The first time buyer journey- choosing somewhere new to live

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We’ve spent the last ten months pretty set on areas we want to move to. We thought we really had it all locked down, but as with every part of this process, we were wrong. We looked up the areas, tried the train journeys out, looked at schools, looked at crime rates, even sampled the local pub in one case. We looked at all the sensible things you get told to look at when choosing somewhere new to live, but it turns out there’s so much more to it. There’s so much more to everything, it seems.

I’ve also done some rambling about questions to ask when viewing houses

This area we were focusing on is now not even remotely part of our search. We have completely changed our minds and now we’ve settled on a really different place, but also it’s 100% the home we’re looking for. We don’t have the house or flat yet, but we know this is the place for us.

It’s a big choice to make. A big whopping, very adult choice, especially if you’re buying, because you have an added level of ‘you are stuck here for a while now you should have thought about this more’. It’s scary.  When we first started scoping out places to live we thought of the stuff that came to mind when you think of a Sunday- places to get breakfast, shops in walking distance, a nice park just around corner, basically just little comforts. It wasn’t until we actually started going in houses and the whole thing suddenly got real that we realised there was so much more to it.

As nice as it is to be able to stroll out of your front door and fall into a nice café where you can become a regular and have the staff know your coffee order without opening your mouth, there is a bigger picture. The hard part is making these Sunday comforts fit with that bigger picture.

In the hope of this being helpful to just one person, these are the things we realised we should have thought about earlier:

Sewage– Yes really! Look up if there is a sewage plant near and look up the wind direction. You can work out how affected you’re likely to be by smell, particularly in the summer.

How busy do the roads really get– We’ve been stuck in some truly awful traffic some weekends while house hunting, and it’s definitely worth looking into how busy roads you might live on can be- not just for noise reasons but also safety. If you can, go and look at the road in the evenings, in the week and at the weekend. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s better to know these things.

Flooding mapsGov.uk have a system that allows you to input an address and get the flooding risk for the property. If you’re anywhere near a river this is 100% worth the five minutes it takes.

Train developments- If there’s planned work on train tracks or work on extending lines due to start up in the future, and you need the trains for work, consider how it might affect your commute.

Scope to extend and do work on a house- When you visit houses, look to see if the neighbours have dropped curbs for driveways, loft extensions or porches. If they have, there’s a pretty good chance you can do the same, as the council is unlikely to say yes to one home but not another, particularly neighbours.

Road closures in the area- Look up how many times roads have been closed off in the past two years in the local area. By doing this we found a town we had been pinning hopes on had a continuous problem with water pipes bursting, causing flooding, road chaos and issues with water supply to some properties.

What’s on the local high street?- This is a pretty good indication at how far you’ll need to travel to get to the shops you want. If you want to have coffee shops and cafes nearby, but there’s none on your local high street, look at how far you’ll have to go. Will you need to drive just to buy bread and milk? Will you be able to get whatever seasonal coffee Starbucks are serving up without paying to park? This might seem like it’s unimportant, until the day comes when all you want is some convenience but there is none.

Would you want to walk from the station at night?- There’s a lot to be said about looking at places at night as well as the day. If you’re going to be walking around in the dark in the winter after work, how comfortable would you feel?

Noise complaints- Vendors have to legally tell you if they have lodged a complaint against the neighbours, so ask!

You can’t do everything and be everything just because you’re young and society says you should 

 

Everyone knows the feeling of not having enough hours in the day. Life is busy and it only seems to get busier. If you wrote down everything you did in an average work day, it would be a long list, right? I sometimes lay in bed in the evening feeling mounting guilt at the stuff I haven’t done, like washing or lunch making or even taking off my make up, but I’m too tired for that. 

 Day to day is one thing. Usually time can be found at some point to catch up on all the stuff you tactically ignore. Lately though, I’ve been feeling like there simply aren’t enough hours in life. And I’m not talking about chores or work or housekeeping or plucking your yeti-like eyebrows that have been growing for three months. I mean life as a whole.

When you’re young, you get told you need to do things. You should be reckless! You should travel! Make sure you work hard! Save money when you can, it’s important! Spend all your money, you can’t take it with you! We get told to throw caution to the wind but also that we should be sensible and level headed. We get told to stay out late, enjoy ourselves, to do it while we’re young, but we’ve also get to get up in the morning and kill it at work, so better get that beauty sleep. If I was doing all of the things I feel like I should be doing right now, I’d be booking flights to Bali to island hop, arranging meetings with banks to sort out the best savings accounts, planning a few months to travel a continent I’ve never been to, networking as much as possible to build my career, throwing caution to the wind and blowing all my money on an idea that might or might not work out. I’d be living about four different kinds of life to try and get it all in and get it right. 

We aren’t living in the wizarding world where we can hook ourselves up with a Time Turner to ensure we fit everything in. We just can’t do everything society suggests we should. We can try our best at having the reckless and fun-filled youth, while still setting our lives up nicely and building a solid foundation, but it’s hard to fully believe in both and strike a perfect balance.

It would be really boring to get it right all the time. 

I’ve definitely tried to. I’ve tried to trick my brain into finding the perfect, happy medium, but I haven’t quite got there. I want to do new things, scare myself, go to places and see amazing sites, but I also want a house, kids, money, a good career path to work to and I bully myself into thinking I need to make it all happen.  

I’m very guilty of wanting it all because I’ve lapped up all of lectures and warnings and hindsight we get heaped upon our frazzled brains. 

I want to take some time to cleanse my own frazzled brain of this. I’m not talking yoga in an Indonesian resort or meditation on a Nepalese mountain- I’m talking more getting drunk on g&ts and setting the world to rights. I’m talking giving myself a solid talking to about shutting out all of this scrambled advice and the confusing messages and rewarding myself with a holiday for being an adult about it. I’m talking going on social media and not getting a bit of a sick feeling that everyone is ahead of me and knows the secret to success and has the perfect kitchen. 

I want to be able to do whatever I think is right and not deeply regret it a few weeks later because oh look another person from school is engaged and OH LOOK ANOTHER BABY why isn’t my life working out like a total fairytale and why haven’t I found £100,000 on the floor? 

I don’t want any of that in my head. I want it all gone. I want the chance to not be told what to do and to feel okay about getting it very wrong or very right. I could make some wanky and terrible 2017 resolution out of all of this but I won’t. I will try harder at not falling for the ‘oh you’re young, you should…’ chat anymore. 

4 places bloggers have made me want to visit next year

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Penzance, Cornwall

I read this post yesterday on the train and then got home and googled cottages in the area, because obviously. Aftab’s photos are gorgeous (as ever) and it looks idyllic. The accommodation in this post looks heavenly and I am eternally jealous. Even the food looks picture perfect. I’ve been to Cornwall before but not for about five years now, so it seems a good time to go back.

Ill De Re, France

I looked at this about three times on Monday and then text Hannah to just confirm how much I wanted to go. She says three days is perfect, so a long weekend sounds about right. I had never heard of this little place, but after a quick google search it’s firmly on my list for next year. Plus, as the post says, flights are so cheap.

Yorkshire staycation

Me and my boyfriend have been talking about visiting this part of the country for ages now, and I remembered seeing this on Sophie’s blog back in the summer so had another little nose at it yesterday. The countryside and the coast look exactly how I imagine postcard England to look, complete with bunting. Air BnB have some really lush looking places listed for Yorkshire too, just FYI.

Slovenia

Another place I have been to  but really want to go back to. I ended up in Slovenia for about seven hours a couple of years ago on my way to Croatia, after the French went on air strike and I had to go a different route to get to a music festival. Standard Lauren travel nightmare. The countryside and the lakes look like something from fairy tales and even driving through it was enough to confirm I needed to return one day. I have a #travelblog filter set up on TweetDeck which led me to Charlotte’s blog and this feature with loads of lovely photos.

 

 

3 simple things that mean much more as time goes by

I’m not trying be really wise before my time at 26 years old, I swear. These are just things I’ve noticed more and more, especially during the last year or so. Time still surprises me every day by how bloody fast it’s going, but it also surprises me how much change happens almost in secret. I can’t decide if I suddenly like realising how much life has shifted or if a bit of notice or realisation would be nice. Anyway, rambling aside- these three things, stuff I used to either not think about much or just never really realised, have changed a lot in my mind as I continue to rattle through my 20s.

1) Comfort food has taken on a whole new meaning 

Comfort used to be eating crisps and dip in bed when I was tired, hungover, feeling left out with friends or losing the hormone battle. It can still be those things, but now it’s mostly there for times when I feel like the entire world is trying to shut down my efforts to claw together a successful life. Bad day at work, messing up on something big, not hitting personal targets, realising finances aren’t what they should be, getting to grips with mortgages, bills, life savings and pensions. The list goes on. It gets a bigger, scarier and more serious list as time goes on.  Now comfort food is coming home after a long and exhausting day and sitting down for a little while to eat something you love without considering calories or how many spin classes are needed to burn it off and cutting yourself some slack. It’s something that can reset a terrible week. It’s so much more of a comfort now the stakes are higher. This might sound dramatic and I know a bowl of cheesy pasta doesn’t have healing powers, but food is a big deal. 

2) Productivity equals contentment 

I’ve never been lazy. I would say I’m quite the opposite in fact, which is why I used to consider any opportunity to lay around or sleep in as a massive treat. These days though, despite feeling tired most of the time, I can’t find much contentment from lazy days. It’s still a treat but I feel worse off if I take full advantage. I know it’s nice to lounge around in clean bed sheets and drink tea under the duvet and all that, but I feel like I’m wasting precious time if I’m not getting stuff done. This is definitely not what I would have expected from myself five years ago but it’s getting more and more true. Getting up early on a weekend and doing chores or being out by 9am makes me happy. Remind me of this when I have kids. 

3) Health is wealth 

It’s been especially prominent the past two years in my life, but I want everyone around me to be healthy. I want to be healthy. I want to be well and ready to get up each day and work hard and do well and I want that for everyone I care about. The worry and strain that the health of others can have on us is immense. I feel like health is wealth and it definitely helps with overall happiness too. I’m trying to hard to work on my own health, but I wish I could work on other people too. 

Fitness overhaul- falling into a black hole of laziness & the rest of 2016

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The past year has been a whirlwind. It’s felt like the quickest year of my life so far, which is partly down to lots of change and scarily, probably just an indication of how life will be from now on. I realise that it’s not over yet either, so there’s room for more to happen, which is good because I can’t decide if it’s been a successful year for my health. I wanted 2016 to be a fitness overhaul, a year where I did everything in my power to turn my bad health around, but also to just feel better.

On top of alleviating symptoms of hypermobility and EDS, I wanted to stop feeling sluggish and tired, improve my posture, get stronger, feel fitter, change my eating habits and improve what I drink on a daily basis. I don’t mean alcohol by the way- I’m not at my desk sipping gin and juice daily, I’m talking cutting back on caffeine, drinking less Diet Coke etc.

I feel like I have made a lot of progress on the fitness front, some on the food and drinks front, but not as much as I want on sleep and I’ve gone backwards on posture. I feel very much in need of a massage 99% of the time at the moment.

It’s really hard to actually take out time to deal with health when life is already so busy. Work takes up most of my time, which is hardly uncommon, and at the weekends I often find myself backed up with plans (and an overflowing washing basket) and generally bad at time management, meaning I still don’t get round to working out what appointments I need and so on. 

But having conditions to manage is just half of it. Even if I didn’t have EDS I still think I’d have the same internal battle over finding the will to to do what I so badly want with my fitness. I’m a soft touch. 

I also know how to talk myself out of doing pretty much anything. There are times when I am trying to talk myself out of running while I am already out running. I get past the hurdle of actually getting out there and I still try and stop. I’m already 1k down yet in my head I’m like “okay if you just run for another five minutes it’s okay to stop and go home because look at that cloud.” I should probably add ‘stop demotivating yourself ALL THE TIME’ to my list of things to work on.

My actual fitness levels have peaked this year thanks to having my first 10k to train for this summer, a new gym with really good classes and motivation from people around me. I have had a couple of setbacks though, and it’s been so hard to come back from them. It’s like getting out of bed when it’s freezing outside and pouring down and the duvet is the most comfortable, warmest thing you’ve ever touched. You know you need to just do it and stop hitting snooze, but it’s bloody hard. Comfortable is good. Comfortable is preferable. But comfortable seems to quickly become lying in bed fully dressed with a packet of biscuits every day after work.

I finally started exercising again and went for a few runs after a hip injury made me unable for a month, but it took so long to get to the point where I even put my running clothes on. I just stared at them in their drawer and tried to ignore them for a couple of weeks, like someone else owned them. I basically death stared them, because how dare you remind me of how much I’m failing at my 2016 fitness goal, blue lycra leggings. Getting dressed really can be half the battle. When I don’t win the battle, and the laziness wins, all the bad habits, like eating bad, getting the lift instead of the stairs, staying up late and guzzling sugary, overpriced coffee all creep back in.

I feel more like I want to eat better when I’m active. I feel more like I want to get an early night when I’m active. I feel more like I want to stretch and do my physio exercises and guzzle water and eat broccoli when I’m active. I just feel more like a successful human when I’m active, which is hard when health problems mean you just can’t be that person some days, but it is what it is. On the whole, I know what’s better for me, I just need to be better at keeping those things up.

When I stop exercising, or my health stops me exercising, I fall into some kind of black hole where I struggle to do anything that’s good for me. It spirals and it usually takes a moment of sudden extreme frustration at myself to get back out there, which results in an aggressive run where I realise how lazy I’ve been and how good it feels to be moving again, and the good habits all resurface.

This is pretty much the story of my whole adult life when it comes to health and fitness. The battle this year has really been spending more time out of the black hole than in it, because that’s always where I lose. I think I’ve managed that. I think out of the ten and a half months so far, I’ve been on the outside, feeling smug in my trainers and eating courgetti or something else equally annoying. For the rest of 2016, I need stay out of the black hole. I need to not let blue lycra leggings taunt me.

 

5 times the internet has been good lately #6

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If you need stuff to read on the train, can’t sleep, or want a good excuse to lay in bed longer, these links have got you covered. I usually dislike it when you get told to ‘grab a cuppa’ before reading something, because seriously, I would grabbing cuppas all day long if I listened to that instruction every time it came up on Twitter, but something nice and warm would go well with the Autumn photos link. Just saying.

The untold story of Roald Dhal’s Marvellous Medicine- BMJ Blogs

As a life-long Roald Dhal fan, I loved reading this. The story of a doctor who cared for the author at the end of his life has blogged about their late night chats and how Dhal got involved with medicine in real life not just in writing.

My Parisian bucket list- Sophie Cliff

This has so many good tips in the comments and I’ve been thinking lately about giving Paris another try. I went a couple of years ago and I don’t feel like I got the best out of it. I also desperately want to go to Disneyland. Sophie’s travel posts are always high on my reading list.

What’s it like to be a woman in 2016?- Daisy Buchanon 

In honour of Woman’s Hour celebrating it’s 70th birthday, one of my fave writers (who I had a chat with over Twitter about X Factor on Sunday, gotta love the internet) wrote about life with a vagina in 2016 and it’s well worth a read.

48 photos of autumn around the world- Gizmodo

So this isn’t a new article, I just found it when I was reading some other stuff about ‘autumn tourism’ which is exactly what it sounds like, and stumbled upon this. I want to do lots of autumn tourism. Right now.

National Curry Week: Punjabi Kadhi- Standard Issue

I can’t make it through National Curry week without eating curry, and this is top of my recipe list. I’ve never heard of this before and I am always up for new curry, or anything covered in coriander and chopped green chillis.

 

 

The first time buyer journey- viewing houses: questions, estate agents and staying calm

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Just FYI, I’m putting photos of houses I would love to own but never will in these posts, because we have to dream don’t we? 

So- viewing houses. It struck me really quickly how little we knew about property, house buying and estate agents the moment we walked into the first flat we viewed. We’ve been to about eight now and dealt with 20 or so estate agents, and my confidence and knowledge feels like it’s grown tenfold because it’s had to.

I’m starting to feel more like my inner Kirsty and Phil is blossoming  more and more every day. That being said though, take in as much help as you possibly can and research EVERYTHING. 

You can also read my ramblings on lifestyle changes that helped while saving a deposit and about the general experience of deciding to buy.

We researched and wrote down loads of questions to ask the estate agents and owners and of course spoke to friends and family, but I feel like I could have used a quick masterclass to tell me what to expect from estate agents, how to maximise time and what to do under pressure. So this is essentially my attempt at making a masterclass in a blog post in the hope it’ll be helpful to other first time buyers with viewings. Buckle up, this is quite a long one.

Booking viewings and open houses

I thought getting booked in would be the easy bit, but we’ve come across all sorts of issues that have meant we haven’t made it to places we like the look of, or there’s been a catch that you don’t expect. We realised early on we needed to be on the property search websites every single day, as early as possible- like 7am early. We’re in the south so the market is very fast and full on. 

It’s also worth looking on the actual estate agents website as well as the big sites like Right Move. Also like their Facebook pages. Sometimes they leave a property up on Facebook for a few hours before it gets a listing on a property site.

When you see something you like, don’t dally. Make the call and ask if they can do a time convenient for you- you may as well ask. If they can’t, just ask for the first possible slot and take it, especially if you’re really keen. We lost out on somewhere I was so excited to see because we booked a viewing a week away, and someone else got in, made an offer and got accepted. Things are fast and competitive- more so than I ever imagined.

We’ve also learnt that if you’re making a day of it, it is worth filling any gaps with any other stuff in the area that you wouldn’t normally consider seeing. I did this on Saturday and out of the whole day, the only place I’m following up on was one we booked to kill some time.

Also, keep a diary- things get hectic. Not all agents will send you any kind of confirmation, so you need to keep track of your bookings. Agents will also offer to book you in to other properties that fit your bill, and if they don’t, ask them to. They might have something else they can show you on the same day and save you some time.

When it comes to an open house, be prepared to see loads of people crammed in. Listen to their questions, watch what they’re doing- you might gain some extra knowledge. 

What do you need to ask estate agents when you’re in the property?

We used the Home Owners Alliance website to get together a list of general questions. Most are fairly obvious and include the condition of the boiler, roof, windows, age of the house, structural issues etc. 

We’re lucky that we have a property contractor in the family who pointed out things we would never imagine asking or even consider. A few extra questions worth adding:

  • Can you see a guarantee for the boiler and all the certificates that come with it?
  • Is there a loft/basement? Is the loft boarded and can you look in it?
  • How recently has the house been painted? (Why so recent if not just to spruce it up?)
  • Do night buses/train lines run near the house and how loud are they if so?
  • Is there a sewage plant near? What direction does the wind carry the smell?
  • How old is the guttering?
  • What’s the drainage like in the surrounding area? 
  • Have neighbours had extensions? (Scopes out if you likely to get permission to build on)
  • Is there a specific month the sellers are aiming to move?

I’ve also felt quite rushed by agents who aren’t keen to spend more than seven or eight minutes (literally, that fast) in a house, but just stand your ground. If you might be handing over tens of thousands in a deposit for a place, you want to know as much about it as possible. If an agent can’t answer your questions, say you want to speak to the owner, or give them a list of stuff to find out. We had a really helpful agent recently who went away and got answers to a whole load of questions we put to her within two hours. 

Also, be brave and just outright ask if there have been offers. I felt too intimidated by the whole thing to do that at first, but if it’s not sealed bids, you can ask and you should get an answer. Also ask how many other people have viewed and if there are other viewings booked and also if you can arrange a second viewing.

Questions you can expect from estate agents

I spent so long fretting over what I should ask agents and owners that it never much occurred to me that they would ask us for stuff too. I’ve found during my extensive questioning of colleagues and family members that these vary hugely. Some agents will ask, some won’t- but we didn’t expect some of the questions we’ve had, which caused unneccsary stress and aggressive emailing.

  • Some agents will ask for your final offer and highest price by a set time. No negotiating, no extra 24 hours to deliberate- if the interest is high so are the stakes.
  • You might be asked to send estate agents your mortgage in principle, your bank statements to prove you have a deposit, and a bank statement with a signature of anyone who’s giving you money towards the sale- I was taken back by this, but when I spoke to a broker I was assured it’s normal and we should expect agents to ask. I’ve been told this more a London thing.
  • When do you want to move by? You might just feel like this is obivous- as soon as possible, duh. BUT- it can apparently be helpful to name a month and find out if the seller can work with you to achieve it. If you got with what they need they’ll be keen to seal the deal, so we’ve been told.
  • You can also expect follow-up calls, Sundays included, to ask if you want to bid on Monday, how much you were thinking and if you want to remain on the ‘interest list.’

Stuff to remember among the madness

I keep reminding myself that this is not anyone else’s money or home, it’s going to be mine and Dan’s, so we need to choose wisely. Pressure might be put on you from all angles- the seller pressures the agent, the agent pressures you, other buyers are chomping at the bit and will outbid you- just keep cool.

I’ve also been told by about a hundred people who I’ve pestered into giving me insight and tips that when you find the home for you, you’ll just know. It sounds cliched but I think it’s right. I’ve been to places these past few weeks which have felt okay, I could probably live in them, I could probably make it a home, but if you aren’t in a giant rush, it’s worth waiting right? Patience is your best friend in the process I think, so I hope I have lots of it to get me through. I’m expecting things to take a long time, so anything that feels quick will be a pleasant surprise.

Oh and don’t forget to enjoy it. Easy for me to say a few weeks in (you can probs tune in for some crying and stress meltdowns before Christmas) but it is exciting. It’s also so far quite exhausting, it takes over, there’s so much to learn and so much to consider, but you’re choosing your first home, so y’know- YAY. WELL DONE YOU.

If this interests you- come back for me banging on about area scouting, bidding and poker faces. 

10 Halloween events and parties in London this year 

  
It’s October. The mornings have been cold. There has been frost. Sometimes at night you can see your breath. People are losing their minds over pumpkin spice lattes. Halloween is coming.

I used to hate Halloween. I never understood the point in it and I certainly wasn’t interested in celebrating it. Then of course, university happened and it turned into another excuse for house parties and a good reason to wear a crocodile onesie and put flour in my hair. Then I carved my first pumpkin (no YOU are late to all parties) three years ago and now I’m fully on board.

I’ve been to some really good Halloween events in London over the past few years, and the outlook is good for 2016. Now that Facebook events are used as mass, clickbait invitations it’s much easier to find out what’s on. You can just sort of stare at your phone screen and events will come to you.

I’ve already picked what I’m doing with my All Hallows’ Eve weekend and it will be glittery and sound like the mid-90s. If you’re undecided and you’re LDN based are bound, these are the most fun looking soires my research had turned up:

1) That’s so 90s- The Craft night – The Big Chill House Bar- Kings Cross

This is where I’m spending Halloween. The promise of a night of 90s music and an excuse to wear something Posh Spice would have been enthusiastic about in 1996 is too much to resist. It’s also a celebration of the film The Craft, which is now 20 whole years old.

2) Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens Fire Festival 

If you don’t fancy a full on Halloween night out you can go to this for free and see pyrotechnics and dancing among other stuff, all performed in front of a massive bonfire.

3) Stranger Things Party- Hoxton Square Bar 

If you’ve watched Stranger Things then you’ve had a successful 2016, congratulations. I love Hoxton Sq Bar and Kitchen, so I trust this will be a good party. Also there’s so much good fancy dress and 80s clothes to be worn for this.

4) The Grand Halloween Ball, The Clapham Grand

This is mostly in this list because I lived really near here for quite a while and had some really fun nights there and I’m not ready to let go. They  actually do events really well, so expect good decor and cobwebs and face paint.

5) Seven Deadly Sins- The Coronet 

This is one of the more expensive nights on this list with tickets currently at £20, but the Coronet do events on a big scale. This will be more than just a night out in a club. There’s over 100 performers lined up and the place is big enough to roam around and not get bored, but small enough that you won’t lose everyone you know within five minutes.

6) Deadly Disney Halloween Pub Crawl 

Shoreditch, of course. There is something that seems quite fun about dressing up as a dead, ghostly version of a Disney character. I’d probably do this for the fancy dress alone.

7) Halloween Bottomless Brunch- Bounce 

If you want to be tucked up on the sofa by 5pm then this is for you. Bounce do a really good bottomless brunch event every Sunday and there’s a Halloween special this year. Your ticket includes bottomless prosecco, endless pizza and a live DJ.

8) Isle of Fright- Ravens Ait 

Ravens Ait is a little island in the Thames, by Kingston- you can get there on the train from Waterloo in an hour. I went to uni in Kingston and once went here after a night out on a pedalo, obviously. It’s really pretty and is definitely something different- like spending the night at a place that could be a wedding venue, on a river. It starts early and ends by midnight, so a good balance of night out/home by 1am. They’re doing hot food, DJs, boats and fancy dress.

9) The Walking Dead Special- Shaka Zulu 

This is Camden’s most elaborate restaurant/bar/club. My sister once saw Stephen Hawking having dinner here, so there’s that. It’s really amazing inside, so even if you don’t make it for Halloween I recommend it anyway. It looks like a grand African museum and there’s often dancers with peacock tails roaming around. Or Lion themed conga lines. Anyway, for Halloween, they’re turning the place into a scene from The Walking Dead, which sounds amazing. If you don’t have some kind of fancy dress (it says even a pair of fangs on their website) then you can’t go in. So plan ahead.

10) Halloween special at The Roof Gardens

The photos from the Halloween night they did last year look amazing. This is a really nice venue, so if you want something a bit different and more chilled out than a club, I think this will be a good bet. It’s in Kensington, so plenty of places to go for a nice pre-fright night meal too.

London- sacrificing the simple life

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I never really imaged I’d work anywhere but London when I was growing up, or when uni was coming to an end and I needed to think about jobs and being able to afford more than one pint of milk at a time. I grew up on the London/Surrey border, never more than half hour from Big Ben and all his attraction mates, so it felt like it was bound to become my working home- which it did and it still is.

It’s been about five years now since I went out and bought sensible shoes and a collection of black cardigans that have been periodically lost and replaced every few months since 2012. That time feels so fast that it could have been last week, but at the same time it seems long enough to make me feel like I’m getting on a bit. Time is weird.

When it comes to living in London, everyone knows you need some serious dollar tucked away to set up house in a nice family home you can grow into in any of the ‘nice’ bits, but that’s just how it is. I’ve happily grown up on the sidelines, happily lived in zone two, and am now preparing to move out into the ‘Greater London’ commuting belt. Hoping this will also be happy, fingers and toes crossed.

I love London, really I do, but it’s tested my patience plenty of times these past five years, being part of the daily grind and the rush of folk off to work, off to lunch, off to buy street food. I’ve gotten angry, distressed, poor, confused, sad, weepy, exhausted and grimy (thank you underground dust), but also it’s been a bloody blast. I couldn’t think of a better place to call home or to go to work in every day and that’s probably because I’ve become so used to the place that I just let it wash over me. I guess that’s a kind of coping mechanism, but after all this time it’s become more of a personality trait. You have to accept that life in a city like this is never going to be easy and it certainly won’t always be simple, but once you’ve taken that in you just adjust. You kind of mould yourself to fit in with all the complexities (and to fit on the tube in rush hour) and London-proof yourself.

On the plus side though, the city has made me ambitious, made me money, given me options, hosted many memorable weekends, made Friday nights gin-soaked and brilliant and it oozes culture and history, which I love.

It frustrates me to the moon and back that the housing situation is screwed, that I’ll never be able to live in an area of London that I love, or that it’s pricing people out left right and centre, but there’s good and bad side to every story, and it sometimes take a little effort to find the good.

I understand how a person could feel like the bad overpowers the good at times when it comes to London, but it’s all about balance. If you can get the balance right, it’s an incredible place to be, but it’s most certainly not for everyone and I get the make or break thing- it really happens. I know people who’ve been broken. They’ve come here with a picture of what life will be like and then the harsh realisation sets in that they don’t have the resource, can’t keep up with the competition or can’t bare the crowds and pace and have promptly left again for a happier, simpler life elsewhere. Different strokes for different folks. I also know others who have moved here from all over and never want to leave. Whatever London is, it has it’s positives and negatives, like everything and everywhere.

I also find that very small things determine how my day will go here. For the most part it’s the transport. Commuting from one part of London to the other feels like it should be easier than it is.

My first commute into the big city was a long one, going into East London every day and getting down with the moustaches and flat whites of Old Street, but it was also on the sturdy and mostly reliable northern line, stoic and bloody long. Over-crowded by Balham, mostly empty by Colindale, it’s had my back for many years and I have few complaints about the service. When I moved to Fulham with some friends to lessen my commute (read: have two new nail varnish collections to raid and pub partners to come home to) I was instantly horrified. If you’ve ever had to rely on the District Line going from the south into the city, you’ll know my pain. A terrible commuting time all round, but it was what it was. I read Game of Thrones, got good at sudoku and observed many rows about how much space there was to move down.

The transport is just another one of those things that you have to factor in to the balance. I find that all the negatives get outweighed by the pace that new stuff pops up to go alongside the classic London experiences. There’s such a wealth of stuff to do and see and eat and you can say that about every city I’m sure, but it’s what I love about London.

It isn’t an easy life, it isn’t simple and it takes some sacrifice but I wouldn’t want to call any other city my home.