What a month since I last wrote. You may remember that in the last
column I was feeling slightly fazed by this crazy city. I was
experiencing a few difficulties in the house and job hunting department
and life was a little challenging to say the least.  However,
being someone to meet a challenge head on, I have pretty much changed
everything around for the better. If I am being honest, last month, I
did not like London very much. No, on second thoughts, I will rephrase
that. I detested it. I thought it was over- crowded, expensive,
peculiar smelling and had a permanently blurred, grey sky. This month,
however, I am seeing things in a different light. I don’t mean that
it’s not grey and smelly anymore (I can’t see that ever changing), what
I am talking about is my altered perspective on the city. I have given
up trying to make London into something that it’s not. That was the
first fatal flaw, comparing London to New Zealand. Ha! It would be like
trying to draw a parallel between a bag of bird’s eye frozen garden
peas and broccoli. One is a bit chilly but rather popular and
convenient and the other is fresh, lustrous and makes you feel really
healthy. And apart from vinegar being a good accompaniment to them
both, there really wasn’t another similarity between them I could think
of. The same goes for London and New Zealand (though admittedly, I have
never tried them both with vinegar).

About 2 weeks ago, I moved to Clapham. I love it here. It’s just what I
needed. I live off Northcote Rd, which is lined with cool bars, funky
cafes, a few dodgy Indian restaurants and a huge organic supermarket.
At the weekend, the whole street is turned into a French market selling
fresh bread, olives, runny cheeses and fresh fish. It’s lively and
interesting, you can just wander up and down trying all the samples
from the stalls and no one seems to mind if you try and don’t buy.
There is a lovely, homely atmosphere in Clapham, especially at
weekends. You should visit sometime. If you are lucky, I might even
invite you in for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Ok, the rent is
pricey and I am living beyond my means somewhat, but I was fed up of
living on a street I did not feel safe in. I originally started out in
west London and our road was full of old, abandoned sofas and a few too
many glue sniffers for my liking. We also had some 15 year old dope
dealers selling on our doorstep…literally. They would be ‘hanging
out’ on the flat steps when I returned from work every evening. They
were very polite but one particular evening I had had enough and kindly
asked them to ‘shove off’. But they answered “we can’t, we are waiting
for Nick so we can give him the weed he wants to buy off of us’’ to
which I replied “er……who’s Nick??’’ but I needn’t have bothered as no
sooner had I asked the question then who should also return from work
but ‘Nick’, alias my boyfriend. So, not only did we have dealers on the
doorstep, but my boyfriend was positively encouraging them! I had to
draw the line when about 3 evenings later, the lads buzzed our intercom
to ask if Nick wanted to hang out with them for a bit. And I think Nick
would have if it hadn’t been for my disapproving scowl.

Oh dear. So this, amongst others, was one of the reasons we re-located.
I certainly don’t miss the dealers and glue sniffers, but I will miss
the 24 hour kebab shop, perfectly positioned next to N94 bus stop that
always warranted a visit after a night out in the centre. However, I am
looking forward to exploring the late night food haunts that Clapham
has to offer, I might even venture to one of the aforementioned Indian
restaurants, though I would have to be suitably intoxicated as my sober
stomach can’t usually handle anything stronger than a Korma.

As I was saying earlier, I have come to enjoy London more as I am
taking it as it is, in all its splendour. I used to feel a bit isolated
and that it was an unfriendly place. But it’s not, you just have to be
prepared to step out of your comfort zone more to get into it. Yes, it
can be unfriendly sometimes but you don’t have to be like a zoned out
person in a bubble if you don’t want to be. I don’t let myself get
dragged down by the depressed and compressed commuters on the train,
even though I know I am one myself. I smile now and remember my manners
and let others squeeze in front of me to get on the train without
muttering an insult under my breath. I say ‘’hello, how are you?’’ to
the bored cashier, bleeping my microwave meal through the scanner in
Sainsbury’s local. I don’t get angry with the tourists for standing on
the whole of the escalator instead of just the right.

It’s not a lot but it makes a huge difference to the way you, and
consequently others, feel. There are a lot of things about London that
test your patience but it’s not worth getting upset over them as you
can’t do anything about them. As soon as you stop trying to change
things and relax a bit then everything becomes a whole lot easier to
deal with. I mean, does it actually really matter if the train is too
full to get on so you have to wait 2 minutes for the next one? Does it
actually really matter if the tourists stand in the so called “wrong’’
place? We might get to our destination a little later but does that
really matter as well? I mean, half the time our destination is
somewhere we don’t really want to be going to anyway. So, try it: Say
hello to your supermarket cashier, stand patiently behind the tourist
on the escalator, help someone if they need it and get out of that
bubble. Then you, and London, become a lot more cool for it. And, if
you do all these things already, good on you, you really are all
invited for a cup of tea and cake at my place.