Monday, 17 March 2014

Sponsored post: Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Moved to London

From time to time a familiar email lands in my inbox. It goes something like this..."Hi, Accidental Londoner! I'm moving to London from Krakow/Brisbane/Manchester/[insert other place here], and was wondering if you had any advice you would pass on to someone moving to the city?"  I usually email back, and make a few suggestions about useful resources for finding a flatshare, or fun blogs to read up on cool things to do.  But then after I hit 'send' I always remember other things I could have suggested and wish I'd written more. Maybe I should have a stock reply - a do's and don't's for life in London? Kind of like a Mary Schmich-esque commencement speech that the Accidental Londoner would share with an assembly of future citizens of this great place. (Mary Schmich? She wrote this, which Baz Luhrmann later repackaged as this. You know it.) So I've had a go at bundling up some advice for future Londoners...Oh, but a caveat first. Like Mary Schmich's essay, what appears below has "no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience". Take it with a pinch of salt. 

Find a decent place to live. East, West, wherever you like. Even South of the river if you must. Just make sure you share it with nice people. If your housemates turn out to be psychos, move.
Don't live anywhere you feel scared to get home after dark. Don't live anywhere where you can see or smell evidence of damp/rats/mice/previous owners. Avoid living near drug-dealers - they keep supremely antisocial hours.
When choosing a decent location for your new home, apply 'The pint test'; if you can buy a pint of milk and a pint of beer (not necessarily in the same place) somewhere within easy walking distance, you're golden.
Accept that all estate agents are out to shaft you, but don't let them. Try and live somewhere where you can see green space and sky, whatever colour it may be.
Always carry an umbrella. Invest in a utilitarian range of footwear. Buy a big winter coat.
Resist the urge to take all your clothes off on the first sunny day of the year. Be patient and wait for the summer - it will come. Eventually. Drink ro on the pavements after work when it does.
Respectfully share the buses and tube trains with your fellow Londoners. Do not begrudge them their elbow room and they won't complain about being able to hear whatever you're listening to through your headphones.
Do not read other peoples' newspapers on the Tube. Get your own. Just not The Sun.
It's pretty hard not to Mind the Gap, but don't run for closing train doors - it just scares everyone who's already on the train and who thinks you're about to have your head removed from your body.
If you must use Boris Bikes, buy a helmet and use it. If you ride on the DLR, sit at the front of the train and pretend you are driving.
Be open to meeting new people everywhere. Don't reject the possibility that this may take place online. Today, it's really not that strange.
Learn to rebuff unwanted attention. Learn to entertain yourself. Learn how to stare down and trample meandering tourists in the West End.
Don't let London's exterior unfriendliness get you down - there are good, fun, kind people here; seek them out.
Never shop on Oxford Street. Don't regularly frequent bars where a round of drinks costs your weekly pay-cheque. Shop local, and learn your newsagent's name.
Recycle.
Know who your neighbours are, and say hi to them when you pass in the street. 
Embrace opportunity. Say yes to the jobs that don't sound like a dream role, but which offer you something you want. Sometimes good is good enough.
Never work for free unless you truly want to.
Don't worry about a fixed career path - doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Whatever anyone says, no one else's job is perfect either.
Use your holiday allowance. Don't eat lunch at your desk. 
Make life easier for yourself. Buy an Oystercard. Set up auto top-up. (Don't be the person who has to wait in line at every station, whilst your friends tap their feet on the other side of the barrier.)
Keep the number of a reliable taxi firm in your phone for dark, rainy nights when you find yourself miles from home on the other side of the city after the last Tube.
Pay your council tax bill, however eye-wateringly expensive - that's what pays for the streetlights that get you home after a night out.  
Don't be scared of the city, but stay alert. Guard your bags and your pockets.
Don't get lazy - London will call you on it. The city constantly changes, and you may have to too. Change is good; embrace it.
Learn what to do if you lose your wallet or your phone is stolen. In all honesty, it may well happen. But it's not the end of the world.
Nothing here is permanent. This can be both good and bad. You may miss familiar things, but you can also discover wonderful new ones.
Look down every alleyway, particularly the dodgy ones. Walk a different way each time. Explore, and build your own unique mental map of the city. 
Don't think about it too much. Either the decision to moving here initially, or the choices you'll have to make once you get here. If I had truly sat down and thought about some of the biggest things I've done since moving here, I wouldn't have a Masters degree. Or a flat. I would probably also have had the same job for the past six years. 
Oh, and once you're here, living and working, you're a Londoner. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

This post has been written in collaboration with Urbanest. Although I was remunerated for this post, any opinions expressed in the above post are those of The Accidental Londoner alone.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Accidental Visits: The New Covent Garden Flower Market, Nine Elms

I was out of town last Sunday. But a quick glance at Instagram suggested that many of my fellow Londoners were all in one place on Sunday morning: Columbia Road Flower Market.  My but there were a lot of photos of metal trolleys groaning with orchids, and pots of pansies, and armfuls of lilies.  Columbia Road - if you live anywhere vaguely north or east in London - is just one of those places you visit from time to time. You take visitors and out-of-towners to peruse the tiny street lined with flower-sellers; you meet friends there for a coffee, a bacon roll, and a lavender plant in a pot; you elbow your way through the throng of others to snap 100 floral photos and Instagram the hell out of them. It's sort of an East London Sunday morning institution.   

But at a dinner party last month I met a florist. And when someone mentioned Columbia Road, and asked if she bought her supplies there, she politely pointed out that real florists visit a proper, daily tourist-free market for their blooms - the New Covent Garden Flower Market. Not that the market - despite its name - is actually in Covent Garden. The New Covent Garden Flower Market replaced the actual Covent Garden Market, of My Fair Lady fame, over 40 years ago; shifting the city's flower trading hub across the river onto the South Bank. No wonder the rest of us at the dinner party had never stumbled across it.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover