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london rental opportunity of the week

London Rental Opportunity of the Week: A, Uh, Room I Guess? In Earl's Court

Introducing a new term in Gumtree letting agent bullshit: "semi-studio flat".

Joel Golby

Joel Golby

What is it? Long-time readers — no, come on, let’s just be real about it, long-time fans — of this column will now know the ongoing obsession with the word-pair ‘studio flat’: that you can call anything, estate agents and property managers reckon, anything that contains and kitchenette and a bed and some sort of wet space all in one room, you can call anything that has three rooms’ worth of utilities in the floorspace of one actual room a "studio flat", because that’s what studio flat means, these estate scum reckon, a sort of Swiss Army knife of a living space. And to that end we have seen the very limit of "studio flat" stretched impossibly taut into various profane shapes, see previous. I am sad to tell you we have to start 2K18 off with a new, sub-division of the studio flat. Friends, readers, fans: meet the "semi-studio flat";

Where is it? Earl's Court, which as best I can tell is a really large tube station they used to hold conferences at and a whole mess of medium-to-rank hotels that used to house the people who come into town just to attend said conferences but I imagine sit largely dormant, and a few Prets and a big Sainsbury’s that use to feed them. They knocked down the conference centre a few years ago but Earl's Court became a kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy anyway.

What is there to do locally? I was going to say "Madame Tussaud’s" because I once went for a drink in Earl's Court after an event at MT but looking at the maps it appears that Madame Tussaud’s is a one hour six minute walk away from Earl's Court? Which means I somehow walked an hour to go and get one single pint? In Earl's Court? For no reason at all? I do not remember this dead time. I do not remember this walk. I have lost an hour of my life, somewhere, to the ether, in between Marylebone and Earl's Court. I know nothing of the time I spent crossing Hyde Park to get there. No recollection of walking down past the Royal Albert Hall. I have no fucking idea what there is to do around Earl's Court because clearly there is some sort of dark fucking portal round there that sucked me in, molested my sense of time, and spat me back out again. This is a cursed place. Do not go to Earl's Court.


Alright, how much are they asking? An almost – but not actually – reasonable £80 a week, which I make out to be £336 a month.

Alright alright alright alright alright: obviously the "elephant in the room" here is that £336 per month is a decent enough rate for a room in London. We need to address this. We need to get that out of the way. Nobody paying £336 a month is expecting high luxury. There are uses for every room, and not everyone who rents in London rents to live, some rent to exist: lads with suits who live on the far recesses of the commuter belt, opting to rent tiny sub-human spaces to cut down on their shuttle to the office during the week, coasting back out to their fine houses in the distant suburbs for the weekends; new-to-the-city exchange students who just need somewhere to sleep for a month while they get their shit together, just a couple of weeks, just a few days to gather that shit together. It is shocking, being thrown into the tumble spin of a new city, without any safety net beneath you. Tiny shithole rooms with huge looming wardrobes in them ­– just enough for you to sleep, eat, shower and store your suitcase in – can be an absolute lifeline for some people in times of need. Let’s not deny that in the holy name of content.

However.

Mate.

Look at this photo, taken of a large, looming, monolith-like wardrobe, the one that takes up I would say more than a quarter of the space in the room as a whole: this photo was taken while the person taking the photo was stood on the bed

(All photos via Gumtree)

Consider this bed, trapped against a wall by a fold-up table, which looks small even for a single bed, which you will have to sleep in, cramped up like a tiny snivelling child, and I don’t want to have to say this but I just very much feel the mattress beneath you is so bobbled and fucked up that you can feel them, the tiny mattress bobbles, you can feel them stud into your body through the very fabric of your sheet.

Two hobs, a fridge, a laminated welcome sign which I imagine details exactly how much noise you are allowed to make and between which hours, which must be stuck to rigidly else the occupants of all the semi-studio flats around you – there is no way this s/s/f isn’t wedged inside a household of them, tiny rooms co-opted into even tinier studio spaces, crammed next to each other, sharing one lurid bathroom – unless all the other occupants storm up to your double-locked door and hammer on it, frantically telling you to shut the fuck up because your text alert sound went off a few minutes after ten.

Try and read this description of said flat without feeling like your own brain is dying, as if your own brain is collapsing beneath itself as it tries to parse the typos:

Ah yes, one of the cheapest rooms in London, close to illegal in the dimensions of it, I mean anyone choosing to live here is probably in a situation of extreme emergency or distress anyway... but no DSS or housing benefit, please, trying to run a respectable extortion biz here:

Listen, could someone live a happy life here? No. Could they live a content life here? Also no. Bearable? Can we settle on ‘bearable’? It’s a push, but still no. This is, sadly, far from the worst room we’ve featured on this column (of which you are all A Fan) but it’s still not great, and that’s sort of the problem, isn’t it: cramped up somewhere in a corner of Earl's Court, there’s a really shit, really cheap room, surrounded by other shit cheap rooms, and someone is living there, miserable, and in a city where the rents are just galactically out of control and everyone but the v. richest are being squashed out to the edges, there still exist these tiny, rigid little rooms – built deep into the structure of incredible expensive property, the lines of them unmoving – and as long as they are there, someone will try and rent them out, and someone desperate will take that rental opportunity up. Still: £336 a month. Can’t argue with that so much, can you.

@joelgolby