London: north, south, east and west

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Finally. Hi guys and apologies for my extended quietude.

Well, it's now been a month since I set foot on summery English shores and the time seems to have flown by. This is despite my efforts to rest for first week or two, then concentrate on job hunting and taking care of the more mundane administrative tasks that go along with starting a new life elsewhere (bank accounts and housing for example), instead of going out and partying whilst the fleeting English summer lasts.

Although I seem to have achieved things maybe I should be out enjoying it more. Throughout July it was spectacularly hot here - officially rating as the hottest recorded July since 1914 (with an average 24 hour temperature of 21.4C and a top of 36C). It certainly wasn't the best weather for suiting up and tubing it to interviews I can tell you! Much better to be laying about half naked in the park as a steady stream of locals were doing outside my sister's window whilst I was lucky enough to be staying there. Oh well, if I was going to be dehydrated and lethargic it was good to have some cute eye candy out the window.

Proving that Aussies can join the best of the mad dogs and Englishmen, I did do a little more sightseeing in whilst the sun was working up a lather. The best of this was along the southern side of the Thames and the river proved itself spectacular that day. It was great to have a pint or two by this incredibly historic shore and this is the first time I've really enjoyed it in all it's glory in the few times that I've visited. One other thing I noticed was that there are a lot of construction cranes on the skyline which indicates that the economy is relatively robust. Must get on that Millennium Eye some day as well - massive and very cool.

More recently the weather has reverted to your typical British summer. Moody, scudding clouds that set a sombre tone and which are often complemented by a biting, chilly breeze and a spot or six of rain. (See, I'm turning into a right pom and talking about the weather all the time.) That has been fine though as I've been hitting the pavements in the last three weeks trying to find a job, and (with more difficulty) a home.

What a mission! I won't go into the logistics of it all but as public transport is a lottery if you don't know where you're working it's a bigger gamble finding a long term home. Suffice it to say I've seen a good cross section of accommodation options in the eastern and northern portions of central London. The terraces around Islington brought back fond memories of time spent at no. 4 Arlington Road in Camden (even popped by to check out the place and our local, the Crown and Goose, up the way) as well as seeing a bunch of swanky stuff from Angel all the way up to Helen and Luke's place at Archway further north.

Unfortunately the jumble of housing types in every suburb is what makes house hunting so difficult, and this is mainly due to the widespread destruction that the city underwent during WW2. A large amount of ugly, semi-functional estates went up in these parts of London when money and time were short post-war and now it's mixed up with all the quaint terraces and modern apartment complexes on every block and in all the classifieds you look at. Some of the places are fine inside but living in a unflattering box is just not my style. So whilst skipping from one friend's couch to another with the occasional short term rental thrown in, the search for a nice room continues...

One of the job interviews was near Park Lane so I've made a token foray into West London, around the Green Park area, which was very pleasant too. As many Aussies end up over this way it's interesting to see how the other half live. Very nice indeed - who said we don't have any class? Speaking of classy, I also had my first game of golf in a very long time up at Highgate (another very swanky area) which was excellent. Playing with borrowed clubs and a rusty swing I still almost cracked 100 on a par 71 so was happy with the result. Now I just have to work out how to play in London more often!

On a more cultural note, I've been minding a friend's place in Algate (east central London) for the last couple of weeks. It's a very multi-cultural area near Brick Lane, a focal point of central Asian and Muslim communities in town which spices life up a bit particularly considering the current tensions in the Middle East and the foiled terror plot of the past few days. Before all that had happened there was definite Bengali and Indian community discontent with the filming of a screen version of Monica Ali's novel 'Brick Lane' in the neighbourhood and it was interesting to witness some of the film crew's first forays there. No riots or rowdy protests ensued but I didn't hang around just in case.

And a night at the Walthamstow dogs can't go unmentioned. Dave Anderson, Min, Ainsley and I headed up there one Saturday to check out the form and it turned out to be a great night of clueless gambling, beer swilling and fat-saturated food consumption. It was almost impossible to catch the little blighters on film but the accompanying video (3.4MB) shows a steeplechase race in full flight. Classic! My only win was in the last race I stayed for, when a dog called Gottabe Rooney (named after the knockabout English national football hero no doubt) brought home the bacon and I think I came out around even in the end.

The final highlight this month has been a trip out to The Big Chill, a giant four day music festival at Eastnor Castle in the Malvern Hills (south of Bristol). It was my first English festival experience and it was HUGE so more on that in a separate entry. And despite the recent plane bombing hoo-ha I should be on my way next weekend to Sweden for a short visit and many beers with old mate Olof. I've been requested to bring an Aussie flag which is doubly ominous. I wonder if I will ever learn...

So it hasn't all been dry-cleaning, interview technobabble and phone call holding patterns since the last entry but I'm still a long way from being able to relax and get settled into London life. Hopefully after the recent hard work and minor despairing things will now start to fall into place. And even though it probably doesn't compare to the everyday escapades of life on the road, when I reflect I have actually done quite a bit during my first month here. I shouldn't complain because winter is probably just around the corner!

Next entry -> sailing Swedish high seas(?)
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