London arrival! / by Hannah Foster

The courtyard at the V&A Museum, where they serve scones and sandwiches...all very civilised!

The courtyard at the V&A Museum, where they serve scones and sandwiches...all very civilised!

I have arrived in London…to a torrential downpour of course! It rained so much on the day of my arrival that several outer tube stations were closed or partially closed due to flooding. My umbrella was somewhere in the depths of my large suitcase, so I was quickly forced to embrace my new home and its weather and go with the very damp cat-lady crazy hair look.

Things have generally improved since then, including the weather, though it was raining again today. I’m embracing the London local lifestyle quickly; using the tube to get around to various viewings of flats, shopping at Sainsbury’s supermarket, carrying an umbrella everywhere (I did that anyway in Melbourne to be fair), complaining about the weather (see above) and eating lots of egg and lettuce sandwiches. I am actually addicted to Pret A Manger’s egg and cress sandwiches. Seriously, I think I’ve eaten like 4 in the space of the 6 days I’ve been here.

On the tube, a couple of pointers for anyone planning to use it for the first time from someone (me) who has just taken a crash course in tubetiquette (I’m making that a thing/word since I now live in the land of Shakespeare):

1.     Even though there are door open/close buttons on the train doors, you don’t use them, you wait for the doors to open themselves. Not sure if the buttons are for decoration or emergencies…

2.     When changing lines at a station, sometimes you have to simply follow ‘Way Out’ signs until you find the tunnel to the other line. Apparently ‘Way Out’ doesn’t always actually mean way out, it might mean way across, or way to somewhere else, or way to get completely lost and look like a tourist…

3.     It is disgustingly hot and humid on the tube and it’s cold on the streets of London. However, Londoners do not seem to peel off their jackets on the tube, they sit there wearing them, steaming slightly. Maybe it’s too risqué to remove one’s jacket on the tube?

4.     There is wifi down in the tube, but hardly anyone uses their phone on the tube, and I have not seen a single phone call made on public transport. Again, politeness?

5.     Oyster cards are like Myki cards in Melbourne. But they actually, you know, work well.

6.     Only tourists (e.g. me) snigger when funny tube stops are announced. Given my surname, I particularly giggled at ‘Cockfosters’ station, but others I have enjoyed include St John’s Wood, Tooting, Barking and Shepherd’s Bush.

7.     In the UK they drive on the left and overtake on the right. But on tube escalators, you have to stand on the right and overtake on the left. Go figure.

I’ve also been temporarily embracing #collegelyfe while here as I’m staying at a residential college at The University of Westminster until I find a flat for Ed and me. The room is a little spartan, but the special kind of grubby super firm carpet and funny little sink in my room do bring back happy memories of living at Janet Clarke Hall. Plus, on the upside, the college has a great kitchen (it’s a self catering college) and is only a short walk from my new job, which I started today.

Between viewing of flats I’ve also managed to start embracing the cultural and foodie side of London. There’s a huge amount to do, see and eat. It is nice knowing that, rather than having a single day or week to try to cram everything in to, I have a year or more to see things, returning to places whenever I want. For instance, on Saturday I went to the V&A Museum. The museum has something crazy like 7 miles of corridors and exhibition spaces. Instead of madly trying to see it all, I went to the theatre gallery, the temporary exhibitions and then took two tours – one on Renaissance art and one on artworks of LGBTQI significance – with lunch in between in the museum’s courtyard. Apparently the Roman emperors were very in to having harems of attractive men and one even had his favourite male lover deified as a God! I left the museum happy in the knowledge I could come back again to see the jewelry gallery, the ceramics and to take a few more tours any time I wanted (entry is free).

And, of course, on the foodie side of things, I have already been to a number of fantastic markets in London. The Borough Markets I already knew about and had been to before, but I knew they would be worth another visit or ten. I was lucky enough to have an absolutely amazing vanilla custard donut there which, I think, was the best donut I have ever eaten in my life. It was made by Bread Ahead and I’ve put a picture of it up, in all its custardy-glory on my new London focused Instagram account called lickablelondon. Please check it out and follow me there if you’re keen to see London through the eyes and taste buds of me, a new Londoner and ex pat.

That’s it from me for now! Take care and keep in touch!

Xox Hannah