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Travel adventures of the Cooks Exploring the UK and Europe, no plans, just each other and our backpacks.

Loving London Life

UNITED KINGDOM | Sunday, 9 December 2007 | Views [907]

Ive discovered there is an art to loving living in London. You hear stories of people coming to spend time in London and its always that they either love it or they hate it, and I mean HATE it! So being the typically less than optimistic person I am, I was sure I was going to hate it. I assured everyone that I would not be gone for more than 6 months, and was fairly convinced that it would be a very hard 6 months. But I have learnt the art of Loving London, and surprised myself beyond belief. This story may not convince those of you who have not lived in London and yet learnt to love London to come and visit this city, and will probably turn you off ever wanting to attempt living here, and this is why this story has yet remained untold on this blog. But as our time in London is moving into a new era, with a new home and our impending trip around Europe, and I have had time to experience 3 different seasons in London (even if only part of them) I feel this story is now ready to be told. But then where do I start? And how do I tell the story?

First there is the housing. Probably the longest story to be told. Someone told me early in our search for a house in London that when your parents ask how is London, you always say wonderful. You don’t tell them what your house is like, you don’t tell them what your living conditions are like, you just tell them London is lovely. As we searched for a house I realised why. Housing in London is incredible, not only is it expensive beyond belief, but its awful! We looked at some shocking flats and houses when we were looking for a room, one was to be shared with us and an old couple who spoke only Russian, with a tiny kitchen and no living area and a bedroom that Sean could hardly stretch his arms out in, we then saw one which was a converted warehouse, lovely house, except for the small fact that there was no window!!! Anywhere in the entire four bedroom flat, even the front door opened to a foyer so there was no way to create an airflow or to get any natural light!!! And they wonder why people in London get so depressed!

SO when we found a nice 6 bedroom house in Fulham, two minutes walk form the tube and so close to everything, with 8 pubs within a 1 min walk form the front door, it was easy to look past the slightly dilapidated condition of the house, and the backyard full of mattresses and the lack of a lounge room. It was a palace compared to the other places we had seen and we moved in and joined the 5 other housemates already in the house. It was all quite friendly and enjoyable for the first few weeks, but as the number of housemates grew from 7 to 15 (13 official tenants but always more staying) things started to turn a little crazy. It began with the antics of the Italians who lived upstairs who appeared to be feeling a little out of place with the increasing number of Australians in the house and decided to annoy people by leaving dirty dishes around the house, this soon progressed to wild parties midweek and playing music to shake the house from 11pm to 6am every night, an eventually smearing all sorts of unmentionable things around the house, When they were eventually evicted by a minibus load of police we thought things would improve. However our landlord with many identities had other plans.

if it wasn’t a flooded toilet, it was no functioning shower for days at a time, broken windows left unrepaired for weeks at a time, no oven, washing machine or freezer for months at a time, but nothing could beat the ceiling in one of the bedrooms which collapsed after a constant waterfall had been dripping from broken pipes in the shower and left unaddressed for over a week. The poor boys who lived in that room had to sleep in the kitchen with bubbles the mouse for a week before the hole was fixed! Then there was the letter that arrived in the mail informing us that the house was soon to be repossessed by the bank (thankfully a day or two after we had put our deposit on our new flat), to which the landlord assured everyone it was a mistake and everything was fine. So here I could decide to hate London as many of our housemates did, but if I decided that then I would never have been able to enjoy the drunken electrician that turned up at 11pm and went nuts spinning the washing machine while declaring “it’s a CRAAAZZZYYY Machine Man” in his strong Jamaican accent, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the treasures like the toy machine gun found in the cellar while we were trying to find out how to turn the power on after yet another blackout when the landlord forgot to pay the  bills. Where else would I have had the opportunity to meet 26 new people who had at one point been a resident of 14 Epirus Road in the four months that we lived there? And the stories I will have to tell about the first house I lived in in London to my grandchildren in years to come! And then there is also the smug little smile I have on my face when I think of a few of the other housemates who will be evicted at 11.20am this Thursday by the bank, who chose to ridicule me when I warned them to take the letter from the bank seriously. Now would I get to do that at home? And as for the parties that we had in that house, they are an experience in their own that could never be experienced anywhere else and never described to anyone who had not attended one! So if anyone ever asks me how do I feel about the time I spent in the Epirus Rd madhouse my answer would have to be “I loved it!”.

Then there is the transport. It’s a tough choice between the tube, the bus or walking, all options many Londoners hate, but really all another opportunity to fall in love with London. You could get on the tube and notice the smell, the unbelievable heat, cramped conditions and the odd freak or two, or you could enjoy listening to the stupid announcements of mind the gap at every station, laugh at the people who fall asleep on the shoulder of the poor unsuspecting person beside them, who is too polite to do anything but sit there and pretend they haven’t noticed the drool on their shoulder. But if that’s not for you, you can take a ride on the bus and watch all the people on the street walking past you five times faster than the bus in London traffic, but its amazing how many times thinking “ooh I’m on a red bus” can work to put a smile on your face! But if that still isn’t your thing then there is always the option to walk, in the cold and rain, on incredibly impractical slippery tiled streets, where every time you cross a crosswalk you risk your life, not to mention the puddles of vomit that sneak up around every corner, but then you walk down a street and see a gorgeous London house and there comes that thought again “wow I’m in London”, and you hear that wonderful crunching sound of the autumn leaves under your feet, and nothing beats walking along in your own daydream and being hit by a tidal wave as a bus passes and hits a puddle showering everyone in a 5m radius! You really cant help but laugh and fall in love with London!

And then the weather. The thing everyone warned me about. Up until the last few weeks I wasn’t really qualified to comment on this, but now as winter really sets in I think I can have my say. Yes London is cold, yes it rains a fair bit, yes its very grey a lot of the time BUT as an Australian what an opportunity! I absolutely love rugging up in my big coat, I’ve developed an obsession with hats and bought the cutest little mittens a few weeks ago, and don’t get me started on my wellies!! I’m in love! We went on an excursion with the children from school a few weeks ago, it was the first real London shocker day we had, and we decided to walk the children to the Chelsea Physic garden (just a 10min walk we were assured clearly by someone who had no understanding of children with special needs). We walked for an hour in torrential rain in our wellies and raincoats with a child on each hand, we got hit by about 10 tidal waves from buses and were soaked though and frozen by the time we arrived at the gardens where we ate our lunch and returned back to school with another 1 hour walk because no taxi would pick us up. But we had so much fun jumping in Puddles and the hot soup we enjoyed beside the radiator as we tried to dry ourselves before the parents came to collect their children made it all worthwhile. And the look of delight on the children’s faces when they tipped the water out of their wellies onto the classroom floor was unbeatable! And there was autumn! We get so ripped off in Australia in Autumn!! The colours you see in London at that time of year is just incredible! I didn’t know there were so many possible shades of red orange and yellow and I spent hours and hours photographing and collecting perfect autumn leaves! That will be one of my strongest memories from London!

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush, the greyness, the dark and the dirt that is London, and forget that you are in London! I can’t believe I have been here for 5 months, and life becomes routine and you can easily forget to stop and enjoy it. But somehow I find something everyday that makes me smile and makes me think “Wow I’m in London” and everyday it surprises me that I am really here, it sneaks up on me as I go about life in a rush, but it makes me stop still and look around and notice just how beautiful London is and just how much I love having the chance to be here!

So the art to Loving living in London you ask? Well actually it was taught to me by the children I work with. It’s being able to notice and celebrate the little things that usually pass you by. The little things that everyone else walking down the street probably misses, the little things that on their own are almost insignificant, but give you an opportunity to say “Wow, I’m in London!” something you couldn’t say anywhere else in the world!

Tags: Misadventures


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