I feel like I have ignored my blog for nearly a year. It feels like I have betrayed a friend. I have actually been writing, I just haven’t published anything. Thank you to all those friends who have asked for more! So here are some of my thoughts about moving to and living in London (this was written Feb 2015 – so about a year ago).
We have now been living in London since July 2015 and I must admit time is very precious. I find it hard to take the time to write my blog. I almost miss those long school runs in Mumbai sat in the back of a car looking for things to do. Write my blog, read a book, call my Mum, knit or crochet! I cannot believe I am missing being stuck in traffic in Mumbai!!
Many people said to me “So, you’re moving back to London?” Well, no actually I’m not. I’m moving to London for the first time. Yes its England and the country where I was born but I’ve been away for 19 years and I left England (Skipton in Yorkshire) as a 21 year old with one suitcase and headed for Hong Kong. I am now “back” with three children, an Australian husband and a container full of stuff! How did that happen?
I must admit so far I am loving being in London. I have visited this amazing city over the years and as a child. I know a lot of people living here (Londoners) complain about the transport, the weather, unfriendliness of people etc. I think that as London is a new city for me its the same as any other expat city posting, its all new. I start from scratch. But I think London has changed so much over the years. I am finding the transport brilliant, but then I don’t commute on a daily basis, I’m a weekend user of the tube, we try to use the bus to get to school as much as possible. The buses are modern, the Oyster card system is brilliant (except I keep calling it the Octopus after the HK system introduced years earlier), there are many many transport Apps to use to find your best or fastest route – Citymapper is my personal favourite. I’m finding it very easy to navigate myself around London and my children are slowly becoming transport nerds, especially my 4-year-old son who knows the buses by their numbers and could be considered a bus spotter!
The city of London has embraced cyclists. There are cycle tracks everywhere and also the famous “Boris Bike” which is a wonderful idea introduced by Boris the Mayor of London to rent a bike for a period of time and taking it from A to B without you returning it to A, you can leave it wherever the Boris Bikes are found. An ingenious idea, which I think, was copied from continental Europe. I have yet to use this system, however, its tricky with children – perhaps they should provide child sized bikes or trailers to accommodate young children. As a result we now all have bikes and I use mine on a regular basis cycling around Clapham, collecting David from Nursery and he still fits in the child seat on the back of my bike, the same one I used in Mumbai to take him to school. Less bumps on the roads here and less smiley faces, and I certainly don’t get chased down the street like I did in Mumbai sometimes! Here I am the same as everyone else, not some crazy western woman riding her son around Bandra – but I did love that.
There is bike parking everywhere and its lovely to cycle across Clapham common and I try to do as many jobs and shopping as I can using my bike. That is as long as the weather is good.
Which brings me to the next bug of many and a common problem in England being the weather and how much people obsess about it. I must admit I am enjoying the weather too! I haven’t lived through a real winter in 19 years and the novelty hasn’t worn off. Its mid-February and today the sun is shining, it started as a cold and frosty 0 degrees and I love it. The kids were squealing as we arrived at school to see their astro turf pitch was completely white – they were so excited! We’ve even had some snow in South London. Fortunately we were away over Christmas when there was a lot of wet weather. But even on wet days, I don my wellies throw on the raincoat and I’m all set.
I don’t remember people being so geared up for the weather when I last lived in England. People are wearing fabulous chunky knit multicoloured bobble hats, huge scarfs that practically engulf you around the neck, boots and wellies galore. I seem to remember barely ever wearing a coat or appropriate shoes, or maybe that was just me in my early 20s and the “you’ll catch your death o’cold” outfit regularly worn to the pub on a Friday night, no coat, no fluffy hat or willies in sight. It was not cool to be wrapped up. Now I can’t walk down the street without seeing a bobble hat – in central London! So of course I have joined the ranks bobble hats and wellies and I love it.
And how do we purchase all these additional winter layers? On line of course… I have dabbled in on line shopping here and there over the years, but Amazon amongst others are amazing! Next day delivery is insane when you’ve never had that luxury in many Asian countries. Ordering on line has never been easier and having lived overseas I missed this transformation over the years and now England has become so tech savvy. When I lived here in 1996 there was no email (or maybe one address per office), no mobile phones (unless it was a brick) and certainly no Internet like we know now. How amazing.
I am loving the English TV, dramas and countless quiz shows with celebrity panels. I am loving the radio! I am a BBC Radio 2 addict – there, I admit it. Used to be Radio 1 but now all those DJs have moved over the Radio 2, the grown up station that my Mum used to (and still) listens to.
I am embracing as much as I can of living in London, I try to explore when I can but there is so much more to do and see.
There is no doubt that I miss living abroad, living in Mumbai and all the amazing experiences we had and the wonderful friends that we met along the way. But I see it as part of the journey, those friendships will continue, just in a different way, either on Facebook or whenever friends transit through London and luckily there are many and it’s an easy place to transit and I we have hosted many friends and family so far. I am definitely looking forward to reconnecting with some old school friends and have reconnected with a lot of my HK family who are now living in the UK same as we are.
Its true to say friendships never die – you just stalk them on Facebook! Looking forward to another year of reconnecting, exploring and making new friends.