What is it? You are the priest and I am the sinner, and I must make my confession to you: you cannot, technically, rent this place. This place is not on the market. It has been taken off the market for one of two reasons – either someone has rented it (bad.), or someone at Rightmove has recognised that the place is a crime against God and removed it from the website (good, unlikely, historically never happened even once with one of the properties featured on this column.) – so, by all of the letters of the law, this is not a "London Rental Opportunity of the Week", because as aforementioned you cannot rent it, so in response to the question (top.), "What is it?", sadly the answer is: a lie. A horrid, dark little lie.
Where is it? An increasing number of these properties have been in Clapton recently, where I live, and they creep ever closer to my house – just by a street, just tiptoeing across a park, edging round the back of my favourite coffee place – and I'm feeling a little bit like that bit in Gravity's Rainbow with the bomb sites, praying that this doesn’t turn into a casino orgy and a descent into madness and my inevitable death. Heh, yeah – I've read Gravity's Rainbow. Don't make a big deal of it. 913 pages, but. I don't like to go on about it.
What is there to do locally? Went to the Clapton Hart recently and saw Steve Davis. Steve Davis! What have you ever done?
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,300 pcm.
There is something we know and we recognise as "chaotic energy": a roiling, calamitous, spiky-edged feeling, something that breaks life off the fixed train-tracks it is affixed to and screeches it around, making noise and movement and anarchy. This we all know. A good example of it is this: when three Japanese footballers compete against 100 kids. Screams, shouts, movements like a school of fish. Twenty goalkeepers, 30 goalkeepers. Flares going off when they score. We know what overt chaos looks like, because it looks like this:
But what about the quieter, softer approach to mania? Chaos in a buttoned shirt? Chaos that, at first glance, is quiet and well-behaved, and only makes itself known under full moons and microscopes? Friends: welcome to Clapton. Welcome to this flat where someone has exploded all of the component parts of a kitchen and dotted them around the living room like a fucking Easter egg hunt:
Traditional Kitchen Item #1: in which you have to, inexplicably, step down through your own kitchen counter in order to enter the sunken flat. I find something terrifyingly disconcerting about the idea of – even for a moment – being at foot-height with your own sink, as if you can tip over and turn the tap on as you would tie your shoe up, that you could take a detour away from the steps and tap dance along your kitchen counter, that you could (if someone else is, say, using the worktop to prepare food) step into the flat, wet from the rain, and immediately kick a chopped onion off the counter and into the bin. I don't like it one bit. I don't like that the counter has literally been mounted at the same height either side, as if it is one continuous surface bisected by a step. I hate every molecule of this Frankensteinian stair–counter mash-up. I wish to burn it down into charred cinders.
Traditional Kitchen Item #2: Ah, what's that? Oh, nothing, mate: just my entire fucking fridge, mounted inside a special "fridge box" that someone has custom-made for it, to make my fridge aesthetically pleasing enough to put a couple of plants directly on top of. Yeah, it's right next to my sofa, so what? It's convenient! Can get beers out the fridge when I’m watching the football! Yes, I keep my fire alarm unattached like a shelf decoration! What the fuck of it!
Traditional Kitchen Item #3: It's called "a freezer on a sideboard", look it up. This, if nothing else, hints at some implicit hierarchy: that the fridge, a hero whitegood of the kitchen, deserves its own custom-built cubby, but the freezer – poor, forgotten freezer, condemned so often to a garage or side-room – has to just sit up on the side next to the TV, occasionally rifled through (you have to lean over the kitchen table to get inside the freezer: it is a difficult angle if you want to get ice cubes from out the top drawer) to get nuggets or a scoop of peas. Dinner party guests could feasibly help themselves to Rocket Lollies from the icebox in the bottom after eating, a sort of "farm-to-table" approach that some might find quite novel.
Traditional Kitchen Item #4: This isn't technically a kitchen item – my second format-enforced lie of the article – but I just do want to note I find that special odd slender little cupboard mounted inside the back of a wall there extremely, extremely sinister. Proper "don’t go in there – your twin brother who has never seen sunlight lives inside it. No, we never told you about him. He feasts on buckets of fish. He's pre-linguistic. Don't look at him" vibes reeking out of the darkness of it.
Traditional Kitchen Item #5: I have never in my life seen an oven in this sort of proximity to a TV and it revolts me like seeing an animal's corpse might.
All this is disguised, of course, within a flat that’s… sort of nice? Sort of… tasteful? Sort of cosy, and clean, and a step or two above the usual landlord-enforced shit, the same creaking shelving units from the bottom end of the IKEA range, the same collapsing beds, the same pine finish on everything?
That's where the chaos hides – here, in this chic and stylish flat in the middle of Clapton, great location with a beautiful community around it, and transport links, and smooth surfaces and a decent amount of space, there hidden in plain sight is your entire kitchen, exploded apart like a bomb and remade, wrong, slightly, but not quite wrong enough.
Someone lives here, within the remains of one of the key functioning rooms of their house, and they seem to be having a nice time with it. Someone else will move in and learn to have a surface-mounted freezer instead of one on a floor, in a kitchen. A couple of weeks will pass. A few months of walking through their work surface. And then one day, they won’t notice it’s weird at all. One day, it will just all be normal. Reach around the sofa and pass me the ketchup from the fridge. Step up over the sink and answer the door, will you. Can you put those oven chips back in the freezer? It’s next to the TV.
We set the standards we are willing to endure when we stop seeing them as chaos anymore. Sadly, £1,300 a month is too much for me to break and re-learn the rules of what a kitchen should be. It should be for you, too.