The First Week in London
A week ago, today, we landed in London. I can’t believe it’s a week already, because everything has whizzed by in what feels like a whirlwind. We had a good flight, but unfortunately, my seat was broken and wouldn’t recline. I didn’t make a fuss of it, unlike the woman in the row behind me who had the same problem and moaned non-stop. At the end of the flight, one of the airhosts came and brought me a bottle of champagne. The cow in Row 60 didn’t get champagne. You see? It pays to be nice. It pays in champagne, to be specific.
When we landed in London, and went through passport control, Ross was on edge and nervous. It’s like you automatically feel like you’re breaking the law, even when you’re not. Ross came into the UK on an EEA Family Permit, which basically gives him the same rights as a European passport holder. For this reason, I told him to join me in the EU queue at passport control. He didn’t believe me, and started to panic. Well, when he walked up to the passport control officer, and was asked for a landing card, his world spun out of control. Why? Because the officer had a very strong accent, and it sounded like he wanted a ‘London card’. Ross panicked, insisted he didn’t have a London card, started walking back out the queue, he stared at me with terror in his eyes. The security guards started stepping forward thanks to his strange behaviour. I watched his whole world fall apart before his eyes. Eventually the officer turned to me and said, “Are you with this gentleman?”, “Yes.”. “I just asked him for a landing card!”. “Don’t worry,” I said, “he’s just getting confused.”
Luckily we made it out without Ross getting arrested and/or sent back to South Africa. We got our bags, and knew there was no way we could jump on the underground with our crazy-heavy suitcases, so we caught an Uber instead and enjoyed the views of London as we drove in (and of course got stuck in a traffic jam). We eventually arrived at our AirBNB in Clapham, and dropped off our bags before we went exploring. We had even booked a few flat viewings for that day because our number one priority was to find somewhere to stay. We saw some absolute shockers of apartments, and I was very demotivated. We used First Contact to help us get started, collected our SIM cards and then went and bought airtime. But, we didn’t realize we were supposed to change it into data (we were spoilt by out South African phone contracts, to be honest), and managed to eat into our £5 almost instantly – thanks, Snapchat! I was wearing heavy boots, and the sun was shining. I was boiling hot and it felt like my toenails were starting to bleed.
London was showing off, and it was so hot. I drank all the water, and of course soon needed the loo. Do you think there are public bathrooms guys? Because no, no, there aren’t. It’s not like there are shopping malls that you can just run into to use the loo. Noooope. We didn’t have any restaurants near us, and I thought my bladder was going to burst, until Ross asked a random man renovating his house if I could use his bathroom. Thankfully everyone is super friendly here and he let me in. But it was awkward. So very awkward. It was already on our first day there, in my black Woolies boots, that I decided I couldn’t live that life anymore and went into the first Footlocker I found to buy a pair of comfy walking shoes. I noticed that all the Londoners wear their sneakers (or shall I stick to my SA roots and say ‘takkies’) on the tube and while walking. So I bought a sweet-ass pair of black Nikes. I’m in with the Londoners now, basically.
We eventually got back to the AirBNB and were absolutely FINISHED. I had hit 17,000 steps (thanks, Fitbit) that day. That seemed like a lot until I subsequently hit over 20,000 steps every day after that. The showers here are different too, by the way. We discovered this in our AirBNB when you had to turn one tap one way – that controls the pressure of the water, and the other tap gets turned another way to regulate the temperature. Not a fun way to learn, but it was a lesson nonetheless.
What amazed me was to see how many smokers there still are. A lot of people smoke here, but I guess it’s different to compare to South Africa, because you don’t walk down the streets amongst crowds of people. You sit in your car, pretty oblivious to what people are doing around you. Another lesson that we had to learn pretty early on, was that you can’t live in ‘Rands’ and constantly convert all your money into rands. For example, two coffees and two pastries cost us £9 at Starbucks – R200?! HOLY GOD. But it’s not the same when you’re earning pounds. Except I’m not earning pounds yet because I still need to find a job..
In any case, we had a positive week and eventually managed to find a place to stay – just in the knick of time, just before our kittens arrived in London! It’s a gorgeous house. Two bedrooms, a lounge, a dining room and a cute kitchen – plus a garden! It is kitted out with a washing machine, stove/oven, microwave, fridge, freezer and dishwasher. And it was cheaper than most of the places we were looking at. We are therefore, very, very happy. The only problem is, we were waiting for our Forex transfer to go through before we could put down a deposit on the place. And without a deposit, they wouldn’t give us keys. We therefore couldn’t buy/order furniture or even do measurements in time. The Forex deposit came through on Thursday, and we moved in on Friday. We literally moved in, as our cats were arriving. We spent our first night in the house literally sleeping on the floor. We used our travel pillows, and then had towels and jackets as our duvet. It was pretty horrendous, I ain’t gonna lie. This moving countries business is not always as easy and simple as it seems. Our flat is in Morden, very close to Wimbledon (with all the other Saffas), and right by the tube so travel is a piece of cake.
We have ordered all our furniture but it won’t be delivered until next week so we are literally sitting on the floor. We have luckily managed to get a bed at least. We will only get wifi on the 9th of June. I don’t quite know how we’ll survive in the interim – I foresee us spending a lot of money on Starbucks because they offer free wifi. I also foresee myself getting fat, because do I ever just get a bottle of water? No, Andy insists on a Grande Caramel Macchiato every. single. time.
In any case, we’ve got the basics sorted out, and we now will just wait for the rest to fall together. My main aim of this week is to find a job. At this stage, I’m kind of willing to do anything as long as it brings in the money. At least we have a roof over our heads, I’m sure the rest will all fall into place.
We’ve only done a touch of sightseeing – Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street, Big Ben (completely by accident). The beauty of it is we have plenty of time to see London because we aren’t going anywhere else, anytime soon.
This blog post is coming to you from a comfortable couch in a Starbucks in Wimbledon, and I don’t think I could be much happier than I am right now.