What is it? There's a toilet next to the bed. Like, just there. There's a toilet (a large lidded bowl you shit and piss in) next to the bed (comfortable squishy surface you sleep and fuck on). There is a toilet next to the bed. t/i/a/t/n/t/t/b.
Where is it? Brighton, home to that one aunt of yours who went a bit off-piste and didn't talk to your mum for five years, then to break the silence sent a handwritten postcard (?????) from Brighton saying you should come down and see her and Chris – deliberately enigmatic about the gender of her new live-in lover, your dad pacing round the kitchen yelling, "I WAS ALWAYS TELLING YOU, I ALWAYS KNEW!" – and then you all drive down to spend a four-day weekend there, but their house smells of boiled food and neither of them wear shoes anymore, and for some reason your aunt thinks the ideal family activity would be to go to the beachfront and watch her try to sell anklets off a blanket all morning, and your mum really kicks off and is like, "We came down here for a break, Natalie; will you give it a rest with your anklets for one fucking day," and your aunt goes fine, says, "Okay, there is a family activity day at the Nature Centre down the way, we can go there if you’re not going to support my dreams," and when you get there it’s a family day, yeah, but not the ones you know and love; there is a lot of aggressive wearing of sequin-embroidered shorts, someone is carrying a flag made of old rags, a bring-your-own-muslin cheese-draining course, and there is live music but all the bands are made up of five old dads in round-framed reflective shades, backwards berets and single-thong leather necklaces, mildly bouncing backwards and forwards and bopping large bongo drums into twin-mic setups – "We Are Earth Eternal And We Came Here To Funk You!" – and off in the distance you can see your mum and your aunt squabbling over something. You can see the similarities between them, here, your eyes peered back from the close facade of them both, the way they both stand, with one arm crossed in front of them as if they are cold, the other one pointed arch into the other's face, hints of your grandma in both of them, and as your mum storms towards you both with that furious wobbling walk of hers, your dad – two mild pints of mead deep and actually having quite a nice time, someone let him play a lute – your dad says, "Uh oh," and as your mum gets near she says, "Come on, we're going," with that final tone that suggests we're not just going home, now, to the boiled food house, but we're actually going Home–home, a four-hour drive through creeping motorway traffic as the darkness falls around you, and you know, deep in your little heart, that your Game Boy doesn't quite have the battery power to make the ride, and you also know, deep within you, that now is absolutely fucking not the time to mention anything to your mum about it, because she is not in the mood. Did you even have a single ice cream? Did you even get a single stick of rock?
What is there to do locally? Go to that Mexican place; go to that curry place; go to that ice cream place; go to that Jack the Ripper place; go to the pebble beach, which really isn't as pleasant as you think; lose £20 in change down the arcade; walk down a big forward-tipping hill towards some students; get a photo outside that guitar shop called "GAK", then ready yourself for an overwhelming influx of Londoners, horrible Londoners – not the good Londoners, because they are all hungover, but the up-early-on-a-Saturday Londoners, PR manager Londoners, Barry's Bootcamp Londoners – who all surge in on heaving trains clasping the remnants of gins-in-tins and flood the place with filth and too-loud laughing all at the merest hint of a ray of sunshine, and it's just that every weekend from March to September—
Alright, how much are they asking? I don't know if I made it clear about the toilet next to the bed, but: £1,000 per month. £1,000! Per month! The toilet is next to the bed!
The toilet is next to the bed here, which I wouldn't advise. I think even if you live alone there is something slightly grim about a toilet next to your bed: you, in the middle of the night, lit in the blue–black dark of the early morning hours, illuminated only by the thin light of your phone and the orange hue of outside's nearest streetlamp, grimly doing a heavy shit into a toilet two to three feet away from where you, in about four minutes' time, wipe up and wash and heave into bed to go to sleep in again, the toilet still tinkling and gurgling behind you, you dense in the stink of your own mess.
But also this flat is £1,000 a month, and anyone who can comfortably afford that wouldn't choose this place, so to live in it alone is extremely and unnecessarily expensive. So to share the cost, you and your SO split it, your first flat together, 500 little pounds halved straight down the middle, and for the first week or so it's alright – you have a system, don't you, for pissing and shitting: if either of you absolutely have to do it while the other is in bed (first one to brush their teeth and set up Netflix on the laptop while waiting for the other, that sort of thing) has to turn away and cover their head with the duvet while they do it, maybe play a song off their phone to hide the various shitting + pissing sounds, but then inevitably all it takes is one of you to come home hammered one night and just completely forget the rules, and you do a loud cacophonous beer shit right there, right next to their sleeping head, and they wake up and look at you, their slumbering head mere centimetres away from the running tap-noise of your sewage, and they go: ugh. And you, as a partnership, can’t really ever get over "ugh".
You try it, for a few days. Couple of mornings of silence. Recuperative brunch date to get the magic back. Careful, tender little attempts at handholding again. An aborted missionary fuck. But still, every time you get close under the blankets again together, it's standing there, cold and solid like a monolith: the toilet, white and ceramic and where you put your shits.
One morning you wake up alone in the bed and turn the lights on, and the first thing you see is the toilet, staring at you. Single text from them: "Needed a couple of days away from it, away from us, away from you," it says. "I'm at my mum's house but don't call me. I'll be back when I’m back." You pad around here, alone, useless: wash yourself in the blue open-drain shower room, stare at yourself pissing in the bedroom's many mirrors, walk aimlessly around the flat's newly refurbished L-shaped leisure room.
You wonder if maybe you read the property listing wrong: "The bedroom is a fantastic size having double glazed window to front and en-suite wet room area," the advert said. It never mentioned the toilet in the middle of the room, and how odd that was, how disconcerting. The advert never said: you cannot truly love someone after you have seen them pull a face when they turd. The advert never said: never have you seen someone shit in more high definition that when you are in bed and they are illuminated by a thousand downlighters. The advert never said: they've gone and they're never coming back. The advert just said: it's near the station, and the oven is new. You can learn to shit against your very human nature if you just roll with it.
Sometimes I end this column with some advice, as if you ever need it, along the lines of: "Don't rent this flat." You're intelligent people and you've got this far: you don't need me to tell you not to shit in front of your bed. But I really do want to drill home how nobody on Earth should rent this flat, because as soon as one person rents it, that makes it OK. As soon as we let one landlord get away with a bedroom–toilet combine, they'll all try it.
And here's how bad the flat is: the freestanding bedroom toilet is distracting from the fact that the shower is just a nozzle mounted in the ceiling over a grate, as if you are a carcass that needs hosing down for blood inside an abattoir; the freestanding toilet distracts from the fact that the wet room section of your bedroom is painted swimming-pool blue and the carpet in the front room is apparently reclaimed from a rough secondary school's library after it got burnt down for the third time in two years. We do not even need to talk about the art in the front room, which is very "the landlord's younger brother who is too into comic book movies has decided to try for a career in art, and to get rid of one of his many canvasses they've mounted it in your living room and will dock your deposit if you in any way take it down or cover it up".
I don't think you should rent this place, really. I think it's possible to rent a flat Brighton for £1,000 a month without making the people you love watch you do shits in it.
@joelgolby (h/t: everyone on Twitter)