London Is Not For Sissies!

January 1st seems like a good date to start a blog, but my journey to London actually started years ago. Coming from an Anglo Celtic background, my fascination with England began when I was quite young. It remained a vague dream/goal during my teens and early twenties but then…well, life got in the way. School, career, personal matters all conspired to back-burner the thought of living in London. It wasn’t until much later, after going through a number of major life changes (some pleasant, some not so), that the dream was rekindled and turned into a real-life goal.

Reaching that goal has not been easy. In fact, that’s an understatement. There are so many things I’ve learned along the way. First, if I had one piece of advice that I could go back and give my younger self it would be to listen to the stories my parents and grandparents had to tell. As a young person I was astoundingly disinterested in my family history, but when plotting my move to the UK that history became crucial and there was no one left to give it to me. I was able to immigrate to the UK because my father was an Irish citizen, therefore, by virtue of being born his daughter, so was I. It’s an automatic right (not sure if that is so in other countries), requiring no further application, and thus making me a member of the EU which gives me freedom of movement (to live and work) in the UK. All I needed to do was secure an Irish passport. Sounds easy? It was if you don’t count the endless paperwork, the two sets of photos, the pre-Christmas 2011 mad dash to NYC to obtain a copy of my parents’ marriage licence, the hundreds of dollars (not including the travel cost of that NYC trip) and the days, weeks, MONTHS (9 of them to be precise) of waiting for the passport to be processed. I’ll get into all that in my next blog post.

But while my Republic of Ireland citizenship allows me entrée to the UK, it does not make me a British citizen. I can apply for citizenship once I’ve lived here for 5 years, but I feel certain I have more direct family ties that could pave the way and I now need to look into tracing my family tree to try to find them. It’s maddening because I know for a fact that my mother’s father was Scottish, therefore a British citizen, meaning so was she by virtue of her birth. Unfortunately for me, in a moment of ruthless unsentimental downsizing during one of the many moves I’ve made in the last dozen years, I threw away documentation from my grandad’s Scottish military days. I also suspect that my paternal grandfather, who had passed away long before my birth, may also have originally been from Scotland. Had I only listened more and asked more questions, it might have saved me a lot of time and aggro.

So after all that you’d think if I ever did get here, I’d never leave. Well you’d be wrong. This is actually my second try at living in London. The first attempt failed miserably. Part of this is down to me and my inability to accept the perfection of imperfection. Part is due to circumstances beyond my control (such as the nightmare that can be London landlords which I will most definitely rant about in future posts). But mostly it’s due to the fact that nothing…I repeat, NOTHING, prepares you for living in London except…living in London.

London is a big luscious bite of life that can be hard to swallow. The city moves at warp speed. Now that may be the girl who spent the better part of a decade in Toronto talking, but remember, I’m originally a NY girl. The city is teeming with people. The combination of London population combined with a never-ending flow of tourists means that even in a city this large (London is actually bigger than NYC, a fact most New Yorkers find hard to accept but it’s true.), you can often find yourself trapped in the midst of human gridlock. And yes Virginia, the weather really is that bad. Not all the time surely, but a seemingly ceaseless propensity for rain, coupled with the cold and minimal daylight hours in winter, can make London a source for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The combination of weather, culture shock, and dealing with London’s (and the UK’s overall) customs and quirks can be hard to manage. I lasted less than 6-months the first time before I went running back to Canada. But if you stick around on this blog you’ll learn that I’m not the kind of girl who lets life defeat her. After I recharged and reflected, I spent a year plotting and planning to get back here, and on November 25th a stronger…and hopefully wiser…me arrived back in London, and this time I am determined to make it work.

So January 1st, the start of a new year and a new me. My goal for this blog is to bust some myths about life in the UK, to offer some insight and encouragement (and snarky reality checking as needed) to others looking to make the “leap across the pond,” and to regularly remind myself what a privilege it is to have this opportunity to live here. I hope you’ll join me on the adventure. I can’t promise it will be perfect, but I’m pretty sure it will never be dull.

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