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?

stephen fry – a fortuitous symbol?

It seems quite ironic (or perhaps not ironic at all) that after discovering at long last the unencumbered joy of QI and the limitless glee of Stephen Fry’s memoirs that we should spot him strolling along Piccadilly as we sip our organic coffee.

I do not believe in signs or fate or anything of the sort. They are a trick of psychology: a confirmation bias wherein we see what we want in order to justify our desires or decisions. Thus, seeing Stephen Fry in London is not a sign that we have made the right decision in moving here, or that everything will turn out fine. Yet it seems so obvious a sign. Prior to the sighting, did I not just post not-one-but-two Stephen Fry quotes (as some allegedly nuanced depiction of my inner self)?

Aviary Photo_130301708977252343Yes. But it means nothing. If this were a fictionalised account, one would call shenanigans at the utter lack of imagination in the cliché of Stephen Fry waltzing through our brave new world. It reminds me of a scene in Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief where the main character spots Johnny Depp leaving a shop in Paris. I remember thinking it such a deus ex machina for character growth. I remember it being the moment I realized I outgrew Douglas Coupland.

Would it not be a better sign the fact that I got a job at a bookshop?

Yes. But that still means nothing.

I am very eager to work at this bookshop, but I know that there is still so much against us. I cannot predict how a part-time, minimum-wage job is going to pan-out long-term. Perhaps our days here are numbered.

But I’m almost okay with that. Perhaps that is why I choose to ignore the potential symbolism of Stephen Fry.

The difference between London as I knew it and London now is five years. For me, that means I’m days away from thirty; for London, that means a recession. Between twenty-five and thirty lies the most transitive period one undergoes short of puberty. That’s when you really settle into who you are.

As we spent this morning moving from one hostel to another, from Bayswater to Docklands, from tube to bus (thanks “track maintenance”) to DLR, there comes a moment when you find it just too tiring to fight off that nagging realisation that “I’m too old for this shit.”

Aviary Photo_130301708622643821I’m too old for hostels. I don’t need to get to know young people from Holland only in town to party. I don’t have the patience for single beds or shared showers or a lack of privacy. God damn it, I’m almost thirty. Some most evenings, I just want to collapse into the sofa with my husband and watch a few episodes of whatever show we’re working our way through this month.

Now will someone please rent us a flat so we can get on with this already?

panic on the streets of london

I wanted to write about the London riots  but I’ll still trying to organize my thoughts. This is all I have to say right now.

I feel like London is a wizened old man: the kind who sits on a park bench, smoking a withered cigarette, old tattoos fading into oblivion along the forearms, sleeves pushed up on a cardigan, and a hairline that’s receding; you can see the liver spots beneath the wispy, grey strands.

London longs to tell you stories of the good old days. London has lived through so many generations. London has seen wars, but “good old wars,” you know, the kind that meant something.

London, the old man, is a fully realized character: he’s full of contradictions, fallacies, and hidden truths. He is not sure what defines his present; at times he feels that he is nothing but his memories. But these memories are perpetually rewritten as each day another layer of myth-making takes hold: another memory is gone, another memory is made, then remade, and remade again.

London doesn’t know his own history better than any of us do. He clings to memories that he thinks mean something, but in the end, none of them do. There’s nothing but Now.

London has gone from rags to riches and back again so many times that he no longer knows what he is any more. It is all locked somewhere inside of him. He’s lived through civil war as well. It might seem like so long ago, but it’s not. Not really. Memory works in funny ways; time has no bearing on whether we remember certain things more clearly than others.

London sits, smoking his cigarette, saying something glib like “hot fecking summer, eh?”  The casual bitterness in his tone, and that brief way in which his eyes take to the sky as if to say I’m too old for this shit, betray the fact that perhaps his wars are not over after all.

As London sits on his park bench, I can’t help but think of Vancouver as an arrogant young kid. Vancouver: lacking history but full of self-importance.

Vancouver: if the world’s a condominium complex, you’re the show home, beautiful but emotionless. Your possessions lack context.

London, the bitter old man, eyes this cocky young kid with condescension. Vancouver, he says, You think you’re the first to think of this? You think you’re the first to get angry? The first to burn things, the first to loot? You think you have a reason for this?

Well, son, let me show you how it’s done.  

there’s a special circle of hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theatre

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are currently starring in Waiting for Godot in London right now. When I found this out back in January, Jason and I actually looked up plane tickets to London. However, Stewart has found himself in a bit of controversy:

Actor Patrick Stewart apparently lost his rag with an autograph hunter outside the stage door of the King’s theatre in Edinburgh, after a performance of Waiting for Godot. “Are you the arsehole who was sitting in the front tonight?” was his introductory comment, before bellowing “You know, what I really want to know is how you can sleep at night? I really hope you’re pleased with yourself.”

Apparently, the importunate individual had been spied earlier by Stewart trying to take a sneaky photograph of him and his co-star, Ian McKellen, during the curtain call – in clear contravention of explicit warnings that photography was not permitted. While most punters will have gone to see Vladimir and Estragon, others are clearly there to gawp at Picard and Gandalf. (Michael Simkins, The Guardian, April 16, 2009)

While people’s opinions of whether or not his reaction was justified naturally differ, I’m inclined to agree that he had a beef that needed dealing with, but maybe he could have gone about it in a better way. The ensuing commentary dialogue on the Guardian website went off on a tangent about how rudely people behave in theatres. It did venture somewhat onto a nearly technophobish rant, with which I do empathize. This was my contribution:

It’s an interesting notion of “instant memories.” So much so that people seem to be viewing the world through their cameras rather than with their own eyes.

I’ve been to museums to see people moving from painting to painting and just taking pictures without even looking at the actual artwork — just the pixellated version. Strange! I was at a Glasvegas concert in Vancouver on Sunday and when I couldn’t see the stage, I could just watch it in one of the many screens those around me were using to record the show. I just don’t get it. Can you record memories of something you never *really* experienced?

bitterly rejected by interior design


So, as the previous post so wildly declares (as if it were a doe-eyed innocent swinging madly around a streetlamp), I love London. It seems London does not love me. How is this so? No, it did not dump me via txt msg. I was in Jysk the other day looking for junk baskets (long story), when I saw these wall stickers of different city scapes. Hm, I thought, this would be the perfect thing to replace my Harry Potter banner (another long story). So I bought the London one. $6.99. Not bad. That’s only about £3. Once I got them up on the walls, even my ten year old cousin remarked, “That looks cool.” From the mouths of babes; it must be true. However, my sadsack attempt to embrace London with open yuppie arms was met with stiff upper rejection. Alas, the stickers do not stick for long. After a few minutes, Big Ben was slowly slinking down the wall like an insolent child; Piccadilly Circus was curling inwards; Tower Bridge was on the verge of collapse; and the London Eye was shaped like a post-incident Humpty Dumpty. By the time I woke up in the morning, the entire city had curled into the Thames. London does not *heart* me.

i *heart* london

So, I was bored at work today. Nothing else is new. In my ever-widening net of random (G-rated) website to scroll through while trying to maintain consciousness, I decided to browse Craigslist. No idea why. I ended up scrolling through people searching flatmates in London. Then jobs in London. Then rideshares. Someone even wants someone to come along for the ride from London to Newcastle and back. Huh. What fun. I’ve never thought about this. I never thought that if I can’t find a buddy in my immediate group of friends to do something major like a road trip with from London to Greece and back, I could simply find a stranger on craigslist. What a novel idea/idea for a novel.

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