What is it? The property listing says "1 bedroom ground maisonette to rent", but what I'm seeing is "a garage between two houses", so. Hard to know who to trust sometimes, isn't it: moi, the last voice of reason in Great Britain, or some estate agent with a 15 percent commission on the line. Hard to know. Very hard to know.
Where is it? Stroud Green, a little enclave in the Haringey–Crouch Hill–Crouch End triangle, where, technically, you can exist as a poor person, but everyone else there (un-poor people: £400 yellow cagoules over Breton jumpers with two grand prams and KeepCup lattes) can somehow sense that you are poor, smell it on you, see it on you like dirt, and so they cross the roads to avoid you, they shun you like the medievals might have shunned a witch, they don't invite you to their closed-road street parties, they knock on your door at 9PM and ask that you keep the noise down because it's keeping their child awake, even though you're sat alone in your house reading in silence and they live eight doors away. "Yes, well, you know," they say. "And don't think we haven't noticed the shoddy job you've been doing with the recycling." Have they… been going through your recycling bag? You diligently split the tins from the cardboard and leave the green see-thru double-knotted on the kerb at midnight the night before the trucks come. Are they… sneaking out in the dead of night to check you've not put an orange juice carton in there? "I found a wad of tin foil in there the other week. A decent rinse and you could have re-used that. The council have been notified and I sent a memorandum to the Stroud Green mailing list." Welcome to the neighbourhood!
What is there to do locally? There seems to be an annual "Stroud Green Festival" where lads in grandad-collar shirts holding guitars and women who think natural deodorant works, holding violins, meet up to play classical music by candlelight. My traditional ideas of hell have always been quite close-minded – fire, sulphur, brimstone, torture – but I've just realised that, actually, personally for me, it's attending Stroud Green Festival, sitting in a pew for six hours while someone's mum wears a fun brooch and sings alto at me. Genuinely, genuinely, genuinely: I would rather you Edward the Second me instead of that. Warm it up—
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,350 pcm, or £17k a year.
A sad and disappointing admission: this place is quite nice, sorry. I know that this is not the point: I know that you come here for creeping lesions of black mould, and bathroom crevices, and a standing fridge unit humming ominously over the bed, and a second, single bed in your bedroom where another fully grown human person can live, paying £700 a month to live there, sleeping when you sleep, skittering around there in the dark, making mournful little sleeping noises.
I know that – I know. But this is quite nice. For somewhere that is quite fundamentally un-nice – it’s a garage that someone has inexplicably built a quite flimsy-looking extension on top of – this is quite nice. Fan on the wall, that sort of thing. Spice and pan trolley. Clean kitchen countertops in a tasteful wood finish. But also: it is still a garage someone built an upstairs on. Never forget that:
But it's nice though, isn't it. Little sofa 'n' TV area. Kitchen corridor with a full-sized oven. An ironing board just tucked away there, by the door see, for storage. If you’re organised and neat you can keep a nice ship here: picture shelf for memories, clean white bedding, Instagram-worthy plants tastefully nestled on an inserted shelf.
And then you look at the living room lighting, which is the same uplighting your dad uses when he goes out to the garage freezer to look for the spare bag of Aunt Bessie's Yorkshires, and you think: 'Ah, that's probably not as romantic as it looks. Any lighting that makes that high metallic ttee! sound when you turn it on is inappropriate for a house. A house where two of the walls are actually just the external walls of two others people's houses – and therefore about as cold as just a bunch of exposed bricks painted white would be – is probably inappropriate for a house. That's just my feeling, and my opinion.'
So the real horror here is how this happened in the first place. I need to know the logistical leaps and skips that have led to this place. Does the garage belong to one of the adjoining houses? Did they plan and permission and pay to have an extra garage storey built on? I am not assuming that a homeowner in Stroud Green is so poor, so destitute, that they simply have to rent out their garage for £1,395 a month or they will go bankrupt, and their young family will surely starve and die. You can tell from the quality of the conversion that this has been done with careful and meticulous planning and an eye for detail, with money behind it, not ahead of it.
So no, someone made this in the same pragmatic way everyone with an oar in it plays the London property market: with a naked, untethered, insatiable greed. How could you sleep knowing that, a few feet away from you, in what is more-or-less your garage, someone is paying £1,395 of their monthly income to live and bathe and sleep? How can you, in good conscious, know that those little knocking and clonking noises of life you hear coming from the garage (and upstairs garage) next door are coming from your tenant, who you are squeezing for an extortionate amount of rent for the sheer luxury of living alone, in Stroud Green, in a garage conversion? And also, with respect: who is earning enough that they can comfortably part with £1,395 in rent a month, and chooses to spend that money on living in a garage? No, that's victim-blaming, and unbecoming of this column.
Burn the house adjacent to the garage down and shoot the landlord. Spend your rent money on bullets this month. It's the only way we’re going to sort this mess all out.