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london rental opportunity of the week

London Rental Opportunity of the Week: The Bitter Reality of Renting in This Hell City

If, that is, you're stuck with somewhere like this.

by Joel Golby
17 July 2019, 2:02pm

Photos via Gumtree

What is it? A one-time Studio Flat x Healthy Dose Of Reality crossover event;
Where is it? Leyton, home to, uh, the Toby Carvery in Snaresbrook?
What is there to do locally? I don't know, man – it's really treacherous that I keep having to answer this question. If you really must know: I googled "things do leyton" and it's basically loads of shit to entertain children with. Go-karting and that. Climbing. Go to a well-funded park. If you’re reading this website – and this section, particularly – for some insight into what to do with young children over the summer holidays, then my friend you have taken a number of wrong turns in your life. Social services are about to break down your door with AKs. You’re getting shot in the head for neglect;
Alright, how much are they asking? £875 pcm.

"We are not going to let this become a laundry flat" – an opening salvo delivered to my flatmate when we moved in together last March.

We – two adult males with the needs of a normal average human to wash and dry their clothes, twice weekly – were to co-habit in a flat, and I would get the bigger room, and it was going to be lush, amen. But not in a way that laundry became a third wheel in our relationship. We would not come home to monstrous folds of laundry on the sofa. "Hello," laundry would say, as we unlocked the door and pushed into the dark. "Been waiting for you. I'm four towels and two mismatching socks that got in there without you noticing, and I've been dry for four days."

The laundry has assembled into the rough, monstrous shape of a man. "There’s more of me in the washing machine. It has been ready to pin out for 26 hours." Laundry, soon, becomes everything, everywhere. If you do not fold it and put it away – if you mistime two loads and back-to-back them without the space to dry them all out – laundry becomes a swarm. Tea towels lie slender along a radiator. Sheets flop over doors. The smell of detergent, the smell of quiet stale wet-rot, the smell of a whole thing of laundry pods, popping open beneath the leaking U-bend of the kitchen sink. Behind you: laundry. In front of you: laundry. Sit on the sofa and you sit upon laundry. "No," we said. "We will not let this become a laundry flat."

This is easy enough to avoid when you have, say, space to take more than five steps from your bed to your toilet, i.e. you live in a normal place, under normal rules. But this week’s addition to the holy canon of LROTW offers a rare little peek behind the curtain: what, truly, is it like to live in one of these shit holes? And the answer is: the more you choose to exist, the more claustrophobic your life becomes. Exhibits A. thru D.:

flat to rent leyton
flat to rent leyton
flat to rent leyton
flat to rent leyton

So this is a normal-enough bog-standard LROTW-issue studio: single leaning door of entry, single-sized box bed, a shower stall the width of five small tiles, narrow bathroom, kitchen too small and inconsequential to be photographed properly, and is instead represented by visual metaphors: an image of a washing machine taken from above; some colanders, drying. We've seen this place or places like it a hundred times now, and the beats are always the same: a bathroom so small and old and so replete with misapplied putty that it is impossible to really, truly clean; smeared white on the walls, staled with time; a fridge directly in front of a bathroom door. But we've never really seen it like this, by which I mean "with signs of life within it", and there's something incredibly, hollowly depressing about seeing the reality of that.

And let me be clear: whoever is living here seems to be doing a nice job with the space available to them! But like: you have exactly one table in the flat, and tables as surfaces attract things, so now you have a tin of Kenco and a pump of body lotion bafflingly cohabiting in the same small space. Or: the only real way to store your spare bottles of shampoo is to place them carefully in an old washing-up bowl and put that whole thing on the floor. Or: you can't really reach to the main window of the house so you just have to draw a net curtain over it, hung from one of of those sagging wires that are never, literally ever strong enough to support the weight of the curtain beneath it.

The more you have things, the more they impose on you: a neat little wardrobe is suddenly overcome by the addition of three coats. Marigold gloves have to live perched behind the bathroom taps because there's nowhere else left for them. And there, overwhelming the entire room, taking up all the available floor space for however long it takes for it to dry: laundry, laundry, laundry. In winter you could be dodging that for, like, three days. Creaking around your laundry airer, wondering distantly what space feels like.

That's the reality of living in these places, isn't it: small, quiet, messy acts of life are suddenly cranked up to maximum volume when the space around you cuts in half when you do them. Get out of bed messily one morning and drop your duvet on the floor: your floor is now duvet, entirely duvet. Bake a tray of nugs in the oven on a hangover and leave that and the ketchuppy plate in the sink for a day while you drink Lucozade and try to be very quiet: a very small, but very noticeable chunk of your flat is now out of order. Do the great crime of washing two of your T-shirts and four pairs of pants for the working week ahead of you, and feel the impact of it for days.

Really hope whoever managed to live here – for £875, per month, in Leyton – managed to heed the quite-bleak-in-context motivational lightboard perched on a shelf at the top there and move on. Hope they now have space to, like, wash a load of hoodies in one go.

@joelgolby