It’s one year to the day since we arrived. And everyone I have spoken to has said it feels like SO MUCH LONGER. Because it does. This is because the universe, Gordon Brown and Ben Bernanke have conspired to force me to live through at least three separate lifetimes in the last twelve months.
So let’s see… What have I learnt?
- Wicked is fantastic. Probably one of the most layered musicals ever written. Oz is America’s Narnia and as such it is filled with the same sort of ‘shadow history’ that makes Narnia feel like a carnival mirror reflection of early twentieth century British society. It deals with slavery, segregation, the cult of youth, radicalisation, the freedoms you are willing to die for, etc. Some of the songs are hit and miss but the sum is greater than its parts.
- Bristol is awesome. An adorable, arty, plucky town with a crazy-ass history, some beautiful buildings and one or two excellent local ales. I love Bristol.
- Supermarket scotch is both enjoyable and affordable.
- There is nothing you can do to make being trapped in a country for a year a ‘fun experience’.
- Hand sanitiser is essential in any manbag because the British -in particular Londoners- have absolutely no concept of infection, virality or basic hygience. Who thinks it’s fucking okay to cough uncovered in a packed metal tube 100 feet beneath the earth DURING A FUCKING PANDEMIC a few feet from a pregnant woman?! Almost every single London commuter, that’s who.
- It is false economy to try and save money on your food bill here. Not because food is expensive here… It is comparatively cheap. But it just takes way too long to diligently save pennies at Sainsbury’s or worse and you mostly end up with shit versions of the ingredients you were actually after in the first place. The weekly difference for two fat gays between Waitrose and Sainsbury’s is maybe nine pounds. And Waitrose is what the gods eat in Valhalla. Save the money elsewhere. Life is too short.
- Books are preposterously expensive in New Zealand. I am re-reading a collection of ten minute plays I bought at Borders on Queen St a bit over a year ago. Thirty eight fucking dollars! How did these absurd prices become normal to me? That’s truly insane. The book would be four quid here.
- Where you live can be a hobby. My favourite thing about Londoners (proper ones, not Antipodeans) is that where they reside is also a hobby. They are genuinely interested in strange little London facts, its colourful history, the secret places that serve the “best” whatever. You can love living in Auckland/Newcastle or wherever. But it can’t be a hobby. It’s too small. And if you try to talk about the history of Takapuna’s storm drains people are going to think you a rapist who hides the bodies of small children in storm drains.
- It turns out I CAN stop swearing. It took six months for me to stop dropping F-bombs in meetings (which is normal in Auckland media, dammit!) but I have done it.
- Charles Dickens is real: literally everyone in this country is lying to you all the time about everything and usually for no other reason than to make your day that little bit worse. Bus drivers, doctors, whatever. Everything here is about the subtext. Once you understand this then everything is fine and you realise it’s just a cultural difference. It turns out the Brits think it’s weird to have client meetings in your backyard over lolly cake that your general manager has baked and brought into work for everyone whilst wearing ugg boots. Go figure.
- The British Museum is my favourite place in the world. Just pause and think for a moment about what kind of global achievement this collation of world culture, history and stories that has been free for two centuries really is. It is a marvel and a gift to the whole world. It’s better than the Great Wall of China and it is less racist as well because it doesn’t try and keep Mongols out. All are welcome!
- Toni and Guy offers the same haircut all across the world. It’s the McDonald’s of hairs. Note that this is not technically a complaint. Once it grows out of that ‘lesbian drama teacher’ phase, my hair looks quite good.
- Private club membership is more addictive than crack. I will never be without it.
- French wine is better than New Zealand wine. At the low end, if you know what you are doing (which I am not claiming I do), you can get yourself a reasonably good French wine. You will only find undrinkable, paint-thinning piss if you try to buy low-end NZ wine. At the mid-range it’s pretty much one for one. Some NZ is better than some French and vice versa. At the high end… Well… Literally every other country in the world just needs to go home. I don’t even know which country comes in a distant second to France at the high end (realistically it’s probably Australia) because they are SO VERY FAR BEHIND that you cannot see them. Thank the gods for client lunches or I would not know of which I speak.
- A decent ale is better than any kind of lager.
- It is surprisingly comfortable to read standing up while nestled inside a complete strangers armpit.
- The Victoria Line is the best tube line… Followed by the central.
- Recording video is fun, but trying to cut it together using iMovie is too clunky to think about. Pity. I got some good footage in the Natural History Museum.
- Tea: What did I do before tea?
In other news, as I finally got my passport back from the Home Office, we’re off to Paris for five days next week over James’s birthday. Yes, this means I have been in the one country for over a year and this probably hasn’t happened to me in almost twenty years.