My day today began with a thrilling trip to the local dentist, which meant I could stay in bed a little longer than usual this morning (bliss). My small lie-in meant I could leave the house a little later than usual, too – thrown back into the madness of my family’s morning routine when everyone is always in each other’s way, and the sound of the kettle boiling and the news blaring is supplemented with a constant banging on the bathroom door “to get a bloody move on.”
I usually leave the house as my family is waking up, at a merry 6.40am when the sun has just about risen and the day is brewing nicely. I’ve only been commuting to London for four months, having left my local job to work at a publishing company in Chelsea – which has meant that since January, I’ve been getting up at 5.45am every weekday to make the 7.02am train. I can’t say I’m getting used to it because I don’t think waking up early ever gets any easier, but with summer on the way it certainly feels a little less cruel.
Before I got this job, my morning routine consisted of waking up at 7.30am, hopping in the car at 8.20 and arriving at my snug little office by half past – a mere 10-minute journey, sometimes even less than that if the roads were clear, and a stark contrast from my just-under-two-hours commute into work these days.
Today as I left the house, there was already a bit of traffic and children were slowly making their way to school, but it all still seemed so quiet somehow. Walking down the road and making my way up the high street, I noticed a boy stood outside the bank, and recognised him as someone I once went to school with. As I wandered past the bus stop, there waited a girl who I had been to stage school with as a 10-year-old, in the theatre just around the corner. It’s sort of like that round here – everybody knows everybody.
“Are you working today?” my dentist asked as I sat down in the chair.
“Yeah.” I said, aware that I had about 40 minutes left to get my train.
“Where are you working now? Still by the pub?”
“Oh, no,” I told her. “I’m working in London now.”
And I couldn’t help but smile as I said it – because even then it didn’t feel quite real, like I was lying to her. Because working in an office in London was something grown-ups did – and I wasn’t one of those yet, surely?
I was in and out of the dentist in ten minutes, and upon arriving at the train station, I decided to buy myself a cup of tea.
“We don’t take card, I’m afraid.”
Oh, jesus. Of course. As much as I love it really, I forgot how backwards things could be around here.
I was in London by 9.40, and never more glad to be. I was off the train and on the tube within minutes, tapping my oyster card like it was the easiest thing in the world. The streets were buzzing – there was so much noise and so many people.
The nearby market was thriving and buskers busked, as cars beeped and engines roared. It felt so alive and brilliant, and I was almost relieved. I was in the greatest city, and everything was here.
For lunch, we’ll probably head out to the nearby Pret (it is payday after all), and maybe pop into a clothes shop or two if we’re feeling semi-comfortable with the state of our bank balances.
Sometimes we’ll take a walk through the back streets to South Kensington, where the enormous houses are ridiculous and beautiful, and the gardens are always freshly spruced. If it’s raining, I can stay in the office and eat the lunch I’ve brought from home, chat to my colleagues and maybe flick through the latest issue of Time Out or Stylist.
Once the day is over, I could easily pop on the underground to Oxford Circus and explore, or maybe to Leicester Square and catch one of the latest releases at the Prince Charles Cinema. Or maybe I’ll feel like taking a walk through Regent’s Park, or strolling down the quieter streets towards Victoria station.
As a small-town girl (forgive the Journey lyric), there’s so much more to see and do than I’ve ever been used to, which is why it sometimes feels a bit naff to go back to the hum-drum of a quiet suburbia. I think for the first time ever, I’m ready to be a Londoner, and I’m revelling in every minute of it.