What is it? Have you ever gone on holiday to a not-particularly-tourist-viable city and had to find accommodation there, but also you, in this scenario, are almost blisteringly poor, so to find somewhere to stay for four days in, like, Vicenza, you go on Airbnb and very diligently sort by cost and then from "Lowest to Highest" until you find something that is something along the lines of £16 a night? I have done this. This is that.
Where is it? South Kensington, a bizarrely fertile ground for rental opportunities in recent weeks. What happened to you, South Kensington? Obviously a real journalist with investigative intent would chase this story down, follow it into corridors, make phone calls, hit the pavements, find out. That is not really my vibe though.
What is there to do locally? You're vaguely near Earl's Court, which has an old-fashioned TARDIS-style blue police box outside it, and I suppose you could go and loiter near that and, when some nerds slow down to look at it, grab them in a headlock and steal their lunch money. I feel like this could be quite a good moneymaking scheme for the queue at King's Cross for Platform 9 ¾, too. If you do the rounds of those two nerd tourist landmarks every day – snapping off bumbags with a flick knife, pretending to punch them in the face but stopping just short of their nose and letting them panic-blink themselves into a low-grade seizure, maybe stop by Forbidden Planet in Soho to harass kids out of their accumulated birthday money – then you could afford somewhere far, far nicer to live. And you don't have to pay tax on money robbed from nerds, that's law. Might actually give up this writing crap and just get bang into intimidating D&D forum moderators outside the NAMCO Arcade.
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,279 pcm.
Keep thinking about asking flat-sharing millennials to self-quarantine, a sort of infection ouroboros, there, where your flatmate infects you with coronavirus, who then infects your (newly-recovered) flatmate with coronavirus, who then, when you recover, infects you with coronavirus again, on and on. Fine for a laugh, but if at any point someone with a diminished immune system steps into that dance then, well. Not my problem, obviously, but coronavirus is giving somebody a logistical headache (Boris Johnson, maybe? Mods?), and the blunt logic of telling us to stay in if we exhibit any notable symptoms, and stay away from work for ten to 14 (sounds good, doesn't it – maybe you will finally actually watch The Wire, instead of telling people you've watched The Wire, which is what I've done for the past 12 years, but I think we all know you are not going to watch The Wire; you are going to huddle on a sofa under a blanket and rewatch saccharine-sweet episodes of The Office again, aren't you, watch "Pam and Jim" smirk their way into a contactless form of love all over again) only makes sense if you, you know, actually stay away from people, but because of the realities of the ruined palace of an economy that has been built to house us we very literally can't.
Is that good? It doesn't feel like it's good, but it's what we have to deal with, anyway, because I don't think I've ever, truly, been alone since I stepped into the pit of renting, and I doubt you have either. We all had a laugh when the generation before us yanked the ladder up behind them and sat on their golden pile of buy-to-let semi-detacheds like puce-faced dragons, didn't we? But feels less fun when the gears that work every day against us threaten to worsen a pandemic.
I suppose one way around death is just renting a place on your own. Like, why not this place in South Kensington, which is… well, not nice exactly. And not in any way cosy, or particularly affordable. But it is there. We cannot argue with the fact that: it is there.
Long-time fans of this column (and there has to be one of you! Someone has to admit they like this!) will recognise of course that this flat has in it a "mezzanine bed", which was a trend that was all the rage back in the heady days of 2019.
A mezzanine bed, normally, is a sort of half-shelf thing, often propped on top of a bathroom or something, wedged loomingly above a living space-type room, and it is sort of like a very adult version of a bunkbed, in that you have to climb steps to get into it, crawl like a fucking dog just to manoeuvre yourself under a blanket on it; if you sit up too abruptly you'll knock yourself clean out on the ceiling above it, and there is a small – never zero, but very small – chance you can just fall out of it, at any time, rolling yourself sideways as you sleep and only waking up when you suddenly rush eight feet down onto the floor below.
Does that sound good? Your other option is getting coronavirus five times from the same housemate you live with now, the one who thinks flushing a piss is a "waste of the water bills" and who you had to sit down and carefully explain to that "not all towels are communal towels". That is your other option, currently.
This flat becomes more frenzied and stressful the more you look at it. Go on, try. Just stare at a photo of a bed leaning gently over a kitchen, there. If you laid on your belly and reached out far enough, I think it is feasible you could make an entire cup of tea from bed without leaving it, which sounds cool in theory but I think in practise would actually feel incredibly demoralising. You work hard every month to earn £1,279. You think that maybe one-and-a-fifth grand's worth of flat would have a bit more to it than that. But you are wrong.
Your wardrobe is a rail behind your sofa. Your sofa is hidden under your bed. Your bed has exactly two pictures above it, each the size of an A5 envelope, because that is what is proportional to the rest of the "room". For some reason, a large, intricate section of your bedroom space is railed off away from you, a kind of high distant shelf. Your bathroom is fine, I can't really be mean about the bathroom. But this is the option, if getting coughed in the face by some lad you half-know from uni isn't. This is you, reaching out, living the independent life, quarantining yourself away in glamorous South Kensington. The options are this, or a dramatic respiratory incident caused by someone who still manages to leave the door unlocked and fully open two nights out of seven. Up to you.