What is it? A cupboard under some stairs, literally described on a Gumtree advert – as though this is a positive thing, as though Harry actual Potter wasn't deeply unhappy and unloved when he lived in a cupboard, and that wizardry was the only thing that saved him from a life of abuse-level misery – as a "Harry Potter room";
Where is it? Seven Sisters, the bit that got really on fire when the riots happened;
What is there to do locally? Everyone I've ever met who lives in Seven Sisters gets this really faraway grey look in their eyes whenever I ask what it's like round there, they sort of flinch as if they are about to get hit, and so the only answer I can derive from this question is "become a victim of knife crime";
Alright, how much are they asking? £350 per calendar month, plus the odd £10 here and there for house stuff, e.g. a baseball bat to hide under every single housemate's bed just in case, some padlocks, a panic button.
There was no end game when we started the popular franchise "London Rental Opportunity of the Week". It was just a way to document the various weird rooms in London – they always tended to come in threes, the rooms, in fits and spurts, a bunkbed here, a camping bed in a kitchen there, a single room in a 15-person house that somehow costs close to a grand, then silence, then the dark circle began anew – just a little insight into this crazy city 8.5 million people call home. But then the dread started to build. An inevitable climax, building like a storm. We came close – there was an advert for something similar that turned out to be some crap viral for a new rental website – but now it seems that the inevitable has actually happened. People, it's on. The Harry Potter Room:
When someone offers you a chance to sleep under their stairs for £350 a month, you have to ask some basic questions e.g. is this advert, in any way, legit? In my professional opinion: it is legit, yes. Evidence towards legitimacy:
i. The photos of the room aren't just of a single mattress wrapped tightly in a sheet and a lamp – like, this room has been lived in. Someone has spent about 10 months living in this space and trying to make it as nice as it is possible to make what is essentially a murder scene. Paper stars. Fairy lights. Pink paper pompoms. What appears to be a big bra made for walls. Little jar of cotton balls. A unicorn headband, which does – I'm afraid – indicate that the current occupant is insufferable. These are the details of a room that can't be faked, they have to be real: nobody pretending they are renting out a cupboard under their stairs goes as far as putting a can of Elnett in shot;
ii. The effort taken to describe the rest of the flat as fun – "the gang", "we often (almost every weekend) go out together", "you can always find someone to talk about everything and not lock yourself in the room" – is just over and above the call of a flatmate search advert. You really need a cool gang to fall back on if you're going to be living in a fucking cupboard;
iii. The words "It's generally used for a few months by people who want to save up for a bigger room or to go off travelling" which truly is a very nonplussed and straightforward way of describing why someone would want to pay money to live in a cupboard;
iv. The fact that both of the photos of the Harry Potter room are taken in portrait mode and then uploaded entirely sideways indicates a level of inept idiocy that it is impossible to synthesise;
And so it can only be gathered that we have a genuine Harry Potter cupboard for rent in Seven Sisters. With eight other people. You live in a cupboard and you have eight housemates, sharing one shower. Eight housemates who don't like super-regular but mostly regular parties. Eight people who live in a warehouse – already cheap – and share the rent among eight of them – even cheaper – and yet still need the financial relief of your monthly £350, because someone decided to rent a fucking cupboard out, and if it wasn't a financially-led decision then what the fuck was it. Lots of gatherings, indoor and outdoor. I know I am projecting but: at least one of these housemates doesn't wear shoes, ever. At least one of these housemates has visions of running a "pop up food stall" and uses the entire kitchen space at once and doesn't wash up afterwards. At least one of these housemates listens to MRA podcasts first thing in the morning. I know because I have lived with all these people. Imagine the mess this nine-person house-wide WhatsApp group is like. So many, "guys, can you be quiet if you're waking up between 5.30am and 9am? It's when I do my sun salute yoga routine and all the clanking is really messing with my vibe" messages. "Guys, I know we all like to gather both indoors and outdoors, but someone did blow off my mango wood chopping board and that's super uncool". Recall that you will be living in a space under some stairs that eight other people will clatter up and down every night and every day. Consider the messages you, yourself, will be sending before long. What's the worst thing? Your housemates? The space? Or the fact that I looked at this advert and literally thought, 'You know what? I could probably live like that, if I had to'?
Sometimes I like to depress myself by playing this game where I ask all my friends back home what they pay in rent or, in some cases, mortgages. It makes me feel alive in the most horrible way possible. Example: one of my friends back home lives in a five-bedroom new build with three others – they have two (two.) spare rooms, a kitchen about the size of my current flat, and a garage – and they pay £250 each. For a mere £100 more, they could be living in a cupboard in Seven Sisters. Then go travelling, or whatever! The world is your oyster when you live in a cupboard in Seven Sisters!
Ah, who am I kidding. London isn't really a viable city now, is it. And this means, unfortunately for your home town, there are about five million young people and a shitload of Pret a Manger's that are going to flood out of London and into the next city du jour over the next couple of years. I don't know where: could be Birmingham, could be Leeds. Could be Sunderland, for all I know. But what I do know is we will bring is our fancy London ways – our food markets, our immersive theatre, flashmobs and contactless public transport system, cafes that only sell cereal – and then we will spread our Franco Mancas and shops that only sell artisan greetings cards, and then the house prices start to creep up, and we petition the opening of a new Sainsbury's even though a new Sainsbury's would be really useful, and slowly, perniciously, we will wreck your home town, and the town after that, and the town after that. Until we are a country of people proud to call a cupboard our home. Until we are a country full of Harry Potters.
(h/t Simon Cereda)
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