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.
I’m back in London for two weeks while we pack up for the Big Move.
I’ve been thinking about what I’ll miss about London… as well as some of the stuff I’ll be glad to leave behind.
I will miss:
My friends. I’ve got friends here that I’ve known longer than I’ve been in London (7 years) – people I was mates with in Sydney who also moved over here, and it’s really strengthened our friendships and made us close. I’ve also got newer friends, not least the group of mums I met through NCT classes, who I’ve spent time with pretty much every week for the past three years.
My house. We’ve transformed this place from a West Indian grandma’s cozy nest — complete with crimson carpets, stripy wallpaper, 80s kitchen and frosted glass and/or net curtains on every window — to a sleek, calm, modern place (but still cozy I hope) with a perfect-for-us kitchen and lovely light all hours of the day.
Working. I’ve quit my job at visitlondon.com to move to Switzerland. I miss it already – I miss being able to go somewhere I’m known just as Claire (not as someone’s wife, mother, friend, family member etc) and I miss doing work that means I am accepted and appreciated for my skills, ability and experience.
English. I love words, I love the English language. I am really excited about learning German but it will be very strange not to hear my native tongue spoken and see it written as a matter of course. All the crazy permutations of English – the way the London schoolkids on the bus use words, hearing it evolve around me. Reading bad signage and laughing at the mistakes and funny turns of phrase caused by those who aren’t as expert as me. Now I’ll be the one wrangling and mangling words and I’m pretty sure Schweizerdeutsch is not nearly so flexible as the language I’ve always known.
Cheap stuff. And knowing where to get it. They say London is expensive. But it’s not, compared to Switzerland. At least, not round here, in the grungy area of North London I reside. Food and groceries are cheaper. Clothes are cheaper, furniture, homewares, etc. etc. It’s not just that though, it’s…
The familiarity of crap. There’s plenty of crap here. But at least it’s familiar crap. My crap, I could say. Although a lot of it is actually other people’s dog’s crap and disgusting chicken bones on the footpath which I lay absolutely NO claim to! But, like the aforementioned cheap stuff, at least I know what stuff is, where to get it, how to avoid it, etc. Oh you know what I mean.
Nails. I’ve been getting my nails done with acrylic overlays for the past five (!) years. I’m going to have to give them up because it costs CHF60 (£40) in Zurich, compared to £15 here. I will miss the silly nail art I’ve been rocking (Facebook friends can see my nail art pictures here) and I’m afraid it will mean I start biting them again to boot : (
This has turned into rather a long entry. I’ll have to tell you about the stuff I won’t miss in another post!