john lewis

Things I don’t miss about London

London. Photo: Claire Doble

I said I’d write this at some point after I posted my Things I’ll Miss About London entry but it seemed a little negative. However, since HI’s back in the UK capital for a conference today, and it’s also two weeks (! only 2 weeks?!) since we packed up our house in Tottenham,  it got me thinking about:

What I don’t miss about London…

  • Swimming Pools All the pools in London are sh*t. Sorry to be harsh but it is true. They are small – usually 25 or 33m ( I heard this is so three lengths is 100m?). There are only two (2!) 50m pools in London and one is outdoors, although heated. As a keen swimmer from a country that is lazy with pools as well as the ocean, I really missed being able to swim easily and pleasantly in London. Zurich has 24 pools for roughly 400,00 people and this week I visited and swam at the Oerlikon Hallenbad. It was great. Like an Aussie pool. Hallelujah!. Of course there may be decent pools in London I never checked out because:
  • Commuting How to convey the terror / boredom / thrill? / anxiety / enforced psychopathic detachment of commuting to work with literally hundreds of thousands of other human beings using a straining-at-the-seams transport system in a megalopolis like London? Unless you’ve done it, you cannot comprehend. If you have, you know what I mean. It’s no wonder it’s often said that one of the top 10 things things that make you happier is a shorter commute to work. In the same vein:
  • John Lewis I know, I know. I love it too… or I thought I did. But somehow that whole Oxford Street ugliness thing, the stress, the busy-ness, the horror, the horror. And the competitive shopping vibe – the fact that shopping is kinda regarded as an enjoyable leisure activity for the family? No.
  • Chicken bones on the street. Along with every other bit of crud, litter, fly-tipped matresses, dog mess etcetera. Disgusting. Nobody cares. London is too big for anyone to have civic pride. HI is often saying London became a world power because of dirt (I think it’s from Peter Ackroyd’s London biography – something about the fact Londoners were too busy working/trading to wash and it’s led to their success and resilience). And I get it – it’s a strength too and the advantage of the huge/uncaring thing is that it means people aren’t all up in your sh*t. But it does wear you down. One time I saw a guy empty his catheter into the gutter at the corner of my street. For reals.
  • English Culture People talk about the stiff upper lip, but en masse, I find English culture can be mawkishly sentimental and soft! They love animals, there’s polite passive aggression, crazy class inequalities, Ant & Dec, plinky-plonky music and “every little helps”.  Aw bless, I love them really. And now I have a whole new culture to cringe at.
  • Tottenham. I want to say I miss it, I’d love to say I loved it, but I don’t and I can’t. I tried really hard to convince everyone – mostly myself – that I did. But it sucks. And a lot of this is due to Haringey Council… ugh. On bad days, Tottenham is a stark example of a combination of all the things I’ve outlined above. On good days, you don’t notice so much. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the challenge and I know some truly wonderful people who live there but I do not miss the area and I don’t know if I ever will. I’m sorry.

He’s Danish… so he speaks English

I am only just beginning to get my head around the babble of language here.


It must be one of the “most foreign” places we could have moved to in that there are four official languages (German, French, Italian and the oral Romansh) as well as the dialect of Schweizerdeutsch (Swiss German). And yet, that also sort of makes it the “least foreign” because there’s such a wash of different words being spoken that English is often the default and no one necessarily expects you to speak the language they do (kinda). Documents and labels and stuff are generally in German, French and Italian, and you often get an English option too.

And you get weird experiences such as the electrician who was recommended to fit our lights – “This guy is good and he’s Danish, so he speaks English.” You have to provide all your own light fittings here – when we moved in, the apartment just had a bunch of wires sprouting from each ceiling. Luckily we knew this ahead of time and shopped up a storm in John Lewis before leaving the UK! As for HI, he was mostly keen to ask the Danish sparky if he knew where in Switzerland you could buy Lurpak (you have to go to Germany, apparently). Priorities.

Meanwhile I had my first German lesson today. I missed the first two weeks of the course because: moving. But it doesn’t seem to matter too much – I had a quick read through the early stuff and maybe I did know a few more basic words than I thought. It’s an ECAP course over six months, two mornings per week so I’ve got plenty of time to catch up.The teacher only speaks German to us, which is fair enough, considering the varied backgrounds of the people attending. But also, eek!

The other students are all women who mostly have children I think (it’s a course designed for mums with young children and ECAP also offers childcare). There’s a huge range of different nationalities — English, Aussie (me!), Singaporean, Sri Lankan, Spanish, French, Italian, African, Middle Eastern, Eastern European…

I hope to make some new friends while I learn. 🙂 Sehr Gut!