On Gatecrashing

Partying

One of the best parties I ever went to was one I hadn’t been invited to.  When I’m sober, I’m pretty excitable anyway, but throw alcohol into the mix and suddenly everything is an adventure and everything is awesome.

About a year or two ago, I went out for drinks with an old friend from back home, let’s call him R.

R was one of those friends I only ever really saw in the pub. My one attempt at doing something different with him, walking along the South Bank one summer’s night had still ended up with him pouting until I gave in and we went to a pub.

This particular night though, R and I had been on something of a bar crawl through Shoreditch. He was still somewhat new to the area and was still in that Shoreditch honeymoon phase – wanting to go out all the time, excited about all the new bars and restaurants and me, well I love Shoreditch, so I happily went along for the ride.

We’d managed to make our way through about five or six bars and about as many drinks. We weren’t very faithful to any one particular place. Generally, we’d start out in Ziggy’s on Hoxton Square, but we were definitely bar sluts, and as soon as we’d finished a drink in one place, R would be already thinking about the next place to go.

helloGenerally, we’d reach a certain point where we knew it was probably time to call it a night. I’d generally get incredibly giggly and delighted and start spouting nonsense, and he’d start rolling his eyes an awful lot, like a disapproving old man.

This night, R was walking me home, and as we were walking down a side street, we passed by an apartment block. You know those ones that from the outside look horribly concrete and industrial, but you just know are probably incredibly cool and modern inside?

This one had music pumping out onto the street, and R commented “Sounds like a pretty big party”. In some moment of madness, I announced “I’m going to the party”, made a beeline for the door, buzzed the bell and was halfway up the stairs before R had a chance to protest.

Once inside the building, we figured we may as well follow through with it. We ended up just following the noise until it led us to a big metal door which slid open to reveal a gorgeous, spacious apartment with people everywhere, a DJ in one corner and a table of drinks in another.

R set himself up as the barman and started mixing drinks for everyone, I left him to it and went off wandering, talking to all and sundry.

The apartment was so lovely and the people were a totally eclectic mix of people, and a lot of fun to talk to.

The next morning, R and I met for brunch to rehash the night’s events. I’m pretty sure it was one of the highlights of his life in London, because after that, I’d often hear him telling people “And then she just ran up the stairs!”

To be fair, it was a pretty excellent night.

And to whoever’s party we crashed – thanks for a really great party!

Movie Nights

This week isn’t even halfway through, and yet I’ve ended up in the cinema every night so far.

On Monday, I went to my beloved Genesis Cinema with the Slav to see the new Woody Allen movie, and last night I got a couple of free tickets to a preview of What We Did on our Holiday in Millbank, so went along with an old friend from back home.

My first degree, before I went down the computer science route, is in journalism. My journalism curriculum was a complete mixed bag of modules – including three economics modules (that is a year and a half studying economics. Not fun.), critical thinking, shorthand and a few film and literature modules.

While studying, the film modules were fun because we got to sit in darkened lecture halls watching things like Natural Born Killers and Blue Velvet… but at 18 years old, I didn’t pay much attention further than thinking “Brilliant, don’t have to take notes”. (I’m much more studious now, I promise!). To me, film was just a past time and not something I ever really thought about. The cinema was just a place you went when it was raining and there was nothing to do, or where a boy would take you on a first date if you were too young for the pub.

Funnily enough though, over the past couple of years, out of nowhere, I’ve developed an actual real love for film as an art form. I’ve always been a bookworm, and it’s not uncommon for me to go completely incommunicado with a book for hours at a time, but film was never really something I’d given much thought to. Then I discovered a couple of independent films, and loved them. Then started seeking out more. And more. And now, I’m hooked. I hate Hollywood, you can keep your Avengers and Guardians of the Easy Money from Punters type rubbish.

But independent films… there’s something about them. I think it’s the fact that when you watch an independent movie, you’re watching something that has a lot of love put into it. Whoever made it made it because they really wanted to tell the story, not because it follows a formula that’s guaranteed to sell tickets.

Part of this is one of the reasons that I grew to really love Woody Allen’s movies. He’s got a very dry, subtly sarcastic and dark sense of humour, and when you notice little humorous things its like he’s sharing an in-joke with you. Say what you like about his personal life, but the man makes good films.

On Monday, I dragged my boyfriend to see Magic in the Moonlight down in Whitechapel. Parts were typical Woody, and Colin Firth’s character was excellent, but disappointingly, there were quite a few very “Hollywood” parts. It’s quite sad to see this, because it seems more like its driven by the financiers than the director himself. On the whole, it was a really pleasant movie, but definitely felt a little lacking in comparison to some of his other’s.

Last night found me in a cinema in Millbank, in the ground floor of the Millbank tower. It was a bit bizarre, we walked into a cafe in a very bright lobby, asked if we were in the right place, then told “Through the white door. Then through the next white door”. I wasn’t sure if we were being directed to a cinema or it was a very subtle way to get rid of us through a fire exit.

Turns out it was some kind of private cinema, and the only seats left were right in the very front row, meaning we had to throw our heads back to be able to see the screen properly. The movie, What We Did On Our Holiday was completely bizarre. A lot of very dark humour, and an awful lot of “Oh I god I can’t believe I’m watching this”, but on the whole, a surprisingly nice movie.

My favourite part of the night though was the chatting over coffee afterwards, and walking back over Lambeth Bridge to get the bus back to Shoreditch. You get the prettiest view of the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye from there.

Even the Thames can look pretty in the dark.

Small Apartments

In Central London, they say you’re never more than 8 feet from a mouse. I think the same could be said for humans. They’re everywhere. You could have the biggest, swankiest, most expensive apartment, and yet you’re still just a paper thin wall away from someone else.

Some of them can be great, and be lovely, friendly people; some of them can keep to themselves, which is also fine… and some of them can provide you with more insights into their private life than you’d ever cared to know.

I live underneath a guy who apparently fancies himself as some kind of modern day Jim Morrison crossed with Elvis. As I write this, I can hear him overhead, strumming on an acoustic guitar and crooning loudly… unintelligibly, but loudly. Granted, right now it’s 1pm in the afternoon, so hearing him sing his little heart out right now is no big deal. Although, unfortunately, my flatmates and I have been treated to his vocal stylings at 1am. Not so cool. We’ve also been provided with the sound effects that accompany his evenings with ladies (those poor bed springs)… and more bizarrely, something that sounds like bodies being dragged across his floor.

Then there’s the guys across the block, who like to open their bedroom window as wide as it goes and sit on the windowsill and rap.

There’s an old Bangladeshi woman who lives in the ground floor and kind of crouches outside her front door a lot. She’s usually cleaning or polishing something, but as soon as she sees any young people, she freezes and glares at them until they finish walking by. She kind of creeps me out, if I’m honest.

The only home I’ve ever been in London that wasn’t out in Zone 1,000 or something was my ex-boyfriend’s house in Zone 2. They had a real, honest-to-goodness house, garden and all. In my flat, we don’t even have a working microwave, never mind four floors and a front and back garden. But that house was expensive. And because it was such a nice place, they made the most of it with a LOT of parties. Which probably made them the annoying neighbours.

I guess in London your flat can be cheap, central and nice… but you only get to pick two of those. Central flats are rarely cheap, cheap & central flats are almost never nice, and central flats are never quiet.

In my flat, we can hear when the French guys downstairs have a party, or when Jim Morrison upstairs uses the bathroom… when he’s not busy romancing or crooning, that is.

I’ve spent nearly four years in London, in small apartments, with a whole host of different flatmates (as I’ve mentioned before), and right now, with one more year of university left, I’m starting to think it’d be nice to try live alone at some point. I’d hate to go straight from parents to flatmates to boyfriend without ever having a period in there of it just being me… and as I’m coming to realise, in London, it’s almost impossible to live in Central London alone unless your salary is the GDP of a small country.

Having said that, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to haul myself out to the suburbs just yet either.

Flatmate Transitions

friends

The other night, we held flat viewings, to try fill the spare room.

Over the last year, the people I’ve lived with have, for the first time since I’ve been in London, felt more like actual friends than strangers I found on Gumtree. There have been a lot of ups and downs over the last year, and a lot of stress.

This isn’t one of those “it’s been hard but we all love each other 4evz” posts – there was a lot of stress, and now that we’re at the end it’s all a bit bittersweet.

Despite all this though, I can’t forget the nice parts too and the memories in our flat. It’s actually been fun to live with these girls and share a little part of our lives for a little while.

home

 

We’ve had our ups and downs, but our ups have been pretty spectacular. They include drinking rum at the foot of the Gherkin at dawn, ‘acquiring’ interesting furniture for the flat, making up nicknames for our neighbours that only we find hilarious, spending so much time in the local kebab shops after nights out that not only do the workers know our names and our preferred orders, but can actually report back about our whereabouts.

There was a night I left the club early and went home, and although my flatmates assumed I’d wandered home, as I tend to do, the kebab man actually told them “Oh yes, we saw her go by here about an hour ago”. Both slightly mortifying and practical.

On Monday, 12 strangers came traipsing through our flat, and surprisingly, no total weirdos this time.

We managed to narrow down our selection to one girl who seemed lovely, and offered her the room, which she has now accepted. I’m both excited about the new flatmate, but really going to miss the two that were leaving.

In a city as cold and lonely as London, it is people who make your place a home…and for the last year, mine really was. I’ll miss them a lot, but here’s hoping we’re just as happy with our new flatmate.

Flatmate Finding

Looking for a flatmate. The very words that make Londoner cringe and feel a sense of dread.

In London, second to finding a place to live, finding someone to live in it with you is one of the most tedious things you can do. People are insane.

Right now, the flatmates I have are leaving,  primarily to go off to university, and I’m left trying to fill two bedrooms. I’m not short of response, but having lived in London for almost four years, I know how painful it is going through the rigamarole of finding someone new.

Viewings are the worst. You set aside one evening where your flat is on its best behaviour and everything looks cleaner than it has in months. You cram a bunch of strangers into your flat, either all at once (not recommended – disaster) or staggering them at fifteen minute intervals. Invariably, people get lost and show up late, cutting down your fifteen minutes to ten. You then have ten minutes in which to decide if you want this person to see you hungover, just out of the shower, see your underwear hanging out to dry, to be the person to hear about how much you hate your boss/the tube/the guy next door who spits really loudly, every day, for the foreseeable future.

You also have to decide, in this same ten minutes, if this person seems sane, if you can rely on them to do things like wash their dishes and not wee in cups. I speak from experience.

And in these ten minutes, neither one of you is going to say “I actually like showering at midnight” or “I intend on having my boyfriend to stay every single night” or “I like to eat really smelly fish”, you find that out down the line, and woe betide you if you make the wrong choice.

But.. at the same time, it can be exciting too. Ever reply that lands in your SpareRoom inbox is a potential new friend. There are some crazy people out there, and plenty of them, but there are some who will become your best friends, the people who you’re going to end up falling out of Mother Bar at 3am with, the people who agree with you that yes, the guy upstairs is bloody dreadful at guitar and the guy in the adjacent flat needs to stop rapping.

So now I’m left in this awkward position of having to find not one, but two people.

Wish me luck.

My Life in London: Then and Now

This November, it will have been four years since I moved to London. Life in 2010 was very different to what it is now. I was back in Ireland, I’d just finished my masters and I had been in a relationship with an Irishman for the past year and a half.
The summer of 2010, I ran away to Italy. Ireland’s economy was horrible, jobs were scarce and I was miserable. So I packed my bags and headed for Tuscany. But that’s a story for a different day.

I came back to Dublin, and planned on finding work and making a go of it there. I wasn’t having any luck, and as the weeks went by, it just reminded me more and more why I had wanted to leave in the first place.

In the September of 2010, my then-boyfriend and I attended a farewell party for three of his friends who were moving to London. I remember grabbing him by the arm and saying “Hey, why didn’t we think of that? It’s only an hours plane ride away, we don’t need visas, and we speak the same language!” He made some noncommittal noises and resumed his pint drinking.

art

Over the next month or so, I brought it up time and time again. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t thought of this before! It was the perfect solution. Then-boyfriend remained reluctant. Truth be told, I should have realised then that the reluctance was not just towards London, but also towards moving with me. I didn’t care. At that point I was so fed up and desperate to get out of Dublin and make something work, that ultimately I told him “I’m looking for a job, and I’m going, with or without you.”

I got a job in October, moved on the 1st November, and he followed in January 2011.

old london in the rain

I worked through a succession of truly awful jobs, including recruitment, which is probably the most soul-destroying industry I’ve ever come across, before deciding to pack it all in and go back to university. He and I managed to blunder our way through one more year and a half after he moved over before parting ways in 2012.

Now, I’m about to go into my final year. I’ve spent the summer working, programming on an artificial intelligence project. I’m dating The Slav, a beautiful, kind, sweet creature. Life still has its ups and downs, and I’m starting to get itchy feet again. I don’t know if I want to stay in London forever, and I’d definitely like to try living in some other European cities after I graduate… but honestly, looking back at the last four years… there’s not a single thing I would change.

Except possibly the crazy flatmate who left behind a cup of wee when she moved out.

But other than that, I’m good.

Robin Williams – You will be missed.

Robin Williams

I’m not usually one for jumping on board the R.I.P. Celebrity bandwagon. Death is sad, losing someone is sad, but generally my tears and sorrows are reserved for those I’ve loved personally, and who have loved me in return. Posting R.I.P. to someone I’ve never met on a social media site is a bit morbid and strange, in my opinion.

I just couldn’t get on board with the idea of lamenting the loss of someone I never had.

Today was different. Today made me start thinking. I woke up this morning, and did the customary ‘check facebook on my phone with one eye open’ routine, and saw one of my friends had posted something about the passing of Robin Williams. And so had another. And another. The more I scrolled up, the more people were posting about this man who had, in one way or another, meant something to each of them. And for once, I could empathise.

As a child, I spent an awful lot of time in my mom’s parents’ house, and her brother still lived at home. My uncle was, and still is, a bit of a geek, and I would sit there with him while he watched Star Trek and Mork and Mindy. Robin Williams in Mork and Mindy was, in my 5 year old mind, the funniest thing I had ever seen. I loved him, and every time I’d hear the opening music coming from the living room, I’d bolt in to sit on the floor and watch the show.

He was hilarious as Mrs. Doubtfire, I loved Aladdin, Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams… the list goes on. As I’ve grown older, I’ve developed a bit of a thing for Woody Allen’s work, and when watching Deconstructing Harry for the first time on Sunday night, was surprised and delighted to find Robin Williams was in that too.

Mrs. Doubtfire

But what all of this got me to thinking was how the mass outpouring of sorrow over Robin William’s passing was different to other celebrity R.I.Ps I’ve seen before. You see, Robin Williams wasn’t what I would consider a “celebrity”. We never saw him in magazines with some two-bit ‘journalist’ discussing what he’d worn “in da club”. I had no idea who he was sleeping with, whether or not he shopped in a particular store or what he liked to order at Starbucks. Frankly, I didn’t care.

What I did know about him was that he was a funny, smart man whose work I admired. And so did most of my friends, judging by the social media posts this morning.

How many famous people can we actually say we admire the work of? And why are we so obsessed with the minutiae of their lives?

I’d rather be remembered for something I achieved, or bringing joy to people than for what I looked like at the Grammys in 2005.

Robin Williams’ passing is sad, not least because the world has lost someone who contributed something to it… but because there aren’t that many people who do.

For all of us, we should take a lesson from it. Don’t try to be the Kim Kardashians or Paris Hiltons of the world. Try to be the Nikola Teslas, the Alan Turings, the Salvador Dalis, the Aldous Huxleys, the F. Scott Fitzgeralds, the Emmeline Pankhurts, the Martin Luther Kings, the Nelson Mandelas, the Martha Gellhorns… and yes, the Robin Williams’ too.