Monday, 28 September 2009

Naaaay-bers, Everybody Needs Good Naaaaybeeers...

Mmm. How typical is that? I start a blog about loving yet hating London, and what happens? A decidedly uneventful weekend. Having said that, the weekend was spent hiding out in the shoe-box. Naturally, living in London means you pay an extortionate amount of money for a broom cupboard. I recently upgraded to a cupboard with a roof terrace, which is more exciting than words - you have to have lived in London to appreciate the novelty of being able to wander around outside in your dressing gown without the police being called! It also gives me the opportunity to jump on the eco-frugal bandwagon and grow my own vegetables. Sadly I forgot I had an uncanny ability to kill even the most hardy of desert cacti when I made this decision, but am pleased to report that so far I’ve had about ten strawberries (two of which I have eaten), seven tomatoes (all green but I live in hope) and, most excitingly, my pepper plants are beginning to bear fruit (or, erm, veg anyway)!
As I type the other common downer of living in London rises its ugly head: Noisy Neighbours. Not being an eccentric millionaire, my shoe-box is not of the detached variety and we are sandwiched between two others. The neighbours below us are as quiet as the mice which no doubt inhabit nearby, but the ones above…
I like to think I am quite a tolerant person. I understand that they don’t mean to be noisy, they just aren’t particularly light footed. And when I went upstairs to ask them to turn their music down, they did. Him Indoors, however, is a little less patient. I have become accustomed to the constant noise that rumbles on in the background and hardly notice even the screech of sirens that fly by our window several times a day. Him Indoors, however, has not adjusted to life in the city quite as easily. He moved here three years ago and still hasn’t accepted the fact that you can’t expect to wake up to the sound of birdsong when you live within spitting distance of both the Emirates Stadium and the A1. Several times a night he will grumble and huff, hunched over his X Box controller.
“The fairy elephant is in I see,” he mutters, glaring at the ceiling from under his furrowed brow. And yes, he has a point. But, you know what? You have to take the rough with the smooth in this town. London is a mixing pot of people from different backgrounds, different cultures, with different priorities and values. We have to accept our neighbours flaws (to a degree - drug dealing from the bedroom window might be pushing it) and, well, suck it up. Otherwise, if the heat gets too much, the pot will blow its lid off and the stew will end up dripping off the ceiling. And, even if it's not exactly to my taste, I’ll happily eat my share rather than turn my nose up at it and cause the chef offence.
Without wishing to overstretch the metaphor, even if the main course isn’t to your liking, the dessert might make up for it! And, hey, there’s always breakfast…

Friday, 25 September 2009

Sub-Standard Services Vs Retail Therapy

Today is my “Work Life Balance” day (or “hippy day” as one friend likes to call it) which means… no work. Aaah, bliss!
Having had an early night, I wake up refreshed at around 8am. The bright autumnal sunlight filters into my boudoir. Life feels good. Although tempted to stay put, I get up and get ready for my day. I have five things to do on my mental “to do” list - pick up a parcel from the local delivery office, go to the hospital for an “open appointment”, take advantage of 20% off at Long Tall Sally (fashion Mecca for any woman over 5’9’’), start my blog (ta-dah!) and go to college.
So, plugged into my handy it-does-everything phone I tune into Amy Winehouse (very “London”) and head out.
The local Royal Mail Delivery Office is surprising quiet - there’s only one person ahead of me in the queue. Result. Optimistically I hand over my “Sorry we missed you” postcard and ID. The man behind the counter disappears to retrieve my package. He looks a little frayed. Poor chap.
Several minutes pass. Poor Chap hasn’t come back yet. A queue is forming behind me. I make impatient noises.
Finally he returns. He has my postcard, but no package. He sighs.
“I’m afraid the person who delivered your parcel was doing overtime so your parcel has been sent back to Bow.”
I blink. This is not the first time my post has gone astray. I remain calm.
“So what happens now?”
Another sigh.
“The best thing I can do is take a copy of this and your number and we’ll give you a call when it gets back here.”
He looks gingerly at me through his bushy eyebrows. He’s clearly nervous.
“Well, what should I do if I don’t hear from you?”
“You can try calling customer services…”
I’m not convinced, but ask for the number anyway. I’ve dealt with their customer services before. It was not a good experience. I ask for a pen to write down the number. Someone in the queue behind me tuts impatiently. I ignore them.
“I’m very sorry about this.”
I do feel for Poor Chap. He has clearly been in this position before. But I can’t let him off completely.
“I know it’s not your fault, but this has happened to me before. And it really is dire.”
I defiantly walk out of the office empty handed. Hmm. Not a great start.
20 minutes later I’m at the hospital reception desk clutching my “open appointment” letter. I’m feeling confident that I will get on better here.
“Hello, I saw your consultant here a few months ago and he told me to come back once I had had some tests done and gave me this letter to bring with me”.
The guy behind the desk takes my letter with an air of scepticism and skims it over. He snorts.
“This doesn’t mean you can see him today, you have to have an appointment.”
“But he gave me an open appointment! He told me to come back any Friday…”
“An open appointment doesn’t mean you can just come in and see someone. You have to phone up to make an appointment!”
It’s my turn to sigh.
“Well… can I make an appointment now?”
He sighs back and logs into his computer. I’m annoyed. He clearly thinks I’m an idiot.
“The doctor did tell me just to come back with this letter you know.”
He glances up at me from his screen, one eyebrow raised.
“Next appointment is 5th February.”
I gasp.
“Isn’t there one before then?”
“Well, that will have to do then.”
He fills in my appointment card whilst I mutter to my self about having to wait another 5 months and it being a good job it isn’t fatal. He gives me my appointment card.
“I’ll destroy this one for you.”
He waves my “open appointment” letter over the bin. He clearly thinks I’m capable of trying to pull this stunt again. Damn it.
“Will I get another appointment letter in the post?”
Satisfied, I march out of the hospital to the tube station in need of some retail therapy. At Baker Street, the sun is shining. I head down to LTS and pick up a mountain of clothes to try on. I ask the shop assistant if she has one of the skirts in the catalogue in. She says she has.
“What size? 10? 12?”
I laugh and tell her at least a 14 and am secretly flattered when she looks back at me surprised. Nothing like a bit of ego stroking to make me flex my credit card!
Several changes later I choose a couple of tops that will do nicely for work. Nothing inspirational, but certainly satisfactory. I am thankful I live relatively close to the store - there’s only a handful in the country. Yet another benefit of living in London.
I walk down Baker Street and pop into Accessorise for a last minute gift. Fighting through a gaggle of tourists I finally get out of the shop and hop on the bus to Euston, where I go to M&S to pick up something for dinner. The concourse is packed with suits grabbing a quick bite to eat and a few rays of September sun. The atmosphere is energetic yet relaxed.
By the time I get home I’m feeling content. A successful shopping trip has balanced the frustrations of this morning. And, as I cross off job number 4 on my “to do” list, I can relax until heading out for college in a couple of hours. Where else in the country are there so many evening courses to choose from, catering for every whim, time table and budget?

Love To Hate London - The Beginning

I’ve lived in London for over 8 years now. Living here had always appealed to me - the excitement of the big city was very attractive after 21 years of small towns in the Midlands. So on graduating in 2001, I found myself a job here, packed my bags and headed “Daan Saaaf” without a backwards glance. 8 years on, the glamour of the West End and energy of the East have become a little tarnished as the reality of the tube in rush hour and the impatience of everyone who has lived here more than two years (including yours truly) start to penetrate any naïve optimism that life in London is fabulous, darling.
But the Old Smoke hasn’t lost all its charm. There are days when I walk through Soho Square or admire the impressive skyline from a friend’s high-rise shoebox, I take a deep breath of fresh smog and smile to myself as I splutter out fumes from the A1. Because despite its numerous (and often hideous) flaws, London has spunk.
So here starts my record of London life. The highs and lows of sharing the innards of the M25 with about 8 million other people on a day to day basis. To remind me, and everyone else, that although London regularly takes a bite out of you, chews you a bit then spits you out, sometimes you can’t help but fall for its lovable rogue charms. Well, just a little bit, anyway.