I live in a studio flat in New Cross Gate, South East London. The area has a fairly bad reputation and in the last couple of months there have been at least two stabbings. It’s weird: the main road is so similar to Bradford’s very own Leeds Road, with the same sense of culture and hustle, but here there’s a slight underlying menace. The flat I live in is quite nice and modern but it’s tiny (you could easily pee from one wall to the other) I pay around £600 a month with my bills included and it’s the first time I have actually lived on my own, feeding and fending for myself.
So far I’ve had food poisoning at least three times, one quite serious, had near hypothermia and Pot Noodles are a staple part of my diet. I’ve been criticised by quite a few people for my (lack of) culinary skills and varied diet: pasta, meat and lots of gravy. But I get by all right and, though I sometimes come home to microwave porridge, my fridge is usually well stocked. My meals are generally based on what I have to eat as opposed to what I want to eat. Last night, for instance, I microwaved everything that was going out of date and poured gravy on it. One thing I have been surprised about is how deceptive gravy is – it always looks like less in the cup – and I’ve ruined quite a lot of meals by pouring too much on. Also, I don’t know how I survived before I picked up a non-stick frying pan the other week – it really works!
It’s difficult shopping when you are single (I’d use the term ‘bachelor’ but that would sound like I was regularly getting some, which I’m not, sadly). Meat seems to come in only two varieties – meal for two or a meal for the family which turns out quite expensive per meal but I’m a growing lad and there’s loads of meat in every meal which is a bonus.
Unfortunately there isn’t a Morrisons within walking distance and I have to make do with Sainsbury’s whilst I’m down here, which is OK, but it just isn’t the same. It’s about ten minutes’ walk to the nearest supermarket – double on the way back due to my weedy arms – and I generally only buy stuff that’s on offer: there’s something about the bright signs that do it for me even if I’m spending a tenner to save 50p. I still buy things on impulse and end up throwing a lot of food away by the end of the week.
I’ve not registered with a doctors yet, London’s so temporary and you move around a lot so I have been relying on the lovely nurses at the NHS walk-in centre [even though every time i walk in i feel like I’m having one of those sex disease tests] and the fact that I’m a bloke – we don’t do doctors, only hospitals.
If ANYONE’s still reading, I moved out from a house share in Pimlico (which shares its postcode with the Queen) about three months ago and, though it can sometimes be lonely, I enjoy playing my XBox in my boxers (I’m typing this in my boxers too – it’s great!) and, for the first time, I’ve got my own space where I can concentrate on work and my mates from home can come over and stay. I don’t have to worry about washing up either – it’s done when I can be bothered to do it and it’s only as clean as I want it. Like every house, my flat has its own smell: there’s a faint whiff of fat, but when all you eat is fried stuff it’s inevitable. Also my glasses smell of pasta sauce for some reason. It can be weird sometimes, coming from a big family where someone was always around, but it’s relaxing too, having no responsibility to anyone but yourself. I feel much more ‘grown up’ than I’ve ever felt before.
My place is about two to three songs away from the nearest tube station and about 50 mins (enough for a listen to Damien Rice’s amazing new album) to get to work all together. Many people complain about the tube whenever they talk about their experiences in London. Yes, it is a rammed and sweaty communal cesspit for all sorts of diseases, and getting to work is never a pleasant experience – but it is always regular and you can pretty much get to anywhere in London on the tube. While I miss having the freedom of a car, I know I’d use it only so I didn’t have to walk to the shops on Saturday morning for the ‘papers and it’s more useful for getting around when I go home.
If you’ve ever worked in any ‘public facing’ job, you’ll have reached the same conclusion that everyone does – apart from Scousers, the general public are the most horrible set of people in the world: rude, impatient, and just generally all round obnoxious. It’s the same with tube users. It always makes me curious when commuters, generally the blue pin-striped suited city boys, cram themselves onto a train, bullying past women and children when the next one will arrive in literally a minute (there’s an electronic sign so you don’t have to check your watch! – London’s so advanced). What you have to bear in mind though is that you only remember the bad experiences and, in general, commuters just ignore everyone and keep themselves to themselves.
As you can tell I’ve not got any real point to make with this blog, but hopefully you young ‘uns will get a better idea of what it’s like living in London. I knew this article would be boring and like I said it’s more of a struggle to write when you aren’t frustrated or annoyed (don’t know how I’m going to get good at writing press releases when it’s usually about how great something is). I’m settling in well, or at least as well as I could hope for, and whether living in London is enjoyable or not, it’s an experience! It’s up to me what I make of living in the best city in the world or not.
Things I learned this week:
* Do not open the oven when naked
* Although getting the newspapers when hungover is OK, it is NOT a good idea to attempt to the do big shop at the same time in the vain hope of killing two birds with one stone
* Never sniff milk: you are guaranteed to regret it
Celebrity spotting highlights:
* The Mighty Boosh boys and Chris Morris hopefully devising a comedy extravaganza (though hopefully not Nathan Barley)
* Kev from the AA ‘Kev ‘n’ Bev advert (again)
This article orginally appeared here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2006/11/14/tim_hoang_blog_03_feature.shtml