Seven Years in London, How Did That Happen?

September 1 2013. I didn’t really sleep. I dozed off a few times but just for twenty minutes here and there. I woke up again as the coach thundered through Finchley, passed the famous Baker Street, before reaching Victoria Coach Station.

I took the Coach and Sail. It cost 50 euro. I arrived in London Victoria from Dublin before 8am on a Sunday morning. So early that some of the tube stations weren’t open yet. I had one large suitcase, along with my laptop, microphone and cables, my audio recorder and my mixing desk. Just the essentials. I had booked some temporary accommodation in Walthamstow and was to start a new job the following day.

Moving to London wasn’t an easy decision. We had lived here from 2001-2002 and I hated it. After finishing my degree in Dublin City University in 2012, I managed to get two interviews, both for part time work. Ireland wasn’t a particularly fun place after the recession. Staying in Ireland was becoming a lot more difficult for us, with one proper wage coming in. We had to take a chance.

It wasn’t an easy move. I had applied for a job and got it. Tahlula was still working in Ireland. We would be apart for two months. We sneaked in weekends but it’s not the same. New city, going ‘home’ to temporary accommodation, not knowing too many people. Thank Alanis for the internet!

Peoples March in London October 2018

By early 2014, we had settled more into life in London and had moved into a proper apartment. I hated the trains then, I hated the trains now. Since then, we’ve gone home to vote for Marriage Equality. We’ve been here through the Brexit campaign and the ridiculousness of the UK voting itself out of the EU. We been through a redundancy and the urgency of needing a job in London. We’ve avoided far right rallies in Central London on a Saturday, we’ve wandered into Remain marches when a million people turned up. And we’ve been here through this Covid-19 pandemic.

People will say London is only an hour from home. While it’s realistically a little bit further, right now it could be ten hours away. We’re both lucky enough to know that our parents and families are safe in Ireland and that we’re safe here. It just happens that this is the longest we’ve been away without going home. Going home to visit isn’t an option right now. It makes the approximate 500 kilometres seem like 5000.

There are so many familiars between here and Ireland. The telly is the same. You can get RTE on the internet. The food is the same. There are Irish shops around and I’ve even recently been able to get my beloved Lyons Gold Blend Tea Bags delivered. There are so many Irish accents around. But, the post boxes are red, not green. While you might know other people living in London, the city of eight million is so big, you’ll never bump into them. Depending on where you live, you might see them twice a year.

The hardest part is trying to balance keeping in touch with what’s happening in London, with your life in London. It’s very easy to get lost in the comfortable surroundings of online life in Ireland. Social media makes it extremely easy to stay on top of what’s happening at home but you can’t always look back. You have to live in the now.

A London Underground train in an empty station

I don’t have that ‘London is home’ feeling about the place. In what was the old normal, there were always lots of places to see, things to do, gigs to go to. It’s great that, if you want, there are all these things on your doorstep. But London is an expensive city. Going outside the door always seems to cost twenty quid. Living in South East London means more greenery, cheaper rent and a bigger apartment. It also means watching for the last train to ensure you don’t end up on a dreaded night bus. But with saving £500 a month in rent, it’s something I’m more than happy to put up with.

I’ve never liked commuting, I think it’s a waste of life. The stress of squeezing onto a train. No! Just, no! What the world has taught me in the past six months is that we need to enjoy our time, lead a more sustainable life. We genuinely think of ourselves and our lives more than we do of our jobs and taking part in a rat race. I think for me, there are too many people in London.

In 2016, I wrote that I didn’t know how long I would be in London for. I still don’t know but it’s not where I want to be forever. I could write a list of plans and dreams but I’ve learned that life isn’t like that. The pandemic obviously has changed time frames on everyone’s lives for now. I still have plans and aims, long term though, I’m not really sure if London will fit in.