London Rental Opportunity of the Week: Come Die, My Pretty, Come with Me and Die in Hammersmith
What in fuck is this place my dude oh my god.
This article first appeared in VICE UK.
What is it? I hesitate to use a loaded term like "three-storey death pit" but—
Where is it? Hammersmith;
What is there to do locally? I honestly don't know. The one and only time I was in Hammersmith I just have blurry memories of there being a really hard-to-cross six-lane road and I had to get, like, four separate night buses to get home. I honestly don't know. Could have imagined all of this. Go on Time Out, if you care about Hammersmith so much. If you want to kiss Hammersmith on the lips. You – actual you – you want to marry Hammersmith.
Alright, how much are they asking? Eight hundred of your pounds per calendar month, squire!
Let's take an acid read on my ego, here: I was convinced, initially, that this one was a trap baited only for me. This is where we are with my solipsism. I am too deep down the London property mines now, only recycled air around me, no light: I was convinced, for a good minute, that this was not a genuine property advert; that this series of photos and the description was assembled only for me and me alone, to pull me into writing a London Rental Opportunity of the Week about it, and then… well, I don't know. A reveal, a perfect prestige: announce that I had been tricked, that the listing was an elaborate joke, forcing me to shut the column down forever. Would anyone go so far? Is The Man out to get me? Is Big Foxtons on my case, going to extreme lengths to embarrass me more than I possibly could myself? It's so hard to know who to trust now. Nobody is a true friend. Everybody is a possible double-agent in disguise.
Anyway, here's a one-bed in Hammersmith which – and we can't be sure, we can never be sure – but I'm pretty sure is a repurposed well shaft, that a number of innocent people died in, their bones picked clean of flesh by the dogs and left to glint ivory in the dim sunlight, and then built over with a load of wood offcuts and Britain's smallest sink to make something that almost – very, very almost – resembles somewhere where a human being could feasibly live. I just: it just really seems like this was a prison cell once, 400 years ago, and that a number of men were chained upside-down by the feet to the walls of it, and slowly starved and died there. It just has that vibe!
(I am very serious about this. Did you read that longread, a bit ago, about the guy who just lived in the woods? He just lived in some woods, in America. They arrested him in the end, but he'd been out there for years. Occasionally breaking into forest cabins and plundering them for supplies, occasionally not. It just all got a bit hectic for him and he lived in some woods. Dens, shit like that. Occasional sightings. Like he became a yeti, or something, a Bigfoot figure. And I think if you gave that man carte blanche to build the house of his dreams, he would construct this magnificent hell prison and behold it and go: "Actually, fucking hell. That's a bit much, isn't it. Needs a radiator, or something. Some fairy lights to take the edge off.")
Anyway, to verify that this flat was real and not some enormous cosmic joke, I did something I have never done before, which is "actual journalism". And by that I mean called the dude whose name was on the Gumtree listing and pretended to be interested in the flat. He was very pleasant and had a very calming voice and, if he wasn't trying to rent out what appears to be a vertically-mounted studio apartment for £800 per month (which is so much, man), I would very much enjoy talking to him. He had the soothing voice of a meditative wise man. I feel like he could talk me, quietly, from the edge of any cliff.
Sadly, he is a landlord so is essentially a lot of human skin pulled taut over a small pile of garbage, and so necessarily cannot be a good person, sorry, and so these are the highlights of the conversation, as best I remember them:
– I mean, first of all we had to do that one-minute long back and forth you always have to do with anyone whose number you got off Gumtree, and that is: the Gumtree person asks you why you are calling and where you got their number from, a bit like when you start up a fun and flourishing relationship with a new drug dealer – some lad called "Frosty" – who did give you his number at a warehouse party once but does not remember doing this because, as you can surmise, he was exceptionally high at the time. It was a bit like that;
– Listen, I tried to establish the geography of the flat – I really did – but it's almost impossible to figure out the design here. First up: this flat is stretched over three separate floors, although it's hard to tell what the absolute height of those "floors" actually is. Consider your own house, the place you live right now, and the measurement from the floor up to the ceiling: do you think this place, in Hammersmith, has similarly heighted rooms, repeated three times on top of one another? That this is an actual, legitimate, three-storey flat? Somehow I do not, no. Also, there are two entrances. You have to climb between the floors by lifting flaps and go through a separate entrance to have a shower. "It's very small," he said. It is also constructed like a fucking Escher drawing.
– Someone has lived here before and currently does live here. This is not an experiment in how low-grade a living opportunity needs to be for someone to take it. That experiment has already been resolved. There is no low bar for entry on the London property market. Someone, somewhere, will rent any old shit you'd care to list. We know this now.
– Direct quote: "It's not really a space for socialising."
– The guy asked me my name and where I worked and I just completely freaked out and said "Joe" (what a lie! What a born liar I am!) and that I worked in Aldgate (astonishing lying skills!), which as most of you will know would be a very tedious Circle-line commute that no human would ever, really, particularly choose to undertake, especially if the pay-off is "you get to rest your legs on your own washing machine every time you shit or piss".
Moral: no moral. No moral any more. Please do not rent this one-bed prison pit in Hammersmith for £800 a month. Please do not do that. You are better than that. Yes, even you. No matter how bad you think you are. You are infinitely better than that.
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