Sunday, July 19, 2015


Standing in Portobello Road yesterday, trying to avoid being whacked by selfie sticks and fanny packs, I came across a print with Erin Hanson's quote, "What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?"  I bought it for my tiny London flat.

 London can kick your ass.

Last Friday I left work early to finally open a bank account.  I arrived on time for my appointment with my passport, my work Visa, a letter from my employer, my UK National Insurance Number, and my tenancy agreement.  I believe enough documents to prove my residency and my legitimacy.  Wrong.  I was turned away for reasons I still fail to understand.  I left the bank red-faced and sweaty, made an incomprehensible phone call to Chris and started a mission up Camden High Street to open a bank account late on a Friday afternoon.  And the day after the Tube strike.

I visited at least six different branches, pleading my case and scattering my documents over desks.  I felt like a Jehovah's Witness going door-to-door in an all Catholic neighbourhood.  I was told I needed more ID, a different letter from my employer, and that the bank didn't have a Saturday appointment for five weeks.  At the last branch, a customer service representative took pity on me and within 30 minutes I had a bank account.  The ultimate act of kindness.  And another reminder that I need patience and persistence to build a life in London.

 The experience wore me down a bit.

The next morning I had plans to meet a friend and her dog for a walk on Hampstead Heath.  Dressed in my new Gap navy blue shorts - I wear shorts in London?! - she toured me around the Heath while we exchanged details about our lives. I told her about my rotten Friday.

"So you are living your dream?"

"Yes.  I guess so.  I am living my dream."

"Well.  That's what you need to remember when you are having a bad day."

Of course she's right.  On good days, bad days, boring days or extraordinary days, I must remember that I am living my dream.  And more importantly that I am working towards the life Chris and I want.  Those are precious and rare things.

London perspective.... 
Canada turned 148 on July 1.  My new place of work is nearly 50 years older.

London shop signs...
"Bespoke colonic" and "Breakfast, Lunch, Cake"

Paris v. London...
I had breakfast this morning at Cafe Rouge on High Street Hampstead.  I felt a bit like I had woken up in Paris.  Next to me two women gossiped in French about the weather and their children - comme toujours! - before effortlessly switching to English with cut glass accents.  From my table, I could see across the street into the windows of Tara Jarmon and well-dressed children scampered past me carrying warm baguettes from Paul.  Cars were parked haphazardly on the street with their hubcaps scratched and bent.  Small, designer dogs, an overwhelming amount of them French Bulldogs, pranced next to their owners and uncomfortable looking runners panted past wearing everything from Oxford rugby shirts to shiny, black spandex tights.  Paris, is that you?!

Moments of perfect London happiness...
Thursday 5 GBP lunch of seafood paella from Bloomsbury Farmers' Market eaten picnic style in one of the many area squares with my lovely new colleagues.  The sun was shining, my skirt was tucked around my knees as we joined all the other Londoners trying to steal an hour of sunshine over lunch.  Picnicking is real thing in London and I can't remember the last time I ate so many meals outside on the ground.  

Rick Steves' moment du jour...
Sitting in the front seats on the top deck of the 168 double decker bus en route to work.  Riding the bus from these seats feels like part interactive retro video game and part budget London tour.  But I have noticed that even the most jaded, weary London commuters rush for these seats and smile as the bus teeters through London's narrow streets. 

1 comment:

materfamilias said...

Well, London may be giving you a tough time over bank accounts, etc., but it's not diminishing your writing mojo! The Jehovah's-witness-in-Catholic-neighbouhood analogy caused some tea-snorting laughter way back here in the Pacific Northwest. And I'm glad to see that you've continued with this lovely technique you have of offering vignettes under various headings at the bottom of your post.
The image of those French women in London really resonated with me. Several times we've shared a breakfast table in the lively downstairs of our Kings Cross Hotel with a French woman visiting her English grandchildren OR a completely bilingual woman introducing her French grandchildren to London. Not sure what's up with this particular phenomenon, but it reminded me happily of Ottawa, somehow, with that magical language-switching that seems so effortless.
Thanks for the post! Hope the next week has even more of the good stuff.