Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First week in London

It's hard to believe that only a week has gone by since Jeremy and I got on the plane. We've forked over a LOT of money (it's incredibly expensive to rent places here - especially temporary housing), gotten me a bank account, and yes, found a flat!
The good news? It's a one-bedroom flat in Bayswater, which is on the edge of Kensington Gardens, part of Hyde Park. Those of you who've seen the movie Notting Hill might get a kick out of the fact that our place is one Underground stop from Notting Hill Gate. The area is beautiful, one of the safer places in the entire city, and is close to every line of the Underground - which I desperately needed for my job. We were worried that we'd be stuck in one of the edges of the city because rent is so high - which would have meant me spending twice as much in transportation each month. So the extra money this place is costing us is what I would have spent getting to and from the schools in the city.
The bad news (yes, there is some) - it's EXPENSIVE to rent here! Our teeny little place would cost about a third of this price in London, Ontario. This one-bedroom flat was the only one anywhere near our price range - we found it after signing up with a company called "flatfinder" who take money from you and guarantee to find you a place to live as soon as you need it. They were expensive too, but in the end worth it because we would never have found a place so easily - without needing references either. We would not have had access to this place at all - many landlords in the city only deal with agencies.
In the UK, you often need to provide references to get places to live - the trick is that they have to be for UK addresses. Because of this, people immigrating to the area often have major trouble finding places. Before we signed up with them, we looked at a few flats that were tiny, in faraway corners of the city, with independent landlords. It would have taken me almost two hours to get from one end of the city to another from those areas - which won't work for a supply teacher at all - simply not enough time to get to where I needed to be.
So we signed up with this place for 6 months, knowing I'd be harassing my parents for way more money that I should ever be asking them for and that Jeremy would need to find work immediately. He's pretty excited about getting a job here though - and it looks like the company I'm working through might find him work too. Keep your fingers crossed for us - if he gets a job that even pays half of what I'm making, we'll have plenty of money to pay our families back what we owe them (although it'll still take forever), save a little, eat well, and travel around without having to worry.
Every time somebody finds out my salary they seem impressed by the amount. It's funny because after taxes it sure doesn't seem like much to me. Guess time will tell...

Part of me finds it hard to believe that we're here. Right now I'm sitting outside with my laptop (stealing wireless connection from somebody's network and it only works outdoors), watching the cars and people walk by on their way home from work or wherever they've been. This area is quite nice - very north and out of the way, but nice - with lots of trees and gorgeous homes down the road. One night we took a walk around the neighborhood, looking at the houses and cars. Given the prices of living in London, we're already impressed by the size of homes that would be considered small by Canadian standards. It's funny seeing fancy gardens and BMWs, Porches, and Ferraris (yep, seen several already) down the road from our somewhat sketchy accomodations.

Last night we bought very cheap beer (6 king cans of Stella for 5 pounds - it's not considered imported here) and jumped on a double decker bus to explore a little more of the city. Got a few good pictures of the Thames River at sunset and the traffic in the downtown area. We had a blast drinking beer on a public bus and have now participated in the London tradition of drinking beer while walking through the streets, riding buses, and the trains in the Underground. Not only is this legal, but nobody even seems to notice or care. Can't wait for Jeremy to start working so we can do that again! (saving money for groceries instead of liquor to the time being)

I'm still very homesick, but starting to warm up to this place a little. I still smile at the little children with the British accents (they sound so cute) and stare at the incredible architecture that is displayed everywhere, and will probably do that for a long time. There are tons of parks and green space and lots to see and do - looking forward to getting out more once we're settled in financially. Alcohol is pretty cheap though - bottles of wine for 3 and 4 pounds, pints of imported beer for 2.5 pounds - if you don't think about the exchange it's a great deal.

So now I spending time to get to know the city, find out where all the schools are, prepare for what I'll be teaching and try to get as comfortable as possible. I'm nervous already about that first day of school, but know that I'm a good teacher and as long as I keep control of the class that things till be fine.

We're leaving our hole in the wall tomorrow so I'm not sure if I'll have internet access for next little while... The people we're renting from have arranged for a place for us until Sept. 1st right in their office building - it's very posh and usually much more expensive than that we're paying (they gave us a deal since we're renting from them for 6 months - "only" 314 pounds for 10 days - just a pound more a day that what we're paying for our little room here) so we'll be in a little bit of luxury for 10 days. If there's an active internet connect we're laughing, but I won't get my hopes up. There are literally hundreds of internet cafes though - might have to check those out so I can keep the blog up in the meantime.

And so ends the first week in a foreign country, where we've met more Australians than British, spent time with some of them and an Italian dude who's learning to be a day trader, slowly getting used to using the slang words (quid and dodgy for example) without sounding completely stupid, mastering the transportation systems, and getting the feeling that we finally have some control over our lives again.

For my parents:
Thanks Mom & Dad for helping us out when we needed it - and having faith in me that I will make it here. Your support means more than you'll ever know - and pretty words are not enough of a thank you. Unfortunately that's all I can give right now.
Guess I owe you a huge party for your 50th wedding anniversary, huh :)
Thanks again & love you lots


  • At 8:35 PM, Blogger Magazine Man said…

    I am SO jealous. I lived in a basement flat on Craven Hill Gardens, Bayswater and Queensway were my Tube stops. Best time of my life, even if I was destitute. Haven't been back since, but SO want to.

    Be sure to include pictures of the neighborhood! Enjoy yourself!

  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger NotCarrie said…

    I love reading about your new adventures in a new London:) Glad you found a flat.

  • At 9:55 PM, Blogger Kim said…

    So glad to hear you guys are surviving over there. It sounds pretty amazing and I'm so happy you found a great place to live. Can't wait to hear so much more and talk to you on the phone, whenever that may be. ;)

  • At 5:41 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    Magazine Man - that is a wild coincidence!! We're staying in a one bedroom basement flat in Craven Hill Gardens!!!!! wow small world... I'll definitely be posting pictures - already well on my way to taking tons of them :)

  • At 11:31 PM, Blogger Mickey Glitter said…

    Congratulations! I want to move to London very badly, but know it's a long way off. Best of luck and cheers from Southern California


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