First Week in London

12 July 2012

It’s been a week and two days now since I arrived in England. The difference between a week ‘on holiday’ and a week just ‘living’ is dramatic. I have visited one tourist attraction and walked past a couple of others and that’s about for tourist activities. Admittedly most of this utter lack of activity has been due to a desire to finally get rid of this cold that has been plaguing me since Copenhagen, with some success.

I arrived last Tuesday night, travelling ‘directly’ to London from Tampere. When I arrived at Gatwick the queue for passport control was long and slow. In none of my travels had I encountered that so far, so I had not included such a wait in the time estimate I had given Boyd for my arrival.  For some reason I couldn't send a text to Boyd either, so I couldn’t let him know I was going to be late. With nothing else to do I stood in the queue and read a few chapters of my book.

Towards the front of the queue I began to get a little nervous. What if I had somehow done something wrong and they wouldn’t let me in? I had printed off a copy of my bank balance and correspondence with the UK Border Agency about having my visa in my expired passport, but I was by no means reassured by the logic of my evidence. Then I started to worry that they might see I was nervous and look at me more intently… as I watched a group of people penned into what seemed to be a holding chamber next to the queue, wondering what they had done to deserve incarceration.

Once the EU passport queue had disappeared the officers came over to the ‘other passports’ counters and things moved faster. I was allocated a smiling young woman, who was oddly enough more friendly than the fight attendant on the flight to London snarling "You're late". She looked at my documents, asked me why I hadn’t arrived earlier on my visa, but gave an understanding "Ah" when I explained that "my brother had a baby", complimented me on at least organising where I was staying that night as so many others didn’t (!), stamped my documents and let me in. Whooopeeee!

The express train (£18) was a bit of a let down after the sleek and clean trains in Scandinavia. And the promised food cart did not arrive.

All of these delays meant I arrived nearly an hour later than I had thought, and poor Boyd had been there from half an hour earlier than that. Poor guy! We made our way to the youth hostel at St Paul's for the night. Smelly, noisy, stinking hot, and overpriced. Yay for youth hostels.


We spent a few nights in the St Paul’s hostel, and then when there were no beds for the weekend we rented a studio for a week in Kilburn, on the Jubilee line. Not bad, but the rent is still astronomical by New Zealand standards. £330 for a week. It has been really good to have some space to myself for the first time since we left Nelson, so I think I can handle heading back to hostels for the next while till we can find something more permanent.

I’ve opened a bank account with the assistance of Britbound (a company I signed up with in NZ for just this purpose), bought a second pair of jeans and a few more tops to add to the three T-shirts I brought with me. One thing I have learnt while travelling, a white T-shirt might well go with everything, but it’s a bugger to launder when you’re not in the tropics.

Tomorrow I’m off to catch up with Boyd at Kelmarsh Hall for a medieval event. He’s been up there employed in setting up the event, but I will just be going along as a member of the public.


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