Since being able to afford a flat on my own was as likely as seeing a unicorn drinking a piña colada, I moved into a shared flat with three roommates. My flat mates are mythical English gents that are normally lost in the hustle'n'bustle of the expat infiltration. During our brief screening Skype call, I was reassured it was a good fit because I had never met three dudes who mentioned dinner parties as frequently as they did in ten minutes. Since moving in, I’ve been reminded how fun it can be to have roommates after living on my own for several years. Focused on my fears of toilet-seat battles and dishwashing stand-offs, I’d forgotten about all of the perks of flatmates - people to ask how your day was, share a meal with, and bribe with cake so I don’t eat it all myself. Oh wait, that last one is not specific to roommates. Plus flatmates can be embedded friends, which is nice in a big city where it’s pretty easy to float anonymously through the crowd. My flatmates share a similar professional/bohemian split personality to me (which shouldn’t have been a surprise since I was connected to them via a friend from surf camp in Portugal. Thanks Jonny!). Less surprising, there have already been lots of philosophical talks around the kitchen table over Thai curry and wine.
Feeling confused and disoriented, I kept thinking (and voicing relentlessly to Meagan) that I didn’t remember this part of the Modern and worried that maybe I hadn’t been such a regular patron as I claimed. Thankfully, I’m not going crazy. A quick google search was able to allay my fears of a faulty memory (and the warranty had long expired). This new space was actually part of a massive extension that opened in 2016. Sanity restored.
Looking out over the city from the new Tate tower, there is lego-land evidence of the change. The Shard has made the skyline a whole lot spikier than it used to be. And then there is a boxy building that is nicknamed the Walkie-Talkie... And there is the Cheese Grater... The Gherkin is no longer the strangest shape on the horizon. And there are no signs of slowing down as evidenced by the abundance of industrial cranes dotting the evening sky like one-legged flamingos taking a nap.
For London 2.0, I’m living in Finsbury Park in North London – a relatively undiscovered gem on the opposite side of the city. Despite evidence of creeping gentrification, Finsbury Park retains a strong working-class flavour reflecting its popularity as a landing place for immigrants. The streets are lined with Afro-Caribbean and Turkish food shops that display a range of strange produce that I’ve never seen before (there is one vegetable that is so foreign looking that I am secretly curious about whether it’s for eating or to roll out your feet at the end of a long day). A few doors down on Stroud Green Road, you’ll find a wig supermarket... It’s the Costco of wigs and weaves as well as hair serums, oils, shines and polishers. With eateries to suit all cravings and wallet sizes, I've already scribbled a neighbourhood must-eat list in the back of my notebook. FYI - The food in Britain is not nearly as bad as it used to be. Neither are the teeth. So don’t let either put you off visiting. As a colourful, diverse neighbourhood, Finsbury Park would not be complete without a cast of eccentric characters like the guy who plays clarinet all day every day under the Finsbury Park Bridge which has become my personal workday anthem.
Comparing London 1.0 and 2.0, it’s almost as if I’m living in two different cities... or that I’m two different people. Not sure which is likelier. Regardless, I have a feeling I won’t be ready to leave London at the end of four months. In my first week, I’m already more in love with London than the entire time I lived here eight years ago. It feels like it's the first page of a new story.
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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