Brace Yourselves: Winter is Coming – A London Blog (#1)

I’m long overdue for another blog post, and I’m changing things up a bit. No longer can I claim the title of “Travel Blog” for these London updates: Now that I live here, I will instead note these as London Blogs.

So what has been happening since my last update, nearly two months ago?

First things first: I have a job, and a place to live. Both were exciting prospects for someone who had no where to live and no source of income, but that was a month ago now, and both have taken up the vast majority of my time.

So the job: I’m working for a big corporate out in Redhill, Surrey (The name of the company shall remain anonymous) as an IT Administrator. The team here are excellent, and have been very welcoming. I’ve been hired alongside a bunch of others as the company experiences a growth period, and that means a lot of work to get things into a state where they are manageable. I think it is best to describe the workload as “drinking from a firehose”, but I enjoy a challenge, so this doesn’t phase me.

I’ve also found a flat – in Norwood Junction, about 30 minutes from work – in a newly renovated house. Moving in has had its share of challenges; starting from scratch, having to buy new utensils for the kitchen, linen for the bedroom and bathroom etc. has not been the easiest financially. Work to the house is also still ongoing, meaning that builders have been in and out getting stuff sorted (and making a mess of the place) and some minor issues have had to be sorted (our water had to turned off for 24 hours on Friday, after a leak in one of the pipes was discovered.) However, I cannot complain – I have at least one other flatmate, who is really easy to get along with and loves to chat, and the house itself is warm, comfortable and safe. As far as first flats go in London, I could have done ALOT worse.

I’ve had a lot of cool opportunities during my limited time here thus far.

The Rugby World Cup has been on, and the All Blacks, my home team, won it for only a third time, and were the first team to defend the cup. As the tournament came to a close, all anyone was talking about in London was Rugby, and as a fan, it has been cool to be part of those conversations.

I’ve also managed to reconnect with a few friends – and make some new ones – and a few of us attended a Halloween Boat party a couple of weekends ago. Travelling on a boat down the Thames is an excellent way to see the city, and in amongst copious amounts of booze, I did manage to see some really cool places.

London Bridge
London Bridge

I’ve also managed to get around a few bars, cafes and pubs. Eating out here is much the same as New Zealand, but as with all London experiences, there are a few differences.

Alot of places here do not take electronic cards at all. That is to say, that cashflow/eftpos/debit cards are not accepted at a variety of places. Why is this? I’m not sure myself, but I’m guessing it may have something to do with the transaction fees associated with running an electronic payment terminal. In any case, this means that London’s hospitality industry is, for all intents and purposes, a cash economy.

The cash economy will rear its head again if you have a sit-down, restaurant style meal, because tipping – something common in the US – is alive and well here in London. I must note though, that this is very dependent on the type of meal you have. Pub? Maybe, but probably not. Café? Sometimes, but depends if you are paying for your meal at the counter, or being waited on. Restaurants? Tipping is almost always requested. The rule of thumb here should be that if you have a waiter/waitress, you are going to have to tip, and so cash is preferable. You’ll understand that I was obviously a little surprised that tipping was common here, in the UK, where anything “American” is considered brash and uncouth. And yet the brits choose to tip – how bizarre.

I’ve been lucky to come from a place where some of the best barista coffee in the world is made.

I’d even go as far as to use the word “privilege” because the shear variety and quality of cafes that serve excellent coffee is immense in New Zealand – we really are privileged. Coming to London, I had no expectations about the quality of the java here, and that was probably just as well.

The coffee here in London can be summed up in one word: Average. Most people choose to go to a chain store (The two most common are Costa and Café Nero, with Starbucks trailing that), and whilst they use something resembling an espresso coffee machine, its not a truly bespoke, barista coffee. Instead, the coffee is ground, a button is pressed, and the machine does the rest. The quality of the coffee varies from okay, to absolutely horrendous. That’s despite it being quality controlled via a machine. It doesn’t help that a number of these places only deal out a single shot, rather than the stronger approach of a double shot in NZ.

What about independent houses and cafes? The story is, I’m afraid, even worse. Most places give it lash, with some coming up trumps (I had an excellent Mocha Latte at a French run café) and others providing milky horribleness (One place in Forrest Hill effectively gave me a warm milk, instead of flat white).

There are some great places to have a coffee I’m sure, but in a city of 8 million, you think they would be more plentiful.

If you a coffee aficionado, make sure you have an app like Zomato or Yelp to help you find a decent cup of joe, but even then, some Londoners can’t be trusted!

A couple of anecdotes to finish.

  • London Water is lime-y and horrible. Bottled water is life here.
  • It’s getting colder every week. There was talk of snow earlier in the month, but it never eventuated. Don’t think we will see temperatures that cold prior to Christmas, but there you go.
  • If using a 7-day rail pass, you have to have a special photo ID. It’s a paper ticket. Seems a bit overzealous.
  • The foxes are everywhere. Yes, as in the furry little bastards with four legs that look like a cross between a wolf and a domestic dog. They just cruise through the streets and backyards at night. And they make a hell of a racket.

That’s all for now. See you next time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s