What is it? I don’t know the difference between a dungeon and a crypt – and I do feel like knowing the fine-texture differences between those things earns you placement on some sort of database, a goth terror watchlist that encompasses “everyone who ever subscribed to Bizarre Magazine”, “every UK-based taxidermy forum user” and “people who know what the difference between dungeons and crypts is”, and every time any one of them leaves the house in a leather trench coat that goes beyond the knee they get silently trailed by plainclothes – but let’s split the difference and say “a dungeon and/or crypt”.
Where is it? In London Bridge, home of the Shard, a big train station with an understocked M&S, and absolutely fuck all else.
What is there to do locally? My pet theory about London Bridge is that it’s London’s premiere location for “pints with someone you’re not quite sure if you’re friends with”. This is because London Bridge is easy to get to for everyone in the entire city – train links to south, buses pouring in from central, a Northern Line tube branch – but also identity-less in that way that is neither fun nor unfun to exist in, even though it’s stuffed with bars and restaurants. So when someone invites you to London Bridge for a drink, they are saying: if the first pint goes badly I’m only 20 minutes from home. If they invite you to London Bridge they say: I can stand to spend time with you, but I don’t want you to know any of my interior life. I want to present myself to you on top of the clean blank slate that is London Bridge. If you have been asked on a date to London Bridge, that person is saying you can buy me dinner but you won’t see the gennies. Find a wine bar, find an Italian place, clamber up a tower and watch below at the glittering views of London. But then leave the London Bridge locale. The only thing to do here is watch your soul die from underneath you.
Alright, how much are they asking? A cool two grand (two.) (grand!) a month.
Goths, to me, are a very fascinating sub-section of British culture (Before You Start™: I understand that goths exist in different societies, but to me the British Goth is distinct from other goths because of the baseline British misery they exist on top of – there is a satellite town high street melancholia that underpins everything vibrant and exciting that British Goths attempt to do, which is why so many of them give up trying to ship custom leather pieces from the US the first time they get hit with import tax, and instead spend their time walking to Tesco at 3AM without a coat).
There they are, look, congregated outside an Argos. There’s a goth, look, winding up the comments section of a local town’s Facebook page by going on about atheism again. There’s a goth, look, in CeX, in a way where you don’t quite know if they work there or just know the people who work there really well, leaning on the glass display cabinet and talking about undercard wrestling. British Goths are buying pet rats and purple net curtains. British Goths are swarming through provincial market towns buying up all of the silver rings.
We think of goths as teenagers, a nihilistic phase that burns away when we hit our mid-twenties, but Britain is very good at cloistering goths, seeing them all the way through to adulthood, and so you have grown goths dotted all around – Peterborough, Nottingham, Whitby – just… just there, being goths. Goths never drive cars and goths never become CEOs and goths never fall visibly pregnant. But goths are there, all around us, constantly, buying Family Guy on DVD, and they need to be catered to, too. So here’s a crypt that goths can live in, for two cool grand a month:
First thing to confront is, by the standards of this column, this dungeon is finished to a very high standard. It’s newly refurbed, the kitchen has a new oven with a four-hob electric top, it’s clean and sparkling and grey-and-white-and-mirrored, and the bathroom has those white-tiles-black-grouting pattern that is very en vogue right now. But also it’s a windowless crypt and someone has almost definitely died here. So, it’s tricky, isn’t it?
Yes: it has been very tastefully remodelled to include LED strip-lights. But also: centuries ago, someone was chained to these walls until they died, and now they howl to you, distantly, at night, while you try to fall asleep in the pitch, pitch, pitch black dark.
Again, part of me wants to applaud this. London is a city dotted with history – there used to be an open sewer here! They found a body there! A hundred years ago, this was just fields! They filled that in with WWII rubble! – and the concrete-washing of that squalid past is something to be revolted against and defied. Another iron-and-marble-effect new build surrounded by three Prets and a John Lewis will only bleed more character out of the city. We should revel in our crypts, cherish them, guard them for the next generation.
But also, the sheer practicalities of living in a crypt need to be addressed. I mean, there’s a reason they used to store bodies in them before burying them. They are cold, cold, deeply underground cold, and I’m not sure the two iron radiators hung on the wall are going to be enough to keep you not-dead in winter. The stooping archways are designed for an era when the world’s tallest man was 5’8”, so quite how you navigate your crypt-house without knocking yourself constantly unconscious on the ceiling, I don’t know.
Also, it has no windows, and even prison cells have windows. We need natural light to live. Looking at this crypt – hearing the screams bounce off the newly-painted archways, feeling the cold and dread deep in my bones, looking down at my forearms and realising they are blue and pale like a corpse is, feeling my sun-bled skin squirming over my flesh – makes me do a full-body shudder. Also, I really strongly feel it would be impossible to get a good broadband signal down here.
So on those other hands, coupled with the fact you are paying two grand a month (and it’s two bedroom, so: two of you are buried down here, in the crypt) (also, no doors, because who makes doors built for the thicc curves of a crypt, so if you have a flatmate you just have to trust them not to wander in on you mid-wank) to live in what, in a past life, was basically “a room for coffins”, I feel like this is a bad deal.
There is some novelty to living in a crypt, sure. It has been nicely outfitted and the location is enviable. But also, it’s a crypt, with no beds in it, and if there’s a second lockdown you have to live down here for months without light, and suddenly I’m not so sure. If you’re a strange adult goth, sure, go for it. Anyone else: I would advise that you steer clear.