To wrap up LDN week
here in a timely fashion (what
? It’s my
blog, I can make a week eight days long if I want), I set a few questions for Mr C and I about the whole experience of leaving our cosy, comfortable life in Swansea and moving to London a year and a half ago. We both answered the questions separately, being as honest as possible, and there was no limit on how long or short an answer could be. The results are in…
What was your first month here like?
Lucy: It was a mixed bag of emotions. There was an enormous amount of relief having finally packed up our old house in Swansea and found a decent flat to move into (flat hunting here is horrible). It was loved up because we’d only just got married and had been living apart for three months while Mr C started his new job here, so getting to live together again was a very welcome change from just seeing each other at weekends. I was excited beacuse we’d finally managed to get here. I was also terrified. I had no job for the first time since I was about thirteen, no friends in the area we were living in, and despite visiting the city dozens of times for work and play over the years, I had no idea what life was going to be like here and how the move would shape our future.
Mr C: My first month was a little odd. I got married and moved to London in the same month but my new wife wasn’t able to join me for another few months. Friends very kindly offered to put me up on the opposite side of the city from my office until I found my own flat. By huge coincidence my host worked in the next office to mine so I never felt alone during my London introduction. Apparently the hardest thing about moving to London is making friends but, with a massive thanks to my hosts (you know who you are), I didn’t have that problem. My work colleagues were also a very social bunch who took me for many post work pints. So my first month in London was not difficult or intimidating. The only thing I would have liked to change was the absence of my wife.
What are the best things about living in London?
Well, I revealed a lot of my favourite (and most hated) things about the city here
, so I won’t repeat myself. But in a much broader sense I think it’s the limitless possibilities that open up to you here. You’re so spoiled for choice. Everyone can sculpt their own version of London. Everyone can sculpt their own version of themselves here. I like the pace here (most of the time) – I like walking fast and I like keeping busy and the city really buoys that momentum.
Mr C: Urban options – by this I mean pubs, restaurants, clubs, theatres, events and generally things to do. There is never a quiet moment in London, which is both good and bad. There are so many areas and pubs that I would like to get to know well, but because there are so many I can’t really claim to know any! You are totally spoilt for choice. London is a great historical city with the architecture and cultural mishmash to match. Everywhere you look there is something to appreciate. The best way to experience this is by cycling around London. I took the tube to work for a year and couldn’t put the various areas of London together in my mind. All that I knew was what surrounded the tube stations, but getting on a bike will put the city together for you and help you appreciate it more.
What was the hardest part of moving our lives here?
Lucy: In hindsight, getting married, quitting my job and moving house all within the same 10 week period was not the ideal way to do it (duh). Mr C got offered a great opportunity here that just happened to start a fortnight before our wedding was planned. We’d been thinking about the move for so long that we just decided to go for it. I handed in my notice, and that’s how one of the most stressful periods of my life started. The first month of job hunting was optimistic. The second was full of enforced optimism. By the third month panic had set in. I had some freelance work on but couldn’t do that full time as well as commit myself fully to dozens of job applications. I applied for about 60 positions before I stopped counting – I started with dream jobs, then broadened the search wider and wider until it got to the point where I was applying for anything and everything that would pay a wage. We’d underestimated how expensive moving here would be, and I’d been sure that I’d get a job within the first couple of months if I stayed open to the possibility that I might have to swallow my pride and lower my expectations if needs be. The low point was being turned down for a temporary data entry role which happened on a Friday afternoon just a couple of hours before we had guests coming to stay for the weekend, and I think then I decided to have a break from the job search. Having no financial independence (and therefore none of the freedom that provides) was absolutely horrific, I was stuck alone in the flat for days on end, my self-esteem was crushed and my stress levels reached new peaks. It took a while to bounce back from that. Thankfully after about five months I found a job and our finances started balancing out again. And finally, we were able to start enjoying London.
Mr C: Firstly, Lucy’s happiness. It took her a lot longer to settle into London. During this period she didn’t get out often and lost a lot of her confidence by having a hard time looking for a job in a very competitive industry. The flat we moved into was closer to where I worked, but further from our friends, which didn’t help. Next was finances. London is a very expensive place to live in. Accommodation is criminally expensive, drinks, food, just about everything costs a factor more than anywhere else. For the first few months, with just one income, credit cards became our saviour. My personal issue with moving to London is the reason why I specified ‘urban’ options for the above question. London is a long drive away from any natural features, other than the Thames and you wouldn’t want to swim in that. You don’t have easy access to beaches or mountains – something that can be taken for granted. If I want to go for a ride on my mountain bike I need do about six hours of driving in order to get there and back. (I’ll also add that parking in London is impossible. I recently needed to call into a bank branch before driving north and spent about an hour looking for somewhere to part for five minutes, before giving up and finding a branch in a small town en route where parking was not an issue.)
If you were a billionaire for one weekend, how would you spend your time here?
Lucy: I’d start the weekend with a romantic meal, just Mr C and I. I don’t know where – probably one of the places I’ve never even considered going to, like the Ritz or Claridges. Saturday I’d go on a legendary shopping spree. First on the list would be a yacht to keep at the docks here so we’d never had to flat hunt again, next would be loads of interior décor stuff to personalise it, then I’d start filling up my new walk-in wardrobes. Then in the afternoon I’d bus all of our friends to London. I’d rent out the aquarium so that all of our friends could have a private tour, then we’d head to one of the top floors of The Shard for an epic party, and at midnight we’d have a huge fireworks display. Sunday morning would involve a long lazy brunch with everyone at The Filling Station, with lots of steak and eggs and the mandatory hair of the dog. Then Mr C and I could go recover for a few hours in a really posh spa before retiring to our new yacht and being served wine and cheese and grapes while we decide where to sail to next.
Mr C: That’s a really tough question. I know how I could spend lots of money, but very little of what I dream of doing is city based. I guess I’d probably rent the penthouse in the Shard, maybe I could pay the queen to kiss my feet (she probably wouldn’t accept that offer seeing as though she is also a billionaire), rent a box at one of the big clubs, e.g. Arsenal or Chelsea, to watch Swansea win away from home with all my mates, play a game of high-stakes poker in the Hippodrome, have a luxurious private party on a boat, treat my wife at Tiffany’s, treat myself to at least one of the beautiful classic cars you see in the windows of dealers around the city, and then, having spent so much money recklessly, I would like do something that will help ease my guilty conscience, like donate money to a worthy cause like Crisis.
What do you miss most about home?
Lucy: Friends and family, of course. The beach, the salty air, being within walking distance of most of our friends, being able to sit in a beer garden and say hi to every other person who walk by because you know them. The laidback feel of the place. And our house. Our lovely, quiet, little house on the hill and our gorgeous garden with its views of the sea. We both spent ages nostalgically looking at photos of it the other day on our estate agent’s website.
Mr C: Obviously when you leave somewhere you’ve been for a long time you are going to miss your family and friends. I’ve already been through that before when leaving Ireland, so it wasn’t so much of a shock for me this time, and I have been back to Wales a lot since moving to London. I think the thing I miss the most is the countryside. I grew up surrounded by fields and I know that one day I will move back to the country. True peace and quiet is not to be found in London. There is always noise and light pollution – always at least a dull rumble in the background. A starry night sky, pure silence in bed, and beautiful scenery full of natural features to explore by foot, bike or otherwise… for me these are the things I miss the most.
What would you change about the moving process, or our time here so far?
Lucy: I’d have taken a year to recover from planning/surviving the wedding and saved up some money to make the move a bit easier and to take the pressure of Mr C. Perhaps during that year I would have worked my notice anyway and set up as a freelancer full time when there was less risk involved. It’d be amazing to be freelancing full time and pulling in enough money to pay my half of the considerable living costs here. I absolutely hate not being able to do that. Also, we would have sorted and packed up the house together over time, rather than doing it by myself which was a really long, thankless task that I had to start immediately after our honeymoon. I started off being super organised and methodical, but our storage unit is still such complete chaos I can’t face it. I’d like to chuck a petrol bomb in there and never think about it again, but I’m afraid I’ve got some clothes and books in there that I need to rescue at some point…
Mr C: I wish my wife could have found her perfect job within a short time of moving to London. I also think we should have prioritised our private time in London over our work time – by that I mean we should have decided to live closer to friends than work (my mistake) in our first year. That would have helped a lot with settling in.
Has the move/living here changed you? Me? Us?
Lucy: I think so. Despite the rocky start I think my confidence has doubled. I certainly worry less about what people think now. I think I’ve become more independent too, as I’ve got so many options in terms of what to do with my spare time. I’ve also had to become more laidback in terms of our home environment. I’m usually a bit OCD about where I live, and Mr C is the opposite. In a small flat with too much stuff in it to keep tidy, especially as we’re both working full-time and have other commitments, I have to compromise and chill out about it or I’d go mad (though often if the living room is in a really bad state I can’t face sitting in so will hide in the bedroom all evening). I think as a couple we’ve grown stronger – we certainly put ourselves through it during our first year of marriage and we proved to ourselves that perseverance and patience goes a long way. I don’t think living here has changed my husband much though – I think he’ll always be the same, wherever we live.
Mr C: I don’t feel changed by the move to London. To be honest, I barely feel changed since I was 13 years old! People say that living in London makes you hard – not in a good way. At least that’s what several people warned me of – ‘don’t let London harden you’. I think that very much depends on the person. Some people are like chameleons – they change their behaviour and even accents to fit in with those around them. Others are comfortable being themselves in any situation. I think the move to London, while being more difficult for my wife, has had a very positive impact on her. In order to create a life here she has had to increase her self-confidence and get used to more challenging situations. She has managed this and as a result she is much happier than before. At least that’s how it seems to me!