What is it? Hard to really know but it involves all of the world's tiles;
Where is it? Walthamstow, more popularly known by its postcode, E17, and the boyband that derived from it, East 17;
What is there to do locally? Eat a load of jacket potatoes and run yourself over with a car;
Alright, how much are they asking? £900 pcm, bills not included
What happens to us when we die? Are our souls torn towards heaven or towards hell? Or do we expire into blankness, a final gasp into the long, dark, night? I've always felt that those hot white long minutes before you wake from a fever dream are as close as you get to death – fitful, agitated, your skin feeling both tight and loose on your body at the same time, the only sounds you can hear are your own muffled groans from a hundred thousand miles away – that death has no binary, no good or bad or purgatory in between, that we are not judged by the almighty and divided into one camp or another, that we pass into some sort of catch-all agony, that death is some eternal moment between wakefulness and sleep, never resting, never fully in control.
Then I saw this flat in Walthamstow and I have completely changed all my previous opinions re: death, hell.
Pretty sure this is hell. Pretty sure this is actual hell. They say hell is fire and brimstone and lashings and flayings, but I'm pretty sure it's actually this: being trapped in a tiled infinity, paying £900 per month no bills for the privilege, having to bend your neck all the time because the ceiling is actively lower because everything is covered in tiles. The flat is notably smaller on every possible side because of the sheer number of tiles present. The bed is a yellowing mattress on a bedknobs and broomsticks frame in the middle of a tiled sea. The dining table is a couple of chairs and a veneer table sequestered in an alcove. Whoever decorated this flat had three design influences: east London late-night kebab house toilets, Michael Barrymore's drained swimming pool, and hell. Light blares from every tiled service, angled and reverberating from the flush mount ceiling lights. White grout stares back at you from every wall. There is no way the bed doesn't screech inchingly across the floor every time you fuck on it. The bed is making this noise: eeeeurh, eeeeeurh, klumpfh. The klumpfh sound is your bed, having crossed the room entirely under the locomotion of your fucking, klumpfhing into your fridge. That knocking sound is the downstairs neighbour asking if you can stop doing juddering tile fucks on the ceiling above him. That he is calling the police and writing to the council. That your wacky tiling decisions are impacting on his life.
Like, question: logistically, how did this flat come to be? Who woke up and turned in their next-to-the-dinner-table bed and went, 'John, John! Wake up! We need to tile this entire flat! With massive aquamarine tiles!' Like: how many trips up the stairs did it take to get all those boxes of tiles in. How many tiles does it take to tile a flat? How much do those thousand tiles cost? How much grout was necessary to grout the gaps in. Was the tiling done in one mammoth tile session or was it done in bits? Again: why, though? Again, again: why? What compels a human being to tile their flat into a prison?
When flats like this come up it is now Spareroom.co.uk's job to issue a kind of "ho-ho, yes isn't this a weird one?" statement – I mean here's director Matt Hutchinson with this one, "It's certainly not something you see every day. This wipe-clean Walthamstow pad might appeal to someone who doesn't like dust, but it could be tricky to shake the feeling you're living in a swimming pool" – but I suppose the real story here is that you're expected to pay £900, a month, to live in a sort of tiled cage in Walthamstow. I feel like I have seen this place before on some website that's like, "Photos of Eastern Bloc Single Cell Prisons Abandoned During the Civil War", that kind of thing. "This Spooky Psychiatric Hospital Was Deemed Illegal By The EU Because It Drove People More Mad", &c.
But that's London in 2016, isn't it. Unless you're an oligarch you have to actually think about these sort of things. You and your new boyfriend and girlfriend have finally lost the spark and now you're ready to move in together, and you're trying to escape your two separate flatshares because your flatmates keep complaining about you being over there too often, and you're trying desperately to break out – have some fun, you know, throw a dinner party, go to brunch at the weekends, play at being adults – but your budget is just over a grand a month between you, and you schlep it out east every night after work for what feels like weeks, like months, looking at dusty shitshow after dusty shitshow, estate agents showing you round flats and then telling you at the end, "Of course, someone put a deposit down on this already", looking at stained carpets and yellowing magnolia walls, and you feel like it'll never happen, that you'll never have a place to call your own, and then you step off the train at Walthamstow station, and you go and see what is basically the London flat equivalent of Picasso's blue period, and you go: hey, maybe I could live with all the tiles. You go: maybe we could put a thick rug under the bed, so stepping out of it in the morning isn't agonising, so we can fuck quietly on it. And so you find yourself, don't you, dutifully writing out a deposit cheque, trying not to think about how far this money would go if you just moved out of the capital, try not to think about it, shh now, try not to think about it, try not to cry.
(h/t to everyone who submitted this London Rental Opportunity. Too many to actually name. Loads. Loads of people. But thanks.)
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