What is it? What if I told you that you and I had been commissioned to remake Footballer's Wives for ITVBe. It's an exciting time, isn’t it? You, me, a whiteboard, a grey functional office space deep within The London Studios. We bump into Philip Schofield in a lift. There is a buzz in the air, a tingling building-wide excitement, about what you and me are going to do: executives keep walking by to peep in at us working, like spying through an ajar door at an on-the-cusp boyband. They are whispering about us. "The greatest TV-writing duo of the modern age," the canteen is singing. "They will bring the glory years back to ITV." The first pilot script we put together – a zombie Tanya Turner rises from the dead to take a 51 percent stake in Earl's Park FC – has the industry whispering about a Golden Globe nod. And we're just putting together the opening season arc – the new Brazilian prospect striker, Ronaldonionhio Luís Jr., is caught in a nightclub doing cocaine off the rival team's new chairman (Michael Owen, playing himself), and the newspaper fallout leads to a slump in form that leaves Earl's Park perilously close to the relegation zone, and plus also three separate up-and-coming youth teamers have somehow gone blind in PJ & Duncan-style paintball accidents, right before the FA Cup final – when the ITV executives come in and tell us: lads, we love what you’re doing here. This Footballer's Wives reboot script is gold, solid gold. But due to a tax error we’ve only got £1,300 budget for the entire series. And so you and me somehow find this fucking place, in Kensington, and film the whole thing there;
Where is it? You were wondering where I was going with that one, weren't you. I don't blame you. I wasn't sure I was going to bring it round, either;
What is there to do locally? You're right between Charing Cross Hospital and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, so I suppose… you can get absolutely rinsed in a traffic accident and take your pick as to where you want to recuperate? Or, if you don't fancy getting ploughed into the next century by a Range Rover: there is a very big Whole Foods round there that I like to go to sometimes. Those are your two options;
Alright, how much are they asking? Ludicrous that we haven’t got to this bit already. Absurdly off-piste intro, even by my own high standards. We’re already 400 words in! Anyway £1,300 a month.
I've got this thing I like to do every night, a sort of weird tradition I guess, where I like to put the TV on and watch it. Maybe you do not do this in your household, but it came from my family I suppose, my childhood: every night, we would put the TV on and watch it. "Put the TV on," my father would say, as the sun set out of the sky. "And watch it."
It was what our family did: what my father learned from his father, and what his father learned from him. Generations of Golbys have put the TV on and watched it. What do you need to be able to put the TV on and watch it? Heh, it's simple: you need a TV (to put on; to watch). You need eyes in your head and ears on the side of it. You need the ability to detune your brain from a high, sharp frequency to a low unfocussed one. You need a TV Guide with all the upcoming episodes of Top Gear circled with an Argos biro. And you need a fucking sofa to sit on. And:
Welcome to Kensington, where you can stand in the middle of your front room and watch the telly. Maybe you could stand, here, directly underneath a goth chandelier, tapping your feet in time with the pulsating sounds of the screen. Maybe you could gaze at yourself rapt in the shoulder-height mirror. Maybe you could sit on the floor, like an infant. But you cannot sit on your sofa, here, because you simply do not have one.
Now: I am not dedicating an entire LROTW column to the lack of a sofa in a front room: come on, the standards are a touch higher than that. But the greyed-out pattern of wear on the carpet suggests there were some sitting utensils here, in this room, once, and that they have been moved out. But with the size of this front room I simply cannot understand where and at what angle you would put a sofa. I suppose you could put it along the back wall? But it would sort of infringe on the door, and block off the fireplace. You could put it at a diagonal? But then the angle of the TV doesn't really add up in any sort of logical way. And also, very crucially, as soon as you add something to sit on, the room is now full up. You can barely put a dinner table chair in there without taking all of the available room up. There are no options for true leisure in this flat, because it is grey and worn and tiny.
Which is bad, because this place is cursed – as so many rental opportunities have been in 2019 – with a "mezzanine bed": a shelf, segmented above an otherwise functional room, to cut that room in half horizontally and render two un-functional rooms in its space.
In this case we have i. A bed, nestled a couple of feet from the ceiling, so you have the feeling of claustrophobic closeness, the inability to do any vertically adventurous sex positions and difficulty standing up when you get out of bed; and ii. A half a kitchen, which you have to crouch around in like a Notre Damian bellringer, buttering toast bent-double so you don’t clonk yourself out on your own bedroom ceiling.
All of these are connected together by the world’s narrowest curving stairway, the dimensions of which are so baffling and tiny – can you imagine walking down that with a tray of food? Imagine walking down those stairs holding a load of laundry* without absolutely stacking it? I mean, at least you have those hospitals nearby for when you break both ankles sliding down onto granite holding an armful of socks – that I have to assume it was custom built that way (nobody builds a flat to have a mezzanine balcony for a bed; it is always retconned on afterwards) and you do have to wonder about the morality of London's contractors if they are being asked to make a half-sized curving staircase up to a shelf with a bed on it and they are going: yeah, alright, if it pays.
It's sometimes hard to have empathy for people who live in Kensington, I know, but in this particular instance I feel a distant flutter of it: that someone, inevitably and by the pattern of the carpet wear, has been living here for some time, sleeping on a shelf, washing up their one single mug in their bowl-sized kitchen sink, standing in the middle of an oddly tacky front room watching their small flat-screen TV, paying £1,300 a month for the pleasure of it. But they've moved out now and you don't have to replace them. Spend the money on something better instead. Spend the money on funding my Footballer's Wives reboot, and share in the basked glory of my inevitable Emmy win. Do that instead.
* The property listing says there is a washing machine and dryer, but I don't actually see one, and the sink fitted in the kitchen is the size of a 50p piece, so I have three side-theories about What The Deal Is With The Washing Machine:
#1. The washer and dryer are configured in such a manic and London landlord fashion – welded together facing each other, or something, so clothes can neither get in or out of them; glued to the mezzanine ceiling upside-down – that whoever took these photos neglected to document them because the set-up was too insane, even for a flat that features a winding staircase built for a cat;
#2. The washer–dryer are somehow not a washer–dryer, or they are but they're in some special tiny dimensions – the size of a toaster each, perhaps – purchased and paid for from whatever special Landlord Shop landlords buy those microwave–hob combos they always put in east London shitholes that you can't buy down any official avenue; I assume you have to reveal a special laminated landlord card to buy them, they do not sell them to people with souls;
#3. The washer–dryer is a lie and you have to go to the laundrette. Or the washer–dryer is not a lie but it's somehow fitted in someone else's kitchen, and your flat is just one tiny slither of a wider segmented house share. I’m not ruling anything out. I refuse to ever rule anything out.