Losing track

The fact that I’ve lost count of exactly how long I’ve been in London probably says something about my present state of settlement; I’m no longer really counting. Roughly, though, it’s been a little over two months, and honestly, things are going well. I’m at the point where people have started to caution me about emotional swings– that this is when things start to get difficult. In a way, I’m sure that’s true: August is nearly over, and that means autumn is impending, and that means it is soon going to get colder, damper, and darker. All of those things are going to have an adverse impact on me, I have no doubt.

Having said that, I’m prepared for that– as much as I can be– and mostly, feeling positive about the change. I’ve been buying winter clothes (which is fun! Scarves and gloves and wooly jumpers and all kinds of cozy things), and working my way up to cycling to work (which should keep me exercising, which I think will be important).

Additionally, I have plenty of things to look forward to: visits from several different friends, a trip to Rome, another to France, and Christmas (somewhere; I’m still making final decisions on that). Once I hit January, it’s really only a couple of months before my parents visit (in April; we’re going to Spain together), and then it will be spring again. (Just like that, I’m counting off nearly a full year!)

Beyond that, though, I am feeling settled. I’m settled at work, where I’m beginning to make friends, and where I’m feeling very positive about the work I’m doing, and how it is being received. I’m settled outside of work, too, with an active life (including a social life!) and lots of things to look forward to. I’m even making plans to combine the two, with some weekend plans with a friend from work. All good things!

Home is a little more difficult, as matters continue to be a little complicated with my flatmate. I’ve never been good at flatsharing; I hated it when I was in my early 20s, and I definitely hate it now. It’s difficult because I’m sure some of my gripes are personal to me: things that don’t really matter in the scheme of things, but matter to me because of how I prefer to live. Some of them, however, are not. I’ve definitely had moments of staring at rooms for rent, and considering moving again, but I’m forcing myself to stick it out for now– there’s no point rushing out into a different place until I’ve really tried to make this one work. If things still suck in a few months time, well, that will be different.

This evening, a handful of minor things piled together to the point where I refused to cook in that kitchen (it would mean cleaning up after her, and no, I was not in the mood for that), and couldn’t stand being in the same flat as her (I am over-dramatic sometimes, yes), so I took myself out for dinner. Which also bothered me, because I’d just bought food to cook for dinner (and the leftovers were supposed to be for lunch tomorrow, sigh), but it helped, so that’s something. I’m calmer, now, though I haven’t dared to check the kitchen to see if she read my note/did anything about it.

I miss living alone. At the same time, faced with living alone and not being able to afford to do anything, or living with someone else and having disposable income for travel, fancy food, theatre and so on… well, I’ve made my decision on that one. There’s no point being in London if I don’t have the money to make the most of it! So I will make it work, the best I can.

And in the meantime, I will enjoy the rest of what life has on offer for me. I’m on a day trip to Glastonbury on Saturday, and a chocolate tasting the following Wednesday. I’m seeing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in No Man’s Land, and Kenneth Branagh in The Entertainer, and then there are my visitors and then Rome and… September and October are filling up. Life is good.

Mental maps

See map, wear map

See map, wear map

One of the reasons I try to walk as much as possible, rather than catch the tube, is that it makes it easier to work on my mental map. As I explore this city, I’m constantly filling in more pieces of that map: this connects with that. I am here. When you travel by tube, or even by bus, you’re getting disconnected pieces of things– and I find it hard to pull those together.

On my second full day in London, six weeks ago today, I walked from Paddington to the British Museum. I was trying to do it without constantly looking at the map on my phone, and in the end, well, I got a little turned around and ended up having to stop and regroup. I did so over a (terrible) coffee and a pain au chocolate at a chain cafe that I found down some road; I wasn’t sure that the road was, but at least, in the safety of that cafe, I was able to figure out roughly which direction I was supposed to be travelling in.

Today, when I went out for lunch, I ended up deciding to stop and get a baguette at Paul, which is a ‘French’ bakery cafe chain – there’s one just a block up the road from work. It was only when I was inside the shop that I suddenly realised I’d been in here before: it was the same cafe I’d stopped in six weeks earlier, but this time I knew where I was. That piece of my mental map has now been filled in, and that foreign, unknown street now has a name – and more than that, it’s part of my life.

Of course, this doesn’t just happen with my own experiences. I’m reading a book at the moment about a young woman working for the BBC in the very early days of radio, back when the BBC was located at Savoy Hill. Curious about the location, naturally I looked it up: my bus goes right past there, every day. Two of the pubs mentioned in the book still exist. Marconi House, where the first BBC radio transmissions were managed from, is also on my route. Thus, now, as I read, I’m picturing places I know, and that’s another kind of map building.

Of course, I did that back in Sydney, too: there was a great thrill, always, in reading something and knowing where it was. “I’ve been there!” Ridiculous, really, because yes, I may have been there, but so have millions of others (including, presumably, the author), but there you go.

And since I’m talking maps, have a look at the new scarf I bought. New York subways! Maps! They had a London one, too, but it seemed a little too touristy to buy a scarf of the city one lives in… maybe eventually.