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.