London can be cold in more ways than one (Credit: Paolo Camera)
London hates me; it’s decided. I arrived five weeks ago, wide-eyed and wonderfully optimistic and the city slapped me around the face and rolled its eyes disdainfully. ‘Another newbie’, it thought, before resolving to grind me down into just another pessimistic, unshockable Londoner. That thankfully hasn’t happened yet, but London is certainly doing its best to prove that I do not belong here.
Falling over myself to fit in
Now I don’t know about you, but where I’m from, if you see someone in pain, looking lost, or just in a pickle, you naturally do your best to help them out. Not here. Of course, you can’t help everyone, so to a certain extent you must condition yourself to ignore the non-emergent examples which are unfortunately a nigh on daily occurrence. When you’re the one being ignored, however, it’s not so understandable.
Last Sunday I was wandering around my new neighbourhood, walking in the direction of Queen’s Park. As I crossed the road my boots had a disagreement with the tarmac and slipped from beneath me, resulting in an utterly graceless fall. In the middle of the road. Looking back I admit, it wasn’t an emergency, but I was disgusted to look up – still in a pitiful heap in the middle of the road – and see a grown man just metres away from me, who had witnessed the entire fiasco, look me in the eye and continue walking, without a word. THANKS A LOT. In all honesty I’ve never felt so alone. I could almost hear London whisper, ‘Welcome to the real world, bitch.’
How to spot a Londoner
I’ve always been quite careful with my skin. My mum has a face I wouldn’t mind mine resembling when I’m fifty so when she introduced me to the classic skincare routine (cleanse, tone and moisturise FYI), I didn’t hesitate to take it up. That was ten years ago. This combined with my zealous glugging of water means that no matter how much chocolate or pizza I consume, it doesn’t show on my face (except for the completely contented naughty smile). London, however, spotted this conundrum and decided to punish me for it. Like a Greek god, the city has gathered all of its elemental powers to batter my skin, greasing my forehead with a layer of oil and clogging my pores with pollution. The environment is dirty; it’s visible on my cotton wool face pads.
The London Eye (Credit: j_bouzas)
It makes the world go round (apparently).
Money, money, money. It’s never been a priority for me, but in this city, you can’t escape it. High earning friends discuss it at length, others talk about asking for a raise or complain about the price of a pint. I scratch my nose awkwardly and nod in a vague gesture of agreement. Unfortunately I can no longer avoid the topic as I’m currently spending more than I earn without even trying, which means Topshop is entirely off limits. DEVASTATION.
Last weekend I went out for breakfast with a friend, treated myself to an omelette (on the basis that it would fill me up until tea time) and had minor heart palpitations when the bill arrived. The waitress looked on with that impatient yet friendly face that only those who work in customer service can ever truly master, as I counted my pennies – and I’m talking coppers people – on to the table. To London’s economy, I am deadweight: useless. I am reminded of this fact on a daily basis.
Down the rabbit hole (I’m late!)
I was late for my first day at My Destination, not because I woke up late, or got lost on my way to the office; no. I was late because despite getting to the tube station fifteen minutes earlier than was recommended by TFL (I’m intelligent enough to have clocked on by now that TFL is not always accurate), I could not physically squeeze myself between the mass of commuters to begin my journey. I’m not a prude, I’m not claustrophobic, but I really don’t want to stand arse cheek to arse cheek (or worse) with a sixty year old man whilst holding my breath in order to save my nostrils from the sweaty stench of someone else’s armpit. For half an hour. In the end, as I hovered at the doors politely smiling and hoping that someone would be so kind as to let me on (‘let me just roll out the red carpet’, comes London’s sarcastic quip) a man physically pushed me into the carriage. Thank God he did or I’d probably be unemployed right now. Lucky for me I can walk to work these days.
When I get to Warwick Avenue (I’m taking my shoes off)
Or is it? I’d forgotten just how incompatible concrete and feet actually are. When I lived in Paris I soon invested in a foot grater (I’m pretty sure there’s a more official name) and revelled in tormenting my flatmates with the entire dunes of grey dusty skin I would shave from my heels. Blisters and rough patches, sore aching arches topped off with the occasional flare-up of shin splints means the hour round-trip to work every day is not as pleasant as I’d originally envisaged.
For all these reasons and more, I am currently physically and mentally strained. Every sense is on constant overdrive. This place is noisy, unforgiving, fast-paced, dirty and tough, but I’m willing to put up with the growing pains and hopefully London and I will learn to get along just fine. I’m happy to earn this city’s respect.
But I’m not compromising on values. If I ever ignore someone flailing, having toppled – albeit humorously – in a heap on the street, I’ll know it’s time to leave.