Sunday, 5 March 2017

2 Years in London

On March 7th 2017 it will be my 2 year anniversary of living in London. Oh, how time has flown and patience has diminished but 2 years on from my big move to the city, I still feel embarrassingly happy that I get to live here and get ‘payday’ levels of excitement every time I casually wander past a giant tourist hot spot on my way to the shops or while en-route to my 9-5 office job. The novelty has yet to disintegrate and I hope I forever remain in the honeymoon period with London. I first set my heart on moving here at the end of 2014 when, quite frankly, I was stuck in a rut and incredibly depressed. Life was stale and I craved excitement, I needed bigger opportunities and I lusted over a life worth living. At the time I was a devoted reader of various fashion and beauty blogs that featured various women in their early-mid twenties swanning around London in fabulous clothes and spending their evenings toasting to their fantastic lives with multicoloured cocktails - I wanted in. During this period of my life I was working full time for an Estate Agency in Reading and it was, for lack of a better word, hell. Spending 10 hours a day commuting and working in a job I hated for arrogant money-hungry mortgage brokers whilst getting paid the salary of a sweatshop worker really makes a girl question why she bothered getting a degree. I would waste countless hours at my horrible job thinking about my ‘dream life’ somewhere exciting like London, I wrote endless bucket lists for things I would do when I got there and continually binge watched episodes of ‘Made In Chelsea’ for inspiration (turns out they are all rich and therefore their lives are unattainable, who knew?!). The only issue was…I had no money and London is expensive but what did I have to lose? I was a woman on a mission! From November 2014, I saved every penny possible for my big move. It was a little easier for me than some 24 year olds because I had very few friends, no boyfriend and really enjoyed wasting my days in bed with reality shows therefore the lack of socialising helped keep funds safely tucked away in my savings account (not a lot has changed to be honest except for having more friends now and watching my reality shows from the comfort of a desk chair like a grown ass woman should). 

Finding my London job.
With a tiny bit of money in the bank for a flat deposit, the next challenge was to find a decent paying job role. After endless online applications spread over a few weeks and a great recommendation from a family friend, Network Rail lassoed me in. Did I know anything about the rail industry? No. Did I care about the rail industry? No. Did they offer me a great role with a lovely team and a pension plan? Yes and after a few months of polite begging, I had my role as a Team Organiser right next to the Olympic park in Stratford. The final step was to find a humble (aka cheap) place to live. Now, as a self confessed introvert, the idea of living with strangers in close quarters and paying hundreds of pounds a month for the privilege did not quite match up to my ‘dream life’ I was pursuing but rent is pricey and I was desperate so communal living it was! I assumed it would be like a super chic cult but less matching outfits and our cult leader/landlord wouldn't use us to murder people. I digress...

Finding my London home.
When it came to looking for a home, I didn't even know where to begin! As a person who dreamed so much about living in London, I’d actually not spent a lot of time there. My dad used to treat me, my sister and my mum to a fancy weekend in the city every so often whilst I was growing up but that was about it! Whilst knee deep in my regular Youtube binge from the comfort of my bathtub, I was watching some LLYMLRS videos (my favourite blogger at the time who happened to live in London), she mentioned in one of her vlogs that she lived in an area called Balham so I immediately googled it - if a woman the same age as me with the same interests lives there, maybe that’s the place for me? I did a lot of research and spent many an hour on whilst pretending to do my actual day job and finally settled on Clapham. It was within my limited budget, it was reasonably safe and had plenty of places to have boozy brunches with the metaphorical gal pals I hadn’t made yet, it was perfect! Whilst scrolling through at work, I stumbled across a 3 bedroom flat in Clapham which 2 girls my age currently resided in - at this point I’d only viewed 2 places, both in East London (as my job was based in Stratford) and both were a pale comparison to the pictures posted online - I couldn't get too mad about it because I do the same with my selfies on instagram, only great angles and good lighting. Needless to say, my expectations were low but after sending a little message to the girls to ask about the room, they asked if I could come and view it that night. Without hesitation, I replied yes and then immediately faked an illness from my boss so I could leave early. One lie, two hours and a £32 return train ticket later, I met with the girls. We laughed, we bonded, we talked about our mutual love for Beyonce and the room was mine. As if I didn't already have enough to thank Beyonce for.

My favourite things about London Life.
When I first moved to London, I was the biggest and most embarrassing tourist you ever did see. I was that moron who took frequent selfies alone in public whilst in front of tourist gathering spots like The Shard, various museums and whatever was hanging in the centre of Carnaby Street at the time. Myself and my lack of shame spent all of my free time exploring my new home and would wander aimlessly for hours. Allow me to share a few things that spring to mind when frequently professing my love for 'the big smoke':

- The incredible transport. My entire life has been spent living in beautiful towns that are picturesque and quiet but have little to no reliable transport so the ease of being able to get anywhere I want, stress-free and at anytime here in London is without a doubt my favourite thing. I even love the tube! (despite the fact that I've been sat one once, sneezed on twice and fallen asleep on three times...)
- There's always something fun & free to do. If I have a day with zero plans, all it takes is a little peak on twitter and I'll be able to find something free to spend my day doing. Museums, galleries, beautiful walks, live music and all whilst having more money to spend on food. I love nothing more then getting up early and heading in to central to wander with a coffee before the rush of humans arrive. It's all so much prettier/instagramable when it's not filled with obnoxious tourists and angry commuters.
- Shopping. This feels like a really obvious one but I bloody love how much shopping there is here. The iconic shops like Liberty and Harrods being minutes away on the train is great for humble brags and I practically live in Westfields during my free time. I'll often go just to have a gander at pretty things I can't afford while walking laps like a Grandma in an American Mall. I assure you it's more fun than it sounds.
- The 'Buzz'. The hustle and bustle of a busy city is off-putting to some people but I get a real buzz from it. I love the feeling that there is constant movement around me, exciting things happening, festivals, marches, celebrations. Occasionally if I'm having an 'off' day, all it takes is a trip to somewhere busy and beautiful like Green Park or Brick Lane and I feel rejuvenated. 
- People watching. With a big city comes big nutcases and for the most part, I enjoy them greatly. As a certified nosey person, I bloody love a people watch and there's no better place to do it than the crowded streets of London. Grab a coffee and enjoy the terrifying show.
- Everythings open late. Again, I reflect on my previous hometowns where everything shut at roughly 6pm and you'd be lucky to find a bar open past 11pm. I love that this is the city that sleeps but just stays up late. I don't want to stop drinking with pals at 11pm, stop shopping at 7pm and hurry to finish my meal by 9pm! And as a sidenote: if you haven't gone for evening drinks and then been on an impromptu drunk shopping spree then what are you even doing? Stop reading this and go do that right now. 
- Food, food and food...oh my. There are so many incredible restaurants here, my favourite being Flat Iron in Carnaby Street, and there's too many options most of the time but for someone like me who gets bored easily and only enjoys socialising if the element of food is involved, it's bloody great. I love the variety of independent places to dine and the constant stream of new places to try. Even within 10 minutes walk of my flat are endless dining options so my constant woes of not being able to cook are a distant memory. Here's looking at you, Tortilla. 

After 2 years of London living, I am still very much in love with city life and despite knowing I will never be able to buy a property here (I’ll never be E.L James levels of wealthy and I have grown to accept this) I truly can’t see myself leaving for calmer ventures anytime soon. It isn't perfect by any means but moving here remains to be the greatest decision I have ever made and I have truly done more in the last 2 years then in the 24 previous. Will I be 40, single and still renting a room in a shabby flat? Maybe, yeah…but Bridget Jones has pretty much become Britain’s version of Carrie Bradshaw so that life wouldn’t be all that bad, right?

Faye x