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 bears. I 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.|
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.
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.