Notes From My Second Week In London (Pt. II)



The next morning we were lying in bed and I asked Mark if he remembered me telling him that I’d found out the beagle’s name the night before. He said “No” and I tried to make him guess it.
        “Spice,” he said, and then: “Hypie.”


The next morning we sat in front of our bedroom door quietly murmuring the word “Pearl” to peak Pearl’s interest. Pearl ran upstairs. She was crying tears of black gunk. “Why are you crying this… disgusting shit?” I asked her and then apologized for calling her disgusting by burying my head into her velvet neck. It’s a couple days later and I just saw her a few minutes ago. The streaks of black tears were still stained on her fur because her good-for-nothing owner doesn’t take any pride in her dog not having its face stained with gothic-looking bodily fluids. Pearl’s owner is my enemy. My first London enemy.
        I got dressed and ready and commuted to Stoke-Newington. I felt like hot shit because I had a job interview and trial shift at cool-seeming restaurants. I wasn’t going to Stokie for any reason that related to my trial shifts; sorry I just called it Stokie; it wouldn’t have flowed naturally from me if I’d said it out loud. I was going back to our airbnb to drop off a cream knit iPhone case belonging to our host that Mark had accidentally packed into my suitcase. It was not really the most thrilling escapade of my life. While I was there I packed all of our food we’d forgotten to into a plastic grocery bag and left swinging it back and forth listening to Shakey Dog on headphones and feeling like the first guy someone ever looked at and thought “What a very important person!” about. For no real reason (except that other peoples' lives are interesting), here is a list of the contents of the bag:

-bottle of cheap white wine (mine)
-bag of mixed nuts (mine)
-asparagus (Mark’s)
-brioche (Mark’s)
-shaker of turmeric (Mark’s)
-bag of Lavazza espresso (both of ours)
-coconut oil (both of ours, but mostly Mark’s)

I took the tube to Sloane Square, where I had a job interview. I bailed on the job interview. I hadn’t realized how posh Sloane Square is, as it wasn’t directly called out in the lyric to A Well-Respected Man or Play With Fire, in combination my field guide to Londony poshness. The lady on the phone had mentioned that the place was quite “elite,” but I assumed she was lying. She mentioned that Hugh Grant was a regular. I assumed that Hugh Grant is chill and liked to chill at chill places.
        But he isn’t, doesn’t; not this time at least. The vibe of the neighbourhood made me want the neighbourhood to not exist. I took out my notebook and, using my knee propped up on a low gate as a desk, wrote Nothing about walking past a Bottega Veneta store DOES IT FOR ME. I looked up from my scrawling and noticed that the doorman standing outside of the Bottega Veneta store had been watching me. He looked indifferent. I wanted to tell him, “This is the best thing you will ever see in your life,” but of course didn’t, because I am sane.
        I walked past the restaurant, snooping, peeking. It didn’t look like a place I would even want to walk past let alone drink at let alone eat at let alone work at let alone general manage. Most of the diners were posh older women with dyed-blond bobs wearing floral-print or -hued shift dresses and jewelry more expensive than everything my whole family owns combined. And my family is decently well-off! But these were real rich people, like the Archibalds and van der Woodsens. The servers, still called waiters here, wore mint green ties and white collared shirts and floor-length aprons and waistcoats. “The kind of restaurant I want to work at exists in direct opposition to this place,” I told Mark, and then remembered a pact I’d made with myself after quitting Starbucks three years ago: “I will never work at a place that has a uniform again.” Never, again, and I’m a Clash fan: them’s fighting words. So that settled it. Mark and I sat down on a little bench right in the middle of Sloane Square and I phoned up the restaurant, which was only maybe fifty feet away from where we sat but I’m cowardly and, in such circumstances, who wouldn’t be?
        I asked to speak to the manager and then said “Wait, no, actually- it’s fine,” and I told whoever answered that my name was Laura and I wouldn’t be able to attend my test shift. I lied and said I’d found employment elsewhere.


SILVER OTTER SOPHIE, or, Notes From My Second Week In London (Pt. I)


Hi! Welcome to the second-to-last instalment of Moving to London journals. After my second week in London I made the probably rational decision to stop obsessively documenting every movement I made in writing and also got a job, which is really boring to write about compared to not having a job. The picture seen above is my amazing photographer of a boyfriend Mark Rothen


I walked to the Overground under an early evening sky greying attractively like a hot person in his or her mid-forties. Around the temples.
        It was cool out. I was on my way to go work a trial shift at a restaurant in Brixton. I hate the ugly words “trial shift” and wish that I didn’t have to use them in a thing I’m writing but the only alternative is “test shift,” which is slightly uglier. The houses were looking, as usual, nice, and I had a revelatory Oh my god I’m not on holiday I live here I don’t have to leave here moment, “And that was the moment it hit me,” someone who cared less about not writing down sentences that other people have already written down might say.
        The coolness was like being next to an ocean but I wasn’t next to an ocean. I was in England in the summer on a night. In Toronto the outrageous heat would still be oozing out from between the clouds in spots, trickling water-spills or river, lake shapes, of hot orange and pink. In Toronto in the summer you can look up at the sunset and imagine it’s hot as lava in the sky.

On the train I listened to Guns Of Brixton by the Clash. I’d already been to Brixton once that day. Guns Of Brixton is by Paul Simonon, the bass player, and it goes When they kick at your front door How you gonna come? With your hands on your head Or on the trigger of your gun?
        (The correct answer to that question is “On the trigger of my gun, Paul! The trigger of my gun!”)
        Brixton in 2014 doesn’t look like a place where any cops are going to bang down your front door and break into your house and behave unethically though it doesn’t look gorgeous or anything either. When you get off the tube there’s a budget grocery store called Icleand and an H&M and, to your left, a little street called Electric Avenue. I wonder how long you’d have to work or live in Brixton before you could look at the Electric Avenue street sign without singing I wanna rock down to Electric Avenue in your head. I don’t know. Maybe no human has ever lived that long.
        I walked down Electric Avenue and turned left. I am going to use the real names of some of the people I worked with at the trial shift but I am going to use a fake name for the general manager because there is no his-real-name-related-anecdote that it feels imperative for me to tell you. I have no real desire to protect his or this restaurant’s identity but want to do whatever I can to make sure all the people who work there don’t find this and then read it aloud to each other, mocking my narrative voice.
        I am going to call him Teddy. He was a handsome in a way that made him less appealing than if he were average or even ugly. If he was an actor, and he could have been, he would have been well-cast as one of Chuck Bass’ cronies on an episode of Gossip Girl. He wore a white short-sleeved button-up spotted with royal blue polka-dots made of thread and Carhartt khakis and teal Vans lace-ups. His skin looked like it was made of creamed honey.
        Teddy seemed deeply inconvenienced by his having ears that functioned properly every time my lips parted and vocal cords vibrated or whatever it is vocal cords or a voicebox actually do. If I could describe his general demeanor in one word it would be, so easily and without competition, “humorless.” At my interview he quizzed me on what’s in a Negroni and Manhattan and Old-Fashioned and what is a Sour and what’s my favorite wine and how would I describe it and what wine would I pair with garlic butter prawns and what wine would I pair with salt-and-pepper squid. I told him a dry Riesling for the squid and he raised his eyebrows like I had just said “Me no know!” and squashed my chin into my neck and then made a farting noise with my armpit.
        I said “I don’t know, sorry, it’s just my thing, I really love pairing Rieslings with Asian food” and I regret saying that because a) I think it’s ignorant to say “Asian food” and b) it’s not even really my thing and c) I’m NOT sorry that I think it’s cool to think outside the box wine-wise, and d) I’m NOT sorry I’m confident enough to express my semi-outside of the box wine opinions in a situation where I know I’m meant to just say the right answer. Which was the Vinho Verde.


My First Week In London: Journals, Part II


The photograph of Stoke-Newington in the rain seen above was taken by my amazing boyfriend Mark Rothen; I stole it from his Instagram, which you can and should look at by clicking on his name. Mark is a genius photographer and I am in love with him. We have now lived in London for three weeks and three days. For Part I click HERE

Day 5 (Friday, July 25th, 2014)

I set my iPhone alarm to wake me up with Baby You’re A Rich Man which is pretty motivational I guess. We walked across the street to a little coffee shop called Bodega 50. The barista was a child, a beautiful fat-cheeked pink-cheeked blonde in a white t-shirt and jean shorts and off-white Converse All-Stars. She looked so cool in her Converse All-Stars that while we waited for our iced Americanos I wondered if maybe I should buy some Converse All-Stars even though I don’t really like Converse All-Stars. She shook up our iced Americanos in cocktail shakers and then poured them into paper cups. They were frothy and lukewarm. We ate vegetarian sandwiches prepared for us by her co-worker, a different child. The bread was gummy and yeasty. Mine was avocado and red pepper spread and something they call rocket here, which I think might be arugula.
        It wasn’t enough coffee but it was too much sandwich. It was hot out and we walked through the still yellow heat to go look at a disgusting shithole piece of shit flat. The realtor was short and muscular and had trad-style tattoos of things like anchors and pompadoured Veronica Lodgey ladies kneeling in red bikinis and the suits of all the playing cards inked up his arms. His name was Mike in a way that confused me into thinking every other realtor we met and saw that day was named Mike. He showed us a room and in the corner of the room was a dish crusted-over with baked beans and macaroni noodles. I looked at the dish and zoned out of whatever two-bit hustle he was trying to use on us and thought about the part of The Beatles Anthology where the Beatles go to Rishikesh and Ringo brings a suitcase full of Heinz baked beans with him and then leaves after two weeks.
        Mike led us down to the poorly-maintained backyard garden the room was affiliated with and I looked at all the faraway-feeling Heinzy English trash in the trashcan and thought about how when I was young whenever I felt sad or scared I would ask John Lennon what to do in my head and my head would answer back as John Lennon and I would fully take my head/John Lennon’s word for it. And I thought, the Beatles when they were Beatles were little kids so much younger than I am now and they wouldn’t have known anything about anything when it comes to being a real person shit like what is the appropriate reaction to finding yourself under-caffeinated and full of sandwich in a gnarly shithole a tattooed stranger is asking you to pay two grand a month to live in.


My First Week In London: Journals, Part I


The photograph seen above was taken by my amazing boyfriend Mark Rothen; I stole it from his Instagram, which you can and should look at by clicking on his name. Mark is a genius photographer and I am in love with him. We have lived in London for three weeks now. I feel like I wrote these words a very long time ago, but I only wrote them three weeks ago. 

Day 1 (Monday, July 21st, 2014)

Mark waltzed through customs before I was even a quarter through my line I mean queue. He has a British passport. The British passport has a little microchip built into the page with the picture of your face on it. You wave it in front of a machine and the machine’s like “Yeah, okay, you’re cool,” and then you coolly walk away from it like the calm, breezy British person you are. I was so jealous of him for not having to talk to a person even though my person was fine. He was a cool, breezy Irish guy who looked like the stereotype of what an Irish person would look like. He asked me if I had a Visa and I said Yeah and he said “Well that makes it easy then!” and in my head I was like “Does it?!?!?!” because I had very earnestly assumed that the full one hundred percent of this process would be the worst and most boring and inconvenient hassle I’d ever endured.
        I pressed my fingers against a piece of computery glass and my fingers confirmed that they were a part of me and then the Irish guy said “Have a great adventure!” because I’d told him I was on an adventure five minutes ago. I was groggy. I thought about how people who work at airports talk to groggy people so much more than any other faction of society and they must think people are so silly and cute because of it. They must like people.
        (I doubt most groggy people are silly or cute. Airport employees probably hate us.) I bought us coffees at the Gatwick airport Costa and ordered myself an iced latte because the last time I was at that exact airport-Costa I’d ordered myself an iced Americano and they’d given me an iced latte anyway. But somehow this new iced latte had even more milk in it than the kind of iced latte you’d get in North America AKA a normal iced latte that I don’t know why Great Britain feels it has to fuck with. It was an iced latte hovering atop an extra float of white milk at the bottom. I drank a couple sips while eating a cup of boogery blueberry yogurt and then threw it in the garbage, because it was garbage. I liked the boogery yogurt though.

When we arrived at our airbnb in Stoke-Newington the cab driver insisted on getting out of the cab and physically watching me make sure that we were where we were supposed to be which couldn’t have been as well-intentioned as it was annoying. I rang both the house’s buzzers and a very flabby set of shoulders protruded from the first floor window. The owner of the shoulders had a fat pointy nose poking out from the number one mop-top I’ve ever seen that was most reminiscent of an actual mop. He looked like the cartoon version of Ringo from the Beatles cartoon. He asked me what we were looking for and I strung a bunch of words including multiple instances of the non-word “airbnb” together in a whiny, high-pitched tone that I feel did a huge disservice to all North American accents everywhere. Thanks to me, that Ringoey guy will probably think all North Americans are desperate idiots for the rest of his life.
        The girl who owns our airbnb let us into our airbnb and then I napped the afternoon away. I am writing this two days later but it feels like a thousand years have passed in a way that two days ago has never previously felt like. Obviously it is an exaggeration to say that two days ago feels like it was a thousand years ago because I am a human and can’t perceive a thousand years like that. But when I think about what was going on in my head then versus what is going on in my head now, honestly, I feel like I’ve made eight to fourteen days’ worth of progress. It’s amazing what can happen to the inside of your brain when you rip yourself away from everything you like and know and fly across the ocean in a heavy machine and then wake up in another country. And the sun says it’s the afternoon when your blood and body know it’s actually the morning.
         I have had worse jet lag than Mark which comes as no surprise to anybody since it’s a sleep-related ailment and I can’t even sleep properly through a night in the city I’m from after having lived a non-stressful day with no pressing issues on the horizon. Thinking of the way the jet lag is still a part of me is the only thing that binds me to two days ago being two days ago.