on the embarrassing act of coming home

Today we fly back to Vancouver. The great experiment – one might say – has failed.

I know that over the next week, the explanation will boil itself down to an easy deflection: one or two lines doing their best to contain both logic and pride.

It took us several days and a good dose of demoralization to finally come to the conclusion to come home. We weighed pros and cons, painted competing visions of the future, and tried to think it through in the most logical way possible. We gave ourselves time, and gave ourselves perspective. This was a decision we did not want clouded by such temporary factors as culture shock or bureaucratic annoyances, or faulty expectations.

In the end, all logic seemed on the side of going home. The only sincere mark in the stay column was embarrassment / wounded pride.

In the time we’ve been here, we found the plan shifting constantly, just as what’s-her-vampire-face’s visions shifting constantly in Twilight. (Ugh. I can’t believe I just used Twilight as a reference point.) The last – to sign a six-month lease in Hebden Bridge and keep looking for jobs – slowly crumbled as we started to think “What then?” What if we simply didn’t get jobs? Two months here and barely a bite. Sure, I got a job at a bookshop, but that was just not feasible with the cost of living in London. And I applied for about five or six bookshop jobs and was only called for interviews for two of them. Of those two, I only got the one job.

At the end of the six months, with no money coming in, our savings would be gone. We’d come back home with nothing: absolutely nothing.

Several factors might not make that seem such a difficult position to face. Perhaps if we were younger? At thirty, the world has a different expectation of you. Coming back broke and unemployed and likely stuck living with parents begins to look pathetic. We would not come to calls of “all hail the conquering travellers” but rather “why haven’t you sorted your life out yet?” At least that’s the implication you get in undertones and side-glances.

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Having spent most of the last ten years or so with this idea lodged in my mind that I would go work in England for a while, it actually feels something of a relief to be able to let that go. We can go home, and gone will be the feeling that everything is temporary. I can do those things I always wanted to do but didn’t because I never felt okay settling. I can sew cushions, paint furniture, get a cat. All those shitty kitchen utensils I had and never wanted to spend the money on replacing I can now replace.

There’s something of a weight gone. So, while things might not be the best case scenario we dreamed of when we left, we will still be in a better place than two months ago.

 

york wanderings

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british bureaucracy for the impatient

It’s been a week on and we’ve yet to hear anything from the estate agent. It’s been more than a month since the first job applications began and we’ve yet to hear anything from potential employers.

Is our luck running low(er)?

Or are we victims of the infamous British bureaucracy?

It’s something we noticed rather quickly yet it has increased in its frustration. There’s a middle-man to everything. As difficult as apartment-hunting was back home, at least it only comprised the following steps:
1. Call landlord to arrange viewing
2. View apartment and sign application
3. Landlord phones you to say, “you can move in Saturday”

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Here it is thus:
1. Ring up an estate agent
2. Estate agent tells you it’s already been let but they don’t take down the posting because fuck-you-that’s-why
3. End up on a mailing list where you get ten spam emails and two phone calls a day with the estate agent trying to flog you other flats
4. Do this several times and end up on several mailing lists
5. Finally find a flat that is available, arrange to see it
6. See the flat, decide to apply, but that means you agree you have to pay up front because you’re still on the job hunt
7. Wait for the estate agent to ring the landlord to see if this is okay, even though the only person benefiting from six months’ rent in advance is the landlord herself
8. Pay your two hundred pounds agent fees
9. Discover the estate agent doesn’t even check the references themselves and outsources it to a referencing company even though we don’t need a credit check because we’re paying up front so all someone needs to do is email our old landlord to check that we never broke anything.
10. Wait and wait and wait

As the job hunt grows bleaker and bleaker, we can’t help but wonder if a similar form of bullshit exists for recruitment agencies on which to blame the delays. Otherwise, we’re just unemployable in this country. That’s a distinct possibility. Doesn’t keep the job-seekers spam out of my inbox, however.

The options now seem thus: rent a flat (eventually) and keep up the (possibly futile) job search while our savings dwindle, or cut our losses and go home, pride bruised and bleeding, but finances intact.

The reality is, we’ve decided that we don’t want to stay here forever. I could elaborate, but that’s what it’s come too. We like it here, but can’t see making a life of it. If we could, perhaps that might change things.

london 2013 wanderings

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plot twist: we flee from london

As my first day of being thirty years old passes, we find ourselves having forsaken London. We went out flat hunting, paperwork in hand like rifles, the tube like horses and hounds. After several false starts, I had to admit to myself that London just wasn’t worth it. Paying a thousand pounds for a small flat (bed bugs likely included) in a part of town I would be scared to walk in at night, spending an hour on the tube just to get to a part-time job at a fabulous bookshop just didn’t add up.

I feel terrible about it, but I turned down the job at the bookshop. As much as I would have loved to work there (and the fact that job-hunting in this country has been as futile and depressing as hell, but that’s the subject of another post), the part-time hours and level of pay just didn’t rationalise the ridiculous London rent. After crunching numbers, I calculated that the difference in price to live in a shitty London flat versus a decent flat anywhere else was more than I would make. In essence, living outside London unemployed would be cheaper than living in London and working part-time minimum wage.

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Site of the fabled London Tim Horton’s.

Realizing this seemed something of a relief, actually. We were both tired of London but couldn’t justify admitting it. Had we turned tail and fled without the power of mathematics on our side it would have felt like failure or cowardice. I already feel pretty stupid for having believed the glorious picture of London. But then again, a lot of people have told us since: you have to realize for yourself that London sucks. No one heeds the warnings non-Londoners give; as my cousin said, if the person telling you is from the north, you just assume that it’s part of the whole Northerners-hate-London thing.

But they are right to. Trust them. London is beautiful in the centre, terrible on the outskirts. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but not to live. Lesson learned.

So then, we fall back on Plan B, which is actually returning to Plan A. Our sights are set on Hebden Bridge or somewhere like it. And if we don’t get jobs, then we travel and write until the money runs out and then go back to Vancouver.

Plan A sounds fantastic actually. Why did we even form a Plan B?

remember, remember the fifth of november

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london wanderings

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