Today it has been exactly a month since the first day I set my alarm at 6:50am, dragged my sorry self from my bed, and stumbled onto my morning train only arrive at my office fully alert and wide-eyed with a surprising amount of adrenaline flowing through my tired body. For a month now I have been working in London, and although my exhaustion knows no bounds, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Despite the glitz and glamour of the capital, it hasn’t been without its more uh, interesting experiences. I quickly realised how absolutely obsessed everybody is with talking about their commute and various tube lines. Without warning I soon fell into the trap of gabbling non-stop about my train journey, the various delays, the truly shocking moment when a lorry collided with a bridge in Shenfield and the fact I didn’t get home until gone 8pm.
I’ve had some not too wonderful experiences on the tube, too. I’m lucky enough to catch the Central line most of the way to work… Whilst it’s a bloody fast line, it might just be the hottest place this side of the equator. Thousands of fellow commuters packed nose-to-nose means random bruises from being bumped by bags and people, and the unmistakable stench of body odour. There was one particular occasion on the Piccadilly line when a very large bloke came and stood next to me, his sweat visible in large, dark patches all over his t-shirt. The smell was so strong I had to squeeze my way down the carriage just to find some breathing space.
At some point I began to find tourists more irritating than young children. They wander from place to place with all the time in the world, and somehow manage to lose their sense of space along the way. I can’t count the number of times a tourist has walked right into me, or I’ve been trying to manoeuvre around a pack (they always come in packs) and it’s almost like they’re deliberately trying to stop me in my tracks.
I began my working life as a polite young woman who would feverishly apologise each time I accidentally walked into someone (or someone accidentally walked into me) and one month on I am permanently a woman on a mission and so help me God if you’re in my way you’d better move. After my initial incessant use of the word “sorry” only to for it to land on deaf ears, I quickly realised that Londoners simply do not apologise. Perhaps there is an unspoken understanding between us that we are just too busy to slow our manic pace for trivial British etiquette, or perhaps everybody thinks they’re more important than everybody else.
Finding a place to live has turned out to be even harder than getting a job. I suppose if someone put a gun to my head and told me I have a week to find somewhere, I’d be able to. But the odds are it would be an overpriced shithole in the back end of nowhere near a pain-in-the-arse overground station. I’ve looked at a lot, a lot, of flats and houses now, and only one has really stood out to me. On a journalists budget (a small budget), trying to live in a relatively central location in a place that doesn’t look like it’s been the site of a murder is tough going. As I’m within commutable distance, I’m holding out for the right place, but if it doesn’t crop up soon I may have to cut my losses and move into a cupboard under someone’s stairs for £500 a month.
For all of London’s stress, grottiness and expense, there are some truly wonderful aspects to working in the city. From the bigger things like the buzzing social life (why wait for Friday when you could go out on Tuesday?), to the little things like knowing the geography. There is something so rewarding about remembering which station is on which line and which way is the quickest route to get to it. As I haven’t moved to London yet this is a slow process for me. Slowly but surely though, I’m realising, like a pro, that sometimes it’s faster to walk to an alternative nearby station and hop on there instead. It’s moments like this that I feel more at home in London, and less like a tourist on a work visa.
Working in London, I can’t shake the feeling that i’m in the midst of the action. I’m a financial journalist in the financial capital of the world. I work in the city where some of the biggest deals are made, the biggest decisions in the UK are taken, and news breaks constantly. Perhaps most crucially, I feel an unmistakable sense that this is where the opportunities lie. Simply meeting someone could change my life and open a world of new opportunities and possibilities.
London might have a certain smell in some areas, and it might be so busy that I’ll spend half of my time weaving in and out of crowds of people. But London is like no other place in the UK, and I couldn’t think of a better location to kick off my career than in the capital.