Today has been one of those days that make me pity the fools who don’t live in London, AKA The Centre of the Universe (TCotU). Sunny, warm, relaxed and lovely, and yet still busy like a hive of busy little Londoner bees.
A friend of mine (who lives in Australia and hates TCotU) once said that the place at the heart of your first Big City Experiene (BCE) must always be the one you love the most. For him it’s New York. For me it will always be London.
Since moving to the UK about a year and a half ago, I’ve had two very different living experiences.
The first was in Fulham. Fulham High Street, to be precise.
In May 2007 I was fresh off the boat from Australia… you remember Australia of course, it’s that place at the bottom of the world where you used to dump all your criminals. My dear friend LC Hammer was living near Fulham Broadway in a semi-detached Victorian conversion (now that I write about property for a living, I bother to use phrases like these. When I first got here, it was just a pretty house on a pretty street). Like most young Aussie professionals, she was living in a sharehouse with two fellow Aussie professionals (let’s call them AusProfs, because it’s quicker and it allows me to embrace my inner wanker), and was part of a thriving community of south-west London AusProf friends.
Like many of those who came before me, I had the good fortune of a connection like LC that meant I could slot straight into a ready-made community. Before I knew it – and before I’d even shaken off my travel-induced daze – I had moved into a flat, P-Vizzle Court, with a couple of her friends, Carrie Powerhouse and GI Jono, and a friend of theirs, Kibble Mahoney.
Ah, the times that were had at P-Vizzle. The ‘family’ dinners almost every weeknight. The movie nights. The Get Pissed Wednesdays. The glasses we broke in the bathtub (that was just me really). The Sunday night scampi. The trips to the circus. The many, many stray Australian visitors that Kibble would bring home to sleep on our living room floor.
The thing about the Aussie sharehouse, though, is that the experience is transient by nature. One by one, Aussies left and were replaced. Eventually Powerhouse went home to Brisbane, and was replaced by Kibble’s friend Jellabean, who proved to be another excellent addition to the P-Vizzle set. Then Kibble himself moved home, and was replaced by ScottyDon’t, who proved to be a wanker.
Eventually P-Viz disbanded, and my next London living experience – my current London living experience – began. In Primrose Hill. Primrose Hill Road, to be precise.
Here life is different. Instead of living in a two-bedroom flat with three other Aussies (this was the reality of life at P-Viz – extremely fun, but not very practical), I live in a two-bedroom flat with one English girl, Vicky Ghetto, who owns the place.
Vicky Ghetto is unlike the P-Viz inmates, but equally awesome. She is very funny, in an English way, and has an equally funny but even Englisher boyfriend. Vicky was the first Jewish person I’d ever met in real life, which I’m sure she finds amusing in a quaint, oh-you-silly-Australian way, but which for me was super exciting. I know this makes it sound like my parents were Grand Dragons in the KKK or something, but actually my hometown is just embarrassingly monocultural. Being a pasty brunette throughout my school years qualified me for the status of Strange and Exotic. The reproductive norm on the Sunshine Coast is for each family to create a small army of tanned blondes, who marry other tanned blondes and make lots of little tanned blondes of their own. If you want diversity, you go to Melbourne.
As I was saying – living with Ghetto is completely different to living at P-Vizzle – but I’ve totally lucked out, because both experiences have been perfect in their timing. A year ago, I didn’t know anyone in London, didn’t know anything about London or about living in London, and having a bunch of Aussies around me who were experiencing the exact same cultural shift was absolutely crucial to my survival in those first six to eight months. If I were in that same sort of situation now with different people, though, it would kill me.
Gosh, I can’t remember what my original point was. Oh right… it was actually going to be a comparison of south-west to north-west London. Hmm, I’m way off.
I guess when I was living in Fulham I just couldn’t have imagined living anywhere else. We had everything right outside our building – good transport links, good shopping, a cinema five minutes away, fabulous restaurants, our own gorgeous local pub – The Temperance (which is on Fulham High Street, on the right side just before Putney Bridge, and is awesome and I highly recommend it), the best fish and chip place in the city right across from us (Fishers – holy cow, try the scampi), the Thames about a two-minute walk away, a beautiful park, a beautiful church, hilarious Pakistani guys in the convenience store downstairs who knew our names, and of course all our Aussie friends living nearby.
But then I moved to NW3. Ahh, the north-west. The best view and nicest picnic spot in London, Primrose Hill, is a five-minute walk from my flat. England’s Lane at the end of my road is the perfect London street – it has a Starbucks, a little Tesco, a florist, a butcher, a drycleaner, a brilliant pub called The Washington, a newsagent, a cute gift shop, an Indian restaurant, a couple of cafes. Supposedly the place is crawling with celebrities, although I’m not very good at noticing them, and frankly I’m still waiting on that welcome-to-the-neighbourhood casserole from Gwyneth and Chris. It’s leafy and peaceful here, but not too quiet. I feel closer to central London, especially since I don’t have to get on the dodgy District Line to get there. The frights and delights of Camden are ten minutes away. Oh, and my friend LC Hammer also remains my neighbour LC Hammer, holing up in NW1.
All in all, north-west is definitely best.