“No, it’s on Caledonian Road. It’s not got a number on it, you’ll have to find the shop that sells bongs, just up from the Tibetan Buddhist centre. If the head shop’s closed, look for the shutters with “Fuck you” spray-painted on them. It’s the blue door to the right. If you get to the big prison, you’ve gone too far.”
This wasn’t exactly how I expected this kind of conversation to go.
We had done a tour of flats between the Royal Veterinary College in Camden for my wife and King’s College on the Strand for me. By this point, we’d had our fill of interesting configurations of walls, steps, cupboards and doors that made up the affordable end of couple’s accommodation. One had a shower in the kitchen – handy if you wanted to grab a beer from the fridge mid-ablutions. Another seemed to be mostly made out of rugs. Some had shared toilets on landings, and others were fuzzy. Fuzzy. As in fruit left in a bowl for a year or so.
“Well, with your budget, I’ve got a perfect place for you. It’s a brand new, stunning studio flat – literally just built this week,” said the person whom I didn’t yet have the vocabulary to call a smarmy git.
We walked up from Foxton’s office, and waited while said git tried three or four dozen keys in the lock of a newly-painted, narrow blue door. This opened onto an unlit corridor that inspired images of families huddled together during an air raid. Unexpectedly – though, by this point, expectations had already been stretched pretty tight, we climbed downward. Off a t-junction of hallways, we were shown into our newly-built, stunning studio.
“Oh. Well, um. I guess it’s clean. That’s good, right? Wait, is the paint still wet?”
“Oh, probably. As you can see, it has everything – fully furnished. The kitchen’s right there, in that corner. The loo’s through that corridor.”
“Yeah, it’s got to have two doors between the loo and the kitchen.”
“Right. Er. The doors can’t open all the way?”
“Nah, that’s code, innit? Has to have two doors.”
“But, the ‘corridor’ is too short for both doors to open. I mean, I could open the further one, and it’d stick out into the room.”
“And, well, the kitchen is a hob/sink/fridge combo?”
“This place costs about the same as my parents’ mortgage on a 5-bedroom rancher on a half-acre. My old bedroom was bigger.”
“Welcome to London, mate.”
Well, this was going to be a good way to get to know my wife, since we’d be spending a year in a flat that was exactly two yards bigger than a double bed – on one side. Fully-furnished meant we had a bed and a desk, between which you had to walk sideways.
But, it was a start.
Moving from the arid southern-Colorado desert to King’s Cross took a bit of adjustment.