No thanks to another miserable British train network experience I have just returned from a weekend away, back in the Midlands visiting my family. Another set of cancelled trains, another slow crawl out to Birmingham on Friday night on an overstuffed train. What joy! But eventually I made it and have passed a lovely weekend seeing various family members - some belonging to me, some belonging to another. Despite the fact that I had always called Staffordshire home until about 3 and a half years ago, people are often surprised when I reveal my Midlands roots. I am constantly mistaken for a Southerner. On occasion people have refused to believe I have not been a London citizen all my life (not bad for an Accidental Londoner, eh?). I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the distinctly non-Midlands accent I have, honed by boarding school, but quick to slip a bit when I head further North than Sheffield. Maybe it's my obsessive knowledge of London bus-routes (including which one's TFL has ranked most dangerous). Maybe it's my furious loathing of tourists and people who don't come from London that disrupt my morning commute.
After I correct those convinced I have lived here forever, I get asked the same question: "So, why did you move to London?". To which the honest answer is, well, I didn't really mean to. (Hence my Accidental prefix. Keep up, people!) When I left university I was adamant that I'd never live in London. It just didn't appeal to me. It didn't have the buzz and excitement of Paris or New York (let alone the glamour), and I thought it was dirty and full of people who did not look happy to be there. Yet after two months of temping for a local council department in Staffordshire I was climbing the walls. I had a two week internship lined up with a charity in London to look forward to however, so I answered phones and input data until the time had come for me to head to the city for that to start. Within days of being down here I was thoroughly enjoying myself. The internship was fun, and I never had to be in the office before 10am. I had friends here who were all too keen to help me spend my weekly lunch and travel stipend on dancing and margaritas. I had a kind Accidental relation who didn't seem to mind me living in her spare room. I had freedom and London's wealth of entertainment at my feet. The internship was extended a week more, then another and another. When I finally returned to Staffordshire I suddenly wanted to return to London.
Together with a uni friend who was in similar local government office purgatory in Sussex (she administrated yellow lines being painted on roads, I dealt with the crazies at Social Services), I hatched a plan. Loads of our friends had done it, it couldn't be that hard. Sod it, we would move to London, find a flat and jobs. And with that, we did. Shuffling from sofa to spare room, between our nearest and dearest, we met with pushy recruitment consultants, attended interviews for a myriad of crazy jobs, picked the least horrendous sounding ones and signed on the dotted line. We were employed, now we needed a house. House-hunting, we discovered, was far more stressful and tough than job-hunting. (My jaundiced experience on the subject was captured in one of my earlier posts. Bottom line, estate agents are loathsome, and in London prices are high and flats microscopic.)
After trawling the dregs of the January flat rentals market for five weeks, and recruiting another potential housemate on our search, we did find a lovely place to call home for two years. We learnt to commute across the city, and curse TFL. We learnt the satisfaction of the first post-work drink, and the misery of the office hangover the next morning. We made new friends, and dodged old ones we were less keen to bump into on the bus in the mornings. We discovered the best places to shop and eat and explore. We began our education in becoming Londoners. Whilst the course may be long, with each person who mistakes me for a bona fide Londoner, I feel that I am slowly approaching my graduation.