What is it? Don't really know how to even begin to describe it, but, uh, OK. Right: you know when that goth kid at your school got mad at his parents and went to live in their outhouse for the whole of sixth form? They were middle class so they had an outhouse. I'm pretty sure his mum had a couple of horses. Like his dad had to pay three grand to get the thing rigged up with electricity and a toilet. Remember that? He put up purple net curtains and had a load of black pottery skulls on the windowsill? Whole thing just reeked of incense and sugar-free Red Bull? He kept saying his parents were "fuckers" and "fucking cunts" but they paid all his fees upfront for uni? Right: now imagine you could rent that wanks-and-pentagrams goth dungeon, for £800, per month, right now, in Hammersmith, London, UK;
Where is it? Hammersmith, London, which is essentially just a block of London dedicated to briefly housing dads while they watch their favourite "remember when cars only had four gears?" comedians at the Apollo, before filing out in polo shirts tucked into jeans to drink exactly one pint of bitter and then getting a train home. There's also a big roundabout and a McDonald's.
What is there to do locally? Gaze into the River Thames from one of its many local bridges and watch it wash and wane beneath you – sometimes grey, sometimes navy, sometimes black – the light bouncing off it in electric-white ripples. Would anyone care, you wonder, if you just dived in there and gulped? The water would be heavy enough to tug you. You'd be gone within seconds. Down in the drench of it all. And then you wouldn't have to worry about rent, or food, or bills, or sex, or goths, or anything. Just you and the water, slosh slosh, slosh slosh. It's calm, almost. Eerily calm. Also: there's some q. nice pubs about.
Alright, how much are they asking? £185p/w, it says here, or let's just round it up to £800
Hey, you know what, actually: you're doing OK now; I don't think you need this whole housemate bullshit thing. Your housemates: one just had a shower for 45 minutes, giggling, in there, with the girlfriend who comes over three nights a week but doesn't pay rent, and it doesn't matter that they are in there having a sexy shower – you've got your headphones on in your room watching Stranger Things before someone ruins it for you – but it does matter when the third-quarter gas bill comes in and it's £200 higher than usual, somehow, and even splitting it three ways you're paying north of £65 so someone else can get a soapy handjob in the bathroom.
Or: your housemates, who you live with and therefore hate, have somehow managed to hollow out an entire jar of Nutella (which you only bought last week, the Nutella!) without scraping the sides even at all, so from the outside of the Nutella jar it appears almost exactly like a full jar of Nutella, but actually when you open it up you find that all the Nutella has gone and nobody admits to eating it.
Or: your housemates have left so many unfinished semi-skimmed milk pints in the fridge that they have piled up and one, from September, has become huge and grey and bloated, and you are the only person who cares enough to chuck it out. Or: your housemates, who you loathe now, these housemates keep buying pizza boxes but keep thinking pizza boxes fit into flimsy green see-thru recycling bags without being folded, which they don't, which is why every Tuesday morning (bin day) you find yourself having to stomp on and fold someone else's pizza boxes for five minutes before going to work, lest you get another letter from the council. And what I'm saying is: hey, you're a big boy or girl now. Maybe it's time you moved away and tried striking out on your own.
Look, here's a studio apartment. It's just about within your budget. You could start to relax, couldn't you, if you lived alone? Only your mess to worry about. Only your friends allowed over. Only you, in sole charge of the hoovering rota. God, it'd be bliss, wouldn't it? It'd be sheer nirv—
So you see here we've got our classic London "all of the technical components of a liveable space, billed as a liveable space and described as a 'studio apartment', but not actually, truly, a liveable space".
So, for example, we have the bunkbed beloved of landlords trying to rent out one dank single room as a flat (landlords, I think, must genuinely sleep in bunk beds, in their palatial homes, with little soft pine ladders leading up to them, and the mattresses are pound-coin thickness and squidgy rather than supportive, because why else do I keep seeing these beds in London if landlords don't sincerely consider them to be adequate beds? I have long harboured a theory that professional landlords are something Other than human, lizards in human form, shell-like beings without hearts and blood, and it would not surprise me, truly, if their particular sub-species had its own routines and cultures, one of them being sleeping in a bunk bed as an adult and thinking it is OK), and we have the "what's the smallest sink unit you've got, Wickes?" bit that serves as a kitchen, and you've got a dark corner which I'm absolutely convinced at least one person has been handcuffed up in, hessian sack over their head, bleeding and sobbing, and you've barely got room to open the bathroom door, and the washing machine is just a white unit in one corner that stares at you directly while you sleep.
Housemates don't sound so bad now, do they? Look at that pile of washing up in the sink. Look at the hallway radiator littered with their crumpled underwear. Listen as they stomp home from hockey practice (who plays hockey?) every Sunday morning at 10AM. Nobody picks the takeaway menus up when they are posted through the door but you. Nobody throws potatoes away when they sour in the collective fruit and veg basket but you. There's egg detritus in the plughole, again. There's hair in the plughole, again. Nobody ventilates the bathroom after they shower, so it's black with mould. You want to watch television but they've set up an illegal stream to a Spanish football game, the living room thick with grey cables and silent, long-legged friends from their work. 'Is this so bad?' you think. Only 20 or 30 more years of this and then you can move out. Not long, now. Not long.