Life

Rental Opportunity of the Week: I'd Like You to Imagine Living Here

Under lockdown, in "Harrow Weald".
01 April 2020, 2:28pm
bed
Photos via 
What is living in London like? Hell. Here’s proof, beyond all doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.

What is it? Just a melancholic hell-flat full of terrible vibes, nbd.
Where is it? In "Harrow Weald", which the internet describes as "the northernmost part of the town of Harrow" – so not Harrow, but the lesser bit of Harrow, if you can imagine such a thing – and the descriptive photograph is just a variety of emergency services vehicles, parked diagonally across a recently bloodied main road.
What is there to do locally? I would assume: go to the nearby all-boys school and harangue the children coming out of there. People are always like, "Oh, no, don't bully children, don't bully the sweet little children," but Harrow's alumni includes James Blunt and Benedict Cumberbatch, two posh cucks, meaning the boys graduating out of there right now are i. unlikely to be rocking any sort of weaponry at all – if you went and harassed the teenagers coming out of the secondary school I graduated from, some weird kid with a weapon made out of old metal rulers would get you on the ground and the rest of the hard boys would throw Devil Bangers round your head while joyfully smoking, and you'd have to hope a sufficiently hard deputy head walks by in the next ten to 20 minutes because they won't stop howling until you cry – and ii. They are almost certain to grow up into unbearable little bastards anyway, cabinet members and deliberately cultivated Soho gadflys, so going outside the school gates and calling them "wet-necked little cunts" now won't really have any sort of psychological impact on them long-term – they will still end up dating whoever the next generation's equivalent of Lily Cole will be – but will feel very satisfying, to you, currently. There is nothing else to do in Harrow, I checked.
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,000 p.c.m.

I have been thinking a lot about London flats recently because I am locked in mine and you are locked in yours, and so, if you're anything like me, you now know every single inch of the place, intimately. I know the sound of the upstairs neighbour doing the Joe Wicks P.E. class every morning, ba–dum ba–dum ba–dum, the slow heartbeat rhythm of my isolation mornings. I know the sounds of the two boys gleefully playing football with a flyaway on the rubber-floored balcony downstairs, an early afternoon noise bomb that heralds my lunchtime. I know what the bathroom ceiling looks like. I know the precise schedule of the weekly fire alarms. I know which marks on the floor are new (done by me.) and which were there when we moved (done by some cunt.), so I know which ones I will have to argue are "legitimate wear and tear" during a contract tussle in about ten months. I know the corners, the light fittings, the inside of the kitchen cabinets, the shelves that get dust, the windowsills that accumulate dead leaves from dry plants. I know which dark corners, under cabinets or between wardrobes, I can squeeze something into should I need to store it but not use it anytime soon: a sleeping bag, maybe, an excess of shoes. I have been staring at every molecule of this flat for the last three weeks, and I know how it breathes, how it bleeds, and the noises it makes as it goes to sleep. I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

If you've lived in London for any period of time then you have probably done this: you rented a flat you didn't like that much, or only half-liked, or wasn't really big enough, or you didn't know the flatmates too well, because your social life was so buzzing at the time and work was so busy that, you reasoned, 'you'd never be there anyway'. You'd spend three nights a week at your boyfriend's, anyway. Most of the time you don't get home from work until 8PM. That summer, all your weekends were spent going away to weddings, and to Lisbon for some reason, so it didn't matter. It was only a year. You could live with a box room, a strange smell in the corridor and an eerie flatmate who only seemed to eat tubs of margarine. You could survive, because you are in your twenties, and young, and have better things to do. You can sleep in a comfortable bed when you're dead.

And the pandemic beheld your hubris and said: lol.

This one-bed in Harrow has preoccupied me in the shadow of that, because – despite not being our worst or our weirdest contribution to this column – it is made up of a successive series of Bad Vibes, and I am thinking about who would rent it – it's only Harrow! It’s only a year! We could split the rent and pay £500 each! – with optimism in their hearts, and how that would be quietly extinguished during self-isolation, and then they would dip into the sort of inescapable malaise that only seems to affect zoo animals, clawing energy-less at the bars of their cages, blood pressure dropping, trudging to the grave.

There are a number of inexplicably odd design features to this place: in the front room, a kitchen cabinet is just there, raw, not mounted on the wall, just sort of left there in the corner, like it is furniture; the room itself is angled like a Shoreditch escape room designed by H.H. Holmes. The only furniture in here is: a sofa, angled along a wall, facing nothing; a three-seat glass-topped dining table, the worst vibes surface to eat off; a single, black, unoccupied stool; a radiator beneath a window, framed by thin, reedy curtains.

Move to the kitchen: you have a full hob (!) but not an oven (?), so you can boil four sauces at once and then, I guess, roast a chicken piece-by-piece by cramming wedges of it into the sandwich maker. The size of the kitchen is "negligible". The bathroom, for some reason, has a soap dispenser in it, like you might get at a truck stop, late at night, where you've stopped for a piss break after a long drive and you wash your hands, innocently, looking up from the sink to— did something just move in the mirror? And then the last tang of anything you feel is the red metallic taste of your own blood in your mouth as your forehead is rammed firmly into the glass, shattering in a perfect spider web. I should also mention the single line of red and black wallpaper in the bedroom is "atrocious", and I know already the landlord will forbid you from ever changing it. This flat feels like it was designed for an already sick person to die in.

So yes, not the worst. But for £1,000 a month, in Harrow, I would like to imagine how long you could last there until you are bored (for extra points, listed as this is for "PROFESSIONAL COUPLES", imagine how you and a partner would survive there, with your soap dispenser, and your three rooms). How many minutes could you while away in a bedroom that's not really large enough to store anything in other than a bed? How long could you realistically spend trying to find a usable angle for the sofa to go in so it faces the TV? How many meals, really, could you just make on the hob? How many hot sandwiches can one person eat?

For a grand a month, you could find out, in Harrow. But I genuinely think you'd be more mentally occupied if the government locked you in a cage for a year, occasionally hosing you down with a jet of icy water, feeding you kibble out of a low, dirty bowl. You would be more likely to write King Lear in that situation than you would here.

@joelgolby