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.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I suffer from anxiety and the future can be scary place.

The future represents a series of unfounded fears and worst-case scenarios.  My anxiety turns every tension headache into an aneurysm, every delayed plane into a catastrophic crash, and when Chris doesn't his answer his cell phone I am convinced I will never see him again.  My anxiety can twist my stomach, tense my muscles, cause my ears to ring, and make me forget the simplest information.  At times, I am both terrified and overwhelmed by my anxiety's physical and emotional symptoms.  

I struggle to stay in the present and challenge my assumptions with what I know is the truth.

For the last 10 months, London has been my truth.  London, not Paris.

Chris and I took a huge risk when I moved to London last year.  We had no affection, no longing, no romantic ideals - especially Chris - about London.  London was a gateway to Paris and we would tolerate London until we could find our way to Paris.

We didn't expect to fall for London.

Chris came to London last September for the first time since our honeymoon in 2007.  I was apprehensive given his previous disappointment and how we spent the majority of our honeymoon eating hamburgers in our swanky hotel's lounge.  But Chris came ready to embrace London and support me and a different version of our dream.  I watched Chris relax in London, become a regular at "my local", negotiate rush hour on the Tube, and find his own space among 8 million Londoners.    

I didn't pursue a recent opportunity that could have lead us to Paris.  It was a difficult decision and one that suggests we are loosening our grip on Paris.  Or perhaps it means that we want to protect our romanticized version of Paris? Our Paris will always be for long, beautiful walks, kisses at the Eiffel Tower, and sitting for hours at Le Petit Cler.

London is an exhilarating city where almost anything seems possible.  I came with no expectations.  All I wanted was a chance to prove that Chris and I wanted our dream, in whatever shape, enough to risk our comfortable life together in Victoria.  In the last 10 months, I have met incredible people, received unbelievable support, and had experiences that will forever change my life.  London has changed both Chris and me.

I start a new, permanent job with a London university in May.  My new job is the next step in bringing Chris here and establishing our life in London.  This weekend I signed another year's lease on my flat and finally hung pictures on the walls.  I have a London doctor and I am almost brave enough to see a London dentist.

Two weeks ago, I flew from Victoria to London.  Those first 10 hours of separation from Chris are always the worst and I am grateful for British Airways' endlessly sympathetic flight attendants.  As I left the plane, one of them winked at me and said, 'Welcome home."

I still don't know what the future holds. But I know Chris and I are moving in the right direction...