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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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…

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My last weekend on the continent

I don’t know how I ever got it into my head that Irish men were good looking.

Must be their accents, because on closer inspection a lot of them have a strange resemblance to Wayne Rooney, but unlike him, can’t rely on being good at football and massively wealthy to improve their mating chances.

But even if I did find Irish men attractive it wouldn’t have really mattered, because my weekend in the Irish capital with Ear Candle Wax Girl turned out to be a very girly one.

And that’s the beauty of basing yourself in London, Europe is on your doorstep and with the help of free travel comparison tool Skyscanner you can travel very cheaply indeed.

So for £60 return we settled on a last minute trip to Dublin to celebrate my last weekend on the continent.

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Going all out we even booked a hotel opposed to a hostel, finding a double room for the same price as a bunk bed in a dorm room.

As for Dublin itself, it’s an interesting place, especially at the moment given their economic state.

But at least some Irish have a sense of humour about being in the PIGS group, judging by this sign near a cash machine.

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As for how we spent our weekend… I’d love to say we spent it lapping up Irish culture in their many unique museums and galleries.

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But we didn’t – we spent it at Penneys.

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Penneys is what the Irish call Primark and Primark is a giant stupidly cheap clothing store, where people pull around wheely trolleys as if they were shopping for groceries.

Of all the crap there, it was the hair accessory aisle where things got dangerous, with Ear Candle Wax Girl and I finally discovering how those perfect London girls have perfect buns – the hair donut – an ingenious foam donut you put over your ponytail, cover in hair and boom – you have the perfect bun.

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The fact I’m writing about my bun makes me sound incredibly sad, but I’m a low maintenance type of girl, so discovering a tool to make it look like I spent ages on my hair when I actually didn’t was quite life changing.

When we weren’t playing with our hair, we did try a proper Irish night out, though starting at a Japanese restaurant given I’ve lived off pub food for the past two months.

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The night went downhill soon after, finding ourselves at a crappy overpriced Irish pub in the Temple Bar district, where I spent most of my time marvelling at the lady next to us, who side on was two dimensional and dressed in Grease Sandy-style Lycra pants and a tiny black and white striped full-sleeved Lycra top that only covered her boobs.

In fairness if I had abs like hers, or actually abs at all, I’d probably dress the same.

As for the actual touristy sights of Dublin… we did manage a trip to the Guinness Factory, though we walked around the premises for a good hour spotting about every Guinness sign – except the one for the tourist entry.

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So when we did finally manage to find it, we asked a fellow tourist to take a photo to remember the moment.

Here’s what we got:

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Seriously, we could be standing against a brick wall anywhere.

On that note (given this is by no means the first photo I’ve got like this) – it astounds me that when you’re standing in front of a major tourist attraction and ask someone to take your photo, it should go without saying that you want the photo to document that you’re standing in front of whatever the hell you’re standing in front of.

I digress… Back to the Guinness Storehouse.

It’s a very modern building shaped as a giant Guinness pint, which includes an academy where you can learn to pour your very own perfect pint of the famous stout.

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Truth is I actually already know how to pour a pint of Guinness from my pub days, but didn’t feel like being the ‘look at me’ in our group so played dumb.

But no matter how many I pour, my appreciation for Guinness hasn’t changed – I still maintain it tastes like cold coagulated gravy.

So with the trip to the Guinness factory, shopping at Penneys, playing with our hair, eating, drinking and sleeping, our weekend in Dublin was over all too soon.

Before we knew it we were back in London and I was frantically racing around the city picking up items I’d stored at friends’ houses and clean forgot about, before departing for that magic place – home – though via South Korea and Sydney.

As a end note… a big thank you to Skyscanner for taking a punt on this blog and sponsoring my weekend in Dublin.