Sunday, August 14, 2016


Expats don't post their real lives on Instagram.  If they did, no one would follow them and certainly no one would ever dream of moving abroad.  I don't think anyone wants to see my Instagram feed with pictures of me making Nespresso from the end of my bed, trying to remove Marks & Spencer butter chicken stains from my pink Primark robe, or re-watching an episode of Gilmore Girls on Netflix. 

My life has changed much so since I moved to London, especially in the last three months, that it's difficult to conceive much less describe.  I have learned that in order to thrive as an expat, you have to say, act and believe in YES.  I have said 'yes' to eating Monster Munch and Scotch eggs.  I have accepted invitations to dinner parties where all of the guests have been friends for over 20 years and think that Canada is overrun with grizzly bearsI have been uncomfortable, felt ridiculous and tripped on the gap between the tube and the platform.  All because I believe that Chris and I are destined to live this life.

Playing tourist with one of my favourite expats at the hotel where Kate Middleton spent the night before her wedding. 
Chris left yesterday after spending 11 days in London.  We hadn't seen in each other in 17 weeks.  It's too soon for me to think rationally about his leaving or to worry about when we will next see each other.  Another thing I have learned as an expat is you can't dwell on everything you left behind or you could never move forward.  I can't spend every minute wishing I was curled up on the couch with Chris and Sophie Bitchface.  I can't think about selling Countess.  I can't miss my spacious office and the luxury of being able to close my door.  I can't focus on the fact that I miss birthdays, anniversaries, engagements and being able to call my loved ones in the same time zone.  I have to keep going and embrace my London life.

I appreciate what my London life looks like from a distance.  I get glimpses of its brilliance when I tour people through zones 1 and 2 or take them on picturesque walks through Hyde Park and South Kensington.  I am grateful for my London life.  But as all expats know, there are many misconceptions and mysteries...

  • I don't spend all of my free time drinking warm beer in dark pubs with low ceilings.
  • I don't eat fish n' chips every night.  I wish I could but I would get sick.
  • I have never bumped into Kate Middleton buying red velvet cupcakes at Hummingbird Bakery in South Kensington.  
  • I don't buy my groceries at the Harrods Food Hall, just the occasional French macaron. 
  • I haven't visited a castle, played polo or ridden a horse wearing a Barbour waxed jacket.   
  • Despite living in London, I still have to clean my bathroom and do my laundry.  
  • London women aren't all like Bridget Jones and they don't all want to be best friends or invite me to their tiny flats for hilarious and cozy dinner parties.  
  • Commuting is not more fun, or more sexy, just because I get to ride the tube.  It's especially not sexy when someone rams their sticky armpit in my face after a rare 30 degree day.  
  • It's impossibly frustrating to try and find a ripe avocado.  Or white chocolate that tastes like white chocolate.
  • All English men don't look or sound like Hugh Grant, Colin Firth or Ralph Fiennes.  However, most of them have really good taste in socks.  
  • Mascara is expensive.  But sandwiches are cheap.  
  • No matter how I pronounce 'about', everyone I meet thinks I am an American.  

The last thing is that inconsequential acts suddenly have huge meanings.  For example, I recently found myself moving unconsciously through the underground tunnels at King's Cross Station during rush hour.  I arrived on the Northern Line platform without a stumble, glance at my map, or a second thought. It felt simultaneously like a huge act of betrayal and a moment of belonging.  These conflicting emotions are constant.  I recently bought a side table, no bigger than what would fit in a children's playhouse, and the purchase seemed so permanent.  Same as when I finally hung pictures on my walls.  Last week, I felt a guilty thrill at hearing Chris describe our London flat as 'home'.

This is my London life.

Moments of perfect happiness...
Having Chris with me in London.

My 'Hyde Park Village'...
One of the best parts about my new job is that I start every morning with a 30 minute walk through Hyde Park.  Along with fellow commuters, there is a whole community that exists.  There is a group of velvet hard-hatted posh girls cantering their dark Warmblood horses on Rotten Row.  They are all dressed in identical tweed hunting jackets, ties and shiny black boots.  It's like a grown up Pony Club for Sloane Rangers.  There are the morning lido swimmers, in their Speedos and wet suits, bravely stepping into the lake with the geese and the swans.  And always a small black dog with a pink leash waiting for her owner on the dock, pacing back and forth in time with her owner's lengths.  There are the proper London commuters, the same ones who always rush to top deck, front row, of the red buses though would never admit it, that stop to admire and Instagram photos of the ducklings and cygnets that line the edge of Serpentine Lake hoping for a fallen bacon butty crumb.  I swear the birds are posher in Hyde Park.  There is a smartly dressed homeless man who wears a striped scarf, knotted French style around his neck, and is often found relaxing on a pink yoga mat beneath a willow tree.  He carries a smart looking brown duffel bag and his shoes are always immaculate.  The incredible views of the Shard and the London Eye.  It changes based on the weather, so every 5 minutes, but it never fails to make me stop and fall a bit more in love with London.

Rotten Row
One last truth...
I have been writing, just not blogging.  I am always writing, always looking and always stopping to write things down in one of the dozens of notebooks I have collected during my travels.  I always carry a notebook, especially now that I am spending more time commuting and traveling.  Notebooks are one of my comfort items and remind me of happy places, like alleys in Saint Germain, transatlantic flights with no Internet connection, rue Cler or the stationery department of BHV.  


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're writing again. Hope London is being nice to you.

Maggie Barrett said...

Love for London sneaks up on you, warts an all. If you go by Hamstead Registry office that was were I got married. Same place as Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Used to take brown bag lunches to the Old Vic to watch rehearsals. Aww memories were made.

Daisy de Plume said...

What a magnificent commute. The lido swimmers & Rotten Row Sloane Ranger pony club is unbeatable! That said my journals belong to Paris as well

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,

My sweetie, Kelly Ketcheson, is a friend of your Chris.
We have enjoyed the most lazy morning reading some of your pages and got on to french cookbooks and ended up making crepes and dreaming of visiting Paris.

Thanks for transporting us for a couple of hours...I feel like it will stay with us for a while.