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.

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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.

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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.

I’m Not Going, Unless We Can Go To The Genesis Cinema

cinema

About a year ago, my Dad came to visit me in London with my two brothers. One day, I had lectures, so he took my brothers out for the day and they ended up in the cinema in Leicester Square. Yes, I know, what absolute tourists.

Now, being a Dubliner, my Dad loves a good moan every now and then, and this particular trip to the cinema gave him so much fodder for complaint that he still mentions it every one in awhile.

He was horrified to find that this excursion to watch a film set him back over £50 for three tickets and some popcorn. “Fifty pounds! Fifty pounds to sit in the dark and have someone press play on a movie! Could have done that at home!” he exclaimed all evening.

Usually I’m the first to roll my eyes and say “Oh whisht” (Irish-speak for “be quiet”), but I actually have to agree with him on this one.

Part of going to the cinema is the experience, it is far, far nicer to sit in a cinema theatre and watch a movie than it is to watch it on your laptop screen. Understandably, the experience isn’t free and the price of your ticket goes towards covering the costs of running a cinema.

But charging upwards of £12 for a ticket seems excessive, especially when places like the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel can charge £3.50 for their tickets on both Mondays and Wednesdays. Yes, you read that right, £3.50.

Having recently discovered the Genesis Cinema, I now cannot actually justify going anywhere else. I paid a visit last night with the Slav, to go see The Inbetweeners Movie, and it’s only server to solidify how much I love the place. The tickets are amazingly cheap, like seriously, a night at the cinema for less than a venti Frappucino in Starbucks? Amazing.

On top of that, it’s an independent, family- run cinema, so it’s nice to know that our custom is actually benefiting someone in the community, rather than a faceless corporation. And finally, even though the price is low, the quality is not. The screen we were in last night was huge, easily the size of a standard Leicester Square theatre. They do have smaller screens too, but the seats are all perfectly comfortable, it’s clean, air conditioned, the staff are all really pleasant and friendly, and the decor of the lobby and bar is lovely – I’m a sucker for exposed brick.

I’m almost reluctant to press “publish” on this blog post, lest half of London decide to make their way down to Whitechapel and crowd the cinema.

One of my friends recently asked me to go see a movie. My response was “Only if we can go in Whitechapel.”

Seriously, check them out.

 

Throwing Down the Gauntlet on the “Gauntlet of Horrors”

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A few days ago, the Telegraph posted an article, The 9 Worst Things to do in London, and while I whole-heartedly agree with some of their points (the Circle line at rush hour is a particularly potent glimpse of hell), I have to disagree on their points about Brick Lane.

Brick Lane is a curry filled, neon-sign lit, busy, bustling mess. It’s a pain to navigate from one end to the other on a Sunday. Coming home from work, I’m usually treated to at least five different men muttering “Curry?” at me, but it is not what I would call a “gauntlet of horrors”, as the Telegraph wrote.

As a local, I tend to avoid Brick Lane on Sundays if I can help it, due to a combination of the influx of tourists and my notorious lack of patience, but I can see why it draws the crowds. It’s busy, sure, and messy, yes. And definitely in recent weeks, even maybe a bit seedy at times with the rise of men on street corners selling nitrous oxide in balloons (What is with that? Go away).

However, despite all this, it’s one of the few places in London that isn’t covered in chain stores. (In fact, the only one I can think of is a Subway at the top, across from the beigel shops, and yes, I was horrified when that appeared.) It’s busy, sure, but the people are lively and colourfully and interestingly dressed. The street art makes the walls stand out. The shops are cute and quirky.

Yes, there are people selling tat spread out on towels, but there’s some pretty cool stuff to be found too. I’ve picked up quite a few used books, and the guy selling old cameras always catches my eye.

There are definitely quieter, classier, milder places in London. And if Brick Lane is not your bag, then by all means, check some of these other places out.

I fell in love with Shoreditch and the surrounding areas because of the life and the soul of the place, the colour, the vibrancy. You don’t get that in other parts of London. London is a big, exciting city, but there are a lot of parts that are bland and clearly for the moneyed who think bland is classy. And that’s fine. But East London is not Chelsea – thankfully!

 

If you’re going to go to Brick Lane, accept it what it is, and see the fun and the life in it. Accept that it’s bright and messy and loud and colourful. Accept that it’s going to be a bit busy, but its just full of people out to have a good time. Accept that you will get asked if you want curry, but if you do give in, it’ll probably taste pretty damn good. Accept that there are lots of people selling lots of junk, but it makes for an interesting “Who would ever buy that?” browse. Accept that the bagels are amazing, that Brick Lane Coffee is delicious and that the Brick Lane Bookstore is probably the nicest shop you could find. Accept it for what it all is, the whole lot of it.

And if you can’t, no worries. There’s always South Kensington.

Wandering round Shoreditch with Shoreditch Hype

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A couple of weekends ago, I got a tweet from Shoreditch Hype asking if I wanted two tickets to join their Coffee and Art tour of Shoreditch. Eh, yes please.

If you haven’t heard of Shoreditch Hype, its an app that gives realtime information of what’s happening in Shoreditch… it’s pretty good, although being a computer programmer, I’ve definitely mentally picked a few holes, haha.

Anyway, the tour took place on a Saturday, and just as I was about to leave, my housemate came breezing through the door, announcing that Stoli vodka had set up a promotional van next to Boxpark and they were giving out free lemon vodka sorbets. Sweet.

I dragged my boyfriend along with me to nab some of this before the tour. I loved it. He complained that there shouldn’t be lemon in his vodka. Typical Slavic man.

Halfway through a spoonful of sorbet, he glanced at me, narrowed his eyes and suspiciously asked “Is this a hipster thing we’re going to?”

2As it happens, no, it wasn’t. It was perfectly lovely, although what really made it for me was the tour guide. An incredibly sweet, enthusiastic girl from Florida who seemed to take genuine delight in her job – not something you often see in London.

The tour lasted about 3-4 hours, and in that time we got to taste bubble tea, check out a new market, try an espresso martini in the Jones Family Project (incredibly cool place – check it out) and visit some of the small galleries around Shoreditch.

I’d never actually gotten around to visiting any galleries in Shoreditch before, which was a real oversight on my part, given that they’re awesome. We saw about 4 on the tour but my favourites were My Art Invest, (a pretty cool idea – you buy shares in the artwork, so you can buy a ‘piece’ of Banksy or the like for about £100, and if the artwork is ever sold, you get a cut of it proportionate to what you initially bought in for) and the Pure Evil gallery, both very much focused on street art/graffiti style art.

The tour ended in Be At One on Old Street, which wouldn’t be my choice given my loathing for chain pubs (I’m Irish, chain pubs are unnatural), but on the whole, the day was lovely and Shoreditch Hype have done a really nice job putting it all together.

It even got a surprised “That was really nice” from the previously suspicious Slav.

High praise indeed.