Goodbye London

Can’t say I enjoyed my final hours in London.

There was so much to do and so little time, primarily working out how to cash my arcane cheque from Winter Wonderland.

I swear I told them in November I didn’t have a UK bank account (given it’s near impossible to set one up as a nomad without looking like a money launderer) and was told cashing it wouldn’t be a problem.

Well it was.

Not that they recalled that conversation and not that they were willing to put aside this infuriating ‘can’t do’ English attitude to ensure I could access the money I was relying on to see me through until I get a real job back home.

In hindsight, me losing the plot at one of their HR ladies on the phone, after she, without knowing any of the facts was quick to blame me and began patronisingly calling me ‘Rachael’ at the beginning of each of her sentences as if I didn’t know my own name, clearly didn’t help my cause.

But seriously, it was insult to injury after enduring 75 hours of being locked in a token booth and forced to listen to Christmas music on repeat, while desperately needing to pee.

All I can say is thank goodness for the parentals, who saw right through my too proud to ask for help ‘I’ll be fine’ facade and immediately topped up my bank account with an emergency loan.

Without them I would have been royally screwed right now, because despite working full time for the past two months and not paying rent thanks to the perks of purebred cat-sitting, money goes nowhere in London.

It’s a city you need money to have fun in.
20130111-101301.jpg

20130111-101239.jpg
And as much as I loved my time here, it’s not the type of place I can see myself getting a flat and a career job in.

Everyone is in a rush, everyone is stressed, you queue for everything, it takes a good hour to get anywhere, thousands of people resort to internet dating because it’s a tough city to crack and most disturbingly – people outwardly ‘how dare you’ tisk when the Tube conductor comes over the loud speaker to announce in a monotone voice that there’s a delay on the line after some poor soul saw no way to improve their life but to jump in front of a train – at rush hour.

The English also have this habit of making things exceptionally difficult when they don’t need to be – the payment from Winter Wonderland is case and point, as is needing to see a doctor when you don’t have a fixed abode, or going to the optometrist for contact lenses.

Above all, I’m positive London’s no place I want to raise my kids.

Clearly I’m talking in the future (the only baby I have at the moment is a food baby) but watching mums (and the elderly) struggling up Tube stairs (because a lot of stations lack step-free access) while intolerant commuters shunt past them is something I never want to experience first-hand.

But perhaps the tipping point for me is there’s no seaside in London.

Sounds silly, but being from New Zealand not being able to see the ocean makes me feel just a little bit claustrophobic.

So on pretty much my only day off in December I managed one last day-trip to Brighton to see the beachside town – taking my sister’s best friend’s mum along for the journey.
20130111-101033.jpg
In hindsight we probably shouldn’t be allowed to travel together – managing to get on the wrong train and only clicking a good half hour later when we both thought it was funny the train conductor didn’t mention anything about going to Brighton.

Credit to us we were at the right platform at the right time – we just got on the wrong train.

As for Brighton (when we finally got there), it’s not really a beach, it’s pebbles and one hell of a rolling current.
20130111-100936.jpg
And as for the pier with its dated arcade games and crusty carnival rides deep in winter hibernation, despite being so incredibly different to home (where the ocean is left to revel in its natural beauty) I actually found Brighton Pier tackily brilliant and strangely charming.

20130111-100845.jpg

20130111-100918.jpg

20130111-101019.jpg

20130111-100956.jpg
So all in all what I’m trying to say is that I’m confident I’ve made the right decision to go home.

But surprisingly I’ve accumulated a lot of clothes from my year away, which I blame mostly on my recent discovery of Primark.

I kinda wish Ear Candle Wax Girl never introduced us though, as packing my rucksack took numerous attempts and I’m actually scared to open it now for fear of being buried under an avalanche of mainly blouses.

Sadly I didn’t have room for bus face, though it would have been mighty easy to steal her given she packed herself.

20130111-101359.jpg
But I don’t think she would have survived my extended stopover in South Korea – apparently they eat cat here, and dog, and according to the pub’s Mexican chef – ‘they eat baby.’

I thought he was pulling my leg until he pulled up articles like this on my iPad.

Surely that’s cannibalism?

Maybe eating cats and dogs isn’t so bad after all…

Return to society

I can honestly say that in the past five months I have not spent this much time by myself since I was in the womb.

That, and the fact I was generally exhausted was why I cut France short and headed for the comfort of London.

And, I know this is going to sound stupid, but the first thing that struck me about London was that everything was in English.

It’s the first time on my travels that I’ve been able to ask for directions without having to play charades and the first time I’ve been able to converse with the people around me.

Although, I wish I could have pulled the ‘don’t speak English’ card when I got stuck next to three generations of quintessential Essex women on the train from Luton Airport (which is by the way in the middle of nowhere).

The youngest was a big-boned girl, wearing a highly unflattering fluoro pink bodycon dress, complete with streaky fake-tanned legs, orange makeup you’d need a chisel to crack off and a travel makeup bag rivalling the size of my backpack.

Accidentally hungover from my failure to balance my food-to-alcohol ratio during my last night in Paris, I snapped when she said she’d like to backpack – “I don’t think you’d be able to handle it.”

I then took slight offence when her grandma made a point of giving me a mini religious lecture complete with a ‘where are you going in life’ booklet. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know you could be religious and dress like that.

Strangely, two days later I received the same booklet from a lady at the bus stop.

Apart from that I don’t have much to show for my 11 days in London. I was incredibly lazy thanks to the mint digs I found myself in.

The first place was home to the world’s most comfortable couch, the second place I had my own room and the third place I had my own room – complete with views over a tennis court, swimming pool and the river.

I did manage to catch up with a lot of old friends though, as well as new friends from my travels and Casio watch boy from Naples.

I made a pavlova.

20120627-154707.jpg

I did a bit of life admin and bought myself some new threads. Although, I cut the shopping trip short, after one sales assistant replied to her co-worker, when he was politely trying to guess my UK jeans size – “hell no I’m a 29-31.”

I went to a hat party without a hat – hence the gimp hat.

20120627-162417.jpg

Not sure what the guy on the left is doing… All in all it was a good night, though I did get sprung having a full on conversation with myself in the bathroom (bad habit from travelling by myself).

I ticked off my fair share of touristy London sights.

20120627-155014.jpg

20120627-155406.jpg

I went to Harrods and found myself transfixed watching this poodle get shampooed, seriously some people have more money than sense.

20120627-162032.jpg

I watched football at the pub over a couple of pints and found my cousin’s description of Wayne Rooney to be disturbingly accurate – “he’s like a potato with eyes.”

But the thing I enjoyed the most about London was visiting Parliament.

I nearly didn’t get in though, after they detected a large amount of metal on me.

Turned out it was just my ridiculous collection of one, two and five penny coins, but it didn’t save me from the full pat down before I was escorted to the welcoming public galleries to watch the debates.

20120627-170342.jpg

It was like Parliamentary porn for me.

And, I couldn’t believe my luck when my image of a true Tory woman was confirmed after a member of the House of Lords rose to speak in her pompously pious British accent, wearing a Jackie O type pastel pink skirt suit, complete with pearl earrings and necklace.

I loved Parliament so much I went home and investigated working for a British MP.

But I’m not quite sure I’m ready to be a fully functioning member of society just yet…