So, I got myself haphazardly moved in to my new flat. It's been kind of a mixed bag.
We choose this place because it's was a lot nicer than the other flats in our budget. It was owner-occupied and in a snazzy, modern building, with touches like a giant deck with skyline views and a grill, and nicer-than cheapo kitchen appliances and furnishings. It was just a comfortable, unique place, that we wouldn't be embarrassed to entertain friends, and most of the other places we had seen were small, cheaply made and characterless with features like no closets and odd build-outs. It's a grown-up apartment, not a glorified college dorm room. Bonus being our new flat was just a block from a major tube station, which is somewhat hard to find in London as the train stations here are spaced far apart, and many people live within a 20 minute walk to the closest one and are totally fine with that. Perspective!
The trade-off being that we knew coming into this that the neighborhood was nothing special. I won't be finding truffle oil and organic berries and bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape without a big schlep, and even just more everyday staples like fresh bread (oh, never mind) and fruit juices that aren't 90% sugar water is kind of a stretch. There's nothing here to attract tourist; it's a real neighborhood. There's pubs and Indian take-aways and bodegas and hardware stores and good practical things. I looked for the same when looking in Paris and found it (except in food-obsessed Paris, I had three good bakeries and an endless river of good wines and cheese in a few blocks around me.)
I showed up with my backpack on Friday afternoon and the owners walked me through. We had kind of rushed them out- the flat wasn't technically available for another week as they had just moved out, but they were nice folks and when we explained that we needed to move right away, they agreed. Except, the bed wouldn't be arriving until next week (whatever! We camp a lot, no big deal!), and a few minor repairs would have to be scheduled. Our stuff from Paris would be delivered soon, so our sheets and pillows and clothes and cooking stuff will get to us in a few days, so we'll just be a little uncomfortable and deal with it.
About 20 minutes after the key exchange happened and I was quietly unpacking, I heard commotion outside and then all hell broke loose. A fight, a stabbing, a car crashing into a bus, and a young man is dead. The street was closed down and there were police canvassing the neighborhood in hordes. I spent a sleepless, uncomfortable night with the room illuminated by police lights, wondering if this was all just a mistake.
The next day, more of the same as the forensics teams were combing the muddy lots all up and down the avenue. I had tons of errands to run, my back was in much discomfort from a chilly night on the floor, and as I weaved around police lines and a morbid scene and rumors of gang wars in the neighborhood, I tried to find a bit of good.
Pigeons shouldn't drink and fly.
A visit to the nearest Sainsbury revealed much product that amused me.
EEEEEWWwwwww! Also, they like peanut butter here. Win.
The local entertainment seems right up my ally.
There's also a Chinese Elvis that plays in Islington. So much Elvis. Y'all know where I'll be found on the 21st of February anyway.
I've been haunting the charity shops (they are quite awesome here) for housewares, and I now have coffee (sorry, tea!) mugs that commemorate the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. I found a set of side tables out on the street destined for rubbish that I dragged back to the place- if I get a sunny day I will paint them and polish them up a bit. Nothing beats free.
All the things you need to make a place livable- bath mats and cutlery and blankets and trash cans- were acquired so far. I'm trying hard to not accumulate too much as I am happy to live in a minimalist fashion, but I'm needing to make a quick and dirty Ikea trip to pick up some shelves and hooks and plates and other things I can't live without. Our shipment arrived yesterday, and with it, my kitchen knives and pots and the wok and clothes and my yarn stash, our beautiful carpets dickered for in far-off lands, and way too many pairs of shoes. The bed will get here on Wednesday. My back will be thankful. Every time I move, a million tiny cracking noises happen. I do down dog and my shoulders pop alarmingly, and I have been doing yoga in a geriatric fashion.
So much for keeping junk to a minimum, but the Buddha found its way back with us as we needed something to pretty up our deck. He seems happy to be enjoying his tea with his authentic NYC coffee cup.
Probably the most trying element right now is the fact that it will take 3 weeks to get the internet set up. I will be scarce until then- I can dart across the street and cafe-sit and mooch some wireless now and then, but I lack the concentration to write while in public. I have my ritual. It's hard to break the habit.
So, aside from the fact this might not be the most posh neighborhood in London, it's home for now. It's 10 minutes on the Tube to get to Victoria Station, 15 to get to Buckingham Palace. There's a really friendly pub down the street that I've already adopted as my second home. Clapham, with its big beautiful park and coffee shops and wine stores is about a 15 minutes walk. Brixton is a quick stroll as well and we found good Jamaican food there already. We found a friendly pizza place that gives off a Bay Ridge vibe where Bryan got punched by a Danish grandmother who was excited to find out he was a boxing fan. I got my French Press in working order, but there's an Ethiopian cafe across the street that makes an excellent cup as well.
And after a bout of pouring rain, the sky lit up with late afternoon sun and a lovely rainbow appeared over the City. I'm totally inspired and ready for this new adventure.