Condensing 10 years of living in London into one blog post is tough, so let’s take the logical approach and start at the beginning…
How It Began
A decade ago I went to visit Pablo while he was exhibiting at the Business Design Centre. To my surprise he announced that he was moving to London, not Manchester as we planned. The only thing I was looking for was a new adventure so although I was a bit taken back I was happy to go to wherever was best for us to start our professional careers.
Despite not actually caring about where we lived I didn’t want Pablo to think he could just call the shots, so I played it cool, not guaranteeing I’d be coming with him…
A day later I hopped on the Tube to go and explore East London, cause I heard that was “well cool” from a bin man I had made friends with whilst sharing a table outside a pub at Angel station.
I followed my friend Calum’s rough directions to Brick Lane (the old school version of Google Maps): “Go out Liverpool Street, turn left, you’ll see the Tea building turn right it’s kinda around there-ish”.
Though it seemed vague he wasn’t wrong and somehow I found my way. Taking in the local sites, including the iconic 24hour Beigal Bake, vintage stores, indie shops, Rough Trade, bars that reminded me of New York and so much street art — I felt at home almost instantly.
Grabbing a pint, alone, in a sunlit courtyard I took it all in, called my mum and told her I was moving to London. That was it, the decision had been made.
Where to live?
Pablo’s friend Lizzie was away with work so let us stay in her flat while we tried to find a place. We were living with two Australians we’d never met before, had a sex worker as a next door neighbour, and above a busy cornershop in the middle of Bethnal Green.
We drank cans of Red Stipe on the balcony as we watched teens on bikes circle round like sharks in puffer jackets. Not idyllic to everyone but it was so different to what we were used to it all felt like such an adventure.
Neither of us knew anything about London but our new friends/roommates lived East so we signed for a flat that looked alright as close as we could get to them.
It was the equivalent of sticking a pin in a map and just going for it.
A few weeks later, we moved our life down to London. I arrived a day early to get the keys, and slept in an empty flat, in a part of town I didn’t know at all. I maybe should have been scared or nervous but I was too excited that I actually lived in London, like, ACTUAL LONDON.
I wasn’t alone for long, sometime the next day Pablo appeared with a van that held all of our worldly possessions.
Soon after that our friends began to arrive, being some of the first of our group to move south (and having a spare room) we became very popular. Though this was meant to be Pablo and I officially moving in together we both liked the company; having faces from home staying for days, weeks or sometimes months on end made the transition much easier.
Calum, our best friend from uni, had also moved right round the corner, and soon others joined him in the local area — our own mini Scottish hub.
Those first few years were hard. We moved down with enough money for one month’s rent and no jobs, but we made it work. I canvassed Oxford Street and quickly got a job in retail.
The pay was low, the hours were brutal and the customers were very different from those in Edinburgh or Dundee. Everything was fast, and intense, and very few people seemed to give a fuck about their job, it was a way to pay the rent and from the other side every employee felt disposable.
It was a harsh welcome to London life but a period in which I learned so much. I was thrown in at the deep end but I swam and became stronger in the process.
Like most of my colleagues I realised that retail was temporary and I started looking for a way out. A few months later I was walking along the gangway to start my new job at The White Ensign Association, a charity helping members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
That temporary office job turned into a seven year position that offered me so many opportunities. The entire set-up was so unique I did sometimes question wether I was in fact part of The Truman Show.
I worked onboard London Landmark HMS Belfast, floating on the Thames, sandwiched between London and Tower Bridge. Day to Day it felt like I was working in a military version of The Office with 5 ex-military men and me trying to navigate our 20 high ranking board members, The Royal Navy, corporate members and not to mention our actual work assisting serving and retired sailors and marines in everything from employment to tax advice.
Every day was different and I got some incredible opportunities including, getting picked up off the back of a moving warship by a helicopter, getting a private tour of The Old Bailey, Climbing the roofs of Hampton Court Place, Organising events at Mansion House, The Ritz, St James Palace, House of Lords and, to top it all off, a banquet at Buckingham Palace.
Though an incredible experience and a job I will always be so grateful for, I craved creativity and missed meeting people. So I started this blog and my YouTube channel.
Those blogging days were so different, with only a few followers and a couple of blog posts you were invited along to events and given gifts. It was wild and so much fun.
I saw the best and absolute worse of the blogging ‘community’. I ain’t got time to get into the fakery and greed in the influencer industry because that already gets a hella lot of attention but the side that isn’t often covered is those people who are genuine and talented.
Luckily I stumbled across a lot of the good ones. Bonding over open bars and our love for sharing our lives online I made, and still have, a bunch of blogging buddies who added so much excitement to my London life.
Things were going well, we had moved to a bigger place. Pablo started his own business Shed Collective which was thriving, I was earning a great salary at a job I really liked. We had awesome new friends, and loads of our old friends had now moved down to London, so our social life was great.
On top of that we had reached a point in our careers where we had enough disposable income to enjoy all the experiences of big city life as well as being able to travel frequently.
Sounds perfect right? It kinda was but there was something missing.
I wasn’t fulfilled so after much deliberation, sleepless nights and tears I said goodbye to my great job and my online life to focus on what I actually wanted to do. Make art.
Going it alone.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, obviously I got very ill and was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), as well as a bunch of other other health stuff I won’t bore you with.
We were still in an incredibly privileged position but things were overwhelming. I constantly felt like I was failing at everything. I was a shitty friend and girlfriend as I either couldn’t afford or wasn’t well enough to do anything and had no energy to put into my business.
Despite the last few years being tough as hell we pushed through, Pablo got his house, we tied the not and despite everything I was growing a business. Progress in every aspect of life was slower than I wanted but finally it felt like we were getting somewhere.
Then last year we finally had the chat, we were both tired, tired of struggling, tired of fighting for what we wanted in life, tired of the pace, tired of being tired. It was time to move on.
London gave us more than either of could ever have dreamed of in terms of relationships, experiences, and opportunities but it got to a turning point that it was taking more than it was giving and it was time to say goodbye.
Will I miss London?
Absolutely! I’ll miss the art, the culture, its ever changing nature, the food, the bars, the diversity, the people, the excitement, the afternoons in parks with pals, the shops, the buzz — but this isn’t goodbye.
It’s like one of those breakups where we stay best friends, there is no animosity, we’re just not right for each other anymore. As cheesy as it sounds London will always be a part of me, it’s where I grew up, got my first proper job, lived through my 20’s, met some of my best mates, and moved in then got married to my BFF.
So see it’s not exactly a “goodbye”, it’s more of an “I’ll see you soon, old friend”.