What is it? Hard to tell, actually: normally, when we have something nominally advertised as a "studio flat" on this column, it's at least the approximation of one (a kitchen and occasionally a bathroom crammed into an already small bedroom), but this is very literally an en-suite room with a microwave in it, so. I suppose that's what it is. Why do we start the column with this question, again?
Where is it? Seven Kings, which is in Ilford, which is in London as much as it's in Essex, i.e. it lies almost exactly on that grey dead zone between where London ends and Essex begins, the exact outer reaches of the Central Line, where it cedes to low-speed railway; The Commuter Deadzone.
What is there to do locally? As best I can tell from the map (the rigorous research that goes into this column does not, at any point, involve me leaving the house: I want to make that very clear) Seven Kings has two ESSO garages, one shisha lounge and, if you catch a train one stop to Ilford proper, there's a reasonably-sized River Island. Or I suppose you can do the only thing there really is to do in Essex, which is: go to an entirely vibeless bar in the centre of town and talk to a bunch of people who all inexplicably passed their driving test exactly six weeks after their 17th birthday about either ForEx trading or their 85-follower MUA Instagram account
Alright, how much are they asking? £875 pcm., if you can believe it,
I'm doing Dry January, which means I am fundamentally, existentially bored at all times for an entire month, meaning with the energy I would otherwise put into drinking (I consider myself an Active Drinker, someone who approaches drinking a pint like a lion attacks a gazelle) I am instead doing weird wholesome things that I pretend to enjoy but really don't, like taking hour-long walks and reading books and preparing needlessly complicated food.
What I am saying is: I know my way around a kitchen to, like, a medium degree – nothing showy, nothing amateur, a nice halfway house in between. If you saw me on Dinner Date you would say, aloud, "Ah, finally, someone who knows what salt is," but if Gordon Ramsay came over he would be absolutely raging – and from that hallowed perch of vaguely knowing how to make bread I absolutely cannot imagine what meals you can prepare from a microwave on top of a mini-fridge. Because that's what this flat has. A microwave on top of a mini-fridge. Look:
It does not have an additional kitchen that is not shown in the pictures: it has a microwave on top of a mini-fridge. From the advert for the flat: "open plan kitchen". I would argue that this is a fucking stretch, because it's a microwave on top of a mini-fridge, in a corner, next to your bed. Thing with microwaves is that the best thing you can cook in them is frozen ready meals. Thing with mini-fridges is that the freezer shelf wedged into the top of them can accommodate, at best, about half of one frozen ready meal.
So what are you keeping cool in the mini-fridge and then heating to a nuclear degree in the microwave? Is your diet just microwave mug brownies and wet chicken nuggets? Are you subsisting on instant porridge and tinned macaroni? You cannot even make beans on toast, in this property, because it does not come with a toaster. You have to buy your own toaster if your open plan kitchen is to accommodate you making beans on toast, which is literally the most basic meal. I'm pretty sure prisoners can make more interesting cuisine than you can, here, in Ilford.
We should talk about the curtain, I suppose. The curtain doesn't exist. Nothing, to me, says "a series of depressing events have happened here, and are continuing to happen, daily" than a blanket pinned up over a window, not quite reaching to even one of the four borders edging around it, in lieu of a curtain. Having a curtain in your house is a sign of humanity: you respect yourself enough to block out the early morning sun, to stop the glare of neighbours when you sit in your house at night with the lights on; drawing the curtains a sombre ceremony, each evening, ushering in the quieter hours of pre-bedtime. Unless you've got a blanket held in place there with a bulldog clip, at which point all bets are off.
You have no bedtime, you have no rules. You have a blanket instead of a curtain. Every single small-time, satellite town Citroën Saxo weed dealer had a blanket for a curtain, and still does. Every lad you went to uni with who spent his entire loan on DJ equipment in the first week then immediately switched to being weirdly nocturnal, waking up at 8PM amid overflowing ashtrays and a floor slippery with magazines, had a blanket for a curtain, and still does. Nobody normal has a blanket for a curtain. It is only the deranged, the crusts of society. A blanket for a curtain is the first step towards giving up.
Rest of the flat is normal*, in a way, just some laminate flooring and a box-frame bed and a small-but-clean shower room and exactly one chest of drawers, one that doubles up as both your kitchen cabinet and your bedside table. You have a bin, if you want a bin. You have a little brush to sweep things up with, though unsure if that comes with the flat or was just left in the photo from cleaning (you'll have to ask the estate agent). Is this worth £875, a month, in Ilford? The answer, as it literally always is, is: "not really, no".
* I don't know why I used the word "normal" here. I very clearly meant "bleak". A lot of the time the rooms in this column are not bad, overtly, but carry with them this unmistakeable, indelible, horror movie feeling of dread, and this one is no different. It's going to be one of those places where, when you get set up in it – plump your little pillows up and make your bed, put a curtain up, microwave a plate of beans for your dinner and eat it with just normal un-toasted bread, tidy up, wash yourself, have a shower, set some music going, click on a lamp – you'll look around, hands on your hips, and exhale, that movie-magic moment of: Ah. Well, it's not ideal but, for six months until I get my life in order, it'll do. Perhaps you put some flowers out, and then: horror – you blink and, for a second, the flat is a vision of what it once was, bare and furnitureless, and there, in the middle of the floor, cross-legged and rocking back and forth in the middle of a salt circle, a man covered in blood with the skin peeling from his face; or, horror, you blink for a second and a child is there, standing rigid and adult-like down by the doorway, holding a single blunt blade, eyes jet black and pupiless; or, horror, you blink and the curtain is on fire, the smoke and flames licking up towards the ceiling, which is dripping, somehow, some rubber-like substance oozing down on to the floor around you, and when it hits the bottom it sizzles and curls like a worm thrown in a furnace. Anyway. It's like that. So I didn't mean "normal" at all.