Living in London: Lessons

It’s a recurring theme in my life, this whole startled-at-how-much-time-has-passed thing (evidence 1, 2, 3), and it’s time for another bout of wonder/panic/sheer disbelief. I’ve been living in London for twelve whole months. I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone, and how much has changed in such a busy year.

To commemorate My First London Anniversary, I thought I’d do a Twelve Things I’ve Learnt in London, one for each month.

1. Yes, all of those people will fit onto that tube carriage.

You don’t know the meaning of the word cramped until the Northern line is delayed (which it is, btw. Without a doubt.) and there’s several hundred people itching to get to work on time. Every nook and cranny of that carriage will soon be filled with humans and their bloody fold-up bikes. Someone will be shouting “CAN YOU MOVE DOWN PLEASE”- which despite being totally reasonable, will ignite a flair of passive aggressive shuffling so potent I’m surprised the train doesn’t spontaneously combust. Also, tube strikes.


2. You’re going to become unbearably impatient

Ten minutes is a fair amount of time to wait for a train, right? Wrong. That is an outrageous amount of time, and if you don’t angry-tweet TFL right now then you’re a weakling.

3. All the choice in the world, and you’ll still go to Wahaca

There are approximately seven million restaurants in London. I live in a really small South London town called Southfields, and we have, off the top of my head, 25 decent restaurants within walking distance. In Huddersfield, to get to a good restaurant you had to get a bus and then train to Leeds. There are amazing restaurants on every corner in London. Despite this, whenever I’m hungry, I invariably end up in Wahaca. It’s like they’re a giant burrito-shaped magnet and I’m a willing iron filing looking for tequila cocktails and nachos.

4. A coffee order can be seventeen words long before you sound like an idiot.

In the north, you have two choices of coffee; black or milky. If you order anything with more than two words, or anything that ends in the letter “o”, you’re automatically in the Dick club. This does not exist in London. You can legitimately order a “soy decaf double shot grande mocha latte with a pump of hazlenut syrup” without even blushing.

5. London is gorgeous.


6.  Big cities are overwhelming.

If you’re having a bad day, London sucks. Not too long ago, I received some bad news, and the rest of the day felt like the entire city was trying to trip me up. There’s too many people, you’re in the wrong flow of traffic, everything is expensive, you left your Oyster card on the bus and you’ve just been called a bitch for not having a lighter for some random dude’s cigarette. It’s busy, uncaring and cruel. I wanted nothing more than to get on a train and fling myself two hundred miles up north and settle down in a nice silent field somewhere and burst out into tears. That, or punch the next guy who screams “EVENING STANDAAAAAARD” in my ear. Bad moods don’t bode well in big cities.

7. You’re in the centre of the universe

London is scientifically the centre of the universe. Or at least, that’s what the news would have you believe. I’m not saying this is a good thing- the other day when the Shard was precautionarily evacuated, BBC news spent as much time going into to detail about the Shard not being on fire as it did on, oh I dunno, the crisis in the Middle East, kidnapped Nigerian school girls and the Ukraine. It’d be slightly more understandable if the Shard actually was on fire (which it wasn’t). Slightly.

8. The power of invisibility

Look like shit? That’s fine! Everywhere you go you’re going to be able to blend right into a swarm of people. Nobody will ever notice the mismatched shoes and/or last night’s makeup.

9. It’s changed my views on almost everything.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty open minded person, but living in London really opened my eyes. The causes I was blind to, the people I’d never heard. I’ve blogged some of it (Blog Alpha), but some of it has simply come from seeing comedy gigs like Aamer Rahman or Bridget Christie, or talking to Big Issue vendors, or drunken night bus rambling.

10. London never gets old.

The novelty of gliding past St Pauls on a bus never gets old. Watching street artists spray onto the walls of Brick Lane never gets old. Climbing the stairs out of the tube station to be met head on with Big Ben never gets old.


11. I live for live entertainment.

My interest in going to gigs peaked in the early 2000s to see Kate Nash smash up a piano in a Cockney accent. My interest in comedy, poetry, theatre and talks, however, is flying high and facilitated by London’s vibrant everything scene. Whether it’s empty poetry gigs or West End musicals, I cannot get enough of it all.

12. I can now spot a tourist a mile off.

I’m not one of those Londoners who thinks that tourists are demons sent from hell to trip me up with suitcases on my way to work. Nope, I’m the kind of Londoner who feels insanely smug at having any level of insider knowledge. Once, when the District Line was down (it always is, btw), I spent about half an hour giving detailed travel instructions to groups of confused tourists and it made me feel like I was the Queen of the Underground.


What have you learnt since living in London (…if anything)? Here’s to the second year, now please mind the gap.


Tw*ts in churches.

There are a few things that bug me about travelling. Nothing too big, just the usual. Delayed flights, insect bites, being jealous of other people’s adventures. The same things that irritate anyone going away.

But there is one thing that I loathe. Utterly, utterly hate.

Twats in churches.

You know the ones. You’re in a touristy spot, you’ve just entered a church out of appreciation for it’s cultural significance, the architecture, the lavish embellishments and decorations, and maybe, if you’re that way inclined, for a spot of prayer/worship/religiousness. There is a sign at the entrance, written in several languages, welcoming all people indoors if they would be so kind as to observe dress rules and no take any photographs.

In you walk, ready for a spot of quiet observing. Then you see them. The Twats In Churches (TICs). Stomping around in short-shorts, strapless tops, making loud phone calls, farting as the flash of their camera blinds a passing vicar.

I wandered into a gorgeous church in Venice recently, and was silently apoplectic (that fabulous British mood) to witness some douchebag stood in front of the altar next to a sign asking people not to take photos. The service was about to begin- with people literally kneeling all around him- filming the organ music and people’s prayers with his fucking iPad.

Where do these people think they are? Are they lost?? Did they queue for an hour outside the Basilica thinking there would be a bloody theme park inside? Were they expecting showgirls?? Has this man totally lost his mind?

I have no problem with people capturing the inside of these buildings. None. I personally don’t do it that much, but I have done and I probably will do again. I have no beef with photos of ceremonies, recording the music, or with anyone that is even mildly interested in what the building is intended for. But these douchecanoes cross the line in two ways.

One: Respect what should be respected, dude. You might not believe in whatever deity the building you’re in was designed to worship, but the people around you, yeah those ones kneeling and praying, do. And let me tell you this, they’re not doing that to provide you with some top action shots, they’re doing it because they’re praying for their suffering or future or other stuff that does not need documenting by your dumbass iPad.

And, most of all, two: No TIC will literally ever watch or look at those badly-shot crap quality images of what is a supposed to be sacred place ever again. Anyone who is culturally buttheaded enough to record a private moment is not culturally interested enough to actually ever fucking look at it again. Which makes the whole selfie-with-praying-old-lady spectacle pointless.


Landlord revolution, or hot date?

Oh the joys of living in rented housing. The surprise scaffolding you find your house covered in one day, the hole in your ceiling that’s lived there longer than you have, the joyous feeling of flushing half your wage into some estate agents lap, never to be seen again.

I love it. I truly do. What other aspect of life is it okay to skew social norms, by, oh I don’t know, demanding that you pay £240 for new curtains that they’ve x-rayed for any minor sign of unwarranted dust, but dumbly drag their knuckles across the ground when you politely ask that maybe, if they have the time, could they please fix the boiler because we’ve not had heating for four months? When else in life are people allowed- expected and paid- to be giant bumbling hypocrites? Long live estate agent/landlord freedom, that’s what I say. What possible harm could this have on the future generation’s ability to house themselves?


Well never mind that now, there are important things to be getting on with. I have seventeen upcoming appointments with my new builder. They’ve been sent by our landlord to renovate our windows, or something. I’ve been documenting their progress.

Day One: Had to get my mum, who was visiting from Manchester, to stay at home while I went to work. The builders came, looked at all seven windows in our house, nodded sagely, and left.

Day Two: Had to arrange working from home. Builder man came back and cleaned the edges (not the middle) of two windows. He then left.

Day Three: Same builder returned to clean the other five window edges. I had to work from home again. He shouted at me for having personal possessions (in this case, some money and jewellery, kept in a box) on show. In my own house. In a bedroom.

Day Four: I took the morning off work. Same builder came round, looked at the windows again, wrote down four things and nodded sagely. Tells me there will have to be another round of window-sorting-outtery, and can I take some more time off work?

Day Five: Builder texts me to tell me he is coming round between 5-7pm tomorrow night. Am not sure if I’m expected to provide his dinner, or if this he thinks this is a date. Maybe he’s coming to look at the windows again.

I’m starting to think my landlord is simply sending the builders round once a week to make sure I don’t have the time to muster up some sort of anti-landlord revolution. Where Estate Agents spend ten minutes in the stocks for every £50 of bollocks administration fees they administer. Where you weren’t forced to keep couches that are so brow-beaten that they’re literally impossible to sit on, just because it’s on the inventory. Where broken radiators would be fixed before you were forced to decide whether it’d be warmer to make a cup of tea with that newly boiled kettle, or just to cut out the middle man and drink it straight from the spout. Where sending round builders to gawp at my window for thirty seconds a day does not mean I have to take time off work.

Maybe that’s it. Or maybe the builder actually does fancy me.


Weekend away ‘essentials’. (#Blog4Trek!)

When I saw this Blog4Trek competition, I was pretty psyched. Trip to ‘Mericuh? Check. Enter by blogging? Love it. The topic is on travel? Lovely, loads of fun to write.

But then I started thinking about it. The topic is “What are your weekend away essentials?”- fairly innocuous, nice little glimpse into your travelling style and juicy enough to get your blogging teeth into. Right?

Wrong. The day I wrote out a draft, I was getting more and more irate. Nothing I wrote was actually an essential, more what I thought would sound snazzy or impressive. And hardly any of it was stuff that I actually took on a weekend away.

Always take black skinnies.” I chirped. “Great for clubbing through to camping, and no spill marks!” Then I went to Margate for the weekend, and packed a floaty pink dress and the only other clean thing I had in my room while I was packing- a tartan scarf. No black jeans in sight- and it was for the best. It would have been weird to rock up at a wedding wearing biker-chic.

Don’t bother with your fancy camera and tablet, you’ll only forget the charger!” I giggled. Then I remembered my last trip to York, where I got more work done on the coach than I think I did during my entire three years at University- all on my tablet- and still had the most gorgeous time wandering around tiny side streets.

Take a book- but choose wisely!” I squeeked, ignoring the fact I’ve been on a total reading-dry-spell for nearly two months, forgetting that my last trip to visit Oxford-based friends resulted in me being too hungover to board the right train, never mind settle into a cosy novel.

Annoyed, I deleted my draft. It turns out I’m not very good at following my own advice, and my weekends away are usually haphazard, last-minute, don’t-forget-the-train-tickets, oh-god-I-hope-I-brought-underwear, where-did-I-say-the-B&B-was packing affairs. Great. This meant I was going to have to write something corny about “pack only your sense of adventure“, when in reality, I want to say “Oh who cares, it’s only two nights. If you brought odd shoes or left your camera under your bed, you’ve got two days of relaxing, catching up, exploring or adventuring in front of you to make up for it. It’s not a bad compromise.”


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