Everyone in London smokes. I’m not kidding, literally EVERYONE exhales little puffs of white smoke when they breathe, eat, speak, or just generally open their mouths. It may have something to do with the fact that the average temperature since I’ve been here has been minus three. Maybe that’s also why I haven’t blogged. I mean, this morning I was literally too scared to get out of bed for fear of the cold. I’m thinking that a onesie might be an EXCELLENT idea right about now, but I can’t afford one of those at the moment…
Right, so, a week and a bit ago, I picked up my entire life and traipsed across the globe, all by my lonesome self, to live my dream in London. And I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult. I mean, I don’t have the arm muscles to drag 40kg of luggage up three flights of stairs, nor do I have the patience to explain to the lady on the other end of the Virgin Mobile helpline just why the billing address for my debit card is different to the home address I just gave her. The struggle is real, man. So real.
I’m being facetious here, of course. So far, things have been going pretty swimmingly, with the exception of a few little snags here and there. The cellphone situation was the worst (imagine being stuck in a new country with absolutely no way to contact home because Virgin won’t sell you airtime if you don’t have a UK bankcard). The cold has also been something to get used to. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be warm when I’m outside. I’m pretty sure my extremities (read: every bit of my exposed at all to the air outside) are in danger of developing frostbite any day now, and I can say with certainty, that 11 degrees in London does NOT feel like 11 degrees in Cape Town. It feels like someone left off the ‘minus’.
After packing my suitcase so full that not even plonking my mother’s very fat cat on top of it would allow the thing to close, I prepared for the worst and stepped onto the scale holding my bag (with serious difficulty). According to my calculations, the combined weight of my two bags was only 27.5kg! I had 2.5kg to go! But yeah, that’s what I get for trusting a scale older than myself, and at the airport, my checked luggage actually weighed in at 31kg. Somehow, I managed to pass it off as the weight of the cling wrap I’d paid R60 to have wrapped around my bag in case the zip broke. Phewwww.
My mother had jokingly asked me not to cry at the airport, and I’d regarded her with a look of disgust, but I could tell that she and my gran (with grandpa safely across the airport in a book store) were bracing for the worst (i.e.: me high-tailing it back to the car [side note, it hurts just to type the word ‘car’ right now, but we’ll get to that later] and swearing never to leave the safety of the Lower South Coast EVER again). They were pleasantly surprised (and so was I) when I waved goodbye cheerily and lined up for security.
Halfway through security, the zip of my handbag decided to give up on life. Seriously? It was a while 24-hours-old, and I’d searched high and low for something big enough to fit my laptop! Argh. I grumpily hit passport control and then spend the next hour (successfully) attempting to fix my zip and listening to voice notes from a certain friend who is ADDICTED TO VOICE NOTES (I say this in the best possible way).
The flight is long, by the time we’re somewhere over East Africa, I’ve watched so many episodes of the Big Bang Theory that it’s just not funny anymore, my neck is is pain, I’m tired but I can’t sleep, and nor can I stop sneezing. I fear the worst, and as soon as I’m in Dubai airport I find a pharmacy and nearly overdose on flu pills. I’m taking NO chances. Benefit of these is that they put me to sleep verrrrry nice - approximately 5 minutes before boarding. Great.
The flight to London is filled with more of the freaking Big Bang Theory because Emirates doesn’t have the latest season of Downton Abbey. Seriously. I also try to sleep somewhere along the line here. Passport control at Gatwick is as awful and un-airconditioned as I remember, and even though I do have nothing to declare, I still sneak through customs as though I’m doing something very wrong. And then, as I take my first step outside, I’m exposed to British winter for the first time. And damn, it’s cold. It’s not that the temperature is very low in terms of degrees (its 7 or 8), but it feels like I’ve just walked head first into the freezer section of Pick n Pay (or Tesco’s, if you will…) I stare out the cab windows, straining my eyes for a glimpse of snow, but there’s none anywhere. In fact, it’s nine full days before I get a taste of actual snow.
Anyway, it’s nine days in, and I’m still alive. The issues? No one will give me a bank account; it’s completely impossible to get internet installed quickly; and no matter how I stick to my recipes, food here is just plain tasteless; and I can’t afford all the clothes in H&M. Also, it gets dark at 5pm, and that’s not okay.
The good stuff? Primark exists (and it’s cheap, even with the exchange rate. R180 for a pink, faux-leather jacket that would have cost me R700 in Woolworths? Yes, please); Starbucks exists; the tube is still kind of fun - and by fun, I mean fun for people who enjoy slow torture - AND LAST NIGHT IT SNOWED.
There is, however, something I miss terribly about home. I mean, yeah, I miss my friends and family and cat, but there's something else, something that aches deep within my soul. I find myself glaring at the families as they tuck the small children into the backseats of their cars, laughing and joking on their way out to enjoy dinner. So what is it that I crave so? Is it human companionship that I’m missing by living alone, completely isolated? Is it the joy of family? The longing to be joined by a partner? Haha. Lol. No. It’s my car. Yes, friends, an inanimate object is what I miss most about my country of birth. The ease and simplicity of getting behind the wheel and taking myself somewhere. The way I could get absolutely anywhere I needed to get, safely ensconced within the drivers seat, from where I controlled the heater and the music. Oh man, I’m a spoiled brat unaccustomed to public transport, and it sucks. I mean, an hour and a half across London on the tube? PLUS having to walk? No, no thanks. I don’t care how many people tell me it’s not worth the hassle and the expense, I’d feel far better if I could hop in my automobile and drive to Birmingham this weekend rather than hop on a train, thanks very much.
PS: I am guilty of muting people on Facebook when they do too many cool things/seem too happy/get married/have a baby/go travelling, because it can get exhausting, so in order to not become one of those people, I'm trying to shut up about London on there (well, trying is the operative word here) so if you really want to keep up with my adventure follow me on Instagram, Fairycat101.