Monday, 31 May 2010

On Your Own

Everyone reaches the stage where they can no longer cope with flatmates (or ‘sly, noisy, milk thieves’ as they are better known to me). One day we all run screaming from our HMO (House of Multiple Occupation) to seek relief alone.

But the idea that solo-abiders maintain contact with a social circle or family is alien to architects. Most one-bed flats are designed for recluses, with a zen attitude to possessions, and no sex life. Certain one room flats aren’t even large enough to accommodate a double divan in the bedroom: are single people celibate for religious reasons? The ceilings are low, and many new blocks are glorified Japanese capsule hotels. I’ve even heard of a studio conversion with a freestanding bath in the kitchen, although bathrooms are sometimes disproportionately large, as if to encourage us to wash.

You can’t fit a sofa, dining table, chairs, desk, large TV, stereo, books and CD’s/DVD’s in most one room ‘apartments,’ and these are pretty standard possessions. Add to that fanciful plans like drying washing, inviting several friends to stay, four friends round for a sit down meal (or a proper party) are also deemed beyond their reach, or out the league of forlorn, desolate unmarrieds.

And there’s a thriving market supplying one bed flats to divorcees, who are the clients for out of town storage spaces, visiting distant possessions, nostalgic about the days when they owned a library of much loved books, treasured CD’s, and collections of clothes, running their fingers wistfully over the furniture they won in the settlement. Oh, such joy in times past: if only there was room in their new apartment.

The indignities and unfairness increases every day: without a water meter (which many lease prevent us from installing by law) they are stung with water bills as high as that of a large family. Standing charges are identical, and the council tax deducts just 25% from the bill of solitary flat dwellers, despite all those statistics about increasing numbers of lonely, isolated, paranoid, space blocking singletons. Statisticians claim that they die young, so the next move must inevitably be straight into a hospice, as they don’t live long enough to complain.

Unfortunately, isolated flat dwellers can quickly slip into bad habits and strange ways, like my neighbour, who would scoff an entire week’s provisions in one go (that’s seven ready meals) which makes the freezer a mixed blessing. Or they become all twitchy and weird about the best way to wash up or clean the floor, and petty about how to best squeeze a tea bags.

In reality, ie outside of brochures and the warped minds of developers, people who live alone don’t necessarily spend all day on a bed chair/commode, glued fast by their own rotting skin, balancing a congealed, micro-waved ready meal on sad, shriveled laps. Developers like to name these buildings something modern, and edgy, like ‘The Edge’. Considering the contempt in which they so clearly hold them, why not hang a lurid, flashing neon sign above the door, with the slogan: ‘Only Losers Live Here.’


spacecadet said...

Or "Success House" as i saw just today. Probably the developers congratulating themselves.

RenterGirl said...

Nothing surprises me.

Abaddon the scrivener said...

girl! Long time, no hear - I hope all is well with you.

Question: Why would landlords object to the installation of a water meter? I cannot see the problem for them

RenterGirl said...

Hello there, Abaddon the unconstant reader.
If landlords can make a rule, they will. Even if it makes no sense, they nearly always have that in the agreement. And yes, I could go ahead (this applies to anyone trying to economise) but if they discovered it, no matter how right, they will give notice just because they can, and because they want to. There is the line that 'the law approves of water meters.' But I don't care to test this in court.

Mr Wind-Up Bird said...

I think the reason that they don't like the water meters is that once it's in, the water company won't take it out - and for some people (i.e. big families) it works out cheaper without. So they don't want to limit the future rentableness of the place.

Still makes very little sense in a one-bed!

Dazzla said...

Ah-ha. Yet another aptly-timed post.

"...‘sly, noisy, milk thieves’…"

Or, in the case of recent experience, violent, sociopathic bullies. A quick recap:

I lived in a central Manchester agency-leached new-build with my girlfriend for just over a year, before we had to split into different cities, where we both decided to avoid agency involvement; you might have seen me talking about this in previous comments. We have had mixed fortunes. While I found a quiet self-contained flat in suburban Liverpool for half what I was paying in Manchester, she needed to move to Brighton because of work. She found a rented room, en-suite for the same as I was paying for a flat, but it was close to the centre and she could walk to work. Her flatmates were of varying nationalities. Only one was a native English speaker.

This seemed to work out pretty well, although the English woman in question (who is 17 years old, and whom we will refer to as Rose) often had her boyfriend (whom we'll call Pinkie) around to stay: often enough that the other people in the flat wondered whether he moth not actually have anywhere else to live. It also emerged that he'd spent time in prison (he mentioned it at every opportunity) and that he had a pending court case. He is also unemployed. I've actually heard them both making loud xenophobic comments about immigrants in a flat the more resembles the UN than any I've ever seen before.

Alarm bells rang, but in these times of expanding prison populations and eroded legal and judicial processes, having some prison time is much less of a stigma and far less rare than once it was. It still nagged at me though. I mean, everyone else I know has managed to stay out of prison. I know a few unemployed people now, though.

So, on Saturday I decided to go over and find out what was going on. Pinkie was over to stay and I discovered that the previous night, he had threatened to take his girlfriend into the kitchen and break her nose in front of the rest of the house. Rose is clearly terrified of him and everyone else there is wary.

I didn't really like Pinkie very much.

Worryingly, the next day, rather than telling this deranged psycho that he had to leave, the landlord offered him a proper rental contract and told him he was 'supervisor'.

I asked the ex about her contract. It transpires that it's hand-written in bad English, and that she pays the rent in cash and has never had a receipt. The electrics are dangerously compromised by water leaks and lack of maintenance.

She says that she doesn't feel as though she is in any danger, but I think she could get out of there as soon as she can.

I don't know about you, but I'd far rather live in The Edge than on this particular edge.

Some names and places have been changed.

"L'enfer, c'est les autres"

RenterGirl said...

Nightmare! I've been close to that situation myself, and am planning another flatmate hell post in the future (despite being accused of repeating myself - it's something that affects renters all over.) Brighton is a horrible place for renting: expensive and limited housing, so that people are forced to live as your girlfriend does. As you have guessed: she has to move of there. Now.

another_pleb said...

A few years ago, I was living with a couple and another guy. The other guy and me noticed that all of the spoons kept going missing from the kitchen. When the couple went out for the evening (a rare occurence as they always seemed to just hang around the house) we had a look in their room and found a load of burnt spoons and syringes.

We were out of that place like bats out of hell.

RenterGirl said...

You can't sort that out in the pre-moving in interview/appraisal, really. Glad you got out of there safe and wiser.

Johanna said...

Ah, Building names. I've recently spotted the following: Essence, Airpoint, The Azure - but the prize must go to "Vitality and Spirit"?!

Dazzla said...

Particularly arrogant and hubruistic are the buildings that keep the name of the local feature or place of employment that they replace. Brewery Wharf in Leeds is about to attain this honour when Carlsberg close down the brewery and build flats on the site to augment the thousands of empty flats already there.

The absolute worst I've ever seen though, is 'Boddington's Car Park'. Once a proud local brewery abutting an eerie Victorian prison, now an unattended piece of land where people pay to park their cars.

The prison's still there though.

Dazzla said...

Good god, did I really type 'experiance'?

Off to the knacker's yard for me.

RenterGirl said...

Dazzla - we all - myself included - make typing mistakes, caused by being a hurry, not fuckwittery, so don't apologise. And Johanna - a 'where do they get these names from' post has duly been inspired. Thanks for reading all!

Anonymous said...

I noticed a new development of flats in Deptford which was advertised along the lines of 'More than a pretty facade'.

While not a dodgy name (I'm sure it has one though), it demonstrates a staggering amount of self awareness on the part of those developers.

I doubt they'll follow through with that promise though.

Shoe said...

My best story involves some occasional floor crashers giving each other crabs, but I'd rather not go there . . .

RenterGirl said...

No - tell us! Oh. Right. Those kind of crabs...

Lucy-Anna said...
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RenterGirl said...

How many times must I say: don't try and hide ads in the comments!