frae Auld Reekie to the Big Smoke


It’s three years this month since I moved down here to London. I’ve failed to mark this anniversary on here for the last two years, so this seems more significant than it could. Although it is interesting (to me, anyway) to note that I’ve spent the majority of my working life here.

Moving down here was a pretty short notice thing, I think I had two and a half weeks from accepting my new job to getting on the train south. Mostly that was my own choice, I was bored of my previous job and even more bored of Edinburgh, having by then spent 22 and a bit years growing up, getting educated, going mad, finding employment, dropping out and moving home and back again a few times. In all that time I’d never spent more than a fortnight or so away from home. So it was a big wrench on my life and even sense of self to move.

Many things struck me immediately upon my arrival. First I missed the hills, then I missed the beer, the cycling, the people, the atmosphere, the ability to walk or cycle out of town in an hour or two, essentially every single good thing that occurred to me. I’d brought my music and DVDs and computer with me along with enough clothes for about a week, I had to buy some cheap speakers about a week after my arrival to hear my music without the use of headphones. Washing clothes was a critical operation at that point, I’d have brought more but I had no funds to move with so I simply packed all I could into a large rucksack and a holdall. I had four books with me, that was rather annoying and meant I read any book I could get free at work for the first few months. Life was spent washing, working (9 hours or so), commuting home and to work (3 hours or so) sleeping and eating. On a good weekday I was lucky enough to catch the news before I fell asleep in front of the telly. It was a rude awakening having been used to a five minute cycle or ten minute jog or twenty minute walk to work. Whatever spare time I had was spent trying to find somewhere good to live, whilst marvelling at the fact that it appeared to be summer.

I stared at maps long and hard before concluding that the only way I could stay sane and keep working would be to cut my commute to half an hour or less. Eventually, nearly three months after arriving and on my 13th attempt I found a place in Hammersmith. Somewhere I have the journal which records in excited scrawl that it had the best bike parking space of anywhere I’ve seen which seemed important as I’d also realised I needed to get my bike down from up north as well. Over time I found that going home semi-regularly was essential, as it was a good chance to remind myself why I’d moved south but also to move more belongings. I still remember with great joy the point about seven months after moving down that I finally got the chance to bring down my speakers having finally saved enough money to buy an amplifier to use them with.

I’ve managed to stay in the same place here in Hammersmith ever since and both it and London have had a fair effect on me. I’ve picked up some terrible London habits like going to exhibitions on their last day, getting very good at ignoring people on public transport and taking the place for granted. On the other hand I’ve been to half a dozen or more Proms, dozens of concerts, seen some amazing art, seen a giant walking mechanical elephant, been knocked off my bike, eaten in many nice places, seen some amazingly awful films at SciFi London (and even more good ones, seen outstanding theatre at the Lyric Hammersmith (bottom of my road), discovered many great farmers markets and butchers (and been to Borough Market a few times), walked back through and from South and East London late a night without being killed, experienced a few terrorist incidents and one artistic bombing of my street, taken up gardening, started a compost heap, expanded my baking abilities, discovered previously hidden talents for buying clothes, seen many friends move here (and some leave), made new friends, got closer to my relatives (who other than my immediate family live around here), seen tube trains fly through the air, seen an engineering train on the tube and filled my house with books.

Which makes it all worthwhile. I still miss my old home, but I’d also miss here just as much if I left.

5 thoughts on “frae Auld Reekie to the Big Smoke

  1. Tom

    What this tells you is that you come from somewhere good. I have absolutely no desire to go back to Colchester. Or even Oxford.

    Occasionally, i pine for the estuaries, but i can get my fix anywhere there’s coastline, not just at home.

    — tom

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