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.’