I think that I have been a great advertiser of all things “London” in my posts so far. I have sung her praises like I am a schoolgirl in love, but London is tough. She is a cruel and harsh mistress. She will chew you up and spit you out if you are not quick to adapt. I am usually the champion of change. I don’t like to stay in one place too long, but I was surprised at how long it has taken me to learn the ropes of this fast paced city. Here are a few things that I have learnt living and surviving in London.
Tube-rage is a real thing. There are people who take a slow Sunday walk through the station in front of you and this will only happen when you are in a hurry. There are people who will pull the passenger alarm because they are feeling a bit faint. There are people that will sit in a priority seat when there is a pregnant/elderly/disabled person standing right in front of them. There are times when the train will just stop in a dark tunnel and the lights will go off, you will feel so incredibly claustrophobic that you think you would rather make a deal with Satan to get off the train than sit there a moment longer. There are times when you will be stupidly late for work and your usual train will be cancelled.
When this happens, the dark black putrid anger you feel, is tube-rage. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to avoid this anger. You just have to ride it out and not let the hate consume you. Maybe even treat yourself to a Frij Chocolate shake, at your final stop, for not succumbing to the devil.
If you don’t want to wade through a sea of junk mail, you will need to get a “No Junk Mail” plaque for your letter box. People LOVE paper in this city, more importantly, they like printing nonsensical rubbish on this paper. Furthermore, sliding it through your letterbox to fill up your home. You will always get the rebels that will give you the junk mail anyway, but having this sign will reduce your junk mail by about 75% and you won’t feel like you have of the world’s forests planted haphazardly on your entrance doormat.
You are not dying if you blow out black snot. This is something I will never get used to. Every day, I get home from work and blow my nose to rid myself of the pollution that has tried to make its way to my lungs and failed. WINNING! London is incredibly dense with population and with this comes all sorts of pollution in the air, coming from a seaside town, this was not something I even remotely thought about when I stepped off that plane in Heathrow. Now it is part of the evening ritual to purge myself of the demons nesting in my nose.
You need to prepare yourself for the inevitability that the bus you are taking, will stop in the middle of nowhere and terminate there. This will also probably be in the middle of a storm so big that it has a name AND on the day that you forgot your umbrella. Lesson? ALWAYS keep an umbrella on you, and know your route with all of its stops so that you know exactly where you are when this irritatingly common incident happens to you. Notice how I say when and not if.
Citymapper is a mandatory app that you need in your life. I have seen so many people, (even people from Britain), struggling with paper maps and books. You will never go back to anything else once you use this and you will also most probably never be lost again!
It is best to never look forward to payday. You get paid, and half of it leaves your account for rent. ONLY for rent. Your landlord is taking 50% of your hard earned cash every month and this makes it a futile effort to be excited about money coming in. It is just going to leave you again.
The Night Bus
Nothing is better entertainment than the night bus. All those wandering drunks left on the streets are slowly cleaned up by the night bus service and nothing is better than being a part of this mess. No one (who has just paid their rent) takes a black cab home if they miss the last train. They all take the night bus and it really should just be called the Night Circus! Nothing makes you feel more like a “Londoner”, than being part of this raucous crew of misfits.
Do anything and everything to avoid using the Northen Line. Also, do anything and everything to avoid getting off at Bank station. You can always find an alternative, no matter if it is going to add time to your trip, avoiding the emotional damage is totally worth it.
Take a break
The best way to appreciate London is to leave it every now and then. Weekend in the country? Well yes, that would be splendid! All you need is a weekend in a city that is not filled to the rafters with people, to appreciate how efficiently beautiful London is. How many places you can go see in one city, how many different cuisines you can experience, how many different cultures you can learn about and how many different cups of coffee you can drink. Leave the city, and see how fast you want to go back.
Heels no more
This is one for the girls. There is no point in owning heels in London. They will sit and become a playpen for dust monsters. They will feel neglected and misused. IF by some chance you decide to wear them, you will regret it and your feet will rebel. Do not do it to yourself. Do not waste your money. Do not waste the precious little storage space that you have in your tiny apartment which you are spending a small fortune on. Just don’t.
Having said all of this, you will probably experience one London sunset and fall in love all over again. No sunset is the same. No pink sky can be compared to the one before. No time can be dubbed “wasted” on South Bank enjoying the last bit of sunlight of the day. There is no place like London and, therefore, it is hard to get used to it, but maybe that is a good thing and part of its charm. Your friends have become your family, your local pub has become a vital part of your life and you cannot get enough of Ben’s Cookies. You make jokes about your love/hate relationship with London, but if we are honest, it is just love. Pure love.