What is it? Been staring at the blinking cursor on my screen now for about 30 minutes, trying to think of a fun and interesting way of saying "it's a conservatory", and in that time I've managed to distract myself by going on the /r/UnsolvedMysteries section of reddit and reading up on a historical murder that happened in 1922 – and listen: if we want this to happen, if we want the rest of the column to go ahead without me sinking into a rabbit hole of murder speculation, we are going to just have to get this sentence out of the way and move on. It is a conservatory.
Where is it? It is sort of – but not quite! – in Catford. Can you imagine such an area. A grey zone that aspires to be Catford. That is what we are looking at, right here.
What is there to do locally? The thing I find with Catford is that people who have been forced by circumstance to live in Catford (nobody chooses to live in Catford: Catford simply envelopes them, eclipses their maximum monthly rental budget with affordability, Catford its own force of gravity, sucking you in) is that they all have this very glazed, very faux cheerful way of describing Catford as if it is good, and as if they like it there, wherein in reality it is still Catford. So they say things like, "Oh but there are a lot of artists who live there," which from my experience (going to Hackney Wick on two occasions) means there are just a lot of repurposed wooden crates, everywhere, and buses refuse to go there in case they get mobbed by lads with huge gaping labret piercings threatening to "remix culture", and all the bridges have Significant Words Of Encouragement daubed on them in electric blue paint, and all the newsagents have a special locked cabinet to keep the cans of Red Stripe in. "Oh, but it has that big fibreglass statue of a cat," they say. "There's exactly one pub that's good," they whisper. "There's a vegan place, that does these sandwiches?" I can eat a broccoli sandwich and go to a pub in any given area of London, and I can do it without a man who "takes a drum everywhere, as a bit" jostles me at the table, asking me to buy his CD. Mate, who listens to C—
Alright, how much are they asking? We took the long way round, so I'm going to remind you this figure is to rent out someone's conservatory, plus an additional room, but still fundamentally a conservatory: £1,000 pcm.
Life, the thing we live, is a gorgeous and spectacular thing. All those moments of intense, raw beauty: fresh rainfall on dusty air, the sunrise on a dry golden day, a dog that's panting so it looks like it is smiling, cut grass, fine wine and good butter, a cold beer after a long bike ride, the feeling of serenity you get when you're having your hair cut, warm towels, hot baths, waking up with good skin, running for the bus and catching it, fresh bread, laughing, just laughing, just throwing your head back and laughing, the swollen satisfaction of a job well done, hands in gloves, winning at Scrabble, a crackling fire, a scone spread with a thick and unctuous layer of jam.
There are moments of delight to be taken in every single day we get on Earth. We get a few thousand of them, only. We have to work in that time and make friends in that time and build families in that time. We have to do enough to make it worth it. We have to make our spin justify the spin. And yet, I cannot for the life of me think I would ever get to a stage where I get so bored with life, so dragged out on the giddy thrill of being alive, that I would plan to, save for and then encourage builders into my home to construct for me a conservatory:
Anyway, here's a conservatory that segues into a granny annexe, but is still, in reality, a conservatory. All of your non-bedroom space is essentially conservatory. And this is the thing, with conservatories: they are an insane, deranged facet of English culture, because their entire existence is at odds with our weather. When it is hot outside, the conservatory amplifies all heat and light, creating a sort of dry sauna cum hotbox prison; when it is cold, conservatories are freezing.
Conservatories are good for about six days in spring when it's sunny and warm outside, but not warm enough to actually sit outside – there is a just-uncomfortable-enough breeze going, or something – and you can sort of sit in it and be in the sun but be warm enough, too, for about the two hours where it's bright enough (but not too bright!) for you to read a book. Those are the days conservatories are useful for. Everything else: fuck off.
Every wall of the conservatory is a window, so it's never truly warm at night. Every wall is a window. so, when it comes to the time of night when an ordinary person might draw the curtains, you can't, because your ceiling is made of glass. You, simply, cannot use a laptop in a conservatory, because the brightness pings off your screen and into your face, your eyes, directly into your eyes.
In this particular property, the landlord owns and lives in the rest of the adjacent home – "there is a pass door to the main house which will be kept locked off", the listing says, and have you ever seen a more Tory word-pair than "main house" – and I know already that means trouble: of the landlords letting themselves in when you're not home to "check you've got the boiler set up"; of them passive-aggressively mowing the lawn in the garden behind your conservatory at 8AM on a Saturday morning; of them peering behind net curtains in an unlit bedroom down at you, at night, as you eat toast in your pyjama bottoms and quietly watch X Factor. There's no way living in a flat attached to your landlord's house ends well. There's no way living in your landlord's conservatory for a grand a month is a good idea.
We have not even discussed the various other facets of the property – that the sofas appear to be either specialist lounge furniture designed for sick nans to die on or a literal psychologist's couch covered with a lumpy blanket; or the grave energy of a plain white plastic shower curtain that has somehow managed to stick to my legs just by me looking at a photo of it; or the kitchen (described as "plus size" in the listing, which is very rich for a room in which you'd have to walk sideways and shuffle if literally one other person is ever present in it); or the fact that access to the garden is cheerfully listed as if it is a great favour to you, as "also get to enjoy use of the rear garden that will be managed by the landlord". I can feel it, already – I can feel an email you're going to get if you go in it more than twice in a month, explaining that use of the garden is a privilege that can be revoked, to warn against overuse.
Are you better than living in someone else's conservatory while they pound around upstairs, watching you, managing your garden, in Catford? I know you don't think much of yourself, but yes, you are. Even you are better than this.