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London makes me biopolar

March 7, 2010

I don’t think I would be alone in saying I have a love/hate relationship with London. See below for a day in the life of an Aussie in London.

Friday 26th February

7:20am – It’s looks freaking cold outside and I miss Sydney. Have to put on the heater as I jump out of the shower.

8:20am – All rugged up I leave the house and walk to Clapham Junction. Walking through the common, my shoulders begin to relax. The common and I share a certain intimacy. We’ve developed a connection through my daily walk. I’ve seen it change through summer, autumn, winter and now I have spring to look forward to. There’s not as much diversity in seasons back home.

8:55am – The station in peak hour is manic. It needs valium. It needs Michael Franti. It needs something. Although, both the tube and the station are choc-a-block full of solemn commuters, I prefer getting the train. Think of the dust and grime that you’d be inhaling every morning in the underground.

As the train pulls up people either shove past me or shove me on board. I have my arse pressed up against another guy and can smell the middle aged man’s bad breath next to me.

9:10am – Leave Waterloo station and walk through South bank. I’ve done this walk so many times but as I catch a glimpse of the London eye and Big Ben I feel like a little kid on Christmas. It’s as though that golden sheen across Big Ben is winking at me. I cross the bridge over the Thames and there on my right is the Houses of Parliament and on my left is St Paul’s Cathedral. I decide to be a few minutes late for work and take a brief detour past Trafalgar Square to have a look at the lions.

9:35am – I get to work and my colleagues and managers greet me with warm smiles. They’re not bothered I’m in later than them. I lucked out here.

10:00am – I’m in the kitchen, filling up the kettle when a woman behind me starts saying over and over, ‘you filled it up with hot water, from the hot tap. The hot tap!’ I look at her in confusion and see her vein bulging from her forehead and her eyes are beady and angry. ‘Should I not do that?’ I ask quietly. ‘No, it’s dirty and unhygienic and you will make the water taste disgusting.’ Someone breaks the ice and jokes about my Australian ways and I leave embarrassed.

Later I talk to my Aussie colleague who explains that in England the hot water taps are not as clean as the cold water ones and also they have limescale. I miss Sydney and our clean taps and clean water and the non existence of limescale. I’m also bummed out that after 14 months living here I’m still making social faux pas.

11:30am – I’m brainstorming copy lines with my manager for an overdue ad. It’s a print ad for a fantastic book called Dark Places and will go on the back of a literary magazine.  We’re really stuck and have been saying lines back and forth until I get one that my manager loves. She’s high fiving me and grinning and the rush is unbelievable. I love the opportunities I have in London. Who woulda thought I’d be working in marketing for one of England’s biggest book publishers?

1pm – I feel like a coffee. But this is not a London strong point. There’s Monmouth up the road but as they don’t do soy milk so all I have is Pret. Which is good but not great. I miss Sydney and the cafe and coffee culture.

5:00pm – My manager gives me an early mark. She’s awesome – half English and half Scottish – chances are I couldn’t have done better in Sydney.

Walking through Soho to get to Oxford Circus, I see a clothes shop with a Babushka doll dress in the window. I’m trying not to buy clothes because London is bleeding my dry. It’s so depressing being so broke, but I go into the shop anyway. This is heaven. This little shop is full of fun, colourful amazing clothes and I feel tingles go all through my body as I think about how I’m in Soho trying on great clothes. My friend Chloe and my sister Sarah would love this place and I’m going through the motions of excitement and sadness of not having the people I love around me.

5:30pm – After leaving the shop with an awesome new top, I get out of Soho and am stuck with the crowds, pushing and shoving.  Sardines get more space in their tins. I get on a tube in Oxford Circus and pray that this journey will be over soon.

8:00pm – Pete, a group of friends and I are at the Brixton Academy. It’s this funky old venue and once you’re inside it feels like your under an open, starry sky.

I whack my coat in the cloak room and go watch the support band. I figure I’ll buy the next round of drinks. Get into the queue. It’s massive. I’m there for fifteen minutes when Hot Chip start. You’d think people would leave the queue but no one does. We’ve all waited too long. ‘Priorities eh?’ I joke to a guy in a blue top on my left. He replies, ‘yeah tell me about. Why are we here again? To queue for drinks or see Hot Chip?’

Five minutes later a huge man, about 6’2 and about four times as wide as me, elbows my side and pushes in front of me. I manage to get my arm in front of him and with all my might I wedge myself back in front of him and say, ‘sorry, excuse me, sorry’.  The blue top guy on my left is impressed, ‘you got to be aggressive.’ Living in London is a freaking war. But I’ve won this battle because the bully leaves the queue, defeated and emasculated. I’m not too pleased with the city right now.

Finally, I get to the bar and realise that I will not be able to carry three beers through the crowd so I order a whisky shot. Wondering if the people around me will judge me, I down it at the bar and a girl in the queue smiles, ‘good idea’. That’s right, this is the land of binge drinking and alcoholics – woo!

9:20pm – I make it back to Hot Chip and have a fantastic time dancing. I’m really in a ‘i-heart-london’ mood. I’m there with a really great crowd of English people and a few Aussies and this is what it’s all about.

11:30pm – The gig finishes and the cloak room queue is massive. We decide to wait for it calm down but it doesn’t. What was I thinking? We’re one of the last ones in the queue and having a bit of a chat leaving about a half meter in front of us. ‘Move up’ the security guard yells. ‘Get against the wall,’ another says. Is this necessary? We were standing about 20 centimetres from the wall. Surely that won’t make a difference? They herd us around like sheep. They wouldn’t get away with that in Oz. Aren’t we the ones who have paid to be at this gig? Surely we can have half a metre of space in front of us and twenty centimetres on our side?

12:30pm – Pete and I are not quite in a drinking mood so we say our goodbyes and look for a cafe for a wind down hot chocolate. But alas, London does not have that late night cafe culture you can get in Sydney. Here it’s all about the pub. So as a last resort we head to The Glow Lounge, a cafe/bar run by antipodeans. It’s tasteful, cosy with good coffee and yummy food. You can get beers and cocktails but I’ve never seen anyone wasted in there. It’s like a little taste of home. And the staff know us now. They ask about the gig. We have one last drink and head to bed.

Do I love or hate this town? Shall I stay or shall I go? I have no idea …

In the meantime, here is a Hot Chip song to enjoy.

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