in", only this has for whatever reason been repurposed and sold as fit for human habitation, despite the sprinkler-system adjacent ceiling tiles and the fact that the lighting seems to have been taken from a horror movie where an alien organism has found its way into the spaceship and the only way to destroy it is by killing everyone on board.
What is the worst thing about this room? Hard to tell exactly – the fact that the front door seems to be a fire door with two completely transparent windows in it instead of being, like, an actual front door; the fact that the bed is actually that black vinyl sofa you see there, which you flatten down at night and fit a single sheet over; the wardrobe, there, positioned so you can’t open it when the bed is folded down; the shelf-with-only-five-angled-canvas-prints-on-it; the decorative ironware non-tables in each corner; the fact that the kitchen seems bigger or at least more considered than the sleeping area; the fact that the tap seems to be plumbed into the wall by way of a trailing metal-coiled tube; the fact that it costs £966 a month to live here, alone, in Queens Park – but no, the worst bit is definitely "the lighting", which runs icy-blue in the kitchen-cum-bedroom and ranges to "chillingly medical" in the bathroom itself.
What would you describe the "vibe" in this studio flat as being? "What if the fire escape in a halls of residence block built circa 2004 was designed by Britain's most mundane serial killer"?
Should I pay £966, per month, to live here, in remember Queens Park? No.
Is that the end of the article now? Yes.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.