|The London Underground has a network of eight main lines serving the city.|
If you look in the local newsagent's shop windows, you will see many postcard advertisements. Amongst the cards offering second-hand furniture or clothing are cards about flats to let or to share. This is where many Londoners begin a long tedious search for accommodation, ranging from the tolerable to dim and dreary basement flats.
The young arrival in London soon finds that the term "bijou residence" can mean a tiny cell, that "pleasant outlook" can mean two trees at the end of a long dark alley.
But London means work, education or fun; there will always be someone in need of this third-rate accommodation. It is often a matter of "making do" for the time being and looking out for something better. The rent is often way out of proportion for the space and facilities provided, but there is always someone prepared to pay.
The bedsitter - a simple room - is for those who prefer a little independence. But thin partition walls and shoddy conversion work can mean many noisy intrusions from next door. The independence can often mean lonelines. How do you meet anyone else? When they pass in and out of the warrens without a word?
One place offering company
of a sort and a little warmth may be the launderettte. For those
with little money it offers two advantages; enjoying the warmth
from the machines (and not the coin operated electric heater at
home) and the chance of a little company. On a cold night you
can put your sweater into the drier and wear it immediately for
The shared flat is an alternative, especially if money is a problem. It means sharing a kitchen, bath and living space, but also the rent and sometimes food and entertainment.
Everywhere in London contains flats occupied by two to six or seven people. Many sharers are friends who met in the city and decided to pool accommodation. Some are people who met by advertising in shops or newspapers. The accommodation is almost infinitely varied, as with the bedsitters. Some are centrally located, and have large pleasant rooms. Others are over-crowded, or far from the city centre. The rents are usually high - certainly more so than in any other town in Britain. It is hard to imagine how many of them manage. But for the single person living in London on average wage, it is often the only way they can ensure a roof over their heads.