Times past… Antipodeans would come to the Eurozone to make money and then return home for the lifestyle.
A lifestyle that less often (but still not never) involves riots, right wing terrorism, millionaire-friends-of-the-prime-minister hacking into dead girls’ phones, Victorian levels of inequality and so on.
But I think that equation is now reversed.
If I returned to the southern hemisphere for a couple of years -and believe me the idea crosses my mind as the English summer “sunshine” trickles down my windowpane- I’d make, what, double what I make here?
Sure, it’s more expensive to live in Australia’s major cities but only by a factor of 1.5. Even with my limited mathemagical skills I can see that’s a net gain.
And indeed this is sadly what qualifies as the full extent of my medium-term money plans: move home for a few years then… who knows? This is a less sophisticated version of the underpants gnomes’ business plan. (Context here.)
It’s not just the money part of the equation that’s reversed, either.
The other part of the equation
Yes, yes… London caught a little bit on fire over this past week. Thank you all for your calls and texts (Every thirty minutes in one case, mother). To be honest, I’m more worried about the imminent collapse of/Germany’s departure from the Eurozone.
Besides, we were really more riot adjacent than riot-central. Close enough to smell it, not close enough to have to stock up on wine before the local Wine Rack got hit. (Still did, of course.) I thought it was about to kick off on the Chiswick High Road but it turned out a yummy mummy had just dropped her Gail’s cupcake. Fortunately she was quickly given a replacement (she’s a regular) and violence was avoided.
So here is the other part of the equation:
This is the Thames the weekend before the riots. It’s five minutes walk from my house.
Fine. I wouldn’t do it, and not just because this used to be the filthiest river in Europe (see garbage below left), and not just because we’d spent hours drinking in the sun and I was suffering from heatstroke.
The other part of the equation is the lifestyle. Basically I think it’s better here.
Sure I can’t surf every day but I miss that about as much as I miss menstruation. It’s just not a factor.
Sure I can’t live in a house with white-tiled flooring to the horizon but if I want that I’ll just take my shoes and socks off in a Greek restaurant or corporate bathroom and walk around for a bit.
I think people confuse lifestyle with the ability to get a car park near the post office, with ease of living. These aren’t the same thing as lifestyle unless you’re approaching retirement age.
It takes a village
When I got canned from Discovery Channel, I was initially desperate to use the opportunity to seek out some kind of semi-rural idyll while still keeping the career on track.
In my head this would have been somewhere surrounding Bristol and a media job in the centre of town that included at least twice-weekly trips to London. Yes, that sounds insanely specific which is probably why the plan didn’t work out.
I wanted village life. Even in New Zealand, I was always threatening James with the possibility that we’d downshift to a village on the South Island. (This terrified him.)
No matter, my next innercity gig came with some decidedly not-shit surrounds. If you’re going to live the city life you might as well do it right.
That being said, let me tell you what I do on my lunch breaks in my current job:
Weather permitting, I wander down the most French high road in all of Zone 2, shopping at market stalls, bakeries and premium supermarkets for the various things I need to cook dinner for James and I that night.
When I have meetings -like the two lunch meetings I had at Google’s London offices (see right) this last week- I head into town.
We catch up with friends of an evening, otherwise we cook and read and watch BBC iPlayer.
Yesterday afternoon, as the greengrocer was piling the pound of fresh chanterelle mushrooms (£3) into the paper bag it dawned on me.
I’m living in a fucking village.
That actually happened. London is regularly described more as a collection of 30 or so villages rather than a big city and if you pick the right one this is certainly true.
I get my local produce/indy shopping middle class fantasy, I get regular work trips into the centre of town, I’m well and truly on track on the career front.
Wouldn’t these be the things I would want to be making that extra money for in the first place?
Aren’t we all scrambling to make more money to ultimately rebalance our quality of life and live more authentically? What happens if you are accidentally doing both?
Anyway, in honour of this revelation, let me present to you
London Revelation Mushrooms
Serves 3 (with leftovers)
- 500 grams chanterelle mushrooms, torn into strips. Or mixed mushrooms. Try and do better than just button.
- 2 large brown onions, sliced.
- 250 ml double cream.
- Large wine glass of marsala. Like alcoholic-sized wine glass. To the top. Not to the line.
- Large bunch of roughly chopped parsley. I love parsley. I would throw a forest of it in anything. Use less if you want.
- 50g unsalted butter.
- Juice of 1 lemon.
- 50g grated Parmesan.
- Large loaf of fancy bread. Fancy bread is the technical terms. We use pain d’Alsace from The Bread Shop on the High Road. (Told you.)
Cook the onions in the butter with some salt as slowly as you can. Minimum of fifteen minutes. I tend to alternate the lid on and off so they sweat rather than cook. Stir frequently.
- Pour the large glass of marsala in with the onions, turn the heat up to reduce and thicken a bit. See right for what reduced looks like in this case.
- Stir in the double cream and mushrooms. Mine mountained out of the pan but mushrooms shrink, of course.
- Cover and let steam for about 8 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked. Stir a couple of times.
- Take the lid off and cook for about 5-6 more minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and remove from heat. Season.
- Toast the bread, top with the mushrooms and serve.
Obviously this would make a fantastic pasta sauce as well. If you want to go down that route I’d probably halve everything unless you’re cooking pasta for twenty. And if you are, where is my fucking invite you rude cow?!
This recipe is adapted for a genuinely fantastic and new little cookbook from Quadrille publishing. The author says the mushroom sauce goes great with game and suggests serving it in a bowl with a pigeon breast on top.