“Yes, the world really is your oyster. But only if you top up!”*
This is the story of how I almost moved out of London a thousand times and why in the end I just couldn’t bring myself to! I was 18 when I moved to London to go to university. Most of my friends thought I was crazy for wanting to live in one of the busiest, dirtiest and most overcrowded cities in the world, as they (begrudgingly) called it. But, as an aspiring musician/writer, living in London had been my dream since I was 12 and I wasn’t going to let the naysayers sway me away from it. So there I was, in the big smoke! Finally! “The world is your oyster”, I told myself. And because oysters cost money, I went out to get a job so that I could be able to afford…well…life. (And hey, affording life is pretty hard, find out how you can budget and put money aside here.)
It wasn’t long until I found myself in an infinite loop of waiting tables, travelling on the tube and trying to stay awake in class. I hadn’t seen the landmarks in over three months, hadn’t written a line in six, and hadn’t even played one gig yet! What had happened to my dream of being the (cooler) British Carrie Bradshaw!? I had somehow found myself in a hand-to-rent-and-travel-expenses existence, wondering if there’s any way to make the two ends of the Central line meet so that I’d make it on time somewhere at least once this week.
One day, after yet another 15 minute wait for a train that was due in five (because the TFL minute is the longest minute), and a 30 minute hold between tunnels, I got off at Oxford Circus desperate for the toilet! So, I rushed into Liberties for a fancy wee and on my way out a very slow, sinking epiphany finally hit home, kind of like a District line train pulling into a platform: I wasn’t an aspiring musician/writer. I was a struggling student who had jumped several guns and was now sitting in a shop unable to afford anything that shop sold. I could almost hear the extravagant price tags on the lustrous items surrounding me whisper in mockery: “Yes, the world really is your oyster. But only if you top up!”
That day marked the beginning of many failed attempts to move out of London. Failed because even though the reality of living in London did not reflect the romantic clichés, there were certain things I just couldn’t leave behind! I mean, seriously, where, if not in London, can you…
Be anyone you want?
No one minds! It’s an unwritten rule that every good Londoner lives by! And should anyone dare break that rule, boy, have they got another thing coming! Like in this social experiment (here) on homophobia that makes me weep like a baby every time I watch it!
Spot the prime minister on her morning jog?
Seeing the Prime Minister jogging in Green Park and cheerfully shouting “Keep those knees up, Miss Prime Minister!” might sound like a scene from Love Actually. But it’s not! True story! #banterwiththeprimeminister!
Do everything in one day?
Start the day with a romantic picnic on a hill with an ancient conservatory behind you (Greenwich), take a boat ride to the city centre for a marathon where you get to flip pancakes as you run (not kidding!). Go skiing afterwards, grab afternoon tea in a quirky coffee shop like Brewbird or Second Shot, or have lunch surrounded by 15 cats at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium. Then pop over to Shoreditch for some bacon vodka (or jerk chicken vodka, you know, whatever rocks your boat) before breaking into the Tower of London to release the prisoners and overturn the government (look it up)! #onlyinlondon
Spot celebrities on the tube, all the time?
I mean, there are so many famous artists and actors based in London! And I’m not one of those people who freak out when they see one, but it’s nice to be surrounded by people who are living examples of the fact that you can make money out of your art and be stunned by just how human they are!
Ride a funky red double decker and a stylish black cab?
I’m still as fascinated with London’s charismatic idiosyncrasies as I was when I first moved here! It’s the stuff of urban poetry and fine arts! The thought of walking down the street without them in the background is simply unbearable!
In the end I simply reached the conclusion that living in London is a lot like adult love, it’s not always fun but it has a lot to offer! It makes you grow, teaches you how to be more patient, to be more tolerant towards other people’s annoying habits (thanks to crowded TFL trains and shared households!) and helps you develop some kick-ass math skills, what with all the budgeting you have to do! Yes, it is not cheap, but it’s certainly worth it!
(Photo credits in order of appearance: NYT.com | Independent.co.uk | universal-tourguide.com)