Chronicles of one girl's journey to London - from conception to eventual migration.

Monday, May 31, 2010

QUIET BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND

Highlight of my weekend: Penthouse in Leicester Square with Nousheen, Simone and Nousheen's sister Fatema where, when I looked out the picture window of the 7th floor club I saw the London Eye and Big Ben in one sweep.
Now, Leicester Square is the most touristy place you can go clubbing but for someone who just got here, and is essentially still "touring" the city, it's a wonderful place to check out.
The club's not bad either! You will notice, though, the incessant repetition of his setlist. I must have heard Rihanna's Rude Boy at least 4 times.

The rest of the weekend was pretty lazy. Tez was away in Blackburn visiting the wife and family so I had the house to myself. Didn't think I would miss him, but I did! :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

-

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and I miss my sisters more than anything in the world right now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

DEAR GOD, THE BANKS HERE! (UPDATE)

Right, so moving to a new country is stressful. You've got so many things to think about and worry about and, just, DO! Regulars will remember my visa application stress, then my packing stress, then my resigning stress and then my homesickness stress.

But, now, there is something new to add to that: BANKING! Opening a bank account here is incredibly difficult. It is my own fault. I had this big plan to open an HSBC account in Toronto and then transfer things over here and that would be so easy! But I didn't plan enough time to go do that so came here with just a bank draft and some cash to get me going in the beginning.

But no bank will give you an account without a permanent address. But I can't get a permanent address without a bank account. Hmm . . .
Then I found out HSBC will give me a "New to the UK" Passport account if I pay £8 a month for it. It's a little more than I want to pay for a monthly account but this seems the only way to go right now. All the other banks have turned me down so far.

So, £96 for the year to get an account. 

A word of advice: Open your bank account BEFORE you move if you can!

UPDATE: I have a bank account! HSBC Passport, with a fee but with all the benefits of a regular UK account! FINALLY!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MONDAY AT HYDE PARK

There is nothing lovelier than good weather, a patch of grass and funny people to share it with. So, I headed to Hyde Park on Monday evening to see Selena, Faraz, Amir, Arpen and a couple of other people I had not met before. They had spent the day there and invited me to join them.


After, we popped into a corner pub to watch the England v Mexico match (the same one Zab, Qas and Jabir were currently at). The atmosphere in the pub was much more muted than I expected for a football game but apparently we were in the wrong area if I wanted rambunctious fans!

Arpen, very kind man, drove me all the way back to Ilford from Kensington even though he lives only 10 minutes from where we were.

And now, here it is, Tuesday and 11 days since I landed in England. I feel like it has flown by and also feel like I have been here forever! There is still so much to see though, and I am going to explore it all!

Monday, May 24, 2010

WEEKEND UPDATE: SUNDAY

Right, so woke up bright and early Sunday morning as I tend to do when I've been really drunk the night before. Lazed about with nothing to do for the morning until Jabir and Aiysha came back with supplies for our BBQ. They had some of their friends come over and we ate lots and kicked a football around. OK, they kicked a football around. I just lay in the grass and got in their way. Something about sports makes my body want to stop functioning properly. Am not usually a clumsy person but seem to lose all coordination when it comes to organized sports.
Zab arrived from Manchester at about 5 pm. He had tickets for Monday's England v Mexico match at Wembley with Jabir and Qas (who graciously offered me his ticket and I graciously, if stupidly, turned down as he has never been to a match before and has been here years and it's only my first week). 
Zab and I had plans to head into town after the BBQ and Jabir and Tez joined us. We planned to be there just a couple of hours but got so caught up in London that we were out until about 3 am.
We visited Soho (popular gay area) and revisited some of the tourist spots we hit the previous Saturday to see them at night.

G.A.Y. Nightclub

We headed to Piccadilly Circus next where buskers had attracted a large audience and dancers! A Spanish guitarist and a bongo player, they were so energetic you just had to join in. Tez and I joined a conga line, hopping around madly and generally being silly. While London is not the city that never sleeps, it is definitely the city that entertains!

We also walked along the Embankment. Look at that lovely view across the Thames!
                                           

After a ridiculously long night (we walked about 3 hours!) we took the night bus home which is always packed. So packed, in fact, that I got to stand at the very front of the bus, literally shoulder to shoulder with the driver. It was like watching a movie of London as we whizzed through the city (mad bus driver) and into Ilford.
We feasted on leftover BBQ food before going to bed, absolutely exhausted!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

WEEKEND UPDATE: SATURDAY

The epic weekend continued with an afternoon in Clapham with Monica and Dennis. I've expressed interest in moving to Clapham so Monica showed me around the area and I absolutely loved it! It's at the top of my list for areas to move. We walked around a bit and then headed to Monica's while Dennis dressed for the day. For lunch, we had a picnic (courtesy of M&S) in the Clapham Common, a beatiful expanse of green, green and green.
Raced home at about 4:30 pm to get ready to head back to Nousheen's for a BBQ at hers. Qas and I left early to go to his friend Rich's birthday. The drive was exciting for me because we crossed Tower Bridge, my first time doing that!
We arrived at Rich's place where I met him for the first time, an experience worthy of it's own blog entry but I fear that would be too creepy. But, what an awesome night with some very lovely people! I got a little too drunk though and passed out almost as soon as I got home.
My first time drunk in London too. It was very helpful having someone to drive me home. In a sexy E-Class at that!

This city has it all for me. Now I just need to find employment. However, the weekend was not over yet . . .

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WEEKEND UPDATE: FRIDAY

O2's Matter didn't work out (apparently it's closed down but am currently too lazy to verify this). We ended up in Brixton at a place called Fridge. It's a well-known trance and dance club (for Canadians, akin to Guvernment) so I guess you get the picture. For someone who doesn't do pills, it's always quite an experience to go to a rave. It actually gets a bit boring! However, I was with lovely people (Jayne, Ste, Tez, Abs, Dennis, Monica, Nousheen) and met some nice new people as well (birthday boy Bilal was very sweet).


After, we went to a club called Plan B - a hiphop club with an entirely different crowd than the one we had just been to! But the music was awesome; old-school hip hop that is so much fun to dance to! We left there at about 3am to get some food and it was 5 am before I got to a bed.
I spent the night (technically, morning) at Nousheen's because Jabir and Aiysha were in town with Aiysha's sister and her boyfriend so had asked for the house for the night. Nousheen is the sweetest person I've met in a long time and she has an awesome South African roommate as well!
So, Friday night was a great experience. Tune in for Saturday and Sunday updates soon. As you can see, I had a great weekend! Hope yours was great too :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

YOU HAD ME AT 'ELLO

Spent another day in London yesterday (this time with Zainab who is Qas' younger sister). She took me to Ten Ten Tei for sushi and it was delicious! Though, have realized that am not a big fan of sushi anymore.

Then, we walked down Regent Street to Hamley's, world famous toy store which celebrates it's 250th year this year!

This rotates in the middle of the store on the 4th floor
The store is AMAZING, all interactive with employees as immature as me. I even got hit on by one of the employees . . . I think it's the North American accent. But, sorry Holy Momo, it's just not going to happen.

Anyway, we then walked over to Caffe Concerto, an Italian chain, where we had some DELICIOUS gelato (mine chocolate, Zainab's lemon). Following that, we walked over to Piccadilly Circus. Now, let's be honest, once you've seen Times Square in NYC this isn't going to impress you but it still has it's charm.
Not bad just not NYC, is it?

Zainab and I also have a new project for the summer. London has installed an art awareness project through the city called The Elephant Parade. Elephant statues have been placed all over the city, each one sponsored and painted quite beautifully. The mini herd to the right is in Trafalgar Square and is Indian-themed. We are on a mission to find al 248 as we explore the city more together this summer.

So, things are looking better for me and getting much more exciting. I have a few social events to look forward to as well, including a birthday party at the O2's Matter.

Keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BETTER

The homesickness is gone for now. In it's place is a lot of hope and excitement that this will work out for me and the knowledge that if it doesn't, I have something good to go back to!

I talk to my family and friends in Toronto everyday and that makes me feel better. While I definitely still miss them, it's better. I have an appetite again, I sleep peacefully and wake up ready for my day!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

OH LONDON

I saw actual central London for the first time yesterday, and it made these last couple of days feel much more worth it!
Let's back up. On the plane to Manchester, I woke from a good nap and the home-sickness kicked in almost right away. I couldn't believe it. Wasn't this supposed to wait a few weeks?! But, no, there it was, the ache to be back where I was comfortable and knew my surroundings and I hadn't even landed yet. I went back to sleep and hoped it was just last-minute nerves.
But the feeling stuck. I was literally sick for home: my stomach all in knots, tears at any second, no appetite and falling asleep was almost impossible.
The drive from Manchester to London with Zab was very exciting. I was all, "I can't believe I'm here" and things like that. I took pictures of the roads and signs and things and generally felt good.
Then I got to the house . . . there is no shower, only a bathtub with taps so I either have to soak or use a bucket. I am not a fan of soaking so bucket it is! My bedroom and the rest of the house is lovely though, but it made me immediately want to go back to Toronto where I had a lovely shower with a proper shower head and curtain and all!
Apparently there used to be a shower but it had to be taken out to make room for a new boiler.
Anyway, you get used to the bucket baths and that's OK. But the area I'm in (Ilford) is not an area I like very much. It's a suburb in the east and I don't like suburbs here. So, there I was, miserable and it was only my first day. I cried.
And then I realized what I really missed was my mother. Very typical, I hear, that you don't realize how attached you are to your mother until the first time you live apart on a more permanent basis. I always thought I was much more independent than this!

Falling asleep on Friday night was tough but we had made plans to go to London on Saturday for the day so I tried to concentrate on that.

So, Saturday afternoon, Zab and I took the tube to Oxford Circus and I stepped out into the open and TA-DA, LONDON BABY! THIS is what I came for! I instantly felt 100 times better. I could make this work for me if I could spend more time in the central area!

And what a day! We walked for almost 4 hours and saw:
  • Leicester Square
  • Downing Street
  • Big Ben
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Chinatown
Lovely places, very busy and that's just what I love! So, as soon as I am able, I am moving closer to a more metropolitan area! As much as I love Jabir, Tez and the actual house, this area is not for me. 
But London . . . baby, I was made for London!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

FIRSTS

Today, I have executed the first of many firsts I hope to take. This is my first flight alone, my first time living away from home and my first time living without my mother. That’s right . . . it has taken 24 years for me to leave my mother’s home. If you knew her, you would know why. There was no need to fly the coup to gain my independence. I always had it, no matter what. I lived under her roof,  yes, but she let me live mostly by my own rules (my sisters, on the other hand, being the rebellious girls they were would probably argue with that slightly). Being the good kid has it’s advantages, doesn’t it?
So, here I am, and the first time I leave home I one-up myself and leave the country. All my favourite people were at the airport to see me off and I felt so loved. There were tears, mostly mine.
Now, I am at gate C36 waiting for my 7.40 pm flight to Manchester. I am waiting to jump into this adventure in this foreign land. I am proud of myself for doing this alone and I can only hope it will be worth leaving everyone I know and love in Toronto.
It feels like many months of waiting and planning and thinking went into this one moment and now that it is here, I couldn’t be more excited or sad to see it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

GOODBYE PARTY = SUCCESS!

Oh, what a night! People arrived shortly after 9 pm, Marjorie and her cousin Nicky being the first. Nicky is visiting from Liverpool so have now made a new friend in the North. 

There was much to drink and best friend ever Sara brought food. The party was supposed to be at her house originally but last minute venue change occurred yesterday afternoon - literally 4 hours before kick-off time. Felt really bad but logistically made sense as everyone who drank was meant to sleep over at the sisters' house.

Drank the rest of my Tanqueray; half a bottle of gin, oh my! And I think everyone had a fantastic time! I did cry though even though I didn't think I would. It was Badr and Ron and talking to them about how I would miss them or something. Really didn't think it would get that emotional but I can't imagine a social life without them.

Had Commandment sticky notes for everyone to give me advice on. Thou Shalt or Thou Shalt Not . . . etc. Everyone was asked to fill out as they saw fit. Favourites include:
  • Thou Shalt Not . . . fornicates with English men with bad teeth. (deal)
  • Thou Shalt Not . . . take any other husbands! (Long-running joke between best friend Ron and me. We are once-married, now-divorced but working on a reconciliation. Am obviously not helping by leaving the country)
  • Thou Shalt . . . return! (perhaps . . .)
  • Thou Shalt . . . love the English! (waaaay ahead of you there)
  • Thou Shalt . . . covet thy neighbour's husband (am hoping my neighbour is Chelsy Davy)
  • Thou Shalt . . . TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL & TRAVEL SOME MORE (is whole point of move!)
  • Thou Shalt Not . . . forget us! (will never happen!)
So, a big thank you to all my lovely friends who made the night such a good one. I love you all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

ALL DRESSED UP

I am waiting for my goodbye party to start. All dressed up (as always, thanks to XXI) and nowhere to go. For good reason - it's a house party at my sisters' house (mention of sisters usually includes Sam; she is non-blood sister but sister all the same). The location has been moved as recently as today but within the same city as am kind person so party feels a bit haphazard in my head.

So, why am I here alone? Have I no friends to aid my last weekend of drunken festivity? Why, yes, I do. The others have gone to get their various alcohol/pre-party food/cash from the ATM.

I have looked forward to this night for a while because it's step one for the final goodbye. I like steps, can you tell?
Will let you know how it all turns out! In the meantime, let the alcohol flow!

Well, once everyone gets here that is . . .

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I SEE THE FINISH LINE

It is my last week at work. Correction, it is halfway through my last week of work!
Which means I am about a week and a day away from actually flying out of here - a thought so huge I cannot comprehend it at the moment. Will have to get back to you on that one.

A couple of things to get through before then: the weekend goodbye party, the last lesson with H, the last night with my mum and then the last moments at the airport. I expect crying; will feel insulted if there isn't to be honest!