I love you, my little room in London. All 2.5 square meters of you. (I don’t know if that is how big you are, I Googled what a square metre was and made an educated approximation.) All I know is that you are bigger than a ruler and yet still very small and that I love you, oh sweet haven from the horrors of London’s streets.
I thought I would never find you in the sea of overpriced rooms. How could I ever meet a structure that met my list of demands that was growing ever longer?
So please let me count the ways that you, my own room in London, are the one.
1: You have no mice.
2 out of the 4 properties I have lived in have had these squeaky companions. A low hit rate for London I hear. And I am going to say what everyone else is thinking, mice are cute as hell and I really did not mind sharing my house with those little nibbley darlings. That is what everyone else is thinking right? I may have been caught feeding a mouse by a housemate. I can’t help it. I am a vegan.
2: You have no rats.
So it turns out if you encourage mice by feeding them cheese, rats will go to war with the mice, murder them and take over their living quarters. RIP mice friends. We had two two rats Barry and Barry the Second who lived with us. You could tell them apart as Barry had a limp and Barry the Second did not. They were not as cute as the mice, so I did not feed them cheese. We quickly moved out once the rats had moved in. I find ignoring a problem makes it go away. The same cannot be said of council tax, if you ignore them, they will take you to court. Don’t ask how I know that…
3: You have no black mould.
I don’t know how much of this I have ingested to date but I do have some genuine tips to help you avoid living in a house with this silent poisoner. Live in the middle of a terrace of house and on the first floor of three. Hope your neighbours can afford to turn their heating on and sandwich yourself inside their warmth. Also, if your dehumidifier isn’t working, make sure you have emptied it of water. If you turn it on for one whole year and don’t empty the water once it won’t work. Please don’t ask me how I know this too…
4: You don't share a front door with a brothel.
We knew something was up from the first day we moved in. No matter how clearly we labelled our doorbell as 56B it would get rung up to 10 times a day with people actually wanting downstairs, who shared our front door and small hallway. A first, we thought drug dealers. But we had gaps in our wooden floor so we could hear them working below. There was one glorious night where they overheard us playing ‘Roxanne’ and we all sang along together. It did get frustrating answering the door to their customers, often being mistaken for a sex worker myself even when wearing a dressing gown with black makeup smudged all over my face.
5: You aren't managed by an estate agents that rhymes with Cockstons.
I have a rule when swiping on Tinder. No estate agents, because as general rule they lie. They lie right to your face, so make sure you get everything in writing, I didn’t. I don’t want to get too deep into the drama but it involved us not being present for the inventory. A kitchen full of filthy appliances and many hours of fun working out what the odder ones should be used for. Draws without bottoms, broken bed frames. Mice but I didn’t mind them and many damp walls that we were told were from a past leak and purely aesthetic, which later developed into - you guessed it! - black mould.
We were advised by Shelter after three long months of nothing being fixed that we could take them to court but there was no point as it would be so expensive. It ended in us signing a deed of surrender meaning we could move out early but couldn’t take them to court. Now I will never be the protagonist in an awesome biopic about me representing myself in court and changing the London rental market… starring Julia Roberts.
6: You are not a police station.
I wasn’t sure about putting this one on the list as living in a police station has its perks. It was huge and great for parties, it had a rooftop and it was £435 a month for TWO rooms. But I did find needles in the roof tiles and I had to shower in my flip-flops. There were also weird paintings everywhere and, in one of my rooms, a wooden sculpture that looked like a human cat activity centre.
7: You have heating and hot water.
The downsides are linked to the fact I was a guardian of the property rather than a tenant. So they didn’t have to provide a certain quality of living. We went without heating and hot water for months over winter and there was nothing we could do about it, except move out. I could watch Frozen Planet in a 4D experience though.
8: You have no phantom cockroaches.
The man in the room next to me informed me he found cockroaches in his room. I swiftly gave my four weeks notice to move out. I was ready for a real house again. Every day I waited for them to spread to my room. I had nightmares of cockroaches consuming me. They never came. I can only assume it was phantom cockroaches haunting my neighbour too.
He was a drug taker.
So now, we come to you: my love, my current abode. I can’t believe you pass all the above criteria. Okay, maybe when my mum asked me if I got my Christmas card, I went in search of the letterbox and found out my post goes to the local Chinese takeaway. But now I just have an excuse to get a takeaway every now and again. You not only have a washing machine but a tumble dryer. Yes, if the tumble dryer is even plugged into the wall the fuse blows but at least all the other electrical appliances work fine (as long you do not use more than two at a time). There is an added perk of an unintentional wet room as I can’t shut the shower door. I can even sleep without a blanket in winter (because I can’t work out how to turn the radiator down).
So, my own little room in London, you are not perfect. But, in a city where rent costs more than half my income and the average monthly cost is £1246, you are fine. And that, to me, is glorious.
Written by Caroline Buckley (of Finchley)
Illustrated by Josh King (of Tower Hamlets)