What is it? What is it? What is it? Every week you come to me with this shit! What "is" it? Open your fucking eyes! Use them! Am I to spoon-feed every crumb-like morsel of content into your dribbling little mouth? Pig! You useless little pig! How dare you ask me that!
Where is it? I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm going through some things. I went to see "Rex Orange County" at Brixton last night, which is not something I should admit. You ever do this, where you listen to an artist on Spotify, sort of idly in the background, notice them slowly populating your "Liked" songs list, and then tickets come up for one of their shows and you figure huh, OK, I guess I should go and see them, and you turn up, at the gig, having literally never googled the artist ever once, and when you get there you realise they are fucking 21 years old, they are essentially sadboi Ed Sheeran, and all their fans are too young to drink so there's no queue at the bar? Have you ever done this? Have you ever accidentally gone to what is basically an Ed Sheeran concert, pissed, among children, in Brixton? Has this ever happened to you? Has this ever happened to you?
What is there to do locally? Like, he literally did an Ed Sheeran cover. That's when I knew I'd made a mistake.
Alright, how much are they asking? Oh, right, the format: it's in Stockwell, things to do in Stockwell include "waking up, confused and drunk, in the neon-lit terminus of the night bus", and the rent they are asking for every month is £845. Can we please, now, just look at the eye-level radiator mounted on the wall?
Here's an eye-level radiator mounted on a wall. Now, I know what you are thinking: so what? So what. So what it's got a high radiator. Maybe high radiators are modern. You don't know. Who even invented the rule that radiators have to be close to the ground, anyway? Put a fucking radiator on the ceiling if you want to. See if I care. You're not God. You’re not Radiator God. You’re not the God Of Radiators. The radiator is high up. Have a shit about it. And, to be fair to you, you are right to attack me in this way. But the thing about the radiator is it is a subtle clue that there is far more amiss in this flat than initially meets the eye:
I have been writing this column for a long time now: a hundred years, a thousand years, somewhere in the region of a hundred-thousand years. It means my antenna are quite sensitively tuned to bad flats, bad houses, places that would be horrible to live in while also being expensive. I can flick my eyes down a Gumtree "studio flat" search page and figure out which links are worth opening in a new tab (infuriatingly difficult on Gumtree, the worst-designed website on the planet) and which are not. I know, by sight, a shit-hole.
But this place threw me, initially: it's… nicely finished. It's… got a washing machine, actually in the kitchen. It's got a toilet that isn't directly in the shower, and nice floorboards. Is it OK? It's not great, but it's not the worst place we've ever had, nor is it the most expensive.
Where’s the bed, though. Where’s the— ah, no, see, I’ve just noticed there’s no oven. Also your wardrobe is by the front door, shunted between that and the sofa, which you have to fold down each night to sleep on. And yes, actually, squint and you’ll see it: this isn’t a flat, is it? It’s a corridor someone put two doors in.
So here’s where we are, 2019: a corridor repurposed into a flat. If your housemate left a sofa in the hallway of your sharehouse (if you have lived in a sharehouse with a hallway, this has happened to you. There is always someone leaving a large, unwieldy item in the hallway. This is the nature of sharehouses. This is a law passed down from God) you’d be annoyed, wouldn’t you? But if you do it and you’re a landlord and you can lock the door either side of it, then somehow you can charge £845 a month for that. This is the sickness we have allowed to spread: that the smallest scrap of space can be carved into the rough shape of a flat, disguised from it’s true intention, and rented out to someone in need of it. One of my favourite stats is: the population of London is more-or-less the same now as it was in the 1960s (it wobbled down a bit in the ‘80s, wobbled back up through the millennium). In the 1960s, did people sleep in nicely fitted-out corridors and pay £845 for it? No, not really, not that I know of. The sheer number of people in London hasn’t drastically changed. The sheer number of properties has only increased. But for whatever reason – buy-to-let landlordism, vacant houses owned by foreign investors, the market becoming what it has become, Greed – the number of people needing a place to sleep and having to afford whatever price is dictated for the privilege of that has led to someone putting a radiator halfway up a fucking wall, slipping a bed out and a sofa in, and asking for the best part of a grand each month so you can live there, in a place where you can feasibly reach your toilet from your bed. That’s the world we live in, that’s the world we got. I would encourage you not to rent this corridor out in Stockwell. I would encourage you to burn down the houses of those who rule us, and those who displease you.