What is it? Do you ever have one of those weeks where you feel the sharp agony of everything, the desolation in the everyday, the cold stabs of reality in your ribs at every turn? You see a pair of child's discarded shoes on a low grey wall and think: 'The boy is cold and shoeless.' You see a dog rattle round a corner a few steps ahead of its master and feel, with a shock of fright and care, that maybe it is alone and in need of rescue. Small accidents send you teetering like a spinning top: a dropped pan of water splashes your front, a short sharp scold; toothpaste gets on your shoe in the frantic seconds before you leave the house; you, half-mad at a lost key, touching at all your pockets again and again and again. There is no way to control these urges: your reactions are inflamed, your nervous system is locked in a fight-or-flight loop-cycle; it's like your emotions have a fever.
And then you see a bathroom with the towel hook askew and think: 'How pathetic it all is.' You see a lone kitchen cupboard with a single door missing and think: 'In 2019, with Western civilisation being what it is, we still think humans are worth nothing.' You see a diamanté-studded soap dispenser adorning the ivory sink of history's bleakest bathroom and think: 'Someone, somewhere, tried to cheer this place up. They tried to bring a little joy into this place. This windowless little cave – a cleaning cupboard with high aspirations – and they went to Wilko, and bought a fun soap dispenser, and nestled it there, a little glimmer in the dark.' 'That will look nice in my little bathroom, they thought. 'That'll perk it up. Six months here, then we're done. Eight at a push. Then we can move on to something bigger, better. But for now: it's just this 75p soap dispenser, and me, against the world.'
And somehow, through some evil magic known only to the devil, the soap dispenser had the exact inverse effect. It is 200 percent more depressing than the 100 percent well-intended joy it was supposed to bring. Anyway, that is what we are looking at this week.
Where is it? The thing about these £850-a-month shitholes with diamanté soap dispensers in them is that they are never, ever in a location that would in any way justify their price, and by that I mean: say you want to live in an £850-a-month shithole, yeah? With a bathroom in your cupboard and a single chair looking at your bed and, inexplicably, two fridge units, even though it's not entirely clear whether you have a hob. So, say you live there, for £850-a-month. You want that to be in the world's most accessible location, to justify the fact that the rest of the flat is shit and beige and sort of looks like someone built a sigh out of bricks.
You want it to be literally on top of Tottenham Court Road station, or you want it in the exact centre of King's Cross, where all those food stalls are. You don't want it – and I believe I'm reading this correctly – a "10- to 15-minute walk from White Hart Lane station", in a netherzone of completely invented Overground stations – "Silver Street", "Meridian Water", "Angel Road" – but also quite crucially not in any way near any of them, so you are stranded in an area that could be described as "slightly Edmontony without actually being Edmonton", and reliant on weird little single-decker shuttle buses that have a letter before the number in them, and they run you to a made-up station name that only operates trains by Greater Anglia, and the mist has descended and you hold on to your travel pass – to make this journey you need both an Oyster card and a travel pass.
What is there to do locally? The flaws in this flat, in order, are:
– It's an in-roof studio, so your available headroom is necessarily bisected by the slant of the roof, which means you can’t stand up to your full height in around 40 percent of the flat, which is already small, so you need to keep your major activities – i.e. ones you might stand up to full height from, like sleeping and sitting, but also your path to the kitchen to make food and fetch water – you have to keep all of those to a narrow and invisible confined area that runs down the centre of your space.
– There is no wardrobe, or any sort of storage at all actually, so all your things have to run into the little low cupboards that run behind your bed, i.e. in crawlspace, and I don't know what the exact most elegant way to ball up your socks and store them is, in crawlspace, or how to get them out of there in the morning without a fucking torch, but I suppose that's your problem to deal with, isn't it, prick.
– Electric wall-mounted heating over gas central heating, which isn't that bad really, I just personally disagree with it (it is not as effective! You are directly under the slate of the roof! You are going to get cold in winter!).
– A door is missing from the only kitchen cupboard you have; the bathroom is lightless and airless and the toilet seems to have been mounted in it at a 30° angle to the door, which is erratic, and overall the room has a general air I can only describe as "more sterile and threatening than most US prison execution rooms".
– You have two fridges even though you don't have any visible hob (I'm sure there is a two-hob mounted up there in the sink in a special kitchen unit that seems to only exist in these sorts of flats – in fact, you can use a combined kitchen–sink–two-hob unit as a pretty good marker for shitholery: even if you installed one in Buckingham Palace it would instantly render the place sort of sticky and rogue). Very crucially, one of those fridges (the one with the microwave on it!) is planted directly in front of the fucking washing machine, so to open the door of your washing machine you have to pivot your extraneous fridge out of the way, and really there is no other good place to put said fridge where it isn't fucking in front of something, unless you move it to the opposite wall by the bathroom door and use it as a TV mount, and even then I think the width of the fridge would exceed the width of the available wall space, so you'd end up with a little jut of fridge-lip poking out, which you would bang your leg on maybe fifteen-hundred times a day, and also that fridge is now slap bang in the middle of the available room in your flat that you can stand upright in (see above.), so now you can walk around in maybe 35, 34 percent of your flat, because you had to move a fridge there that you didn't need so you could actually put your laundry in the washing machine.
Alright, how much are they asking? The worst thing is that I can still be writing this column in one, two, ten, fifteen, one-hundred, nine-hundred, fifteen-thousand years, and the only truth of it is: the roofs will get more slanted, the fridges will get more numerous, the two-hob will whittle down to two, the flats will get ever shitter and the prices will get even higher. And they will somehow find a way to be even further away from fucking Tottenham. £850 a month.